Tag Archives: tapas

Roasted Asparagus and Sweet Red Pepper Dipping Sauce

23 Apr
Simple and beautiful spring fare

I have been experimenting with my new fancy Breville toaster oven and it’s been a life-changer! I don’t always want to turn the regular oven on for a small dish, so this new tabletop oven has widened my options.

One example is asparagus, coming soon into season and one of my favorite things to eat. It roasts very nicely and quickly with no fuss. I just eat the spears with my fingers right off the plate.
I decided to jazz it up (and in the process use up some sweet roasted red pepper that I had taking up space in the fridge). This took a jiffy and was a bright relish-y sort of taste (note that I used SWEET roasted red pepper). I later whipped some up as a dressing for black bean burgers (recipe to come in the next couple of days).

Zesty Dipping Sauce for Roasted Asparagus

3 Tbs mayonnaise

1-2 Tbs plain nonfat yogurt

2 Tbs roasted sweet red pepper, diced fine

Mix all ingredients together. Serve as a dipping sauce or as relish for black bean burgers or other sandwich fillings.


Roasted Asparagus

1 lb asparagus (the fat kind preferred), washed and bottoms snapped off (reserve to make broth for another recipe)

1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt or coarse kosher salt for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350°. Rub olive oil over asparagus spears and place on rimmed baking sheet, foil or, ideally, broiler-type rack. Cook for 15 minutes, sprinkle with salt and serve with dipping sauce.

Skagen Salad; Scandinavian Shrimp Salad (dill-icious)

25 Mar


Creamy, sweet, tangy, chunky, light


 This is how the stars aligned. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo got my friend, Ashley, in the mood for Scandinavian food. I had a couple of bags of frozen shrimp and prawns in the freezer and a hankering for dill. It was the third Friday night of Lent  (which I take to mean that God wants me to be creative with seafood). My Swedish sister-in-law has instructed me in the mystical art of extracting relatively authentic Swedish flavor from American ingredients (yes, IKEA plays a critical role). Thus, the following shrimp salad became the basis for a minimalist Swedish tapas night.

We also had brie on pumpernickel toast topped with lingonberry preserves (like I said, IKEA is crucial here) and, since this is being written in real time, there may be some herring and smoked salmon later on, although as there is no more sauvignon blanc to accompany it, maybe not.

This is really quick to make and yet is cool, unhurried and elegant. Maybe one day I will start playing around with the sour cream and mayo proportions and use plain nonfat yogurt, but virtue is not one of my virtues at the moment, so here it is in all its lush glory.

Scandinavian Shrimp Salad

4 Cups peeled, cooked and deveined shrimp (your choice of size*), chopped into small chunks

¾ Cup sour cream

¼ cup mayonnaise

½ cup red onion, minced

½ cup dill, finely chopped

3 Tsp lemon juice

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl, leaving lemon juice for last, salt to taste and serve with toasted pumpernickel , crisp crackers or atop a salad.

*My sister-in-law Annika, who is actually Swedish, was the one who found the original recipe that this is based on. For her, the flavor is not authentic unless you use those tiny, coldwater cooked and peeled Greenland Prawns that she gets in frozen 500g bags from IKEA. It is true, they have a distinctive sweet tang that regular bagged supermarket shrimp don’t, but I don’t like their texture thawed. So I use a strainer to dip them in the same water the rest of the shrimp are cooking in for just a minute which tightens them up without losing too much flavor. I use one bag of the tiny prawns and about a pound of other bagged shrimp (works out to half and half), but you can use whatever you have on hand.

Tapas 4: Clams and Chorizo: keeping the salt at bay (haha!)

27 Dec

Clams and chorizo are delicious, gorgeous, easy  and lightning-fast to make, but be forewarned: the brine in the clams is so strong that the dish often turns out too, too salty.

I think I am going to start throwing peeled raw potatoes into the brine to soak up some of the salt; the flavors of this dish also harmonize with garbanzos (chick peas/ceci) so I may try adding a low-sodium can of those.  Kate from England suggests soaking clams in milk, but I usually use the clams in the shell…Any other suggestions are welcome!

Have a lot of good crusty bread available

Clams & Chorizo

3 TBs olive oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

¼ lb chorizo, peeled and coarsely chopped

¾ Cup dry white wine

2 lbs small clams in shells (or cockles or a mix) scrubbed

1 tsp parsley, chopped

Make sure you have tongs handy!

In a large pot, heat oil then briefly sauté garlic (do not brown). Add chorizo and sauté briefly, just until the oil begins to color. Add wine and bring to a boil. (This is where I think I’ll add garbanzos or potatoes in the future) Add clams and cover, then after a couple of minutes, open pot and begin to pull clams out with tongs as they open (they will get chewy if allowed to overcook even by seconds!). Put them in a serving dish with sides. If using potatoes, cook at low heat until they become tender. Stir parsley into the cooking liquid then pour over clams and serve (shells on) with crusty bread.

Party Snacks: Tortilla Torcal, a Spanish egg frittata with chorizo and ham

21 Dec

Today I lived my owned sour grapes fable. You remember: the Aesop story about the fox who can’t reach a bunch of grapes that are taunting him from a high vine. In the end, the fox gives up and consoles himself by saying, “Those grapes were probably sour anyway.”

Well, the tortilla flipper is probably overrated anyway.

Like the fox, I won’t find out whether this wondrous invention is as tasty as it looked on the online pages of a Spanish product vendor. It looks like two skillets hinged together that make flipping a classic Spanish tortilla (savory stovetop egg pie) easy. Like, you won’t burn your forearms as you upturn the eight not-quite-cooked eggs onto a plate and then slide the tortilla back into the skillet and you won’t make a goeey, cementy, eggy mess as the uncooked bits goop out of the skillet…

Nah, what would be the fun of that? Why take a muscle-y, down and dirty, daredevil sacrifice for the sake of food and turn it into a clinical, tidy, bloodless, soul-less operation?

Never. Not even if I could spare $50 to purchase another piece of kitchen equipment I have no room for.

So, screw the tortilla flipper. Or unscrew it. Or unhinge it. Forget it.

The tortilla itself, however, is a worthwhile enterprise. This is a case where the “easy” in “Hot, Cheap & Easy” is relative. A relative lie, actually. Making a Spanish tortilla takes time, patience, some strength and a set of stones. However, when you make a good one, your guests will lavish you with praise, something I am quite fond of.

And since I can make it the night before an event, it’s handy and portable.

The classic tortilla española is potato and egg, but this one, inspired by Penelope Casas’ recipe for Tortilla Torcal in her book Tapas makes it a mightier, spicier dish that really dresses up a tapas night.

Tortilla con chorizo y petit pois

1/2 cup olive oil

3 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed

8-10 eggs

1/4 tsp salt (optional, reduce or leave out if the ham is very salty)

1 small onion, chopped fine

1/4 lb. spicy Spanish-style chorizo sausage, peeled and diced

1/4 Cup ham steak or other cured/fully cooked ham, diced

1/4 Cup frozen peas, cooked


Heat the oil in a skillet and add potatoes, lower heat and cook potatoes slowly, turning frequently. When they start to brown, they are more than done. In a large bowl, beat the eggs lightly with the salt. Drain the potatoes, reserving the oil. Add the potatoes to the egg mixture and mix just barely (this gets the temperatures even).

Heat one tablespoon of oil to the skillet and sauté the onion until tender. Add the chorizo and the ham and cook just until the chorizo begins to release its oil (it will get bitter if allowed to cook more). Add the peas and cook for another few minutes. Stir very gently into the eggs and let sit for at least five minutes. Meanwhile, make sure your skillet (9” or 10” made of a material that is not too heavy!) is really clean, then heat two more tablespoons of oil and pour in the egg mixture. When you see the egg begin to cook on the edges, lower heat to medium low and cover. Allow to cook for ten minutes, until the center is thickened.

This is where it gets challenging. Get a plate that will fit smoothly to the edges of the skillet. The plate should be flat-surfaced, with no changes in levels. Take the skillet to the sink, put the plate on top and, with your hand firmly on the plate, turn the skillet over so the tortilla turns onto the plate (this is where the goo can scald your forearm, if you are unlucky or not careful). Then slide the tortilla back into the skillet, wet side down. Put back on heat and cover, continuing to cook until done (another five minutes or so). In the meantime, wash and dry the plate. When the tortilla is done, flip it back onto the plate and behold its golden loveliness.  

Allow to cool (I actually refrigerate overnight after it cools, wrapping in foil or plastic wrap or both). Serve at room temperature, or warm; it’s good at any temperature. I usually cut into squares for a tapas party and stick the squares with toothpicks to get people started.

 NB: Penelope Casas and other Spaniards prefer their tortillas a bit juicy inside. I find that Americans are too concerned about salmonella for that (and probably rightly so), so I cook it through. If you know your egg source, you should be fine cooking it rare!

Also, I really, truly thought the tortilla flipper was cool, but I think I am way cooler for doing it Old School. Sour grapes? You make the call.

Tapas 2: The Best Mussels EVER (party snacks to make ahead!)

18 Dec

Mejillones a la vinagreta must be made the night before and then assembled just before serving. Enlist the help of your guests – those lovely kitchen elves who want to keep busy while watching you cook.

I love seafood and I especially love mussels. And I especially, especially love mussel dishes that force people to use their hands and slurp – there is no better ice breaker than perilous food, particularly if eaten standing up while simultaneously holding a beverage. Conversation among complete strangers is virtually guaranteed.

Also, mussels are simple. You just need to pull them out of the pot as soon as they open (so babysitting the cooking is required on this one for about ten minutes) so they don’t get chewy. This means TONGS are crucial (although I have been known to use my fingers to pluck them out in extremis).

These mussels are inspired by Spanish cuisine maven Penelope Casas. You make them the night before and then dish them into the reserved shells before serving. Crusty bread for dipping is critical.

Mussels (Mejillones) a la Vinagreta

1/2 cup olive oil

3 Tbsp red wine vinegar

heaping Tbs small capers

2 Tbsp minced red onion

1 Tbs minced pimiento (I prefer roasted red peppers, but I inadvertently bought sweet red peppers in a jar and the resulting tanginess worked out just fine)

1 Tbs minced parsley

pinch of salt and a grinding of black pepper

2-4 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.

Serve with a dry sparkling white (like Spanish cava or prosecco – your more economical options) or a sauvignon blanc from New Zealand, or if you are lucky/geographically able, a Long Island sauvignon blanc from Paumanok or Jamesport Vineyards.

*NB: Mussels should be bought the day of or the day before making. Buy them in net bags (not wrapped in plastic) from a reputable vendor who moves a lot of product and SNIFF THEM! If they smell faintly briny and sweet, they are good. If they smell funky or of ammonia or anything that makes you wonder, then don’t buy them! Do not be afraid to ask for a different bag after sniffing; a fishmonger will only respect you the more for knowing your shellfish.

At home, store in a nonreactive bowl in the fridge, covered with a damp towel.

These days mussels from stores are pretty clean. You must still wash them in cold water and tug out any weirdy-beardies sticking out from the shell. While you wash, discard any mussels that are cracked or are open and won’t close back up if pressed together.

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