The Spanish tradition of tapas — small-plate dishes that can be enjoyed hot or cold — is perfectly suited for the casual nature of summertime meals. These dinners feature a variety of foods that are meant to be shared and enjoyed in small bites, a feast of samples, if you like.

Last weekend we enjoyed a tapas-inspired meal, featuring these Spanish Spice Grilled Sirloin Skewers and a host of other small plates and homemade sangria. We dined al fresco (outdoors), and, for a moment, life was practically perfect.

The sirloin skewers cook quickly on the grill over direct, high heat, needing only two to three minutes per side until fully cooked and lightly charred. Sarah Nasello / The Forum
The sirloin skewers cook quickly on the grill over direct, high heat, needing only two to three minutes per side until fully cooked and lightly charred. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

I first encountered tapas when I was a cruise director back in the '90s, in Sevilla, our first Spanish port of call. I had heard of tapas but had no idea what to expect when I ventured out with some fellow crew members to a restaurant just down the pier from our ship. Our waiter explained to us that the best way to enjoy tapas is to order a variety of small plates to share, so that we could all enjoy a sampling of specialties.

When our plates arrived, we feasted on patatas bravas, fried cheeseballs, marinated sardines, grilled bread with olive tapenade, an assortment of Spanish cheeses and chorizo, grilled meats, ham croquettes, sangria and a host of other specialties I can no longer remember. It was marvelous.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

“This is a snack dinner,” I thought to myself. As a young girl, every so often my family would have we called a “snack dinner.” These meals were always an occasion, and we would spend the day procuring our food for the feast. We always stopped at Leeby’s Food Market on Broadway, and Morrie’s Cheese Cove in the Moorhead Center Mall — specialty food stores where we could find freshly baked breads, deli foods, smoked oysters, sardines, good cheese and candies from Europe.

When we arrived home, we would arrange everything on tv trays — a miniature buffet for our small-plate smorgasbord. These meals were a beloved tradition in our family, and I loved seeing how the Spanish embraced the same custom with their tapas.

Ground cumin, dried oregano, paprika, ground mustard, salt and pepper are combined to create a dry rub of Spanish flavors for the steak. Sarah Nasello / The Forum
Ground cumin, dried oregano, paprika, ground mustard, salt and pepper are combined to create a dry rub of Spanish flavors for the steak. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

These Spanish Spice Grilled Sirloin Skewers feature thin slices of top sirloin steak coated in a dry rub of classic Spanish spices including paprika, ground cumin, dried oregano and ground mustard. This is a quick and simple dish to prepare, and many steps can be done in advance so that all you need to do is fire up the grill and get cooking.

We sliced the sirloin into strips about ¼-inch wide, tossed them with the spice rub and then threaded them onto steel skewers, accordion-style.

Top sirloin steak is sliced into thin strips about 1/4-inch wide. Sarah Nasello / The Forum
Top sirloin steak is sliced into thin strips about 1/4-inch wide. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

Because the steak strips are thin, they cook quickly on a hot grill, needing only about two to three minutes on each side before they are cooked through and lightly charred around the edges.

Strips of the dry-rubbed sirloin are threaded onto skewers, accordion-style. Sarah Nasello / The Forum
Strips of the dry-rubbed sirloin are threaded onto skewers, accordion-style. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

The skewers were delicious and full of Spanish flavor, and I served them with a garlicky, vinaigrette-style steak sauce that can be poured on top of the skewers or used for dipping. I have included the recipe for the sauce and have also created a list with links to recipes that would pair well with grilled meats so you can create your own tapas menu at home.

A small food processor is ideal for making Sarah's quick and easy Spanish Steak Sauce, a flavorful blend of extra-virgin olive oil, garlic and herbs. Sarah Nasello / The Forum
A small food processor is ideal for making Sarah's quick and easy Spanish Steak Sauce, a flavorful blend of extra-virgin olive oil, garlic and herbs. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

Quick, easy and full of flavor, these Spanish Spice Grilled Sirloin Skewers are the perfect way to embrace the fun and ease of summertime feasting.

More small-plate inspiration:

Spanish Spice Grilled Sirloin Skewers

PRINT: Click here for a printer-friendly version of this recipe

Makes: 8 skewers with 3 strips of sirloin each

Skewer ingredients:

1.5 pounds top sirloin steak, sliced into thin strips ¼-inch wide

2 teaspoons paprika

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 teaspoon ground mustard

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Sarah’s Spanish Steak Sauce ingredients:

¼ cup fresh parsley, stemmed and roughly chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

½ to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (½ for mild heat, more as desired)

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

If serving with Sarah’s Spanish Steak Sauce, prepare the sauce first so the flavors have time to marinate together. The sauce may be prepared up to 3 days in advance of serving.

To prepare the sauce, place all the ingredients in a small food processor and process until well-combined, about 1 minute. Add oil and vinegar and pulse until smooth. If sauce is too thick, add more oil (or water), 1 tablespoon at a time, until desired consistency is achieved. Add salt and pepper and pulse again until incorporated. Taste and add more seasoning as desired.

Let sauce sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before serving so the flavors meld together. Sauce may also be prepared up to 3 days in advance and refrigerated until ready to use (bring to room temperature and shake well to combine before serving). This sauce would also be excellent with other grilled meats, fish and vegetables.

To prepare the sirloin skewers:

Before you begin, make sure that your grill is clean, hot and well-lubricated with vegetable oil. Preheat grill to hot and keep the lid closed until ready to grill. If using wooden skewers, soak them first in water for 15 to 20 minutes to prevent burning on the grill.

In a small bowl, mix together spices and seasoning until well-combined. Use immediately or store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a year. The recipe for the rub may be multiplied as desired (doubled, tripled, etc.), and you will need ¼ cup of the spice rub for 1.5 pounds of meat.

Place strips of sirloin in a large bowl and sprinkle spice rub over the meat. Use a spatula or your hands to toss until evenly coated.

Thread sirloin strips onto skewers, accordion-style, adding 2 or 3 strips per skewer depending on its length.

Place skewers on the hot grill over direct heat and lower the cover. Cook for 3 minutes, then flip and continue cooking until the meat is cooked through and lightly charred around the edges, about 2 to 3 minutes (because the strips of meat are thin, the meat will cook quickly).

Transfer skewers to a serving platter and serve with Sarah’s Spanish Steak Sauce or your favorite dipping sauce.

Recipe Time Capsule:

This week in...

Recipes can be found with the article at InForum.com.

“Home with the Lost Italian” is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello’s in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at sarahnasello@gmail.com.