Tag Archives: tapas

When Food Allergies Happen to Food People (Gluten-free champiñones al ajillo)

25 Mar

They sidle up to you in the hallway at work when no one else is around. They approach you with the hangdog expression of a sinner headed to the confessional for the same reason they went last week. Or they send you a hesitant text, dangling uncertainly between apologetic and grief-stricken, unable to tell you directly in person. They are embarrassed, bewildered, ashamed.

They are….Foodies with Allergies and they are coming to your house for a dinner party!

This happened to me during the planning of that play-reading party you’ve been hearing a lot about in my recent posts.

Let me clarify. The food allergies didn’t happen to me, the guests with food allergies did (see how quickly I distance my own foodie self from any suggestion of an allergy?). Two friends, food-lovers both, came to me with their tales of woe. One, (who is already vegetarian, for the love of God) has celiac disease, which means her small intestines can’t tolerate gluten – found in wheat, rye and barley. The other is getting tested for possible lactose-intolerance.

Gluten-free tapas...

Gluten-free tapas…

Now it does seem like food sensitivities and intolerances and flat-out allergies are on the rise in our population. The whole peanut thing has taken over many schools, which have nut-free areas. Gluten-free has been the latest way for companies to flog their products as ostensibly healthier because it has less of something.

Continue reading


Yes! BAKED Broccoli, Spinach and Feta Empanadas (using store-bought disks)

24 Feb

Here is the second installment of 2014: The Year of the Empanada. After my first installment, in which I fried up my stuffings in Goya pre-made disks, I was showered with questions about whether they could be baked instead.

I wasn’t sure, but thanks Kathy Blenk for reporting back that she tried it and indeed they could!

How to pinch in those cute folds

How to pinch in those cute folds (photo Marianne Goralski)

So I decided to go for it as well (later in the year I hope to make my own, but one thing at a time) and was very pleased with the results. Continue reading

Fish on Friday: Five More Fab Seafood Solutions

28 Mar
Spanish tapas: Mussels vinaigrette (make 'em the night before)

Spanish tapas: Mussels vinaigrette (make ’em the night before)

The last Friday in Lent is coming up. Why just pan-fry filets (again), when you could try some of these much more entertaining and tasty takes on seafood? This is Part Two of my Lenten seafood series. I know you’ll end up making them all year long. I certainly do!

Shrimp and Avocado Salad, Spiked with Chipotle (charming served in an avocado shell)

Shrimp and Avocado Salad, Spiked with Chipotle (charming served in an avocado shell)

Pasta al Tonno: One of the fastest pasta sauces known to man. (switch out the green olives for black) Deeply flavored

Pasta al Tonno: One of the fastest pasta sauces known to man. (Feel free to switch out the green olives for black and skip the capers) Deeply flavored!

Creamy, sweet, tangy, chunky, light Swedish Skagen Salad (the best shrimp salad EVER)

Creamy, sweet, tangy, chunky, light Swedish Skagen Salad (the best shrimp salad EVER)

Cioppino Latino...sí, sí, sí

Cioppino Latino…A San Fran Seafood Stew Classic with a special Latina twist

For more seafood recipes, click here!

Frankenstorm Prep: Practical Tips for Battening Down Tastefully

27 Oct

Frankenstorm is barreling our way, probably making landfall somewhere south of Long Island, sometime between Monday and Tuesday, as a hurricane or tropical storm, but any way you model it, sure to blow pretty hard, dump lots of rain, and cut the power to hundreds of thousands, if not millions.

A ragtag collection of camping lighting stuff. Headlamps are fab in these situations.

If you want to track it, try the National Weather Service National Hurricane Center, for as long as you have a charged computer or smartphone. Or you can watch the more sensational, perhaps even lurid (look at the garish colors on their hurricane projections) Weather Channel obsessively and drive yourself nuts, while lusting after the reporters’ L.L.Bean and North Face gear.

As a veteran of numerous hurricanes in Puerto Rico (Georges, Hortense, among them), I can tell you that you definitely want:

a battery-powered radio,

bottled water,

lanterns, and

enough medications for three days.

You want batteries for all your lighting and listening devices.

A gas grill is handy (my kingdom for a gas stove)

Start freezing water now — in plastic freezer bags — which will keep your freezer packed and cold, and provide you with fresh water should that become an issue.

Some no-prep mezze table-style treats to have around when the power goes off.

And then, make sure you have some nice treats that don’t require cooking. I picked up a jar of rolled anchovies with capers, artichoke hearts, chorizo, and black olives to go with the hunks of parmigiano, and feta I will have to eat rather than lose. Along with a bottle of wine, it will make a lovely noshing table by candlelight. I may grill-roast some of the peppers from the farm as well.

In addition to wine to while away the hours, I want to assure my Puerto Rican readers that I do indeed have a full bottle of Don Q Cristal (my preferred white mixing rum) ready for the moment when nostalgia for those crazy Cuba Libre-driven hurricane parties in Ocean Park hits. I can’t do that sort of thing now, but a taste of it might be just the thing as we wait out the weather.

Other tips: hard-boiled eggs will keep longer than fresh, so if things look bad, put your eggs in a pot of water to cover by an inch. Bring to a boil, then cover, remove from heat and let rest for ten minutes. Finish by shocking them in cold water.

And one more tip, non-food-related, but important. Remember that if the electric goes, your automatic car garage opener will not function. Plan accordingly and park your car facing out, in case you need to make a quick getaway.

Good luck to all during this massive weather event. I hope that we all come out okay, and that if we must stay indoors for a long time, that we use the opportunity to enjoy simple togetherness time, playing board games, talking, and cuddling.





Party Snacks: Champiñones al ajillo (Mushrooms in Garlic Sauce)

14 Aug

Champiñones al ajillo (Mushrooms in Garlic Sauce) is a classic tapas dish from Spain. I can remember really digging these on my first trip to Spain, back when I was 18 and remarkably stupid and lucky and blessed with an exchange rate that got me lots of pesetas for my parents’ dollars. I’m still remarkably stupid, but everything else seems to have changed.

So it’s lovely to be able to recreate a dish that gave me much pleasure while I was realizing there was a whole ‘nother world beyond the confines of North America and to feel that, while change is inevitable, some things are good forever (at least in human understanding of forever).

Having said that, this dish is a bit different from what I had way back when. The sauce is more dense, the garlic more subtle. And instead of eating it standing up at a formica counter, with the funny afternoon light of old Madrid coming in the plate glass window, I eat the occasional forkful as I move around the kitchen getting the rest of dinner on the table. And instead of tossing the napkins on the floor for the owner’s son to occasionally sweep away from underfoot, I keep using the soggy paper towel by the sink until it is pretty useless. So I guess whatever I am trying to say is about as clear as mud, but hopefully it covers the ground.

Anyhoo, try this one. Enjoy it on a rimmed dish in the middle of the table, jabbing the mushroom bits with toothpicks and sopping up the sauce with crusty bread and drinking little stemless glasses of a rough and ready red, and have fun. Or use it to dress up a steak or burger. It’s easy enough to make, and the flavors may just transport you back to somewhere remembered or forward to somewhere you’d like to go.

Another Spanish mushroom in garlic sauce, with vegan option….

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil, plus 1 Tbs reserved

1 ½ Tbs flour

1 Cup broth (recommended – beef stock for carnivores, mushroom stock for vegans/vegetarians)

Pinch hot red pepper flakes

¼-1/2 tsp dried oregano (Or, more traditionally, 2 Tbs chopped fresh parsley)

1 tsp lemon juice (more to taste)

½ lb mushrooms, whole, sliced in half or in slices

Salt to taste

Heat garlic and 2 Tbs olive oil together at medium heat, turning down as soon as the garlic begins to color. Stir in the flour and mix to a paste. Cook one minute. Add the broth in a thin stream, stirring constantly to incorporate Then add the pepper, the oregano (or half the parsley) and lemon juice and stir until smooth and thick.

In a separate pan, heat remaining olive oil on high until quite hot. Add mushrooms and brown. Add mushrooms to the sauce and cook for five minutes. Add remaining parsley, if using, and serve.

We Make You Look Good: Mussels Vinaigrette, Spanish-Style Tapas, Party Snacks

24 Jul

Some things are worth repeating.

Full disclosure: I have posted a close relative of this recipe before. That was a long time ago, the early days of this blog, and  this is slightly tweaked, plus the photos are new (since I made it again for a visit from my sister-in-law and niece).

Mussels Vinaigrette (make ahead!)

They are still the best damn mussels I have ever had and you should know about them, because they are also extremely easy to prepare and can be made the night before any big affair. (Washing out the shells takes a bit of time, but it is satisfying and mindless work that can be done while sipping a glass of something and chatting companionably with whomever is around).

Served cold and slurped right from the shell, they are a stupendous appetizer in looks and flavor. Want to impress? These are your bad boys.

Mejillones a la Vinagreta (Mussels Vinaigrette). Make Ahead!

(serves 4-6 as an appetizer. For more guests, double the mussels, but just half again of everything else)

1/2 cup olive oil

3 Tbsp red wine vinegar

heaping Tbs small capers

2 Tbsp minced red onion

1 Tbs minced roasted red peppers (you can also use jarred pimientos, the sweet kind)

1 Tbs minced parsley

pinch of salt and a grinding of black pepper

2 lbs mussels in their shells

1 slice lemon

Whisk the oil and vinegar together, then add the capers, onion, peppers, parsley, salt and pepper. Put the mix into a large freezer bag (if you need this dish to be portable)

Boil one cup of water in a big pot with the lemon slice. Add the mussels and bring to a boil, covered. Pluck out the mussels when they open (waiting until the meat separates completely from the shell into a little sausage shape and then pulling out immediately) and put in a separate bowl to cool. Discard any mussels that do not open after ten minutes. Remove the mussel meat and put into plastic bag with the seasonings and refrigerate.

Save half the mussels shells and clean well (this is the tedious part; make sure you have good music on). Put in a plastic bag and refrigerate.

To serve the next day, arrange shells on an attractive and large platter and put one mussel in each. Spoon the remaining seasoning over each.

Asian-Inflected Steak and Asparagus Bites

6 Feb

I was looking for organic steak at Fairway Market in Plainview – one of my favorite places to shop for higher-end yet still reasonably-priced staples like Spanish chorizo, olive oils, tomato in cans, organic eggs — but instead found an irresistible deal:  U.S.D.A. prime hanger steak for $6.99 a pound. The prime designation means a higher quality of steak with loads of marbling (yes, fat) and virtuous me didn’t stand a chance against cheapskate bloodthirsty carnivorous me, so I bought 1.5 lbs and started to plan.

My friend Ashley was coming over, so I knew I’d have some support staff for child care AND prep, so I chose to do something I’ve been hankering after for weeks: Asian-flavored steak with asparagus. It is just slightly labor-intensive, but a show-stopper and I really should have given it to you earlier as a Super Bowl option, but better late than never.

We did half the meat that night, after the little guy was down (with a belly full of pizza and a promise of steak the next day). Must confess, once the pretty pictures were taken, we heaped all of the bites haphazardly on a plate, each grabbed a fork, and fell in like starving raptors from the Cretaceous Period.

The rest – two small steaks — I cooked whole the following evening on the broiler at our friend, Pam’s, without the asparagus (Yes, Leandro got his!). They were just as tasty, but almost 24 hours in the marinade did leave them almost too tender. The following recipe can be jiggled; use the greater amount of asparagus if you want to do all of the steak in wraps.

Anyhooo, I will be doing these the next time I entertain. I hope you will too!

Asian steak and asparagus bites

(factor in minimum marinating time of 30 minutes)

3 cloves garlic, minced fine

2 inch of ginger, peeled indifferently, and grated (about 1.5 packed Tbs; add more to taste)

2 tsp sesame oil

2 Tbs rice vinegar

4 Tbs soy sauce

1 – 1.5 lbs hanger steak (or other fairly thin, tender boneless cut)

1 – 2 lbs asparagus spears, washed, woody stems snapped off, and chopped into 2-inch pieces

Mix all ingredients except meat in a plastic freezer bag or a bowl. Add steak, coat thoroughly and then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Reserving marinade, slice marinated steak ACROSS THE GRAIN* into thin slices and then cut the slices into strips suitable for wrapping artfully or not so artfully around asparagus spears. Lay steak and asparagus bites onto an oven rack with a catch dish underneath. Pour remaining marinade over and salt to taste. Cook for 5 minutes on each side (7-8 for well done) and serve.

*Cutting steaks across the grain cuts through the fibers that hold the muscles together and shortens them so the meat can barely hold together, thus, tenderness. This is especially necessary with my favorite muscle-y cuts: skirt steak (churrasco), flank steak and hanger steak. When raw, you will see natural lines across the meat. Slice against them (at a 90° angle, if I have understood Kenji at Food Lab (Serious Eats) correctly).

Party Snacks: Endives, Smoked Salmon, and Capers (Endivias con Salmón)

22 Nov

My parents usher in every holiday season with a Tapas & Tertulia evening for some of their closest, most worldly-wise, food-loving friends from a number of Spanish-speaking countries. Tapas are the little dishes that the Spanish nosh on while drinking small glasses of beer or wine. A tertulia is a convivial gathering – of intellect or music or literature or other sociable human tricks.This evening is one I always look forward to; the conversation is wide-ranging and stimulating, the laughter hearty and the appreciation of food is foremost.

I helped my folks by making some of the mainstays of the tapas/buffet table – tortilla española, tortilla Torcal (with chorizo and ham), yuca en escabeche.

While searching for something new for the cold course, I found this in Tapas: The Little Dishes of Spain, by Penelope Casas, a hero of Spanish cuisine in America and a longtime inspiration around here. The endive makes a handy tray for the salmon, while salmon is made mild by the lemon dressing. One of my adaptations was to add capers, a natural for this combination, both as flavor and visual punctuation. Very pretty, very fresh, very handy, very, very fast and easy!

Please look at the photo and know that endive can mean any of several members of the Compositae family of chicories: escarole, chicory itself and radicchio, for example. Belgian endive (Chicorium intybus) is the one you want here. It looks like a tightly closed tulip; you cut off the bottom and take off the scoop-shaped petals, one by one.

Smoked Salmon and Endive Scoops (Endívias con salmón)

4 oz smoked salmon, sliced into strips

12 Belgian endive leaves, clean and unblemished

3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

1.5-2 Tbs fresh lemon juice


Freshly ground pepper (white, if you’ve got)

Approximately 50 small capers, drained

Lay a piece of salmon on each of the endive leaves. In a small bowl, whisk the oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper and pour over the filled endive leaves. Scatter capers over each scoop (3-4 per scoop). Serve immediately or keep chilled (for no more than an hour as they can start to dry out).

Shrimp in Seconds (tapas, party snack, salad topper or killer wrap/tortilla filler)

13 Sep

A bag of frozen shrimp in the fridge is worth its weight in gold when you have surprise guests, a hankering for seafood or you just want a tasty, quick, low-fat protein that you can eat with your fingers. It thaws in no time, cooks in less than no time, and is a virtually guaranteed crowd-pleaser. I also use any leftovers for lunch the next day!

This recipe is so basic it almost doesn’t seem like a recipe to me, but it gets the job done when you just want to eat without fussing and be able to sit down with your guests and actually eat and relax.

Casual Sauteed Shrimp (Appetizer or Salad Topper or Wrap Ingredient)

15-20 medium frozen shrimp (31-40 is fine and usually reasonably priced; pre-peeled is nice….).

1 tsp Old Bay Seasoning

1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

Do a Quick Thaw McGraw on the shrimp in a bowl of room-temperature water, turning occasionally changing water if things are moving too slowly. Ten minutes is all you really need. Peel shrimp if necessary, leaving tails on.

Drain shrimp and pat dry with a paper towel and place in a bowl. Add Old Bay Seasoning and stir to coat.

Heat oil at medium high in a skillet. When oil is loose and fragrant, add shrimp and cook for about two minutes, stirring frequently until they are pink-white (not translucent) and curled up. You don’t want to overcook, so pull them out as soon as they begin to stiffen. You can cut through one experimentally to check that all translucence is gone.

Remove from heat and serve as finger food with plenty of napkins and cocktail sauce, lemon wedges or anything else you like to dip shrimp into. Garlic mayo (aioli) comes to mind https://hotcheapeasy.wordpress.com/2010/12/17/tapas-1-make-your-own-mayo/ Or use to top a salad. I have used them in wraps, cold out of the fridge and sliced in half lengthwise, along with fresh or roasted vegetables, white cheese or feta and a smear of hummus. You can also stir into pasta, adding a bit more oil and lemon.

Tortilla española (Classic Spanish potato and egg frittata)

14 May

For parties, picnics or brunch!

One of my favorite dishes ever, tortilla española, is picnic and party portable, light yet filling, subtle yet hearty and includes just four basic ingredients (plus salt). It also looks beautiful in a sturdy, wholesome farmhouse way. I eat it warm or cold, for breakfast, lunch, dinner or brunch (or a midnight raid on the fridge). It keeps — refrigerated – for a couple of days, but honestly, tortilla española never lasts that long in my house!

Spanish people (from the Iberian peninsula) are quite — and rightly — proud of their culinary traditions. Serving your home-made tortilla to a Spaniard is kind of like serving your spaghetti marinara to an Italian from Italy: there is a good chance you will be damned with faint praise, or met with an unsuccessfully concealed sniff of a European nose that tells you you just don’t get it. But I have served my tortilla to Spaniard after Spaniard and the invariable response has been a request for seconds and a lot of praise, so I think it’s a winner. ¡Olé!

This is a pretty easy dish, but does require some derring-do for the flipping (unless Rosaria turns up with her fancy tortilla flipper one day soon!). I am including a list of equipment here so that you can set yourself up for success without scrambling for stuff. Thanks to Ashley for chopping and for writing down the exact proportions while I measured and stirred.


non-stick pan and lid (the pan should be at 9-10 inches across; the cover doesn’t have to be the exact fit. I like an oversized lid myself)



large mixing bowl

bowl to catch drained oil

large flat plate for filling


1 Cup olive oil (or half olive oil, half neutral vegetable oil)

2 baseball sized onions, peeled and sliced into 1/8 inch rings (rings may be halved)

3 medium potatoes, peeled, halved lengthwise and cut into relatively uniform 1/2 inch slices (Russett or Yukon Gold preferred. New potatoes should not be used)

8-10 fresh eggs (a bigger pan requires 10)

Heat oil until liquid and fragrant and layer potatoes and onions in the oil. Lower heat to medium and cook vegetables until tender (if they start to brown, lower the heat more), turn occasionally.

Open bottle of prosecco or other refreshing white wine and begin drinking (This is Ashley’s contribution to the recipe).

In a large bowl, gently beat eggs. When vegetables are tender, drain into colander, reserving oil. Put drained vegetables in egg mixture and stir to cover, adding 1/4-1/2 tsp salt. Allow to rest for five to ten minutes.

Clean pan and heat a small amount of the reserved oil into pan (non-stick pans should require little more than a rub of oil) at medium-high. Save reserved oil for another dish.

Pour egg mixture into pan and allow to cook at medium high until a crust forms on the art of mixture that is in direct contact with the pan. Cover and lower heat to medium low, shaking occasionally. When mixture is relatively firm CAREFULLY lay plate face down on pan and turn tortilla onto pan (this is where liquid can come out; I do it over the sink). Slide tortilla back into pan, uncooked side down. Continue cooking until it slides easily in pan.

You may flip a few more times to improve shape, then flip onto plate, allow to cool for at least ten minutes, slice pie-style and serve with salad or cut into squares for a buffet or appetizer (stick with toothpicks for hors d’oeuvres).


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