Throwing a tapas party can be much easier than you might expect.
The core ingredients for a Spanish small-plates theme may already be in your pantry or fridge: olives, almonds, tuna, olive oil, anchovies and bread.
Yield: 4 tapas servings
1 clove garlic
8 thin slices French bread, toasted
1 whole canned plum tomato (see note)
About 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1. Cut the clove of garlic in half. Rub garlic, cut side down, 4 to 6 times on 1 surface of each slice of bread.
2. Cut tomato in half lengthwise and rub it into bread over garlic. The juice should penetrate the surface of the bread, and pieces of tomato should remain on the surface.
3. Sprinkle each slice with some of the olive oil; season with the salt and pepper to taste. Serve almost immediately, so bread doesn't get soggy.
Per serving: 225 calories; 5g fat; 1g saturated fat; no cholesterol; 8g protein; 37g carbohydrate; 2g sugar; 2g fiber; 450mg sodium; 35mg calcium.
Note: If good, fresh tomatoes are available, use one instead. Cut it in half, rub it on bread, then discard skin and any flesh still clinging to skin.
ANCHOVY AND BLUE CHEESE TOASTS
Yield: 4 tapas servings
4 anchovy filets, drained of oil
3 1/2 ounces good-quality blue cheese, at room temperature
4 thin slices French bread, toasted
2 sprigs mint, cut into ribbons
Extra-virgin olive oil, as needed
1. If using canned anchovies, soak briefly in cold water. Pat dry with paper towels.
2. Mash the cheese to a paste with a fork. Dividing evenly, spread over bread.
3. Top each of the toasts with an anchovy, sprinkle with some of the mint and drizzle lightly with some of the olive oil.
Per serving: 200 calories; 9g fat; 5g saturated fat; 20mg cholesterol; 10g protein; 19g carbohydrate; 1g sugar; 1g fiber; 700mg sodium; 150mg calcium.
— Recipe adapted from "Seasonal Spanish Food," by Jose Pizarro (Kyle Books, 2010).
PEPPERS STUFFED WITH TUNA
Yield: 4 to 6 tapas servings
1 (5-ounce) can tuna in water, drained
1/4 medium onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon
or lime juice
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
12 Peppadew or similar peppers, cored
Smoked paprika, to taste (optional)
1. Mix the tuna, onion, mayonnaise, lemon juice and pepper in a small bowl.
2. Scoop some tuna into each of the peppers, dividing evenly. Sprinkle with the smoked paprika, if desired.
Per serving (based on 6): 80 calories; 2g fat; no saturated fat; 10mg cholesterol; 8g protein; 9g carbohydrate; 5g sugar; 1.5g fiber; 100mg sodium; 15mg calcium.
Don't cringe about the anchovies, by the way. If you're using the classic flat-can version, you can greatly reduce the brininess by soaking them and patting them dry. Even better, seek out the refrigerated-pack white anchovies now available at better seafood counters.
You can also up the authenticity quotient of your tapas by finding Spanish imports, such as jarred tuna, Marcona almonds and Manzanilla olives. If you're browsing the olive bar at your supermarket, Peppadew peppers — while not Spanish — are perfect for recipes such as Peppers Stuffed With Tuna.
A little plate of almonds and marinated olives is a tapas staple. If your almonds aren't already prepared, fry them in a little olive oil and sprinkle them with salt.
Serve the peppers and the almond-olive plate with some quick-to-prepare toasts, and you've got a tapas party that takes less than an hour to put together. For another instant choice, cube Manchego cheese and the quince paste called membrillo and put one cube of each on a toothpick.
And if you're serving wine, extend the theme by offering out-of-the-ordinary choices such as albarino, monastrell or a sparkling cava.