Penelope Casas' "Tapas: The Little Dishes of Spain" is a classic cookbook on the appetizer-like dishes served in bars over Spain. First published in 1985, this is the book that introduced the U.S. to the whole idea of tapas and is largely responsible for the ongoing tapa craze. The 2007 edition contains fifty additional recipes. This book is really a must-read for anyone interested in Spanish cooking.
Tapas has been an especially valuable cookbook to me because it's loaded with easy, simple recipes, with lots of options for vegans, vegetarians, and people on low-cholesterol diets--the focus of this blog. Many of the recipes you find here, such as the one in my post on escabeche, are inspired by Penelope Casas Tapas.
From the very first pages you will find recipes for pisto manchego (a sort of Spanish ratatouille), garbanzo dishes such as chickpeas in onion sauce and chickpeas and spinach, mushrooms in garlic sauce, spicy pimientos, sweet and sour marinated onions, Cádiz-style pepper salad, banderillas (olives, pickles, and other tidbits stuck on toothpicks). All of these, and many more, are vegetarian or vegan, or can easily be made so.
The book also contains a wealth of seafood recipes, from the classic tapa of garlic shrimp, to mussel and clam preparations, to various bacalao (salt cod) and fresh fish dishes.
While Tapas certainly contains recipes for meat dishes, especially pork, the focus is appropriately on game (quail, partridge, rabbit) which is traditionally preferred to beef or chicken in Spain.
The book does have a few flaws. Casas recommends soaking salt cod for 2 to 3 days, for example--far too long for my tastes, but then I really like salt cod. And some of the "new style" tapas, such as a vegetable and goat cheese lasagna, which involves an arugula and water cress purée, are a bit much for me. Other tapas, especially those with a béchamel base, while arguably authentic, just don't feel Spanish to me, even when I find them in Spain--but then I'm just not that crazy about white sauce.
But overall, this book is fantastic. If you know Spain and Spanish food, Tapas and La Cocina de Mama: The Great Home Cooking of Spain, also by Penelope Casas, are two of the best books to show you how to recreate your favorite Spanish foods at home. If you're new to Spanish cooking, Tapas is a great introduction.
Click HERE for more information about "Tapas: The Little Dishes of Spain" by Penelope Casas at Amazon. Or you can click HERE to view Casas' "Tapas," along with many other Spanish cookbooks, available at La Tienda.