First, there was Spanish Night for my cousins on Saturday night. They were coming over at 5 p.m. and at 2 p.m. we were just finishing the marketing (which actually was super easy and fun) so we had three hours to do all the cooking, setting table, etc. and we did it with time to spare!
VIVA ESPAGNA MENU
Spanish Olives and Cheeses and crackers
Shrimp (recipe attached...we just added scallops to shrimp recipe)
Salad with Pepitas and Manchego
Tres Leches Cake (recipe attached)
Bread baked with olive oil (or Green Cilantro Spread)
Spanish Dessert Wine
Spicy Mexican (I know it's not Spanish, but give me a little Lazy leeway!) Hot Chocolate (recipe attached)
This is such an amazingly impressive dinner party with really so little effort. And, two of the major ingredients can -- and frankly should be made ahead -- Sangria and Tres Leches Cake. I did not make them ahead cause we decided on the menu at 11:30 on Friday night! If you don't make them ahead it's perfectly fine, the flavors just steep a little more...but NOT necessary, just cool that you CAN do ahead and decrease the load on party day.
We looked at a bunch of Paella recipes but because I'm vegetarian we needed to find the ones without chorizo or sausage as flavor-base. The one we found is great. We added scallops because Aaron loves scallops. It looks super beautiful with fresh flat parsley sprinkled across it and lemon wedges all around!
We looked at a bunch of Tres Leches Cake recipes also and I found one that is so easy you would never guess it was Martha Stewarts. My variation: I cut the 9x13 cake in half and put whipped cream in between and a melange of fresh fruit -- pineapple, mango, blueberries, strawberries (the juicier the fruit the better so I'll add orange next time too) --- and put whipped cream all over it and brought it to the table looking like a very normal almost-square cake...and then SURPRISE, it's soaking wet with tres leches, fruits and cream. It was unbelievably delicious -- if I do say so myself!
Spanish cheeses and olives are easy to find at Whole Foods -- muy delicioso!
After dessert, we served a Spanish dessert wine...and then, when people were good and full, we went and sat by the fire with our rich and spicy Hot Chocolate. The recipe says you can add sugar to taste. but I added none. It was DIVINO! But, I forgot I wanted to throw in a cinnamon stick when heating it up. Will do next time for SUPER-DIVINO!
I made White Sangria because Aaron prefers it. A little odd for winter, I know, but people didn't seem to mind. You can find tons of recipes on line but I just three together white wine, Hansen's mango soda, a little mango juice, and several swooshes of Brandy, then tons of fresh chopped fruit (the same varieties I used in the Tres Leches) PLUS pomegranate, green grapes, orange. It was stunning to look at, and it tasted so great. Not too sweet. You don't need to add sugar because the soda and juice have plenty.
For the Salad, I just did my usual lemon and olive oil. I used a mixture of red and butter lettuces and then sprinkled with Pepitas and some shavings of Manchego cheese.
For the Bread, I found this unbelievable Cuban (yes, I know Cuba is not Spain, but again, I'm Lazy!) Green Sauce at the new and amazing Figueroa Produce here in LA -- for those of you who live here, this is a MUST SHOP. FYI, this is where I got the most unbelievable lettuces for this dinner as well, and the shrimp -- for about 1/3 the price of normal markets -- fresh, lovely and CHEAP! For those of you elsewhere, for this dinner just take a sourdough baguette, slice, and brush between the slices with olive oil or butter. You don't need to add any garlic for this dinner but you certainly can add a little finely chopped garlic in between slices too.
The LAZIEST part of the meal was the Paella because Aaron did it! LOL! I helped prep though which is most of the work. The deal with Paella is you just prep every ingredient and put in separate little bowls. Nothing will go bad while it sits. Then you start the process when your guests arrive. During hors d'oeuvres he had to excuse himself just twice, and then voila it's out of the oven and steeps for the last ten minutes til you sit down for dinner! So impressive and really -- other than the chopping -- a very, very easy dish to make.
Seriously, this is one of the easiest, most impressive meals I've ever made! Hope someone does it! You must report back if you do!