In search of ingredients

The Boston Globe


April 6, 2005

Andrea Pyenson

Tapas ingredients are available locally at Formaggio Kitchen, 244 Huron Ave., Cambridge, 617-354-4750; South End Formaggio, 268 Shawmut Ave., Boston, 617-350-6996; at many Whole Foods Markets; or from

Sliced or cubed jamon serrano, a cured ham, one of the most popular tapas, is an ingredient in several other dishes. Italian prosciutto has a similar flavor if serrano is unavailable. Spain's favorite sausage is chorizo, which can be eaten like salami, or sauteed, baked, or cooked in sauce.

Sheep's milk manchego cheese can be semisoft when lightly cured or as hard as Parmesan (but not as strong tasting). It's the most popular cheese in Spain.

Firm fleshed and strong, bacalao, dried salt cod, must be soaked for 2 to 3 days before using. Look for pieces that are well dried and as white as possible.

Pimiento is Spanish for red pepper, though here the word refers to red peppers that have been cooked, peeled, and canned.

Triangular in shape, piquillo peppers, grown in northern Spain, have a uniquely curved point (piquillo). Thin-fleshed and mild, they are slow roasted at a low temperature, then peeled and packaged in their own juices.

Smoky pimenton, from the mountain valleys of western Spain, has a much deeper flavor than either Hungarian or American paprika. The slightly bittersweet taste is pungent without being spicy.

The most expensive spice in the world, golden saffron -- collected from the stigmas of crocuses -- gives food a distinctive color and flavor. Some of the best saffron comes from Spain and should be purchased in strands, rather than powder.

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