Daniel and I fell in love with Spain when we went there for our honeymoon last year. The culture, beauty, friendliness of the people, the language and especially the food will bring us back there again and again. In anticipation of the Spanish tapas dinner I planned for our 1 year anniversary I bought a cookbook called “Tapas: the little dishes of Spain” by Penelope Casas. This book is beautiful with an almost “coffee-table” feel to it, the photos available are wonderful and (this may sound weird) the paper quality is very nice too. Full of tapas that look easy to make all the way to tapas that require a lot of pre-prep and skill with pastry dough, I think I’m in for a learning experience!
For those of you who aren’t familiar with tapas, I will explain this wonderful part of Spanish culture. A tapa is basically an appetizer – a small serving of an amazing dish nothing like what an American considers an appetizer, we aren’t talking nachos here. Each region of Spain celebrates food in their own way with tapas (also called pintxos in some areas) and ingredients somewhat unique to their area but all of Spain celebrates their food with tapas. Tapas Bar’s are all around too, a place where you pass large plates filled with many kinds of tapas pierced with a toothpick. With a soon to be full plate, you pick one here, one there and amass a full meal of 2-bite tapas that are each little culinary delights. When you are finished going up for seconds or thirds, the waiter counts your toothpicks to determine your bill. I suppose there is a lot of the honor system with that and for those not in the know, I would have used one left-over and threw it out had our exceptional guide not filled us in! With the popularity of tapas growing overseas, a misconception is that in Spain, all they eat are tapas. Not true! Tapas are offered in nearly every restaurant and some restaurants are specifically for tapas but there are just as many, if not more restaurants serving entrée sized meals off an average sized menu. The fun thing about tapas I liked best was the opportunity to taste a wide variety of dishes without being stuffed. Daniel could pick what he liked, I could pick what I liked and we weren’t constricted to just 2 entrée’s.
We found that at many of the nice restaurants, they offered a “tastings menu”, a six or seven course meal that served to either show off a particular chef’s talents or the highlights of their menu, in small portions. The hotel restaurant in Cordoba, The Palacio del Bailio, was the most excellent. When we ordered the tasting menu there was one question, “are you allergic to anything?” We said no and off our waiter went! Eventually the chef began sending out plate after plate of the best food we have ever eaten. I like to think the chef had as much fun with it as we did! We have tried tasting menu’s since coming home and while mostly good, none come close to the experiences we had in Spain.
I plan on learning new recipes from this cookbook and blogging them as I go, some of which are not going to be Dukan Diet Worthy at all I assure you. I will begin trying the recipes that most fit the Dukan Diet (other than our anniversary meal) and explore from there. Small portions, good ingredients and savoring the flavor will make up for my wandering menu, that and a little more exercise. If you are still working on Phase 1 or two, don’t throw your diet just for this – these recipes will be here when you’re ready! We have been holding steady with our weight goals now for over a month even with celebration meals and road-trips, I am cautiously optimistic that these treats from Spain will not ruin everything we have worked for. New recipes, new flavors and ingredients and new experiences with food to come!