Some say that Tapas first originated when King Alfonso, while on a long trip, stopped to rest in the town of Ventorillo del Chato in the southern province of Cádiz, Spain. He ordered a glass of jerez (sherry). There was a gusty wind, so the inn keeper served him his glass of sherry covered by a slice of ham to prevent the sherry from getting dirty. King Alfonso apparently liked it, and when he asked for a second glass, he requested another tapa or “cover” just like the first.

Tapas have become known the world over as finger foods, starters, and small plates. They are served all over Spain in Tapas bars, and have become a culinary canvas for chefs who prepare “small plates” that look and taste like gastronomical wonders.  Of course, tapas complement fabulous wines like those from the Rioja Valley.

Spanish tapas can be anything from the popular Tortilla Española (a

Spanish omellette of eggs, onions and potatoes), to Calamares Fritos (fried squid), to Aceitunas (olives), to Saffron Fideo Con Queso Manchego. Fresh, local ingredients like seafood, Jamon (ham), and Pimientos Rojos (red peppers) are found in classic Tapas.

That said, anything served as a finger food, starter, or “on a small plate” can be construed as a tapa. A great dinner party can simply be several dishes served on small plates, or in relatively small portions, one dish at a time. Pairing food and wine with each course or plate is a fun way to entertain. On a hot summer night, a fruity Sangria is also a great complement to a Spanish theme.

This week, I’ve prepared a tapa that can be made right in the paella pan, and makes for a lovely presentation too! It’scalled Saffron Fideo Con Queso Manchego. It’s Saffron scented pasta with Manchego cheese and linguica (portugese sausage). Watch the video and try it for yourself!

If you’re game to throw a Tapas party, try this menu, serving one dish at a time with a wonderful Spanish Tempranillo wine!

Tapas Party Menu Plan

Start with Tortilla Española and Sangria. Tortilla can be prepared ahead of guests’ arrival and served at room temperature. Next, serve Gambas al Ajillo (garlic prawns). You can stage the portioned ingredients in oven proof bowls until you’re ready to cook. Put them in the oven and serve piping hot with crusty bread.

The third course is up to you. If you’re more of a meat eater. Steak a la Plancha is a good choice. It’s simply seasoned steak seared in the skillet and finished in the oven. If you’re a seafood lover, Pirate Style Grilled Swordfish is a winner. If you’re a pasta person, Saffron Fideo Con Queso Manchego is the dish for you.

Finish with chocolate (of course) with this lovely Chocolate Port Wine Cake!
Here’s to your next dinner party……Hasta pronto!
Holly Brown