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Tapas Bars

February 12, 2010

On the streets of Madrid you can find them all over the place, like Starbucks in “Any City USA”, on every street corner, are simple walk up tapas bars.  You’ll find locals sampling an afternoon snack of marinated olives or a quick bite of tortilla Espanola after work. They are sort of the antithesis of the creed of American cuisine – where large jumbo sized dinners are the benchmark, which make, in many an American’s case, the sole meal of the day (bookended by bags of chips and midnight snacks).   Perhaps yet another reason that Spaniards live healthier and longer lives then Americans are these small and frequent meals, in the form of trips to their corner tapas bar, thus curbing their gluttony for the monster feast at the end of every day. The one thing that may be a commonality between American fast food and Spain’s tapas bars might be speed and convenience.  Spain’s tapas bars provide healthier, faster food, and with real ingredients, serving their denizens that frequent them great eats and a better alternative to that western bacon fast food burger that Paris Hilton likes so much.   

Some dishes one might encounter at a local tapas bar:

Ensaladilla Rusa.

This has proved to be one of my wife’s favorite tapas plates.  It along with paella, tortilla Espanola, sangria, and the pastelerias serving flan, churros, and mantecados (I could go on and on) were all she talked about from her semester in Spain.  There isn’t an establishment in Spain that doesn’t have some variation of this dish on their offering list. A simple mix of all the great mayonnaise based salads: potato salad, egg salad, and   tuna salad. Like any traditional dish you’ll find many simple additions and variations.  If you can boil water you can make this dish.

  • This will yield about 4 to 6 plates
  • 4 cups of boiled Yukon gold potatoes (halved or quartered)
  • 2 carrots boiled and chopped into 1/2 inch chunks
  • 1 cup of green frozen peas, cooked
  • 2 hard boiled eggs
  • 1 8 oz jar or tin of high quality white tuna, drained
  • 1 cup of fresh mayonnaise
  • salt and pepper
  • optional spoonful of trout or lumpfish roe

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add your potatoes, carrots, and eggs. And boil for about 9 – 10 minutes, until the carrots and potatoes are “fork tender”.  Remove from the water and set aside to cool (in the fridge even). Now add your peas, and then turn off the heat.   Let the peas cook for about 2 minutes, then remove and set aside to cool.  In a large mixing bowl combine the vegetables, tuna, mayonnaise, mix gently.  Salt and pepper to taste. You can use a round mold to “foodie” up the presentation. If you don’t have one, use your rinsed tuna tin. Lightly spoon in the salad mixture into mold and slide out onto a serving plate.  You can top it off with a spoonful of colorful and salty lumpfish or trout roe (about $10 for 2 oz).  Or if that stuff just isn’t for you, how about a spoonful of salty capers?

Jamon and queso.
This is a really simple tapas dish you might find in Spain and it too may have many variations.  Go with what you can find at the grocer, for example if you can’t find thick sliced ham steak, try using very thin slices of prosciutto or other salty cured meat.

  • Yield about 4 to 6 small plates
  • 2 cups of cubed ham steak
  • 2 cups of cubed manchego cheese
  • 1 sprig of pulled Rosemary leaves
  • 2 tomatoes halved and grated.
  • 1/2 cup of marcona almonds
  • salt pepper
  • olive oil.

I like to brown the ham steak in a small sauté pan with a bit of olive oil. You don’t have to but it adds a little more to the dish. After browning for a few minutes, be sure to let the ham cool before tossing it in with the cheese.  Pinch and pull apart your rosemary leaves add them to the bowl with the ham and cheese.  Toss in your almonds.  Next with a cheese greater take your tomato halves and grate them over the contents of the bowl.  Drizzle with a few glugs of olive oil, salt and pepper, then gently fold the contents together.  You can serve this dish on small plates with some aioli (mayonnaise mixed with a bit of olive oil and minced roasted garlic).


One Comment leave one →
  1. mom2 permalink
    February 28, 2010 8:24 am

    OK Kyle, the next time you guys are in Long Beach do remind me to treat you to an evening at The Sky Room. A group of friends celebrated a birthday there Friday night. The service, ambience and dinner was phenomenal. I had a scallop dish with sweet potato raviolis that were “to die for”. I kept wishing you were there so you could figure out the recipe for me. Absolutely one of the best dinners I have had in ages…and the service matched, which made it especially nice. And then to top off the light pear tart (and lets not forget the chocolate decadence too) was the jazz band in the bar. It was a regular night life scene…so who knew!

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