Every year about this time in San Francisco, pepper lovers in the know eagerly check their CSA’s with the same anticipation as a child peeking into their Christmas stocking, “Is it there?” “Have my wishes been answered”? What are they looking for? In my case, it was a nondescript small paper bag almost hidden among my other vegetable bounty, which I gingerly opened, hoping for a cluster of small green peppers, ranging from the size of my pinky to the first part of my thumb. These little guys hail from Padrón Spain, and are thankfully showing up with increasing frequency in restaurants, farmers markets, and (lucky for me) CSA boxes around the Bay Area. I’m not sure about other parts of the United States, or the world for that matter, but these little fellas are worth seeking out. Originally from Mexico, the good padres brought these tasty peppers back to Spain when they returned from the New World.
Padrón Peppers – Playing with Fire
Padrón peppers (Spanish pimientos de Padrón) are probably the most famous export from this region of Spain. These small green peppers hail from the Capsicum annuum family, so their closest kin are bell peppers, cayenne, jalapenos and chitepin. They are traditionally served fried with olive oil and salt, and are a favorite tapas. Around the Bay Area, no self respecting tapas or farmers market seems complete without some on hand. They do lend a sense of adventure to dining because, while the majority of these peppers are sweet and mild, every so often, one will reveal itself with hair raising heat, and if your pepper munching companion goes quiet and starts gulping the ice water, you know who was the lucky recipient of a disguised practical joker.
The padrón is characterized by the popular “Os pementos de Padrón, uns pican e outros non” (Galician for “Padrón peppers, some are hot and some are not”). The level of heat varies according to the quantity of capsaicin in each pepper. With every rule of thumb, there is always an exception, but peppers grown towards August/September tend to contain more capsaicin than those green beauties of June/July.
Pimientos de Padrón (the classic recipe)
- Pimientos de Padrón
- Olive oil
- Coarse rock salt – this is the de facto salt, but I like Maldon salt, added just before serving
Cooking time: Around 5 minutes per batch
Wash and pat dry the peppers (Do not remove the stems, these are used as handles to eat the peppers) Fry the peppers in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil for five to six minutes until their skin begins to blister, stirring constantly so that the peppers are coated in the olive oil and cooked throughout.
Serve with your favorite wine – I’m partial to a crisp white.
Another yummy option from Jose Andreas
Galicia has two official languages: Galician (Galician: Galego) and Spanish (known in Spain as castellano, “Castilian”).
Galician is recognized in the Statute of Autonomy of Galicia as the lingua propia “mother language” of Galicia. Galician is related to Portuguese. Both descend from a Romance language of the Middle Ages now referred to as Galician-Portuguese. Galicia is in the extreme northwestern corner of Spain. Galicia’s west coast is on the Atlantic Ocean while the north coast is on the Cantabric Sea. It is a cold, wet climate, with rugged terrain and over 700 miles of rocky coastlines.
Historically it is one of the poorest regions of Spain. Small family farms of a few acres exist growing vegetables, however many families live from fisherman’s catches.
The people of Galicia descend from the Celts, and some of their traditions can be seen today. Galicians, or Gallegos, as they are called in Spanish waste nothing of what they grow or catch, including shells to fertilize the soil. All sorts of fish are caught and eaten in Galicia, including gooseneck barnacles, called percebes, oysters or ostras, scallops vieiras, mussels mejillones, clams almejas, razor shell clams navajas and heart clams berberechos to name a few.
The region of La Limia is famous for its potatoes. Several varieties are grown there, but most people simply differentiate them as either la roja, red potato, or la blanca, white potato. La blanca is soft and mealy and is the secret to a good cocido gallego.
Octopus is popular in Galicia. Prepared a feira, the octopus must be pounded until tender, and boiled in a cooper pot and seasoned with olive oil, pimentón (Spanish paprika) and salt. It is traditionally served on wooden plates. This tapa is popular all over Spain and outside of Galicia is called Pulpo a la gallega or in Galician “Polbo á Feira”, which roughly translates as “Octopus, Galician style”.
Empanada – meat pie with a Celtic influence that includes a host of different fillings, including meat, fish and vegetables. The ingredients of the fillings are chopped finely and mixed with lots of onion, tomato sauce and spices, then spread between two layers of pastry. Finally, it is baked and served hot. Even back in the XII century, pilgrims on the road to Santiago de Compostela had heard of empanadas and requested them by name.
Lacón con Grelos is considered the most famous dish of Galicia. Lacón is boiled meat from the fore leg of a pig, while grelos are turnip leaves (some sources reference grelos as Broccoli rabe). The lacón and grelos are then boiled together and served with chorizo and potatoes.
La Vieira – sea scallops are abundant on the shores of Galicia. A typical recipe for these tasty morels involves a mixture is made of onion, parsley and breadcrumbs that covers the scallops (still in their shells). The entire combination is then baked.
Caldo Gallego – Galician Broth is a hearty soup in Galicia. Cabbage, potatoes and beans form the basic broth, and often ham, sausage and pork are added to make a filling main course.
Pimientos de Padrón – Padrón Peppers are tiny peppers that are considered a delicacy. One of the famous cheeses is called tetilla, named after its breast-like shape – pardon me. Other varieties include the San Simón cheese from Vilalba, and the creamy cheese produced in the Arzúa-Curtis area.
Tarta de Santiago – St. James’ Cake is named after St. James, the patron saint of Spain. It is a rich, heavy cake made of ground almonds, decorated with powdered sugar and the sword of St. James or a cross. Although the exact origin of this cake is unknown, it is thought that a pilgrim brought the recipe to Galicia during a pilgrimage.
Filloas – crêpe-like pancakes are a favorite dessert made with flour, broth and eggs.
Galicians have long made strong distilled liqueurs. Locally produced orujo is a liqueur used in a popular and very traditional drink called queimada. In the tradition of waste not, want not, the basic ingredients of orujo is the residue from wine production – grape skins, seeds and stalks. From orujo, Galicians make queimada, in lemon peel, sugar and ground coffee are added to a clay pot, then the orujo is poured on top and the pot is lit on fire, in a Celtic Queimada Ritual.
If you want to read a bit more on the Padrón peppers, try –