Tapas party

My husband is the captain of an Interclub tennis team and we usually host an end of season party for the team and spouses.  We have done this for a number of years and I’ve done varying things (last year I did the Chinese Chicken salad and sesame noodles, one year I did Fajitas, etc.)  This year they won the title for their league so I wanted it to be special.  In a moment of insanity, I decided to go with a tapas theme.  Tapas are fun because they are lots of little dishes.  Tapas is a lot of work because it is LOTS of little dishes.  I usually pride myself on planning things pretty well but I got a little carried away.  I’m not going to give you the full grocery list.  I am going to share the individual dishes with their ingredients and recipes in the event that you want to make some.  Trust me that if you want to make all of them you should plan on devoting an entire weekend to the effort.

Here is the menu with recipes following:

  • Marcona almonds, olives, bread and Spanish cheese (the easy part because you buy these)
  • scallops with Serrano ham
  • mushroom and shrimp tartlets
  • gazpacho (which gave me an excuse to get the cute single serving glasses I’ve been craving from Pier One)
  • zucchini fritters with chipotle mayonnaise
  • sauteed mushrooms
  • cherry tomatoes stuffed with black olives anc apers
  • patatas bravas
  • steak with garlic and sherry
  • Moroccan chicken kabobs
  • deviled eggs
  • oven baked vegetable tortilla

And a dessert platter with:

  • brownies
  • lemon iced gingersnap sandwiches
  • orange poundcake
  • iced sugar cookies (decorated to look like tennis balls)

Here are a couple of pictures:

Tapas party

Tapas party

Don't you love the centerpiece - trophy and tennis balls

Don’t you love the centerpiece – trophy and tennis balls

The dessert platter

The dessert platter

So I made:

Mushroom and shrimp tarts

Make the filling ahead adn fill the they will get soggy if you let them sit.

  • 1/4 lb chopped mushrooms
  • 1 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 TB butter
  • 1/4 cup champagne
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 5 cooked jumbo shrimp, peeled and chopped
  • 2 oz. grated cheddar cheese
  • croustades crispy shells
Saute mushrooms and garlic in butter over low heat for 15 minutes.  Add wine and bring to a boil.  Cook until almost dry.  Add cream and shrimp and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat.  Fill shells with mixture and top with grated cheese.  Cook in oven at 375 for 2 – 3 minutes or until cheese is melted and serve.
Scallops with Serrano ham
  • scallops (I bought 30)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 3 TB olive oil
  • 1 TB minced parsley
  • 1/3 lb Serrano ham sliced thin
Combine lemon, garlic, olive oil and parsley and marinate scallops for 20 minutes.  Drain and skewer each scallop on a small skewer (I used bamboo ones that I soaked in water first).  Then skewer a 1/2 slice of scrunched ham.  Broil for 4 – 5 minutes or until scallops are done.  If I had made 60 of them I don’t think there would have been any left.


  • 4 Cups Tomato Juice (If you want spicier soup, use V8)
  • 1/2 cup finely minced yellow onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 red pepper, minced
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and minced
  • 2 scallions minced
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 2 TB sherry vinegar
  • 1 tsp tarragon
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced
  • 3 TB olive oil
  • 2 cups fresh tomatoes, diced
  • salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients.  Puree some or all as desired.  Chill and serve.

Zucchini fritters
  • 2 zucchini grated with a coarse grater
  • zest from 1 lemon
  • 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
  • 2 scallions thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • olive oil
Combine zucchini with garlic, scallions, Parmesan, eggs, lemon zest and flour.  Heat a heavy saute pan over medium heat and add olive oil.  Plop zucchini mixture into hot oil by tablespoons and cook 2 -3 minutes per side until crisp.  Remove to a plate covered in paper towels and serve hot.    (I made them ahead and reheated for about 10 minutes in a hot oven.)

Patatas Bravas

  • Olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 14 oz canned chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tsp white wine finegar
  • 1 tsp crushed, dried chile pepper
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 lb fingerling potatoes

Heat a saucepan over medium heat and add about 2 TB of olive oil.  Cook the onion until soft.  Add garlic and stir in.  Add wine and bring mixture to a boil.  Add tomatoes, vinegar, pepper and paprika and simmer uncovered for 10 – 15 minutes or until sauce thickens.

Remove sauce and transfer to a blender.  Blend until smooth and return to pan.  Keep warm.

Cut potatoes into chunks (unpeeled).  Heat oil in a large skillet and cook poatotes over medium high heat until golden brown.  Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with salt.  Put potatoes in a dish and spoon sauce over potatoes.  Use toothpicks to spear the potatoes.

These are spicy and delicious.  This would make a good vegetable dish with chicken.

Chicken Kabobs

  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into cubes
  • 3 TB olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp oregano

Whisk together all ingredients in a small bowl or measuring cup.  Pour over chicken and marinate 8 hours or overnight.  When ready to cook, drain and reserve marinade and thread chicken cubes on metal or wooden skewers (if using wooden skewers, soak them in water for 30 minutes first).  Grill or broil kabobs, turning regularly and brushing with reserved marinade (10 – 15 minutes or until chicken is done).  Serve hot.

Deviled eggs
Everyone loves these so plan on each person eating at least two.
  • 1 dozen eggs
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
Place eggs in a pot just big enough to hold them and add water to cover.  Bring to a rapid boil, reduce heat to just simmering and cover for 17 minutes.  Remove from heat and add cold water and ice cubes to stop cooking.  Chill eggs in refrigerator.  Peel eggs and cut in half.  Put yolks in a bowl and mash with a fork.  Add Worcestershire sauce, mustard, paprika and mayonnaise.  Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking.  Fill egg whites with filling and top with additional paprika.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Stuffed cherry tomatoes

  • 2 – 3 pints cherry tomatoes, pulp cut out
  • 10 – 12 pitted black olives
  • 2 TB capers
  • 1 package softened cream cheese

Combine olives and capers in a food processor (I used my little one) and mince.  Add cream cheese and combine.  Stuff tomatoes with filling and refrigerate until ready to serve.  These would also be good stuffed with crab salad or tuna salad.

Steak with garlic and sherry

  • 1 pound sirloin cubes
  • 4 – 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 1/3 cup good sherry

Combine steak and garlic and toss well with your hands.  Refrigerate for at least one hour or up to overnight.  When ready to cook, heat a heavy skillet over medium heat.  Add oil and then steak.  Cook until desired doneness, then add sherry and cook 2-  3 minutes.  Serve with bread.

Oven baked veggie tortilla

  • 4 scallions, minced
  • 2 peppers (I used one red and one orange), diced
  • 2 cloves garlic , minced
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 1 potato, boiled, peeled and diced
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 6 oz shredded cheese (I used half Parmesan and half cheddar)

Preheat oven to 375.

Saute garlic, scallions and pepper in olive oil over medium heat until soft but not browned.  Cool and add potato.

Beat eggs and beat with sour cream.  Stir in cheese and vegetables.  Line a 7 x 10 baking dish with aluminum foil and brush with olive oil.  Fill with egg mixture and bake 30 – 40 minutes or until set.  Remove from container and peel off foil.  Cut into squares and serve at room temperature with toothpicks.

Feast with friends

Last night we hosted a dinner party for people we didn’t know.  It may sound odd but it is actually a wonderful program at our daughter’s school.  They call it Feast with Friends and you sign up to either host or attend a dinner party with other parents from different grades.  As soon as I heard about it I thought it sounded like fun so we volunteered to host.

When you cook for friends or family you know about their food preferences; when you are cooking for people you have never met it is a little bit different.  I did email my guests in advance to see if anyone had any food allergies – I certainly didn’t want to make anyone sick!  Here is the menu I came up with

  • Asparagus spears wrapped in prosciutto
  • Mushroom and shrimp tarts
  • Tenderloin with red wine butter sauce
  • Rosemary popovers
  • Arugula salad
  • Mocha Icebox cake

All of these are things I’ve made before (which was helpful since I played in a paddle tennis tournament most of the day yesterday) and there wasn’t a lot of last minute attention needed so we could spend time getting to know our guests.  Here are the individual recipes:

Asparagus spears wrapped in proscuitto

This is easy to fix, is pretty healthy and looks nice on a platter.  I blanched the asparagus in the morning so it would be ready to go.

  • 3/4 lb asparagus spears, rough ends broken off
  • small amount of plain cream cheese
  • 1/2 lb very thinly sliced prosciutto

Blanch asparagus by cooking in boiling water for 2 minutes.  Remove to a colander and rinse with cold water to stop cooking.  Wrap in paper towels and refrigerate.  Spread each spear with a small amount of cream cheese and wrap tightly with prosciutto.

Mushroom and shrimp tarts

We made these for the New Year’s Eve tapas feast and I made a note at the time that the filling would be great in purchased shells.  I buy boxes of the little pastry shells when I have parties – I often fill them with salmon tartar.  The filling doesn’t take long to make – I did that when I got home from my tournament.  I waited until our guests had arrived to fill and cook the shells – they will get soggy if you let them sit.

  • 1/4 lb chopped mushrooms
  • 1 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 TB butter
  • 1/4 cup champagne (perfect since we’ll want to have some left for the toast at midnight)
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 5 cooked jumbo shrimp, peeled and chopped
  • 2 oz. grated cheddar cheese
Saute mushrooms and garlic in butter over low heat for 15 minutes.  Add wine and bring to a boil.  Cook until almost dry.  Add cream and shrimp and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat.  Fill shells with mixture and top with grated cheese.  Cook in oven at 375 for 2 – 3 minutes or until cheese is melted and serve.

Roasted beef tenderloin with red wine sauce

This is a nice thing to serve for company unless you are entertaining vegetarians.  Most people like tenderloin and it doesn’t need to be served hot.  My husband cooked it about 2 hours before everyone arrived and had it carved and set up on a platter so everyone could serve themselves.  We like ours rare and everyone seemed happy with it.  The sauce is a little tricky – I thought I got it a little bit burned last night but my husband thought it was still good.

  • Beef tenderloin (about 1 lb per person is generous and allows leftovers)
  • vegetable oil
  • salt and pepper

If using whole tenderloin, cut in half.  Preheat oven to 475.  Using a heavy roasting pan with vegetable oil, start the beef on top of the stove over 2 burners.  Sear about 2 minutes a side so beef is browned on all sides and then cook in oven for about 20 minutes or until internal temperature is 125 for medium rare.  This can be prepared ahead of time.

Red wine sauce

  • 1 cup red wine (Merlot or Cabernet)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup butter, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 TB minced chives
  • 1 tsp dried tarragon

Combine wine, bay leaves, salt and pepper and boil over high heat.  When reduced to about 2 TB, remove from heat, remove bay leaves and whisk in butter.  Whisk continuously to keep from separating.  Add in chives and tarragon.  Watch closely – this can burn quickly.  I’ve tried to make ahead of time but find it’s easier to make at the last minute to reduce the risk of separating.  If it does separate, try adding a small amount of cold water.

Rosemary popovers

We made these on Christmas Eve and they were so good, we couldn’t wait to make them again.  They need a little bit of last minute attention but they aren’t hard.  They are beautiful and so delicious!

  • 1 1/3 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/3 cups milk
  • 5 TB melted butter
  • 4 tsp fresh rosemary leaves, minced

Preheat oven to 350.  Combine flour, salt, eggs, milk and 4 TB of butter in a blender for about 2 minutes.  Brush popover tins with remaining butter and heat in oven about 5 minutes.  Fill tins half full with batter and sprinkle each popover top with rosemary.  Bake 45 minutes or until golden and crisp.

Arugula Salad

I love the peppery taste of arugula and thought it would go well with the tenderloin.  I had the dressing in the jar

  • Arugula
  • 5 TB olive oil
  • 2 TB lemon juice
  • 1 minced shallot
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • shaved Parmesan cheese

Rinse and dry arugula.  In a jar, toss remaining olive oil and lemon juice, mustard and shallot.  Pour dressing over arugula and top with Parmesan cheese.

Mocha Icebox cake

This dessert is perfect because you have to make it the night before and it is so delicious.  We have a local bakery – Otterbein’s that makes the best chocolate chip cookies ever.  If you can’t get Otterbein’s use top quality chocolate chip cookies.  (This is a perfect dessert for people who don’t like to bake because the bakery did the baking part for you.)

  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 12 oz mascarpone cheese
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup Kahlua
  • 2 TB unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp instant espresso powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 24 oz Otterbein’s chocolate chip cookies.

Combine all ingredients except cookies in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Mix at high speed until it forms firm peaks.

In an 8 inch springform pan, make a layer of chocolate chip cookies – try to cover the space as completely as possible.  Spread with a layer of the flavored whipped cream.  Continue layering cookies and cream making a total of 5 layers of each.  Top layer will be cream. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate over night.

Before unmolding, run a knife around the outside of the cake and then remove the sides of the springform pan.  Cut into slices and serve to very happy guests.  This is a rich dessert so the pieces don’t need to be big.

Our guests were delightful, everyone seemed to like everything and it was a really nice evening.  I’ll volunteer to host again next year!