Tapas! I love these little bites!
On a trip to Oaxaca, Mexico, a group of friends and I went to an incredible and authentic tapas eatery where I first enjoyed Spanish tapas. It was an amazing experience, both culinary and culturally! I was thrilled to be able to experience these wonderful little plates in 1994 when few Americans had heard of these little dishes yet. Tapas were not yet a mainstream food item!
Although tapas are beloved by many today, a lot of people don’t know that Venice, Italy also has a culinary tradition of tapas known as ‘Cicchetti’ — aka: Italian tapas!
Cicchetti are simple, small ‘little bites’, and are often quite salty since Venetian cuisine was founded on salt because of it’s location on the Adriatic Sea (think: salt-cured sardines, anchovies, cod, and more). So for Italian tapas, or ‘chicchetti’, you need a strong salt element to excite the taste buds . . . freshly ground sea salt is my favorite to use in the kitchen. The custom of Italian cicchetti is similar to Spanish tapas – appetizers eaten to offset drinking alcohol in the afternoon or early before the evening meal. There is a strong Mediterranean influence in all tapas: olives, anchovies, sardines, and garlic served on little breads, such as Italian crostini. It’s easy to understand why Venetian ‘cicchetti’ are often compared with the much-loved tapas from Spain.
For this week’s dinner theme of “Tapas” I prepared some flavor-packed Polenta Crostini Bites with Caramelized Mushrooms. I bet you can’t eat just one! These are absolutely delightful! Enjoy!
For the polenta
For the mushrooms
Cook the polenta
Saute the mushrooms