Adopt "tapas" for your back-to-school meal

    Hola! Cliché, I know, but after spending the last three months in Madrid, I feel it’s only appropriate to infuse this first column with a little Spanish flair. But now that we’re all back in this friendly little bubble we call Northwestern, it’s time to meet, greet and, well, eat — and to pay tribute to Madrid, a city known for its fantastic tapas creations. I encourage you all to venture into the exotic territory of Spanish-style eating. The next time you throw a party, make lots of small plates rather than a main course. You can try these “tapas style” dishes out for starters!

    Greek Salad Skewers

    Photo by Velo Steve on Flickr, licensed under the creative commons.

    Eating skewered food is always fun, and when you stack these skewers vertically in a cucumber, you’ve got yourself a great appetizer and a funky little centerpiece. Try it out:

    • 20 wooden skewers
    • 1½ English cucumbers
    • 1 large block of feta cheese, cubed into 20 pieces
    • 20 kalamata olives
    • 20 grape tomatoes
    • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
    • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice


    1. Take one English cucumber and slice about a half-inch off of one of the longer sides so that the cucumber can stay sturdily on a serving platter. Take the remaining half of the cucumber and slice it into 20 rounds.
    2. Place the cucumber rounds, feta cubes, olives and tomatoes in a large bowl and toss with olive oil, lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste.
    3. Place one cucumber round, one feta cube, one tomato and one olive on each skewer and place each skewer into the cucumber so that the skewers stand upright. Let your guests grab the skewers and have fun with their food!

    Soup “Shots”

    Who says shot glasses have to be for liquor? I’m sure you have tons lying around, so why not put them to good use as soup receptacles? Here’s what you’ll need:

    • 3 garlic cloves, minced
    • 4 tablespoons olive oil
    • ½ white onion, chopped finely
    • ½ bag of frozen peas
    • Juice of ½ lemon
    • 2-3 cups vegetable stock
    • ½ baguette, cubed


    1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a large sauce pan, sauté 2/3 of the minced garlic and the onion in 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat.
    2. Once the onions have become translucent, add the frozen peas and ½ cup of water. Continue cooking until the water has evaporated and the peas are tender.
    3. Drop the heat to low and add 2 cups of vegetable stock, the lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.
    4. While the soup is cooking, place the cubed baguette in a bowl and toss with the remaining olive oil, garlic, and more salt and pepper to taste. Spread the bread out on a baking sheet and place in the oven for ten minutes or until your croutons are golden brown.
    5. Once the soup is fully heated through, place the contents in a blender (be careful to remove the lid slightly so that some of the steam can escape) and blend until all of the contents have been pureed.
    6. Pour the soup into your shot glasses (mini cups will work perfectly as well) and top each with 1-2 croutons. Serve on a large platter and let your guests go shot for shot!

    Endive Scoopers

    Photo by blmurch on Flickr, licensed under the creative commons.

    Although great in salads and roasted on its own, endive is one of those overlooked vegetables. It has a subtle, sharp flavor and is fantastic when paired with hummus — a very entertaining-friendly ingredient. So if you want to show endive some love, try it in this recipe. What you’ll need:

    • 20 endive leaves
    • 1 8-oz. container hummus
    • ¼ tomato, finely chopped
    • ¼ cup kalamata olives, finely chopped
    • ¼ yellow or green bell pepper, finely chopped


    1. Lay out the endive leaves on a platter. Place a scoop of hummus at the base of each leaf.
    2. Top each leaf with a few pieces of either tomato, olive or pepper.
    3. If you want to be a little bit more fancy, you can then top each leaf with a sprinkling of paprika and pepper. This appetizer can be made in minutes and is perfect for an impromptu gathering.

    So there you have it. Now you can serve your guests food that they won’t bitch about while showing off your international flair.


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