To quote a militaristic literary idol of mine, no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy. Just so in this case. I plotted out the menu way in advance (which just means I didn't say: "Oh, this looks interesting; let's make this tonight!"). Having no real idea where to start, I simply paged through the The Book of Tapas, noting which recipes looked tasty or interesting (or just bizarre and intriguing). Unfortunately, this gave me a list with roughly 50 items on it. After several cuts, and one dessert addition from Rick Bayless' website, I had the expected 21.
You would think that would be sufficient planning. But no! Then I had to figure out if it was even possible to make those dishes: many called for seasonal ingredients that aren't always easy to find in a Midwestern Autumn. Which brings me to the first great obstacle: grocery shopping. (Here I must apologize, because I said I wouldn't wax poetical. The shopping deserves an exception.) My memory is hazy (stress-induced delirium?), but I believe I had to make four distinct trips to the store. The first was to determine if all the ingredients could be had, and if not, what I could use instead. That was a success.
The second and third trips, as the actual 'buy stuff' excursions, were not. You see, I don't have a vehicle -- which is usually fine, because I live within walking distance of two grocery stores. However there is a limit to how much a person can carry in one trip. This was made even more difficult because two of my roommates promise to help carry bags... and then both flaked out on me. I must have been quite a comical sight, carrying all that stuff back by myself. Ok, rant over. Those were trips 2 and 3. Trip 4 was the last minute shoot-where-is-the-x-oh-damn-quick-go-get-it-now trip.
And that was all before the day of the event. During the week preceding the dinner, I pretty much spent every night reviewing the recipes (to ensure I'd be able to construct them with a minimum of difficulty), sometimes almost falling asleep on the cookbook. It was actually pretty funny. By the end of the week, I was virtually dreaming of tapas. I was definitely reverting to Spanish whenever I started talking to anyone. Aaawkward.
And by the end of it, I didn't even get to serve everything! While actually in the kitchen, I had to spontaneously remove 4-5 courses from the meal. The cuts were bourne of a realisation that there was no way my guests were going to be able to eat so much. Hey! In my defense, tapas are supposed to be small!
Anyway, that's enough blabber and ranting from me. Let's get to the interesting stuff: the food! These two dishes fall under the 'curiosities' category. Definitely not something you would serve every day, but an intriguing combination regardless. On the whole, this is the type of food on whose taste you might reflect, but it won't cause any cravings. They fit in well in a large complicated meal, and might work better as a small Amuse-Bouche.
Orange, Fennel, and Onion Salad (Ensalada con Naranja, Hinojo y Cebolla)
- 1lb 5oz fennel, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
- 3 large oranges
- 5 Tbs olive oil
- 2 Tbs lemon juice
- 1 small onion, thinly sliced
- handful of black olives, pitted and sliced
- mint leaves, to garnish (optional)
- salt and pepper
Combine the fennel, oranges, onion and olives in the bowl, gently tossing together. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss gently just before serving. The salad can be garnished with mint leaves, if desired
Hard-boiled Eggs with Smoked Salmon (Huevos duros al Salmón)
- 4 eggs
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1 generous slice smoked salmon
- 3,1/2 Tbs bottled salmon row, drained, to garnish
Put the mayonnaise and smoked salmon in a blender and blend until well mixed. Season with salt, if necessary, as the salmon might be already salted. To improve the presentation of the eggs, use a pastry bag to pipe the salmon and mayonnaise mixture onto the halved eggs. Garnish with the salmon roe and serve. If no serving immediately, store in the refrigerator until required.