Let us introduce you to the pintxo (or pincho). These bite sized delights originated in the 1930s when a bar in the South of Spain started serving little snacks with a toothpick to keep the ingredients together. The Spanish appetizer is often confused with tapas, and while they are very similar, the pintxo is set apart due to the use of a toothpick. Tapas are typically smaller, shareable versions of a larger dish, pintxos are individually portioned and often served on bread.
For our pintxo deepdive, we’re sharing three decadent recipes perfect for the next time you get assigned appetizer duty. Bonus points if you serve all three together and throw your own Pintxo tasting tour at home.
Serves 6 as an appetizer
The most quintessential Basque pintxo is known as La Gilda. The pickled combination of anchovy, olive, and pepper was created 60 years ago when a bar regular decided to experiment by skewering together some snacks set out on the counter by the owners.
Why the name? We’re glad you asked. Because the invention of this pintxo coincided with the San Sebastian International Film Festival, cinema was on the mind of San Sebastian residents. The blockbuster of that year was Gilda, starring Rita Hayworth as the titular role. Seeing as Hayworth’s character was just as spicy and salty as the newly discovered pintxo combination, the name seemed fitting. And thus, La Gilda was born.
16 pitted green olives, Manzanilla variety preferably*
1 jar pickled guindilla peppers
8-12 oil packed Spanish anchovies
8-12 wooden toothpicks
* If you can’t find olives without pimento stuffing, feel free to buy stuffed olives and simply poke the stuffing out with a toothpick.
To assemble, start by threading one olive and one pepper to the toothpick. Thread the end of one anchovy to the same skewer, placing another olive on top. Thread the rest of the anchovy by wrapping it over the olive, skewering the other end of the filet. Finish by adding another olive to the toothpick. Repeat with the remaining toothpicks and ingredients, and serve.
Summer Sea Pintxo
Serves 6 as an appetizer, 4 as a main course.
In the heart of San Sebastian is its premier culinary institute, Mimo. But Mimo isn’t your typical cooking school. Instead, they’re dishing up immersive experiences like their “off the beaten track” food tour, or a cooking class focused on Michelin star techniques. Come to discover the techniques behind Basque cuisine, or sit back and relax while you enjoy their entertaining show cooking services. Whichever experience you choose, it’s most likely going to include a Pintxo. While the menu for something like their Old Town Pintxos Cooking Class rotates seasonally, a guest visiting in the warmer months can expect what Mimo calls their “Summertime Krab” pintxo.
In true Galavante fashion, we had to put our own spin on this seasonal favorite. Adding some New York flair to the Spanish dish, we took inspiration from Manhattan’s very own (three Michelin star) restaurant, Le Bernardin. Their beloved salmon rillette recipe acts as a base for our Summer Sea pintxo. A decadent mix of crab, roe, poached and smoked salmon, this pintxo is the perfect appetizer for your next get together. And it’s way easier than you think!
2 cups dry white wine
1 tablespoon minced shallots
2 cloves of garlic, smashed
1 pound fresh boneless skinless salmon filet, cut into 1- inch cubes
3 ounces smoked salmon, cut into strips
6 ounces crabmeat (we used claw meat but jumbo lump meat will work as well)
2 tablespoons minced chives
2-3 tablespoons kewpie mayonnaise
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Sea salt & black pepper
2 tablespoons salmon roe
Over medium/high heat, add the white wine, shallots and garlic in a saucepan. Simmer for 2-3 minutes, then lower the heat to medium/low and let the shallots cook until soft. Add salmon and poach for 2-3 minutes, just until the salmon is opaque. Take out salmon and drain on a paper towel lined plate. Strain shallots from wine and save, discarding the garlic. Let salmon and shallots cool on the counter for a few minutes before transferring to the refrigerator to cool completely.
Once cooled, combine poached salmon pieces, shallots, crab, chives, 2-3 tablespoons of Kewpie mayo and the juice of half a lemon in a large bowl. Both the lemon juice and mayo should be used sparingly, just enough to moisten the mixture. Mix gently until just combined. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
Cut your baguette into crostinis. Lightly toast the pieces of bread, making sure they still have some softness to them. An overly-crunchy piece of bread will make the pintxo difficult to eat.
Spoon the salmon & crab mixture over top of the bread. Top with strips of smoked salmon and a dollop of salmon roe. Optional: spear a toothpick through the smoked salmon and into the bread.
Manchego & Pear Pintxo
Serves 6 as an appetizer
So far we’ve given you something old (La Gilda), something borrowed (Summer Sea), but what about something new? We set out to create a pintxo combination that felt like a unique but distant relative to the classics, and this was the result. A deliciously salty and sweet combination of fried cheese and crisp fruit? Sign us up.
1 yellow onion, julienned
1 block of manchego cheese, cut lengthwise into halves
1 pear, thinly sliced
½ cup good olive oil
3 tbsp breadcrumbs (panko or regular)
3 tbsp crushed almonds
1 tbsp flour
Salt & pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp aged sherry wine
1 baguette, sliced into crostinis
In a pan over medium/low heat, add the julienned onions and ¼ cup olive oil. Be patient with these, you want the onions to really sweat and sizzle (salting generously can help with this), but make sure you don’t bring the heat up past medium or else they will burn. Let these cook for about an hour to an hour and a half, stirring occasionally until they become a deep caramelized brown. Take off the heat and set aside.
In a shallow bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, almonds, flour, salt and pepper. In another bowl, mix the egg with 1 tsp of water. Brush the egg wash over the piece of manchego, covering the whole surface. Dredge the block of cheese in the flour breadcrumb mixture, making sure to coat evenly. You may need to use your hands to press the coating into the cheese.
In a wide skillet over medium-low heat, add ¼ cup olive oil. Once hot, add garlic and cook until golden brown and fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Whisk in the sherry vinegar. Place the cheese in the skillet, frying for 4-5 minutes on each side. Once golden brown and crispy, remove the cheese and place it on a paper towel lined plate.
To assemble, lightly toast your crostinis. Cut the fried cheese into strips that are about the same size as your bread pieces. Place a layer of caramelized onions onto the bread first (about a tablespoon), then a slice of cheese, and finish with a few slices of pear. As always, a toothpick is optional.