Our Gutsy Cook Marie from Weekend Viands is the host for the month of May and boy does she start the month with a great menu. I for one, when I saw it, thought of nothing more than to add bottle of wine, crusty fresh bread, a plate of olives, maybe a wedge of local cheese, friends and ahhh…isn’t life just grand! I know she just came back from Europe and my only guess is that she wanted to hold on to that feeling by giving us two perfect dishes that go great as a tapas party.
- Spanish Meatballs – page 320
- Pisto Manchego – page 248
Every country has it’s own culinary version of these little morsels. In our case Marie tapped in the ever-popular Spanish meatballs (albondigas) in tomato/wine sauce, which is usually served as tapas in bars up and down Spain. Made with any type of mincemeats like pork, beef, turkey, chicken or the even popular Bacalao (Cod) or in some cases a combo or both. This is a dish that originated with the Moors so you will usually find some exotic spices in most recipes, especially those from the Andalucian region where the Moors had the most influence. In our recipe, ground veal and pork are used along with a hearty red wine for the sauce – nothing can beat that combination.
And to balance the rich “albondigas”, why not use the summer bounty of onions, garlic, red bell pepper, zucchini and tomatoes for Spain’s version of the French ratatouille?
I say we must.
The French version of pisto - the ratatouille - always uses aubergines (eggplants) and the Spanish pisto may or may not, depending on which Mama and her recipe is the definitive authority. Reality is, the addition of aubergine or not just depends on if you have one at the time and if you like them in the pisto.
Spanish pisto is not so fussy. Some cooks do remove the skin and deseed the tomatoes and peel the aubergine and some do not. Onions and garlic are gently sautéed in plenty of olive oil with the peppers, and then the aubergine is added until most of the oil is absorbed. Then come the chopped tomatoes, salt and pepper and often a good pinch of sugar and some cooks add a bay leaf. All is allowed to cook covered about 15-20 minutes depending on size of vegetables and personal preference. It is done when the vegetables are very soft but not mushy. This is not a dish for al dente preferences. Think very thick sauce with good texture.
I had the pleasure of tasting many variations of both of these dishes when I visited one of my best friends in Spain a couple of years back and I can attest to the fact that they make a great addition to any tapa menu.
So are you ready to call some of your friends and invite them over? I know you are… Happy cooking guys!