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Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Tapa-Free Valencia

Tapear is a verb we don’t get a chance to use all that much in Valencia.  Tapear means to go out for tapas. I sometimes think that Americans are more familiar with tapas than Valencianos. Unfortunately, tapas aren’t a big deal in Valencia and Cataluña. Too bad for those of us living here because tapas are probably Spain’s greatest contribution to humankind. Tapas may be the biggest contribution to humanity; it’s either tapas or wine.

Of course there are bars that serve tapas here in Valencia but it’s not like in other parts of Spain where every drink you order at a bar comes with a tapa. And I’m not talking about a piece of cheese on a cracker; I mean that after three glasses of wine you’re completely full.  I’m saying that you should cancel your reservations for dinner because sitting down in a restaurant in some parts of Andalucía is when you want to take a break from stuffing your face.

If the tapas is sitting on a piece of bread it’s usually called a montadito or the diminutive of the participle for montar, to mount or place. Today I am going to walk you through how to make a proper tapa, or montadito. Tapas are also one of the most creative aspects of modern Spanish cuisine, and that’s saying a lot. It’s a perfect venue for using your imagination. Look through your shelves and I’ll wager than you already have something that would make a great tapa.

You’ll need a baguette. Although you can’t see it, the one I am using still has both ends intact because I’m not an animal who needs to break off an end and eat it on the way home from the bakery that’s only a half block away like some people I know and I think we know how we are.  I also have some fresh basil grown on my balcony, further proof that I’m not living like an animal.

Some fresh mozzarella although I’m probably being a little generous with that word fresh. By fresh I mean the “that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” kind of fresh. Speaking of the polar opposite of fresh, I just threw out something in my fridge that was pretty freaking ghastly, and I’m not exaggerating with the word “ghastly.” I had some sardines and some pickled tomatoes from the market and I meant to pitch the unused sardines and instead threw out the tomatoes.  A week later the sardines were absolutely toxic, even inside two plastic bags and a cheap plastic container that I also threw out. Are you still hungry or should we talk about tapas later?

Now we just need some tomato. Tomato and salt. Tomato and salt and olive oil.  Cut a piece of the bread and stack on some mozzarella, a slice of tomato, some basil and finish with salt and olive oil and you have a montadito of a Caprese salad.  We are sort of mixing Italian with Spanish but anything goes with tapas.

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