I’m one of those people who loves to share food. When I eat something that wows me, I want everyone else at the table to taste it too. I also prefer to have a few bites of a number of dishes with distinct flavor profiles, rather than a plate with one type of food, which is why I love tapas meals. The idea here is to create a leisurely and intimate eating experience that is conducive to conversation and the exploration of a variety of flavors.

Here is a vegetarian menu of tapas for four to six people. You could easily add some roasted chicken or seafood to the paella if you’d like, but it is a completely satisfying meal as is. Served with a little Sangria or a nice Spanish wine and you have a perfect meal!

Marinated Manchego Cheese

INGREDIENTS

1 pound Manchego cheese, cut into 1-inch bite-size cubes
1 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic, lightly crushed
1/2 tablespoon peppercorns
1 bay leaf
Rosemary and thyme sprigs

Place all of the ingredients into a bowl and allow to marinate in the fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight. Remove from fridge and allow to return to room temperature, place toothpicks into cheese cubes and serve.

Mixed Spanish Olives

INGREDIENTS

1 cup mixed Spanish olives
1 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic, lightly crushed
1 bay leaf
2-3 sprigs of thyme
2-3 strips of freshly cut orange rind

Place all of the ingredients in a small bowl and marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Crisp Green Beans with Cherry Tomatoes & Pearl Onions

INGREDIENTS

3/4 pound green beans, trimmed
5 cherry tomatoes, halved
5 pearl onions, peeled (I like and assortment of yellow, red and white)
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed with the flat side of a knife but kept in one piece
1 tablespoon olive oil
A few sprigs of thyme
Salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS

In a pot of boiling water, cook the green beans for 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat and immediately pour water out allowing green beans to drop into a colander. Run cold water over the green beans or plunge into an ice bath to completely cool. Drain, dry and set aside.

In a saucepan, heat the oil, add the onions and garlic and cook until slightly browned, about 6-8 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes or so, just until the tomatoes are warmed through, but not getting mushy. Remove the garlic from the pan. Add the green beans back into the mix and toss until warmed through. Season with salt, pepper and thyme leaves and serve.

Roasted Baby Potatoes with Wild Mushrooms, Wine and Shallots

INGREDIENTS

6-8 small potatoes (new, red, butter potatoes will all work), sliced thin
6-8 wild mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot, cut lengthwise into thin slivers
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
1/4 cup vegetable or chicken stock
1/4 cup white wine
Salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven 350 degrees.
In an ovenproof pan over medium heat, sauté the shallot in the olive oil until it begins to wilt. Add the garlic and mushrooms and sauté until they begin to brown. Remove from heat.

In a large bowl, toss the potatoes with the oil, shallot, garlic and mushroom mixture. Add the rosemary and season heavily with salt and pepper and then arrange the potato slices in an oven proof dish or pan, overlapping the slices in concentric circles, beginning on the outer edge and ending in the center.

Place pan in the preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes. Add the wine and stock and continue to bake for another 35 minutes, basting with the liquid often, until golden brown on top. Remove from oven and serve.

Wilted Baby Spinach with Golden Delicious Apples, Raisins and Toasted Pinenuts

INGREDIENTS

10 ounces baby spinach, washed and stems removed
1 golden delicious apple, peeled, cored and diced small
1/4 cup pinenuts
1/4 cup raisins
Zest of one lemon (optional)
2 tablespoons olive oil, and a little extra to drizzle
Salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

In a hot pan, add olive oil and let it heat to the point of glistening but not smoking. Toss in the diced apples, stirring and tossing constantly. Stir in the pinenuts and cook until they begin to brown, throw in the raisins and continue to stir. Once the apple and pinenut mixture is golden brown, remove from pan and set aside for a moment.

Place the spinach into the still hot pan and toss as it wilts. Drizzle a tablespoon or so of olive oil over the spinach, season with a bit of salt and pepper, add the pinenuts, apples and raisin back into the pan, add the lemon zest and toss to combine. Serve.

Vegetable Paella

INGREDIENTS

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large Bermuda or Vidalia onion, chopped
3 piquillo peppers or 1 large red bell pepper, cored, seeded and diced
2 large cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced
1 1/2 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
10-15 strands of saffron
1 small zucchini, cubed
1 small yellow squash, cubed
10-12 cherry tomatoes, quartered
10-12 wild mushrooms, sliced
1 1/2 cups Bomba or Calasparra rice
2 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup fresh parsley, coarsely chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS
In a 13″ paella pan or deep sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the sliced mushrooms and cook on medium to high heat until well browned. Remove from pan and set aside until later.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

With the pan over high heat, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil, onion and red peppers. Reduce heat to medium low and cook for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, smoked paprika, saffron, zucchini, yellow squash and tomatoes and simmer for 10 minutes more. Add the stock and wine and cook until it begins to simmer. Stir in the rice, bring to a simmer again and then cook for 10-15 minutes or until most of the stock is absorbed. Place mushrooms on top of paella and then cover pan loosely with foil.
Place paella in oven for 10 minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed. Remove  from oven and give a quick stir to mix in the mushrooms, sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve.

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