``Tapas'' are the ideal food for people who like to try a lot of different dishes all in one meal. Those varied, tempting appetizers that have long been a tradition in Spain are now popular in the United States with people who like to ``graze'' from one dish to another, enjoying many flavors instead of a traditional lunch or dinner.
Although most tapa dishes are served as one of a variety of savory appetizers, you can also make a whole meal of a favorite kind of tapa, if you like.
The secret of success at a tapa party or meal is the wide range of things to choose from. This is why a tapa meal would be ideal for a buffet or after-theater party.
A tapa meal is likely to feature dishes including meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, salads, relishes, nuts, and olives. Make up your own selection for an Americanized version of a tapa party.
Chorizos, tasty Spanish sausages, make excellent tapas. They can be sliced and served cold like salami or pepperoni. A quick tapa can be made of chorizos and black beans. Pur'ee a can of black bean soup in a blender or food processor. Add thinly sliced chorizo and simmer together over low heat. Serve hot with crusty bread, or at room temperature as a dip.
For a hearty tapa dish using sausages, you can make a cassoulet using either chorizos or hot Italian sausages. Cassoulet 6 chicken breasts Salt and pepper Fennel seeds Garlic powder 1 large onion, thinly sliced 1/2 cup diced celery 1 8-ounce can garbanzo beans, drained 1 8-ounce can white navy beans, drained 2 cups thinly sliced cooked mushrooms Ground ginger, to taste 1 cup chicken stock 1 pound chorizo or hot Italian sausage, cooked and drained Bread crumbs
Cook chicken breasts in covered pan in 300-degree F. oven for 11/2 hours, after sprinkling with salt, pepper, a pinch of fennel seed, and garlic powder. When tender, allow to cool, remove skin carefully, and reserve. Bone chicken.
Saut'e celery and onions in small amount of oil in large frying pan until half tender. Add well-drained beans, mushrooms, and ginger. Add chicken stock. Season with a pinch of fennel seeds, garlic powder to taste, salt, and pepper.
Simmer slightly 20 minutes. Place bean mixture in casserole. Add 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger. Cover with drained cooked sausage cut into 1-inch pieces.
Cover with chicken breasts. Cover with chicken skin. Sprinkle with a thin layer of bread crumbs and garlic powder.
Bake, uncovered, in a 300-degree F. oven one hour, basting occasionally. If too dry, add chicken stock.
Pickled Shrimp 1/2 cup vegetable oil 1/3 cup ketchup 1/3 cup white vinegar 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce 2 teaspoons sugar 1 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard Dash of liquid hot red pepper sauce 1 pound cooked shelled shrimp 2 small red onions, thinly sliced 2 bay leaves, crushed
Combine first eight ingredients to make dressing. Blend well. Layer shrimp, onion, and bay leaves in a bowl. Pour dressing over.
Cover and chill before serving. Serves six to eight.
Eggplant Spread or Dip 1 medium eggplant, peeled and diced 1/2 cup water 1 clove garlic 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley 2 teaspoons lemon juice or white vinegar 2 teaspoons olive oil or other oil 1/2 teaspoon oregano or Italian seasoning Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste Fresh parsley, garnish
In covered saucepan combine eggplant and water. Simmer 10 minutes. Drain well.
Combine eggplant, garlic, chopped parsley, lemon juice, oil, oregano, salt, and pepper in blender or food processor. Whir until smooth.
Chill in covered bowl or crock until serving time. Makes two cups.
Empanadas 1/2 pound ground beef 1/4 cup chopped onion 1 1/2 cups shredded sharp natural Cheddar cheese 1/4 cup ketchup 1 teaspoon chili powder 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon liquid hot red pepper sauce Pastry for two double-crust 9-inch pies
Brown meat. Drain. Add onion. Cook until tender. Stir in cheese, ketchup, and seasonings.
Roll pastry to 1/4-inch thickness on lightly floured surface. Cut pastry with 31/2-inch round cutter.
Spoon about one teaspoon meat mixture onto center of each round. Fold in half. Press edges together with a fork.
Bake at 450 degrees F. 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve warm. Makes 31/2 dozen.
Note: Empanadas may be frozen and baked at 450 degrees F. 15 minutes.
Marinated Olives 3/4 cup fresh lime juice 3/4 cup orange juice 1/3 cup water 3 garlic cloves, halved 1 1/2 tablespoons fennel seed Peels of 1 lime and 1 orange, cut into thin strips 1 pound ripe olives, drained Avocado slices (garnish), optional
Combine first 6 ingredients in 1-quart jar with tight-fitting lid. Taste olives. If very salty, soak in cold water one hour and drain. Add olives to marinade, and stir to blend well. Cover jar with plastic wrap and lid.
Chill at least 24 hours. Makes one pound.
Spiced Pecans 7 tablespoons unsalted butter 3 tablespoons chili powder 1 1/2 teaspoons salt 3/4 teaspoon ground red pepper 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 1 pound shelled whole pecans
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Melt butter in heavy medium skillet over low heat. Stir in seasonings, then pecans to coat thoroughly with butter.
Transfer nuts to baking sheet using slotted spoon. Bake about 20 minutes, or until toasted. Drain on paper towels.
Cool completely. Store in airtight jars. Makes four cups.
Baked Brie Spread 1 8-ounce wheel Brie or Camembert 2 tablespoons butter, room temperature 1/4 cup sliced almonds French bread, sliced apples or pears
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Set Brie in ovenproof serving dish. Spread butter on top. Arrange sliced almonds on butter. Bake until softened and heated through, 12 to 15 minutes.
Serve warm with bread, apples, or pears. Serves four to six.