Tapas are traditionally small portioned plates of cold or hot foods, meant to be eaten as a snack or in larger variety as a meal. Tapas are a great healthy packed lunch solution, as they emphasize variety, small portions and seasonal ingredients. To eat tapas is often a gateway to more adventurous and healthy eating for both kids and adults alike.
If you have ever travelled to Spain you’ve probably noticed those bars with counters filled with platters of food. There are cold selections of cheese, sausage slices, jambon and olives, warm selections of croquettes, roasted or fried potatoes, egg dishes and seafood. However, as Spain is known for its hot weather, many of the dishes can be eaten at room temperature with no loss to their presentation or taste. The Spanish tapas are strongly flavored with garlic, smoked paprika, cumin and saffron and served with plentiful amounts of olive oil. Typical tapas meal is accompanied with toasted bread slices, first rubbed with a garlic clove and then slathered with delicious olive oil and thinly covered with fresh tomato sauce. A tapas menu will span through at least a dozen offerings. And in small portions, it is fun to order something new to give it a try.
Tapas are meant to be small portioned. When eating tapas, you’re expected to create a nicely balanced meal across various dishes. Small is cute. And that is certainly true of a tapas bar. Little skewers of olives and anchovies, small sandwiches with just a quarter slice of ham or beautiful roasted red peppers, mini chicken or fish croquettes, olives, slices of sausages, shrimp sauteed with some garlic...And in small portions, it is fun to order something new to give it a try. During our recent trip to Barcelona I noticed how eagerly our kids would dig in to try the new plate arrivals. The small portions don’t overwhelm and one, especially a child, is more likely to give new flavors a taste if the commitment is quite minimal.
Spanish tapas cuisine is heavily based on local and seasonal ingredients. The emphasis is to create little bites that are flavorful and fresh. And what better way to ensure good taste than to serve what is local and in season? In the summer introduce more vegetables like tomatoes, eggplant and zucchini. In colder months focus on more savory dishes, like cured hams and fish croquettes. But always accent the tapas dishes with good virgin olive oil, some olives, roasted almonds and hearty toasted bread. This is healthy eating at its best!
How to compose a tapas lunch
Yumbox of course makes it very easy to recreate a tapas lunch. Little portions, colorful presentation and emphasis on balanced variety.
To compose a tapas lunch for your child focus on creating a balanced meal. Here are some recipe link and serving ideas:
Protein: ham slices, sausage slices, grilled veal sausages with tomato sauce, meatballs, my kids FAVORITE chicken croquettes which actually are great at recycling leftover roast chicken meat, or another favorite shrimp with garlic. And of course don’t forget about the eggs, the Spanish tortilla is an obvious lunch addition, as it is great warm or cold.
Dairy: cheese platters are always a part of a tapas menu. Here’s a great opportunity to try a new cheese like Manchego or one that uses sheeps milk. Cheese platters are always served with some honey or quince preserves. Add some roasted almonds to make it more of an interesting dish.
Grains: The key staple of any tapas meal is the famous Pan con Tomate. Even my tomato hater ate a slice, as it was just so delicately touched by the tomato puree. Personally I’m a huge fan, as this is a great base for ham or cheese. Otherwise toast some good bread and drizzle it with olive oil. Delicious!
Vegetables: If you want to stick to authentic tapas style, why not pack some grilled seasonal vegetables simply seasoned with sea salt and olive oil? Or perhaps mushroom croquettes? When tomatoes and sweet pepper are in season, they are a very suitable addition as a fresh salad with some beans.
Fruit: Fresh seasonal fruit or raisins are the best way to complement your tapas meal. What’s nicer than a melon slice with Serrano ham? In colder months you might want to make a little muffin stuffed with apples and cinnamon or some Apple Paste that would go deliciously well with Manchego cheese. Yum!
Does the food need to be Spanish for the tapas platter?
Definitely NOT. Many cuisines around the world use a tapas style approach to serving food. But we’ll save those ideas for another blog.
If you’re feeling Tapas inspired, check out this US website La Tienda. I love their selection!