Before Joyce Goldstein ,award winning writer, food consultant and expert on foods of the Mediterranean opened Square One in San Francisco in the early 80’s, there were only a few restaurants in the United States that offered authentic Spanish food. Traditional ingredients such as Serrano ham, Manchego cheese, Piquillo peppers and Marcona almonds were difficult to obtain. By improvising with the few traditional ingredients available ,Ms Goldstein added many Spanish dishes to her menu at Square One. To introduce her clientele to new Spanish dishes, she began serving, with great success, an assortment of small plates, or tapas. Tapas [TAH-pahs] are appetizers that are most often served with sherry, or other aperitfs or cocktails. Tapas can be as simple as olives, cubes of cheese and ham for appetizers, or can be as elaborate as cheese and potato omelets, stuffed peppers and meatballs in a spicy sauce to form a sumptuous meal.
The word “tapas” comes from the Spanish word, “tapar”, “to cover” and its stories of origin are various. One of the most popular stories is that a slice of bread was set atop of a glass of wine or sherry to prevent contamination from dirt or to keep flies out of the libation. Other folklore credit its origin to a edict by Alfonso X, a Castilian ruler in the 1200’s, commanding that all inn keepers serve tidbits of food with the wine or sherry to prevent public drunkenness. Whatever the true origin, Spanish dining adheres to the tapas tradition simply by the way they dine. The Spanish eat a progression of small meals throughout the day. The main meal is served around 2pm with small meals on either side of that meal, extending to around 11pm. Many small meals and a healthy Mediterranean diet keep the Spanish slim. Source-Tapas
These three tapas dishes can be served as part of an appetizer menu or as a meal. The Manchego Cheese and Ham Toasts require no cooking and are served with marinated Piquillo peppers and Olives. Both the Garlic Paprika Shrimp and the Spinach with Raisins and Pine Nuts are quick and easy to prepare.
Garlic Paprika Shrimp
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1-2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
- 2 tablespoons dry sherry or white wine
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- Orange slices for garnish
- In saute pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes to taste, and paprika; cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add the shrimp, orange juice and sherry or white wine, stir well, raise the heat to high and saute until the shrimp turn pink and the dish is fragrant, about 3 minutes.
- Remove from heat, season with salt and freshly ground pepper, and transfer to a serving dish. Garnish with the orange slice. Serves 4. Wine Suggestion- a Spanish Rose.
Spinach with Pine Nuts and Raisins
- 1/4 cup raisins
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus 1-2 tablespoons for nuts, optional
- 1 small onion, chopped onion, or 3 ounces Serrano ham, minced
- 2 pounds spinach, tough stems removed and rinsed
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- In a bowl, combine the raisins with hot water to cover and set aside to plump for 30 minutes.
- In a small dry frying pan, toast the pine nuts over medium heat, shaking the pan often, until fragrant and golden, 3-5 minutes. Pour onto a plate to cool. Or, if you prefer to saute the pine nuts in the olive oil, heat 1-2 tablespoons oil in a frying pan over medium heat, add the nuts, saute until golden and fragrant. Transfer to a plate with a slotted spoon and cool.
- In a large sauté pan, heat 3 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Add the onion and ham, if using, and cook, stirring often, until the onion is soft and translucent or the ham is lightly colored, about 10 minutes for the onion and 5 minutes for the ham. Add the spinach with just the rinsing water clinging to its leaves and cook, turning and stirring constantly with tongs until just wilted, 3-5 minutes.
- Drain the raisins and add to the pan along with the pine nuts. Stir well and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving dish and serve warm. Serves 4-6. Wine suggestion-a Spanish Verdejo or a Voignier or Riesling.
Recipes adapted from “Tapas, Sensational Small Plates From Spain” by Joyce Goldstein.
Bullfighting Museum-Ronda, Spain