Tapas: the Mezze of Spain


So, let me tell you the story behind tapas. In Spain, (Note: I know very little about Spain and tend to mix dream with reality) people have a solid life ethic, and leave work in the middle of the day to drink wine. Glasses already filled with wine awaited the said solid life ethic people of Spain in wine bars across the country. And in this imaginary time long enough ago, during the hot and sticky summer months, waiters needed to cover those glasses of wine from the abundance of flies. First they put a slice of bread over the glass. Then maybe they’d put a little cheese. Perhaps an additional garlic stuffed olive. Eventually bars would compete by making fancy little treats to cover these glasses of wine. And thus “tapas,” meaning “to cover,” were born. 

Boy, am I glad they were.

This brings me to the night of December 27, 2011, when a friend of mine came into town. If you remember, my friend Arianna moved to Chicago about 3 years ago. And during my visit to see her there two years ago she made me a delicious meal of vegan jumbalaya and beer. All this after being trapped with her in a seriously scary thunderstorm in the empty but covered patio of The Chicago Diner eating a glorious feast and laughing in the face of mortality. For her I threw a tapas party to end all tapas parties (that I’ve ever thrown before -- this happened to be the first one). How did I manage to have 11 people in my rather small living room, crowded around a coffee table no less? I’m still not sure how it happened. I believe that the room grew three sizes that night to make it work out for us. 

The food was served in phases, drinks were poured constantly, and a good time was had by all. 

Cheers! and Happy (belated) New Year, dear readers! 





marinated garlic stuffed olives

candied rosemary nuts

Manchego with quince paste

baguettes, fancy cheeses, sun dried tomato pesto, artichoke spread

white bean hummus & orange bell pepper

artichoke salad

baked and seasoned cauliflower

cumin paprika roasted pumpkin

tortilla espanola

shrimp in garlic tomato sauce

cardamom flan


some of the recipes

all inspired by Hipcooks

Candied Rosemary Nuts


  • butter
  • brown sugar
  • rosemary chopped
  • nuts (any)
  • Tabasco sauce 

1. In a pan, melt as much butter as you like, at least 2 Tbsp. 2. Add around 1/3 cup of brown sugar, some rosemary, and about 1 cup of nuts. 3. Flip ingredients around in the pan until covered and the sugar caramelizes a bit. 4. Spread out the candied nuts on a cookie sheet, add the Tobasco & mix around. 5. Freeze the nuts until solid. 

Tortilla Espanola


  • butter
  • evoo
  • salt/pepper
  • a few potatoes, sliced into rounds
  • 1 med onion
  • dill 
  • 6 eggs
  • heavy cream
  • feta
  • creme fraiche
  • chopped chives

1. Flash boil the sliced potatoes. 2. Sautee onions in salt and pepper and lots of oil. 3. Butter an iron skillet or cake pan. 4. In a bowl, whisk the eggs, dill, cream, feta, salt, pepper. 5. Line the skillet or pan with potatoes. Then spread the onions evenly over the potatoes. Then pour the egg mixture. 6. Bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes. 7. Serve with a dollop of creme fraiche and chopped chives et voila! 

Shrimp in Garlic Tomato Sauce


  • shrimp
  • butter
  • evoo
  • salt/pepper/oregano
  • onion, sliced
  • garlic, mined
  • canned diced tomatoes
  • parmesan

1. Oil a skillet. 2. Sautee the garlic and onions for a few minutes. 3. Add the salt/pepper/oregano and cook a few minute more. 4. Add some butter. Be generous. 5. Add the diced tomatoes. Bring to a boil then simmer. 6. Add the parmesan. 7. Let the sauce sit about ten minutes. 8. Add the thawed shrimp to soak in the sauce for about 20 minutes. 

I'll do a special post on the cardamom flan when I have perfected it!