‘Tis the season for celebration, and fall celebrations usually mean a laser focus on apple and pumpkin flavors, heavy stews and mashes, meaty roasts and creamy casseroles. Along with dips, burgers and dogs at all the football tailgates, it’s a wonder anyone’s pants still fit by December.
I’m not complaining. I love apple pie and mashed potatoes as much as the next girl. But, sometimes during the fall season, I find myself on a bit of a pumpkin overload, yearning for fresh, interesting flavor combinations.
Last fall, I experienced just that. I spent my October honeymooning in Spain. No pumpkin pie or spinach and artichoke dip in sight. Instead, I feasted on salty anchovies, crusty bread smeared with tomatoes, Spanish tortillas, and, my new favorite food group, pintxos.
What’s a pintxo? Well, officially, a pintxo (or pincho) is a small snack, typically eaten in bars, and traditional in northern Spain’s Basque Country. Pintxos are sort of like tapas except they are usually spiked with a skewer or toothpick to keep the ingredients from falling off the bread, as well as to keep track of the number of items that a customer has eaten.
Unofficially, a pintxo is an excuse for socializing.
Almost every bar you walk into in Basque County has a bartop completely covered with platters of pintxos just waiting to be devoured. Almost any ingredient can be put on the bread, but those most commonly found in the Basque Country include fish (cod and anchovies are especially popular); Spanish tortilla; stuffed peppers; and croquettes.
Ever since my trip to Basque Country, I’ve been dying to host a pintxos party back in the States. It’s the perfect food for mingling – think crostinis on steroids. And it’s so much more interesting than the usual finger foods you might find at a tailgate or fall holiday party. Who needs baby carrots when you can munch on salty boquerones? Your friends will thank you.
So, today, I’m hosting a virtual pintxos party, and you all are my guests with behind the scenes access. I’ll provide you with some of my favorite Basque-inspired snacks as well as one new pintxo I created just for this occasion so that you can throw a unique party for your friends this holiday season.
To start, we need what some people refer to as “banderillas.” Think of the “banderillas” as a Spanish antipasto platter. The “banderillas” could include the following:
- Pickled herring
- Pickled garlic
- Marinated artichoke hearts
- Green olives
- Piquillo peppers
- Pickled guindilla peppers
- White meat tuna
Place combinations of the pickled vegetables, olives and/or marinated fish on a toothpick, creating colorful patterns and explosive flavors. One of the most traditional combinations is one green olive, one anchovy and one guindilla pepper.
Next, we need the pintxos:
Iberico Ham & Melon
All you need for this pintxo is toasted bread slices, thinly-sliced Iberico ham and cubed melon. Stack the ham and melon on top of the bread and secure with a toothpick.
Feel free to customize the tortilla however you like. You can leave out the beef or the vegetables or both. The most important ingredients are the onions, potatoes and eggs. Cut the tortilla into squares, place on toasted bread slices and secure with a toothpick.
Toasted Goat Cheese, Vegetables and Ham
Get the recipe below:
Finally, our pintxos party would not be complete without a croquette. Some bars place the croquette on a slice of bread and other bars serve the croquette on its own. I think the bread is overkill so I would serve it solo.
Salt cod is extremely popular in Basque Country and delicious when you prepare it correctly.
Toasted Goat Cheese, Vegetables and Ham Pintxos Recipe
4 thick slices of French baguette, toasted
4 slices Iberico ham (you can sub in prosciutto if Iberico ham is unavailable)
2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1 green pepper, quartered, seeds and ribs removed
4 thick tomato slices
4 thick slices of goat cheese
Balsamic vinegar, for drizzling
- Griddle or fry the ham in a medium skillet over medium high heat until crisp, about 2-3 minutes each side.
- Heat one teaspoon oil in the skillet and fry the green pepper slices skin side down for 5 minutes or until charred. Turn the green pepper slices over. Turn the heat down to medium low, cover and cook for 8-9 min or until the pepper is completely softened.
- Heat the remaining teaspoon oil in the skillet over medium high heat. Fry the tomato slices for 2 minutes on each side.
- Finally, add the goat cheese to the skillet and fry over medium high heat for 30-60 seconds or until goat cheese is toasted. Don’t let it cook too long or it will melt and become a mess.
- To assemble: Place the ham on the toasted bread slices. Add the green pepper and tomato slices. Then, top with the goat cheese. Secure with a toothpick and drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Enjoy!!
[quote_center]Would you try making your own pintxos?[/quote_center]
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