I had good intentions. When the whimsically illustrated “A Sherry & a Little Plate of Tapas” arrived from the publisher, I set it aside for my boss to review. She lived in Spain for a year, honeymooned there and speaks fondly of the place. The new cookbook, by food and drinks writer Kay Plunkett-Hogge, had her name all over it.

Unluckily for my boss, it lingered under my desk a few weeks amid a teetering pile of new cookbooks awaiting reviews. I kept picking it up and glancing through it. The more I did, the more I coveted it. No matter that I have had a bottle of sherry languishing in my cabinet for going on 10 years and that I have been known to complain that I am tired of the tapas craze.

But from the octopus tentacles doodled on the flyleaf to the slightly goofy asides (“The best tool for stripping open a quail’s egg is probably a cigar cutter. But most of us aren’t Fidel Castro, so a serrated knife will do”), this small, compact book brims with charm. And really, how can you resist a cookbook whose very first recipe is for Flame of Love? It involves sherry, orange twists, vodka, Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra. I ask you.

“A Sherry & a Little Plate of Tapas” starts with brief primers on sherry, on tapas and on how to pair them. These are followed by four pictorial suggested menus that look so enticing I immediately set my heart on a trip to Spain. I settled for a trip to the kitchen. After sorting through such categories as Things on Bread, Things in Small Tins, Things on Sticks, I selected four recipes to try that looked as effortlessly casual as the book itself.

Like the better-known Sicilian caponata and French ratatouille, piperade – a Basque sauce of peppers, tomatoes and onions – was far more than the sum of its parts. “Yum!” I scribbled on the page. It deserves a wider audience in America.

I put Padrón Peppers and Ham on the table in under 10 minutes. A sophisticated, eye-catching snack, it had a glittering complement of salty, oily, charred, garlicky, cured and fresh flavors.


Goats’ Cheese and Honey – a fried, bread crumb-coated round of oozing cheese atop a bed of peppery arugula, onion slivers and manchego ribbons – called for a drizzle of good olive oil and good honey. It was deliciously simple and simply delicious. As with many of the recipes in this book, you must start with excellent ingredients.

Finally, the Small Tuna-Filled Pastry (empanadilla) from Galicia, which is stuffed with tuna, olives, hard-boiled eggs and peppers, tasted to me like Spain in a single bite. — PEGGY GRODINSKY

Pimientos de Padrón Y Jamón (Padrón Peppers and Ham)

I substituted easier-to-find shishito peppers. Writer Kay Plunkett-Hogge doesn’t tell you what to do with the halved tomatoes once you have rubbed the bread. I sliced mine up to eat with a blob of ricotta cheese, a drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. That, and this montaditos (thing on bread, in my case, a Standard Baking baguette) combined for a tasty, exceptionally easy summer supper. Shopping is the more time-consuming part of this recipe.

Makes 8

8 Padrón peppers


8 slices of bread, lightly toasted

1 garlic clove, halved

2 tomatoes, halved

8 slices of Serrano ham

Sea salt and fresh ground pepper

To blister the peppers, heat a little vegetable oil in a cast-iron pan until very hot. Add the peppers carefully. Fry them, turning occasionally, so that they start to blister and char a little. This well take 3 to 5 minutes.


Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon.

Sprinkle with coarse sea salt.

Rub the bread slices with the halved garlic clove. Now rub with the halved tomatoes.

Place the Serrano ham on the bread and top each with a Padrón pepper. Season with salt and pepper.

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