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Posts Tagged ‘tapas’

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! You may think that I’m referring to Christmas, but then you’d be wrong. It’s Halloween, of course! JT and I traditionally have a pumpkin carving contest, and this year is no different. We scour the net for unusual pumpkin patterns and when we find one we get down to the dirty job of carving. Carving is made easier with the right tools, but then again isn’t everything? I bought a set of pumpkin carving tools at an end of season sale last year and wish I had bought two sets! So in light of the grand tradition, I’m going to ask you to vote on your favourite pumpkin! May the best pumpkin win!

WitchyPumpkin_1262

Vote for me. Vote for me!

ScaryPumpkin_1255

Vote for me. Vote for me!

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Hope the decorations and the scary music doesn’t frighten the wee ones too much!


We were craving a unique hors d’œuvres so I remade a traditional polenta recipe into a delightful orange snack: polenta “fries”! The orange is strictly from the sharp cheddar. And the best part is that you can easily freeze these babies for those lovely drop-ins during the holiday season.

Cheddar Polenta “Fries”

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They are crispy on the outside, soft and creamy on the inside.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup fine cornmeal
  • 2 cups stock (vegetable, beef or chicken)
  • 150 g grated old cheddar cheese
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • Pinch of chili flakes
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped chives

Directions:

  1. Bring stock to a boil and add the smoked paprika and chili flakes.
  2. Slowly add the cornmeal, whisking quickly as you add it.
  3. Add the grated cheese and mix well.
  4. Turn heat right down to low and cook for 10-15 minutes until it no longer feels as hard grain.
  5. Turn into a parchment lined square Pan about 22 cm x 22 cm or 9″ x 9″ and press down evenly and firmly. Allow to cool.
  6. Cut into 1cm or 1/2″ wide “fries” about 5 cm or 3″ long. Fry each side until golden in a light oil.
  7. Serve warm with marinara sauce or salsa.

Other serving suggestions:

  • Serve with soup instead of crackers.
  • Cut into small rounds and serve instead of rice or potatoes with a gravies meat.
  • Cut into small rounds and serve as ‘crackers’ topping with a cold cut or a pickle round!
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Marinara Sauce or Salsa are the perfect accompaniment.

PolentaFries_1162

You sure I can’t interest you in even one?

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While in Barcelona, Spain we enjoyed many tapas that we’d never tried before and one particular tapa was the Potato Omelet. Now you know that I am not a huge potato eater, but for some reason I really wanted to try it. The starch in the potato makes for a very dense and slightly chewy omelet, which was usually served as a small cube, sometime with bread but most often not.

The potato omelet is the cube centre back.
We enjoyed this plate while dining along side of the Mediterranean Sea!

Now that we’re home, I’ve experimented with other ‘fillings’ for this simple treat and yesterday I think I hit the jackpot. I made this little hors d’œuvres with a shallot, finely diced chorizo and a sliced mushroom. What made it hit the jackpot for me was the texture and because I wasn’t using a potato in this version, I needed to add something to help thicken the egg. I remembered Sissi’s recipe for a Korean Pancake (which I thoroughly enjoyed) and she added corn starch to the egg batter to firm it up. So that’s exactly what I did. Thanks Sissi. It made eight 2.5cm squares (1″) that were tasty and incredibly easy to make. You can even make it in advance and reheat.

A lovely dense texture and a little spice from the Chorizo

Chorizo, Shallot and Mushroom Omelet Tapa

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole egg and 1 egg white
  • 1 tbsp corn starch
  • 1 mushroom, sliced about 2mm thick
  • 30 g finely diced chorizo (I didn’t add extra salt as I find Chorizo salty enough)
  • 20 g finely chopped shallot

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Beat the egg and white together, add the corn starch and beat until all the lumps have disolved.
  3. Generously grease a small loaf pan 7cm x 13cm (2.75″ x 5″) or 200 mL (3/4 cup size).
  4. Add the chorizo, shallots and mushrooms and make sure they are distributed evenly in the pan. Pour the egg batter over it and tap a few times so that it reaches under and over all the inclusions. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until egg is entirely set. You may serve immediately or cool completely and reheat this mixture prior to serving.

And definitely don’t let my ingredient mix stop you from trying something you have on hand…for example, ham and gruyère cheese!

Ham, Gruyère cheese and a little Dijon

The possibilities are definitely endless. I do hope you enjoy this snack.

The potato and bacon omelet took a nose dive out the pan. It must have been possessed! And NO, for all the guys, the three second rule did NOT apply.

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A few of my lovely readers have commented that they would love to have a tapas dinner party but it seems like a lot of work, so I’ve put together a few words of advice as I have hosted tapas dinner parties for over a year now and have experienced successes and failures. I hope these tricks alleviate the mystery and inspire you to have a tapas dinner party.

  1. Planning is everything. Think of a theme you wish to follow and create a menu around it; break it out into steps for timing and serving (I’ll give an example of this). Decide how many groups of courses you will serve (i.e., 4 courses of sets of 1-2 dishes are 4 x 1 (0r 2)). If this is your first tapas dinner party and you don’t have a stock up of quick hors d’œuvres in the freezer then start the cooking about 1 week in advance and make 1 to 2 things for the freezer. Don’t worry, you will use them up eventually!
  2. Mise en place is key. Chop, cut, slice, grate anything you can do ahead of time, DO IT. Prepare similar items all at once (as in chop ALL the onions you will need and separate it out into each course). Store meats and fishes in the fridge. I always put ingredients that need to be together in one place in the fridge.
  3. It’s on ‘the list’. There are many components to a tapas dinner party, so even the best of us will struggle to remember everything you need to add, pinch, and sauce so MAKE A LIST and REFER to it throughout the evening.
  4. Distribute the labour. I have found including your partner in helping with preparation and serving the courses allows each of you to alternate kitchen duty and spend time with your guests.
  5. Make it Simple. Choose a combination of freshly made courses and previously made and frozen courses.
  6. Keep it small. Remember that you are having a lot of food over a long period of time so portions should be small (for example, 1-2 medium shrimp per person is one course. Do you have frozen soup in the fridge? Serve it in shooters instead of bowls—it’s an instant serving!
  7. Timing is everything. Make sure you serve the courses spread out over time, this dinner party is about conversation and food…all night. Our tapas usually last 3-4 hours with some breathers in between.
  8. Relax. Fortunately Tapas make a very casual dinner party so you needn’t worry when one coarse is 15 minutes later than expected. Keep the wine flowing and the conversation going and you will have a wonderful evening.

To illustrate how easy this type of dinner party is, below I am posting a sample menu. I may use this for a future dinner party.

Our 21012 European Adventure through Tapas (4 x 1):

Course 1: Budapest

  • Áginéni’s Cheese Sticks (I usually have these in the freezer, but if I don’t I just make a fresh batch and freeze the leftovers for another party!)

Course 2: Spain

Course 3: France

  • Escargot en Profiteroles (I always have the cheese puffs, canned escargot, and frozen butter, garlic and parsley balls ready for action)

Course 4: Austria

  • Austrian Sachertorte three ways. Make one beautiful dessert and serve it three different ways in very small portions. (off the top of my head, I’m thinking 1) a traditional slice, 2) roughly cut into a small trifle, 3) and twice baked into a small biscotti and served with a mini cappuccino!)

Think ahead when you’re cooking weekday meals, if you’re making a large batch of chili, put aside a full serving for a future tapas dinner and serve it in mini pitas. If you’ve made soup, set aside enough for shooters and serve in espresso cups. A dip and bread may be considered as a course. A simple course might be Saganaki. I try to alternate previously prepared or easy courses with something a bit more complex. Involving your partner to help with alternate courses also breaks up the time spent in the kitchen…don’t you think your partner might love to light the Saganaki and serve this fiery treat?

Desserts, I find are relatively easy too. If you’ve made brownies, cut the edges and freeze. Then for a small tapas dessert, whip some cream or make a quick custard and assemble a trifle with the left-over edges, serve with a shot for extra effect!

Example for timing the menu above (note: the times are just guidelines)

7:30 guests arrive, start with libations and Aunte Ági’s cheese sticks. Pit the oven on and move into the living room and have lovely conversation. Perhaps put on a fire, and definitely play some music (we like jazz).

7:45: put the scallops into the oven, they will take longer than the bacon wrapped dates. Depending on the size of scallops, turn about 5-7 minutes, now add the bacon wrapped dates. Bake for another 5-7 minutes.

8:10 serve the bacon wrapped scallops and dates. Keep the oven on.

Around 8:30-8:45 your partner should pop into the kitchen to start the chorizo course, meanwhile fill the glasses.

Warm the serving dish and prepare the dish.

9:00 Serve chorizo dish with bread.

9:45 You’ll likely want a bit of a break, but you can ready the escargot for the oven, bake for 10 minutes until butter has melted and the Chou is crispy. Serve hot at 10ish.

The dessert should already be made and plated with some last minute garnished to attend to. Serve with coffee/tea when your guest say they are ready.

Tapas need not be stressful, after all, it’s about getting together with friends in a casual setting. Cheers! I hope to read about your tapas dinner party soon.

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We travelled from Vienna to Barcelona with one of the intercontinental airlines, Berlin Air; it was efficient and relatively inexpensive (less than $100 pp Canadian). The terminal in Vienna is being overhauled and I don’t know about you, but JT and I have the uncanny ability to chose a flight that departs from the absolute farthest terminal in and out of the building. This was no exception; fortunately we were able to dump our weighty luggage early and manage the walk (and hobble) to the extreme farthest part of the temporary portable building (yes, this terminal was even farther from the actual terminal — it was outside the terminal!). Our drive from Budapest took two hours longer than it should have and we were both anxious not to miss the flight, we made it but we’re being boarded within 15 minutes of arrival! Thank goodness my dear Aunt made sandwiches which we gobbled down while speed-waiting! For some reason security did not care about food, just our documents which were pulled out and scrutinized. Oh, and my shoes! (nudge, nudge wink, wink my shoe buds Kristy and Charlie)

We rented an apartment with AirBnB that was in the Barri Gotic area (thanks for the tip for AirBnB, Charles – I’ll have a little surprise about Charles later!). The apartment was great, much as described on line and the bed was comfy, the kitchen had a coffee maker and a good fridge and the bathroom was modern and we had free wifi! The location was great too, within a short walk to La Rambla with the pedestrian boulevards with restaurants and shops.

The living room overlooked a quiet pedestrian street-no noisy mopeds!

This is the pass through to the small ‘office’. We were streaming music from Martini in the Morning a lovely Jazz station in Southern California.

The bed was a king which is unheard of in Europe! Nice and roomy.

The dining area in the kitchen. That’s an interior window that opened to a fairly large shaft. People hung their laundry out there!

Modern appliances and a N’espresso Machine. Mind you we did have a bit of a challenge finding the cartridges for the machine. To save calories we ate a simple breakfast in our apartment most mornings (plain yogurt, a little bread and coffee)

Our first full day was kind of a bust, full fledged rain so we opted for a bus tour of the city — a great way to get to know what you want to see. We ended up getting the two day pass so that we could go back and see things more in detail, but we ended up just seeing new things. So much to see, so little time.

The architecture is very interesting — this is the Olah hotel with strange eyeballs/Security cameras on the exterior.

Designed by Gaudi a famous Spanish architect and a leader of Catalan Modernism.

Personally, I find Gaudi architecture somewhat disturbing and upsetting

The organic shapes almost seem to make the building come alive…like it’s an alien.

JT had read about this place and indeed it was an excellent lunch

Views from the bus tour

This undulating roof was a market just around the corner from our apartment. Sadly it was open only until 4pm every day and we kept missing it.

Just around the corner from our apartment

They were setting up a stage for later that evening when the Catalan’s would protest for separation. Québequois are not the only one’s who wish to separate!

The Cathedral of Barcelona interior a wonderful example of high gothic architecture

A restaurant that once was the cellars to another cathedral.

It was a really cute place, but the food was just so-so.

Statue of Christopher Columbus. Yes, he was indeed Italian, but his boat was Spanish!

We had a lovely lunch on the shores of the Mediterranean!

A selection of tapas…I did happen to ‘borrow’ the menu for future ideas!

Part of our hood

Along La Ramba, the pedestrian avenue

The weather became brighter and warmer as the evening progressed

The protestors who want to separate. All peaceful.

Walking back…so many motorbikes and scooters!


And that concludes our trip to Barcelona. I had additional photos showing a vista from a fort high above the city, but sadly the light didn’t really provide enough contrast and the photos were dull and boring. We’ll just have to return to Barcelona to get better photos!

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