Smaller Plates and Fewer Calories
"I love tapas. They're like appetizers for a meal that never comes." --Julie Kavner as Marge Simpson
We recently invited a group of friends over for an Argentinean style dinner. I tried several new recipes, but without a doubt the most loved new recipe of that meal was the Grilled Provolone. Much of the dinner conversation centered on how many ways one could eat Grilled Provolone – or at least how many excuses one could find to include it in a meal. One idea that made the most sense to me was that the gooey cheese should be the star of a spread of appetizers intended to be eaten as dinner - tapas style.
What’s tapas? It’s a traditional Spanish presentation of “small plates” with samples of a variety of appetizers. In Spain tapas is often eaten as a prelude to the normally late dinner. Friends and family gather in bars or other social settings to enjoy conversation, laughter, and to sample bite sized servings of a variety of foods. Tapas can be beautiful individually addressed constructs of edible art or ordinary bite sized morsels simply served in pretty bowls. Nothing is eaten in overly large proportion as the focus is more on the spirited conversation about life and food.
In Spain, tapas may include marinated olives, savory brochettes of shrimp, prawns, and bacon paired with artichokes sautéed with ham or clams. Bread with olive oil is served with cheeses, mushrooms, pickled seafood and veggies, or spicy sausage. Empanadas pair nicely with Catalan style beans. If you want the real tapas deal, visit this great website for wonderful recipes.
I’m not Spanish and, as we don’t eat dinner as late as they do in Spain, I decided to come up with my own Texan/American tapas style spread and serve it as dinner. The key for me is to prepare what is typically high fat high calorie foods as a part of the meal, but not the entirety of it. The goal is enjoyment of everything in moderation. My tapas will consist of the appetizers I love best, no matter that the cuisines may clash a bit. The question is - which appetizers? Here are a few recipes and ideas that I found appealing.
Grilled Provolone with Ciabatta bread is an amazing thing to eat if you have room for a little more fat and calories in your day, but what if you don't?
Maybe I'll go for a lighter cheese presentation, with simple Grilled Pizza, lightly topped with garlicky olive oil, fresh basil, and a few wedges of ricotta and/or fresh mozzarella. This is easily made cheese-free for the Vegans. Make the slices small - two or three bite sized.
Bacon Wrapped Dates are simply perfect and worth every calorie if you are a bacon eater.
As some of my friends don’t eat meat, Vegetarian Times Blue Cheese Stuffed Dates may be a better choice.
Neither the provolone nor the pizza take long to grill, so I'll add a few skewers of marinated shrimps and jalapenos before the coals cool off. Here are the nutrition facts for one skewer with three shrimps and 1 jalapeno and 1 teaspoons of low fat marinade.
The Muffin-Tin Crab Cakes from Eating Well would also make wonderful nibbling. Now I'm not sure which I'd like best.
All meals need a great vegetable or three, and this wonderful cauliflower version of Poor Man’s “Shrimp” Cocktail. is easy, low fat, low calorie, high nutrition finger food at its best.
A nice chewy dense bread would suit most of the ideas above and we all have our favorite bakers - but why not try something different like Chickpea Flat Bread.
Some of the tapas ideas above are calorie friendly, others not so much. For the dishes that are high in fat or calorie, just remember those words “small plates” – take small measured tastes of things like the Grilled Provolone and restock that small plate with things like the Poor Man’s "Shrimp: Cocktail. Oh, while small plates are part of the process, don't forget to enjoy the great conversation along with the good food. The more you talk, the less you will eat. Enjoy.
What kind of tapas spread would you make using appetizers popular in your country or region? Have you ever made an entire dinner out of appetizers? What would you serve to make a Vegan tapas? What would you suggest for a high protein tapas? IF you eat raw foods, what would your tapas table have on it? Have you ever been to Spain and enjoyed the real thing? Please share your great tapas style recipes with everyone here. If you have a recipe you would like to have considered for the CC Palate, send it to me by pm.