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Tapas: A Taste of Spain in America Hardcover – November 8, 2005
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In Tapas, a collection of 100-plus recipes for Spain's savory small dishes, chef José Andrés writes of journeying during his military service to Cádiz, in southern Spain, where he was "able to see the wonders of frying first hand." The passion that would lead an on-leave soldier to investigate a cooking technique infuses the book, which is something new under the sun. In chapters based on characteristic ingredients, such as fish, rice, and eggs, readers are introduced to authentic yet reproducible tapas of great and flavorful immediacy; these simple dishes, which include the likes of Tomato Toast with Spanish Ham, Pan-Fried Angel Hair Pasta with Shrimp, Slow-Roasted Beef Tenderloin with Cabrales Cheese, and Spring Leeks with Mushrooms, are instantly inviting. They'll also fit into a wide range of menu slots, as hors d'oeuvres, brunch and supper fare, or as side dishes. In well-written notes, Andrés provides context and something more--a sense of a living culinary tradition, which he loves, deftly presented to best advantage. Writing, for example, of the poor quality of most stuffed olives, a favorite tapa, he exhorts readers to make their own. "Simple ingredients prepared in a simple way--that's the best way to take your everyday cooking to a higher level," he says. Amen, and an invitation to cook--and understand--wonderful food. --Arthur Boehm
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Although Andrés, a protégé of modern Spanish culinary padre Ferran Adria, stresses the importance of "sticking to the basics," each recipe in his debut collection of tapas (small-plate dishes) is stunningly standout. From Lobster with Clementines and Grapefruit in Saffron Oil to Slow-Roasted Beef Tenderloin with Cabrales (a knock-your-socks-off Asturian blue cheese), each dish, matched with a Spanish wine, strikes the right balance of being unusual but not too out there. Recipes are introduced with an anecdote, helpful hints and simple variations, and traditional Spanish dishes that typically take hours to prepare have been updated to accommodate modern cooks' schedules (among them, a Catalonian classic slow-roasted chicken, stewed with dried apricots, hazelnuts and prunes, ready in under 30 minutes). Though Andrés omits desserts (with the exception of flan, courtesy of mamá), he more than makes up for it with entire chapters dedicated to mushrooms, tomatoes and even garlic. Andrés showcases the bounty and vibrancy of Spanish cuisine without alienating readers, explaining through his precise and charming philosophy that "tapas are for eating at home or with friends." 260 color photos. (Nov.)
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Top Customer Reviews
This tome has a large set of interesting tapas (small plates) you can create at home ranging from relatively straightforward to create to challenging. His instructions are well-laid out and easy to follow if you have a modicum of cooking expertise. So far, the results from his recipes taste the way I would have expected them to taste and the guidance allowed for no "hiccups" in the production of the food.
Tapas itself is great for appetizers or, if you make a few, a great way to have a variety of dishes for a party. If you're at all interested in producing these small plates, this is a great cookbook to purchase.
Using fresh/local/organic vegetables, these recipes really pop. The cooking is actually quite simple for most of the veggie dishes, and it's easy to eat entire vegetarian meals without realizing there isn't a meat centerpiece. It is very important that the main ingredients are fresh and yummy, though - get a good olive oil (Spanish, of course, as is everything in the book). I actually have carried the book with me while shopping so that once I found fresh meat or veggies I could look up a recipe and be sure to get the rest of the ingredients.
My wife has handled the cooking for several years, but upon picking up this book again I have cooked probably 10-12 dishes without a miss. It is definitely an accessible book, especially the soups and vegetable dishes. A couple beef and chorizo recipes are easy, too. Tapas-style eating (multiple small dishes) is very enjoyable and helps bring the restaurant experience into our home.
When your spouse stops dinner to take photos of the plates you know you're doing something right. Now all we need is a version for Greek food.
The first thing that appeals to me about the book is the organization of the chapters by principle ingredient. The highlighted ingredients are:
Olives and olive oil
Vegetables and More
Garlic and onions
Cheese and eggs
The first entry is obvious as there is no cuisine on earth, even the Italian cucina that is more infused with olive oil, as Spain is the producer of the largest share of the world's olive oil by a significant margin. Things the French may do with pork fat, such as confits, the Spanish do with olive oil.
Of course, I could not resist jumping to the chapter on potatoes to see Andres' take on the Spanish tortilla or, as Andres puts it, `Tortilla de patatas' which is actually much less confusing than its more familiar name. Virtually every treatment I have seen of `Tortilla do patatas' uses the same basic four ingredients, potatoes, eggs, onions, and olive oil, plus salt, and Andres' recipe is no exception. The procedure is just a bit more fussy than traditional recipes, with the quartered and thinly sliced Idaho potatoes being fried to almost the consistency of a chip before combining with the other ingredients. The sautéed onions are also given a special treatment in that they are strained to remove excess oil after cooking.
Otherwise, the recipe is pure tradition. That cannot be said of the next recipe, where the raw potatoes are replaced with commercially available potato chips. Instead of sauteeing the potatoes, the chips are `marinated' in the raw egg. The tortilla is then cooked de rigeur, but without onions.
There are a lot of little things about this book that endear it to me. In addition to the organization, I like the table of contents at the beginning of each chapter which gives the Spanish and English names of each dish plus the wine tip for the dish. This small consideration means, for example, that you can look down the list of mushroom dishes to find one which best matches a wine you may wish to serve.
Be clear that chef Andres goes far beyond the original meaning of tapas from Andalusia where it meant something to cover your glass of wine, generally sherry. This means that not all the dishes herein are `finger food' AND many, such as the lobster paella and the roasted beef tenderloin will serve well as a full course of a sit-down meal. On the other hand, almost all recipes are imbued with the tapas spirit in that they are relatively easy to prepare, although some, such as the `slow-roasted' beef tenderloin may take a fair amount of hands off cooking time. On the other hand, I did find some instructions that begged more details. One dish instructs us to add vinegar to an olive oil confit, with no instructions on how we are to get the oil and vinegar to work together. So, the price for the simple instructions is that you will do much better with these recipes if you already know your way around the kitchen.
In addition to the `Tortilla do patatas', I found several other takes on very familiar recipes such as the apple, cheese, and walnut salad which is customized by the use of Murcia al vino goat cheese instead of a blue cheese and the absence of a green such as Belgian endive.
Overall, we get about 120 relatively simple recipes at the standard price on a popular theme but all with enough of a twist to raise the eyebrows of the culinary cognizanti.