Jaleo inspired Spanish tapas dinner

Before I forget, have you entered my Nasoya giveaway? Go do it and then come back, ok?

So let’s talk about eating out. While I really love the whole process of preparing meals at home, from the menu planning to grocery shopping to cooking and finally eating my creation (best part when I see someone else enjoy my food as much as I do!), going out to eat is still one of my favorite ways to spend time with Adam, friends and family. Similarly to cooking at home, I love the whole process of searching for the perfect spot for the occasion, the anticipation of a great night out, then dressing up and finally experiencing the whole event. It is an event, isn’t it? From the atmosphere of the restaurant, to service to the wonderful food shared with lots of wine and laughs – there is so much to experience! There are nights and dishes I remember for years. They are special to me. Most of them I’d never dream of recreating but once in a while I eat something simple yet perfect and I vow to try creating a little restaurant meal right in my own home.

This is one of such meals.

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This dinner was inspired by our favorite dishes from a spanish tapas restaurant, Jaleo, on our trip to Washington DC over the summer. The place was recommended to me by several readers and twitter friends, so one random day, we decided to rest our feet and have a glass of sangria with a few apps at the bar. There was no planning – it was a spur of the moment decision when we stumbled upon the place. I think because we had no expectations, it was especially surprising how much we enjoyed the few bites we had that first visit. So much that we had to go back 2 days later and have a whole meal!

Although every single thing at Jaleo was fantastic, hands down are two favorites were pan de recapte con anchoa (traditional Catalan bread with peppers, tomatoes and salt-cured Spanish anchovies) and gambas al ajillo (the very famous tapa of shrimp sautéed with garlic). These are my versions of these dishes.

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For the play on pan de recapte con anchoa, I actually started with my mom’s recipes for perzzi (roasted peppers) and sinii (eggplant/tomato spread) and layered them over fresh slices of baguette, topped with garlic-marinated anchovies. I find the salt anchovies to be very pungent. They are fantastic melted into sauces or whipped into dressings, but I prefer the marinated kind when eaten “straight up.” The anchovies seem to mellow out as the vinegar breaks down some of that intense fishiness.

Aren’t these gorgeous? They were delicious Smile

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Next up, I followed America’s Test Kitchen’s recipe for Spanish-style garlic shrimp. I love how garlic is used in three different ways in this recipe (to marinate the shrimp, infuse the olive oil and finally to cook with shrimp). I used a dried habanero (much spicier than the cascabel chile that’s traditional) so my shrimp also had a bit of a kick. We like it spicy in these parts Winking smile

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This turned out fantastic! It was hard to not soak up every morsel of that garlicky spicy oil with baguette slices. So simple yet so perfect. I think it would be a fun dish to serve to company too with everyone just digging in straight into the skillet. Smile

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Simple roasted cauliflower to lighten up the fare:

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Are you a tapas fan? Do you ever recreate restaurant dishes at home?

Next up: I’m getting crafty with my super awesome food art project. Can’t wait to share it with you!!

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