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The Catalan cuisine can be categorized as Mediterranean, relying heavily on a wide range of fresh vegetables, olive oil, bread, legumes, garlic, seafood and pork.  It includes a variety of dishes and foods also common in other regions of Spain:  paella (rice with seafood), chorizo (spicy sausage), gazpacho (chilled tomato based soup), cured Iberian ham, the Spanish tortilla (egg and potato omelet), and so on.  A few of the dishes most notably unique to the region are:  tomato bread, calçots, aioli, and crema catalana.

 

Starters

Tomato bread, pa amb tomàquet in Catalan, is made with a base of bread (sometimes toasted), which is then rubbed with raw garlic, the innards of a tomato, then drizzled with olive oil and finished with a sprinkle of sea salt.  A very simple accompaniment for any meal.

Esqueixada de bacallà – an exquisite salad elaborated with codfish, tomato, onion, olives, pepper and boiled egg.

 

Main Courses

Calçots are a type of mild spring onion that look like small leeks.  The calçots are roasted over an open flame and then wrapped in newspaper to steam briefly.  To eat, the charred outside layer is peeled off and the white ends are dipped in a special Romesco sauce.  Romesco sauce is typically made by blending together almonds, roasted garlic, olive oil and red peppers.  Some variations also include roasted tomatoes, red wine vinegar and onion.

Faves a la Catalana – typical vegetables of Catalonia cooked with a variety of meats, like ham, black sausage or cansalada (bacon), and “bolets” (a sort of mushrooms). The dish traditionally is prepared and served in a clay pot.

Escalivada - a dish based on eggplant and red pepper, seasoned with salt, olive oil and vinegar. Before preceding the preparation of the dish all the ingredients have to be roasted in order to strengthen their flavors.

Butifarra con mongetes – another simple dish made with a typical Catalonian sausage ¨Butifarra de pages¨, string beans, garlic and parsley.

Mar I Muntanya (sea and mountain) - chicken, shrimps cooked with ripe tomatoes, toasted almonds and hazelnuts, and seasoned with bay leave, oregano and thyme. It is a traditional Catalan dish where sea and land flavors combine to perfection.

Fricandò is known in Catalonia since the 18th century. Veal fillets cooked in a fragrant sauce made of plums and ¨rovellons¨ (a sort of mushrooms), accompanied with spinach, raisins and pine nuts represent Catalan home cooking at its finest.

 

Sauces

Aioli, allioli in Catalan, is a mayonnaise emulsion made from olive oil and garlic.  Many recipes now, however, include the addition of egg to ease the mixing.  Aioli is used as a condiment for many foods: potatoes, chicken, vegetables, seafood, etc.

Sanfaina – medium cooked sauce elaborated with tomato, green pepper and eggplant.

Romesco is a sauce typically made from almonds and/or hazelnuts, roasted garlic, olive oil and “nyores” - small, dried red peppers. Other common ingredients include roasted tomatoes, red wine vinegar and onion. Leaves of fennel or mint may be added, particularly if served with fish or escargot. It is perhaps most often served with seafood, but can also be served with a wide variety of other foods including poultry and vegetables, particularly calçots.

Sofrit o Sofregit – a hot Catalan sauce based on onion, garlic, tomato and parsley.

 

Desserts

Finally, crema catalana, similar to crème brulee, is a traditional Catalan custard flavored with lemon zest and cinnamon.  After being chilled, the dessert is topped with sugar and then caramelized with a small cooking blowtorch that creates a hot and crunchy top layer.  The main difference between crema catalana and crème brulee is that the Catalan version is not baked. 

Mel i mató - a smooth paste made of Catalan cream cheese, and covered with a layer of honey. Toasted walnuts is the traditional garnish to this delectably simple and filling dessert.

Coca de Sant Joan - a traditional light sweetbread covered with candied fruit. As the name suggests, it is a kind of pastry to be consumed during Saint John celebrations when it is sold in huge amounts.

Panellets( little breads) - are the traditional dessert of the All Saints holiday. These are small cakes or cookies in different shapes, mostly round, made mainly of marzipan. Panellets date back to the 18th century, when they were used as blessed food to share after some holy celebrations (Panellets de Sant Marc and Panellets de la Santa Creu).


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