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SAVVY SNACKERS SNAP UP TAPAS

As many as a thousand people a night hover around the North Halsted street entrance to Chicago's Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba, waiting for a chance to sample the Spanish tapas fare.

And Chicago woman chef of the year Jennifer Smith grins through the nightly hubbub as she and her crew of 25 cooks wrap up a wide selection of tasty appetizers.Smith, her staff and Kraft General Foods recently hosted a group of food editors at a tapas party in conjunction with the Food Marketing Institute meetings in Chicago.

Tapas, the snack that began as a fly catcher in Spanish taverns, now claims a sophisticated spot on the menu.

For years Spanish tavern-owners placed small rounds of bread over open bottles of olive oil or glasses of wine to keep away the flies. Eventually, small bites of peppers, seafood, cheese or olives were placed on the bread. More varieties were created until elaborate concoctions served at the pubs satisfied drinkers until the traditional 9 p.m. dinner hour.

Tapas may be as simple as a dish of olives or as complicated as triple layered egg frittata and can be served as ordinary hors d'oeuvres or in multiple courses to compose an entire meal.

"Tapas may be new to American restaurants and even newer to American homes, but Spaniards and other Latins have been enjoying them for centuries," said Joseph F. Unanue, vice president of GOYA foods, a leading importer of Spanish products.

Just about any ingredients can be combined to qualify as a tapa, but items like olives, capers, pimentos, artichokes and varieties of seafood are most commonly used.

Tapas can be marinated, mayon-naised, grilled, breaded, sizzled, drizzled, buttered, sauced, dipped, fried or sauteed. That means almost anything fits the definition of a tapa.

Three basics, however, are necessary, according to GOYA: a marinade, a batter and a grilling sauce. Aliolis and salsas broaden the scope of possible tapas combinations. Beginning with basic sauce, a host of appetizers evolves.

And the excitement of a tapas party lies in exploration of provocative new tastes, unusual combinations of ordinary and extraordinary ingredients.

Note: GOYA offers readers a tapas recipe folder for $1 and a stamped, slef-addressed business envelope. Mail request to GOYA Foods Inc., 100 Seaview Drive, Secaucus, NJ 07094.

Olivada Crostini

1 teaspoon garlic, minced

3/4 cup pitted black olives

1 tablespoon capers, drained

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon Italian parsley, chopped

1 red bell pepper, cored, halved and seeded

1 yellow bell pepper, cored, halved and seeded

1 narrow loaf Italian or French bread

2 balls (6 oz.) Mozzarella cheese For Olivada, combine the olives, garlic and capers in a food processor; plus a few seconds. With motor running, slowly drizzle the olive oil through the feed tube; process until smooth. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, and stir in the parsley. Chill until serving.

Lay peppers, skin side up, on a flat broiling pan and place the pan 3-4 inches below the heat. Broil the peppers until the skins are charred. Place in a plastic bag, seal with a twist tie and set aside. Let the peppers steam in the bag for 20 minutes. Remove the peppers from the bag and peel them; slice into thin strips and set aside.

Slice the bread into 20 quarter-inch slices. Place them under the broiler and toast for about 20 seconds on each side; remove from broiler. Slice cheese into 20 quarter-inch thick slices. Spread a small amount of olivada on each piece of toast. Cover with a slice of cheese and top with one yellow pepper strip and one red pepper strip, forming a cross. Broil for 30 seconds and serve immediately.

Baby Beef Skewered Appetizers

Marinade:

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 tablespoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes

8 ounces boned beef rib steak, cut in 1-inch cubes

6 mushrooms, quartered

1 large yellow pepper, cored, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces

2 tablespoons sesame seeds

24 sprigs fresh rosemary or summer savory Stir all marinade ingredients together. Add the cubed beef and mushrooms; toss to coat and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet. Thread each skewer with a piece of bell pepper, one beef cube and one mushroom quarter. Dip one side of each skewer in sesame seeds; wrap or twist an herb sprig around each skewer. Arrange on baking sheet and bake until sizzling, about 5 minutes. Serve immediately.

- From The New Basics Cookbook

Tortilla de Tres Pisos

1/4 cup onion, chopped

Olive oil

5 eggs, beaten

1 package (10 oz.) chopped spinach, cooked and drained

1/4 cup light Swiss cheese, shredded

Salt and pepper to taste

Red Pepper Layer:

1/4 cup chopped onions

1 cup sliced red pepper

5 eggs

Olive oil

2 tablespoons tomato paste

Cheese Layer:

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup light Swiss cheese, shredded

5 eggs

Olive oil

Chopped basil

Parsley

Chives

Cumin Sauce:

1/8 cup paprika

1/8 cup cumin

1 tablespoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

1 tablespoon olive oil

11/2 cups non-fat salad dressing Cook onion in 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add spinach, Swiss cheese, salt, pepper and onions to beaten eggs.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in 10-inch skillet. Add egg mixture. Stir mixture until eggs are slightly set. Reduce heat to medium. Flip omelet and continue cooking 3-4 minutes until set: invert on plate.

Repeat process for red pepper layer and cheese layer.

When all layers are cool, place spinach layer on serving plate. Spread with 1/2 cup Cumin Sauce and 1 tablespoon each chopped basil, chives and parsley. Top with red pepper layer. Repeat with Cumin Sauce and herbs. Top with cheese layer. Cut into wedges; serve with remaining sauce. Makes 8-10 servings.

- From Kraft Creative Kitchens

Salmon Con Mostaza

1/2 cup non-fat salad dressing (mayonnaise type)

1/4 cup Dijon mustard

4 (4 oz.) salmon filets

1 cup fresh bread crumbs

Tomato Vinaigrette:

6 plum tomatoes, diced

1 green onion, chopped

1 red pepper, roasted, peeled and diced

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

1 teaspoon chopped basil

1 teaspoon cilantro

Dash of salt Mix non-fat mayonnaise-type dressing with mustard; spread on salmon. Sprinkle with bread crumbs. Bake for 5 minutes at 350 degrees.

For vinaigrette, combine all ingredients. Serve with salmon; makes 4 servings.

- From Kraft Creative Kitchens

Tapas Marinade

1/2 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2-3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 clove garlic, minced

3/4-1 teaspoon oregano

1/4 teaspoon salt Put all ingredients together in a sealed jar and shake. Adjust seasonings; use rosemary instead of oregano for fish or chicken.)

Tapas Batter

2 eggs, separated

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup flour

1/4 teaspoon salt Beat water and egg yolks together lightly; add flour and salt and mix until smooth. Beat egg whites till they stand up in peaks, gradually add egg yolk mixture, blending gently till thoroughly mixed. Add hot pepper sauce as desired. Use to make bunuelos (fritters); bits of chorizos sausage, shrimp or tuna can be fried in batter.

Tapas Grilling Sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 clove garlic, minced Combine and brush on shrimp, fish or vegetables before grilling.

Pincho de Pollo

12 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut in 1 1/2-inch cubes

1 package honey mustard dressing mix

1 green onion, finely chopped

1/3 cup olive oil

1/4 cup wine vinegar

1 teaspoon honey

1 teaspoon garlic, minced

1 teaspoon cumin

2 cups romaine lettuce, chopped

Arrange chicken pieces on 4 skewers and place in baking dish. Mix remaining ingredients, except lettuce. Divide marinade in half; pour one half over chicken. Cover, refrigerate 4 hours. Remove chicken from marinade. Place on broiler pan and broil 3-4 minutes. Toss lettuce with remaining dressing. Arrange on serving platter. Place chicken on lettuce. Makes 4 servings.

- From Kraft Creative Kitchens