Sunday, June 3, 2012

Gluten Free Tapas Night

Last weekend we went to a friend's house for our monthly family get-together.  This month our host decided to have a Spanish theme, meaning that we would have tapas and other traditional Spanish dishes.  Our host made some amazing paella and served a variety of Spanish cheeses with crackers.  My contributions to the festivities were a spinach with chickpeas tapas and sangria.  

The spinach with chickpeas is a vegetable rich tapas that is served with bread or crackers, but it can also be eaten alongside a main dish.  My recipe was inspired from Eating Well.    

Spinach and Chickpeas

2lbs spinach
Extra virgin olive oil
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
6 cloves of garlic, crushed
1-19 oz can garbanzo beans or chickpeas, rinsed
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth*

Rinse the spinach in a colander and let it drain.  Then place half the spinach in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Using tongs, toss the spinach as it begins to wilt.  Continue adding remaining spinach until it is all added and wilted.  It should take about 6-8 minutes.  Pour spinach back into the colander and drain again.  Let it cool slightly, and run a knife roughly through the wilted spinach.

Once the wilted spinach is out of the saucepan, heat about 1 tablespoon, or one turn of the pan, of olive oil at medium heat.  Add the onion and garlic, and cook until the onion is tender and lightly browned.  Keep stirring the onions, so they will not stick to the bottom of the saucepan.  This should take about 8-10 minutes.  Add the garbanzo beans, thyme, oregano, cumin, salt, and paprika and stir all together to combine.  Then use a potato masher to roughly mash the chickpeas.  Stir all of this together again and cook for 3 more minutes.  Add the raisins and broth and mix it together.  Return the chopped spinach to the saucepan and gently combine.  Remove the pot from the heat and let it stand about 10 minutes.  

Drizzle the spinach with chickpeas with olive oil, about 2 tablespoons, before serving.  Then put it in a serving bowl and serve alongside crackers or toasted bread.  You can also serve this with a main dish such as paella.  It went nicely being served as an appetizer or side dish.  My husband really liked eating it with crackers, and my friends were asking for the recipe.  I am very happy about the results.

* Cook's notes:  I chose to use vegetable broth, because some of the members of our group are vegetarians.  It is really important to remember to remember to use vegetable broth if you are making this for vegetarians.  Unfortunately, it is very easy for us carnivores to automatically use chicken broth in a recipe.  I had to consciously remind myself to buy vegetable broth at the store.  I know that our friends appreciated us remembering to make something that they could enjoy too.  

I also made sangria.  I chose to make an alcoholic and non-alcoholic version of the sangria.  The impetus for the non-alcoholic sangria was my friend who is expecting a new bundle of joy at the end of the year.  She loves sangria, but she is unable to have the alcohol at the moment.  She did not want me to go through the hassle for just her, so I said it was for the children too.  Thankfully, she really liked the recipe.  The kids did not like the fruit floating in the juice, but they did like the taste of it.  I based my recipe after reading a blog from the Sweet Pea Chef.

Non-Alcoholic Sangria

3 cups grape juice
3/4 cup apple juice
1/2 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 lemon
1 lime
1 orange, thinly sliced
1 apple
3 cups ginger ale

Thinly slice 1 lemon, 1 lime, and 1 orange.  Core 1 apple and chop it into 1/2 inch cubes.  You do not need to peel any of the fruit.  The peel adds beautiful, bright colors in the glass.  Refrigerate for at least 3 hours.  (You can leave it in the fridge overnight to allow the flavors to combine.)  Prior to serving, add the ginger ale and stir together.  Since we brought the sangria to a friend's house, we added a little ice to keep it cool.  I would recommend filling some ice cube trays with some of the sangria, and putting them in the freezer.  Once they are completely frozen, you can use this to keep it cold so that it does not taste watered down.

Lastly, I made a traditional sangria.  I looked at a variety of recipes from The Food Network website, and this is my recipe.

Traditional Sangria 

2 bottles chilled, dry red wine, like Rioja
1 cup brandy
1 cup orange juice
1/4 cup sugar
2 oranges
2 lemons
3 limes
2 apples
2 cups ginger ale

In a large bowl, combine the wine, brandy, orange juice, and sugar.  Stir until the sugar completely dissolved.  Thinly slice 2 oranges, 2 lemons, and 3 limes.  Core 2 apples and chop them into 1/2 inch cubes.  You do not need to peel any of the fruit.  The peel adds beautiful, bright colors in the glass.  Add all of the fruit into the large bowl and refrigerate for a couple of hours.  Once it is well chilled, take it out of the refrigerator and add the ginger ale.  Serve in glasses over ice.

The traditional sangria was sweet and refreshing.  We drank it as we watched the children play in the backyard.  It was such a relaxing evening.  I hope that you will try these recipes with the ones you love.  Enjoy!


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