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.

Empanadas

NOTE:

  • 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!
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