After living in Spain for most of 2013, I absolutely fell in love with Spanish cuisine. More specifically, pinchos and tapas. A pincho (or pintxo) is a small snack, traditionally eaten in northern Spain, especially in the Basque country and Navarre. Similarily, tapas are a wide variety of appetizers or snacks in Spanish cuisine. The difference between pinchos and tapas are that pinchos are specific to northern Spain and are spiked with a toothpick to a small piece of bread. Pincho, translated from Spanish, means ‘spike’. 

 

I am going to focus on pinchos because, well, I am in love with the Basque country, and in my opinion pinchos are really fun and easy to make. You can put absolutely anything on top of a piece of bread, spike it with a toothpick, and call it a pincho. However, after roaming northern Spain and visiting Spanish cuisine heaven, located in San Sebastian, I have a good idea of what really stands out on the palate. 

 

Pinchos were designed to encourage conversation because people are not so focused upon eating an entire meal that is set before them. Or, in my case, I can have a whole conversation just about the pinchos set before me. Whatever the case, this is the perfect date night cooking experience. So, print out these recipes, grab some wine(*), and have fun on your date!

*As for the wine, I would recommend white wine since these all of the following pincho recipes include only fish and vegetables. If you were to make meat pinchos, go for red wine. 

 

First, you will need to buy crusty bread (baguette) cut into slices (as fresh and crispy as possible). If you like, you can toast the bread first. You can also rub the bread with a crushed clove of garlic, or mix a little chopped garlic into the olive oil before drizzling it onto the bread. All of these methods are traditional. Second, you will need toothpicks to secure the ingredients on top of the bread. This will be the base for the following pinchos. 

 

Vegetarian Pinchos

 

Eggplant, Tofu & Jelly Pincho 

 

Ingredients

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Eggplant
  • Extra firm tofu
  • Jam or jelly (experiment with different kinds)
  • Baguette (thick slices)

 

Ingredients for caramelized onions

  • Yellow onions
  • Butter
  • 2 tablespoons white or red wine, vegetable or chicken stock, balsamic vinegar, or water
    Salt
  • Stainless steel or cast iron skillet works best
  • Stiff spatula

 

Preparation

Caramelized onions

  1. Slice the onions: Trim the tip and root from the onions, cut them in half and remove the skins. Slice the onion from root to stem into thin slices. (Alternatively, you can dice the onions.)
  2. Melt the butter: Place your skillet over medium heat and melt the butter.
  3. Add the onions: Add all the onions to the pan and stir them gently to coat with butter.
  4. Caramelize the onions: Check the onions every 5 to 10 minutes. Stir the onions and scrape up any fond that forms on the bottom of the skillet. Exact cooking times will vary with the number of onions you're cooking, their liquid and sugar content, and their age:
  5. Deglaze the pan and salt the onions: When your onions have finished cooking, pour 1/4 cup wine, broth, balsamic vinegar, or water. As the liquid bubbles, scrape up the fond and stir it into the onions. Use additional liquid as necessary to scrape up all the fond. Salt the onions to taste.
  6. Cool and store the onions: If you're not using the onions immediately, let them cool in the pan, then transfer them to a storage container. Caramelized onions can be kept refrigerated for around a week or frozen for up to three months.

***For further instructions on caramelizing onions, visit: http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-caramelize-onions-35933

 

Eggplant

  1. Cut eggplant into rounds
  2. In a frying pan, on medium-low heat, add extra virgin olive oil
  3. Place eggplant rounds into the pan and allow it to cook until tender

 

Tofu 

  1. Wipe out your pan and put a little more extra virgin olive oil in it over medium heat
  2. Take the drained and pressed slice of extra firm tofu and cook it until brown on each side
  3. After cooking, cut tofu into rounds, squares, triangles, or whatever shape your little heart desires!

 

Finally...

  1. Toast bread until lightly browned and brush liberally with olive oil
  2. Smear caramelized onions on top of bread
  3. Place eggplant and tofu rounds onto top of bread
  4. Add a drop of jam or jelly (experiment with different kinds)
  5. Pincho it! (aka. spike it with your toothpick)

 

 

Zucchini & Goat Cheese Pincho 

 

Ingredients

  • Serves 4
  • 3 large zucchini 
  • 100g goat cheese
  • 1 cup tomato passata
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Baguette (thick slices)
  • Optional: pear or apple 
  • Optional: jelly

 

Preparation 

  1. Cut zucchini into rounds
  2. In a frying pan, on medium-low heat, add extra virgin olive oil
  3. Place zuchinni rounds into the pan and allow it to cook until slightly brown on the edges
  4. In the meantime, heat passata and stir in minced garlic
  5. Remove from heat
  6. Toast bread until lightly browned and brush liberally with olive oil
  7. Spread with tomato passata then add each with a round (or two) of zucchini
  8. Cut goat cheese into rounds and place on top of zucchini 
  9. Pincho it!

***Optional: Instead of using tomato passata, you can add a slice of roasted pear or apple on top with a drop of jelly (as shown in photo)

 

Fish Pinchos

 

Smoked Salmon & Prawn Pincho 

 

Ingredients

  • Lettuce
  • Smoked salmon (Note: It is important to start with the right smoked salmon. I've had the best luck with Scottish and Norwegian smoked salmon)
  • Cooked and peeled prawns
  • Mayonnaise (light mayonnaise if you prefer)
  • Baguette (thick slices)

 

Preparation 

  1. In a bowl mix, add cut lettuce, chopped smoked salmon, chopped prawns
  2. Add mayonnaise
  3. Mix well
  4. Toast bread until lightly browned and brush liberally with olive oil
  5. Put on top of bread
  6. Add a layer of smoked salmon on top 

 

 

White Tuna in Piquillo Pepper Pincho 

 

Ingredients

  • 1 small can -bonito del Norte (a.k.a "Atun Blanco", white tuna) 
  • 1/4 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon- mayonnaise (light mayonnaise if you prefer)
  • 1 teaspoon- lemon juice or Limejuice
  • 1/2 teaspoon- black pepper, freshly ground
  • 6 Piquillo peppers (we got them from a can) 
  • 6 slices- baguette (as fresh and crispy as possible)

 

Preparation

  1. Before you start, put all ingredients and plates that you are going to use in the fridge to cool down for an hour or so
  2. Make the filling by mixing flaked tuna, chopped onion, mayonnaise, lemon juice (or lime) and ground black pepper
  3. Stuff the Piquillo peppers with the filling
  4. Toast bread until lightly browned and brush liberally with olive oil
  5. Place the peppers with filling on top of bread

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