Shopping at The La Honda Country Market is always such a pleasant experience.  You can count on the fresh organic seasonal produce from their local growers.  Today there were some gorgeous yellow crooked neck squash, red and yellow onions, and mixed baby greens. The mangoes looked great too, although I doubt they were grown locally.  This summer’s been mighty cold and foggy in the San Francisco Bay area.

The Market also has interesting cheeses and wonderful artisan bread from coastal bakeries.

I decided to celebrate the first dinner of this experiment by making Tapas.  Tapas, for those few of you who don’t already know, is the Spanish word for appetizer.  But it is so much more than that.  In Spain, they eat dinner late by our standards.  But their version of Happy Hour is a national institution.  And when you pop into the bar after work for a glass of sherry or wine or beer, the owners always offer free or cheap Tapas, or little plates of food, to accompany your cocktail.

So I decided to make the following Little Plates for my family for a festive summer dinner tonight.  The total cost was $25.24, but it was really $16.69 because I forgot to make the salad!  And believe me, we didn’t miss it.  We had a sizeable portion of food left over.  Either that means my family didn’t like my appetizer dinner, or there was a lot of food.  I prefer to believe the latter assumption.

Hummus with pita chips
Bread with Mushrooms and Aioli
Tapas Tomatoes
Salad with Vinaigrette Dressing
Meatballs with dipping sauce
Patatas Brava (crispy potatoes in red sauce)

(NOTE: We’re not big drinkers, but a nice Sangria could compliment this meal delightfully.  It’s easy to make too.  Just put a cup of orange juice, some sliced lemons and limes and whatever bottle of red wine you have on hand into a pitcher with ice.)

Here are the recipes for this Tuesday Tapas meal:


1 can of chick pea, drained
1T Tahini paste (I already had this at home, but sometimes the LH Market has it)
Juice from one lemon
4 cloves of garlic, peeled
4T olive oil

Blend the first four ingredients in a food processor and then pour olive oil in until you get the consistency you like (anything from paste to dip thickness).  You can get very creative with adding other tastes like roasted red pepper, chile, basil,  or try black beans instead of chick peas, etc.

Bread with Mushrooms and Aioli

8 ounces of mushrooms stems removed and sliced thin
1T extra virgin olive oil
pinch of sea salt
2 t sherry
aioli or mayonnaise
French bread sliced into rounds

Heat the olive oil in a pan. When the oil is hot, add the mushrooms, sherry and salt. Cover the pan and lower the heat. Cook until the liquid is released from the mushrooms (about 10 minutes). Drain and set aside.

Toast bread lightly. Spread aioli on toast and top with sherry mushrooms. Broil for 30 seconds or until aioli begins to bubble.

Aioli (garlic mayonnaise)

You can add some garlic, or even yummier roasted garlic, into store-bought mayonnaise, or you can make aioli from scratch. Both are delicious with fish or your favorite sandwich or appetizer.

1 clove garlic (I use more because I love garlic, but don’t go overboard)
2 pinches sea salt (or whatever salt you have on hand)
2 eggs (or you can use egg whites for less cholesterol)
1 T lemon juice (fresh or out of the plastic lemon)
½ cup olive oil
½ cup canola oil (or other vegetable oil)

Peel the garlic and either smash it with the flat blade of a knife, put it through a garlic press or chop it. Then combine it with the salt either in a mortar and pestle or on a wood cutting board and mix it into a paste.

In a heavy mixing bowl whisk eggs, lemon juice and garlic paste until well combined. Then start adding the olive oil, drop by drop, whisking all the time. The key is to go slowly at the start. You can slightly speed up as you go along.

Makes one cup of aioli, so save it in the fridge if you don’t use it all.

Tapas Tomatoes (tomatoes stuffed with egg)

4 medium tomatoes (the size of your thumb and first finger making the OK sign)
4 hard boiled eggs (cooled/peeled/chopped)
6T aioli (see recipe below) or mayonnaise
1T parsley
salt and pepper to taste
1T breadcrumbs (optional)

Cut the top off the tomatoes and scoop out the core and seeds with a spoon or sharp knife. (You can peel the tomatoes by making a tiny ‘X’ in the bottom, dropping them into boiling water for 10 seconds followed immediately by dipping them in a bowl of ice water. But in the summer I just leave the skins on.)

In a bowl add eggs, aioli, parsley, salt, pepper and breadcrumbs.

If you have extra egg mixture left over after stuffing and pressing it into the tomatoes, consider yourself lucky.  Eat it!  Yum.

Patatas Brava (Crispy potatoes in sauce)

3T oil
4 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut in 1-inch cubes
2 T minced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-1/2 T Spanish paprika (or whatever you have in the pantry)
½ t hot sauce
¼ t ground thyme
½ cup ketchup
½ cup mayonnaise
salt and pepper
1 cup olive oil for frying
chopped parsley for garnish

Brava Sauce
Heat 3T oil in saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and sauté until the onion is soft. Turn off the heat and add paprika, hot sauce and thyme. Stir well. Transfer to a bowl and add ketchup and mayonnaise. Season with salt and pepper.

Sprinkle the potatoes lightly with salt and black pepper. In a large skillet fry the potatoes in 1 cup olive oil until cooked through and golden-brown, stirring occasionally. (Take care when adding the potatoes to the saucepan because the oil will splatter due to the salt). Drain the potatoes on paper towels, check the seasoning, add more salt if necessary, and set it aside.

Mix the potatoes with the sauce immediately before serving to maintain their crispness.  Garnish with parsley and serve warm.

Meatballs with dipping sauce

1/2lb Italian sausage
1/2 lb ground beef, turkey, chicken, lamb or whatever you like
¼ t chopped herbs (anything you like including basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary)
½ cup either bread crumbs or parmesan cheese
2 eggs

Combine all in bowl and then form small or large meatballs.  Either sauté in a pan sprayed with olive oil until brown or bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees.

Dipping Sauce
Here you have a selection.  Many Spanish sauces are made with roasted red peppers  or tomatoes combined with sherry vinegar and olive oil with salt, pepper and herbs to taste.  Or you could use the aioli.  I’ve even used green or red salsa in a pinch. Anything you fancy really.


I hope you decide to shop at The La Honda Country Market, or your local grocery if you don’t live nearby, and stock up on the ingredients to make this lovely Tapas meal.  (It’s great for a party too, of course!)

-Laurie McLean


About countrymarketcooking

I am blogging about my experiment in sustainable community through cooking in the tiny mountain town of La Honda, California. Each week I'll be buying ingredients for a family-of-four-dinner at our fabulous local La Honda Country Market (which we are so lucky to have). Then I'll blog about it and share my recipes for that meal. Mangia!
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