Less is more… comfortable that is.
There’s a voice in my head that sounds like Barbara Billingsley from “Leave it to Beaver” – the voice says, “order smaller portions” (yes the voice actually speaks in italics whenever I go out to a restaurant.) At some places, of course, it’s impossible to obey the voice, not necessarily because I won’t listen, but because even so-called ‘healthy menu items’ are often still TOO BIG. But recently, as a family farewell dinner to our oldest daughter Jenny who left for college this past Thursday, my resourceful husband introduced the 5 of us to a Spanish restaurant in nearby trendy Pasadena, CA.
La Luna Negra specializes in SMALL plates of food. (Spanish food, as you probably know, is very different from Mexican food.) We had a delightful evening in this very hip and hand painted restaurant, which included a very entertaining flamenco dance show that Jenny was invited to participate in!
In addition to the postively unbridled entertainment, we enjoyed a number of delicious courses of tapas, which is the Spanish word for a meal that consists of small portions. Literally, tapas comes from the Spanish word tapar, or ‘to top’ because it was traditionally served by the waiter on ‘top’ of a full glass of wine. (That tradition probably spawned the tradition of the ‘siesta.’).
After eating all this:
- An assortment of mushrooms cooked in lemon and pepper corn brine
- Black tiger shrimp glistening with lime juice, jalapenos, fresh cilantro and red onions
- Grilled eggplant with other deliciously seasoned veggies
- Grilled lamb chops served with eggplant, lentil couscous, & goat cheese
- Paella Vegetariana
- A disarming wrap of marinated chicken sautéed with baby carrots in a garlic and lime-juice sauce
I was able to get up from the table with ease and walk – not waddle – out into the night because I really didn’t eat that much. I felt totally full and free of guilt, which is the best dessert I know.
I wondered if I could try tapas cooking at home. I already know how to make a ratatouille-style eggplant dish, and we had fun coming up with three or four other ideas that could be served appetizer-sized that all together would be plenty for a complete meal, while low in total calories. I then realized that I had actually been practicing the philosophy behind tapas for many years. Take Japanese restaurants, for example. For years I’d been enjoying Japanese tapas…you know…sushi. Duh! And now I understood why my girls had long ago always begged for Lunchables every time we went to the market. Yes, there’s actually the fun of tapas right there in the Lunchable plastic tray containing small portions of fat-filled crackers, fat-filled cheese and overly processed cold-cuts that once resembled turkey. As you’ve probably read in previous posts, I rarely bought Lunchables, but instead I’d prepare lunches that had a variety of three or four nutritious items (in small portions, of course.) No, I can’t provide the flamenco dancing and virtuoso guitar-playing of a tapas bar and, in fact, most of what I cook isn’t even remotely Spanish, but serving smaller portions for lunch and dinner actually makes my family happy. More importantly, it allows me to get Barbara Billingsley’s approval and, perhaps, the chance to fit into one of her dresses from the 1950’s – a time when people ‘cleaned their plates’ but somehow managed not to overeat.
This is Loren and me, having followed instruction #6 from this helpful article entitled How to Order Tapas