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May 31, 2008 10:42 PM

June Cookbook of the Month: TAPAS by Penelope Casas - ALL RECIPES

Please remember to note the chapter, page and name of the book from which you are cooking to keep things orderly.

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  1. Veal Meatballs in Spicy Chorizo Sauce, Tapas in Sauce, p. 36

    I made these for dinner on Saturday night, and so made them a little bigger than called for, since we weren’t eating them as tapas. The sauce is pretty quick and easy to make, and you could make the meatballs while roasting the tomatoes and garlic. I’ve never liked blood sausage (morcilla) but had no problem with it in this sauce. I found that I kept adding quite a bit of water while cooking the meatballs in the sauce, but no dilution in flavor. Really delicious. Oh – I had ordered a pound each of ground veal, pork and lamb, in anticipation of other recipes, but when it came time to make the meatballs, I realized that the butcher had given me ground sirloin instead of the veal, so I used half ground beef, half ground pork. I imagine that the veal meatballs would have been even more tender, but I was amazed at how much flavor the meatballs themselves had, even without the sauce.

    We'd had sort of a big lunch, so we just had these with the cumin mushroom salad. I also worked on the beets in romesco sauce (putting together for tonight), marinated the olives (Sevilla recipe), and boiled eggs for the chicken livers in sherry sauce, but, for the life of me, I can't find those damn two eggs.

    1. Cumin-Flavored Mushroom Salad, Marinades, etc., p. 63.

      Had this with dinner Saturday night, and don't think it quite lives up to "one of the most delicious mushroom salads I've ever eaten", though, granted, I used all cremini mushrooms and no wild ones, which might make a difference. Nothing wrong with it, easy to make, but not mind blowing. I think I'll try the one on the same page next - with olive oil, pine nuts and balsamic vinegar.

      1. Tapas (first edition), "Tapas with Last Minute Preparation", Salmon Baked in Foil pg 176

        Since I'm working from the first edition, I'm not sure the page number will help anyone using a more current edition of the book.

        This recipe was quite easy, but, unfortunately, I overcooked the salmon using her recommended cooking time. The recipe calls for thick salmon fillets--perhaps mine were too thin? Next time, I'd cut the time back a several minutes.

        I made a few substitutions for ingredients I couldn't find. I didn't have fino sherry, so I used Manzanilla (which is a bit sweeter); I used the brandy I had on hand rather than buying Spanish brandy. I used chicken stock (the recipe called for veal stock or a combination of beef+chicken stock). And I used prosciutto instead of serrano because it wasn't in either of the grocery stores I went to today, which surprised me. I thought serrano ham would be a no brainer to find.) The flavors in the dish were interesting, but we probably could have used a bit more salt and a bit more Tabasco--both ingredients for which she did not provide a measure.

        I know this was supposed to be tapas, but we used it as our main course along with some very non-Spanish griddled polenta and some steamed veggies.

        I'd definitely try this one again, cutting back cooking time and adding a bit more salt and a bit more Tabasco.


        1. Clams with Pasta ala TDQ (Tapas, page 163, "Tapas with some last-minute preparation")

          I don't know whether to post this or not, but, here it goes. I've never cooked with clams that didn't come out of a can or jar, but, there's always a first time, right? They always seemed so intimidating. Yet, I figured I should just buck up and try it. So, yesterday, I bought two pounds of littleneck clams (they were on sale! my lucky day!) with the intention of cooking the clams with pasta dish for dinner tonight. I followed Casas' directions for prepping clams (in the glossary): she says to scrub them, then put them in salted water with some cornmeal for several hours or overnight. The idea is that the clams eat the cornmeal, which helps them plump up as well as expel any remaining sand. I wasn't sure how much salt, so I just put in a lot. I wasn't sure whether to refrigerate them or not (I did) or whether to cover them with plastic wrap or something (I didn't--I decided it might suffocate them).

          This morning I checked up on my precious bivalvian houseguests and they looked pretty much the same as last night, except that the water was murky. It was right about then my husband reminded me that he had a work function tonight and that I would be on my own for dinner. Oh no! Two pounds of clams to myself.

          So, I decided to post this thread asking if the clams would keep another day in their briney bath, until tomorrow night. By the time the thread had run its course, I was absolutely convinced that my little mollusks had all drowned to death because I'd left them too long and that they'd have given their little bivalvian lives in vain because I wouldn't even get one decent meal out of them. And, if by some miracle they were alive when I returned from work, I'd better eat them right away.

          When I came home from work I pulled the bowl out of the fridge and looked for signs of life. One clam seemed a little open, but all the others were firmly closed. As suggested by a couple 'hounds in this morning's thread, I brushed the little guy with my finger, hoping he'd close up. Nothing. I pulled him out of the water. Nothing. I rapped on his shell with a knife. Nothing. I looked in the bowl and , really, there were no signs of life anywhere that I could tell. I was devastated and considered just throwing the whole batch away. This is what Chinese take-out is for, right?

          But, then I thought, what the heck? Why don't I try cooking them and see what happens. I didn't want to expend any energy actually following Casas recipe because I knew the clams were dead and it would be just a giant waste of time and good ingredients. So, I pulled a jar of "hearty artichoke tomato" pasta sauce out of my cupboard, dumped it into a skillet, added a cup or so of water, and turned on the heat. After about 5 minutes, I dumped the clams in and covered it up. After another 5 minutes, I had a peek and about half the clams were open! I grabbed Tapas and tried to figure out how to doctor my pasta sauce--I threw in a bay leaf, a couple of handfuls of frozen peas, some crushed red pepper and about 2 TBSP of Manzanillo sherry. (Casas didn't call for sherry, but I figured I deserved it after all of this.


          Anyway, I served the clams --all of which opened up--with whole wheat spinach spaghetti. It wasn't bad, really, considering.

          The dish isn't true to Casas recipe, but, I did learn some valuable things about cooking with clams that maybe someone, some day might find helpful.

          Humbly yours,


          5 Replies
          1. re: The Dairy Queen

            Thanks for posting that, TDQ. It made me smile! I'm glad the clams were still alive and kicking.

            1. re: The Dairy Queen

              I like the part where you said you looked into the bowl for signs of life. Were you expecting them to be jumping around and having a party?? They will generally just lay there.


              1. re: Davwud

                HA! Well, I wasn't exactly expecting a fiesta, but I wasn't expecting a closed-tight siesta either. I was hoping to find at least a couple of clams had opened, since people were saying one way I'd know they were alive was that they would close up when I touched them...but, if they aren't open, you can't test whether they will, well, clam up to the touch. Also, since the point of cornmeal was for the clams to eat it and expel more sand, I thought maybe I'd be able to see some sand in the bottom of the bowl and,perhaps, less cornmeal in the bowl. Frankly, I don't think any sand was expelled. I did have one bite that had a grain or two of sand in it, otherwise, no problem.


                1. re: Davwud

                  Davwud, your clams don't know how to party!

                  1. re: LulusMom

                    My clams usually get out musseled.


              2. Stewed courgettes, peppers and tomatoes, Tapas in Sauce, p5
                Chickpeas and spinach, Tapas in Sauce, p6

                I made these dishes for dinner tonight and am still trying to work out what I thought. On the one hand, they're pretty simple dishes - stewed courgettes is stewed courgettes at the end of the day. I used a good Spanish olive oil and organic courgettes, peppers and spinach from my veg box and what struck me was the purity of the flavours. The taste of the vegetables really shone out. I have to admit, I did cheat a bit with the second dish and used canned chickpeas! I was also a bit doubtful about the grated chocolate at the end, but it did actually add a certain something. I think next time I might add chilli flakes.

                I think the reason I'm wavering is that I had this for dinner rather than as tapas and I felt there was something missing. But that might be remedied if it was served in the intended manner, with maybe a nice chorizo or meatball dish.

                I'm going to have the leftovers for lunch tomorrow, and I'll be interested to see whether there's any difference in the flavours.

                3 Replies
                1. re: greedygirl

                  I've been wanting to make those chickpeas, and actually have some nice dried ones, but have been feeling lazy about it. And, I was worried that, since one boils the chickpeas with bay leaf etc., that if I used canned ones, it wouldn't turn out right. Did you do anything to the chickpeas first?

                  1. re: MMRuth

                    I just warmed them through with the spinach/onion mixture, and added a bit of the canning liquid. Seemed fine - but obviously I have no idea how it would compare with dried pulses. Soaking and boiling dried beans always seems like a bit of a waste of time to me. I usually find that the difference in flavour isn't worth the extra effort.

                    1. re: greedygirl

                      Rice Salad, Barcelona Style, Marinades, etc., p.74. This was very well-received by my friends last night. Lots of flavors going on in this one, and they combine deliciously. It's fun to make: I used my small Staub (I hardly get to use that sweet thing, so that was fun) to saute minced onion, added medium grain Arborio rice (I couldn't find short-grain), chicken broth, boiling water, salt, parsley, thyme and tarragon. Cover and cook at 400 for 15 minutes. Remove and let sit for 10 minutes; uncover and let cool. Add the very tasty vinaigrette and minced scallion, cornichon, light meat tuna, minced green pepper, carrot, cucumber, romaine lettuce and pimiento. I let it sit for several hours at room temperature. (I had to make it the night before....thanks to advice on this board, I added the cuke and lettuce the day of, and let it come to room temp. Worked like a charm). The recipe calls for topping each portion with a layer of mayonnnaise, but that didn't appeal to me. I recommend this interesting salad that sparked lots of compliments and questions about ingredients.