Tapas party - some light assembly required

Every one enjoys a good cocktail party.  I have the perfect party for some one with limited cooking skills, a tight budget, and little time to prepare for it.  A tapas party is something that any one can do.  

Tapas are small appetizers that are served in most Spanish taverns.  They can be served hot or cold, and are as simple as an open faced sandwich, cheese plate or marinated olives.

The menu I have in mind is one that the host only has to assemble.  There will be no cooking involved.  We will work up three different tapas and make a pitcher of peach sangria.  It will be a delicious menu yet require little effort or money.  The best part is when your guest arrive all of your work will be done, and you can enjoy the party.

The first thing is to offer marinated olives.  They come in many flavors and sometimes are stuffed with blue cheese or herbs. You can find them in the deli section of most grocery stores.  Please do not purchase olives in a can.  They are not the same quality or flavor.  Typically, Kroger, Fresh Market, and Whole Foodsåç have the best selection of marinated olives.  You will need about a pint for 12 guests. Just place the olives in a nice bowl, and they are ready to serve.

The next idea is to offer a simple open face sandwich of manchego cheese, serano ham and a slice of roasted red pepper on a toasted baguette round.  If you have a hard time finding the serano ham one can simply substitute perschutto.   They are similar in flavor and texture.

You will need about 24 slices of serano ham (you will find this in the deli section)
2 pounds of manchego cheese sliced
24 rounds of toasted baguette rounds (you can find the pretoasted and ready to go)
2 jars of roasted red peppers (this should be found next to pasta sauces)

The next idea is to do a simple Spanish cheese tray of half a pound each of Manchego, Cabrales blue cheese, and Arzolla Ulloa.  The mixture of cheeses will appeal to a variety of palettes.  Manchego is a soft, crumbly cheese that has a nice buttery and nutty flavor.  Cabrales blue cheese is very similar to gorgonzola blues cheese with its strong and tangy flavor.  Arzua Ulloa is a milder cheese and at room temperature is almost spread able. You will want to set your cheeses out at least thirty minutes before your guests arrive.  Cheeses are more flavorful when they have warmed up to room temperature.

It is also a good idea to offer some gourmet crackers and grapes with the cheese platter.    The saltiness of the crackers will amplify the flavors of the cheese. The grapes will contrast with the savory cheeses and supply you with a nice garnish too. All you need is two bundles of green grapes and rest them around the perimeter of the tray.

Sangria is probable the most well known drink from Spain.  It can be made with red or white wine, and usually is concocted with a wide variety of fruits.  My version of sangria is simple and refreshing.  This recipe requires few ingredients and utilizes the peaches which are at the their peak of flavor right now!

Peach Sangria
1 bottle of Pinot Grigio chilled
1 cup of Peach Nectar
3 fresh peaches pealed, sliced, and pitted

Combine all of the ingredients in a pitcher and chill in the refrigerator.  A good way to keep Sangria cold longer is to place the peach slices in a single layer on a cookie sheet and freeze them solid.  It takes about 45 minutes to an hour for the slices to freeze. Then add them to the sangria when you are ready to serve.

This is really a fun and easy party to do. Your guest will think that you are a talented and worldly cook, and in reality it required no cooking at all.  The best part is you can pull this party together with a short trip to the grocery store, a stop by the wine store, and very little expense to you!

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