gourmet dinner club: tapas edition

29 Jun

This past weekend was another epic gathering of the Gourmet Dinner Club (GDC). The theme was tapas. In my opinion, there is nothing more wonderful than a tapas themed gathering. I love when you get to eat such a variety of bite-sized delectables all on one plate. Plus, it is a great way to keep the party casual and fun.

Tapas are the Spaniards version of appetizers. They were created as an attempt to keep flies out of beverages. The bartender would put a small plate on top of the glass with a little tasty morsel on top. To this day, if you happen to be at a bar in Spain and order a drink, likely the bartender will bring you a small plate of something (olives, tortilla, maybe some almonds). Going out for a drink and having a few tapas is a very common occurrence. It helps tide the Spaniards over until dinner which is usually at 10 p.m. or later.

Spanish (not Mexican) is my favorite type of food. If you know me or have read this blog, you know that Anne and I became best buds while studying in Spain. I love everything about Spain. I would like to be there right now. On a beach. Then I’d like to go have a drink and eat a few tapas.

Although I was not physically in Spain this weekend, this was a an awesome attempt at recreating it. Okay, so there was no beach. And, we did not speak in Spanish. We did, however, eat great food and drink some tasty Sangria.

The weather did not cooperate with our outdoor dining plans, but Natalie’s living and dinning room created a lovely atmosphere filled with lovely people. Here are a few of us….

Jen, Liza, Sangria

Natalie enjoying a tapa and some sangria

Amanda with a super yummy bite.

Let’s get to the food, shall we?

Jen and the Bell Pepper Salad

I’ve been wanting to make this salad for awhile. It’s a roasted bell pepper salad with a garlic dressing on top. It’s on the cover of a Tapas cookbook I own. In the end, I liked it, though we all felt it needed a bit more kick. I think next time I’d put more dressing on it and maybe a bit more garlic.

Gazpacho (and the cover of the Tapas cookbook.)

Natalie made a delicious gazpacho. This is such a perfect dish for these hot and humid days we’ve been having here in Minnesota. I don’t have Natalie’s recipe, but you can get to my go-to version here. As tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers come into season, this should be a summer staple.

Garbanzos and spinach soup

This picture does not do this dish justice. Amanda made a garbanzo and spinach soup that I really loved. She was worried that it was a bit bland, but I didn’t think so at all. Spain is not known for spicy food, but it’s a common misconception. They are more the clean, simple flavor types. This certainly fit the bill. I had the leftovers for lunch today and enjoyed every slurp.

Grilled shrimp and chorizo

Lee put together some fantastic shrimp and chorizo skewers. (For the record, this evening was a “special circumstance” for my vegetarian summer.)  Although, most of our food was completely centered around vegetables.

Mini zucchini fritatas with sour cream and salmon

Lee also made these cute little mini zucchini fritatas that she topped with a dollop of sour cream and a morsel of salmon. How cute are they? Note, the glass of Sangria. There was plenty of that to go around.

Apricot Mostarda with goat cheese

This was my second dish and one of my favorites of the evening (can I say that about my own dish?). Cooked dried apricots with some spices over a thin piece of baguette with a goat cheese shmear.  The recipe is from Mario Batali and it was suggested to me by dear friend, Willa, who is a fellow Spain fan. I’m including the recipe below because it is super easy, it keeps in the fridge for a month, and it is different enough that people will think you’re really cool if you make it. Plus, it was delicious.

The Flan

The perfect ending? The perfect flan. Liza tackled this culinary project like a pro. It was perfect! Temperamental oven be damned! It has been a long time since I’ve had flan and to be honest, I didn’t think I liked it. I like it now. Smooth melt in your mouth, but firm custard with that yummy burnt sugar crust. It ended the meal perfectly.

It was a truly splendid evening. I highly suggest having a tapas themed party or gathering this summer. Heck, it’s a great theme all year round. If you have any favorite tapas, I’d love to hear about them!

Below is the recipe for the Apricot Mostarda. It is definitely going into my regular rotation of dishes. I love the Gourmet Dinner Club because it makes me cook different things than I normally do. If I was throwing a tapas party at my house, I would make my staple: tortilla espanola. It’s my all time favorite. However, because this was the GDC, I needed to make something I hadn’t done before and I always like for it to be a bit different. This definitely fit the bill. Thanks to Lee and Natalie for the wonderful evening and allowing me to explore more than my usual.

Apricot Mostarda

from Mario Batali via Willa
Makes about 4 cups

Note: This is seriously delicious. We discussed it at great length at our GDC gathering. I  really liked it with the baguette and the goat cheese. The flavors played really nicely together, but also really let the apricots shine. We thought it would also be a tasty addition to a turkey (or tempeh) sandwich. It’s such a nice blend of sweet, spicy and savory all into one. The sweet hits you first, followed by a little heat, and then it is just plain yum.

4 cups (about 1 pound) dried apricots, thinly sliced
3/4 cup Simple Syrup (recipe below)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 teaspoons hot red pepper flakes
1 Tablespoon mustard seeds
1 Tablespoon oil

Combine the apricots, simple syrup, and wine in a medium pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes to soften the apricots.

Transfer to a bowl and stir in the pepper flakes, mustard seeds, and oil. Let cool, then cover and refrigerate overnight before serving. (The mostarda can be refrigerated for up to 1 month).

Simple Syrup

Makes 3 1/2 cups

Note: This is great to have on hand during the summer months to make fun cocktails or mocktails. It adds some sweetness but no grainy sugar.

2 cups water
2 cups sugar

Stir the sugar and water together in a 2-quart saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and let cool.

Pour the syrup into a bowl or other container and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled. (The syrup keeps for up to 1 month in the refrigerator.)

Buen Provecho!


5 Responses to “gourmet dinner club: tapas edition”

  1. Amanda June 29, 2010 at 8:36 pm #

    So glad you included the recipe! Can’t wait to make it this weekend!

  2. anne June 30, 2010 at 2:26 pm #

    Mi tapa favorita es la tortilla tambien. Ademas, me gustaria comer un plato de manchego y jamon en este momento. Creo que La Taurina seria buen lugar para tomar tapas y sangria. En mis suenos, ?no?

  3. Fav Sista July 1, 2010 at 11:12 am #

    What Anne said….


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