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Glossary of Spanish Cuisine

by Lou Seibert Pappas

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A Glossary of Cooking Terms and Ingredients

The tapa tradition is as important for the conversation and company as for the delicious food. Every Spaniard has his favorite tasca, as the tapa bars are called, where he goes regularly to meet his friends or business acquaintances. Tapas will be found in even the smallest bar in a tiny village. The word tapa, meaning cover or lid, is thought to have originally referred to the complimentary plate of appetizers that many tascas, would place like a cover on one's wine glass. Tapas can vary from simple to complex and include cheese, fish, eggs, vegetable dishes, dips, canapes, and savory pastries. A quantity of tapas can make an excellent meal.

Olive oil is indispensable in preparing many of the recipes. Chorizo is the best-loved Spanish sausage and blood sausage is also popular throughout Spain. Vegetables are not overly favored, except for potatoes, which often come fried with an entree. Salads are served as first courses and are invariably offered undressed, accompanied by cruets of oil and vinegar.

Fish and bean soups can make a meal. Paellas provide colorful and festive dishes for a crowd. A beachside cafe is the place to find fine shellfish and tackle a tray of unshelled ultra-fresh crustaceans. Game birds have wide appeal in Spain. Baby lamb and pig have reached cult status and are often prepared in a woodburning oven with thyme, rosemary or oak for fragrance.

The Arabs and Moors left their influence in dessert making, introducing almonds, egg yolks, and honey. Orange and lemon zest also play a role in flavoring sweets. Ground almonds often replace flour in cake baking and beaten egg whites are invariably the leavening agent in cakes.

A panaderia sells bread, while a pasteleria provides sweet breads, pastries, cookies, and candies. A helageria dispenses ice cream and a bomboneria is a candy shop.

Foods and Cooking Equipment

saffron, an Arab word for yellow. Stigmas of a purple crocus flower.

dried salted codfish.

Butifarra sausage
a white sausage popular in Cataluna.

glazed earthenware dishes.

the most typical Spanish sausage, heavily scented with paprika and garlic.

paprika, or ground sweet red pepper, from Spain.

an almond and honey candy of Arab origin that comes in a hard bar and in a soft marzipan-like form.

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Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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