Tapas are a wide range of popular appetizers within Spanish cuisine. They can be served cold or hot. In Spain, patrons of tapas can order many different tapas and combine them to make a full meal.

Tapas are designed to encourage conversation, because people are not so focused upon eating an entire meal when tapas are served. In some countries it is customary for diners to stand and move about while eating tapas further promoting conversation and community.

Originally tapas were small slices of bread or meat which sherry drinkers in Andalusian roadside tavern drinkers used to cover their glasses between sips. This was a practical activity meant to prevent fruit flies from hovering over the sherry.

Because of this, bartenders and restaurant owners soon created a variety of snacks to serve with the sherry, thus increasing their alcohol sales. The tapa snacks eventually became as important as the sherry.

It should be no surprise then that the word "tapas" comes from the Spanish verb tapar, "to cover." One continually popular  tapa is pickled mussels – a true Spanish classic.

Pickled Mussels


  • 1 tsp finely chopped rosemary
  • 3 bsp minced onion
  • 1 tsp finely grated orange zest
  • 2 tbsp minced carrot
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 tsp finely chopped thyme
  • 1/4 cup sherry vinegar
  • Crusty bread, for serving
  • 1 tbsp  extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp finely chopped chives
  • 2 lbs Taylor mussels meats without shells
  • 1/4 tsp smoked Spanish paprika


  1. In a large pot of boiling water, cook the mussels until they start to open, 20 to 30 seconds.
  2. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the mussels to a bowl.
  3. Remove the mussels from their shells; discard any mussels that do not open.
  4. Cover and refrigerate the mussels.
  5. Strain the accumulated mussel juices into a small bowl.
  6. In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil.
  7. Add the onion, carrot and garlic and cook until softened, about 4 minutes.
  8. Add the mussel juices
  9. Cook over moderate heat until reduced by half, about 4 minutes.
  10. Stir in the sherry vinegar, thyme, rosemary, pimentón, chives and orange zest.
  11. Season with salt.
  12. Transfer the marinade to a bowl and refrigerate until cold, about 30 minutes.
  13. Pour the marinade over the mussels, cover and refrigerate for 3 hours to 8 hours.
  14. Spoon the mussels into small bowls and top with the parsley.
  15. Serve with bread.