On the Road with Tapas / by zhaophotography

I recall a particular moment, days before the first Project Food Blog Challenge was due, when Jared and I had originally made the decision to *not* be a part of this competition.  With so many things that we were juggling on our plate, we just didn't want to take on any more big projects and we also wanted to relax a little before our lives get turned upside down at the end of the year (anyone know what I'm talking about? heh).  But on the day the first challenge was due, I was already putting together a post about our trip to the east coast, so I thought "Hey, what the heck, why don't I just submit this post as our first challenge and see what happens?"  And here we are 6 challenges in and still fighting for a chance to advance!  So first of all, a huge thank you to all our readers supporting us this far into the challenge.  We've had a lot of fun and we're so incredibly proud of our work.  But we're also totally exhausted as we just finished our 6th challenge.  I had suggested to Jared to take it easy this round, but apparently he's gotten so competitive he only knows how to "go all out" for each challenge.  So here it is ladies and gentlemen, for Project Food Blog Challenge #6 On the Road challenge, we present to you "Tapas... To Go!"

Our first international trip together was already 5 years ago, when we went with a group of friends to Barcelona.  All we knew back then was that we wanted Tapas.  Tapas, tapas and more tapas.  We had a lot of great food and fell in love with the city so much that we served Spanish Tapas hors d'oeuvres at our wedding.  Every now and then we still like to reminisce over our trip to Barcelona so this was the perfect opportunity for us to recreate some of our favorite cold dishes for this challenge.

The Zhao's Tapas To Go Menu Brandada Tapenade Caramelized Black Mission Figs, Manchego, Serrano Ham Braised Oxtail and Goat Cheese stuffed in Piquante Peppers Gambas A La Plancha Flan Pomegranate Spritzer

Jared woke up early that morning to slave away in the kitchen.  A little after noon, we packed up our Project Food Blog cooler and headed to the lake for a short picnic, or however long the weather would allow it.  It had already rained quite a bit that morning but we were determined to take this food on the road and eat it too.  As our luck would have it, the sun peeked out between clouds during the second half of our picnic giving us just enough to get us through the challenge of taking photographs.

Brandada (Salted Cod, Potatoes, Garlic, Olive Oil)

We recently had some amazing brandada (brandade) at Avec and so with the help of Fergus Henderson's The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating, Jared made a quick brandada with salted cod, potatoes, garlic and olive oil.  How fun are these individually portioned containers?  He also topped it with a little parsley for a fresh taste and slightly extra oomph.

Ingredients: 1/4 lb dried salted cod 1 russet potato 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream 1/2 cup olive oil 2 cloves garlic salt + pepper


  • Submerge the salted cod in water for 12 hours.  Change the water frequently.
  • Place the cod in a pan with fresh water and bring to a boil
  • Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes
  • Remove the cod and let it cool, then remove the skin and bones
  • Peel the potato and cut into chunks
  • Boil the potato until soft, then drain and set aside
  • Rough chop the garlic and sautee in a little bit of oil (I like to cook the garlic a little bit to remove the bite from it)
  • Warm the cream in a pot and heat the oil in a separate pot
  • Add the garlic in a food processor and blend until a finely minced
  • Add the cod and potato and blend
  • Slowly drizzle a little bit of the oil and cream until a puree with hairy strings has formed
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper
  • Eat it with toasted bread and enjoy


Almost every one of our meals in Barcelona started out with house marinated olives.  It was the first time I realized I really loved olives- I mean, the only other types of of olives I had before then was the canned kind that came on top of bad pizza (gross).  After this trip, I found that I could never turn down a good marinated olive.  Back before we became Mr and Mrs Eat A Duck I Must, I'd pick up a jar of tapenade for a simple crostini snack.  Well, it turns out that making a fresh batch of olive tapenade is even easier than brandade.  In a food processor, we threw in a handful of olives (pitted of course), capers, marinated garlic and olive oil.  A dash of sugar was added to balance out the saltiness.  All of it was done to taste and it really doesn't require a full on recipe!

Caramelized Black Mission Figs, Manchego, Serrano Ham

And at least every other meal in Barcelona, we ate jamón.  I mean, a LOT of jamón.  Unfortunately it's a lot more expensive to purchase serrano or ibérico ham in the states.  Though every now and then we will indulge ourselves, so we picked up a few slices for this tapas dish.  First Jared cut the figs in half, dipped it in sugar and caramelized each half with a torch.  He then added a small slice of manchego and topped it jamón.  The combination was so incredibly delicious!

our beauteous figs


Gambas a la Plancha

This was another one of our wedding hors d'oeuvre menu items. Grilled garlicky and spicy shrimp.  The grilled shrimp were marinated in olive oil, garlic chips and pepper flakes.  Just remember to suck the head, it is the best part!

Stuff Piquante Peppers with Oxtail, Goat Cheese and Parsley

Jared had some leftover braised oxtail from our oxtail hot pot.  So he shredded some meat.  Then from the freezer he pulled out some beef stock made with red wine and turned it into a demi-glace.  The shredded oxtail meat is then mixed with the demi-glace and stuffed into a piquante pepper.  You can also use piquillo pepper like in our previous post or roasted red pepper.  Finally, top it with some crumbled goat cheese and chopped parsley and serve it on a piece of grilled bread.


It is not a Spanish meal without flan as a dessert.  Thanks to Chef Curtis Duffy's recipe, Jared can now make a pretty mean flan.  As we were having dessert, our dog was also enjoying his delicious stick.

Pomegranate Spritzer

To wash everyone down, Jared made a pomegranate spritzer.  Pomegranates are now in season so get them while you can.  Fortunately, you can buy pomegranate juice in a bottle now, which saved us a lot of time.  Just add juice and lemon-lime soda together.  To reduce the amount of sugar, you can also use sparkling lemon water.

The afternoon actually turned out to be a beautiful day.  We ate our tapas lunch by the lake, while our dog stared at the ducks from afar.

Please vote for us here!  Actually, we just want to make it to the next round so we can film our video- we have huge things in store! ;)