While in Spain, I made it a mission to enjoy the typical tradition of tapas. In America, we are so used to getting a full plate of food, eating it in a quick fifteen minutes (if that), moving on to dessert, and going home a pants size bigger. That is even often the case in London where American-style restaurants and eating habits have slowly taken over. Gone are the days of long lunches and hours in a cafe.
Jeff and I didn’t really discover this until we went to Italy for the first time. We were wondering where the heck our food was and realized that the restaurant or cafe expect this to be an event rather than a grab-and-go meal. It really makes you think and enjoy the food as opposed to just inhaling it as a necessary act.
Tapas is the perfect solution. You walk into a bar or restaurant and look over the extensive list of wonderful foods. In some cases, you can order the whole plate, but more often than not, it’s encouraged to order the “tapa.”
What does “tapa” mean? Back in the 18th and 19th century, roads were usually in bad condition, so traveling was slow and tiring. Along the roads were usually bodegas or inns where people could stay for the night or get a decent meal. But since most travelers could not read, the innkeepers offered an option to try a variety of the dishes they were preparing rather than supplying a menu. So the word “tapa” literally means “top” or “pot cover,” which was the plate these food items were served on.
In the bars and restaurants we visited, we ordered 3 to 5 plates to share between the two of us and they came out in varying times. It was quite nice to be served this way so a) the food didn’t get cold and b) we could focus on our conversation rather than focusing just on the food.
My favorite “tapa” was served to us in Madrid at a restaurant called Lamucca. It was a simple appetizer of Padron peppers, flash fried and served with a hint of salt. It was so simple and so satisfying.
These wonderful little peppers hail from the municipality of Padron in the northwestern area of Spain. Only 10-20% of all peppers are spicy, so generally, they are mild in spice, but bold in flavor.
The other day, I was strolling through Borough Market, one of my favorite places in all of London, and I finally walked through the Brindisa Shop. I wasn’t looking for anything special, but what I did find was a 200g package of fresh Padron peppers. I was so excited! I grabbed a box, and through the blaring music, I paid my £3.25 and made them for dinner.
The recipe is quite simple and detailed below. I wholly recommend you try this at home if you can find these little gems in a European market or online shop. Then you can fully engage in the time-old Spanish tradition of serving tapas.
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recipe from Honest Cooking
200g Padron peppers, fresh
1 tbsp olive or canola oil
Sprinkling of sea salt
1) In a skillet, heat the oil. While the pan is heating up, wash the peppers thoroughly. Pat them dry so water doesn’t get in the pan.
2) Once the skillet is hot, drop the peppers in at the same time. My skillet could hold the whole batch. If you’re doing more than 200g, you may want to do this in separate batches.
3) Stand back! The oil will spatter. If you have a cover, all the better for kitchen clean up later.
4) Once the skin has blistered on all of the peppers, take them off the heat and drain them for the briefest of moments on a paper towel. But quickly put them in a bowl and sprinkle with the salt. These are best served warm or hot.
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What are your favorite Spanish tapas? Do you make them at home or indulge only when out on the town? Leave a comment with your tapas experiences!