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Tapas Party Summary

21-Mar-2005

My series of summer Tapas Parties last year were really fun.  I invited small groups of people and, when possible, we sat on the deck or at least started with light plates and sherry on the deck and then moved inside for the main part of the Tapas "dinner". 

Nearly all of these dishes can be made ahead or at least early in the day, which is a real bonus for entertaining.  I asked everyone to bring a bottle of Spanish wine, so in addition to trying new recipes we had a Spanish wine tasting.  I had not had much experience with Sherry, in the past and found that I really like the dry, almost astringent sherry from Jerez.  When I spoke with the clerk at The Spanish Table (largest selection of Spanish wines in the US), they had warned that first-timers sometimes found it unapproachable and so I also bought a bottle of La Ciganera from Manzanilla, which was a little softer.  (Apparently the salt-air in Jerez is what makes their sherries so much drier than others.)

All dishes were well received and tasty!  I had quite a bit of the Potato Saffron Omelet remaining but I believe this was due more to the filling nature of the dish, as the taste was quite good.  People just didn’t want to fill up on potatoes when there were so many other savory choices!  The one problem I had with this omelet was flipping it.  It was just too big for me to attempt so instead, I finished it under the broiler (which other similar recipes recommend). 

The Sherried Mushroom Empanadas were outstanding!  I started with Sara Moulton’s recipe and then substituted a semi-hot chili for the red peppers, 6 oz of peppered pancetta for the serrano ham (I had the pancetta on hand) and used mostly crimini mushrooms. There were a few pieces left over and they held really well for a couple of days.  The shells stayed crispy, amazingly enough! 

The Manchego with Membrillo was much better received than I thought it would be.  I guessed that people would try a little and then move on, mostly because a lot of people I know are not real sweet eaters.  Instead they cleaned up every piece!  The contrast of slightly salty cheese with the sweet Quince paste was nice. 

The salad was outstanding!  I wasn’t sure about combining oranges and tomatoes – not sure why but I couldn’t get my mind around those two flavors combined.  But it was really a refreshing salad!  I modified it just a bit.  You’ll find the recipe below. 

Ribs and shrimp are always hits so I’ll just say they were both excellent! :-) The ribs melted right off the bone. 

I normally am not a big olive eater but I’m learning to like them more and more.  For these parties I used a couple of Emeril’s recipes, called Kicked Up Marinated Olives. (Of course!)  I used pitted Kalamata for the black olive recipe and Picholines for the green olive recipe.  I did not pit the Picholines, instead I just warned everyone. :-)

The Salted Almonds were an easy and basic recipe.  There are many variations but I’ll include the version I used below. 

We finished off with Mojito Sorbet (recipe below).  Over the summer I worked on this recipe until I perfected it.  It’s a great refreshing end to a spicy meal. 

Salted Almonds
Mix 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper with 2 Tbsp. sea salt. Set aside.

Melt 2 Tbsp. butter and 4 Tbsp. olive oil in frying pan over medium heat.  

Add 1 3/4 cup blanched whole almonds to the pan. Stir for about 5 minutes until almonds are golden

Tip almonds out of frying pan and into salt mixture. Toss until almonds are coated. Allow to cool. Store in airtight container for up to 1 week

Spanish Asparagus and Orange Salad
8 oz asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2" pieces
2 large oranges
2 tomatoes cut into eights
Romaine lettuce, shredded (about 1 leaf per person)
3 Tbsp crumbled Cobrales Bleu Cheese
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. sherry vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook asparagus in boiling salted water for 3 – 4 minutes, just until tender. Drain and refresh in cold water.

Grate the rind from 1/2 orange and reserve. Peel and segment the oranges. Squeeze the juice from the leftover membranes and set aside.

Put asparagus, orange segments, tomatoes and lettuce into salad bowl.

Mix oil, vinegar, 1 Tbsp of reserved orange juice and 1 tsp of the rind. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the dressing on the salad and toss gently to coat.

Sprinkle the crumbled cheese over the top and serve.

Mojito Sorbet
1 cup Sugar
1 1/2 cups Water
2 1/2 to 3 cups roughly chopped fresh mint
Juice from 1 juicy lime
1 Tbsp lime zest
2 – 3 Tbsp finely chopped mint (chiffonade, if desired)

Bring sugar and water to a boil, and then boil for 1 minute until sugar is thoroughly dissolved. Remove pan from heat. Add coarsely chopped mint, cover pan and let sit for 1 hour.

Strain mint from syrup and then chill syrup for 2 hours. When chilled, add lime juice to the syrup and then add mixture to ice cream maker. Chill in maker for 20 minutes, then add lime zest and finely chopped mint and chill for 5 more minutes. Remove from ice cream maker, place in storage container and freeze approximately 2 – 3 hours until desired consistency.

Ode to Sal deTraglia’s Virtual Tapas Bar

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