The Book of Tapas

The best cookbook gift ideas for 2011

Mrs. Santa's Book Bag

The Book of Tapas

by Simone and Inés Ortega (Phaidon Press, 432 pp., $39.95)

Simone Ortega was the foremost authority on Spanish cooking, and with her daughter Inés, she penned the iconic 1080 Recipes; think of it as the Joy of Cooking of Spain. The Book of Tapas compiles 250 of the best tapas recipes from the Ortega's vast collection into one book, accompanied by favorites from 10 world-renowned tapas chefs (including Albert Adrià and José Andrés). For the tragically uninformed, tapas are small, composed, perfect bites, meant to accompany drinks and conversation; they can also be assembled together to form a delicious and balanced meal or feast. The beauty of tapas is that they are generally quick and simple to prepare, bursting with big flavor, and gorgeous to look at.

The book starts with an introduction to the critical role of tapas in Spain's culinary society and the ingredients used to make them. The widely diverse recipes are arranged by main ingredient (vegetable, egg and cheese, seafood, and meat), with each category subdivided by hot and cold dishes. One-hundred lavish photographs meant to tempt and illustrate are inserted between the sections. The recipes are very clearly written and translated, with easy-to-follow instructions; all ingredients are readily available in the States.

When you start throwing some of these dishes together and tasting them with friends, you'll be amazed at how delicious they are, how authentic the flavors are, and how often you want to try more of the dishes. Get this book; stock up on Sherry, Cava, Txakoli, or some Tempranillo; and prepare these perfect little bites.

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gift ideas, 2011 Gift Guide, Tapas, Simone Ortega, Jose Andres, José Andrés, Spanish cooking, The Book of Tapas

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