If you’ve ever traveled internationally, you’ve most likely found that “light bites” or small appetizer-size dishes are served in many forms especially around the Mediterranean. They can be hot, cold, spicy or savory. These one bite samplers bring about communal eating, friendship, discussion, and fun and are among the food trends chefs are seeing these days. A tapas-style menu is perfect for a party especially if you serve the meal buffet-style on your patio.
Tapas are a wide variety of appetizers or snacks in Spanish cuisine. Many different tapas can be combined to make a full meal. It’s also customary for diners to stand and move about while eating tapas. Tapas are actually more of a Spanish way of eating rather than a specific type of cuisine.
The Art of Tapas
Think about which fresh vegetables you can use from your garden or local, organic foods available at the outdoor markets during this time of year to give you your starting point for which recipes to use. Many supermarkets like Whole Foods and Trader Joe's now stock a good selection of authentic Spanish cheeses, sausages, cured meats, and other products.
It’s all about exotic flavors and taste so the serving dishes should be small without the worry of presentation. When you invite your guests, be sure to let them know of the theme and invite them to bring a dish from their own favorite travel location or something from their ethnic heritage. Since we’re talking small bites, quantities needn’t be large. Finger food is in keeping with the theme. Parties today are more of a group effort with the work shared by all and this theme works well to create the “community” spirit.
Focus on creating five to six tapas dishes that are easy and quick to fix and can be prepared ahead of time. For example, three cold tapas and two warm tapas. Plan 6 to 8 bites per guest if you are hosting a cocktail party (1-1/2 hour party) or 12 to 15 bites per guest for a tapas dinner party (3 hour party).
It’s always a good idea to have some snacks set out before you are ready to serve to get the party started! Some olives, plenty of good olive oil for drizzling and dipping, cheeses, and cured meats along with some Spanish wine or sangria will help set the mood.
Thoughts for your Buffet Set-Up
Your buffet setting can be created by choosing an informal tablecloth or even some silk scarves. Dishware with varying textures and materials such as metal, terra cotta and woven baskets, anything that may be more understated so the brightly colored food is accented can be used. Your glassware, again mismatched styles and shapes can add impact to your table without taking away from your food as well. With this theme, I suggest using stacks of salad plates instead of the traditional dinner size plates.
Think about the wine pairings with multi-national influences to experiment with as well. Dry sherry is a traditional partner for tapas. The dry sherries Fino and Manzanilla are pale in color, bitingly dry and delicately flavored. The Manzanilla has a salty, nuttier taste. Sherry matches perfectly with the tangy, salty, and savory flavors in the tapas.
So when guests arrive, offer them a small glass of chilled sherry.
As for wines, crisp dry whites with citrus and mineral notes, such as Albariño, and dry rosés with tart red berry and citrus fruit are both versatile tapas wines. Vionta Albariño, Rias Baixas; Nora Albariño, Rias Baixas; A to Z Rosé from Oregon; and Goats Do Roam Rosé from South Africa are recommended choices for rosés that pair well with tapas.
Now just throw some guitar music on in the background to complete the Spanish themed fiesta.
Sample Tapas Party Menu
Here’s a menu and recipe for you to get started in planning your own Tapas party. You can also contact us, www.StovetopTalent.com to have Chef Elizabeth prepare this menu or a customized Tapas menu for you to make your party unforgettable!
A Tapas Party for 10:
Six different small and savory treats served with olives, an assortment of crusty bread, and olive oil.
Recipe: Asparagus and Artichoke Hearts in a Pistachio Aioli (picture to left)
Makes 10 tapa portion servings.
1 jar of Artichoke Hearts, not marinated
25 green asparagus trimmed down to 3-4 inches in length
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper
Pistácio Garlic Aioli:
2 Egg yolks
2 oz Pistachio nuts, chopped
4 teaspoon Chives, chopped
2 Garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon Lemon Juice
Salt to taste
White pepper to taste
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Cayenne Pepper for garnish
- Pre-heat oven to 350
- Toss asparagus and artichoke hearts in 1 Tbls of olive oil, ½ teaspoon of lemon juice, a dash of salt and black pepper. On a foil lined cookie sheet, spread out vegetables and bake for 8-10 minutes depending on the thickness of the asparagus. Serve warm or room temperature.
- In a food processor. Blend egg yolks, chopped pistachios, chives, garlic, lemon juice, salt and white pepper. Blend thoroughly. With the machine still running, add the olive oil in a thin stream until it starts to thicken, add olive oil until it is the consistency of mayonnaise
- Lay asparagus and Artichokes on a plate. Serve Aioli in a small dish next to vegetables or lightly draped over top of them. Sprinkle with Cayenne peppers for garnish.
Recipe courtesy of Chef Elizabeth of Stovetop Talent