Tapas in Spain: a gastronomic journey of flavor and community
[sponsored by Rueda] In the heart of Spain’s culinary culture lies an enchanting and delectable tradition – Tapas. This age-old practice of enjoying small, flavorful dishes has woven itself into the very fabric of Spanish life, fostering a sense of community and celebration around food. From bustling city taverns to charming coastal villages, tapas are a testament to the country’s rich history and diverse regional flavors. Discover with me the essence of tapas and the joy they bring to Spain (and to the world).
A bite-sized history
The origins of tapas trace back centuries, with a fascinating history rooted in folklore. One popular legend suggests that King Alfonso X of Castile once fell ill and ordered that all wine served in taverns had to be accompanied by small bites of food to prevent overindulgence. Another tale speaks of farm workers covering their wine glasses with slices of bread or cheese to keep flies away, inadvertently creating the concept of tapas – a term derived from the Spanish word “tapar,” meaning “to cover.”
Over time, this practice evolved into an esteemed culinary tradition. Today, tapas have become an integral part of the Spanish lifestyle, not merely a meal but a social and cultural experience, uniting friends and family around the table.
A feast for the sensesand the art of socializing
At the heart of tapas lies the belief that good food is meant to be shared and savored in the company of loved ones. Each dish bursts with a harmonious blend of flavors, inviting you to explore a diverse range of tastes in one sitting. From savory cured meats to succulent seafood dishes like Gambas al Ajillo (garlic shrimp) and Patatas Bravas (spicy potatoes), the tapas table offers a sensory journey that caters to all palates.
In Spain, the tapas experience extends beyond just satisfying hunger; it fosters an atmosphere of camaraderie and togetherness. Unlike a traditional meal where everyone orders individual dishes, tapas encourage sharing and sampling a little bit of everything. As plates are passed around, conversations flow freely, and laughter fills the air, creating lasting memories with friends.
The perfect marriage: tapas and good wine
Few things rival the exquisite union of tapas and good wine. As the heart and soul of social gatherings, tapas are meant to be savored slowly, inviting a symphony of flavors to dance on the palate. And what better partner to this culinary symphony than a carefully chosen wine?
The right wine can elevate the tapas experience to new heights, enhancing the already delightful flavors and creating a harmonious marriage of taste sensations. The diversity of tapas calls for a versatile wine selection, allowing each dish to shine in its own splendor.
The Rueda region, nestled in the heart of Spain, emerges as a captivating white wine heaven. It is renowned as Spain’s preeminent white wine region, blessed with 3 peculiarities:
Verdejo grape which is an indigenous grape variety since the XI century. This grape has touches of scrubland herbs, hay and fennel, with a refreshing acidity. The wines made with this grape have body and structure, they are well balanced and have some bitterness in the finish.
Continental Climate. Situated at a high altitude ranging from 700 to 873 meters above the see level, the area experiences cold and long winters, short springs and hot and dry summers, ideal for grape maturation. Also, the difference between day and night-time temperatures is the key factor in the balance between the grape’s sugar brought by the hot sun and the good acidity levels preserved by the cool nights. This climatic interplay fosters gradual grape ripening, preserving acidity and aromatics.
Pebbly soils. The pebbly soils absorb daytime heat, releasing it gradually during the cooler nights. This peculiar terroir (located within a hollow carved out by the Duero river) offers optimal drainage, fast draining and is rich in calcium and magnesium. This unique soil ensures the Verdejo vines delve deep for nutrients, resulting in grapes that embody the region’s essence. It also helps crafting wines with remarkable minerality and vibrant acidity.
The aromatic white wines, like Verdejo or Sauvignon blanc from the Rueda region are a delightful match for seafood tapas (accentuating their freshness and briny character), but they pair amazingly well also with chicken dishes or vegetarian tapas.
In the end, the beauty of pairing good wine with tapas lies in the shared experience of pleasure and conviviality.
To truly experience Spain’s culinary soul, you have to immerse yourself in the world of tapas. Beyond the delectable dishes, tapas embody a way of life – a celebration of food, friendship, and the joy of shared experiences. So, whether you’re savoring a flavorful plate in a quaint local eatery or indulging in a bustling tapas crawl with friends, let the spirit of tapas guide you on a delightful gastronomic adventure through the heart of Spain.
And, if you are not lucky enough to eat tapas in Spain, you can try to recreate the spanish summer nights at home. Try these easy tapas recipes, starting with my sizzled mussels in saffron broth, fill your home with friends and family and enjoy life as spanish do.
SIZZLED MUSSELS IN SAFFRON BROTH
1 kg mussels (super fresh)
3 tbs extravirgin olive oil
dry white wine
1-2 cloves of garlic. cutted in half
parsley and chili peppers to taste
a pinch of saffron threads
Scrub, debeard the mussels and wash them carefully. If there are some already opened or cracked, throw them away.
Preheat a big pan, add the oil, the chili pepper and the garlic. Once the garlic is golden, remove it from the pan and immediately add the mussels. Put a lid on and let them cook for a few minutes or until open. Add a splash of wine and let it cook another minute. Drain the mussels from the flavoured water they produced, add your saffron. If there are any closed ones, throw them away: they are not edible.
Serve the mussels in a bowl, pour the broth on top, add some chopped parsley and a lot of toasted bread to enjoy them with.
TORTILLA DE PATATAS
280 g potatoes
extravirgin olive oil
Peel the potatoes, rinse them under cold water and slice them (about 5 mm thick).
Heat a ½ inch of high quality extra virgin olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the potatoes and cook them for about 10-15 minutes
While the potatoes are cooking, beat the eggs in a large bowl and season with some salt.
Slice the onion as very thinly and fry it in oil over medium heat in a separate pan until it begins to caramelize. Add a splash of water now and then to deglaze and prevent burning. Drain off any excess oil and add to the eggs.
Once the potatoes are ready remove them with a spider into a colander and allow them to cool and drain for at least 5 minutes.
Once the potatoes have cooled, add them to the onions + egg mixture and stir well.
Place the pan over medium-low heat , add 1-2 tablespoons of oil and pour in the egg mixture.
Cook on medium-low heat for about 6-8 minutes. Make sure the heat is low enough or the tortilla will cook too quickly and be rubbery. You can run a rubber spatula along the edges to make sure the tortilla isn’t sticking.
To flip the tortilla, take a large plate and put it over the pan and flip quickly. Some uncooked egg mixture will likely slip out, but that’s okay. Slide the tortilla back into the pan to cook the other side, and cook for another 6-8 minutes.
GAMBAS CON AJILLO (garlic shrimps)
1 kg large shrimps (try to use the big ones, or once cooked they’ll end up in nothing, because they release a lot of water), thawed, peeled, and deveined
10 garlic cloves
good quality extravirgin olive oil
Peel the garlic cloves and slice them into thin slices.
Heat a generous amount of extravirgin olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic (and some chili if you like it) and cook until golden, about 2 minutes.
Add shrimp and increase heat to high.
Cook, stirring continuously, until the water from the shrimps will create a “sauce” with the oil, about 2-3 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Once ready, remove from heat and sprinkle some chopped parsley.