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Friday, May 20, 2016

Not-to-Miss Foods in Spain

The travel season is approaching.  If you’re heading to Spain here are some of the country’s culinary dishes you should seek out.

                                         Gazpacho is almost an art form in Spain

Gazpacho, a refreshing cold tomato soup, originated in Spain’s mucho hot southern region.  Today, however, the dish is now ubiquitous throughout Spain.  The nicer the restaurant, the fancier the presentation of accompaniments (finely diced cucumbers, white onions, bell peppers, croutons and extra virgin olive oil) .

                                                      Paella is a time intensive labor of love

Paella is an impressive rice entree cooked with saffron.   Every province has its own variation;  along the sea it’s filled with seafood;  inland it’s meat and or poultry; sometimes it's a mixture of both land and sea.  The vegetable ingredients are also dependent upon the region and many times include green beans or artichokes.

                                        The classical Tortilla is one of the most common dishes of Spain

Tortilla Espanol is on the menu of every tapas bar and most restaurants.  This dense potato omelette (which has no relationship to the Mexican tortilla) is served in slices.  It’s a great choice for vegetarians who often find eating in meat-centric Spain difficult.  In its best form, the tortilla can be sublime. 

                               While these padrons were stuffed with chorizo, the best version just may be plain

Padron peppers are about the size and color of jalapenos, but that is where the similarity ends.   Padrones are very mild and sweet.  They are typically sautéed in olive oil & topped with sea salt.  Served in both tapas bars and restaurants, this is one of my husband’s and my favorites.

Piquillos are addictive...especially these filled with crab

Piquillo peppers are becoming increasing popular in the US (Trader Joe’s is even carrying them now).  These very mild red peppers are roasted over open fires, deskinned, and then packed in a jar.   Piquillos are great stuffed with fish, cheese or meat, however, I often eat them plain, or add them to salads or sandwiches.

Membillo is made from quince

Membrillo is the best fruit preserve you’ll ever have.  Thickened and then formed into a block, it’s often eaten on toast for breakfast, but it’s also added to many Spanish pastries and cakes.  The most ethereal way to eat membrillo, in my opinion, is paired with one of the country’s mild cheeses as a dessert.

                                                     This special ham is pure nirvana

Iberico ham is not a dish but a product, however, no list of Spanish culinary masterpieces would be complete without paying homage to this fabulous food.   Made from a special breed of black pigs that graze on acorns, this is the pinnacle.  (Note:  I lean heavily to being a vegetarian, but I’m wild over this).

Bon viaje!   (Happy travels)

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