Small plates for healthy hearts
A tapas menu highlights the art of small-plate dining. Try our tapas recipes and set the stage for a tactile dining experience.
Tapas is the trendy art of small-plate dining, setting the stage for a tactile evening of romancing your food. These small plates are for sharing, tasting, and trying a variety of different foods, many of which can be eaten with fingers instead of forks.
These fragrant aromas and palpable textures will get your head spinning and your heart thumping—a must when celebrating Valentine’s Day.
Tapas is a staple in Mediterranean cuisine, often touted for its heart-healthy benefits. Unlike a typical North American diet, the Mediterranean diet is based on whole grains, lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, and plenty of fish. It limits unhealthy fats and uses meat sparingly as more of a flavour enhancer than the main course. Moderation is the key.
Research from the Mayo Clinic indicates that a traditional Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of heart disease. All those antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables lower cholesterol, a substance that builds up in the arteries and causes heart problems.
Tapas is a social, sharing event. It involves conversation, engagement, and dedicated time spent with one another. This type of wellness mindset is a big part of Mediterranean culture. Luckily, under the guise of Valentine romance, we make an effort to eat together, quietly and without the usual distraction that can dominate daily life. A tapas-inspired dinner couldn’t be more appropriate (or romantic) for Valentine’s Day—heart-smart food combined with tender moments shared with those we love.
The ubiquitous olive plays many roles in the tapas repertoire. Nothing is easier or more elegant than a bowl of glossy olives, with different varieties tumbled together. When used for cooking, the flavour changes dramatically: that signature salty, briny flavour opens up any dish, adding layers of aromatic flavour.
Castlevatrano: A most unusual olive. With a muted grassy colour, it has a smooth and buttery flavour, almost as if an avocado crossed paths with an olive. These aren’t brined like traditional olives so they have a less salty, fruitier flavour. Best eaten out of hand or pitted and dished up in salads.
Gaeta: These bruised brownish-purple big olives from central Italy have a smoky, earthy taste. A great cooking olive.
Picholine: From Provence, France, these have a nutty flavour with hints of anise. They have a subtle salty flavour and crunchy texture. Best eaten out of hand or slow-cooked with braised meats.
Cerignola: From Puglia, Italy, these large black or green olives have a sweet, fruity flavour. The green ones have a more crisp bite to them. A great addition to a bowl of mixed olives.
Best places to buy
Most supermarkets supply a large variety of olives that you can self-serve at the deli bar or buy prepackaged. Canned olives and certain bottled olives are treated with lye, but naturally processed olives cured with either oil or brine and additives such as wine vinegar are available; ask your deli manager or health food retailer which olives are naturally processed.
Olives should be shiny and plump—avoid dried, dull-coloured ones. Store olives in their brine or coat with olive oil and refrigerate so they keep longer. Before serving, bring to room temperature.