With the holidays upon us, what could be better than an easy, relaxing and stress-free gathering? Here are some of my tips and recipes for the perfect tapas or petite party.
Helpful party tips:
- Decide if you want to create a tapas menu strictly featuring Spanish recipes or if you prefer to offer a mixture of Mediterranean recipes to your guests. For a small soiree, four to five recipes are adequate.
- Plan a mixture of small appetizers or bites. Recipes can only include various small bite-size appetizers like empanadas, Portuguese omelets, shrimp in a verde sauce, a Mediterranean platter or a combination of small appetizers and a larger dish like paella. Guests will be provided small plates and will take smaller portions of a dish like paella.
- Stress-Free Entertaining: Choose recipes that can be refrigerated for several days. Do not save all of the cooking and decorating for the day before or the day of your tapas party. Many recipes, like my marinated olives, actually taste better as they sit in the refrigerator. Making one recipe each day during the week makes the preparations that much more enjoyable for the hostess or host family. Advance preparation will allow you to have fun decorating and planning instead of being stressed for a lack of time.
- Family Fun: It’s always more fun when you get the whole family involved in the planning of party. With so many quality products like olives, deli meats, artisan cheeses and breads available at BJ’s there’s no need to make everything from scratch. Serve a mixture of homemade and quality store-bought items. While you prepare homemade dishes, your spouse and/or children can help prepare and arrange store-bought items. Families will have fun picking out specialty items for the platter.
- Invite guests to join you in the kitchen: With any gathering, do not stress if you are finishing up a dish or other preparation as guests arrive. Your kitchen is the heart of your home, so welcome everyone into it and encourage them to have fun helping. Allow guests to help you finish up plating a dish or watch you cook as they sip on a glass of wine or sangria and enjoy one of the hors d’oeuvres.
Preparing appetizers in advance:
- Some of my favorite appetizers like empanadas can be prepared, frozen and then baked the day of your party. Shrimp in verde sauce can be made in advance and prepared in a matter of minutes. Many appetizers actually taste better as the marinate.
- Quick homemade appetizers like my marinated olives are also a great choice. The addition of fresh herbs like rosemary and fresh orange zest make these olives extra special!
Take a hand from BJ’s Wholesale Club! They have a great assortment of already prepared appetizers like Spanakopita
or Risotto Balls with Asiago cheese. BJ’s helps you enjoy the holidays with less work.
- Prepare bite size desserts like my Brandied Truffles
Food makes the best decorations!
This beautiful wooden cheese board and knives can be purchased at BJ’s Wholesale Club.
- Consider textures: When considering my menu especially when creating a platter the textures are very important. For a Mediterranean platter the texture of crusty breads and the almonds paired with the creaminess of the Manchego cheese, the saltiness of the Serrano ham and the sweetness of the fig jam create the perfect marriage for anyone’s palate! Always choose various textures and flavors that work together.
- Consider shapes, sizes and color: When choosing items for a platter choose an array of shapes like round, oval and square. Use various contrasting colors.
- Purchase quality ingredients: Quality products make the most beautiful and easiest Mediterranean platter. You do not always have to make everything from scratch. The secret is to purchase good quality ingredients and BJ’s carries many.
Setting a beautiful tapas buffet. It’s so easy especially with BJ’s 36 Hostess and Tasting Set! It even includes tiny forks for six!
- Keep it simple: Since a tapas party is a traditional Spanish style of casual eating, it is best to keep your table setting simple. Simplicity is beautiful and relaxing – everything a tapas party should be. A runner in place of a formal tablecloth sets an informal and relaxing mood. Do not be concerned if your table is not in perfect condition. Age adds beauty and character! An assortment of small plates should be placed on your table. These plates can be white or cream in color for a simple rustic look, or you may want to choose a mixture of colorful red, gold and green for a more bolder Mediterranean feel.
- Use beautiful food as decoration: I always allow the food to be the center of my table decorations. Placing the food at different heights is important. I use tiered trays to hold some of my appetizers like empanadas and another tray of a different height to hold my bite-sized desserts like my Spanish Brandy Truffles. Various shaped vessels also adds beauty to your table.
- Survey your existing serving vessels: Baskets, wrought iron plate or bowl holders, terra cotta serving vessels and wooden bowls are perfect choices for a Mediterranean party. Use these existing serving vessels to also help you decide the types of recipes you will make; then choose your menu.
- A Must-Have Glass Beverage Dispenser: One of the best and most useful items I have ever purchased is a large beautiful glass beverage dispenser (with a spout). For some of my parties, I fill glass dispenser with a lovely-colored Sangria and sliced fresh fruit like lemons, oranges and limes. This is not only a beautiful addition to your Mediterranean party, but a refreshing one.
- Spread everything out to keep areas free of congestion. Decide days ahead where you will place your items. Try not to place everything in one serving area. Instead place your beverages and serving glasses in one place, your savory dishes in another and your sweets in yet another location.
- Set your table and other areas a day in advance: I do whatever I can in advance and that includes setting my table (or tables) in advance. I often find it the most fun as well!
- Use ingredients to garnish and embellishment: Use fresh ingredients that are found in your recipes like the fruit in your Sangria or a fresh herb found in one of your recipes to embellish your table. Slice limes, oranges and lemons for your glass canister filled with Sangria. Use whole limes, lemons and oranges to embellish your table.