Catalan Cuisine: A Primer
To speak of Catalan food is to speak of the cuisine of the Mediterranean. Catalunya shares its culinary base with the the majority of the countries lining the Mediterranean coastline, such as Italy, France, Greece, Tunisia, Morocco and many more.
The Catalan territory has absorbed influences from a long list of very diverse peoples, such as the Iberians, the Greeks, the Romans and the Barbarians who have left the region with not just a piece of those cultures in the form of language but also in its cooking. Catalan cuisine, like the rest of the countries who boast a “Mediterranean diet”, is centered very much on olive oil. The Greeks and the Romans were the first to use this ingredient, along with bread and wine.
The Catalan diet is very rich in fruits, vegetables and legumes which make for a fiber-rich diet. Arabs brought artichokes and eggplant to the Iberian peninsula. Everyday meals in Catalunya are usually comprised of a first and second course, then dessert. Meals at home are most often composed of a meat or fish, a vegetable and a salad, with fruit for dessert.
Salads are normally dressed very plainly with vinegar, olive oil and salt. The most famous Catalan salad is Amanida Catalana (shown below), which is made with lettuce, tomato, onion, cucumber and olives, then topped with an assortment of embotits – a catch-all term for sausages and cured meats — which can range from a nice pernil salat to a fuet.
Catalan cuisine incorporates all types of meats, which are cooked in many different ways; grilled, sauteed and stewed.
Fish and seafood are very important to the areas of Catalunya that are closest to the ocean. Inland, typical Catalan dishes contain a combination of garden vegetables, meats and seafood.
Wine is another basic staple of the Mediterranean coast’s culinary culture. In Catalunya, every type of wine is produced, from white and red to rosé and cava. There are vineyards throughout the region and the wines produced here have a few different D.O.s, such as Catalunya, Priorat and Penedés.