Though Spanish cuisine has roots in Roman and Mediterranean cooking, influence from Jewish and Moorish settlers differentiates Spain's cooking from the rest of Europe. Later, Spanish conquistadores brought back numerous foods from the Americas that were then introduced to the rest of Europe, including potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and beans.
To define Spain in food terms is easy: olives, olive oil, parsley, almonds, sherry, garlic, saffron. Add these to chicken, salt cod, seafood, game and to a lesser extent, meats, and you are almost inside a Spanish kitchen.
If you are a lover of saffron, that unique spice which adds a golden glow and warm flavor to foods, then knock yourself out in Spain. Spain is the leading producer of this, the world's most expensive spice. One ounce of saffron consists of 14,000 stigmas—and each flower produces only 3 stigmas each which are, to add to the costs, hand picked! So anytime you eat a meal with saffron it in, savor the experience—it will cost a whole lot more away from Spain.
Sherry is derived from the name and the town of Jerez, in Andalusia. This fortified wine is drunk as an aperitif, with tapas, or after dinner. Finos sherries are light, dry and usually drunk chilled, while amontillados are sweeter, more in the medium range. The most famous fino sherry is Tio Pepe from the Gonzalez Byass vineyards.
Cava is Spain's term for sparkling wine. In the U.S., many people know the Freixenet label. Another cava worth trying is Paul Cheneau Blanc de Blancs, with its clean crisp and complex flavors.
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This page modified January 2007
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