My introduction to tapas was not by visiting Spain but by a book given to me one Christmas, Tapas: The Little Dishes of Spain, by Penelope Casas. I pored over the recipes and pictures, and have referred to it many time over the years. My first success was Casas’ recipe for sauteed chickpeas – it was easy and really delicious.
I hosted a tapas party once and had an ambitious menu using recipes from this cookbook. I made creamed blue cheese with brandy, spicy olives, sauteed mushrooms, stuffed dates, patatas bravas (not a success), fried salted almonds, an omelet, cauliflower salad, and shrimp in garlic sauce. We had toasted bread rubbed with garlic and tomato, of course. I enjoyed the process of cooking though it was too much for one person. My friends Colleen and Luisa saved the day by finishing up the sangria and cutting up endless loaves of bread.
I finally made it to Spain and tasted tapas in their element – what a treat! Ms. Casas’ book gave me a good idea of what to expect, and I enjoyed going to a couple of tapas bars to try new things. I have read her other books on Spanish cooking but I will always treasure my copy of The Little Dishes of Spain.
Sadly Penelope Casas died last week at the age of 70. She introduced the American public to Spanish foods, and was considered the authority on the subject. Her obituary was published in the New York Times. Thank you for enriching my culinary life, Ms. Casas.