Family Dinner Night: Tapas Edition

Every few months, I get together with some very good friends for what we have taken to referring to as family dinner night. This time around we did a tapas style meal and man, was it delicious. Here’s what we had. Unfortunately I have no photos because I neglected to check that my camera contained a memory card. You will just have to imagine…

We had a cheeseboard to start, which featured a very special wedge of aged gouda I brought back from Philadelphia in January. Only about half a dozen wheels make it into the US each year, and a cheesemonger at Reading Terminal Market was able to get some this year. It was very very delicious. The board only had one other cheese, a manchego as that is one of my favorites.

To accompany the cheeses, I picked up two kinds of olives from a stall at Waverly Market called Greek Superfoods. They had several selections, but I went with a mix of cracked green olives with lemon (phenomenal) and then some plain kalamata olives. We had a stick of Olli Organic Salame (my preferred brand) – the molisana, which has pepper and garlic – and I also made these roasted almonds with paprika and orange, which were good but would have been better if I hadn’t accidentally mixed the orange zest in before roasting.

And then, for dinner, we each made a few contributions. Handsome and I brought:

Brussels Sprout Chiffonade, aka shaved brussels sprouts with lime & cumin (from the big yellow Gourmet cookbook). Cutting the sprouts into a chiffonade didn’t actually take that long, so don’t let that stop you. The recipe calls for sauteeing them very lightly in butter and adding cumin seed, and then the whole thing is finished with some lime juice. They were pretty good – it was a nice take on a slaw.

Caramelized Shallots, and if you are skeptical about eating a whole onion, please allow me to convert you. Yes, it was a little bit of a pain to peel them without cutting them, but it made for a nice presentation. (That said, if the only thing holding you back is the thought of peeling them, I think you could safely cut them in half, just make sure that each half has part of the root, so it will hold together. You may also want to do this if you’re trying to serve them at a cocktail party, particularly if you have large ones.) I had a bit of a kitchen fail on these, walking away while they were on the stovetop for just long enough that the butter and sugar candied and literally made caramel. So, pay close attention, particularly after they’ve been on the stovetop for a few minutes. If this happens to you, you can easily remedy this before you put them in the oven – just pick out the solidifying globs and add a bit more butter, then toss them in the oven. I bet these would also be great with balsamic instead of red wine vinegar. Be sure to bake these until the largest ones are tender all the way through – the smaller ones will hold up just fine to the extra heat.

Poached Pears with Vanilla – an easy and light dessert. I tweaked this by cutting the sugar way back to 1 cup, and using two vanilla beans for extra vanilla flavor. (And by forgetting the cinnamon stick.) This was delicious even though I used unripe pears – mainly you just need to let them bubble away gently until they’re nice and tender.

Our hosts made:

Garlic shrimp finished with brandy; patatas bravas, with a really delicious sauce; linguica braised in white wine; and a saltless Tuscan bread to mop up all those sauces. (I actually thought it was pretty tasty on its own, but I am a fiend for carbs.) For drinks, between the four of us we enjoyed some homebrewed saison, whiskey sours (made with bourbon) and a gin & ginger cocktail. It was all very delicious and I look forward to the next time we do this!