Tapas: More Than Just Appies

Empanadas, White Bean Vinaigrette, Aged Manchego,
Olives with Orange & Lemon, Meatballs in Almond Sauce and Romesco Sauce

There’s nothing quite like a tapas-filled evening. Some people think that tapas are just appies—but they are in fact so much more than that. I read one definition of tapas that stated they could be any type of food, as long as the dish is small and served with a drink. Now there’s a definition I can really get behind—a type of food that requires a drink in order to be legitimate. No wonder I consider tapas to be the perfect food.

Based on their definition, you’d think an evening of tapas would go something like this:

Small plates + Small portions = Eat Less (and drink more?). Sounds right, doesn’t it?

Not quite, in my case. It goes more like this:

Small plates + small portions; repeat again and again = Caloric count in the stratosphere (including drinks)

But that’s what a tapas feast is all about, in my opinion. Lots of drinks (to legitimize the tapas) and lots of refills for those small plates.

Eva's Delicious Italian (Easter) Cheese Bread

Last night Eva (of KitchenInspirations) and her husband JT joined us for a tapas night that certainly lived up to its name—as each tapas was in fact served with a drink! It was loads of fun and our dinner went late into the evening. We had the appies and second course with the ponytails (as I made sure there were some kid-friendly items), and then finished course #3 (and dessert) after the girls went to bed. Eva brought several different dishes (see below) and they were all amazing.

Even if a tapas night isn’t up your alley, you could make most of these versatile dishes as appies, sides or mains. They are a great way to add some zip to a favourite go-to meal–at whatever stage you decide to add them.

Here’s our tapas menu:Appies:

Course #2

Course #3

Paprika-Spiced Almonds

  • 1-1/2 tbsp coarse sea salt
  • ½ tsp smoked sweet Spanish paprika (or hot paprika, according to taste)
  • 1 lb blanched almonds; approx 3 cups (I used unblanched)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Preheat oven to 400°. Place the sea salt and paprika in a mortar and grind with the pestle to a fine powder. Alternatively, use a coffee grinder (designated for spices). Place the almonds on a baking sheet and toast for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden and fragrant. Watch after 7 minutes because they can burn quickly. Pour into a heatproof bowl. Drizzle over olive oil and stir to ensure all the nuts are lightly and evenly coated. Add extra oil, if necessary. Sprinkle with the salt and paprika mixture and stir again. Transfer to a small bowl and serve at room temperature. (NOTE: I halved this recipe and it was the perfect quantity.)

Olives with Orange and Lemon

  • 2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1-1/4 cups black olives (225 g/8 oz)
  • 1-1/4 cups green olives (225g/8 oz)
  • 2 tsp grated orange rind
  • 2 tsp grated lemon rind
  • 3 shallots, finely chopped
  • Pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 4 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp orange juice
  • 1 tbsp each chopped fresh mint and parsley

Place the olives, orange and lemon rind, shallots, cinnamon and seeds in a bowl. Whisk the vinegar, olive oil, orange juice, mint and parsley together in a bowl and pour over the lives. Toss well, then cover and let chill for 1 to 2 days before serving. (NOTE: I didn’t add the shallots, as I was stretched for time; still tasted great.)

White Bean Vinaigrette

  • 19 oz can navy beans
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 small gherkin, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • Pinch sugar
  • Salt and pepper
  • Snipped fresh chives to garnish

Drain the beans and rinse well with cold water, then drain again. Place the beans, celery and gherkin in a bowl.Whisk the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, mustard, parsley and sugar together win a bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour the vinaigrette over the bean mixture and toss well. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with the chives. Serve at room temperature. (NOTE: I’ll definitely make this again as a side for sandwiches and burgers this summer.)

Roasted Asparagus with Serrano Ham

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 slices serrano ham
  • 12 asaragus spears
  • pepper

Preheat oven to 400°. Place half the olive oil in a roasting pan that will hold the asparagus spears in a single layer and swirl it around to cover the base. Half each slice of serrano ham in half lengthwise. Trim and discard the coarse woody ends of each asparagus spear, then wrap a slice of ha around the stem end of each spear. Place in the prepared roasting pan and lightly brush with the remaining oil. Roast the spears in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the asparagus. They should still be firm so that you can pick them up with your fingers. (NOTE: This would make a a super easy and tasty side dish for countless dishes.)

Source: Recipes above (some adapted) from Perfect Tapas by Parragon.

Romesco Sauce

NOTE: Next time I will definitely halve this recipe when using for tapas–even though it would be great with chicken.



  • I adjusted the spices in this recipe (reduced the chili powder), omitted the egg and mixed in the olives to the meat mixture.
  • I also tried to make some with only mozzarella cheese (to be kid-friendly), but all of the cheese spilled onto the pan and the empanadas were empty! I definitely need to improve my fork crimping technique!!!
  • You could use puff pastry as a time-saver!

43 Comments on “Tapas: More Than Just Appies”

  1. Kristy says:

    Now this sounds like a FANTASTIC evening! I love tapas! Aside from sushi, it’s our favorite out on the town food either for date night or with the kids. It’s just so much fun – a great way to try lots of things. 🙂 Well done!!!!

    • Thanks Kristy — it was!! It is a great way to try lots of things, isn’t it? I just need a little more discipline! How fun that you go for tapas with the kids! I should try to find a good tapas restaurant to take the girls.

  2. A_Boleyn says:

    I’ve looked for a place in town that served Tapas for years. I bought a great recipe book on tapas which made me curious about the concept and may finally get around to making it myself at home. Especially the empanadas. Your pictures looks wonderful and the description of the dishes you sampled are very intriguing.

  3. A fabulous evening if tapas! You have used such a wonderful variety of delicious ingredients and awesome recipes 😀

    Choc Chip Uru

  4. Eva Taylor says:

    It was certainly a food filled evening, Barbie! It was so nice to celebrate Kevin’s 29th, again. I absolutely loved the olives, almonds and the Romesco, so yum! Your meatballs were really tasty too. The empanadas reminded me of the one’s my Mom used to make!
    Thank you so much for the mention; Chgo John’s bread was a HUGE hit with my family on Sunday. I adore the photo you chose to put into your blog! Loved your set up!
    PS, I know I don’t eat dessert, but I did have about a third of your 2-die-4 peanut butter cupcakes … for breakfast! OMG! 2die4!
    It wasn’t my fault; it was brought up to me with a gorgeous cap, whilst I was blogging! I just couldn’t help myself! 🙂

  5. Karen says:

    I’m happy that you tried my romesco recipe!

  6. Carol says:

    Looks wonderful, Barb!  You have such great ideas – I don’t know how you find time to to it all.  Would be interested in what type of kid-friendly tapas you came up with.

    • Carol,
      The girls loved Eva’s bread, the nuts (well Megan did), the plain meatballs (without sauce), the empanadas (though we slipped in a slice of cheese since they were empty…oops!), the dates wrapped in bacon (bacon is always a hit), and the potato wedges (which I didn’t post…but I’ll add in a note since they are so easy!). Do you think Josh would eat any of those dishes?

  7. Karen says:

    Hi Barb, I’m happy that you enjoyed the romesco sauce. It is always nice when someone prepares one of your recipes and lets know know that they liked it. It is especially nice that you make it for your tapas party with Eva. The whole menu sounds great and everyone must have had a nice time. Thanks for the shout out…I really appreciate it.

  8. I have to say it’s fun to be following both of your blogs.. moving from one that talks of the other’s cooking and back again! Almost like being at the party, lol! Tapas are my favorite kind of food because there are so many flavors to sample.. over and over as you did:)

    • It would be fun to have you at the party! Too bad Calgary is so far away! You know, our husbands roll their eyes as the conversation often turns to food, food utenzils and blogging — so of course you’d fit right in! I must say it is fun to have a friend who shares such a passion for food! Do you have a blogging buddy in Calgary that you get together with?

      • Most of my friends love to cook.. but as bloggers we meet at events, like our fund-raiser.. most are much younger than I.. so it’s a bit different, if that makes sense?

  9. Sissi says:

    Barb, I love tapas, snacks, appetisers, apéritifs, amuse-bouche or whatever we call them! They make even a tv night somehow merrier. Actually we rarely have a real dinner on Friday and Saturday, but we usually snack on some finger food I prepare (all the Japanese meat rolls, skewers etc are fantastic) and since I make quite a lot of preserves, we always have some pickled cucumbers, peppers and lots of sauces.
    Your tapas look and sound fabulous. I will remember to come back here next time I want to make something new (because some of them are totally new to me). I often make seasoned olives, but in a completely different way (with herbs and garlic). I must try your recipe.

    • Thanks Sissi! These olives were great. I also make them with lemon zest, fennel, and garlic quite a bit — so these were very similar. We’re on the same wave length again today, as I just noted your chicken and leek appies post — and will note the recipe for another tapas night. I can see why all of those tasty nibblies make tv night merrier in your house!

  10. Beth says:

    Everything sound so delicious, I don’t know where to start! Sounds like you had a wonderful evening. Nice idea to have family-friendly selections so your kids could join in, too.

    • Thanks Beth. It was a lovely night — so fun to have a long, lingering meal. It worked well that the girls were able to eat some of the tapas, as I really didn’t want to prepare anything else with all of these dishes!

  11. Norma Chang says:

    That’s some fun-filled eating get together (this sounds rather clumsy)! I love having many different variety of foods to sample and of course I would go back multiple times (the plates are small cannot hold much), Tapas is like the Chinese dim sum in reverse, instead of wine we drink tea at dim sum, too bad.

    • You know you are right — I hadn’t thought of it that way but dim sum is the same idea. Oh how I love dim sum as well. Our favourite little dim sum place closed down and so we haven’t had it in a while. Do you have any good dim sum recipes up your sleeve?

  12. Yum so many different tapas to choose from there is something for everyone here.

  13. Charles says:

    Hi Barb – is it just me or is every nested reply to a comment getting increasingly bigger in font size the deeper down you go?

    Anyway – tapas – yum, yes please. I love tapas and I’m totally with you… whoever thinks that this is a great way of controlling food intake has obviously never had tapas :p

    I tend to hover around a bowl or two of things I like and proceed to scarf the whole lot down!

    It all looks delicious, I really want to try the almonds especially!

    • You are not imagining it! My fonts have been going wonky since I purchased them from Word Press (go figure!). I’ll need to check out what’s going on there — but I appreciate you pointing that out.

      The almonds are quite good. My oldest daughter couldn’t get enough of them, so I will definitely make them again. I’m wondering if they would be good without grinding the salt and paprika in the mortar.

  14. […] 26, 2012 by Eva Taylor Happy Thursday everyone. By now I am sure you have read Barb (Profiteroles and Ponytails) had a Tapas dinner party on the weekend and we were kindly invited; we had such a variety of food […]

  15. hotlyspiced says:

    I love tapas. There used to be a fabulous tapas restaurant within walking distance and we would go there regularly because you could either have just a little or just a lot depending on how you felt – it’s a great way to dine xx

  16. I’d come have tapas with you gals any night! Wow, what a feast and no wonder you had many plates. Gosh, you can’t let all that fantastic food go to waste! 😉

  17. […] and his upbeat personality really shines through in his blog.)  The girls really loved the Smoked Paprika Almonds that I made recently, so I figured this would help them to give the chick peas a try. It worked! […]

  18. sybaritica says:

    I bookmarked the Roasted Asparagus with Serrano Ham … I can take or leave Asparagus but my wife loves it…

  19. Liz says:

    Ooops….totally commented on the wrong post! Lovely group of appetizers! Off to read all the details 🙂

  20. […] of acidity to the platter”, and also a good Dijon mustard, some nuts (she has a great recipe for paprika-smoked almonds on her blog!). Finally, and most importantly, bread, bread, and more bread! Set out a pretty basket […]

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