Saturday, September 5, 2015


Buenos dias!

Once again, I'm behind the times in food trends. But, as time goes on, some of them seem to stay in place so I don't feel completely uncool blogging about them. In this case, I'm talking about Tapas. I'm not sure when they came into vogue in the U.S. or Canada, but they've come onto my radar in the last 10-15 years or so (as usual, the Internet is woefully inadequate in the realm of culinary history), Tapas are Spanish small plates, made for sharing, usually served as bar food or appetizers. Some can be very outlandish and luxurious, others quite simple. Of course, nothing says you can't make a mess of Tapas for dinner or lunch, they're certainly satisfying enough.

I can't say exactly what inspired me to throw together a Tapas feast for the family, I'll pin it on getting a box of fancy Spanish meats from the Carnivore Club that included Serrano and Iberico ham (more on Iberico Ham here), as well as chorizo. I can't remember if it was in a book or on the Internet, but the first thing that jumped out at me was asparagus wrapped in serrano ham.

That sounded delicious!!!!! As I salivated over that idea, I contemplated what I could do with chorizo, and on the ideas went. Luckily, I also had a Tapas cookbook I got as a gift many moons ago and looked through it for inspiration.

A trip to the local shops later and we were ready to move ahead with Tapasian wonderment. Admittedly, I didn't know much about what might constitute an 'authentic' Tapas plate, so I relied on my cookbook to give me some ideas. Some of them were mostly direct adaptations, others were creative riffs. In the interest of concision (and actually getting this post out less than six months after I made the food), I'll be presenting two dishes in this post and three more in a subsequent post.

Serrano-Wrapped Asparagus

Serrano ham is basically Spanish prosciutto: salty and rich and a little crispy when cooked. The combination with asparagus might not seem super-evident, but it's a tapas standard, especially when served with an aioli-style dipping sauce (basically, a fancy term for mayo, sort of).


- 12-24 asparagus stalks, washed and trimmed of woody ends
- 12-24 slices serrano ham (or prosciutto), about 1-2 inches (3-6 cm) wide by 4-5 inches long (12-15 cm)
- 1-2 tbsp cheaper olive oil, divided in two
- fresh ground pepper (optional)


- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1 tsp cheaper olive oil
- 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp high quality olive oil
- juice from 1/4 lemon


- Preheat oven to 400 F.
- Coat bottom of cookie sheet or roasting pan with olive oil.
- Wrap ham around asparagus stalks tightly, fasten with soaked toothpicks if necessary (it shouldn't be).
- Place asparagus in pan and drizzle rest of olive oil over top and top with pepper if desired.
- Bake in oven for 10-12 minutes until asparagus in slightly tender and ham is crispy.
- While baking, quickly pan fry garlic in cheaper olive oil until golden, and whisk together with mayo, high quality oil and lemon juice until smooth.
- Serve piping hot with aioli on side for dipping.

It's pretty obvious that this is a really tasty, salty, fatty, sensuous dish, just bursting with umami from the ham and mayo, but nicely cut with the herbal bitterness of the asparagus. Very decadent and very easy, which probably sums up the existential state of Tapas nicely.

I had bought a simple bottle of cheap but highly rated blended Spanish red wine to pair with the whole shebang and it worked well, but I think if you're going to eat this dish on its own, go with a buttery Chardonnay or a crisp Sauvignon blanc, depending on your taste in wine. Bonus, this pairing would also go really well with the next Tapas dish.

Chorizo, Edamame and Artichoke Salad w. Clementine-Saffron Dressing

This one was purely my brainchild, basically an extension of the "Frazzed Mama Salad" concept I'd introduced in my 'spin-off' (and idle) "Dad, Cook!" blog, but with more Spanish-themed ingredients like marinated artichokes, smoked paprika, red pepper and chorizo. Oh, and I wanted to feature one of the most cherished of ingredients in Spanish cuisine: saffron. Saffron is interesting stuff in that it is super-rare and correspondingly expensive, but one little package can last a long time since it only takes a tiny amount to impart a lot of flavour to a dish. I figured it would add a great touch to the dressing, especially mixed with the sweetness of the juice of a clementine.  


- 1 clove garlic, minced
- pinch smoked paprika
- salt and pepper to taste
- 3 threads saffron, crumbled
- juice of 1 clementine orange
- 2 tsp red wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp olive oil (high quality)


- 2 marinated artichoke hearts, sliced thin
- 2 inch piece dried/cured chorizo, minced
- 1 red pepper, finely diced
- 5-6 cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced (get your knife good and sharp for this!)
- 1/2 cup frozen edamame, shelled and thawed (make sure they're cool before using in salad) 
- 2 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley

End result: Salad amazing-super-deliciousness. You might notice a distinct lack of leafy greens in this salad and that was totally on purpose. I recently read an article ripping into the health value (mis)placed on salad, specifically on lettuce. I kind of agree and am not a big lettuce user and much prefer to make salads without it (not counting Caesar Salad, of course). Want some green in your salad? Use peas or edamame and fresh herbs!

There was a lot of brightness and acidity from the clementine in the dressing, red pepper, tomatoes and artichokes which blended well with the smokiness from the paprika and chorizo, and was rounded out with the herbal bitterness from the saffron. One of my best salad offerings to date.

So, that's Tapas, round 1. We'll get to round 2 at some point, but really, just these two dishes would make a great summer meal on their own.