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By Penelope Casas
ISBN: 0307265528
Publisher: Knopf
Format: Hardcover
List price: $30 
Type: Single Subject: Tapas/Appetizers; Regional/Ethnic: Spanish
Sample recipe: Potato, Chorizo, and Vegetable Omelet (Tortilla Torcal)
Intended audience: novice advanced beginner good home cook gourmet professional
Apparent goal: stocking stuffer sampler comprehensive coffee-table Biblical stature
Competition: outclassed follower in the pack strong challenger likely champ
Variety: too little too much unusual nice mix just right
# of recipes: <50 <100 <200 <300 ≥300
Practical recipes: <20% <40% <60% <80% ≥80%
# of ingredients: ≤4 ≤7 ≤10 ≤12 >12
Ingredient hunt: 7-Eleven airfare required online pantry supermarket
Recipe complexity: too hard simple medium challenging professional
Instructions: inadequate verbose bare-bones full-figured educational
Time conscious: unconscious outright lies white lies realistic honorable
Cooking time: weekend project takes all day takes time ≥30 minutes <30 minutes
Added info: zip overwhelming scant balanced generous
Photos/drawings: none distracting decorative instructive glorious
Recipe results: ≤dorm food casual food family meals fancy food fit for royalty
Nutritional info: none overwhelming hit or miss adequate comprehensive
Tone: food police intense neutral supportive comforting
Result: guilt-inducing heavy-handed balanced encouraging inspiring
Format/Ease of Use
Layout: ugh cluttered fine considerate work of art
Legibility: unpleasant challenging tolerable clear brilliant
Production quality: cheesy dubious years of service gift quality stunning
Page numbers: non-existent hard-to-find spotty sufficient every page
Table of contents: AWOL frustrating passable useful excellent
Index quality: none tragic adequate good a treasure
Page flipping: upsetting tedious acceptable rare never
Writer: beginner food writer writing cook personality auteur
Cook: unknown self-taught chef teacher celebrity
Fulfills ambitions: falls short almost there satisfactory exceeds home run
Flavor delivered: sad inconsistent tasty delicious exceptional
Overall tone: sterile trying too hard straightforward best friend mom
Value: ouch! a little pricey worth splurging on the money a deal
Overall rating: skip it good very good excellent Ochef Top 100

Comments: Not a book for the faint of heart, Tapas is great if you love reading cookbooks to gain more cooking information. If you want to cook these dishes, though, you'll need a commitment!

These little Spanish dishes that we can't exactly call appetizers require many, many ingredients – often in small quantity and often hard to come by – and lots of time to prepare (in general). There is a small section of banderillas that you can whip together, stab with a toothpick, and serve, but the majority of recipes are quite involved.

This book is a rewrite of Ms. Casas' original book on tapas – now more than 20 years old – and includes 50 new recipes that reflect some of the culinary innovations that have swept Spain in the meantime, and include Fried Goat Cheese with Onion Confit (the cover photograph), Chicken Terriyaki with Arugula Toasts, and Beer-Marinated Chicken Wings with Salsa Brava. The book is divided into four sections: tapas in sauce; cold tapas, involving marinades, pates, salads, etc.; tapas with bread or pastry; and tapas that require some last-minute preparation. There is a wonderful little section at the back offering menu suggestions for tapas-based meals, including an after-theater tapas party, a vegetarian dinner, an Andalusian party, etc. There is also a small dictionary of Spanish foods and cookware and a list of sources of Spanish products in this country. Happy hunting!

There are many variations on similar themes – 15 ways to stuff mushrooms, a zillion recipes on puff pastry, etc. There are also some pretty challenging tasks (cutting a log of goat cheese into 1/8-inch slices, for example).

Still, if you are smitten by the preparation, serving, and eating of appetizer-like foods (as we are), you'll love the book. You may need a little fortitude (we are currently building up the courage to make our next dinner party a tapas-only affair), but you'll love the book.


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