Cooking Cove: Tapping into Tapas

Cooking Cove: Tapping into Tapas

Baby Zucchini Boats

By Barbara Beltrami

Call them what you will … hors d’oeuvres, appetizers or tapas. In Spain and Portugal, tapas abound in many bars, and at least one legend has it that long ago an innkeeper put a slice of cured ham on top of a glass of wine to keep the flies away, as a makeshift lid. To cover in Spanish is “tapar,” so a lid is a “tapa” — hence the name. 

Depending on how many or how few you pop or scoop into your mouth as you’re sipping your wine or beer, they will either whet or whip your desire to proceed to the main attraction, the meal that is sometimes meant to follow. In fact, in Spain and Portugal, it is part of the culture to stop by a bar to sit and relax and share a few little plates of tapas, often twice a day. While they can be anything as simple as a well-cured olive on a toothpick, they can also be as complex as an artichoke stew or empanada.  

Eaten as a snack, a first course or a prelude to a meal, tapas are rapidly becoming standard fare in American cuisine as well. So think of anything savory, serve it in small portions and you’ve got tapas. And doesn’t that sound so much better than munchies, finger food or snacks?

Garlic French Toast

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

3 large eggs

A few drops water

2 garlic cloves, minced

Salt and freshly ground pepper

¼ cup olive oil

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

6 slices crusty bread

DIRECTIONS: 

In a small bowl beat the eggs and water; add garlic, salt and pepper and beat again. Transfer egg mixture to a large shallow baking dish, add bread slices; soak for 30 seconds, then turn and let sit until all the egg mixture has been absorbed. Heat oil and butter in a large skillet until hot. Fry bread, turning when bottom is golden., about 1 minute. When other side is golden, remove immediately or garlic will burn. Serve hot or warm with a red or white sangria.

Colossal Shrimp with Anchovies  and Cherry Tomatoes

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

6 wooden skewers (about half the size of a pencil)

6 colossal shrimp, peeled, deveined and boiled

6 anchovy fillets

6 cherry tomatoes

½ cup mayonnaise

DIRECTIONS: 

On each skewer, spear a shrimp, anchovy fillet and tomato. Cover and chill until ready to serve with mayonnaise as a dip. Serve with ice cold beer or a chilled crisp dry white wine.

Stuffed Baby Zucchini Boats

Baby Zucchini Boats

YIELD: Makes 16 pieces

INGREDIENTS: 

8 tiny zucchini (about 4 to 6 inches long)

2 tablespoons olive oil

½ medium onion, minced

½ pound ground beef, lamb or sausage

1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

1 teaspoon tomato paste

2 garlic cloves, minced

½ teaspoon sugar

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

½ pint plain Greek yogurt

1 fresh medium tomato, finely chopped

8 mint leaves, minced

1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS: 

Preheat oven to 400 F. Grease a shallow 8×13-inch baking dish. Wash zucchini, trim off ends and halve lengthwise. With a sharp-edged spoon, scoop out seeds and pulp; chop pulp and reserve. In a large skillet over medium heat, warm the oil; add onion, meat, lemon zest and chopped zucchini. Saute, stirring frequently, until vegetables are tender and meat is brown, 5 to 10 minutes. 

Add tomato paste, a tablespoon or two of water, garlic and sugar; stir and cook over low-medium heat for 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper. Stir in the yogurt, chopped tomato and mint leaves. Remove from heat and spoon mixture into hollowed out zucchini. Sprinkle tops with Parmesan cheese. Place filled zucchini in prepared dish and bake for 5 to 7 minutes, until cheese melts.

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