A lot of countries have a gastronomic tradition of serving a series of small, snack-like plates with wine as a meal, but no where is this such a cultural phenomenon as in Spain, where “tapas” are a mainstay of dining, whether you are a local or a tourist. Traditionally, the dishes were called “tapas” (or “lids”) because the plates were actually served on top of your glass of wine. And chances are, if you live in a large city anywhere in the world, you now have access to a Spanish-style tapas bar.
Some of our favorite tapas are the simplest: olives, for example, simply served in a bowl, or Catalan-style with a coating of smokey paprika. Or jamon, cured Spanish ham, which needs no other adornment. Other tapas dishes are quite elaborate, and in the Basque country in the north of Spain (where tapas are called “pintxos” in the local dialect), each small bite can be a veritable work of art.
Tapas are served either hot or cold, depending on the dish. So from the hot menu you might find patatas bravas (potatoes in a tomato sauce), gambas pil pil (spicy shrimp), pimientos rellenos (stuffed peppers), and tortilla española (something like a crustless potato quiche), to name a few. From the cold menu, in addition to the cured meats and olives, you will find wonderful Spanish cheeses. And of course, the amazing seafood in Spain can come either way, chilled in a seafood antipasto, grilled, or fried.
Whatever dishes you are tasting, don’t forget to try them with a fine Spanish wine or fino!
Where can you take hands-on tapas cooking classes? We have a number of options, from our one-day cooking classes to longer cooking vacations specializing in Catalan tapas as well as the “pintxos” from the Spanish Basque Country.
Check out some more of our Spanish recipes for:
By Peg Kern
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