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Host a Summer Tapas Party

A Perfect Party for a Hot Summer Evening

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Girlfriends Enjoying an Outdoor Dinner Party
Cavan Images/Taxi/Getty Images

In the summertime, parties and their accompanying food should be all about simplicity. If we’re hosting, we want recipes that are quick to prepare and don't require extended time cooking over a hot stove. Instead, we’d like to be outside where our guests are lounging with refreshing cocktails, with our own icy drink in hand.

Luckily, there’s one party that can easily deliver all these things. A summer Spanish Tapas party is perfect for an outdoor, summertime party. In fact, you could almost say that a Spanish Tapas theme party was made for entertaining outdoors in the summer since the word patio comes from Spain where that architecture originated. The small plate offerings of tapas are perfect for a relaxed cocktail party and light summer appetites. Many of the dishes can be made in advance, require few ingredients and little cooking, and can be served cold. It's a perfect party theme for both hosts and guests.

Setting the Stage

Plan your alfresco party in the evening so you can keep your party hot while the temperatures cool down.

When planning your summer tapas party, plan on a variety of dishes for interest, color, and fun. Make it easier on yourself by choosing more of the minimal ingredient, quick to assemble dishes, and have a few that can be prepped in advance, but cooked or grilled at the last minute while your guests keep you company by the grill.

Terra cotta or colorful Spanish pottery serving pieces would be ideal for presenting your various dishes.

Since tapas originated in Spanish bars, you don’t need to set a fancy, formal table. Your buffet table can be decorated simply with a runner down the center on which the different tapas are presented. Since guests will be moving around to mingle with one another there’s no need for a formal dining area. Provide small tables and stools as you might find in a bar.

Choose a runner and napkins in warm, Mediterranean colors that recall the palette of sunny Spain. Reds, oranges, neutrals and yellow tones would be perfect.

Provide glass plates and tumblers that are clear, amber or green tint. A mix of these different shades would be lovely.

Since parsley, rosemary, thyme and oregano are indispensable ingredients in Spanish cuisine, small pots of these herbs, or cut herb bouquets in glasses of water can serve as fragrant buffet and tabletop arrangements. Add a few jars filled with small fresh chile peppers for extra color.

Remember to give some thought to your music playlist prior to the party, since music adds so much to the ambiance. You can choose songs from classic Latin favorites like Tito Puente or mix in contemporary pop songs from Marc Anthony, Enrique Iglesias, Shakira, and Ricky Martin. Or to add a bit of an edge to your playlist mix in songs from Pitbull, as well. The choice is yours, but whatever songs you choose, be sure there is a lively beat that will keep your guests moving throughout the night.

The Beverages

Sangria, the classic Spanish summer beverage, is perfect for this party. Fill large clear drink dispensers with this party cocktail and let your guests help themselves, freeing you from tending the bar, and keeping your bar costs in check.

Sparkling Wine Lemon Sorbet is another refreshing Spanish beverage that can be served as a cocktail or dessert beverage.

The Tapas

Choose an assortment of these tapas that are perfect for a summer party. Most can be made well in advance of your party and chilled until ready to serve!

Spanish Potato Salad - Mix up a batch of this salad that is popular in Spanish bars and serve individual portions in appetizer spoons or small ramekins that have been laid out on a tray.

Spanish Cucumber Salad - When these vegetables are at their peak in the summertime, nothing can be more flavorful and refreshing than a cold salad with a bracing vinaigrette.

Melon with Serrano Ham - Who can resist the sweet and salty combination of melon and ham? This is a wonderful tapa to prepare when melons are at their sweetest and juiciest during the summer season.

Goat Cheese with Paprika, Garlic, Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Capers Recipe - This smoky, salty, cheesey-good tapa will be just what your guests are craving after a hot summer day.

Grilled Eggplant in Tomato Vinaigrette - Eggplants are a common Mediterranean ingredient, especially in Spain. The combination of eggplants, tomatoes, capers, onions and garlic make for a recipe that’s rich in flavor while still light enough for summer appetites.

Olives a la Madrilene - This is a very easy dish to make, but remember to leave time for the olives to marinate and absorb the flavors of the dressing.

Red Peppers with Anchovies - This colorful tapa will add an extra shot of color to your buffet, as well as an easy pop of flavor to your menu.

Garlic Shrimp Tapa - This recipe is a popular dish in Spain for good reason. Have your ingredients prepped and waiting for when you need to quickly saute everything as your guests watch and attempt to control their eagerness for this fragrant recipe as the smell of frying garlic whets their appetites.

Spanish Omelet - This is a classic Spanish tapa. You’ll want to be sure to cut it into small wedges or squares so that everyone can get a bite of this tasty dish!

Easy Spanish Yogurt Quesada - After your guests have had their fill of savory food, pull out this light Spanish yogurt pie. This dessert is so easy to make and will provide just the perfect sweet finish to your party.

For additional tapas and other Spanish food recipes, visit our About.com Spanish Food Guides Lisa and Tony Sierra.

If you'd like to find more of Donna Pilato's advice on hosting parties and entertaining friends and family you can visit her at The Delicious Dozen.

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