mussels

Hot Ta-Ta-Tapas!–recipes for a sensual way of life

Diane BrownDiva Dish with Diane Brown

I’ve always had a thing for toreadors. I don’t know if it’s the vivid red cape, the machismo or the tights; my fantasy is fueled by the romance of Spain. Another fetish? An intensely flavored, minuscule dish that captures the passion of the Spanish culture in only one bite: Red-hot tapas. Consider this: tapas is a part of a lifestyle where the evening starts at a languorous pace and heats up to a frenzied sizzle dampened only by dawn’s break. That’s why I view tapas the perfect seduction.

Indeed, tapas are more a way of life than a particular type of food. Stepping into a Spanish tapas bar is a journey into a sybaritic, animated, and convivial game filled with intriguing smells, affable pats on the back, and captivating sights. The conversation ranges from mundane to philosophical. And the food reaches from simple tomato-rubbed toast to complex seafood stews. Truly, any type of food can be tapas, if it is served on a small plate from the kitchen of a bar. Originally called tapa, meaning lid, to cover the top of a glass in order to keep out dirt and insects, bars offered them to attract customers. Not meant to replace a meal, they are tiny bites intended to pique the appetite, an ideal way to tempt and tease a lover.

Types of tapas

Tapas are grouped into three categories, based on how they are eaten: cosas de picar (meaning “things to nibble,) are finger foods, such as olives, cheeses or toasts. Pinchos, like abondigas (meatballs), require a utensil or toothpick for eating. If the tapa comes in a sauce, such as garlicky fried shrimp, it is called cazuelas.

mussels in sailor's sauceSay “I’m serving tapas tonight” quickly, and you may get a bemused reaction as your guest imagines you with a small plate in one hand and nothing on from the waist up. Include a glass of wine or fine sherry, or even your favorite mixed cocktail. Serve a small plate of olives and almonds, and remember the Spanish proverb: Comiendo, comiendo el apetito se va abriendo–appetite increases with constant eating.

The tapas recipes:

Fennel, Asparagus and Artichoke Bottom Empanadas
Mussels in Sailor’s Sauce
Quick Paella with Shrimp and Sausage
The Latin Lover Napoleon

Diane Brown is author of The Seduction Cookbook: Culinary Creations For Lovers

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