Stories About Spain
Spanish Foods Our Family Serves at Home Every Day
Written by: Jonathan Harris
Our family has traveled the seventeen regions of Spain for 26 years and we are still discovering delicious new foods to share with you. Of course, Spain's dynamic cuisine continues to grow and change. We recently visited the enormous Alimentaria food show in Barcelona and tasted spherical “caviar" made with the essence of green olives and black truffle, imitation baby eels made of fish and vegan chorizo made from pumpkin, olive oil and garlic. Spain has such a wealth of amazing foods that it is hard to know what to try next!
Our family is often asked about our very favorite Spanish foods. There are so many delicious options that, to narrow it down, I often respond with a list of favorites that we stock at home and enjoy every day. Here are our five must-have Spanish foods.
1. Sliced Jamón
Jamón is the royalty of Spanish cuisine. Spain's famous hams are aged for years, developing a complex, intense flavor. Plus, there is a variety of quality, from your everyday Serrano, Spanish breed Ibérico or exquisite acorn-fed Jamón Ibérico de Bellota. We import whole hams and slice them at La Tienda with interleaves for easy serving. I keep a few packs in my refrigerator, ready to be served as a quick tapa with wine or added to a bocadillo sandwich. Diced jamón adds wonderful flavor to sautéed vegetables, salads and even raw oysters.
2. Galician Bread
Galician bread is our number one bestselling item. I store a box of parbaked loaves in our chest freezer, ready to be tossed into a hot oven. In under fifteen minutes we are treated to a hot, crusty barra of bread nirvana, with a soft, airy interior. It is great served with soups or salads, essential for a classic bocadillo sandwich and the leftovers are ideal for French toast.
But why is it so good? After all, like most bread, it is simply a mixture of wheat flour, water, salt and yeast. But those seemingly simple ingredients are the key. Galicia, in northwest Spain, is famous for its crusty white bread, with an elastic dough filled with air pockets. First, the baker uses high gluten flour from Spanish farms. This is mixed with a lot more water than is used in regular bread, comprising up to 90% of the dough. Then a mild sourdough “madre” is added, along with yeast, which slowly rises and creates the delicious air pockets. Try a loaf at home and you will be hooked!
3. Gazpacho Andaluz
There are few things more refreshing than a cool glass of gazpacho Andaluz. We always keep a carton or two in our refrigerator, ready to serve as a refresher on the go, or as a delicious, chilled soup sprinkled with cucumbers and peppers, alongside grilled meats and vegetables.
Our gazpacho is prepared from very fresh tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and extra virgin olive oil. Modern technology captures all the ingredients at their best, packaged in Tetra Pak cartons that preserve their taste even if stored at room temperature. How is this possible? I am not sure! But I am happy just knowing I can enjoy gazpacho at any time that is better than most fresh versions.
4. Spanish Torrefacto Coffee
The very first thing I do after flying all night and landing in Spain is order a cup of café con leche. Even at the airport, the fresh espresso in rich steamed milk is delicious and invigorating. And I know this will be just the first of many great coffees I will savor on the trip. At home, I recreate this experience with a burr grinder and a small espresso machine, though it also brews wonderfully in a drip coffee maker.
The secret is in how the coffee is roasted. Our friend Jaime, owner of Tupinamba, gave us a tour of his roasting facility in Sevilla. His team selects the best coffee beans from around the world and dark roasts them, but never to the point of burning. Some of the beans are coated in sugar before roasting to add a deep caramel flavor, though the sweetness is cooked away. This process is called "torrefacto." My favorite version is called "mixed torrefacto," where only 20% of the beans are torrefacto roasted. This adds the full, bold flavor without it being too intense. I've never had a better cup of coffee!
5. Spanish Extra Virgin Olive Oil
What more can I say about olive oil that you don't already know? Of course, it is ridiculously good for you, and a delicious ingredient for salads and innumerable recipes. It is the only oil I use for cooking - ignore the rumors about a low smoke point, that is just not a problem.
But...there is also lot of fraud in olive oil. Most grocery store oils are really a blend of cheap, flavorless oil and a splash of extra virgin. And even most real EVOOs are typically lower grade versions harvested late in the season when the olives are overripe and lack flavor. Also, did you know that most Italian oil is blended with Spanish olive oil trucked across the Alps?
We know our extra virgin olive oil is authentically flavorful and healthy because we buy from only small producers that focus on quality over quantity. My favorite is Señorío de Vizcántar, an exquisite blend from our friend Fermín in the region of Priego de Córdoba. Fruity and delicious, we know its quality because we have seen the olives harvested and pressed at the mill. I keep a bottle by my stove and use it for just about everything!
There are many other everyday favorites I enjoy at home, from the paella ingredients in my cupboard to tender Bonito del Norte canned tuna and fresh Padrón peppers that surprise and entertain with their intermittent spiciness. With so many great foods from Spain, I can't wait to add to the list!
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