Some tapas can be complex, served one at a time and requiring abuela’s super secret recipe. Sometimes you’ll find them served together like a antipasti plate. When I’m serving others, I prefer to have the table full from the get go so that I’m not chained to the kitchen. I personally also enjoy savoring variety in a meal and being able to go back and forth between sweet and salty. That’s part of why I love tapas so much – I possess two traits which go hand in hand: One, a love of variety and two, indecisiveness. A table filled with moderately-portioned, scrumptious snacks is a great answer to this.
If you want to wow people with a colorful and artistic, yet out of this world easy form of of tapas, try a spread like this. There are several other reasons I’m obsessed with tapas.
First off, tapas are simple and undemanding. Much of a tapas menu can be prepped ahead of time while some require little to know preparation at all.
Second, this is a great way to utilize what is available to you. Chances are, you can make tapas with what you already have in your pantry. Again, that’s the beauty of it – tapas are relatively simple.
Third, there’s something for everyone on a well balanced spread. Vegetarian, gluten free, paleo or the classic bread and butter lovers. Make the spread as grand and varied your table can handle if you want to give your guests multiple options. Maybe you have a lot of vegetarian friends? Go heavier on the crostinis and veggies. Maybe your crowd is more paleo and protein oriented (like my family)? Go with nuts, gambas and rabo de toro altogether – whatever suits your fancy. Intrigued by the infinite possibilities? Keep reading for more ideas.
The components of a super simple tapas spread
Arguably a Spanish food group of its own, bread in one or more forms is a staple of tapas. Below, I have pictured a tiny crostini I whipped up using some of my crazy cheap bocadillo buns, tomato basil pesto and caramelized onions. Alternatively you may want to try dipping oils! Check out my recipes for olive oil infused with garlic and other spices.
Spreads are bread’s best friend. From pan con tomate y aciete to pesto and roquefort to aoilis and infused butters, you can please anyone with this component of a tapas spread AND give your guests the option to control their portion sizes by leaving your beautiful sauces on the table and an extra baguette at their disposal.
Balance is the key to life – and a great dinner! Using fruit, you’ll add a great splash of color and potential palate cleanser to the equation. I use pomegranates here because they’re abundant in Murcia, Spain, especially right at the end of Autumn. Other things the season would allow me to utilize right now include figs, persimmons and mandarinas. If the time of year is right, go for melons. Their famous for pairing well with prosciutto!
Vegetarians, you’re in luck! You can certainly find vegetable-based dishes on a tapas menu (though you may need to study up on your Spanish food vocabulary!). From olives, to patatas bravas to my pimento verdes fried in a bit of garlic-infused olive oil (pictured below), there are ways to feed everyone at your table. Another popular and new favorite tapas of mine is called ‘berenjena la plancha’. In English – fried eggplant. They’re sliced thin so they become crispy like a chip, then drizzled with a dark honey. Keep an eye out for this on my recipes page – I’m trying to learn how to make this one myself!
We know the classics… chorizo and jamone. They’re easy and don’t require prep. If you want to get more creative though, try pinchos morunos (moorish pork skewers), pollo de ajo (garlic chicken) or gambas (shrimp)!
Another ‘food group’ – no not dairy. Just cheese. The cheese world here is phenomenal. What is artisan to Americans is normal to Spaniards and at half the cost when it comes to cheese. Sheeps cheeses are my personal favorite, so I tend to go for a manchego. If you’re leaning toward Italian, however, you may want to give marinated mozzarella a shot. This is another culinary goal I’m currently pursuing!
There’s always this little voice in the back of my mind saying “hashtag blessed” when I walk through my grocery store in Murcia. Once again, some things are just cheaper here than in the United States. Nuts fall into this category. And thank goodness because I try to stick to a paleo diet and almonds are my saving grace. Additionally, nuts are some of my favorite ingredients when it comes to the sweet and savory! Pictured above is my version of fried almonds. Fried almonds are a traditional tapa – and quite easy – so give it a shot!