A very pleasant evening with the charming ‘J and J’ from work last night. The company was delightful, the honesty in their feedback appreciated, and all revealed a reasonably successful dinner, at least culinarily speaking.

Perhaps the hit of the dinner table– Mil Hojas de Tomate y Queso Fresco, otherwise known as smoked salmon and cheese on tomato confit…so there!

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Olives stuffed with anchovies, piparra peppers, and sweety drop peppers (from Peru) were the appetizers for the appetizers, if you will. I ate most of the piparras truth be told, as they have a mild fire to them (barely), and a nice raw milk manchego cheese with sliced baguette rounded out the table. We all shared a bottle of Dibon Cava for starters.

As most of these tapas were ready to eat, with minimal if any cooking needed once the guests arrived, I was able to sit down and enjoy hanging with the guests rather than busily standing in front of the stove, catching snatches of conversation. The things I’ve no doubt missed…

Manchego and Membrillo Bread
-simple enough, a slice of sweet baguette, a slice of manchego, and a slice of Membrillo, the sweet quince paste the Spanish love.
what I learned: easier on the Membrillo; a lighter touch, not the killer chunk I put out!

Tortilla de Patatas
-can’t really go wrong with this staple; eggs, potatoes, a little onion, all made into an ‘omelet’, cut into small wedges or squares, and served with aioli mayonnaise.
what I learned: the omelet tasted fine, but I should have cooked it in a smaller skillet so that it would be thicker; I used a wider skillet this time so it was thinner. Not a big deal. The whiskey sauce I originally planned proved an odd disappointment, hence the aioli substitute (I usually make my own from scratch, but time constraints forced me to use regular mayonnaise and add in some garlic.

Marinated Tuna Cubes with Grated Ginger
-standard now, and delicious. High quality maguro (atun) marinated in soy sauce and sunflower oil overnight, drizzled with sesame oil, sesame seeds, and grated ginger.
what I learned: easy on the grated ginger!

Mesclun with Sherry-Soaked Apricots and Toasted Hazelnuts
-tasty, though all agreed that dressing was slightly too tart. With that peppery arugula and other spicy greens, having the sweetness of honey or sugar is necessary for balance.
what I learned: see above.

Tomato Confit with Mozzarella, Smoked Salmon, Boquerones, and Squid-Ink Sauce
-a tomato ‘sandwich’ with the tomato confit as the ‘bread’, with smoked salmon, vinegar-soaked anchovies (boquerones), and mozzarella.
what I learned: the squid-ink ‘sauce’ didn’t work so well, and perhaps wasn’t even necessary.

Crab and Cod with Cider in Cazuela
-this was a mix of crabmeat, a cod fillet, onion, tomato, and Spanish cider. Remarkably uninteresting flavor combos–we all agreed, it seemed, that this was the least appealing dish of the evening. Tasteless, one note boring. Sigh.
what I learned: to trust my initial gut feeling–simply because the ingredients were expensive (cod and crab alone were over $20) a fantastic dish does not make. I feared it would be a dog at some point…which is odd when referring to fish, but you know what I mean.

Here. $20 bucks of quality seafood…and nearly $20 for the cazuelas I bought to serve them from. Well, the cazuelas will be used again, for sures.

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Almond Cake with Chocolate Ganache
-a standard dessert, though the interior cake was almost like marzipan from the extra soaking of the rum syrup which infused it. Delicious. Big hit.
-what I learned: the ganache was spot on, though it didn’t need to be as thick as it was on the top. A niggling point, I know, but part of the path to pastry perfection.

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