Many Spanish dishes have become popular in the United States, including gazpacho and fish stew. The Spanish tradition of tapas, small plates resembling hors d’oeuvres, has become so popular in the U.S. that tapas bars have sprung up in cities throughout the nation.
Tapas is really more of a style of eating than a way of cooking. The word tapas, meaning lid or cover, came from the Spanish habit of placing a plate of little snacks over a person’s wine glass. Some say that this tradition originated to keep the flies out of the wine. Today, tapas promotes sociability as friends and family nibble on small dishes of intensely flavored Spanish favorites.
Some popular tapas dishes are Galician empanadas, bread pies that are stuffed with meat or fish. Spanish tortilla is made with potatoes, chopped onion, garlic and eggs. Ceviche, raw fish marinated in acidic lime juice and red chili pepper, is fresh and light.
Gazpacho is a fresh summer soup served cold. The soup includes cucumber, red bell pepper, tomato, and red onion. These vegetables are roughly chopped and then put through a food processor separately. Combine the vegetables with garlic, tomato juice, vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper, and chill for a refreshing treat.
Paella is a popular Spanish dish that varies in preparation from restaurant to restaurant and home to home. A wide, shallow pan is used for this seafood stew. Most recipes contain dry white wine, saffron, onion, red bell pepper, peas, tomato and chicken stock. Seafood choices include shrimp, clams, mussels and lobster tails. Some paellas include chicken. These ingredients are cooked in the oven and served over yellow (saffron) rice.
Sangria, a traditional Spanish wine-based beverage, was introduced in the U.S. in 1964 at the New York World’s Fair. It is based on a claret wine punch served in Europe for hundreds of years. For flavor, brandy and fruit can be added. Most people think of red wine sangria, but some sangria is made with white wine.
To make a basic sangria, pour a bottle of red wine (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Rioja work well) into a pitcher, and squeeze lemon and orange juice into the wine. Add a couple of tablespoons of sugar and a shot of brandy. You can also add ginger ale or club soda. Sangria is sometimes served with sliced fruit stirred in, such as peaches, apples, strawberries or raspberries.