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A Taste of Tapas

cocktail shrimpFeaturing bite-size servings of fascinating foods, tapas-style dining is an uncomplicated adventure. It's also ideal for home entertaining.

Contrary to a traditional dinner, a tapas party offers guests the advantage of mingling and enjoying a variety of conversations all evening long. And because the bites are small and light, there's no heavy after-dinner lull to weigh down the party. The gathering kicks off with a "Wow!" and stays lively into the night.

Adventures in Finger Foods

There are many reasons to love tapas. Most dishes are meant to be nibbled with the fingers, harking back to our early childhood experiences, when every taste was new and every texture astonishing. The thrills of tapas are definitely more adult, but with no fork as an intermediary, the pleasures are as vivid and direct as those first forays into food. Before you even take a bite, you'll feel the smooth, shiny skin of the dates, the spongy spring of the focaccia, the ripe suppleness of the fruit and the velvety dusting on the luscious chocolate truffles.

Effortlessly Refreshing

Tapas also usher in a bit of Spanish-style simplicity to our sometimes complicated lifestyles. Because dinner is traditionally eaten very late in Spain—often 10 p.m. or later—tapas were served in Spanish taverns to help refresh and fortify patrons until it was finally time for them to head home for supper. Although you may think the word means "fabulous little bites of this and that," it actually means "lid" or "cover." The term is thought to describe the way simple nibbles, such as a slice of meat or a handful of olives, were traditionally presented—on a small plate atop a glass of wine or sherry.

Originally, tapas included humble, unadorned foods such as cheese, meats, olives and tiny fried fish. In keeping with this spirit, it just won't do to overcomplicate the tidbits you serve. Try Spanish-inspired tapas recipes that bring a stylish, good-time buzz without a lot of effort.

The secret? Use foods that are already wonderful in themselves, such as prosciutto, Gorgonzola cheese, pears, dates and shrimp. You can simply combine easy techniques with a few key Spanish flavorings—a splash of sherry and a pinch of saffron here, a drizzle of olive oil there—for head-turning results.

A few more thoughts on keeping the gathering simple:

  • Don't worry about rushing from the oven to the table—most tapas-style appetizers taste best served at room temperature. Chilled dishes will actually become more flavorful as they come to room temperature in a room full of revelers. Do keep in mind, however, that for food-safety reasons, no perishable foods should be left out at room temperature for longer than two hours.
  • If you wish, add extra intrigue to the spread with an array of cheeses from the Publix Deli.
  • Round out your tapas menu with easy-to-serve nibbles from Publix, such as dried and fresh fruits, roasted almonds, various olives and, of course, slices of artisan-style breads from the Publix Bakery.

You'll find that once you arrange all the food and drinks on the table and invite everyone to help themselves, the party will soar—on autopilot.