I’ve finally started reading The New Spanish Table after it sat in my stack of unread cookbooks for almost a year. I’m only about 50 pages into it, but I can tell that it’s going to be a delight to read. Already, I’ve learned about the different regions of Spain, regional cuisine specialties, and a little history of each area. The first chapter of recipes is Tapas, and each item is introduced with some information about where it originated and variations on how it might be prepared. As usual, I wanted to make each and every item as I began this chapter, and this time I almost did. I chose several dishes including the first two in a row and spent an evening imagining I was in Seville on a tapeo that happened to take place entirely in one establishment (my house) rather than several. For today, I’m showing the first three tapas I prepared, and I’ll continue the story in a second post. Tangerine-marinated olives, Sevillian marinated carrots, and smoky fried almonds are up first.
I wasn’t able to locate a tangerine for the olives, so I used an orange instead. Cracked green olives were marinated with orange zest and juice, lots of crushed garlic, lemon slices, sherry vinegar, olive oil, bay leaves, a crumbled dried chile, and a pinch of ground cumin. To prepare the carrots, they were peeled but left whole and cooked in boiling water in a large pot just until crisp-tender. The marinade was made by combining garlic, cumin seeds, dried oregano, red pepper flakes, fresh parsley, salt, and olive oil in a food processor and pulsing to a fine paste. Lemon juice was then added to the mixture. The carrots were cut into quarter inch or half inch pieces, tossed with the marinade, and left in the refrigerator overnight. The almonds were very simple to prepare. Marcona almonds were suggested, and that’s what I used, but blanched almonds would have been fine too. The almonds were fried in olive oil until golden and then were transferred to a paper towel lined tray to drain before being placed in a paper bag. Salt and smoked Spanish paprika were placed in the bag with the almonds, and the bag was shaken to distribute the seasonings.
The great thing about a tapas party is that a lot of the preparation can be done a day or more in advance. However, the almonds are at their best served warm, but they could be re-heated in the oven right before serving. These were three very simple items, but the flavors were addictive. I know I have a good snack in front of me when I'm incapable of controlling my hand repeatedly reaching for the serving dish. The citrus and garlic combination in the olives was a winner, and the marinated carrots will make you wonder why bars ever offered pretzels as snacks. And, warm, smoky, paprika-scented Marcona almonds don’t even require a flavor description. Pour me another glass of Garnacha, and let me continue to pretend I’m in Spain.