During a trip this summer to Spain, I fell in love with tapas.
Tapas are essentially appetizers that are served in most bars and restaurants. In fact, there are bars that specialize in tapas. Sample few and have a full meal. It like music: Pick as many notes as you want, and create a full musical piece. Examples include patatas con salsa brava, which are roasted potatoes with a wonderful hot sauce poured over them, or roasted potatoes with olive oil and garlic, with fried eggs, or potato omelet with sweet cream. You can have black olives, green olive, marinated anchovies, marinated pepper and on and on.
Tapas bars usually have cured hams hanging from the rafters. When a customer orders ham, worker simply slices what is needed and serves it. Gazpacho, is available in most tapas bars as well.
The origin myth about tapas derives from King Alphonso X, who became ill and was required to eat only small snacks with wine. When he recovered, he ordered that wine could not be served without being accompanied by food.
The name “tapas” originated from the carafe of wine that was topado, or covered by a slice of ham, cold meat or cheese. The topado prevented insects and other foreign matter from dropping into the wine and helped prevent drunkenness of the customer by filling his or her stomach with food while drinking.
Because life in Spain is not hurried, one easily can sit in a tapas bar for hours, snacking and drinking dry sherry, which is virtually the national drink in Spain.
Here is one of my favorite tapas.
Berenjenas con queso (eggplant with cheese)
2 medium-size eggplants
8 ounces Camembert cheese
1 cup flour
olive oil for frying
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
2 medium ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 clove garlic, mashed
salt and pepper to taste
-Cut the eggplants lengthwise into strips about 1/2 inch thick.
-Place in a bowl of salted water for ten minutes. Strain well and roll in flour, then fry in very hot in flour, then fry in very hot oil until crunchy. Place the eggplants on a flat serving platter.
-Toss the tomatoes with the garlic, the oregano, the salt and the pepper. Spoon over the eggplant and then cover with slices of the Camembert cheese.