Spain's answer to the cocktail-hour appetizer. Tapas provide an easy, make-ahead party menu
In Spain, most locals enjoy tapas with sherry or wine, as a snack to tide them over until dinner (usually eaten around 10 or 11 at night). Almost always served at bars, tapas are thought to have originally consisted of a slice of cheese or ham placed over a drink to keep out flies. (The word tapa comes from the verb tapere, “to cover.”) Over time, these savory bites expanded to include regional specialties—oily slices of salt cod from the Basque or fried croquettes from the sherry region of Cadiz—that patrons would enjoy on toothpicks or rounds of bread. Nowadays, some tapas displays are so expansive, they could easily (and often do) comprise a full meal.
This is why tapas are so perfect for entertaining. These savory nibbles make terrific hors d’oeuvres as well as small-plate buffets. To round out the offerings below, simply add bowls of Spanish olives, some Spanish cheeses, including buttery Manchego, and fresh orange wedges and grapes.
And here’s the best part: tapas improve with age, which means you can (and should) make them one or two days in advance. They also taste wonderful at room temperature, which is how they’re served in Spain. So once you lay out all the goodies (along with plenty of bread, small plates, napkins and toothpicks), you’re done! Imagine—when your guests arrive, you can kick back, relax and actually enjoy your own party!