I've never been to Spain, but (in the immortal but completely baffling) words of Three Dog Night, I really like the music . Or the food. It's not the women who are insane there, but the chefs.
All those crazy, innovative chefs who started the whole trend of scientific food: freeze-drying and foams and dishes served with printed instructions for how to eat them. But Spain also sounds traditionally food-crazy, too, with pilgramages to eat salads with tuna and anchovies, or charcoal-grilled leeks or peppers. If you've cooked French and mastered Italian, Spanish should be next.
I really got on the bandwagon with Spanish food when Anya von Bremzen's book The New Spanish Table landed on my desk. I've been dying to go ever since--it has such gorgeous pictures and descriptions of food in all the regions of Spain. Perhaps I will, maybe as soon as my money doesn't all go to college tuition. In the meantime, I'm enjoying cooking from her book so much. I recommend it. I've also fooled around a little with "Tapas, A Taste of Spain in America" by Jose Andres. By a Spanish chef who has restaurants in D.C., so more elaborate, but very intriguing.
Today's story about a Valentine's Day dinner gives you just a taste of some of those recipes. They are very well suited to a big party, and one thing I like about the idea of tapas is that it makes things more informal. You can eat a few, then get up from the table and put together a few more, instead of timing everything perfectly ahead. I included some places to buy certain Spanish ingredients, because that's part of the fun of taking on a new cuisine in your kitchen.