Global Tapas with an Iberian Flair

Put some olé in your holidays!

By Mary Luz Mejia

Photography by Thomas MacDonald

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Sweet, savory, Spanish! Try some tapas this holiday season.Most of us run on fast-forward all year round, with the pace seemingly doubled around the holidays. Between juggling family, work, entertaining, and other obligations, it's often a time of year that brings equal amounts of mirth and stress. With this in mind, I've put together a few of my favorite "quick fix" tapas for when people come over and either I don't have time to whip up a multicourse feast or the doorbell rings unexpectedly and a few hungry friends await a snack or two.

There are numerous theories about how tapas came to be. Tapa literally means "lid" in Spanish, hence one of the most enduring theories: that bar owners used to offer a piece of bread or a littleplate of salty snacks for guests to cover (tapar) their beer, wine, or sherry glass to keep flies and anything else out of their drinks. Today, tapas are designed for sharing—small plates brimming with robust flavors, perfect for mixing and matching. In Spain, tapas dining is almost always a very casual affair, accompanied by a glass of sherry, wine, or beer prior to a sit-down dinner. To tapear is to hop from one tapas bar to another—say, from one specializing in seafood to another for sausage. It's an excuse to enjoy life and the company of those you care about, and to unwind after a busy day.

Serving tapas is a chance to savor a world of flavor in one sitting. This style of eating, so popular in the Mediterranean, enables diners to choose how much they'd like to eat, when, and how often. Unlike our traditional festive meals, it doesn't marry you to a heaping main course of turkey and fixings; tapas offers something different—you can keep it light and graze, or indulge if the mood strikes. It's all about sharing, and what better time of the year in which to do just that? Pick and choose your favorites and remember to keep some of the items noted stocked in the pantry and fridge; you'll be happy you did.

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