A friend put the idea of tapas into my head. What a great idea, I thought, for an upcoming dinner with friends. I grabbed my copy of “Tapas” by the great Spanish food authority, Penelope Casas, and flipped through it. I couldn’t settle on just a few of the delicious sounding recipes, so I decided to make a lot. They’re tapas, after all, and variety is kind of the point.
I started cooking on Thursday for our Friday night dinner (the great thing about tapas is that many can be made in advance). I marinated pork to grill the following day and prepared lamb meatballs in brandy sauce, which I would reheat.
On Friday, the day of the dinner, I folded up aluminum packets of small portions of monkfish with julienned vegetables and cream sauce. I’d pop them in the oven 10 minutes before we were ready for them.
I had to try making the squid in beer sauce and, of course, I’d serve my favorite of tapas, shrimp in spicy, garlicky, smoked-paprika-y oil.
A tortilla a la Española was a must.
(I cooked it in my trusty cast-iron skillet. The recipe requires the potato cake to be cooked for a while then flipped onto a plate then slipped back into the pan. You’ll notice one side of the tortilla got a little burnt while I tried to figure out how to flip the super-heavy pan.)
To begin the dinner, I served a couple of Spanish cheeses, Marcona almonds and chorizo baked in pizza dough wrapped in leaves of Swiss chard. It’s a very simple recipe–if you use my favorite Trader Joe’s pizza dough.
There was very little last-minute cooking. I did the prepping while the kids were in school and I had the kitchen all to myself. I turned on music–M. Ward and Lucinda Williams–and had a ball. But had I gone too far?
Why do I ask? Well, as I brought out one of the courses, a guest, a dear friend, said to the others, “She likes to show off.” I’m pretty sure he was joking–I know he was–but I wondered if my parade of dishes made the other guests think that I was showing off. That I was flaunting my culinary talents (which aren’t all that special. Any food I cook is really pretty easy to make!) I had just been having fun in the kitchen and didn’t know when to stop. I didn’t want to stop!
Had I gone overboard? I realized, as I fell asleep that night, that I’d forgotten to serve the arugula with piquillo peppers stuffed with soft Spanish goat cheese. I laughed at myself. My question was answered!