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Ole´ For Tapas

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Back from a recent visit to Spain, The Early Show resident chef Bobby Flay has turned his attention to those small snacks known as tapas.

It is said that tapas means "cover;" some say the word means "little bites." Whatever the definition, it seems to have originated in the inns of Spain's Andalusian region.

As early as the 19th century, bartenders there would place a small saucer over a glass of wine to cover it and keep the fruit flies out. It became a custom for the cook to place a small bite of food on the plate to make it more presentable. After a while, bar owners vied with one another to make the best tapas, thus keeping their clients on the premises.

In some parts of the country it became customary for folks to go from bar to bar to have a drink and try out the free tapas at each establishment.

The humble snacks began as olives, or perhaps a chunk of sausage or a cube of cheese and thin slices of bread, left over from lunch. Forks are the eating implement of choice. A great Spanish wine or Sangria is usually the drink of note to order.

Tapas were intended to just hold folks over until dinner, which didn't roll around until about 10 p.m. on the Iberian Peninsula. Today, tapas are popular across most of Spain and are rarely free.

Here's the Tapas lingo:

  • A Racion is a large plate with enough for the table.
  • A Banderella is skewered or toothpick tapas named after the bullfighter's sword.
  • Bocata, Bocadillos, Montadillos or the familiar canapes are small sandwiches, rolls or slices of bread topped with ham, tomatoes, tuna, peppers.
  • The Tapeo is a form of bar hopping when groups visit two or more tapas bars.

Tapas bars have been in the United States for at least 10 years; they are just a little more trendy these days. Many cities have opened restaurants featuring solely tapas. Some food critics say tapas bars have actually begun to fill the void of the now defunct happy-hour buffet, once a staple of many U.S. cities. In San Diego, restaurants specializing in many kinds of cuisine have latched onto the concept of offering tapas as an alternative to traditional one-entree-per-person dining.

The following are Flay's recipes:

SQUID WITH BACON AND GARLIC OIL
Serves: 4

Ingredients

8 ounces slab bacon, cut into stips
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 lbs fresh squid, cleaned
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon fresh chopped thyme

Method

  1. Place the bacon in a medium sauté pan over medium heat and cook until the meat is golden brown and the fat has been rendered. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with paper towels.
  2. Increase the heat to high and add the garlic, olive oil and squid and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook the squid for 2-3 minutes or until just cooked through; stir in the herbs. Transfer the squid to a plate and top with the bacon.

TOMATO BREAD WITH SERRANO HAM
Serves: 4

Ingredients
4 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 tablespoons Spanish olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
8 slices Ciabatta bread, sliced into half-inch thick slices and toasted
8 thin slices Serrano ham

Method

  1. Combine the tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and salt and pepper in a medium bowl and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  2. Top each slice of toasted bread with a few tablespoons of the tomatoes and a slice of Serrano ham.

FRIED ARTICHOKE HEARTS WITH QUAIL EGGS AND SALMON CAVIAR
Serves: 4

Ingredients
Pure olive oil
8 artichoke hearts, blanched
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour
8 quail eggs
1/4 cup salmon roe

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat 2 inches of olive oil in a medium saucepan to 350 degrees F. Season the artichokes with salt and pepper and dredge each lightly in flour and tap over any excess. Fry in 2 batches until golden brown.
  2. Remove to a plate lined with paper towels and let drain. Place the artichokes on a small baking sheet and crack a quail egg into the center
    of each. Bake in the oven for 5 minutes or until the egg is just set. Remove to a platter and top each with a heaping teaspoon of salmon roe.

PIQUILLO PEPPERS FILLED WITH FRESH TUNA SALAD
Serves: 4

Ingredients
2 tuna filets, 6 ounces each
2 tablespoons capers, drained
1/2 small red onion, finely diced
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground pepper
12 piquillo peppers, drained

Method

  1. Bring 2 cups of water and half of the lemon juice to a simmer in a medium sauté pan over medium heat. Season tuna with salt and pepper and poach until cooked through, about 8-10 minutes.
  2. Remove to a medium bowl, flake with a fork and add the capers, onion and parsley and mix to combine. Whisk together the remaining 1/4 cup of lemon juice, olive oil, vinegar and mustard in a small bowl and season with salt and pepper. Fill each pepper with the tuna salad and serve on a platter.