Catalonian Cuisine

The fare of northeast Spain spotlights the vivid qualities of smoky seasonings, fresh produce, and an array of chiles.

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Signature Spanish ingredients

Sherry vinegar: This nutty, slightly sweet, and smooth vinegar imparts just a trace of oak.

Olive oil: Spanish extravirgin olive oils are now available at large supermarkets, in gourmet stores, and online from a www.zingermans.com, www.tienda.com, or www.spanishtable.com. Catalonian oil tends to be lighter on the palate than other Spanish olive oils.

Saffron: A signature spice of Spain. For maximum flavor, saffron threads should be handled with care―crushed and added to a dish; toasted and then crushed; or steeped in a warm liquid like wine, stock, or water before being added to a dish. Imparts a golden hue to paella.

Piquillo peppers: These deep-red, bittersweet chiles are ideal for stuffing but may also be served drizzled with oil and sherry vinegar as an appetizer.

Romesco: This small dried pepper flavors the classic nut-thickened Catalonian sauce of the same name. Substitute dried ancho chile since the pepper is rarely exported.

Ñoras (pimiento choricero): These small, round dried peppers are common in Spanish cuisine and offer sweet and earthy backnotes to foods. They may be torn or chopped and added to stews, or rehydrated for paella or sofrito. Substitute sweet unsmoked pimentón.

Pimentón (paprika): This spice is a signature flavor component of Spanish cooking, whether dulce (sweet), agridulce (bittersweet), or picante (hot). Deeper red and coarser than the Hungarian version, pimentón colors stews and soups, and is the most widely used spice in the Spanish kitchen. Pimentón de la Vera is a smoked paprika, which offers robust, round, and meaty flavors to vegetarian dishes.

Rice: Typically a short- to medium-grain rice is used. Bomba and Calasparra are two well-known varieties.

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