Monday, August 20, 2007

A pair of tapas

Supposedly, tapas originated in Spanish bars as a way to keep the flies out of your glass of wine. The bartender would put some tidbits on a little plate and lay it on top of the glass of wine. Tapas can be as simple as a few marinated olives, or they can be quite elaborate.

These two tapas come from ¡Delicioso!, by Penelope Casas, my bible of Spanish cooking. The cheese dish was nice and smooth, but had a little bit of a kick to it because of the garlic and the cilantro. The other one is toast with an anchovy/olive paste and ratatouille on top. The vegetables and Garum (anchovy mixture) work well together because the veggies cut down the intensity of the anchovy. They are both very nice tapas.

Queso fresco con mojo de cilantro
(Fresh Cheese in Cilantro and Green Pepper Marinade)

Start preparation several hours in advance.
½ teaspoon salt
6 cloves garlic
½ medium green bell pepper, finely chopped
1 cut finely chopped cilantro (stems trimmed)
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons wine vinegar
1 pound fresh cheese with a solid consistency, such as fresh mozzarella or mild goat cheese, cut in 1-inch cubes

Mash to a paste the salt, garlic, bell pepper and cilantro in a food processor. Stir in the oil and vinegar and taste for salt.

Gently mix the cilantro sauce and the cheese together in a bowl. Refrigerate several hours or overnight. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Tostadas de escalivada y garum
(Roasted Vegetable Canapés with Anchovy and Olive Paste)

1 red bell pepper
A ¾ pound eggplant
1 small tomato, halved
Freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon thyme leaves or ½ teaspoon dried
1 tablespoon fruity extra virgin olive oil
Eight to ten ½ inch bread slices cut from a long narrow loaf

8 anchovy fillets, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons capers
12 cured black olives, minced
¼ teaspoon sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

Arrange the red pepper, eggplant, and halved tomato in a roasting pan and cook in a preheated 500 degree F oven, turning the pepper and eggplant once, for about 20 minutes, or until the skin of the pepper browns and separates from the flesh. Cool. Peel, core, and seed the pepper. Peel the eggplant, cut in half lengthwise, and scrape out most of the seeds, then dice the pepper and eggplant. Chop the tomato, removing as much skin as possible. Mix all the vegetables together in a bowl with salt, pepper, thyme, and the tablespoon of olive oil.

Arrange the bread slices on a cookie sheet and toast in a preheated 350 degree F. oven for about 5 minutes, or until crisp but not brown. Place the ingredients for the Garum in a mortar or mini processor and mash to a paste. Spread the Garum on the bread slices, spoon the vegetable mixture on top, and garnish with thyme.

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