Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Tapas night chez nous...

   I'm so relieved. We had a serious tapas night back in the summer and I really thought I'd posted about it, but no, which means I can now.
    But first a short digression.
    One of these days, I'm going to write a doctorate length paper on food and hospitality. Hear me out, this may be a bit of a ramble.
    Some years ago, we were lucky enough to be semi-adopted by some friends from Crete who then lived in Vancouver. We visited Crete twice and, on each occasion, I became spellbound by the ease and simplicity with which people there entertained. What it came down to was this: a number of dishes meant for sharing. Serving temperature not too critical. Emphasis on simple ingredients and ballsy flavours. Lots of wine. All ages squashed around the table. And, where possible, live music.
     It's a formula that still works and I'll take it over any chef-ly multi-course menu, any time.
     So, one warm and torpid evening this past summer, we invited a bunch of friends over for tapas and it turned out to be one of the easiest dinners I'd ever cooked. I'm not saying that some chopping and sizzling didn't go on that afternoon but by the time everyone was settled out on the terrace with the first of many glasses of rosé, kitchen work was essentially done.
     Gleaming black olives, and a couple of cold (or rather room temperature) tapas as they arrived. More cold tapas as the hours went by. A couple of quick trips into the kitchen to 1) put patatas bravas in the oven and 2) to pull them out again. Fruit for dessert, I think. Can't really remember.
    A couple of days ago, I did a scaled-down version of this. Dishes so simple that you really should think about adding them to your repertoire. I've posted about tortilla before. I would have made one of those but I was short of eggs.
    What I did have were lovely shiny red peppers:

   Here they are ready to go under the grill till they blister and turn black in places. Out of the oven, in to a bowl, on with the plastic wrap...Meanwhile, I sliced plenty of garlic, added fresh thyme, a bay leaf, then made a dressing with olive oil, wine vinegar and paprika. Skin the peppers and slice into strips about as wide as a pencil. Toss with everything else, and chill. Bring to room temperature a few hours before you start eating.

    There they are on the left. On the right is some country ham. Bread in the basket. Wine in the glass. Tea-light in the holder.
     The haricots verts dish on the left is so insanely easy that I'm almost embarrassed to write about it. Cut the stem end off the beans, and cut the beans in half. Scissors are easier than a knife. Cook in boiling water for seven minutes, just till crisp. Drain, and run cold water over them. Meanwhile...sizzle lots of chopped garlic in olive oil. Throw in the beans and stir them around so they soak up the oil. Eat at room temperature.
     On the right, a chopped onion, and more garlic, softened in olive oil. Quartered chorizo added, and cooked a bit more. A jar or a can of drained chickpeas added. Toss the mixture around and then add plenty of chopped parsley. Room temperature.
     With all of these recipes, ingredient quantities really aren't that important. Just make considerably more than you think you need.
     PS: It's just occurred to me that this is a fantastic way to feed a table-ful if it includes vegetarians.

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