In 1985 Penelope Casas introduced U.S. diners to the world of Spanish tapas with the success of her book Tapas: The Little Dishes of Spain. Casas is a recognized authority on Spanish cuisine and has published five books on the foods of the region and writes about Spanish food and travel for several major publications. She also leads culinary tours of Spain, a piece of information I have tucked away for my future (but still unplanned) trip to Spain. Last year she published a revised version of her classic book, and I was fortunate to receive a copy for review from the folks at La Tienda.
The book has over 300 recipes, of which 50 are new, and has chapters devoted to tapas in sauce, marinades and cold tapas, tapas with bread or pastry, tapas with last-minute preparation, ingredients and cookware, sources for Spanish products, and tapas menus. The ingredients and cookware section is like an encyclopedia of Spanish cooking, with detailed descriptions of such things as queso Manchego, Marcona almonds, earthenware dishes (cazuelas), and quince paste (membrillo). The menus are very helpful for planning a tapas party, and I can see us having some kind of tapas party in the next few months. The book is very thorough and the only thing I could wish for is more photos of beautiful tapas!
We selected a couple tapas to make for Michael's little birthday dinner (Happy Birthday, honey!), and I wanted to serve one with seafood and one with vegetables. I chose the Shrimp and Mushrooms in Almond Sauce (Fricando de Langostinos) and the Stewed Zucchini, Peppers, and Tomatoes (Pisto Manchego). Both have sauces worthy of sopping up with chunks of artisan bread.
The shrimp tapa marinades overnight in a wine broth with vegetables and herbs, cooks quickly in olive oil, then finishes with mushrooms and a fish broth or clam juice. The recipe calls for straining the sauce, which we skipped because we liked the vegetables. I couldn't resist the zucchini tapa since zucchini are in season and I have ripe tomatoes and peppers fresh from the garden. It's an easy dish and comes together quickly. We didn't have any bell peppers in our garden that were ready yet, but we grabbed some of our Hungarian wax peppers and added them; not traditional but still tasty. They have a bit of heat to them, much like banana peppers, so be careful if you use them as a substitute. Both tapas were healthy and delicious.
I have one copy of this terrific cookbook to give away, courtesy of La Tienda. If you want to win your own copy, leave a comment telling us about your favorite tapas. If you've never had tapas, then say so and throw your hat in the ring anyway! Please make sure your email address is correct so I can contact you if you are the lucky winner. Apologies to my international readers, but the book can only be shipped within the continental U.S. The contest closes at 8 P.M. EST on Thursday July 31, and Random.org will select the winner. Look for the announcement of the winner in this post soon after.
UPDATE: Congratulations to Shannon! A copy of Tapas: The Little Dishes of Spain is on its way to you!
Shrimp and Mushrooms in Almond Sauce (Fricando de Langostinos)
- medium glass or plastic bowl
- large skillet
- ½ pound shrimp (shelled)
- 2 slices onion
- 1 small carrot (sliced)
- 1 clove garlic (lightly crushed and peeled)
- ¼ cup dry white wine
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme (or ¼ teaspoon dried)
- dash of cinnamon
- fresh ground black pepper (to taste)
- kosher or sea salt (to taste)
- flour for dusting
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small tomato chopped
- ½ cup shrimp stock (You can use the shrimp to make the stock. Put the shells in a pot and cover with water. Simmer for about 20 minutes, then strain. )
- 2 medium mushrooms (halved, diced, or sliced)
- 1 tablespoon ground blanched almonds
- In the medium bowl, add the onion, carrot, garlic, white wine, bay leaf, thyme, cinnamon, salt, and pepper. Add the shrimp and stir. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Discard the bay leaf. Strain, reserving the liquid and all the remaining ingredients.
- Lay the shrimp on paper towels and pat dry, then dust with flour.
- In the skillet warm the oil over medium heat. Saute the shrimp for just a minute, turning once, then place shrimp on a warm plate and leave the olive oil behind.
- Add the onion, carrots, and garlic to the skillet, adding more oil as necessary. Saute until the onions wilt.
- Stir in the tomatoes and cook for a minute, then add the fish broth and the marinade. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes.
- Strain the sauce (traditional, but we don't do it) and return the sauce (minus the onions and carrots) the skillet. Add the mushrooms, almonds and shrimp. Taste and add more salt as necessary. Cover and cook slowly for 3 minutes, just until the shrimp are done. Serve warm.