TOP TAPAS: Enjoy Spanish small plates at home


Photo by Emily Ryan, Try making these tapas at home with recipes from Cooking Spotlight.

By Emily Ryan, The Mercury

While visiting Spain, Jenny Young, then an English college student, fell in love — with the cuisine, the culture and the country itself.

“I used to go all the time,” she said. “Every summer, I would hitchhike there in the ’60s.”

Now a private chef, caterer and instructor at Cooking Spotlight in Phoenixville, Young teaches how to make tapas, the Spanish small plates she enjoyed.

“Tapas is generally found after lunch, after siesta when people get up again. And the tourists go out to drink, and people go back to work,” explained Young, who shared her salmon in mojo sauce and roasted asparagus with serrano ham and pimentón aioli.

“Pimentón is smoked paprika. It’s very Spanish,” she said. “Aioli is French and Spanish. Basically, it’s a garlic mayonnaise.”

Cooking Spotlight also hosts “Clash of the Tapas,” a playful name for a corporate team-building event, where coworkers tackle the recipes.

“They’re all fairly quick, not too labor-intensive,” Young described. “It’s a nice way to eat in the summer because you can pick at it and not eat too much.”

And it’s perfect for a party.

“It’s just a leisurely way of entertaining,” agreed chef Art Roman of The Kitchen Workshop in Paoli. “If you have six or eight different tapas, everyone can be happy.”

He too teaches tapas classes, featuring platters of grilled zucchini rolls-ups and Gorgonzola-grilled pear crostini.

“You’ve got the fruit, the cheese and some type of nut, so it’s a good marriage of everything. And it’s kind of unexpected,” Roman said. “A lot of times people don’t use fruit as an appetizer or a tapa.”

One thing people do expect: a traditional bowl of olives. He suggests adding ribbons of orange or lemon zest, olive oil and fennel seeds.

“People think you’re being Martha-like,” Roman kidded.

As for Young, she’s thinking of dishes for her September tapas class and dreaming of Spain.

“It’s worth going just to sit and munch tapas and drink red wine on a hot summer afternoon,” she said with a smile.

Salmon in Mojo Sauce


Photo by Emily Ryan, Salmon in mojo sauce is “very piquant,” says chef Jenny Young of Cooking Spotlight.


1 pound salmon fillets

3 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper

Mojo sauce:

2 garlic cloves, peeled

2 teaspoons paprika

1 teaspoon ground cumin

5 tablespoons Spanish olive oil

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar



Sauce: Place garlic, paprika and cumin in food processor bowl fitted with metal blade. Using the pulse button, process for 1 minute to mix well. Then, with the motor running, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil slowly through the feeder tube. Stop the motor and scrape down the sides of the bowl. With motor running, very slowly add the rest of the oil in a thin steady stream until all the oil has been added and the sauce has slightly thickened. Add the vinegar and process for an additional minute. Season with salt to taste.

For the salmon: Remove the skin from the fillet. Cut the fillet in half widthwise, then cut lengthwise into 3/4-inch slices, discarding any bones. Season the pieces of fish with salt and pepper to taste. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. When hot, add the salmon pieces and cook for 10 minutes, depending on its thickness, turning occasionally until cooked and browned on both sides. Transfer the salmon to a serving dish and drizzle over the sauce. Serve garnished with parsley.


Roasted Asparagus with Serrano Ham


Photo by Emily Ryan, Pimentón aioli “picks up the color of the asparagus and serrano ham,” says chef Jenny Young.


4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

12 slices serrano ham

24 asparagus spears


Aioli sauce (see recipe below)


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Brush the bottom of a baking pan (big enough to hold all the asparagus in a single layer) with some of the olive oil. Cut the slices of serrano ham in half lengthwise. Trim the asparagus, cutting off the tough ends. Wrap a slice of the ham around the stem of each spear, but leaving the top of the asparagus uncovered. Place the wrapped spears on the oiled baking pan and brush the asparagus with the remaining olive oil. Season the asparagus with pepper and place in the preheated oven.

Bake for about 8 to 10 minutes depending on the thickness of the asparagus, until crispy-tender. The asparagus should not be overcooked. They should remain firm enough so that they can be picked up without bending. Serve hot or at room temperature with a bowl of pimentón aioli sauce. Serves 24.


Pimentón Aioli


1 large egg yolk

2 small garlic cloves

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

½ teaspoon Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons vegetable oil


Peel the garlic cloves. Using a heavy knife, mince the garlic cloves, sprinkle with a bit of salt, then mash all into a paste. Whisk the egg yolk, lemon juice and mustard in a medium-size bowl. Add the oils a bit at a time to the egg yolk mixture, whisking all the while until all the oil is used and the mixture becomes emulsified. Whisk in the garlic paste and smoked paprika, and then season with salt and pepper. You may add a couple of drops of cold water if your aioli is too thick. Keep chilled until you are ready to use. Serve with the asparagus spears.


Grilled Zucchini Roll-Ups with Herbs and Cheese


Photo by Emily Ryan, Prepare these grilled zucchini roll-ups with herbs and cheese ahead of time for easy entertaining.


3 small zucchini (about ½ pound each), cut lengthwise into ¼-inch-thick slices

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/16 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste

1½ ounces fresh goat cheese

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice

2 ounces bagged baby spinach (2 cups lightly packed)

1/3 cup basil leaves


Preheat grill. Discard the outermost slices of zucchini; brush the rest with oil on both sides. Sprinkle the zucchini slices with salt and pepper. Grill until tender, about 4 minutes per side. You can prepare the zucchini a day ahead and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. In a small bowl, combine the goat cheese, parsley and lemon juice, mashing together with a fork. Put ½ teaspoon of the cheese mixture about ½ inch from the end of a zucchini slice. Top with a few spinach leaves and a small (or half of a large) basil leaf. Roll up and place seam-side-down on a platter. Repeat with remaining zucchini slices. You can make these up to a day in advance; store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Serves four.


Gorgonzola-Grilled Pear Crostini


3 firm ripe Bartlett pears, cut into 1/4-inch-thick wedges

½ (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened

4 ounces Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

¼ cup butter, softened

2 tablespoons dry sherry

36 French bread baguette slices, toasted

½ cup finely chopped, lightly salted roasted pecans

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary

¼ cup honey


Preheat grill to 350 degrees to 400 degrees (medium-high) heat. Grill pear wedges, covered with grill lid, 1 to 2 minutes on each side or until golden. Stir together cream cheese and next 3 ingredients; spread about ½ tablespoon on each baguette slice. Top with grilled pears; sprinkle with pecans and rosemary, and drizzle with honey. Makes 36 crostini.

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