Culinary Architect: Entertaining with style by opening a can

Alexandra Troy

My husband and I love eating Tapas – Spanish hors d’oeuvres, as we spent our honeymoon in Spain. We enjoyed spending lazy afternoons sipping sherry and eating tasty morsels. Recently, I heard about Despana, a “chic shop for imported Spanish eats like Serrano ham and Chorizo”, located at 408 Broome Street in Manhattan (212) 219-5050 and at 86-17 Northern Blvd., Jackson Heights (718) 721-0341.

Despana sells delicious gourmet Spanish canned and bottled delicacies, as well as freshly made Chorizo sausages, the finest imported Serrano ham and authentic Spanish crackers.

I went to Despana in Queens and felt like “a kid in a candy store.”

Imagine my delight to find canned seafood, crackers and chorizo. After buying a goodly selection, I returned home and pondered the presentation.

Why not embrace the fact that these foods are the easiest way to entertain…just open the can! Being a caterer, I had to add a little of my je ne sais quoi, so I added Hot Artichoke Dip and my very easy to make, but so delicious, Famous Baked Olives.

For a dramatic presentation, I placed the foods on a large rustic cutting board and used scallop shells as hors d’oeuvres plates. I added bright orange cocktail napkins too. By the end of the evening, every morsel was devoured and the clean-up was tossing the empty cans in our recyclable can – how easy is that?

(Serves 8-10)
Purchased from Despana:
Canned Clams
Scallops in Tomato Sauce
Octopus in Oil
Mussels in Tomato Sauce
Spanish crackers
Mild Chorizo (which I sliced)

Purchased from Trader Joe’s:
Giant Baked Beans in Tomato Sauce

Made By Me:
Hot Artichoke Dip
Baked Olives

Hot Artichoke Dip
1 tblsp. olive oil1 garlic clove, minced
1 shallot, minced
1 14-oz. can of artichokes, drained
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup grated Parmesan, best quality
1/4 cup cream cheese
2 tblsp. fresh parsley

1. Heat olive oil in a saute pan, over medium heat. Add garlic and shallots and saute until softened, about 5-10 minutes. Add artichokes and saute until lightly golden.

2. Transfer artichoke, garlic and shallots to a food processor, fitted with a steel blade. Process until combined. Add remaining ingredients and process until smooth and creamy. Place the dip in an ovenproof ramekin. The dip may be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days.

3. Just before serving, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake artichoke dip until hot and bubbly, approximately 30 minutes. Serve and enjoy.
Baked Olives

2 cups best quality olives (most supermarkets now have olive bars; choose a medley if you wish)
Best quality Spanish olive oil

1. Drain and rinse olives. Place in an ovenproof ramekin. Drizzle with olive oil. (Olives may be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days at this point.)

2. Just before serving, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake olives until heated through, approximately 20 minutes.

3. Serve with a small bowl for discarded pits, alongside.

Alexandra Troy is owner of Culinary Architect Catering, a 35 year-old Greenvale-based company, specializing in private, corporate and promotional parties. Need help making your parties delicious and stress-free, Call 516-484-7431 and you will be a guest at your own party! If you make any of these recipes, send me a photo at

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Alexandra Troy

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