One Spread, Many Tastes

We’ve all been to those restaurants where every menu item has us on the edge of our seats with excitement…but then you have to choose only one. Even if you get the perfectly braised chicken or creamy gnocchi, you can’t stop thinking about that cedar grilled salmon, or the chimichurri steak that a waiter just brought to the table next to you! Moments like these make us wish we could get a taste of those other gorgeous entrées. This (on top of my love for all things cute) is the reason I LOVE tapas! You can choose up to four or five, and keep ’em coming as long as you’re hungry! What better way to explore the culinary signatures of a place than through perfectly portioned samples? Well, so I enjoy making them as much as I enjoy eating them…and summer is THE season for tapas. So trust me when I say this Tapas Spread will be the first of many you’ll see this summer 🙂
Okay, so Prosciutto-Wrapped Canteloupe (top photo) isn’t really a recipe, but it’s awesome! Besides, no authentic tapas spread is complete without melon or cured meat, and deciding to put the two together was one of history’s finer moments. I love all things olive – olive oil, olive tapenades, and marinated olives…melt (especially with chili peppers!) I thought I would give marinating olives a try myself, so I grabbed three varieties, tossed them with a few simple ingredients, and ended up with a heavenly bowl of Spicy Spanish Olives (above). Make these – don’t think twice about, just trust me on this. You’ll thank me later 😉 Click HERE to get started!
Most of us can attest to having tried and loved candied pecans and/or honey roasted peanuts. I thought a variety of this favorite would be the perfect complement to my spread, but I wanted something with a twist. Enter fennel seed – this added touch put these Sweet and Spicy Almonds through the roof. Both subtly sweet with an edge of savory, these almonds are the perfect “munchies” for any party – click HERE to get this delicious snack!
I saved the best for last: Romesco Sauce. A pureé of roasted red peppers, toasted almonds, fiery chili peppers…I (along with everyone else who tried this) was willing to sell my soul to the genius of this sauce. How is it so good? I honestly don’t know…the marriage of flavors in this sauce was pure destiny. It’s a fairly simple recipe whose flavor become exponentially better the next day (and the next day, and the next day…) You can serve it with basically anything, and I chose to toss mine with beautifully tender chicken tenders . Click HERE to see the secret behind an amazing sauce!
I wanted to choose a musical piece that could give us a taste of a composer’s style. Looking for a composer who truly embraced their national heritage, I went with the Brazilian music of Heitor Villa-Lobos. The following quote by Villa-Lobos perfectly captures this quality:

“Yes, I’m Brazilian – very Brazilian. In my music, I let the rivers and seas of this great Brazil sing. I don’t put a gag on the tropical exuberance of our forests and our skies, which I intuitively transpose to everything I write.”

Gaining international fame and recognition for his Brazil, he is seen as a cultural icon. Some of his most well-known works are his fourteen Choros, composed between 1920 and 1930. Choros literally means “weeping” or “crying,” and was used to describe the music of the Brazilian street ensembles from the latter half of the nineteenth century. Villa-Lobos’ intention with these pieces was to bring the music of Brazil to life within a variety of performing contexts. Each Choros is written for a different instrument or ensemble, ranging from solo to full orchestra. I thought it would be fun to include several from the series, and to pair each one with a different tapa. For the olives, I chose Choros No. 5 for solo piano, “Alma Brasileira” (Soul of Brazil) – it expresses a depth of character and nostalgia that speak to the dish’s own complexity and flavor development with time. This is perhaps y favorite of the four included, which also speak to my love of olives 🙂 I included Choros No. 1 for solo guitar (which in fact inspired the series altogether) to pair with the almonds – it’s casual flair and energy are perfect for these spicy bites. The Choros No. 2 for flute and clarinet  perfectly describes the prosciutto and melon, as it itself is a conversation between the flutist and clarinetist – though it’s a duet, the dialogue is really more individual than melded. And last (but definitely not least) I chose Choros No. 10 for chorus & orchestra, “Rasga o coraçao” (Tear My Heart) to pair with the Chicken and Romesco – this “tour de force” of a piece was perfect for the quality and perfection of this sauce. You can check out each one below – enjoy!

Choros No. 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eZuETVzODME
Choros No. 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oVGBl42aKfQ
Choros No. 5: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=24w7fMiJZr8
Choros No. 10: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7UnVmG-DDhY

Sources Cited:
“Villa-Lobos and the Choro,” Guitarra Magazine

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