Tapas Tour in Tampa

After receiving a quite beautiful “cesta de navidad”, or Christmas chest of goodies from my school, full of no less than four bottles of wine (two red, two fizzy rose), a bottle of whiskey, chorizo, white asparagus, pate, nuts, chocolate, turron (almond candy, typical for christmas), polvorones, and all other products necessary to make this holiday season intoxicating and ham-filled, I decided to bring what I could smuggle through customs home to the USA to introduce my mom to some of the magical wonders of Spanish food.

My Christmas loot, compliments of the school I work at 🙂

So to make the Spanish tapas experience truly special (in the past, I’ve cooked tortilla, garbanzos, ensalada campera, and a number of other Spanish foods for my family), I decided to make a few additional plates:

– Champiñones rellenos de chorizo a la plancha / Sauteed mushrooms stuffed with chorizo

– Ensalada con queso de cabra con salsa de vinagre balsamico reducido / Warm goat cheese salad with balsamic reduction dressing

– Papas arrugadas con mojo picón / “Wrinkled” potatoes with spicy mojo sauce

– Gambas al ajillo / Shrimp in garlic and olive oil

Since I never do food posts, here’s the recipes I made with a couple special adaptations. They’re all pretty easy, you can try them at home!

1. Champiñones rellenos de chorizo a la plancha / Sauteed mushrooms stuffed with chorizo

Stuffed mushrooms

  • INGREDIENTS: Button mushrooms, chorizo, lemon juice, fresh parsley, smoked paprika (pimentón), salt, pepper
  • First, clean mushrooms and carefully separate the stems from the caps. Set aside the caps and sprinkle with some lemon juice to prevent them from getting brown.
  • Stuffing: Chop the stems finely, and heat about 2 tbsp of olive oil in a sautee pan. Add some chopped garlic, and add the chopped mushroom chunks until golden. Add in finely chopped chorizo towards the end so that it doesn’t get too crispy. Season with a bit of smoked paprika, a pinch of salt (the chorizo gives it a lot already, be careful), pepper and freshly cut parsley. Set mixture aside.
  • In the same pan, add a little more olive oil if necessary, and place mushroom caps opening side down and cook until the bottoms turn dark brown or black. Carefully flip them over, and as the top of the cap cooks, fill with mushroom stem/chorizo/garlic mixture. Remove to serving platter and sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley.

2. Ensalada con queso de cabra con salsa de vinagre balsamico reducido / Warm goat cheese salad with balsamic reduction dressing

(Okay, this isn’t REALLY Spanish, but I always make it in Spain, so it counts, right??)

  • INGREDIENTS: Goat cheese (works best if it comes in a roll and you can just cut round slices, about 1/2 inch thick), italian bread crumbs (if you’re feeling spicy, you can even combine with or use panko breadcrumbs too), 2 egg whites, 2 tbsp butter, 2 tbsp olive oil, a good mixture of greens (I like arugula and Spinach, or a nice Spring mix), about 1 cup of balsamic vinegar, vidalia onion, dried cranberries, carrot slices, chopped walnuts
  • Warm goat cheese rounds: Slice goat cheese into pieces about 1/2 inch thick. Beat two egg whites with about 2 tbsp of water. Place breadcrumbs in a bowl. Pass goat cheese through egg white wash and coat in breadcrumbs. Place on a plate and put in fridge for about 15 minutes before you are ready to cook them. When the salad is about ready to be served, combine 2 tbsp of butter and olive oil in a pan and heat until just before smoking. Flash fry goat cheese rounds, careful not to let them melt, and place them on a plate. Top each salad with 2-3 rounds.
  • Balsamic vinegar reduction: Pour balsamic vinegar in a saucepan and heat to high. Whisk briskly, even before it starts boiling, and keep going through the whole process. Though it naturally sweetens, you can throw in a tablespoon of white sugar. When the vinegar begins to take on a syrupy quality, remove from heat and let cool. CAREFUL: Don’t overcook it or it will turn into sticky, tar-like molasses. Also, be careful to open lots of windows and turn on some fans, or your kitchen will smell like a meth lab. Though I’ve never smelled a meth lab, I have to imagine this is what it’s like.
  • Assemble the salad: Arrange greens in a bowl and toss with some slices of vidalia onion, carrot (cut on a bias looks beautiful!), dried cranberries, chopped walnuts, and whatever else you’d like… I like to play around with the sweet flavors, so you can also add apple or pear slices. Serve on each plate and top with 2-3 goat cheese rounds, drizzle with balsamic vinegar reduction and some olive oil, add some salt and pepper if necessary and dig in!

3. Papas arrugadas con mojo picón / “Wrinkled” potatoes with spicy mojo sauce

So, this one didn’t turn out quite as good as I hoped because getting the potatoes properly “wrinkled” is an art unto itself. This is a specialty from the canaries that I still have yet to master, or try in its original place, but I first tried them at my dear friend Miguel’s house in Alcalá de Henares, and Rolando passed me the recipe. Roughly.

I’m going to write the recipe here that I found on this website and hope that it even comes close to what they should have tasted like. Though mine turned out okay, there’s definitely room for improvement. Also, the recipe for mojo that Rolando sent me is best made after observed, so if you really want to try Miguel’s authentic recipe, let me know and I’ll try and communicate it to you properly.

Don’t be scared of how much salt is in here, most of it is dumped out towards the end leaving just enough to make the skin wrinkly and delicious.

Ingredients for the potatoes:

  • 2 pounds of small potatoes (either red/new or creamers or a mixture of both)
  • water
  • 2 to 3 cups of coarse salt

Ingredients for the mojo picón:

  • 1 to 2 cloves garlic, minced and smashed into a paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 small to medium red pepper, roasted, skin removed and deseeded
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika (pimenton)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup of olive oil
  • 3 teaspoons of sherry vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • Make the potatoes: Boil enough water to hold the potatoes and add the salt. When the water comes to a boil, add the potatoes and allow to cook uncovered for 20 minutes. After the potatoes have cooked for 20 minutes, drain the excess water and put the potatoes back in the dry pan and turn the heat on up to medium – high.  Allow the potatoes to “dry” the excess water off in the hot pan.  Swirl the pan around so that the potatoes don’t stick.  Do this for about five minutes.  You should see the potato skins get a white film on them and the skin will wrinkle a bit.
  • Make the mojo picón: Add all ingredients except the olive oil into a food processor or blender.  With the motor going, slowly add the olive oil and taste for seasonings. Add more seasoning if you like it more acidic, or more olive oil if it’s a little too spicy.

4. Gambas al ajillo / Shrimp in garlic and olive oil

There is hardly an easier dish to make, even for the culinarily incompetent, than this staple of so many restaurants and bars of Spain. This is usually cooked in a medium-sized, shallow casserole dish. Start with raw, small-medium sized shrimp, peeled, and cook in garlic and red-pepper infused oil. Essential is some nice crusty bread to soak up all that goodness after the shrimp is gone!!!!


  • 1 1/2 lbs raw medium shrimp (peeled)
  • 1/2 a cup of olive oil
  • 5-6 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
  • 1 tbsp (or more!) of red pepper flakes
  • 3 tbsp white wine
  • Make the shrimp: In a shallow casserole dish or sautee pan, heat oil to low-medium heat and add garlic and red pepper flakes. Allow that to infuse the oil (careful not to burn it!) for 20-25 minutes. In about 20 minutes, in a separate pan, add some of your infused garlic and throw the shrimps in. Pour in the white wine (sizzleeeee) and allow it to cook down, constantly moving shrimp so as to cook evenly. Add shrimp to oil in casserole dish and when they are pink and cooked through, serve immediately.

The finished product, complete with some chorizo and white asparagus.

All of this we served with a nice bottle of Rioja red wine and finished off with turrón for dessert (and some of my mom’s homemade chocolate chip cookies… yesss). Thanks to Jen for the lovely plate arranging and gracious food sampling! 🙂

With my sous-chef Jes and taste tester Jillian.


4 thoughts on “Tapas Tour in Tampa

  1. Thanks for the link and your comment on our site. Totally envious of your chest of Spanish loot! Probably my favorite item to smuggle back from Spain is canned seafood. Sure, you can buy it in specialty stores here but when a small can of razor clams are $18, I’m happy to bring back a stash on the sly through customs. I should also say that next time we visit Spain we’ll be bringing back a suitcase full of dry ñora peppers, a few jars of guindillas and (if we can find them) a packet or two of seeds to grow our own pimentos de padron. Some things you just can’t buy over here no matter how much you spend! Great blog!


  2. And also, that is totally 100% my old Barnie’s apron from back in the day that Jes is wearing. I’m honored; first she picks my nose, then she wears my clothes? XD


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