While certain dishes are common across Spain, each of its regions offer particular culinary pleasures.
Credit: Randy Mayor

This region is known for savoryempanadas made with meat and fish; hearty caldo gallego(Galician soup) made with greens, beans, and meats; wonderfullymoist country breads; and bountiful seafood, including scallopsstill attached to their shells.

The cuisine of this land of spectacularly abrupt greenmountains and rugged coastlines features fabada bean stew, Cabralesblue cheese aged in mountain caves, salmon, trout, and hard applecider.

Basque Country
Food is preeminent in Basque culture, where traditionalmale-only gourmet clubs still flourish. Smoked paprika is afamiliar flavor in dishes such as SpicyBasque-Style Chicken. Dishes made with the freshest fishcoexist with classic preparations based on the traditional saltcod.

The highest peaks of the Spanish Pyrenees offer a dramaticbackdrop for this region. Navarra is renowned for its trout streamsand the legendary running of the bulls; La Rioja is celebrated forits wines. Both border the fertile valley of the Ebro River. Thepeppers that grow here are essential to such regional dishes aschilindron stews of lamb or chicken and traditional vegetablemedleys. Delicate fire-roasted piquillo peppers, sauteed orstuffed, have recently captured the attention of the wider culinaryworld for their versatility and flavor.

This privileged region encompasses the Pyrenees and itsvalleys, the agricultural lands of La Cerdanya and L'Emporda, thestunning Costa Brava, and Barcelona, where fine eating is a way oflife. Catalan cooks are fond of sweet and savory combinations, andof sauces flavored and thickened with almonds, pine nuts, andhazelnuts (like the sauce in the fish medley romescode pescado).

The orange groves of this region alternate with vast, swampyrice fields. Paellavalenciana, the classic rice dish, was created here.

Hillsides in this region are lined with the olive treesresponsible for the exceptional oils essential to Spanish cooking.Andalusians still accent their cooking with Eastern spicesinherited from the Moors. Chilledgazpachos, both red and white, are wonderfully refreshing inAndalucia's warm sunny climate; so, too, are shellfish vinaigrettesdrizzled with the region's superb sherry vinegar. Iberian ham isrevered for its singular texture and nutty flavor. Devotees willrecognize the name Jabugo, the town where hams by the hundreds ofthousands cure in cool mountain caves.

Although Madrid is at the center of landlocked Castilla(comprising Castilla y Leon to the north and Castilla La Mancha tothe south), the freshest seafood is rushed overnight from everycoast to satisfy the locals' demanding palates. Other gastronomicpleasures from the region: chorizo,Spain's typical sausage spiced with garlic and paprika; manchego,sheep's milk cheese; garlic soups and bean stews; and suckling pigand baby lamb, roasted in wood-burning, brick-vaulted ovens.