Turn Up the Heat

I don't know about you, but when the weather gets warm, I'm not in the mood for a hearty meal. Instead, I find myself into nibbling and enjoying my meal in bites. If you're anything like me, you're going to enjoy this article!

Why's that? It's simple. I'm going to be presenting some of my favorite Spanish appetizers, or tapas, with you ... along with a great recipe for sangria to be enjoyed with all of it. Spanish food is perfect for warm summer months. It takes full advantage of a wide array of spices and peppers, yes, but it also tends to be highly flavorful and takes advantage of fresh produce and fruit. Now if that doesn't sound like a great idea for a weekend party, I don't know what is!

Set up your tapas party in the backyard and make sure that you have plenty of seating and some pitchers of iced tea and lemonade available for those not interested in the sangria. Make sure you have shaded seating available by either placing chairs under a canopy of trees or market umbrellas. Of course, if the weather doesn't cooperate, you can always move the event indoors and opt for a brightly colored flower arrangement and some woven blankets tossed around for added festivity. Wherever you decide to have your get together, try to include some Latin salsa music and the like to set a perfect party mood!

Simple Sangria

Sangria is simply made by combining wine with fruit and fruit juice. Since it's a mixed drink, don't opt for an expensive wine and instead choose something that will blend nicely with the fruit flavors.
  • 2 bottles burgundy
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup lemon juice
  • 2 ounces Triple Sec
  • 4 ounces brandy
  • 2 oranges, thinly sliced
  • 2 lemons, thinly sliced

Combine the first five ingredients and chill well. Add the fruit just before serving.

  • Yields: 8-12 servings
  • Preparation Time: 5 minutes, plus chilling time

Garlic Shrimp

Make sure you have plenty of bread near this dish ... it's great for sopping up the delicious juices!
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 large cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 lb. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons dry sherry
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • Chopped fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley for garnish

In a sauté pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté for 1 minute.

Raise the heat to high and add the shrimp, lemon juice, sherry and paprika. Stir well, then sauté, stirring briskly, until the shrimp turn pink and curl slightly, about 3 minutes.

Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper and sprinkle with parsley. Serve hot.

  • Yields: 8 appetizer servings
  • Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Spanish Bread

Salty ham gets added to flavored toast and the fun begins.
  • 24 slices French bread
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 mellow tomato
  • Pinch salt
  • Olive oil for brushing
  • 24 slices smoked ham

Toast the slices of bread (pan-fried slices are best). When they are still hot, rub them with the clove of garlic until they get some of the taste. Then rub them with half of the tomato. Sprinkle each slice with a bit of salt, brush on some olive oil and finally add the slice of ham on top of each piece of toast.

  • Yields: 8-12 appetizer servings
  • Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Roasted Almonds

Spicy almonds are always a treat and fun to pop in your mouth.
  • 2 cups whole blanched almonds
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon coarse salt

Preheat the oven to 300F.

Toss the almonds with the other ingredients and place in a single layer on a baking sheet.

Roast the almonds in the preheated oven until golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes. Allow to cool before serving.

  • Yields: about 2 cups
  • Preparation Time: 20 minutes