Spicy citrus Caribbean shrimp and avocado atop black bean puree and sweet potato with a drizzle of cilantro vinaigrette… summer tapas party food!
The word tapa means lid. It was thought that the plate acted like a lid on top of the mug or glass (to keep out dirt, dust, and insects) in bars that originally offered food, probably to attract customers.
— Tapas, CliffordAWright.com
While tapas originated in Spain, tapas bars have become quite a trend globally. What is a tapa? It is more than a small plate, or an appetizer. Unfortunately, it seems much of the charm and appeal of Spanish tapas bars has been lost in many places. In the broadest sense, tapas can be anything that comes out of the kitchen of a bar on a small plate. They are nibbles that accompany adult beverages. A tapas bar should be an experience – one of lively conversation, relaxation, and adventure. It is not a menu or a restaurant. I believe they are best enjoyed with a good glass of wine or beer, and should not require utensils (although I do make exceptions). The idea is to be able to mingle, converse, eat, and drink with a measure of mobility… a drink with its small plate “lid” and a free hand with which to nibble. Sound like fun?
I love to entertain. Sometimes my menu is focused and somewhat formal but I often enjoy borrowing from the Spanish tradition, and serving tapas-style with great wine and beer paired with a variety of small plates. In creating these Caribbean Shrimp Tapas, I was thinking ahead to a summer party on the patio.
The spicy orange and cilantro flavors of these sweet potato, black bean purée, shrimp, and avocado bites speak of warm summer evenings, and are sure to please your party guests. They are a bit of work, but enjoy the effort with a glass of Spanish rosé, and you’ll scarcely notice as time passes. 😉
I have to confess to having tried this dish initially with thin slices of sweet potato fried in canola oil. They did not hold their shape well, and thus failed the finger food test that makes them suitable for a tapas party. However, my husband and I loved the flavor combination, so I tried doing a roasted sweet potato medallion. This worked perfectly, and in the process, the recipe shed a few calories and grams of fat. That is always a good thing!
This is a dish with layered flavors that complement one another. I would suggest getting the sweet potatoes in the oven to roast first, as they take 30-45 minutes (depending on method). I use convection roast, which means the temperature is reduced by 25 degrees, and I get them done in 20% less time. I have included both methods in the recipe instructions. While the sweet potatoes roast, whisk the ingredients together in a suitable prep bowl, and marinate the shrimp for 20-30 minutes. When the shrimp are ready to be grilled, the reserved marinade gets incorporated into the black bean purée. The ingredients for the black bean purée go into the bowl of a food processor, and are pulsed until smooth. Lastly, thin-slice your avocado, and begin assembling. You can complete these in under an hour if you are organized. 🙂
Sweet potato slices should be scrubbed, but you can peel or not. Slice fairly thick - from 3/8" to 1/2" thick. The thickness will determine how long they need to roast. Medium sized shrimp work well. You only need one on each tapa. I love Trader Joe's Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar. You can substitute any citrus vinegar, or rice vinegar. If you can't find red chile pepper paste in your produce department, you can use Fresno chiles (stems and seeds removed) pureed with water until smooth.
Roasted Sweet Potatoes
You will probably have leftover black bean puree. It is fabulous with tortilla chips or sweet potato fries, and is a healthy snack.
Sweet potato slices should be scrubbed, but you can peel or not. Slice fairly thick - from 3/8" to 1/2" thick. The thickness will determine how long they need to roast.
Medium sized shrimp work well. You only need one on each tapa.
I love Trader Joe's Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar. You can substitute any citrus vinegar, or rice vinegar.
If you can't find red chile pepper paste in your produce department, you can use Fresno chiles (stems and seeds removed) pureed with water until smooth.