Some people plan their holidays around pristine beaches or historical sites. My husband and I plan all of our vacations around food. We choose our destinations with eating in mind, and before our trip we spend hours researching the region’s cuisine and signature dishes, picking restaurants and fantasizing about all the good things we’ll consume.
But even our (somewhat obsessive) research did not prepare us for the embarrassment of culinary riches we encountered on a recent trip to Madrid, Spain. The streets crammed with tapas bars … the seemingly endless types of ham … the dizzying varieties of cheese … the ever-flowing Spanish wine. We had no choice but to abandon all of our well-laid plans and simply eat anything and everything that struck our fancies.
Upon our return, I immediately got to work re-creating and re-inventing some of my favorite dishes, four of which are represented here. Arguably the most iconic tapa is the tortilla, a Spanish omelet typically filled with onions and potatoes. I’ve substituted leeks and sweet potatoes for a more colorful—and marginally healthier—version. My gazpacho, meanwhile, is fairly traditional and uses Maryland heirloom tomatoes for a bit of local flair.
Pinchos are open-faced sandwiches topped with anything and everything good. Think cheese, pulpo (octopus), morcilla (sausage), foie gras, peppers, slices of tortilla. My boozy blueberry compote, foie gras mousse and caramelized onion pincho is a riff on a memorable one I had at the bustling Mercado de San Miguel.
And what’s a summer Spanish feast without some sangria? This one incorporates fresh summer berries and gains depth from a bit of cassis liqueur. Salud!