Spanish bartenders are credited with creating the first tapas we know today as "small plates" as a method of guarding bar patrons' beverages from fruit flies attracted to sweet wines and popular sherries. As the custom grew and the bartenders became accustomed to covering wine glasses with bread slices, cured ham and cheese, the name for these strategically placed treats originated from the Spanish "tapar," meaning "to cover." Today, the small plate concept has an international menu, thanks to diverse, bite-sized appetizers criss-crossing culinary borders and delighting guests with small bursts of flavor, one bite at a time.
Make plans to serve a hearty main course from one simple bowl and you're offering more than comfort food. Because these dishes don't require a lot of hands-on preparation, they go a long way toward helping us create healthier options for family meals. "Quick, healthy food is a winning combination," says Reginald Ware, CEO of black doctor.org, a Web site providing health and nutrition resources to African-Americans. "We are definitely finding a heightened awareness in our online community about finding ways to balance a busy schedule with more nutritious mealtime options. Simple soups and stews make a great choice."