Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Tuesdays Top Ten- Did you know these products/traditions come from Spain?

For World Cuisine we are working in the country of Spain this week.  I thought it was very interesting to learn about some of the products we are using.  So here is a quick guide to some of Spain's finest- there are certainly more than 10, but these 10 are the ones I found to be most fascinating to me.  

1. Sherry - A fortified wine made in Jerez in southern Spain.  It is Spanish law that Sherry must come from this specific area.  Sherry is different that other wines because of how it is fermented.  After fermentation Sherry is fortified with brandy.  Sherry vinegar is only allowed to be made with wines produced in "the Sherry region."

2. Pimientos - In central Spain you will discover that the Pimenton is an agricultural main source of income.  Pimientos are prepared by slowly being dried over smoldering oak logs for 10 to fifteen days, then hand turned 24 hours a day before processing.  Spain uses the majority of their pimenton's to flavor Chorizo, but it is also put together for sale to consumers.

3. Valencia Oranges - Beautiful!

4. Paella - A famous dish from Spain- this dish consists of  rice cooked with seafood, chicken or rabbit, scented with saffron and combined with a variety of homegrown vegetables.

5.  Sangria - This is a red wine mixed with fruit juices.

6.  Bacalao- salt-dried cod that is a staple for Spain's cuisine and used in a variety of ways to flavor dishes.

7.  Saffron - The stigma of the purple crocus flower, intensely fragrant, slightly bitter in taste.  By soaking saffron in warm water it produces a bright yellow-orange solution.  This looks beautiful in rice dishes like Risottos and Paella.

8.  Horchata - "Valencia's softdrink"- An off white milk with a toffee-like aroma served cold.

9.  Gazpacho - Vegetable soup served cold and made with ripe tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, and garlic

10. Tapas - A custom that originated in Andalusia in Southern Spain.  Tapa actually means "cover" and the first tapas were simply hunks of bread used as covers over glass to keep out fruit flies.  Later on the tradition became more elaborate and developed into small portions of food both hot or cold.  This is one of my favorite ways to dine.  There are different local restaurants in the area that offer this type of service but to date my favorite restaurant to feature this type of preparation is San Chez Bistro in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Hands down this was one of the best meals I have ever had.  I suggest you make a reservation the next time you are in the area.