Olive oil: Spain's olive oils, used generously in much of the cooking, are noted for their exquisite quality and fine flavor, ranging from smooth and subtle to fruity and robust.
Rice: Spanish rice, sometimes called Valencia rice, is a short grain variety with a firm texture that readily absorbs flavors from other ingredients, making it ideal for paellas. We used white Calasparra rice, although any brand of Italian Arborio will work.
Paprika: Unlike the sweet and hot paprikas in American supermarkets, the highest-quality Spanish paprika is smoked and very strong, so a little goes a long way. Spain's best is pimenton de La Vera, slowly smoked to give it a most distinctive flavor and aroma. It brings simple grilled foods to life and gives an exciting lift to paellas and stews. There are several varieties of smoked paprika; we used La Chinata's bittersweet smoked paprika, available from Tienda.
Serrano ham: One of the secrets to the richly robust flavors of Spanish cuisine is pork--specifically, cured ham, or jamon. This air-cured ham is used in traditional tapas when thinly sliced and is an exceptional addition to stews and sauteed vegetables.
Chorizo: This is Spain's traditional sausage, seasoned with paprika and garlic. When chorizo is hard-cured, it's often sliced and served as a tapa; when soft-cured, it becomes an important component of Spanish bean stews.
Saffron: An essential ingredient in Spanish cooking, most of the world's finest saffron is produced in Spain. Painstaking to harvest, it takes more than 10,000 flowers to yield an ounce of dried saffron.
Sherry vinegar: One of the world's most prized and potent vinegars, it's made from the finest sherry wine, then aged in sherry barrels for an average of six years.
Where to Find Ingredients
We thought these recipes tasted best with authentic Spanish ingredients such as smoked paprika, chorizo, and serrano ham (jamon), but they tasted good with our substitutes, too. You can order smoked paprika, chorizo, serrano ham, Calasparra rice, and paella pans from the Spanish Table (206-682-2827) or Tienda (888-472-1022).