I'm melting, my pretties, meeeelting! A heat wave has yet again taken hold of Barcelona and environs and I'm doing my best to remain corporeally intact while the thermometer grazes 35 degrees Celsius.
Actually, the heat broke a little today and, after a sprinkling of rain, the city once again feels a little less like the surface of the sun and a little more like a planet with an atmosphere that allows for seasons other than hell.
The kind of heat that settles on Spain in the summers calls for minimal cooking and lighter meals than usual. Even Felipe, who can usually put away three times as much as I can, feels a little wan when faced with the prospect of eating a large meal these days. So, we've resorted to montaditos on some of our evenings in.
A staple of most tapas bars, montaditos are small, open-faced sandwiches. Really, they're canapés with a better name, one that doesn't make you feel like you're dining with society matrons.
At a tapas bar, you're likely to be faced with an abundance of choice. Some sell montaditos as pinchos, small tapas skewered with toothpicks that you retain on your plate and count at the end of the night to determine the bill. Others, tired of the boors who conveniently lose toothpicks to benefit their wallets, let you point and choose, but don't leave it to you to keep count.
As delightful as montaditos are to sample in a tapas bar, nothing could be simpler than making your own at home. All you need is a loaf of bread, preferably a baguette, though a small ciabatta will also do, and a variety of toppings. I prefer the bread sliced relatively thinly (about a quarter inch thick) and lightly toasted, but there's no real need to toast if the bread is of good quality and fresh. If you do decide to toast, you can pop the bread slices under your oven's grill for 2 minutes (until slightly golden) and brush with olive oil once you've removed them.
The sky's the limit in terms of toppings. The ones shown in the photo above are a mixture of classics and "lo que hay" (what there is), i.e. what was available based on the contents of our fridge. Clockwise from left:
(1) Fresh goat cheese topped with sweet pepper chutney and walnuts - the sweet pepper chutney can be replaced with a tomato confit, port jelly or honey.
(2) Tuna with lemon, capers and mayonnaise - the tuna should be oil packed and of high quality; I added a tablespoon of mayonnaise to a small (50g) can, a teaspoon of chopped capers, and half a teaspoon of grated lemon rind as well as a teaspoon of lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste; you can also toss in a teaspoon of chopped, fresh flat leaf parsley.
(3) Pan con tomate (see The Tapas Episode) topped with sliced embutidos (charcuterie) - in this case, I used fuet (a peppery cured pork sausage), but chorizo, lomo (cured pork loin), and jamón (ibérico or serrano ham) are also popular choices.
(4) Roasted eggplant (see The Charred and the Seedless) with tahini and fresh cilantro - this eggplant was really an impromptu babaganoush; I took a small roasted eggplant, removed the skin and chopped the flesh, added about a teaspoon of lemon (to taste), one and a half tablespoons of tahini, a finely grated small clove of garlic and salt to taste; I topped the eggplant with chopped fresh cilantro.
(5) Roasted peppers (see The Charred and the Seedless) on pan con tomate (see The Tapas Episode), topped with anchovies and green olives - the higher quality the anchovies and olives the better; in particular, you want to stay away from anchovies that are overly salty.
Other ideas, some inspired by my favourite Barcelona bars, are (6) smoked salmon over cream cheese or thick yogurt topped with capers and lemon rind (inspired by Quimet i Quimet, see Tapas - Basic - Part 1); (7) paté or foie gras topped with caramelized onions (Quimet i Quimet, see Tapas - Basic - Part 1); (8) slices of tortilla (see The Tapas Episode) on pan con tomate (see The Tapas Episode) sprinkled with sea salt and finely chopped parsley; (9) sauteed mushrooms (see Tapas Menu - Take 2) with thyme topped with gruyere and broiled in the oven; (10) smoked mackrel or trout topped with a green olive tapenade and quartered cherry tomatoes; (11) white bean dip (see Dipping into White Beans) sprinkled with chopped spring onions; (12) grilled chorizo over thinly sliced green apple drizzled with maple syrup; (13) manchego cheese topped with sliced fresh figs and drizzled with honey; (14) grilled peach quarters or apricot halves wrapped in jamón serrano and drizzled with maple syrup; (15) tomato slices topped with fresh mozarella, salt, a dollop of pesto and a basil leaf; (16) skewers of 2-3 shelled fresh prawns, salted, brushed with oil and grilled (1 minute or so on each side) served over toasted bread smeared with a dollop of allioli (inspired by Cerveseria Catalana, see Tapas - Basic - Part 2).