If you don’t think of tapas when you think of Spain, perhaps you’ve had a little too much sangria (or maybe not enough)! While the majority of Spain enjoys tapas as part of their daily lives, no one treats them like an art form like they do here in Andalusia. Every province does it differently, but one thing remains the same: they can’t be tapa’d!!
As the story goes, tapas (Spanish for “lid” or “top”) came to be when rustic Andalusians began placing a small piece of bread or thin slice of meat over their glasses to keep fruit flies from lingering around the sweet sherry, during a mid-day getaway in a burrowing tavern, out of the hot Andalusian sun.
Variations of the legend have evolved and so have the dishes! Here’s a quick beginners guide to what your mouth will soon be thanking you for:
Queso Viejo or Manchego: The most common and tastiest of all Spanish cheeses, slices submerged in olive oil will find their way onto a slice of piping hot bread.
Berenjenas con Miel: The Spanish love their eggplant and this dish is a true testament as to why. Pieces are deep fried then drizzled with a thick, molasses-like honey. One word: wow.
Jamon Serrano: Ham. They have museums dedicated to it. One taste and you’ll know why. Silky smooth jamon serrano is dry-cured and served raw in paper thin slices. The flavor is hearthy and the texture is intoxicating. My sashimi cravings have long-since subsided and been replaced by yearnings for Spanish mountain ham!
Jamon Iberico: This fancy pants cousin of jamon serrano is pricier for a reason. These black pigs are treated to a diet consisting purely of acorns.
Flemenquin: Before fairs all over the U.S. began deep frying everything in sight, this Andalusian wonder was born. Pork wrapped in ham and cheese, deep fried and topped with a dollop of garlicky mayo tastes as good as its sounds like a heart attack! Usually served with fried potatoes. Obviously.
Pinchos Morunos: Moroccan spiced and speared chicken or pork. Enough said.
Boquerones: White anchovies, marinated in vinegar, then battered and fried. Sprinkle on some lemon and eat each in one fell swoop! Beware the little bones, but you’ll soon master the boqueron bite!
Morcilla: This one’s for us adventurous types, but the payoff is worth it! Spanish blood sausage stuffed with rice, onions and spices. A sassy alternative to chorizo.
Patatas Bravas: Nuggets of crispy, roasted potatoes smothered in a spicy tomato sauce. The Spanish definition of spicy differs a bit from that of say, Mexico, so you are considered “brave” if you can handle Brava sauce! Note: if you are a spice-aholic like myself, you’ll be left wondering what the fuss is all about. If the Brava heat makes me brave, then I guess I am Wonderwoman.
Patatas Aliolli: Roasted potato chunks dressed in garlicky mayo… yum!
Bacalao: This salt-cured codfish is too much to handle on it’s own, but slap a sliver on some fresh bread, add a slice of tomato and drizzle on a little bit of olive oil. You’ll feel like a local in no time.
Ensalada Rusa: The typical Spanish “Russian salad” includes potatoes, peas, carrots, onions, tuna and plenty of mayo! Served chilled, it’s perfect on a summer Andalusian day.
Patatas a lo Pobre: “Poorman’s potatoes” consist of throwing in whatever you have lying around… which in Spain is usually onions, red and green peppers, chorizo and some fried eggs on top. Eating this dish will make you feel like the richest man in the world.
Bandarillas: Calling all pickle lovers!! If spice, crunch and all around amazingness is your thing, pick up abandarilla or 10. Each toothpick contains one bite-sized morsel each of pickles, red peppers, spicy peppers, pickled cocktail onions and the jewel or Andalusia: the olive. Slide it all into your mouth at once and enjoy the explosion of fresh, crisp flavors!
Caracoles: Snails, people!! But if you can get past that, really, they’re quite delicious, taking on the taste of whatever savory sauce they are simmering in. Whether it’s as simple as olive oil and garlic or more of a hearty tomato concoction, give ‘em a try.
[Jamon Serrano photo provided by Scaredy Kat]