Everyday Gourmet (11/5/09)

Tap into tapas

Nov. 5, 2009

By Kim Dannies

Tapas-style eating — small plates — is catching on everywhere. I am all for this trend: Smaller portions are better for the palate, the wallet and the waistline.

Three flavor-bursting bites from several dishes are far more satisfying than a dozen forkfuls from one entree. The next time you gather the gang, why not try it? Any recipe that you love can be part of a tapas meal. Bacon-studded mac and cheese, ratatouille, and grilled kabobs are all fine choices. It’s not really more work than a big meal, as tapas can be prepped ahead, purchased and assigned to any game guests.

I like to serve microbrews or bold, fruity Spanish wines that are inexpensive and pair perfectly with a variety of flavors. Set out a nice mix of olives and nuts for simple hors d’oeuvres. Use small, festive plates (one per guest is fine) to savor each family-style dish served in a sequence. Here’s a sample menu to get your appetite moving to a new beat.

Vermont Cheese Sampler: Serve a variety (3 to 5 cheeses) with fig jam, roasted pecans and baguette.

Roasted Beet Salad: Peel and chunk-cut beets: drizzle with olive oil and roast for 1 hour at 350 degrees. Line a serving platter with fresh greens and mint, layer on beets, sprinkle with a small amount of balsamic vinegar. Crumble soft goat cheese over the top. Sprinkle kosher salt, freshly ground pepper and some crushed walnuts over top (roast beets 2 days ahead; assemble 1 hour ahead).

Asian Soba Noodles: Boil 1 package of soba noodles for 7 minutes. Drain and toss with lots of shredded carrot, ginger, sliced scallion and chopped cucumber. Blend together 1/2 cup, each, of sesame oil, soy sauce and brown sugar; add 1 to 2 tablespoons of chili sauce; pour over noodles (do ahead 1 day).

Pork Spare Ribs: Purchase Lloyd’s or Curly’s brand prepared ribs. Reheat, slice and scatter with chopped scallions. (Ribs are a huge crowd-pleaser.)

Shrimp and Chicken Kabobs: Grill kabobs just before guests arrive; rest the protein in a double layer of foil. Purchase a savory dipping sauce, or blend a bit of your favorite dressing with some garlic, mayo and herbs (do ahead 1 day).

Kim Dannies is a graduate of La Varenne Cooking School in France. She lives in Williston with her husband, Jeff; they have three college-aged daughters who come and go. For archived Everyday Gourmet columns go to kimdannies.com.