Appetizer recipes are very popular right now. This week alone, I have received 30 emails from various people promoting appetizers perfect for “The Big Game.” And I love appetizers, but how many variations of hot wings, artichoke dip, or chili con queso really exist? Recipes associated with Mardi Gras and NOLA are also popular—we’ve been sharing some New Orleans themed recipes here on CHEFS Mix, too.

But I will be having a Mardi Gras celebration later in February, I want something different. My Big Game party this year will be themed around the Spanish influence that exists in NOLA. I am serving Tapas.

Tapas are the heart and soul of Spanish cuisine. Known in bistros as small plates or finger foods, these dishes come in a variety of shapes and forms, and chefs are always looking for cutting-edge ways to put new twists on traditional favorites. If you sample an array of tasting plates in Madrid, you’ll find everything from garlic shrimp and fried squid rings to crusty breads topped with Iberian ham, anchovies and roasted red peppers.

Tapas exist somewhere between appetizers and a main meal. In the past few years, this informal style of dining has found its way into kitchens around America. Tapas are about experimenting and sampling a variety of dishes, and are perfect for my party that will host a number of football loving foodies. I can get away with pub food and queso occasionally, but they want something different, and I am happy to go there.

Tapas are usually pretty easy to prepare. A few fresh ingredients and a bit of time are all that’s needed. The natural flavors of the food are really front and center. If you are looking for a few new recipes to try out on your football crowd, tray a few tapas.

Glazed Meatball Tapas

Glazed Meatball Tapas | CHEFS Mix printer-friendly recipe

1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup ketchup
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup soft bread crumbs
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
3 teaspoons paprika
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound ground chorizo
2 tablespoons olive oil
2-1/2 ounces feta cheese, cut into sixteen cubes

12 ounces orange marmalade
1/4 cup orange juice
3 green onions, finely sliced
1 Serrano pepper, seeded and minced

In a large bowl, combine egg, ketchup, onion, bread crumbs, parsley, paprika, garlic, chorizo and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.  Divide meat mixture into 16 balls. Push a cheese cube into the center of each ball, and seal meat around the cheese.

In a small saucepan, combine marmalade, orange juice, green onions and the pepper. Bring to a simmer.

In a large fry pan or saute pan, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Fry meatballs in batches, 5 to 8 minutes per side until cooked through. Note: If desired, bake meatballs at 400F for 20-25 minutes.

Place meatballs in a serving dish; pour glaze over the top and gently stir to coat. Garnish with extra sliced green onions and chopped Serrano peppers. Yield: 16 meatballs.

Garlic Shrimp Escabèche

Garlic Shrimp Tapas | CHEFS Mix printer-friendly recipe

1 large red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 bay leaves
1 large head of roasted garlic, cloves smashed
2 Serrano chiles, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
Salt and ground pepper to taste
2 pound large shrimp (21/25 count), peeled, leaving tail intact, and deveined


Preheat oven to 400 F. Remove outer peeling on garlic head, but to not break apart cloves. Cut top of grlic head to expose cloves. Drizzle olive oil over the top. Wrap head of garlic in foil or place in garlic roaster, and roast in preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes. Remove roasted cloves and mash. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together vinegar, oregano, salt until salt is dissolved. Add sliced onion and toss to coat. Let stand until ready to use.

In a small sauce pan, simmer oil, bay leaves, garlic, chilies, cumin, mustard and peppercorns in for 10 minutes over medium heat, then let stand until ready to use.

In a medium sauce pan, bring salted water to a boil over medium high heat. Add shrimp and let boil 5 minutes or until shrimp are cooked. Drain and pat shrimp dry. Add shrimp to onion mixture and toss to coat. Pour oil and spices over the top and stir to combine.

Let cool, then cover with plastic wrap or lid and chill in the refrigerator 2 to 4 hours until ready to serve. Shrimp may be served cold or at room temperature.

Stuffed Cucumber Tapas

Stuffed Cucumbers Tapas | CHEFS Mix printer-friendly recipe

2 hothouse cucumbers, peeled if desired
6 to 8 sweet peppers, multi colors
1 green onion
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbles
12  olives
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1-1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
1 tablespoons fresh oregano, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon crushed pepper flakes, optional
salt and pepper to taste


Slice 1 cucumber lengthwise into strips, should make between 8 and 10 long strips. Cut the strips in half. Cut 1/2 of a cucumber into disks, about 18-20. Wrap one strip half around the cucumber disks to create a cup. Secure strip closed with a toothpick or skewer.

Dice 1/2 of a cucumber, sweet peppers, onion and olives. In a mixing bowl whisk together olive oil, vinegar, oregano, pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Add diced vegetables and 2 ounces of the crumbled feta. Toss to combine. Let stand until ready to serve.

Fill each cucumber cup with a heaping tablespoon of pepper mixture. Sprinkle with remaining crumbled feta. Serve immediately.

Stuffed Dates Tapas

Stuffed Dates Tapas | CHEFS Mix printer-friendly recipe

24 pitted dates
24 roasted almonds
1/3 lb blue cheese
12 slices jamon Serrano (Spanish prosciutto) or bacon, cut in half

Preheat broiler to high. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray or use a nonstick baking sheet.

Slice into each date to create a pocket. Place a bit of blue cheese and an almond inside each date.  Wrap each date with a of Jamon Serrano.  Place on baking sheet, seam side down, and broil for 4 minutes. Turn dates and continue broiling for 4 more minutes.

Serve hot.

Eggplant Spread for Tapas

Eggplant Spread for Tapas printer-friendly recipe

3 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 pound young eggplant, rough chopped
1 bunch green onions, trimmed and  sliced
2 tsp vinegar
2 tablespoons parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
Toast points or pita chips

In a large saute pan, heat olive over medium heat. Add garlic and eggplant, and cook until soft and beginning to brown, about 8 . Add green onion and saute 2 to 3 more minutes. Remove from heat. Add vinegar, parsley, salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Scrape eggplant mixture into a food processor and puree until smooth. Serve with toast points or pita chips.

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