Easy Dishes to Serve at a Tapas Gathering

Tapas were created to accompany cocktails, beer and wine -- pub grub de España, if you will. And anything built solely to meet the snackage needs of drinkers is a mighty fine idea, no matter the origin. If you decide to brave the world of Spanish bar food in your own abode, these ideas should give you a good start.

Eggs They provide lots of protein on the cheap, nutrition and satisfaction for *some* vegetarian guests. You can devil them and top with chorizo or olives, bake them with vegetables, scramble them with garlic and shrimp, or boil them and use them in a salad.

Ground meat While it may be totally cliché, sliders made with Spanish seasonings like capers, cumin, fresh chiles, smoked paprika and cinnamon would work well for a small or large group. Meatballs are also traditional tapas, and who doesn't love a good meatball?

Cheese Guess what, grabbing a few varieties of cheese will save you lots of time. Everyone loves cheese, and if they don't, you definitely shouldn't associate with them or invite them to a tapas dinner party. Place cheeses on a wooden cutting board or a decorative plate, put out a few cheese knives and let everyone serve themselves. You can also throw in some fig preserves or honey on the side to spruce it up.

Veggies Grill, roast, sauté, steam and, of course, there's deep frying as well. Toss them in a little vinegar or lemon juice and olive oil (if you haven't battered and fried them of course), top with fresh parsley and you've got yourself another cheap, easy dish to serve your guests. Good grilling and roasting vegetables are eggplant, zucchini, red onion, carrots and colored bell peppers. For bulk, toss them with pearled barley, brown or white rice or couscous.

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