Invite friends to a tapas party

Add Spanish wine and music, and dinner will be a hit

October 15, 2005|By TINA DANZE | TINA DANZE,DALLAS MORNING NEWS

Many of us face an embarrassing truth: We've dined in lots of friends' homes yet never reciprocated. Throwing a dinner party for that many people would try even a sane host's capacity. So here's an easier, more exciting option: a Spanish tapas party.

With careful shopping, you can do the whole party without cooking a lick (or add in some easy make-ahead items). It's simple: Set a window of time - say, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. - that lets people know it's a come-and-go party, not an all-nighter. Pop the cork on some Spanish wines. Play some tunes with an Andalusian vibe, and you've got a party your guests won't forget.

Tina Danze writes for the Dallas Morning News.

ROASTED SWEET ONIONS WITH CABRALES

Makes 12 servings

4 large sweet yellow onions, cut crosswise into 3/4 -inch thick slices

1/4 cup olive oil

4 ounces cabrales cheese, crumbled

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons sherry wine vinegar

1/3 cup chopped fresh chives

Preheat oven to 400 F. Arrange onions in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil. Drizzle with olive oil, turning to coat both sides. Sprinkle with salt. Roast until soft and brown on edges, turning every 15 minutes, for about 45 minutes. Transfer to a platter. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cool to room temperature. (Can be prepared to this point 4 hours ahead.) When ready to serve, sprinkle cheese over onions. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil, then sherry vinegar. Sprinkle with chives. Serve with crusty bread.

Per serving: 183 calories, 16 grams fat, 4 grams saturated fat, trace fiber, 10 milligrams cholesterol, 657 milligrams sodium, 6 grams carbohydrate

Adapted from Epicurious

The food

Basic menu

Buy ahead and assemble trays the day of the party:

Spanish cheese tray with nuts and dried fruit

Serrano ham and Spanish cured sausages

Crusty bread or seasoned toast croutons

Spanish olives and caperberries

Marcona almonds

Expand your menu

Add your choice of:

San Simon or Mahon cheese

Roasted sweet onions with cabrales

Bottled or canned instant tapas

Ready-to-serve items

For these tapas, all that's required is opening a bottle or can. Many tapas bars in Spain serve these products. You should be able to find all these items at a well-stocked supermarket. Check the deli section for things such as toasts and cured meats.

Imported smoked sardines in lemon-flavored olive oil

Calamari (squid) in olive oil

Mussels in escabeche (pickled sauce)

Bottled marinated mushrooms

Bottled olive tapenade to spread on toasts or bread

Caperberries

Marinated red peppers

Garlic-parmesan croutons

Cheese and meat

Try some of these Spanish delicacies:

Manchego

is a nutty, mild sheep's milk cheese. Serve it with Marcona almonds, green olives and slices of quince paste (for a sweet-salty combination).

Cabrales

is a creamy, pungent blue cheese wrapped in chestnut leaves. Discard the leaves, and serve it with dried figs, dates and walnuts. If you can't find it, substitute Roquefort.

Mahon

is a semisoft cow's milk cheese with a buttery, yet sharp, acidic flavor.

Jamon Serrano

is a Spanish cousin to prosciutto. Serve it sliced thin, cut in half horizontally.

Sausages:

Several varieties of dry Spanish sausage are available in specialty markets. Some are called chorizos, others salchichon. Try the salchichon de vino, a wine-flavored sausage, and the dry-cured chorizo. Another option is dry-cured campofrio picante chorizo. If you can't find these, try dry Italian salami.

The music

A sampling of CDs to echo your Spanish theme might include:

Rumba Flamenco, from the Putumayo collection

Mosaique or any other Gipsy Kings CD

Brothers of the Castle by del Castillo

Any CD by Las Ketchup, from Spain

The drinks

Red wine:

Osborne 2002 or 2003 Solaz is dry and fruity with a hint of spice. The tempranillo-cabernet sauvignon is a bargain at about $7 for a 750-milliliter bottle, $12.99 for a 1.5-liter magnum. Serve at room temperature.

White wine:

Sumarroca Muscat 2003 is bone-dry yet fruity. It pairs well with cheese, sausage, ham, seafood and smoked foods. About $9. Marques de Caceres White Rioja is a light, fruity white that's easy on the pocketbook. It's widely available for $6 to $7 a bottle. Refrigerate for no more than two hours before serving.

Count on two drinks per person for the first hour, one drink per person for each hour thereafter. A typical bottle of wine yields five glasses; a 1.5-liter magnum yields 10.

Serving chilled white wine usually dictates stemware; inexpensive brands and even plastic are easy to find at places such as Target or Ikea. Or serve red wine in plain juice glasses, as they do at tapas bars in Spain. Inexpensive glasses can be found at outlet stores, dollar stores or chains such as Bed Bath & Beyond.

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