Enjoy a festive low-cholesterol tapas party – includes recipes

Leslye Borden

Enjoy A Festive Low-Cholesterol Tapas Party

If you are watching your fat and cholesterol consumption, as are most of us, you probably are eager to add variety to your menu, particularly when throwing a party. Spain has provided just such a healthy eye opener with tapas, a form of Spanish hors d’oeuvres that adapt easily to a healthy diet.

Spanish cuisine lends itself to a healthy diet for several reasons. First, the cuisine generally contains little or no dairy products. Nor do the Spanish have much of an inclination to eat beef. The cuisine also relies heavily on olive oil, a monounsaturated fat which can help reduce blood cholesterol levels.

Perhaps due to Spain’s geographical position, surrounded by the Mediterranean with easy access to the Atlantic — fish and shellfish are predominant in the Spanish diet in general and in the tapas tradition in particular. At one time, nutritionists considered shellfish inappropriate for people trying to reduce their cholesterol levels because it contains so much cholesterol. Now that they know how to distinguish between different kinds of sterols, they argue that shellfish is good for people on low-cholesterol diets because it is so low in fat. If the choice is between equal amounts of beef and shrimp, for example, choose fresh shrimp because it contains no fat. Scallops are the lowest-cholesterol shellfish. Spanish seafood dishes add a lot of variety to the repertoire of low-cholesterol preparations.

Some of the tapas dishes that meet the requirements of a low-cholesterol diet are marinated seafood salad, seasoned olives, salmon stuffed eggs, mushrooms sauteed in sherry, marinated eggplant, roasted peppers, white bean salad, and fish fillets topped with tomato sauce. In Spain, some of these dishes would be topped with bechemel sauce and then deep-fried, but we have adapted them to fit the dietary requirements mentioned above.

By opting for this menu, you won’t be harassed by last minute cooking details. Many of these dishes are best made in advance, so you will be done with your share well before party time when you will want to rest and relax along with everyone else.

Make sure you have a big stack of small paper plates on hand to keep clean up at a minimum. Tapas are supposed to be finger foods so you don’t even need silverware. Fill a big basket with thinly sliced French bread, or any other bread made without eggs and oil, to soak up the delicious juices. It’s very Spanish to eat tapas this way. Remember, you’re serving snacks, something to drink and the atmosphere for friendly, relaxed conversation.

As a final inducement to planning and preparing such an occasion, consider the benefits you’ll be providing your guests. All these dishes are much lower in calories, fat and cholesterol than the usual party fare. Even more importantly, they are absolutely delicious and unusual. Finally, you’ll be setting a new pace for the party tradition in your crowd, one that is lower in cholesterol and higher in togetherness, an unbeatable combination.

Marinated Seafood Salad

1 1/2 lbs fish fillets (halibut,

scallops, any other

cooked shellfish, or any

combination of these)

3 bell peppers (red, green and

yellow if possible),

chopped coarsely

1 large onion, chopped

1/2 cup chopped parsley

1 tsp salt substitute

Ground pepper

1 clove garlic, chopped finely

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 cup white wine

1 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp dried basil

2 cups fresh lemon or lime


If you use fish fillets, cut them in 1-inch cubes. If you select scallops, slice the scallops thinly. Place the prepared fish and/or shellfish in a glass bowl. Add the onion, peppers, parsley, garlic, salt and pepper. Combine all the ingredients for the marinade. Pour these over the fish and vegetable mixture. Marinate at least overnight. Makes about 20 tapas.

Seasoned Olives

1 28-oz jar of large Spanish

green olives, undrained 8 cloves of garlic, peeled 1 tsp dried oregano 1 Tbsp coarsely chopped

orange rind

Combine all ingredients in a glass jar. Cover tightly and refrigerate several days. Serve at room temperature.

Salmon (Or Tuna) Stuffed Eggs

10 eggs, hard boiled, sliced in

half lenghtwise 1 7 1/2-oz can of salmon or

tuna (packed in water),

drained 6 Tbsp tomato sauce 2 Tbsp chopped parsley

Salt substitute and pepper to


Remove the egg yolks from the egg halves and discard. In a small bowl, combine the salmon or tuna with the remaining ingredients. Stuff the egg whites with the mixture and refrigerate until ready to serve. Makes 20 servings.

Mushrooms Sauteed in Sherry

1 1/2 lbs medium mushrooms,

washed and halved

3 oz olive oil

3/4 onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

3/4 cup dry sherry

Salt substitute and pepper to


Heat the oil in a large frying pan with a non-stick surface. Add the mushrooms. Cook them until they stop producing liquid. This may take up to 20 minutes, depending on how high your heat is and what kind of mushrooms you use. Add the chopped onion and garlic. When they have browned, add the sherry, salt substitute and pepper. Simmer until the liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Serve hot, or at room temperature. Makes about 20 tapas.

Roasted Bell Peppers

7 large bell peppers (green,

red and/or yellow)

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1/4 cup olive oil 1/4 cup red wine vinegar

Salt substitute and pepper to


Char the peppers under the broiler for about 5 minutes per side or until blackened on all sides. Place in a large paper bag with a reinforced bottom. Keep them there for about 10 minutes, allowing them to steam. Peel the skins off carefully and remove the seeds. Collect the liquid from inside the peppers. Do not run the pepper pieces under water. Slice the cooked peppers into a glass bowl. Add the reserved liquid and other ingredients. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Makes at least 20 tapas.

White Bean Salad

3 15-oz cans great northern

beans (or any other white

beans), drained

3 Tbsp olive oil

1 1/2 Tbsp red wine vinegar

Salt substitute and pepper to


1 1/2 Tbsp chopped onion 1 1/2 Tbsp chopped green pepper 1 1/2 Tbsp chopped parsley

2 bay leaves

Place the beans in a medium mixing bowl. Add the other ingredients and mix gently, but well. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Remove the bay leaves before serving. Makes 20 tapas.

Fresh Tuna Baked in Tomato Sauce

2 lbs fresh tuna, shark or


Juice of one lemon 1/4 cup olive oil

1 28-oz can tomatoes,

drained, seeded and


1 bay leaf

Salt and pepper to taste

1 clove garlic, chopped


1 Tbsp parsley, chopped

Sprinkle the fish with salt substitute and lemon juice. Let it marinate 15 minutes in a glass baking dish that holds it all in one layer. While the fish is marinating, prepare the sauce. Heat the oil in a medium frying pan. Add the remaining ingredients except the garlic and parsley and cook over high heat for 5 minutes. If you prefer a smooth sauce, place in the food processor and puree. Reheat and reduce a little. Preheat the oven to 350 [degrees]. Pour the sauce over the fish. Sprinkle with garlic. Bake about 25 minutes, until the fish flakes easily. Do not overbake. To serve, sprinkle with chopped parsley. Serve hot or at room temperature. Makes 20 tapas.

COPYRIGHT 1990 PRIMEDIA Intertec, a PRIMEDIA Company. All Rights Reserved.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group

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