Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | June 6, 2019

The Wonderful World of Tapas

By Ernest Barteldes


Tapas at LaFlor in Malaga (Ernest Barteldes)

The idea of small plates – except in one bizarre case in Philadelphia several years ago – is quite appealing to me, and that grew after Renata and I visited several tapas restaurants here in New York and even more following our vacation in Malaga, Spain.

Tapas (which literally translates as “cover” or “lid”) are basically any kind of food served in small plates, not only food from Spain – so anything can be called “tapas,” even pizza – as long as it’s served in small portions. You can have them to accompany a drink or just make a meal out of them by ordering several servings. At home, I often prepare several small dishes for lunch on weekends instead of making one big filling meal, combining them wherever inspiration carries me.


More Tapas from Cafeteria La Flor (Ernest Barteldes)

During our stay in Spain, we sometimes opted to have a tapas dinner instead of ordering a full three-course meal because it gave us the opportunity to sample several different dishes at one time. Sure, there were times we went for paella or other traditional meal, but what we mostly did was tapas at Cafeteria La Flor, a family coffee shop down the street from our hotel and also at a tapas bar in downtown Malaga called Jamones – a wordplay between the word “jamon”(ham)  and the Queens punk band “Ramones,” whose logo they borrow from for their restaurant. We also went on a guided tapas tour, when we visited several small restaurants around town and sampled countless tastes accompanied by plenty of wine – quite an experience that I really recommend if any of my readers visit the city, which is also the birthplace of Pablo Picasso and actor Antonio Banderas.

During our visit we stopped at this outdoor market where we found books, videos and many other things – clearly not a tourist trap but a place where locals go, since there was almost nothing printed in another language but Spanish. I picked up two inexpensive cookbooks, one titled “Tapas” and another “Mediterranean Cuisine” (“Cocina mediterránea”), which I have been experimenting with from time to time during our Saturday afternoon lunches, when I try to cook something tasty but at the same time light and satisfying.

Among the dishes I’ve tried are mushrooms cooked in a sherry-based sauce, which I like to pair with sautéed chicken bites with a tangy brown mustard sauce – they are great especially during the hotter days of summer along a nice rosé wine. They also make for great appetizers or simply what they are intended to be – food to go together with drinks.



Mushrooms in Sherry Sauce

(Serves 4)

1 ½ lb. fresh baby Bella mushrooms, washed and sliced

2 medium onions, sliced

Olive oil for frying

Salt and black pepper to taste

1 ½ oz. pine nuts

1 oz. dry sherry

Finely chopped parsley to taste



  1. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and add the onions, stir-frying until golden. Add the mushrooms and continue frying for 8-10 minutes.
  2. In a separate pan, toast the pine nuts until slightly browned, and add to the mushroom mix. Add the sherry and mix well, adding the chopped parsley at the end. Serve warm.


Chicken Breast in Honey Mustard Sauce

(Serves 4)


4 boneless chicken breast halves, cut in bite-size pieces

Salt and black pepper to taste

2 eggs, beaten

2-4 tablespoons flour

1 0z. honey

1 tablespoon brown (Dijon) mustard

2 teaspoons sherry vinegar


  1. Place the pieces of chicken in a bowl and add salt and pepper to taste, covering them well. Add the beaten eggs and add the flour, covering the pieces well on all sides
  2. Heat a pan with olive oil and fry the pieces for about 15 minutes, making sure they’re done on all sides and remove from heat
  3. Mix the vinegar, honey and mustard until well blended, and serve as a dip with the chicken


Source: Comer & Disfrutar: Tapas, translated from Spanish by Ernest Barteldes


  1. I’m a huge fan of small plates. Gigantic plates of food are off putting for me. I went to Keen’s Steak House, they brought out this humongous rib eye and I could hardly eat anything. I took most of my steak and baked potato home in a takeaway bag. Little plates with lovely tasty items is the way to go for me. Often my wife and I will got for Thai and have just appetizers for dinner because we can have a little of 3 or 4 great things. Yay for Tapas! Nice read Ernest…

    • Thanks David. So I guess you would not be a candidate for that Steak challenge down in Texas… the one you eat like a starving man and if you finish within 2 hours the meal is free?

  2. […] Like I said before, tapas can be anything you want – they are not appetizers for two reasons: they do not come before any meal, and considering that in some places appetizers “to share” can be as big as a meal (looking at you, Applebee’s), I wouldn’t say they’d qualify. A couple of sliders? Absolutely.  A few mini-pizzas (also known as pizette)?  No problem at all. […]

  3. […] recently wrote two short articles on how enamored I am of the tapas culture of Spain, but to be true that nation does not hold a […]

  4. […] end result was shrimp very similar to what I encountered in our favorite tapas bars in Malaga – the paprika adds flavor and color, and the sauce goes great with a side of yellow […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: