Natural Foods Merchandiser

Small plates transform big feast

Another year, another holiday display. You lug out the turkey and the Tofurky, garnish it with yams and green beans and throw in a few pumpkin pies. Voila: Thanksgiving/Christmas/Kwanzaa/New Year?s all in one easy meal.

If you?re trying not to yawn, imagine how your customers feel. This year, why not promote one of the hottest trends in holiday food preparation: tapas parties.

Tapas, or small plates of diverse foods, are popular in this country as appetizers, but in the Mediterranean, three or four tapas make an entire meal. Tapas can be vegan or vegetarian, gluten- or sugar-free, low-fat or nondairy. They can be made entirely with natural, organic, fresh or even raw ingredients. In short, they?re a healthy holiday alternative for a houseful of diverse guests.

?Tapas allow the host to serve an array of dishes, and that helps bring conversation to the table. They kind of give you the opportunity to play and have fun with your food,? says Sheana Davis, proprietor of The Epicurean Connection, a culinary education company in Sonoma, Calif.

Davis, along with Joanne Weir, author of From Tapas to Meze: Small Plates From the Mediterranean (Ten Speed Press, 2004), recommends four to six tapa dishes for a party of 12 people. They can be served all at once or brought out gradually throughout the meal.

Tapas can also be prepared ahead of time so hosts don?t have to spend their holiday dabbing sweat off their foreheads as they dash from pantry to stove to dining room table. ?Oftentimes the flavor is better when you make tapas a day or two ahead and reheat them the day of the event. The flavors have time to combine,? Davis says.

And tapas can save a host money. They can be as simple—and as cheap—as cheese with bread or a handful of olives. They also can require fewer ingredients than the traditional holiday feast. ?Instead of making an entire turkey and then finding out some people don?t like dark meat or meat on the bone, you can buy a turkey breast and put it on crostini,? Davis says.

Weir says a simple and healthy tapas menu could include mini pizzas; phyllo rolls stuffed with vegetables; prawns cooked in garlic and sherry; and a feta, yogurt, garlic and cayenne dip served with pita bread and chips or veggies. Or make a few tapas and augment them with bowls of roasted peppers and olives, she suggests.

But won?t your customers and their guests balk at Mediterranean-style food at a traditionally American holiday event? Davis says the beauty of tapas is that they can incorporate all of the holiday foods your customers grew up with. In fact, she has a tapas holiday feast that includes everything from turkey to sweet potatoes (see sidebar below).

?You keep the tradition in the ingredients but remove the traditional serving element,? she says.

Vicky Uhland is a Denver-based writer and editor.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVI/number 10/p. 26, 30

Updated flavors create new twist on Thanksgiving
Even if their moms insist on bringing Jell-O and Cool Whip salads, your customers can still make a healthy tapas feast. Here?s how Sheana Davis updates a 1960s holiday meal.

Traditional meal
Roasted whole turkey with butter glaze
Herb stuffing
Canned sweet potatoes with marshmallows
Canned green beans with nuts
Mashed potatoes with turkey gravy
Side salad of iceberg lettuce, canned peaches and a dollop of mayonnaise
Pumpkin or pecan pie

Tapas meal
Sage-infused olives with cheese
Tapenade of roasted red and golden peppers and feta cheese
Sage-roasted turkey or tofu turkey with baguettes and citrus relish
Roasted sweet potatoes with curry
Honey-roasted apple and potato skewers
Citrus polenta cake with citrus crème fra?che or citrus whipped cream


Get on top of tapas
Davis and Weir recommend retailers stock the following staples for their tapas-loving customers:

  • Roasted fresh or preserved red peppers
  • Fresh or canned tomatoes
  • Fresh eggplant
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Capers
  • Anchovies
  • Olive oil
  • Lemon
  • Feta
  • Manchego cheese
  • Crostini
Try placing these items in a special tapas section, complete with recipes and tapas cookbooks.


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