almonds, Padron peppers, Jamon Iberico and chorizo are
staples of a Spanish food spread.
no wonder Michael Chiarello’s flirtatious Coqueta has been
such a hit on San Francisco’s waterfront. Tapas, gintonics
and glorious water views are a potent recipe for happiness.
It’s also one to inspire a Spanish-style summer fete of
may not have that stunning waterfront view — if you do, we’ll
be right over — but the idea of tapas, skewered pintxos
(pronounced peen-chos) and the oh-so-appealing practice of
late night sips and small plates on the patio is tailor-made
for relaxed entertaining.
a gastronomically charged trip to Barcelona, where Chiarello’s
daughter lives, that sealed the deal for the Napa chef known
for his Italian cuisine.
fell in love with Barcelona, with the emotion and the
community of eating," he says. "The waterfront,
the seaside style of eating, where you eat as little or as
much as you like, pintxos and a glass of sherry. It’s
dinner without such a large commitment."
the party host perspective, it can be a delightful level of
commitment — or rather, noncommitment — as well. Chilled
wine, fizzy cocktails, platters of cured meats, cheeses and
olives, and you’re halfway there. Saute a batch of padron
peppers — the occasionally hot one in a glistening sea of
sweet gives the dish a dash of chile pepper roulette. Make
albondigas, perhaps, in a wine sauce, a la San Francisco
chef Joyce Goldstein, whose recipe tastes even better when
made the night before. And don’t forget the jamon, the
incredible prosciuttolike ham that may well be Spain’s
pass a tray of brightly hued, Basque-inspired pintxos —
skewered pickled vegetables and anchovies, for example, or
the fresh baby beets, cucumbers and feta cheese combination
favored by Gerald Hirigoyen, whose small plates fare dazzles
at his Basque restaurant, Piperade, and in a cookbook,
"Pintxos" (Ten Speed Press, 2009) devoted to that
are the "tapas of the North" says Jeffrey Weiss,
who just opened a Mediterranean and Andalusian restaurant,
Jennini Kitchen + Wine Bar, in Pacific Grove, Calif. Weiss
encourages pintxo creativity in his new book "Charcuteria,
the Soul of Spain" (Surrey Books, 2014): "There’s
a million and one pintxos to try in Basque country, but the
truth is that anything you can stick on a toothpick
qualifies as a proper pintxo."
one you encounter everywhere, Weiss says, is the Gilda, a
toothpicked flourish of cured guindilla peppers, green
olives, cornichonlike pepinillos, magenta-tinged pearl
onions and anchovies. Legend has it that the pintxo was
inspired by Rita Hayworth’s 1940s film "Gilda,"
because Gilda and the pinxto are both "green, salty and
a little spicy." That’s a stretch, Weiss says, but
the salty, zesty little skewers are a great addition to any
are a mainstay at Coqueta, too. "We put 20 of them on a
platter, pass them around," Chiarello says. "It’s
make a great little nosh to pair with that other Spanish
obsession, the gintonic — one word, Chiarello says —
served in balloon-shaped wine glasses or Riedel-type
stemless goblets. In Barcelona, entire bar menus are devoted
to gintonics. There — and at Coqueta and Lafayette’s
Cooperage, whose general manager hails from Coqueta — the
libation becomes a splendidly aromatic, effervescent mix of
stellar gin, Fevertree Mediterranean or house-made tonic ...
plus slivers of citrus, swaths of zest, interesting
botanicals and petals, punctuated by juniper berries.
staff goes all out, making their own Jamon Iberico-infused
gin and acorn-apricot tonic. The Iberico pigs that produce
Spain’s signature prosciuttolike ham are fed acorns, so
you get both a culinary resonance and "really sensual
course, you don’t have to make your own apricot-acorn
tincture or even sangria — although we have a great recipe
for that. Pour a Spanish rose, an albarino, a cider or cava.
don’t forget the ham. It’s not a true Spanish spread
without cured meats, sliced chorizo perhaps — caramelized,
Chiarello suggests, then deglazed with Spanish cider and
cooked a few minutes more with fresh, pitted cherries —
and, of course, the Iberico.
expensive ham! People will eat two pounds!" Chiarello
cautions. So use it the way you do prosciutto, complementing
the salty, savory flavors with the sweetness of melon.
Chiarello serves it with fresh peaches, soft cow’s milk
cheese and a dusting of dried piquillo peppers, or plums,
watercress and a drizzle of olive oil. The combination, he
says, is "a perfect celebration of the season."
& TONIC 101
and tonic consists of just four things — gin, tonic, ice
and garnish — but that simplicity means every ingredient
matters. So don’t slosh well gin into a plastic tumbler
with diet tonic and a dessicated lime wedge. Here’s how to
make a perfect Spanish-style "gintonic":
Drop fresh, clear ice — the bigger the cube the better —
into a wine glass or tumbler. Your freezer’s ice-maker
produces the very opposite of cocktail-ready cubes. Its ice
has gone through repeated cycles of refreezing, thanks to
your freezer’s defrost function.
top quality gin. Coqueta uses London Bloom gin for its Barca
gintonic, Cooperage uses St. George — and Barcelona’s
famous Bobby Gin bar opts for Tanqueray Ten, Hendricks and
with good quality tonic, such as Fevertree, Q or Fenniman’s.
Twist strips of fresh citrus zest — lime, grapefruit,
orange and/or Meyer lemon — to release the oils and drop
them in. Add juniper berries, flower petals or other
fruity red wine, such as a pinot noir
cup fresh orange juice
cherries, sliced oranges and Meyer lemons
a small saucepan, bring the sugar and water to a boil,
stirring occasionally until sugar dissolves. Let simmer 1 to
2 minutes to form a simple syrup. Let cool.
a pitcher, combine the wine, brandy, orange juice and some
of the fruit. Add half the simple syrup, taste and add more,
as needed. Refrigerate at least an hour, or as long as
Serve over ice, with a splash of soda water. Garnish with
fresh cherries and orange and Meyer lemon slices.
This classic Basque pintxo calls for specific pickled
vegetables, but you can use Italian pepperoncini, for
example, instead of guindillas, small Basque pickled
medium cured guindillas
large green Spanish olives, cured, marinated
cured anchovy fillets
1 guindilla, 2 olives, 1 cornichon, 1 cebollita and 1
anchovy on each wooden skewer. Serve on baguette slices or,
if you want the pintxos to stand up, skewer the cebollitas
last for stability.
3 to 5 pickled peppers
3 to 5
yellow chili peppers, such as guindillas or cubanelles,
pricked a few times with a toothpick
tablespoons sugar per 1 cup liquid
tablespoon kosher salt per 1 cup liquid
Place chilis in a jar that just holds them; cover with
water. Drain water into a measuring cup. Note the amount.
Discard half and add an equal quantity of vinegar.
a small saucepan over medium-high heat, heat the sugar and 1
tablespoon of water, swirling the pan lightly until a light
amber caramel forms. Add the vinegar mixture and salt.
Reduce heat to medium; simmer until sugar and salt have
Combine peppers and pickling liquid. Weigh down peppers so
they are submerged. Cool, then seal and refrigerate for 2 to
4 days, or until pickled.
15 to 20 pickled pearl onions
ounce sugar per 1 cup liquid
medium red beet, peeled, quartered
ounce kosher salt per 1 cup liquid
fresh bay leaf
ounce black peppercorns
Slice off onion tips (the end opposite the root end). Fill a
bowl with ice and water. Bring a small saucepan of water to
a rolling boil. Add onions; cook 3 to 4 minutes, until they
soften slightly. Transfer onions to the ice bath. Rinse
Slip the onions from their skins. Place onions in a jar that
just holds them; cover with water. Drain the water into a
measuring cup. Note amount. Discard half and add an equal
quantity of vinegar.
a small saucepan over medium-high heat, combine sugar and 1
tablespoon of water. Do not stir; swirl the pan lightly and
heat until a light amber caramel forms. Add onions, beets
and salt; stir to coat and cook 2 to 3 minutes more. Add
vinegar mixture, bay leaf, star anise and peppercorns.
Reduce heat to medium, simmer 3 to 5 minutes more, until all
the sugar and salt have dissolved. Cool to room temperature.
Taste for seasoning. Transfer to a food-safe container;
weigh down onions so they are submerged. Seal the container
and refrigerate for 2 to 4 days, or until pickled.
Weiss, "Charcuteria" (Agate Surrey, $39.95)
BEETS, CUCUMBERS AND FETA PINTXOS
If you cannot find baby beets, use small beets. To make a
vinegar reduction, simply simmer the moscatel vinegar until
reduced by half.
beets, 1 to 1 1/2-inches in diameter
salt, freshly ground pepper
squares feta cheese, cut 3/4-inch square and 1/2-inch thick
pitted Kalamata olives
squares peeled English cucumber, cut 3/4-inch square and
olive oil and moscatel vinegar reduction, for drizzling
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Trim the stems of the unpeeled
beets, leaving 1/2 inch intact. Sprinkle with salt and
pepper. Place them in a baking pan with 1/4 cup water. Roast
for 30 minutes, or until just tender when pierced with a
knife. Transfer to a bowl of cold water. When they are cool
enough to handle, top and tail them and slip off the skins.
(Note: If you are using small beets, cut them into squares,
as you did the feta and cucumber.)
Thread each of 8 skewers with a beet, a feta square, an
olive and a cucumber square. Arrange on a small platter.
Drizzle with olive oil and vinegar reduction. Sprinkle with
salt and pepper.
Hirigoyen, "Pintxos" (Ten Speed Press, $24.99, 202
WITH WINE SAUCE
cup onion, minced
cloves garlic, minced
pound each ground beef and pork
tablespoons fresh, flat-leaf parsley, minced
large egg, lightly beaten
slices country bread, crusts removed, soaked in water,
teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
cup all-purpose flour
cloves garlic, minced
tablespoons chopped, blanched almonds
tablespoons fresh, flat-leaf parsley, minced
teaspoon sweet paprika
saffron threads, warmed and crushed
tablespoons olive oil
cup minced onion
cup dry white wine, dry fino or amontillado sherry
cup chicken broth
Meatballs: Saute the onion and garlic in a little olive oil,
stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes.
Combine ground meats, parsley, egg, softened bread, spices,
salt, pepper and onion mixture. Mix well. Fry a nugget of
the mixture, taste and adjust seasoning.
Shape mixture into 1-inch meatballs. Spread flour in a
shallow bowl. Roll meatballs in flour, coating evenly and
shaking off the excess.
a large frying pan, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil over
medium-high heat. Working in batches, sear meatballs,
turning as needed, until golden brown on all sides, about 5
the wine sauce, combine the garlic, almonds, parsley,
paprika, saffron, a pinch or two of salt and a few grinds of
pepper in a food processor; process until finely ground into
a large frying pan, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat.
Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened.
Add wine and broth; bring to a simmer. Add meatballs, reduce
heat, cover and simmer until cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes
more. Add the picada and cook a few minutes more.
Goldstein, "Tapas: Sensational Small Plates from
Spain" (Chronicle, $22.95, 168 pages)
CHORIZO KEBABS WITH CHERRIES
This recipe works equally well with fresh figs or apricots.
ounces cooking chorizo, cut into 1/2-inch circles
pound cherries, pitted
large red onion or bell pepper, cut into 1-inch squares
Skewer the ingredients together, alternating between the
chorizo, fruit and onion. Place in a grill-safe pan. Drizzle
with olive oil.
Grill over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes, rotating
the skewers periodically.
Wine and Tienda.com
great tapas spread includes a few easy-to-assemble dishes,
an assortment of cured meats, olives, nuts and other simple
items you can find at well-stocked delicatessens and
specialty shops, such as the Spanish Table in Berkeley and
Mill Valley, or online at