Friday, October 22, 2010

Tapas for Dinner

Way back in August, when our kitchen looked like this:

and we had no working stove and no counter tops, Lovely Daughter #2 and I got an itch to have tapas for dinner. We'd enjoyed them all over Barcelona when we spent a week together there, and we weren't going to let a little construction mess get in the way of our wishes!

"Tapas" means "lids" in Spanish, as in "lids atop big glass jars."

I'm not sure where I first learned this, but these yummy appetizers got their name because, in Spain and certain Latin American countries, bartenders used to whip up quick little bites for their customers, then place the concoctions on top of the big jars of pickled eggs and veggies that stood on the counter tops in these establishments.

So with absolutely no recipes, no counter tops, no stove, and no real plan, we dove right in! First, Lovely Daughter #2 buzzed up a terrific dried-tomato tapenade in the food processor (please note the propane cannister, which was fueling our camp stove at the time, since we had no other cooktop):

She laid out some thin slivers of Asiago cheese and drizzled a truffle-enhanced olive oil over them:
She spread some toasted baguette rounds with the tapenade mixture and topped them with a sliver of basil. Meanwhile, I plopped little squares of gorgonzola cheese atop other baguette rounds, and drizzled olive oil over them:

Then I created a mini-pastry cup by inverting a mini-muffin tin and baking circles of herbed pastry crust on the back of the tin. (The recipe for the herbed crust is below.) I filled the baked, cooled cups with fresh buffalo mozzarella and a dab of Major Grey's Chutney:

Happily, I had already made a batch of caramelized onions, so we put a blob of them on circles of raw zucchini and added a dab of roasted red peppers (straight out of a jar) for color:

We added a few nibbles we put together from stuff in the refrigerator, then laid everything out on a little bu1tffet table, using lifts and levels (like decorator Christopher Lowell taught me. Yay, Christopher!). From the back, you can see 1)mixed whole olives, 2)whole marinated artichoke hearts (on the white plate), 3)Asiago cheese drizzled with olive oil, 4)edamame (white bowl), 5)red bell-pepper strips with hummus, 6)tempeh strips, 7)herbed pastry cups with buffalo mozzarella, and 8)zucchini circles with caramelized onions:

Served up with a glass of white wine, we could almost imagine we were at one of the noisy, crowded, fun bars in Barcelona:

Oh! and we had strawberries with brown sugar for dessert:

Well, at least some of us had strawberries for dessert.

If you have an informal gathering coming up, or if you just want to do something a little different for dinner, try putting together a tapas buffet. It's easy, it's quick, and the only limit is how far your imagination can take you!

Herb Pastry
(recipe from the Los Angeles Times Magazine, July 25, 2004)

1-1/2 C. all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. minced fresh rosemary
1 Tbps. minced fresh thyme leaves
1/2 tsp. salt
12 Tbsp. cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4-6 Tbsp. ice water

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, pulse the flour, rosemary, thyme, and salt until blended. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal, with pieces no bigger than small peas, about 13 to 15 one-second pulses.

Add the mixture to a mixing bowl and drizzle with 4 Tbps. cold water. Thoroughly mix with a fork to form a "shaggy" dough. Squeeze some in your hand. If it doesn't hold together, add the remaining water one tablespoon at a time. Form into a disc, wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour, or overnight if needed.

Position the oven rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a 13-inch circle.* Ease it into the tart pan, fitting it snugly against the sides and bottom, and trim the excess. Prick the bottom of the tart with a fork and cover with parchment paper or foil. Fill tart with pie weights or beans. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove weights and parchment or foil. Set aside tart shell to cool.

*[To make the tapas cups, I rolled out the dough to a roughly-13-inch circle, then cut out eight circles, each about 3 inches in diameter. I draped the circles over the back of mini muffin tins and pressed them gently into place. They took about 15 minutes to bake into rustic "cups," which I let cool a while on the muffin tin, then turned onto a wire rack to continue cooling.]


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