When the name of your blog is mezze & tapas, it is reasonable to assume that occasionally, you will offer recipes for mezze and for tapas. So here it is today, I am offering not one, not two, but four tapas.
Tapas is a great food for entertaining. It is great in the company of others, enjoying good entertainment and good friendship. Tapas are easy to eat — the bite sized format ensures that. Meant to be eaten in just a bite or two, it is hard to resist going back for more.
Because they are small, and easy to make, tapas makes it easy to add variety to your meal. Make two or three or even four tapas to have a light dinner with something for everyone. You also get to try more than one thing. Making tapas a great opportunity to experiment with new flavors and combinations.
Not only are tapas incredibly easy to eat, they are also pretty easy to make. Sure, there are complex tapas out there. For the most part, though, they are pretty simple and straightforward. That is what I aim to share here. Here are four easy tapas that allow you to try your hand at making tapas before getting into more complex ones.
Today’s tapas represent a variety of ways to prepare tapas. One is raw, one pan fried, on baked and the last is grilled. Two can appeal to vegetarians — although I can tell you they are not just for vegetarians. One has meat, and one has that ubiquitous delight of the Mediterranean, the anchovy.
Each of the four easy tapas are my take on recipes that I have had in Spain. In some cases the ingredients are adapted to what is more common to find in US grocery stores
The first up is Pincho Morunos – Spanish pork skewers. This was the first tapas that I ever made. I’ve taken the recipe straight from Penelope Casas’ legendary book The Foods and Wine of Spain. First published in 1982, it was among the first books to introduce US chefs to Spain’s cuisine. It is still one of the best books on Spanish cooking, and is still in print all these years later. It also was the very first cookbook I got when I decided that I wanted to try out Spanish food. I’m a little chagrined to say that it wasn’t because I knew it was a masterpiece. Rather, it was because Casas’ book was the only book on Spanish cooking my local library had. I feel rather fortunate, and now have my own copy!
I have adapted the recipe from the book very little over the years. I’ve tried this tapas in several places in Spain. Penelope’s recipe is very representative of my experiences. Take some pork, preferably from a butt or roast, and cut into 1 inch/2.5 cm cubes.
Cover with the seasonings and let sit for an hour or so. More time is OK. Then thread three to four pieces on a skewer, and cook on a grill pan or cast iron pan. Turn every 2 minutes so that all sides get some color. Cook until the internal temperature reaches 145F/62.8C.
Next up is Banderillas. This may be the easiest of the four easy tapas in today’s post. It is so easy because it is a “no cook”. Just slide the ingredients on a skewer and you are done.
The name comes from the name of the colorful dart used as part of bullfighting. And these tapas can certainly be colorful. They are definitely easy to put together. Banderillas are often a collection of pickled vegetables with a bit of seafood or meat as well. Seafood options include a small chunk of tuna, anchovies or a small piece of shrimp. Sometimes a bit of jamon or dried chorizo is used instead. Occasionally cheese is included, but it isn’t necessary. Almost always, there is a bit of lightly spiced pepper as well — often a Spanish pepper called guindilla.
In my version, I use the traditional olive, gherkin and cocktail onion. I also add piquillo pepper for its sweetness and bright red color. I use anchovy for my fish. All these are relatively easy to find in grocery stores. You can also omit the anchovy or any meat so that these can be vegetarian friendly.
Getting the Pepper Right
The sixth ingredient is the spicy pepper – guindilla. They are not easy to find outside of Spain, so I need a substitute. To know what to use, let’s understand the guindilla a bit first. Guindilla are typical of the Basque region of Spain, and are a pepper with a subtle spiciness. They are not nearly as spicy as a jalapeno pepper for example. A poblano pepper is more similar to a guindilla in heat. It is possible to order them online (what can’t you order online?). However, they range from $10 to $40 a bottle on that site with the smiling boxes.
For a substitute, you don’t want a pepper that is too spicy. Too much heat would overpower all of the other flavors in the tapas. You want to stay with a milder heat. One that offers a better balance of heat with the salty and sweet of the other ingredients. I used a pepperoncini, which is an Italian pepper of a similar heat. They are easy to find, and work well here.
Now you have all the ingredients. Cut several of the gherkins into about 1 in/2.5 cm sized pieces. Then begin assembling the banderillas. Take a small skewer — at least 4 inches/1o centimeter – and start arranging your ingredients on the skewer. One piece of each ingredient per skewer. There is no specific order here, but I would recommend two things. First, try to arrange them in the way that is most visually appealing for your ingredients. Second, try to add the ingredients in the same order for each Banderilla. It will make a more appealing presentation on the plate later.
Berenjenas con Miel
The next up from the four easy tapas is berenjenas con miel — eggplant with honey. This is a delicious dish of fried chips of eggplant, topped with some local honey. It is most closely associated with Andalusia in southern Spain. It is possible the Moors brought it with them from North Africa.
Start by preparing the eggplant. To keep the eggplant slices manageable for eating, pick a smaller sized eggplant. The eggplant in the image below is next to an iPhone X for comparison. Peel and slice the peeled it into rounds about a quarter inch thick. Put all the slices into a large bowl, then add milk to cover the eggplant. Put a small plate or other weight atop the eggplant to keep submerged. Soak the eggplant in the milk for one to two hours.
This step has two benefits. First, the milk helps to clean out compounds that sometimes make eggplant bitter. Second, it helps to keep the eggplant from absorbing too much oil. The milk fills the small spaces in the sponge like eggplant, leaving less room for the oil to be absorbed.
Once the eggplant has been soaked, drain it and pat the slices dry. Heat about half inch of oil in a skillet. Put some flour on a plate, with a small amount of salt and cumin for seasoning. The cumin isn’t traditional, but it adds a deeper flavor to the tapas.
Dredge the eggplant, evenly coating each side. Once the oil is heated, add three to four eggplant slices to the pan. Don’t overcrowd your pan, and cook in batches if necessary. Fry the eggplant for about five minutes, turning once about half way through. You want a nice golden brown color.
Remove the eggplant from the oil and arrange on a plate. Sprinkle with salt and some cumin. Drizzle with honey while still warm. To make the dish vegan, skip the honey and use cane honey, molasses or even maple syrup. Eggplant with honey is best eaten warm. It can be made ahead and gently reheated in a warm oven just before serving.
The last of the four easy tapas is champiñones rellenos, stuffed mushrooms. These stuffed mushrooms are easy to pull together, and a delicious bite sized snack. They are simply stuffed with a filling of garlic, parsley and breadcrumbs. To keep them vegetarian friendly, I have omitted any meat. However, some chopped chorizo is a nice addition to these delightful tapas.
Super simple to put together, with only five ingredients, they also can be prepared ahead. Make up to a day ahead and store in the refrigerator until ready to cook. To start, remove the stems from the mushrooms and set aside for another use. Toss the mushrooms in a small bowl with some olive oil salt and pepper to lightly coat. Arrange on a sheet pan, and preheat the oven to 400F/205C.
While the oven preheats, add about a tablespoon of olive oil to a small skillet over medium high heat. When the oil is warmed, add the chopped garlic. Gently warm the garlic until it becomes fragrant, about two to three minutes. At this point, add the breadcrumbs. Lightly fry them with the garlic, stirring occasionally. When the breadcrumbs have a light golden brown color, remove the mixture from the heat. Add the most of the parsley and stir it in. Reserve a small bit of the parsley to be used as garnish on the finished tapas.
Let the breadcrumb mixture cool for about five minutes. Then fill each mushroom with about one tablespoon each of the mixture. Gently press into the mushrooms, but don’t over pack. It’s OK to let the filling mound on top of the mushroom a little bit. Put the stuffed mushrooms in the oven for about 15 minutes until they are lightly browned and softened. Remove from the mushrooms and let cool for several minutes. Plate and top with remaining parsley. Easy!
I hope you’ve found something you can make and enjoy. Tapas is one of my favorite food groups because of the variety and relative ease. Keep an eye out for more tapas in the coming months. In the meantime, if you are looking for more tapas beyond the four easy tapas here, check out some of my previous posts on with tapas. Blistered Shishito peppers are almost identical to padron pepper tapas. Other popular tapas are stuffed pequillo peppers, gazpacho, and Spanish Coca. And of course there are loads more recipes on the web. Go ahead and mix and match your tapas. Make a few that you like and call it a meal. Or have a bunch ready for when you are ready to sit down and watch the big game!. Just be sure to give it a shot!
- ¼ cup + 2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
- ½ tsp dried thyme
- ¾ tsp ground cumin
- ½ tsp smoked paprika
- ½ tsp chili powder or crushed red pepper if you want a little spicer
- 1 bay/laurel leaf crumbled
- kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
- 1 lb lean pork cut into ¾" – 1" squares
- In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients except the pork. Mix well
- Add the pork cubes and toss to coat well
- Cover and set refrigerate for at least 2 hours, and up to 24 hours. Stir occasionally.
- When you are ready to proceed, thread the meat onto small skewer, about 3 per skewer. They will look like mini kebabs
- Heat a grill or grill pan to high heat
- Cook pinchos about 2 mins per side, or until well browned.
- Serve warm
- 12 skewers, 4 or more inches long
- 12 green olives
- 12 anchovies
- 3 Piquillo Peppers cut into 4 strips each, the long way
- 12 cocktail onions
- 3 gherkin pickles cut into 4 discs each
- 3 pepperoncini peppers cut into 4 strips each, the long way
- On each skewer, add one each olive, anchovy, piquillo pepper strip cocktail onion, gherkin pickle piece, and pepproncini stirp
Berenjenas con Miel (eggplant with honey)
- 1 Medium Eggplant peeled and cut in ¼" round slices
- 1 cup Whole Milk
- 1 cup All purpose Flour
- 2 cups Oli for Frying
- 1/4 cup honey (approximate)
- ½ tsp kosher salt plus more for sprinkling, to taste
- ½ tsp ground cumin plus more for sprinkling, to taste
- Place the slices of eggplant in a large bowl and cover with milk. Set aside and leet soak for at least 1 hour, up to overnight
- Drain eggplant slices and pat dry
- Heat about ½" of oil for frying in a heavy skillet over medium high heat. To test if the oil is ready, a small pinch of flour dropped in the oil should sizzle.
- Put the flour on a plate and spread it out. Mix in about ½ tsp each of kosher salt and ground cumin
- Dredge each piece of eggplant in the flour, gently shaking of any excess
- Add several pieces of eggplant to your heated oil, careful to not crowd the pan. Fry on each side 2 -3 minutes, until lightly golden. Be careful not to let the eggplant get to browned
- Remove the eggplant and drain on a paper towel. Sprinkle with kosher salt and ground cumin to taste while still hot. Cover to keep warm
- When all eggplant are fried, arrange on a plate for serving and drizzle with honey.
- Berenenas con Miel is best served warm
Champiñones Rellenos (stuffed mushrooms)
- 12 White or crimini mushrooms
- 3 cloves garlic finely chopped
- ¼ cup bread crumbs
- 2 TBS Chopped parsley
- 2 TBS extra virgin olive oil divided
- kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 400oF/205oC
- Remove the stems from the mushrooms. Set aside for use in a different dish
- Place mushrooms in a large bowl and toss with half of the olive oil and salt and pepper until everything is evenly coated.
- Heat remaining olive oil a small skillet over medium high heat
- When oil begins to shimmer, add chopped garlic and saute until just fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent garlic from browning
- Add bread crumbs and stir to combine fully with garlic. Allow to toast for a minute or two. Add kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste.
- Remove from heat and add chopped parsley. Stir to fully incorporate into breadcrumb and garlic mixture
- Arrange mushrooms evenly on a lined baking sheet. If using foil as a liner, give a quick spray with cooking spray
- Place about 1 teaspoon of mixture into each mushroom. After filling all mushrooms, divide remaining mixture among mushrooms, creating a small mound atop each mushroom
- Place mushrooms in oven for about 15 minutes, until mushrooms are softened and stuffing is golden browned.
- Remove from oven and let cool for 2 – 3 minutes, them arrange on a serving platter