Home Food Spanish tapas make good appetizers

Spanish tapas make good appetizers

Spanish tapas (Flickr/Xosé Castro Roig/https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/)

Shabbat Shalom! The High Holidays are fast approaching so for next few weeks the focus will be on recipes that could be served for holiday dinners and lunches.

This week, we have some kosher-style Spanish dishes and the Millennial Spotlight is on Monica Shver, 25, a software developer who loves to bake.

I came back from Spain a week ago and I really like the Spanish style of small plates or tapas. Although the country is famous for its ham, I was surprised by how much the tapas menus were dominated by fresh vegetables and fish.

The Spaniards consume a lot of smoked salmon and white cheese, but they’re not eating bagels yet. I travelled with my sister and one of our favourite places in Madrid is called Mercado San Miguel. It’s a 100-year-old market that was converted to small stations or kiosks that mainly sell local delicacies. Everything is under one roof like an elegant food court.

It’s amazing how many items were not traife. Nothing was glatt kosher of course, but there were many dishes made of white cheese, cod fish, salmon and avocado.

A popular kiosk at San Miguel prepared olive snacks. Basically large olives were pitted and stuffed with white cheese and smoked salmon. That’s a nice luncheon tidbit that’s easy to prepare. One could also buy skewers of stuffed olives.

When we were in Seville, we ate at the vegetarian kiosk at the Mercado Lonja del Barranco, a place similar in style to the Mercado San Miguel. Basically the dish I tried was a cracker topped with thinly sliced grilled zucchini, a semi-soft cheese and some caramelized onion jam. It was simple, but delicious and easy to replicate. The presentation was terrific and that was the case of so many of the tapas.

The most common item you see at every restaurant and breakfast buffet is the tortilla Española or tortilla de patatas. In English, people call it Spanish omelet and it’s a cross between a latke and a potato kugel. The Spaniards eat it at room temperature.

I think the dish tastes best piping hot with sour cream. I made it for my kids and it was a real hit. The tortilla can be served without sour cream as an alternative to potato kugel at a holiday supper.

Tortilla de Patata (Barbara Silverstein photo)


The following recipe by Daniel Gritzer is from the site, Serious Eats. It calls for two cups of olive oil, but Gritzer says that since much of its flavour is infused when the onions and potatoes are fried, a less expensive oil can be used. My advice would be to use one cup of olive oil and one cup of canola or grape seed oil.


8 large eggs

Kosher salt

475ml (2 cups) extra-virgin olive oil

700g (1½) lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, halved, and thinly sliced crosswise

350g (¾ lb) yellow onions, thinly sliced


In a large bowl, beat the eggs vigorously with a large pinch of salt until frothy. Set them aside.

Meanwhile, in a 10-inch nonstick or well-seasoned carbon steel skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add potatoes and onions. They should gently (but not vigorously) bubble in the oil. Regulating heat to maintain a gentle bubbling, cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes and onions are tender, about 25 minutes. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a heatproof bowl and drain the potatoes and onions of excess oil. Reserve the oil.

Transfer the potatoes and onions to a medium heatproof bowl and season generously with salt, stirring well to combine. Beat eggs vigorously to re-froth, then scrape potato and onion in and stir until thoroughly until they are combined. Set aside for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, wipe out skillet. Add 45ml (3 tbsp) reserved frying oil to the skillet and set it over medium-high heat until the oil is shimmering. Scrape egg mixture into the skillet and cook, swirling and shaking the pan rapidly, until the bottom and sides begin to set, about 3 minutes. Using a heatproof spatula, press the edges in to begin to form the tortilla’s puck shape. Continue to cook, adjusting the heat to prevent the bottom of the tortilla from burning, until it begins to set around the edges, about 3 minutes longer.

Working over a sink or garbage can, place a large overturned flat plate or lid on top of the skillet, set a hand on top (using a dish towel if you are sensitive to heat), and, in one very quick motion, invert the tortilla onto it. Add 15 ml or 1 more tbsp of the reserved oil to the skillet and return to the heat. Carefully slide the tortilla back into skillet and continue to cook until second side is beginning to firm up, about 2 minutes. Use a rubber spatula to press the sides in all around to maintain the rounded puck shape. Continue to cook the tortilla until it is lightly browned on the second side but still tender in the centre when pressed with a finger, about 2 minutes longer.

If desired, you can flip the tortilla 2 to 3 more times during these last minutes of cooking, which helps to cook the centre more evenly and reinforce the shape.

Carefully slide the tortilla out of the skillet onto a clean plate (or invert it onto a clean plate using the same method as before) and let it stand at least 5 minutes before serving. The tortilla can be cut into wedges for a larger meal or into cubes for an hors d’oeuvre–sized snack. The leftover tortilla can be refrigerated up to 3 days.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.





60 ml (¼ cup) extra-virgin olive oil

3 large sweet onions, cut into ¼-inch dice

2 parsley sprigs

2 bay leaves

1 rosemary sprig

200 g (1 cup) sugar

180 ml (¾ cup) white balsamic vinegar



In a large pot, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the onions and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until they’re golden brown, about 15 minutes.

Tie the parsley, bay leaves and rosemary together with kitchen twine. Add the herb bundle to the diced onions and cook over low heat, stirring a few times, until they are fragrant, about 3 minutes.

Sprinkle the sugar over the onions and cook, without stirring, until the sugar melts, about 5 minutes. Increase the heat to high and cook, without stirring, until an amber-brown caramel forms, about 6 minutes. Add the white balsamic vinegar and simmer over low heat, stirring a few times, until the jam is thick, about 5 minutes. Discard the herb bundle. Season the jam with salt and let it cool to warm.

The jam can be kept refrigerated for 5 days.

Monica Shver


Monica Shver, 25, is a software developer who loves to bake. She graduated from the University of Toronto with a computer science degree two years ago and today she works at Shopify.

Last year, Shver completed a self-published book of baking recipes. She actually compiled her mother’s and grandmother’s recipes. “I started four years ago.”

“My mom (Evelyn Shver) always had a book of collected recipes. She would say, ‘Oh I wish I had a nice book with all my recipes. If you lose the book, you lose the recipes.’ ”

Shver, the fourth of five children, recalls baking as a very young child.

“An Easy-Bake oven was given to me as a Chanukah gift. Baking was always part of my life. I just grew up with it…I would always bake with my mother. I was rolling out hamentashen dough every year…”

“Everyone always asked me to teach them how to bake. I slowed down in university.”

Her book, Cut the S- -t Straight Baking: A No BS Cookbook, was not designed for mass production. It’s an on-demand-order book and so far only 20 copies have been printed.

One of those copies was purchased by my son, Matthew. I said to him, “What’s with the title, ‘Cut the —-‘?”

His response was, “What do you expect, Mom? She’s a millennial.”

I asked Shver about the title and she said the recipes you find online are very irritating. “You get a whole novel before you get to the recipes.”

That I understand, because I also get annoyed by multiple shots of basically the same picture and all the other preamble before you can get to the recipe.

I suggested that Shver take out some of the letters or a certain word in the title if she wants wider sales. She said her mother’s copy is called, The Shver Cookbook.

Shver said she’s more of a baker than a cook. “Growing up, the Internet had thousands of recipes. There were always new things I wanted to try. The recipes are adapted from what I saw on YouTube.”

“Baking is also very scientific.”

On Rosh Hashanah, her family always has apple pie. “I’m normally in charge of making dessert and I’m in charge of making the challah.”

She said her chocolate cake recipe is a family favourite, as is her mother’s Cranberry Almond Shortbread.

Chocolate cake (Monica Shver photo)



200 g (1¾ cup) all-purpose flour

90 g (¾ cup) cocoa powder

10 g (2 tsp) baking soda

5 g (1 tsp) salt

180 g (1½ cups) granulated sugar

2 eggs

125 ml (½ cup) vegetable oil

250 ml (1 cup) buttermilk

10 g (2 tsp) vanilla extract

250 ml (1 cup) hot coffee


215 ml (1¼ c) whipping cream

345 g (12 oz) semisweet chocolate


To make the frosting, place the whipping cream into a small saucepan and heat until cream is simmering. Pour cream over chocolate and let sit for 1 minute. Whisk until chocolate is completely melted. Cool mixture in fridge. Once cooled, whip mixture until light and fluffy. If mixture gets clumpy, add in a teaspoon of whipping cream. Chill until ready to use.

Preheat oven to 177°C (350°F.) Grease two 9″ round cake pans with butter and dust with flour.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, mix sugar, eggs and oil until combined. Add in buttermilk and vanilla extract. Fold in the flour mixture until well combined. Add hot coffee and mix to combine. Pour the batter into the prepared pans. Bake for about 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool cakes completely before removing from the pans.

To assemble the cake, place 1 cake layer on your serving plate. Cover in an even layer of chocolate frosting. Add the second layer of cake. Spread a layer of frosting on top and sides of the cake, and decorate to your liking. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Cranberry almond cookies (Monica Shver photo)



227 g (1 cup ) unsalted soft butter

80 g (½ cup) icing sugar, sifted

180 g (1½ cup) flour

80 g (½ cup) cornstarch

1 egg

100 g (½ cup) brown sugar

120 g (1 cup) flour

120 g (1 cup) chopped almonds

120 g (1 cup) chopped cranberries


Beat butter and sugar until smooth. In a separate bowl, combine flour and cornstarch. Add flour mixture to butter mixture in 3 batches, mixing well each time.

In another bowl, whisk egg and brown sugar. Add in flour, almonds and corn starch, until the ingredients are well combined to form the dough. Divide into two 2-inch x 2-inch x 8inch logs. Wrap dough in wax paper and chill until firm or ready to bake. Cut into ¼ “ slices and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 177°C (350°F) for 18 minutes or until lightly golden.

Share and Enjoy !

57 0 0