Cooking from Your Pantry with Traditional Spanish Recipes
When you think of Spanish cooking, what comes to mind? Chorizo, paella, olives? What tends to be forgotten is that Spain is divided into 17 different regions, each of them with their own history and culture. Spanish food is vastly different depending on where you are. Many of these regions have their own traditional peasant recipes that date back centuries- and are still found in Spanish kitchens today.
Most of us are currently trying to reduce our trips to the grocery store. After spending this past year teaching abroad in Spain, I also had to work on maintaining my budget for food. One of the best ways to eat well was to cook like Spaniards. Use few but hearty ingredients to make delicious, flavorful meals.
Espinacas con Garbanzos
This recipe traveled from the Middle East to Spain in the 12th century and has carried-on because of the practicality of the ingredients. Spinach and chickpea stew is considered a tapa recipe from Seville, Spain. It is surprisingly filling and uses pantry items such as garbanzo beans, vinegar, and bread.
- 1 can of chickpeas
- 1 bag of spinach
- Cubed day-old bread
- 15 unsalted almonds
- ¼ cup of tomato sauce
- 3 cloves of chopped garlic
- Olive oil
- 2 tb. red wine vinegar or sherry
- 1 teaspoon of ground cumin
- Cayenne Pepper
- Smoked Paprika
- Salt and pepper
- In a saucepan, heat 1-2 tablespoons olive oil on medium-high, then add spinach. Sauté the spinach until wilted. Place spinach in a colander to strain.
- Add more oil to your pan and then add bread cubes and almonds. Saute until bread is browned and slightly hard. Add your garlic, cumin, cayenne, and black pepper and continue to saute until the garlic lightly browns.
- Transfer the bread mixture from the pan to a blender/food processor, add the sherry or vinegar and blend into a paste. Sherry is an ingredient commonly mentioned in Spanish history and culture.
- Return the paste to the saucepan and add the chickpeas and tomato sauce. Stir gently on medium heat until mixed.
- Add the spinach and stir gently everything is evenly incorporated. Your stew should be hot before serving.
Season with salt, pepper, and paprika. If you like, drizzle olive oil on the top.
Tortilla de Patatas Recipe
Spanish omelet is one of the most famous dishes in Spain. Whether the original recipe includes onions or other vegetables is a heated debate among Spaniards. The origins of this simple and hearty dish are mostly unknown, but it is speculated to be popularized around the 18th century.
In Spain, tortilla is typically eaten during the daytime. If served as a tapa it is on a skewer, and if eaten for a meal it is served with bread, tomato, or a salad.
- 2 lbs of potatoes
- Salt and pepper
- 8 eggs
- 1 large white onion
- Olive oil
Peel and thinly slice the onion and potatoes.
Put oil in a skillet, then potatoes and onion. Fry until tender. In a large or medium bowl, beat the eggs together. Drain the oil from the onions and potatoes, then add to the egg mixture.
Warm oil in two pans, one should be slightly smaller than the other. You can use the same pan as before. Pour the egg mixture into the smaller pan and let the eggs set. Drain any oil from the larger pan and then place it on top of the smaller pan. Lock them together and flip the pan over to cook on the other side.
The tortilla should be golden brown. Remove from heat, and flip the tortilla into a serving dish.
Pa amb Tomàquet/ Catalan Tomato Bread Recipe
This easy recipe is a staple of Catalonia. Simply rub garlic and ripe tomato on grilled or toasted bread, sprinkle with a bit of salt, drizzle with olive oil, and enjoy with coffee, beer, or cheese. Pretend you are enjoying this on a beach in Barcelona.
Interesting Food Traditions in Spain:
The History of Tapas:
The history of tapas varies between different regions.
The most popular story is that in the 13th century, while the Wise King Alfonso X, was recovering from an illness, he was prescribed wine and small portions of food between meals. The king recovered and declared that every household should serve food with alcohol to prevent drunkenness. The word tapas translates to “cover,” indicating that the small portions of food were placed on top of a drink.
Another story is that bartenders in Seville would cover their patron’s drinks saucers to prevent flies from going in. They realized that they could serve olives, ham, and cheese on top of the saucers, and continued to do so once customers showed their appreciation by frequenting the bar.
A siesta is a short nap taken in the middle of the afternoon, after a mid-day meal. In today’s Spanish working culture, it is also a time to have a drink, coffee, or a smoke with friends. Most of Spain’s eating habits center around the work schedule, so the time between meals is spread out during the day.
This translates to “Cheers!” in Spanish. It means health, and can also be used when someone sneezes.
“Toma un café”
It is common for Spaniards to use the term “take a coffee” when making plans to meet. This does not always mean to drink coffee, but to designate time to catch up.
Good luck cooking! ¡Salud!
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