What to do with: Spain-ish Delicacies Box

What to do with: Spain-ish Delicacies Box

Ben @ Ben to Table

I can't wait to see what folks are able to create with the awesome ingredients in the Spain-ish Delicacies boxes, the first of which should be getting delivered tomorrow!

I'm hoping this post will be able to give you some ideas and direction, and please comment or email with anything else, and share what you concoct with @Ben2Table on Facebook and Instagram.

Here's what's in the box:

  • A can of navajas (razor clams) from the Galician coast
  • Piparras, from the Basque country, which are basically the best banana peppers you've ever had
  • Ali i oli (a classic Catalan spread of oil, garlic, lemon juice, and salt), which is Spain's answer to fancy mayo
  • Pimentón picante (spicy smoked paprika)
  • Harissa spread from Villa Jerada
  • A chocolate bar from Barcelona-based premium chocolate company, Blanxart

And here's what's in the vegetarian version:

  • Piparras, from the Basque country, which are basically the best banana peppers you've ever had
  • Ali i oli (a classic Catalan spread of oil, garlic, lemon juice, and salt), which is Spain's answer to fancy mayo
  • Pimentón picante (spicy smoked paprika)
  • Harissa spread from Villa Jerada
  • Romesco, Spanish pesto made from tomato and nuts
  • Pimentón dulce (mild smoked paprika)
  • A chocolate bar from Barcelona-based premium chocolate company, Blanxart

Unlike the ingredients in the Essentials Box, these are mostly items that are ready to go, or can be combined in interesting and different ways without much proper "cooking" or "recipes." Here are my top ideas for what to do with each:

Ali i oli

Catalan ali i oli

The Catalán answer to garlic mayo, this vegan topping is lighter and goes well with quite a few different things. Here are my most frequent uses:

1) Baseline ingredient for a salad dressing (particularly, but not necessarily, in combination with the Harissa below). This is a great shortcut to some garlic flavor and some creamy texture in whatever dressing you're otherwise planning.

2) As a sandwich spread: Awesome underneath a fried egg, with turkey and cheese, or underneath a falafel or shawarma, it's an amazingly complementary flavor and texture punch.

3) As the dip it was born to be: Pairs especially well with anything fried that needs a dipping sauce.

Pimentón picante

Las Hermanas Pimentón Picante

Pimentón (snoked paprika) de la Vera (the protected origin region of Spain) is always an excellent spice. Las Hermanas is simply next level -- unbelievably aromatic and flavorful, I use it in far more things than you might think appropriate. Just a few are below:

1) Atop a fried egg: Sprinkle liberally along with salt and pepper, close your eyes, and you'll think there's chorizo in the pan, too.

Fried egg with pimenton

2) In a creamy pasta sauce: For example, the next time you make a carbonara (with cheese, egg, and bacon, and maybe some peas or greens if you're going nontraditional already), sprinkle a bunch of pimentón to add a whole different dimension of smoky, spicy flavor.

3) For a nontraditional posole: We'll be getting into this more with an upcoming Mexico Delicacies Box, but our friends at Rancho Gordo have a bunch of great riffs on posole, including this one with shrimp that relies heavily on smoked paprika.

4) In stews of all kinds. For instance, it would elevate the just about any approach to bean chili like I describe in the "What to do with the first Essentials Box" post. It would take a normal beef stew, or other braised preparation, and make it better. Just apply and enjoy!

Conservas de Cambados Razor Clams (non-veg only)

Conservas de Cambados Razor Clams

These are honestly some of my favorite bites in the whole world. I generally just eat them, with a friend or two, straight out of the tin. I usually sip the brine directly, or you can pour it off and use for a briney martini or a Bloody Caesar (a Canadian Bloody Mary that adds clam juice). If you want to dress them up, you could cut up and top with olive oil, salt and pepper, lemon juice, and parsley.

Piparras

Piparras

These function as delicate, delicious banana peppers -- a bit spicy, tart, and with some real depth of flavor, not just heat. Here are three ways to use them:

1) In a gilda, which is a classic Basque pintxo (tapa): Simply skewer on a toothpick along with an anchovy and a big green olive, and pop it all in your mouth in one bite

2) Popped into a sandwich: You'll see this in Spain a lot, but imagine something like a crusty sandwich roll stuffed with salami or jamón, manchego, and piparras. Maybe add some arugula for a fresh taste, and it's hard to beat. Maybe add a bit of the ali i oli, too.

3) Chopped up as a topping on pizza or a fried egg. Pretty self-explanatory!

Villa Jerada Harissa

Harissa spread

This was one of the products I had in mind when starting Ben to Table. I've been working through jars of this whenever I can get my hands on one for years -- incredibly complex and veratile, while being unusual enough to still surprise. It's mild enough to serve as a condiment rather than a hot sauce, and can blend with many different flavors. Here's a few of my favorite uses:

1) Spread on toast, potentially along with ali i oli, to be topped with a fried egg, avocado, or both. Also great on a cold cut sandwich or inside a grilled cheese.

Spreading harissa on toast

2) In a vinaigrette dressing: An incredibly easy dressing is to juice a lemon or two, add a dollop each of the Villa Jerada harissa and the ali i oli, salt and pepper to taste, and a bit of good olive oil. Shake/mix well, and you're all set. You can make a bit nicer with some diced shallots and minced parsley, and add some fish sauce for umami.

3) As a topping on a Mediteranean-flavored rice or grain dish, or of course, a Moroccan tagine!

Romesco (veg-only)

Romesco

Romesco is a combo sauce/topping/dip. Here's how to let it shine:

1) It works great as a dip on an appetizer tray, for veggies, pita chips, and hummus.

2) As a sauce for pasta, especially with something like a ricotta-spinach ravioli it would be perfect.

3) Simply spoon on top of grilled meats and veggies, seasoned with nothing more than salt and pepper, and you've got yourself a full meal.

Pimentón dulce

Las Hermana Pimentón dulce

Just as tasty as its "picante" cousin, the pimentón dulce has all the same uses, and just brings a bit less heat to the table. Personally, when I'm cooking just for me, I use the picante more, and when I'm cooking for a crowd that might include spice-averse guests (or my daughter), I'll use the dulce. Both are wonderful.

Blanxart chocolate

This one's pretty easy. It's delicious dark chocolate. Eat it at any time. With friends, or alone.

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