One of my favorite chefs on the Asian Food Channel is Anna Olson. It’s not just because I met her during her visits to the Philippines and found her very personable; it’s also because her TV shows “Fresh,” “Sugar” and “Bake with Anna Olson” are all very informative and helpful.
Anna teaches viewers how to prepare delightful meals without fanfare or gimmicks, yet her warm and friendly demeanor encourages home cooks to try the recipes themselves.
Several weeks ago, Anna showed how to prepare Spanish tapas—bite-size morsels of food served as appetizers or meal starters. The tapas all looked so tempting that I felt compelled to try the recipes at once. However, since they seemed so festive, I decided to wait instead for a special occasion.
The occasion presented itself a few weeks ago when a group of Baguio friends and I were invited to spend a weekend in Caliraya, Laguna, by our dear friends Estee and Peter Wallace. In their beautiful private resort called The Sanctuary, the meals are always fabulous, what with Estee doing most of the cooking.
That weekend, though, we tried to give Estee a helping hand by preparing a few of the dishes ourselves. For Sunday lunch, while Estee roasted a rack of lamb and Lupe prepared gazpacho and sangria, Vichie, Chita, Christine, Mayette and I cooked seafood paella. It was, finally, also the perfect occasion to make the Spanish tapas which Anna featured in her show: Manchego Cheese with Roasted Peppers; and Dates stuffed with Chorizo.
As soon as all the dishes were ready, Estee set the table by the grassy knoll overlooking the lake. Everything was delicious, including the tapas. With their contrasting textures and the intermingling of the sweet, salty and savory flavors, they were every bit as delectable as I imagined them to be.
(Anna Olson’s shows are aired on the Asian Food Channel. Check daily listings for the schedule.)
with Roasted Peppers
250 g Manchego cheese
1 small can (around 125 g) roasted peppers
If desired, remove the rind from the Manchego cheese. Cut into 1-inch cubes. Slice the peppers into 2-inch pieces. Thread a piece of pepper into a cocktail toothpick, leaving one side dangling. Thread a cube of Manchego cheese into the same toothpick. Fold the dangling side of the pepper over the cheese. Arrange on platters and serve.
150 g Spanish chorizo (cooked, see tips)
500 g or two 250-g packs dried dates
Slice the chorizo diagonally into pieces about ¼-½ inch thick. Heat in the microwave for about 30 seconds, if desired. Cut open the dates vertically and remove the seeds. Stuff each date with a slice of chorizo. Put a cocktail toothpick over the dates and chorizo to hold them together. Arrange on a serving platter and serve.
Manchego cheese is available in specialty shops and delicatessens. When you buy it, ask if the shop can already cut it into cubes for you. This will save you a lot of time later on when assembling the tapas.
In her show, Anna Olson used Medjool dates, which are large, delicate and exceptionally sweet dates. They’re sometimes available in some of Manila’s delis, but if you can’t find them (or if they’re too expensive), you can substitute other types of dried dates.
For the chorizo, buy the cooked, firm ones so they don’t disintegrate when you slice them.
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