Sunday, November 14, 2010

"The Mamas and Tapas"

Who does Laurie David (ex-wife of “Seinfeld” creator Larry David) think she is anyway? I mean, she’s already been crowned The Green Goddess, driving around in her earth-friendly Prius preaching environmentally correct sermons. Now she’s suddenly the expert on quality family time vis a vis The Family Dinner: Great Ways to Connect with Your Kids One Meal at a Time? She’s proven she’s got credibility on ecology issues, but where does she get off telling the rest of us how to enhance our family relations thru shared meals? If she really wants culinary street cred, she should attempt the massive undertaking my son Adam, his buddies and I did this past weekend.

The school both my sons attended in North Hollywood, has a tradition of holding annual social gatherings for the parents of students in each grade, beginning in kindergarten and culminating in the senior year of high school. Naturally, over time, we parents who’ve been haphazardly lumped together due to the coinciding ages of our children, form bonds that last many years and sometimes, a lifetime.

Wonderful, right? Except someone has to host these things. And that someone, at least in my son’s class is now us. It began last year when Adam’s tenth grade Room Parents asked me if we’d be willing to host the party. We had a great time doing it and the event was a big success, so I volunteered our house again this year.

Last year we did an Italian theme. At 15 or 16 years old, the boys were serious foodies; not only did they have the good fortune to travel extensively with their families, thus tasting some of the best cuisines in the world, but on occasion, they also pool their pocket money and dine out together in the best restaurants Los Angeles has to offer. Oh, and some of them have had summer jobs working in the finest professional kitchens around. These are boys who shop at 99Ranch Market, purchase a live duck, take it home, break its neck and start cooking. I am not nearly as adventurous.

Last year, the boys and I planned a menu and worked out a reasonable work schedule, that allowed us to prep and freeze many of our dishes in advance—a huge time saver. This year was no different. However, I had the bright idea to produce an authentic Spanish tapas menu, using a much admired but never used cookbook* I received as a jumping off point. We devised a menu of eight different tapas, some to be passed and some stationed, and a paella-sort of rice and chicken dish for an entrée. Did I mention we were expecting approximately 100 parents?

Our tapas menu consisted of Ginger-Spiced Cashews, Imported Spanish Tuna Butter Canapes, Wild Mushrooms with Marsala Wine, Roasted Mussels in

White Wine with Garlic & Pernod, Mini Spanish Frittatas with Chorizo & Chipotle Crema, Roast Pork Tenderloin with Herbed Cheese Crostini, Roasted Garlic Shrimp with Paprika & Aioli Dipping Sauce, and Chorizo “Lollipops”. (see right)

Talk about quality bonding time! Move over Laurie David! Over the course of a few weekends and many hours, the boys and I prepped our hearts out, sharing culinary tips and tweaking flavors. The best part for me though, was quietly observing the boys become so involved in their work, they talked and teased freely amongst themselves, seemingly forgetting I was in the room. What a wonderful window I was given into the hearts and minds of our children. So while getting your kids to help out in the kitchen on an already harried weeknight is a nice idea, I heartily recommend rolling up your sleeves, forming a partnership with your child(ren) and jumping into a challenge that neither of you will forget.

Next year I’m thinkin’ Chinese…..

*Tapas by Penelope Casas


  1. BLISS! An Amazing feast my friend, with your heart and soul touching everything and everyone. Oh, the foodie boys did that "duck thing" at my home and I had to leave the room during that! But alas, my husband shared a few cooking secrets with them in duck preparation because he is a foodie too. Time in the kitchen, and at 99Ranch Market with these boys over the years has been a gift I too cherish. Thanks to you, you have really shared your beautiful talents and shared your time, passions and home as well. It has paid off in the amazing foods and beautiful presentations.

    Everyone chatted and munched away on that perfect evening.Bliss.

  2. My husband and I recently took a long weekend in Barcelona and fell in LOVE with Tapas. When my daughter comes home from college next week we plan on trying many tapas treats from my new cookbook as well!

  3. Which book is that? If you try out a recipe that's really good, let us know so we can all try it too!