Party in Grand Style, with Small Plates
Tapas bars seem to be popping up everywhere. With roots in Spain, the name covers a wide variety of finger foods served at many restaurants. Nibbling through the day is not uncommon in Spain. With dinner typically served between 9 and 11 PM, it leaves ample time in the afternoon to enjoy this small plate fare with a glass or two of local wine.
The Spanish word “tapa” means “lid” and some food historians believe the first tapa was a slice of bread drinkers used to protect their wine from flies and dust. Eventually little morsels—most likely, bits of ham and cheese—were placed on top of the bread, to accompany. Several centuries and worldly influences later, the lowly tapa has now reached trendy culinary heights. A couple of the more authentic flavor combinations are featured on this menu, along with a few simple-to-assemble ideas. Serve your tapas with a selection of olives, cheese and charcuterie, marcona almonds, some sparkling Cava and a pitcher of Sangria, plus lots of small plates for second and third nibblings…
Cheesy Ham Croquetas
2 15-ounce cans small white beans
1 cup very finely chopped ham (if available, Serrano variety)
2 teaspoons minced roasted pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon (or to taste) onion salt
½-inch thick slice (about 4 ounces) Manchego cheese
(Garcia Baquero, Gran Maestre or Villacenteno variety)
2 beaten eggs
1 cup plain bread crumbs
Vegetable Oil for frying
Drain beans and dry on paper towels. Pulse in food processor or mash to make thick bean paste. Add ham, pepper, garlic powder and onion salt to paste, mixing well. Set aside.
Cut slice of Manchego cheese into twenty four ½-inch x ¾-inch rectangles. Use a rounded tablespoon of bean mixture to form ball around each cheese rectangle, sealing it completely. Repeat with each cheese piece. Roll all croquetas in bread crumbs. Heat 2 inches of oil in a high sided medium sized pot to 360°. Working in batches, using two forks, dip the breaded croquetas in egg to coat completely; roll again in bread crumbs. Fry a few at a time for 2 minutes or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. (These can be frozen, to serve at a later date.) When ready to serve (thaw to room temperature if frozen) warm on foil lined tray in 300° oven for 18 – 20 minutes.
Scallops in a Blanket
Preheat broiler. Slice 12 fresh, very dry sea scallops in half horizontally. Combine ¼ cup olive oil with 2 teaspoons EACH smoked paprika and oregano. Cut 4 Roma tomatoes into slices about the same size as scallops. Coat each tomato slice in oil mixture and place a slice on small scallop shell (or place all on foil lined baking sheet). Sprinkle each with bread crumbs. Broil 3-4 inches from heat source, about 3 – 4 minutes or until very hot. Toss scallop slices in remaining oil mixture. While tomatoes are still hot, place seasoned scallop on each and top with 1/4 teaspoon Salsa Verde and a large pinch of grated Jarlsberg cheese. Finish with a sprinkle of bread crumbs and broil again, about 1 – 2 minutes, or until scallops are white and cheese is bubbly. Serve warm.
Chevrai Turtles: Shape soft fresh goat cheese (we like Woolwich Dairy Chevrai – www.woolwichdairy.com) into small balls and sandwich between toasted walnut halves. Creamy Cucumber Bite: On cucumber round, layer marinated sun dried tomato and top with piping of fresh Chevrai goat cheese, mixed with pesto. Smoked Party Rounds: On pumpernickel party round (shaped with small cookie cutter), layer smoked salmon and piping of either fresh Chevrai goat cheese or Snofrisk, a Norwegian cream cheese, if available. Top with a touch of salmon roe.
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