The term “Spanish-American” is used to refer to Americans whose ancestry originates directly from Spain. Spanish Americans are the longest-established European-American group with a continuous presence in Florida since 1565 and are the eighth-largest Hispanic group in the United States of America. The emigration of great numbers of Spaniards from Spain during the last decades of the nineteenth century and the first decades of the twentieth century was significant enough to place Spain among the most active migratory peoples of Europe, ranking behind the United Kingdom and Italy and ranking closely with Austria-Hungary and Germany.
Throughout the colonial times, there were a number of settlements of Spanish populations in the present-day United States of America with governments answerable to Madrid. The first settlement was at St. Augustine, Florida, in 1565, followed by others in New Mexico, California, Arizona, Texas, and Louisiana. In 1598, San Juan de Los Caballeros was established near present-day Santa Fe, New Mexico by Juan de Oñate with about 1,000 other Spaniards. Spanish immigrants also established settlements in San Diego, California (1602), San Antonio, Texas (1691) and Tucson, Arizona (1699). By the mid-1600s the Spanish in America numbered more than 400,000. After the establishment of the American colonies, an additional 250,000 immigrants arrived either directly from Spain, the Canary Islands or from present-day central Mexico. These Spanish settlers expanded European influence in the New World. The Canary Islanders settled in bayou areas surrounding New Orleans in Louisiana from 1778 to 1783 and in San Antonio de Bejar, San Antonio, Texas, in 1731.
Like those aboard the Mayflower, most Spaniards came to the New World seeking land to farm, or occasionally, as historians have recently established, freedom from religious persecution. A smaller percentage of the new Spanish settlers were descendants of Spanish Jews and Spanish Muslims. Also coming to the Americas were the Basques (an ethnic group from north-central Spain and south-western France) who excelled as explorers and soldiers. A second reason for their emigration was their region’s devastation from the Napoleonic Wars in the first half of the nineteenth century. In the 1930s and 1940s, Spanish immigration mostly consisted of refugees fleeing from the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939) and from the Franco military regime in Spain, which lasted until his death in 1975.
Many Spanish Americans still retain aspects of their culture. This includes Spanish food, drink, art, and annual fiestas. The influence of Spanish cuisine is seen in the cuisine of the United States throughout the country. A study published in 2010 by La Caixa found that in Spain, there’s an average of 1 bar for every 129 Spaniards, thus eating and drinking are a very important part of Spanish culture. In Spain most bars are restaurants. These establishments are social meeting places where people can just have fun. A typical bar will always have a variety of tapas that vary from region to region and are usually included in the price of the drink or offered at a discount. Many bars offer a ”menú del día” (a three-course meal offered at a fixed price), “platos combinados”(one plate with different types of food), and “raciones” (large plates of food to share with the entire group). Another popular option, especially for Spanish dinner, is “irse de tapas/pinchos”, which means to hop from one bar to the next, enjoying a tapa at each place until you’re stuffed.
According to The Joy of Cooking, the original tapas were thin slices of bread or meat which sherry drinkers in Andalusian taverns used to cover their glasses with between sips. This was a practical measure meant to prevent fruit flies from hovering over the sweet sherry. The meat used to cover the sherry was normally ham or chorizo, which are both very salty and activate thirst. Because of this, bartenders and restaurant owners created a variety of snacks to serve with sherry, thus increasing their alcohol sales. The tapas eventually became as important as the sherry.
Enjoying food served as tapas at home or in restaurants has become popular in the U.S. A tapa is a small portion of Spanish food. Tapas may be cold (such as mixed olives and cheese) or hot (such as battered, fried baby squid). Tapas can also be combined to make a full meal. Here are a few recipes for tapas that you can easily make at home. The recipes make large portions, so I cut the amounts in half for our small family.
24 Medjool dates
1/2 cup cream cheese
12 strips bacon, cut in half (not thick-cut bacon)
Preheat oven to 375°F.
With a small sharp knife, make a slit in one side of each date and remove the pit.
Stuff about 1 teaspoon of cheese into the cavity.
Wrap 1/2 slice of bacon around each date. Secure with a toothpick.
Place on a rimmed baking tray lined with foil and bake for 10 minutes.
Remove the pan from the oven, turn each date over and bake for 8 minutes. Repeat this step one more time, or until all the bacon is cooked. Cook longer if you prefer crispier bacon.
Drain on paper towels. Cool for 5 minutes before serving.
Tortilla (Spanish Egg and Potato Omelette)
2 pounds of potatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
8 large eggs
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Beat the eggs in a large bowl and season with some salt and pepper.
Slice the onion as thin as possible and fry in a large skillet with a tablespoon or two of olive oil for about 10 minutes until they begin to caramelize (stir often).
When the onions are caramelized, drain off any excess oil and add to the egg mixture.
Peel the potatoes and rinse them under cold water. Slice the potatoes into thin slices.
Pat the potato slices dry and put them into a large bowl, sprinkle with salt, and mix well.
Heat a ½ inch of extra virgin olive oil in a large frying pan at medium-low heat.
When the oil is hot, add the potatoes and add more oil if necessary until all are covered by the oil.
Cook the potatoes for 20 minutes over low heat. When the potatoes have been frying 20 minutes, remove them with a slotted spoon into a strainer and allow to cool off while any excess oil drips away. Save the oil to use for cooking.
After a few minutes, add the potatoes to the egg mixture and stir well. Let the egg mixture sit for about 20 minutes.
Reheat the pan where you fried potatoes over medium-low heat and add the egg mixture.
Over low heat, cook the eggs for about 6-8 minutes per side.
When you are sure that the bottom is cooked and you want to flip the tortilla, take a large plate and put it over the pan and flip it over quickly! When the second side is cooked, slide the omelet out of the pan onto a serving plate and let cool before serving.
Pan con Tomate (Spanish-Style Grilled Bread With Tomato)
2 large, ripe beefsteak tomatoes
1 loaf ciabatta, split in half horizontally lengthwise, cut crosswise into 1 1/2-inch slice
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium cloves garlic, split in half
Flaky sea salts, such as Maldon or fleur de sel
Split tomatoes in half horizontally. Place a box grater into a large bowl. Rub the cut faces of the tomatoes over the large holes of the box grater, using the flattened palm of your hand to move the tomatoes back and forth. The flesh should be grated off, while the skin remains intact in your hand. Discard the skin and season the tomato pulp with kosher salt to taste.
.Adjust rack to 4 inches below the broiler and preheat the broiler to high. Place bread, cut side up, on a cutting board and drizzle with olive oil. Season with kosher salt. Place bread, cut side up, on a rack set in a tray or directly on the broiler rack and broil until crisp and starting to char around the edges, 2 to 3 minutes.
.Remove the bread from the oven and rub with the split garlic cloves. Spoon tomato mixture over bread. Drizzle with more extra-virgin olive oil and season with large flaky sea salt. Serve immediately.
Spanish-Style Garlic Shrimp (Gambas al Ajillo)
12 cloves garlic
1 pound large shrimp, peeled, shells reserved
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch red pepper flakes or a 1-inch piece dried guajillo chili
1 1/2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
Finely mince 4 garlic cloves and place in a large bowl. Smash 4 cloves under the flat side of a knife and place in a large skillet. Thinly slice remaining four garlic cloves and set aside.
Add shrimp to the bowl with the minced garlic. Add 3 tablespoons olive oil, 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, and baking soda. Toss to combine thoroughly and set aside at room temperature.
Add shrimp shells to the skillet with smashed garlic and add remaining olive oil and pepper flakes. Set over medium-low to low heat and cook, stirring and tossing occasionally, until shells are deep ruby red and the garlic is pale golden brown about 10 minutes. Oil should be gently bubbling the whole time. When ready, strain through a fine mesh strainer into a small bowl, tossing and pressing the shrimp shells to extract as much oil as possible. Discard shells and garlic.
Return flavored oil to the skillet and heat over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add sliced garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until pale golden brown, about 1 minute. Add reserved shrimp and cook, tossing and stirring constantly until shrimp are barely cooked through about 2 minutes. Add sherry vinegar and parsley and toss to combine. Season to taste with salt. Serve immediately.
June 7, 2019 at 9:41 am
The Pan con Tomate recipe using Maldon salt looks great. Thanks, Jovina.
June 7, 2019 at 9:53 am
You are welcome.
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June 7, 2019 at 10:04 am
What an absolute feast! All things we adore.
June 7, 2019 at 10:06 am
What a nice narrative! Thank you so much, and thank you for sharing the recipes. I really like the shrimp recipe, especially the technique of using the shells to infuse the oil.
Our Growing Paynes
June 7, 2019 at 10:07 am
The shrimp looks delicious. I keep meaning to try stuffed dates as well.
June 7, 2019 at 2:19 pm
Really like the filled date with bacon wrap.
June 7, 2019 at 3:16 pm
Love the recipes and the informative post.
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June 11, 2019 at 12:20 pm
Great post, loved reading about the history of Spanish-American food and it’s social aspect. Ken Albala, a food historian, talks about how in different generations of Spain the food changed over time meaning the different variations, such as the hot and cold different types of Tapas and how these meals adapt and change over time.
June 15, 2019 at 10:15 am
We lived in Miami for many years and your dishes are some of the most popular you will find at the Spanish restaurants there.
June 28, 2019 at 8:34 am
History recipe, liked it, thank for sharing, nice photo