Saturday, April 12, 2014

Fish and Seafood

With 3,000 miles (4,828km) of coastline, Spain is blessed with an abundance of fish and seafood, important staples of the Spanish diet. In fact, Spaniards eat about 66 pounds (29.9kg) of fish and seafood per person annually. Since fish and seafood contain nutrients that fight heart disease, they contribute to the Spanish people’s good health. But it is the simple and delicious flavor that Spaniards adore.
“Spain . . . is a fish lover’s paradise,” explains chef Penelope Casas. “Fish reigns supreme and is the focus of all eating.”3 Favourites include tuna, shrimp, cod, tiny eels that are as small as a baby’s finger, bass, lobsters, hake, scallops, shrimp, octopus, and sardines, to name just a few. These may be grilled, baked, or fried. They may be bathed in olive oil and garlic, topped with sofrito or alioli, tossed in a salad, cooked with rice, or made into soup or stew. Cod is often dried and salted. This is known as bacalao (bahk-al-ow), which has been a Spanish favourite for centuries.

Fresh and Succulent

Because only the freshest products will do, rather than using a shopping list, Spaniards choose fish and seafood based on whatever has been harvested from
the sea most recently. In coastal towns and cities, people can buy freshly caught fish and seafood right off fishing trawlers. Often the fishermen grill the fish in front of hungry customers. Manu, who grew up in a Spanish fishing village, recalls: “The only way we ate fish was off the boat. Next day we threw it out because for us it wasn’t fresh.”4 Fresh products are shipped to inland cities at least once a day. Freshness is so important that it is not uncommon for waiters in Spain’s most elegant restaurants to bring uncooked fish to patrons to inspect before they place their order. When fish and seafood are newly caught, any way they are prepared tastes delicious. “The trick is to get the freshest fish and other natural ingredients and then use your imagination,”5 say Chef Jose Grimaldi.

By combining freshly caught fish and seafood, local olive oil, and garlic, Spanish cooks create healthy, simple, and delicious meals. These ingredients give Spanish cuisine its distinctive flavor and contribute to the good health and long life expectancy of the Spanish people.

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