Event Planning: Spanish Tapas Night
Planning fun ways to gather friends together is one of my favorite things to do. So, when my friend Caroline suggested to me that we throw a dinner party for our friends before we left for college, I was all over it. This summer I became obsessed with both Spain and simply the idea of tapas, so it seemed only fitting that our theme would be "A Night in Barcelona." With dressy attire, candles, and vibrantly colored flowers, Caroline's porch was transformed into a Barcelonan restaurant for the evening.
In order to allow us time to finish preparing the meal, we made a spread of appetizers to tide everyone over until the tapas were ready to come out. In keeping with traditional Barcelona culture, our dinner did not start until 8:30 PM so something to munch on between was definitely necessary.
Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
Because hummus is a dish that appears on just about every tapas menu in Barcelona, the inclusion of this dish in our tapas night was a no brainer. With pita and raw veggies for dipping, this hummus was a total hit.
2 cans chickpeas
1/4 cup tahini paste
3/4 cup roasted red peppers
2 tbs olive oil (add more if needed)
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
2 gloves of garlic
1/2 tsp of salt
1 tsp Tony's Cajun seasoning (or paprika)
1/4 cayenne or crushed red pepper (optional, to taste)
Simply mix all of these ingredients up in a food processor until the hummus is smooth but still thick. Serve with breads, crackers, or veggies.
**While the hummus was our main appetizer, we also included cheeses, crackers, and a fig jam to the platter to provide alternative options to the hummus.
While we were still busy roasting and sauteing some of our dishes, we brought out another appetizer: tomato gazpacho. This was a great addition to our appetizer menu because it's so simply to prep beforehand and stick in your fridge until you are ready to serve it.
6-7 small to medium sized tomatoes
1/2 small cucumber, chopped
1 glove garlic
2 tbs white wine vinegar
3 tbs olive oil
1/2 green onion
1 tsp Tony's Cajun Seasoning
Salt and black pepper (to taste)
Mix all of the ingredients into a blender, stopping to stir as needed.
Stop blender when mixture is of your desired consistency.
Set soup in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.
Pour soup into bowls and top it with some more olive oil and the other half of the cucumber or cilantro.
Main Course Tapas
In Spain, traditional tapas are simply just brought out as they are ready. So, in keeping with that custom (and because we were scrambling to finish everything) we just brought each of these out as they were done, giving people time to try all the different flavors rather than making it "buffet style."
Sweet Potato Bravas
Although bravas are typically fried potatoes, we decided to do a healthier (and easier) roasted version of this traditional Spanish. Although the combination of pesto and sweet potato sounds odd at first, it is truly a match made in heaven.
2 sweet potatoes
Avocado or olive oil
1 container of pesto (you can also make this homemade but we didn't to save time)
Spices (to taste)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Warm a washed sweet potato in the microwave for about 1 minute so that it is a little softer.
Cut the sweet potato into cubes. (We left the skin on.)
Put the potatoes in a bowl and coat them in a little avocado oil, Tony's seasoning, salt, pepper, crushed red pepper, and oregano.
Set them in the oven on a baking sheet. Cook for 20-30 minutes in the oven until they are crispy. Flip them midway through.
Heat up the pesto sauce in a skillet or microwave.
Plate the sweet potatoes and spread the heated pesto on top.
While our original plan was to make shrimp empanadas, after a few issues we experienced with the empanada dough, we decided to just make the filling a dish of its own. In this process, my friend Caroline experimented with the ingredients we had on hand and made a pretty incredible dish of sautéed shrimp and veggies.
24 oz of small shrimp, pre-cooked**
3 cups spinach
2 cups of broccoli
1 cup of mushrooms
1 small white onion, chopped
3 tbs white wine vinegar
1 clove of garlic finely chopped
3/4 cup cilantro
Butter (vegan or regular)
Crushed red pepper (to taste)
Salt and pepper (to taste)
Sauté the chopped onion in a large pan over medium heat with white wine vinegar until it begins to become clear.
Add some butter or vegan butter to the pan.
Once the butter is melted, add the shrimp to the pan as well as the spinach, broccoli, mushrooms, cilantro, and garlic.
Once ingredients look slightly browned after a few minutes and the vegetables are soft, turn off the heat and add spices (to taste). Enjoy!
**If you are using shrimp that has not been pre-cooked, allow extra time for the shrimp to cook with the onion, butter, and white wine vinegar before adding any vegetables.
Pretty simple but an all time favorite. Easy addition if you're wanting to add in something green!
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Cut brussels sprouts in half and put them on baking sheet. Drizzle with salt, pepper, and avocado oil.
Cook the brussels sprouts for around 20-30 minutes until they are soft and crispy.
Drizzle more olive oil over them before serving.
This dish is a staple in almost every traditional Spanish restaurant and could honestly not be an easier item to add to the menu for this event. Ready in just minutes, this is the perfect last minute addition to any dinner party.
1 loaf of your favorite freshly baked bread
3 medium sized tomatoes
1 clove chopped garlic
2 tbs olive oil
salt and pepper (to taste)
Wrap bread in foil and place into the oven on the broil setting in order to get it warm and crispy.
Put the tomato, chopped garlic, and olive oil into a blender and blend until clumpy (not soup-like).
Add salt and pepper to the mixture to taste.
Take the bread from the oven, slice it, and spread the tomato jam on top.
Although we had hopes and dreams of making some delicious churros to fit right in with our theme, when it came down to it, we didn't want to spend more time that night making sure the churros were cooking properly than with our friends. So, fondue was the next best thing!
Such a simple way to finish off a heavy meal. It also takes minimal time to make!
2 bags of dark chocolate
2 tbs coconut oil
fruit (sliced banana, berries, apples, etc)
Put a pot over medium heat. Once warm, add the coconut oil and then slowly add the chocolate chips while stirring.
Continue stirring the chocolate in the pan until it becomes thin and runny. At this point, turn the stove off and transfer the mixture to another bowl.
Bring out the chocolate mixture with the fruit and fondue away!
Although this event seems to be over-the-top and expensive, it was actually ended up being less than $100 for all of the food and decorations for 11 people (with lots of leftovers after as well). I know that if we had had a big dinner at a restaurant instead the cost would have doubled per person. And, I think the fact that all of the dishes and decorations were our ideas made this event a much more special and personalized last big meal together.
One thing I learned throughout my first large scale dinner party planning experience was that it was so much more important to spend time with the friends who were there than spend all my time in the kitchen. Yes, it is totally fine to be finishing up some dishes while people are munching on appetizers, but all in all, it means so much more to be present than to make some last minute churros or empanadas that would take away a half hour of time away from your friends (two dishes that were on the menu but were taken off very last minute). Just prep as much as you can and try to do as much as you can of the rest. It is sometimes just necessary to let go of the fact that everything will turn out as you imagined it in your head.
That being said, whether you are wanting to prep a full scale dinner party menu inspired by Spanish tapa dishes or you are simply just looking for some plant-based dinner recipes, I hope that I hope that this post gives you some guidance!