Imagine joining a group of friends for a night on the town. You’re strolling down cobblestone streets between music-filled taverns. At each, you encounter a tantalizing array of platters along the bar, filled with delectable bites prepared moments ago for the fine sherry, wine or local cider you’re leisurely sipping. That’s tapas, the Spanish tradition that’s as much about socializing as it is about eating and drinking. No stuffy dining room – just small, flavor-packed nibbles made with freshly picked vegetables, just-caught seafood, heart-healthy extra-virgin olive oil and an old-world sense of conviviality.
Sound fun? Well, you don’t need a plane ticket to enjoy the experience. Chill a bottle of sherry, prep these make-ahead tapas recipes and invite some pals over for a fun night on the patio.
Manchego cheese adds a nutty note to the stuffing in these heartier-style bites, while a finishing sprinkle of paprika adds that characteristic smoky flavor found in Spanish cuisine.
Toasted Rosemary Marcona Almonds
Fresh rosemary commingles with tangy lemon zest and smoked paprika to give these almonds a ton of flavor. If you can’t find Marcona, regular raw almonds work well, too.
Clams in Salsa Verde with Sherry
Clams are popular as warm tapas in Spain. Cooked with lots of garlic and sherry, they are always served with crusty bread to sop up the delicious juices. Use a dry or semi-dry sherry, such as Fino, and follow the Spanish maxim: Never cook with a sherry you wouldn’t drink.
A type of bivalve mollusk, clams contain B vitamins and minerals such as selenium, iron and zinc. Selenium plays an important role in the metabolism of thyroid hormones; iron is a component of myoglobin, a protein that provides oxygen to muscles; and zinc is required for the stimulation of more than 100 enzymes in the body.
Roasted Potatoes with Red Pepper Almond Sauce
Called patatas bravas in Spanish, or “fierce potatoes,” these crispy little nuggets of potato are usually deep-fried in olive oil, but they’re equally wonderful roasted in the oven with just a kiss of oil as we’ve done. Serve with romesco, a rich sauce made of roasted peppers and almonds that’s great on any roasted vegetable, and garnish with chopped almonds or a spinkle of smoked paprika.
Seared Scallops with White Gazpacho Sauce
Gazpacho, the famous chilled soup, comes in lots of varieties in Spain. This white gazpacho, made with cucumbers and green grapes, is used as a sauce to complement seared scallops.
Scallops are sold by weight and often labeled with a number per pound. For example, the large scallops you need for this recipe should be U12 – that means there are 12 or fewer to the pound. They will be just right for a two-bite tapa serving.
A tough little opaque white tab of muscle attaches each scallop to its shell. Most are gone by the time they reach the store, but if you see one running down the edge of the scallop, peel it off and discard it; it becomes very tough when cooked.
Scallops are sold two ways: wet and dry-packed. Wet-packed scallops are stored in a sodium tripolyphosphate solution that bleeds out when the scallops are cooked, preventing them from browning. Dry-packed contain no additives and – while slightly more expensive – they taste much better and will sear beautifully in a hot pan. Dry-packed scallops will be labeled as such, while wet-packed scallops sometimes will not be. Read the label if buying packaged scallops and, when in doubt, ask your fishmonger.
In addition to being packed with protein, scallops are a good source of both vitamin B12 and phosphorus. Vitamin B12 is necessary for the formation of red blood cells and for DNA synthesis while phosphorus is required to make adenosine triphosphate (ATP),
a molecule used by the body’s cells for storing energy.
Stuffed Mini Bell Peppers with Serrano Ham & Cheese
Roasted stuffed peppers are a mainstay of tapas bars in Spain. In this fresh twist, we skip the oven and fill raw mini bell peppers with creamy sheep’s milk cheese or goat cheese and top with crispy serrano ham bits for a textural feast.
Warm Marinated Olives with Thyme & Lemon
Heating whole, unpitted olives with vinegar, oil, herbs and spices wakes up their flavors and makes them soft and plump. A mix of buttery green Castelvetrano and Kalamata olives is lovely, but you can substitute whatever plain, unmarinated olives you have on hand.