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Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Cuisine of Spain

Spanish cuisine is influenced by seafood from the waters surrounding the country. A multitude of recipes make up the varied cuisines of Spain. Let’s look at Spanish cuisine by region.La Roja has its international Rioja wines. Vegetable soups are popular here as well as its pepper and potato dishes.In Castile and Leon there is garlic soup (with bread, garlic, olive oil), menestra with onions, green beans, veal, carrots, spinach, beets and eggs, lechazo a young lamb which is oven roasted (this lamb has been fed only with its mother’s milk). There is cochinillo (suckling pig which also has been fed only with mother’s milk and is killed between the ages of two to six weeks and traditionally roasted) usually served on special occasions and lentejas (lentils with pork sausage and olive oil).

Cocido maderileno (a chickpea stew) made with vegetables, potatoes and meat can be found in Madrid. Also a tripe dish callos a la madrilène, strawberries from Aranjuez or melons from Villaconejos. Wines come from Navalcarnero and from Chinchon Anis del Toro (Bull's Anisette') anise herb is what gives this drink its flavor.

In Extremadura they make olla podrida (a rich stew of bacon, fowl, ham, meats and vegetables, excellent embutidos of Iberian pork, cheeses like the popular torta del casar (a cheese made from sheep's milk ) which closely resembles the Portuguese queijo da serra and pitarra wine.

Andalusia has a lot of sea food especially shrimp, squid, mackerel and flatfish, salmorejo served cold (a soup based on tomato, bread, oil, garlic and vinegar), gazpacho (a cold Spanish soup), Jabugo ham and sherry wine.

Aragon offers Somontano, Borja and other wines. Jamon Serrano (cured ham) made in Teruel, Migas, very typical in small villages. There are Nuestra Senora del Pilar sweets in Zaragoza. One of the most popular dishes is Teranasco con patatas a lo pobre and for dessert peaches with red wine.

Murcia uses products from its rich gardens to make foods such as zarangollo (an omelette made with zucchini, onion, eggs, and occasionally potatoes). There are also fish and lamb stews and the wines of Jumilla

The Valencia region is famous for its paella (which is a rice dish usually garnished with vegetables and seafood or meat). Its common to cook this dish each Sunday for family lunch. A typical Valencian Paella contains meat and vegetables. Arros amb crosta is a rice dish with meat and covered with egg.

Catalonia has a long tradition of rice dishes and seafood. There are also cured sausages from Vic and the most well-known dish is the Catalan cream (made with egg yolks, sugar, lemon and orange zest, cinnamon, milk and flour) which is similar to crème brulee.

A typical island-based diet of seafood can be found on the Balearic Islands and simple, vegetable based dshes. Also Sobrasada (a raw, cured sausage made with ground pork, paprika and salt and other spices), Samfaina (Ratatouille) a stewed vegetable dish and Cocas (could be considered a twin brother to the Italian pizza) are typical of Catalan cuisine. Majorca’s biggest export is the Ensaimada, a pastry made with strong flour, water, sugar, eggs, mother dough and pork lard.

In the Basque country there are skillfully cooked dishes such as "txangurro relleno" (spider crab), "marmitako" meaning in Basque language "pot stew" it is made with potatoes, onions, pimientos and tomatoes and hake and clams. Idiazabal cheese (a pressed cheese made from unpasteurized milk that usually comes from the Latxa breed of sheep in the Basque Country. It has a somewhat smokey flavor, but is usually unsmoked.) and a distinctive wine "txakoli" (a slightly sparkling white wine). Piquillo peppers filled with cod or tuna.

Navarre has vegetable stews, Tudelas’s lettuce hearts with anchovies, salmon or a simple vinaigrette (oil, salt and vinegar), piquillo peppers often stuffed with meat, trout a la Navarra (cooked stuffed with bacon and cheese, Roncal (a hard, creamy sheep's milk cheese.) and Idiazabal cheeses, curd form Ultzama, claret wine (a now uncommon dark rosé) and patxaran liqueur the liqueur is made by soaking sloe berries, collected from the blackthorn, in an anise-flavoured spirit (anisette) with a small number of coffee beans and a vanilla pod for several months. It results in a light reddish-brown sweet liquid, around 25-30% alcohol by volume. It is served cold or on ice as a digestif.

There is an array of seafood in Galicia especially octopus, cod and goose banicles. They make Tarta de Santiago, a delicious tart made of almonds and lemon, empanadas (a stuffed pastery) and Albarino wine for the Rias Baixas.

Valencian Paella
• 4 chicken pieces
• 1/2 lb shrimp
• 1/2 lb mussels, and or calamari
• 2 medium ripe chopped tomatoes
• 6 ounces wide green beans (spanish-bachoqueta)
• 4 ounces large white lima beans (spanish-garrafon)
• 1 teaspoon saffron
• 3 cups Spanish rice
• 8 cups hot water or even better chicken broth
• olive oil (enough to cover the bottom of the paella pan)
• salt (to taste)
• 1 teaspoon red sweet paprika

First, heat the oil and when it is hot enough, add the seafood and chicken (lightly salted ) and fry until lightly browned. Then add the white and green beans and cook them together with the meat.

While they are cooking, make a clearance in the middle of the paella pans and fry the chopped tomatoes until they look a little pasty, quickly adding the paprika, stirring quickly and immediately adding the hot water or broth until it is almost to the top of the paella pans edge.

Cook all the ingredients for about 20 minutes over a high fire and tasting for salt.
After 20 minutes add the rice, distributing it evenly, making sure the rice is covered with liquid. The heat should be fairly high, not interrupting the boil. It takes about 20 minutes for the paella rice to cook.

Do not stir the rice once you have added it to the paella pans, just change its position so that the heat gets to all parts equally. All the broth should be absorbed when finished
Take the paella off the heat and let stand for about 10 minutes covering the top with newspaper. If the rice has been cooked correctly, the rice grains should be loose, not clumped together or having a mushy texture.

For a fantastic table presentation, small wedges of lemon can decorate the border and branches of romero (aromatic herbs) in the middle. Now you are ready to dig into your paella with wooden spoons and eat directly from the paella pans! By Rasma Raisters

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