Family Tapas Night

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Service is terrible at the Fixin’ Leaks and Leeks “Family Bistro—” and there’s this free-range cat, tearing up and down the stairs, smacking into walls—but the whole experience is, indeed, cheap—in a good way. The last time we all went out to eat, we ordered one appetizer, two glasses of house wine, a couple of sodas, and one entrée each (three entrées total). The entire bill came to about $186, and we didn’t even order anything fancy like steaks, lobster, or truffles grown in a magical field sprinkled with the dust of unicorn horns.

Oh, the food we ate in the restaurant was good, but it wasn’t good enough for me to shout, “Squatters’ rights!” and threaten to live permanently under the table. So even though prices for food are still pretty high at the grocery store, we can still cook a decent meal at home for sometimes about half the price of a restaurant meal–every once in a while, when we might want to splurge.

One of our favorite kinds of restaurants is the “tapas” style restaurant, but each tapa these days is about $14-$15, so by the time you order a bunch of stuff, you’re looking at a bill that roughly resembles the price of a small Mercedes. Making tapas at home, and spreading the experience out over several hours because you’ve been drinking wine and can’t remember which course you’re supposed to make next, is much more rewarding. Here’s the menu:

–Manchego cheese, good quality green olives, chorizo, and almonds (appetizer)

–Gazpacho soup and crusty French bread. (If you start early enough, you can whip up a batch of homemade bread with a packet of yeast, 1 ½ cups of warm water, 1 tablespoon of sugar, 1 tsp salt, and 3 cups of flour. Let the water and yeast mixture sit for about 5 minutes. Add the sugar and salt. Add the flour a cup at a time. Knead for about 10 minutes. Let rise for about 10 minutes while the oven heats to 450. Shape into 2 loaves or several rolls and bake—about 15 minutes).

–Gambas al ajillo (Garlic shrimp)

–Salad

–Grilled pork

–Oranges and good quality chocolate bars to share for dessert

For the Gazpacho soup, I followed this procedure:

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Ingredients:

–8-10 medium tomatoes

–1 slice of bread, soaked in milk, and squeezed

–1/4 cup of olive oil

–2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar

–salt to taste

–1 tablespoon of tomato juice

–chopped cucumbers (1/4 cup)

–chopped red onion (1/4)

–croutons (1/4 cup) (Toast up some bread with olive oil/garlic and cut it into tiny squares to make croutons.)

Method:

–Boil the tomatoes in water, just until the skins split. Rinse them under cold water and Peel them.

–Core the tomatoes and chop them. Pour all of the flesh, seeds, and juice into a blender/food processor.

–Add the soaked bread slice, olive oil, and vinegar.

–Blend until smooth.

–Add salt to taste and the tablespoon of tomato juice. Add more tomato juice if you want.

–Chill for about 2-3 hours. Serve the soup with the chopped cucumbers, onion, and croutons. (Individuals can choose what they want and top their soup with it.) Serve the extra French bread for dipping.

Gambas al Ajillo:

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Ingredients:

–About 10 uncooked large shrimp, peeled. (Devein if you wish.)

–1/4 cup of olive oil

–3-5 cloves of garlic sliced/crushed—not finely chopped.

–1 Fresno chili pepper, sliced

Method:

–Heat the oil, peppers, and garlic in a large saucepan—just until the oil starts to shimmer.

–Add the shrimp and cook just until they turn pink.

–Serve the shrimp with some of the olive oil, peppers, and garlic. Be sure to save some of the French bread for dipping in the extra oil!

Grilled Pork:

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–Select slices of boneless pork chops—we did one per family member—three small chops.

–Slice them into 1-inch chunks

–Place them in a baggie with 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 ½ teaspoons of sea salt, and about a tablespoon of cumin. Massage the meat and the spices/oil together in the bag. Let sit in the refrigerator for a few hours, to marinate.

–Nate cooked these on a mesquite grill, until the juices ran clear. They were amazing! You can also cook these up on a grill pan over the stove or inside the oven.

Results:

 Everything was delicious, but it did take us around 3 hours to prepare and clean up, so dinner was served at a leisurely pace, with plenty of shenanigans between courses. The whole meal was definitely restaurant quality but at the price point of a budget-friendly cruise around the block, with a steak-scented air freshener hanging from the rear-view mirror.

Your Turn: What’s your favorite meal to make at home?

30 thoughts on “Family Tapas Night

  1. Mmmm – Looks great and you are right about the costs savings when we make it at home – and another reason we choose to make home meals and apps is because so may places use industrial seed oils and they are really really bad for health -/ so we try to abstain from canola oil, vegetable oil, soybean oil etc (they save the liver and if you didn’t know and are interested to see how they are made – check out the show “how it’s made” for “canola oil” and it will show some good insights – blasted with hexane and radiation and colors !
    Oh but back to this tasty post!
    Adding the recipes was a bonus!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Wow / being allergic to olive oil must be tough!
        And by The way – I heard olive oil is counterfeited often – or corrupted and sometimes people buy blends of oils guised as olive oil (maybe that is the allergy – or not)
        And we use avocado oil a lot – Costco had a huge container we like – or bacon grease —
        But haven’t had much sesame oil? I remember years ago when tahini was all the rage –

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  2. Your selection sounds good, though I might have replaced the pork with some kind of fish, baccalao (dried cod) perhaps, for authenticity. I also think you should have a desert, which could be a creme catalan, a custard with caramelized sugar covering it. Very authentic!
    Here in Germany, I love a Wiener Schnitzel, or breaded veal Schnitzel, but it is relatively expensive (not by your standards!), and I can make it, with a little effort, for about a third of the price. And I love a good Wiener Schnitzel!
    I visited the USA last October to see my relatives and was shocked at the prices. I understand that places I visited like Boston, New York, Philadelphia or Washington DC were expensive, but even a place like Roanoke, Virginia ( a town of slightly more than 100,000 inhabitants in the southwest corner of the state) was not cheap.

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    1. Hola, Alex! I like your ideas here! Baccalao sounds great–I had originally intended the pork to be reminiscent of a kind of pincho moruno–the skewers of meat/pork that I used to get in Spain, but the version I made was not quite the same at all–but still tasty. When I studied Spanish in Salamanca, I stayed with a family, and they would often share chocolate squares with me for dessert. The mother of my family didn’t make desserts. She’d buy pastries from all of the great bakeries everywhere, but I did get to sample some flan while I was there. I’d love to try making paella as well, but I just don’t think I would do it any justice–oh, but the humorous stories I could tell! Maybe, for that reason, I might try 🙂 I do hope you are well in Germany–and able to splurge on a breaded veal Schnitzel–that sounds heavenly. ¡Salud!

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  3. If I didn’t live alone and just cook for myself, this approach would be perfect. Given my natural wariness, introversion, and shyness, I’ve never invited anyone to where I live. So that’s not an option either.

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  4. I’m in complete agreement with you–Ken keeps suggesting we go out to a restaurant and all I can think of is the long wait, the high prices (especially for drinks) and the fact that I can do it just as well at home. That pork recipe looks easy and delicious–I might try that this week!

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    1. The pork was super good–I refuse to go out to eat anymore–this was so much fun to prepare. We’ll soon be going back into the office and most everyone there eats lunch out, but I just can’t justify the price. That adds up! I’m making/bringing my lunch! 🙂

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  5. Yum, looks & sounds like a great spread! I love grilled pork, especially marinaded, and have only tried bacalao encebollado once, during a trip to Málaga when I was college, and that was enough. If you’re in a rush, and don’t have an air-conditioned kitchen during really hot weather, you can make a very quick and passable gazpacho by skipping the boiling tomatoes and substituting V8 juice.

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  6. I really wish I enjoyed cooking the way you do. Also, I wish I was your next door neighbor and endeared myself enough to you that you’d invite me over for dinner if I promised to do all the cleaning up after. I weirdly enjoy the cleaning more than the cooking. Yesterday was my daughter’s birthday, and she wanted to make pretzels. I thought the whole thing was a pain, but she had a great time and the pretzels were surprisingly delicious! Phew!

    I have copied and pasted you French bread recipe since we have two more yeast packets left. This family loves French bread. I’ll bet they’d enjoy baking it. Thanks for that!

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    1. You would definitely be invited over–that would be so much fun! I only do big meals once a week–the rest of the week, it’s easy stuff. I hope you enjoy the French bread recipe. It is not authentic. It should probably rise a lot longer than ten minutes, but I can’t wait hours for bread to rise–too hungry 🙂

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    1. Thanks so much for the compliment! It looks Alex is definitely staying with us for spring break–and on the weekends. He says there really isn’t much to do on campus, and everyone is in their dorm rooms playing video games–which isn’t very fun.

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