Nov. 2009 Book Club: The Alchemist & Tapas

A while back, a couple girls and I started a book club. We’re pretty informal. We alternate who chooses the book for the month, and that person hosts the book club meeting. November was my month. In honor of The Alchemist, whose main character is a boy from Spain, I chose to do a tapas party.

Book Review: The Alchemist

The menu: For those that don’t know, tapas are “small dishes” served in bars and cafes all over Spain. Tapas could be anything, from a little plate of olives to calamari and meatballs. Since there’s only a few of us, I couldn’t choose all my favorites, but below are a few that I enjoy.

Manchego Marinated in Olive Oil and Herbs

Patatas Bravas (Crispy Potatoes with a Tomato Sauce) – … not my favorite recipe, so make roasted potatoes and use the extra meatball sauce as a dipping sauce

Sauteed Mushrooms with Garlic & Parsley

Spanish-Style Meatballs

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(Marinated Manchego)

Spanish-Style Meatballs

Albondigas (aka Spanish-Style Meatballs)

Ingredients for the Sauce (A Books n’ Cooks Original; inspired by this Food Network Recipe and this recipe from Spain Recipes)

  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1/2 an onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2-28 oz. cans whole tomato, chopped
  • 2 Tbs. red wine
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh basil
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh rosemary
  • salt & pepper

Ingredients for the Meatballs (Adapted from this recipe from Spain Recipes)

  • 1 lb. ground beef or meatloaf mix
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 egg
  • 1 c. plain breadcrumbs
  • 3 cloves garlic

I had used up all my manchego cheese before making this, but would like to add the recommended 2 Tbs. of grated manchego next time.

Make the Sauce

Heat olive oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add onions & garlic and cook for 5 minutes, until the onions are translucent.

While the onions are cooking, open the cans of tomatoes and roughly chop the tomatoes (save the juice!). This step is in here because I got ahead of myself and forgot to chop the tomatoes. 🙂

Add tomatoes, and remaining ingredients to the onions & garlic. Lower heat and let simmer.

Make the Meatballs

In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients with your hands.

Roll mixture into small balls and place on a foil-lined cookie sheet.

Bake for 10 minutes, until browned (I forgot mine in the oven, hence why they’re a bit crispy looking!)

Meatballs 1-1

Add meatballs to sauce. If you’re serving them within the hour, let everything simmer together. Otherwise, turn off heat and reheat on low at least 20 minute before serving.

Meatballs 2-1

Cranberry White Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

Dec 2009 Update: So very sorry to all my readers! A friend pointed out a typo in this recipe in the amount of flour used. The correct amount is 2 1/4 cups of flour!

Cranberry White Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

Adapted from Ocean Spray

Makes 5 dozen cookies.


  • 1 1/4 c. butter, softened
  • 1 c. confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 1/4 c. flour
  • 1 c. dried cranberries
  • 1 c. white chocolate chips

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Preheat oven to 325 F and prepare a baking sheet with a sheet of parchment paper.

Cream together butter and confectioner’s sugar, until light and fluffy.

Gradually add flour, beating until combined. Dough will be a bit crumbly looking.Cranberry Shortbread Cookies 001-1

Stir in cranberries and white chocolate chips.

Gather dough into small balls, using a 1/8 measuring scoop for guidance. Roll dough together.

Put dough onto baking sheet and press down slightly.

Cranberry Shortbread Cookies 002-1Bake for 14 minutes (less if you pressed the cookies fairly flat). Let sit on the cookie sheet for a minute or two before moving to a wire rack to cool, as cookies will be very soft.

Enjoy with a cup of tea or an afternoon coffee.  🙂

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Baked Shrimp Scampi

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Serve over pasta for a quick weeknight meal. I added a bit of extra panko breadcrumbs and parsley for some extra crunch. It was really good; there was a great layering of sweet and salty flavors, with just a hint of spice from the red pepper flakes. Next time, I’ll probably try to mix it up a bit, and add in some Parmesan cheese.

Baked Shrimp Scampi

Source: The Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten

Serves 6


  • 2 lb. (12-15 per pound) shrimp in the shell; peeled (tails on) and deveined
  • 3 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 Tbs. dry white wine
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 Tbs. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 tsp. minced garlic (4 cloves)
  • 1/4 c. minced shallots (I used 1/8 c. dried onion flakes)
  • 3 Tbs. minced fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 tsp. minced fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp. grated lemon zest
  • 2 Tbs. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 extra-large egg yolk
  • 2/3 c. panko breadcrumbs
  • Lemon wedges, for serving


Preheat the oven to 425.

Place shrimp in a mixing bowl and toss with olive oil, wine, 2 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. pepper.

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In another bowl, mix softened butter and all other remaining ingredients, except the lemon wedges.

In a 14-inch oval gratin dish, arrange the shrimp in a single layer, cut side down, with tails pointing up. (Ina recommends beginning at the edge and working towards the center.) Pour what’s left of the olive oil and wine mixture on top of the shrimp. Spread/crumble butter mixture on top of the shrimp.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, until hot and bubbling. Then, broil for 1 minute, until top is slightly browned.