Updated: Nov 1
Welcome to the next installment of my Meet the Spice Blend series, where I'm sharing the inspiration for, back stories of, and uses for my ever-expanding collection of small batch, handcrafted spice blends. Next up, let's meet Spanish Sunset!!
The Inspiration and Back Story - My Honeymoon in Spain
If you've been following along on the Blog for a while, you already know that I find lots of inspiration for my products from my travels. I believe that one of the best ways to explore a place and learn about a culture is through its food, which works out for me because I love to travel, I enjoy learning, and I absolutely ADORE eating. In 2018, I married a man who shares those traits with me, which means we basically plan entire vacations around where we want to eat and drink while we're there. And our honeymoon was no exception.
Though we have a long list of places we want to visit (and eat and drink) in the world, we chose Spain for a few reasons. First, my husband is of Spanish and Native Mexican descent but had never been to Spain before. When I studied in Italy during college I was always slightly envious of my classmates who could trace their ancestry back to specific places and, in many cases, take weekend trips to visit their relatives. My husband's paternal grandfather was born in La Seca, a tiny town northwest of Madrid, and there are living (albeit distant) relatives still in the country. For this reason, I had the idea to invite Michael's parents and siblings to join us (none of whom had been to Spain either) for a few days so that we could see where his grandfather was born and perhaps even meet some of the family. My idea worked out even better than I could have imagined, and we all spent a wonderful 3 days together, including a day exploring La Seca, where nearly three dozen family members came from all over Spain to meet us for lunch. (I'm pretty sure we at least doubled the population of La Seca that day.)
The second reason we chose Spain for our honeymoon is that, other than a short trip to visit one of my college roommates who was studying in Salamanca at the same time that I was studying in Italy, I had not explored Spain either. This meant that Michael and I would both be experiencing the country for the first time but together. This was important to us because we didn't want one of us to feel like a tour guide or to have memories of particular places that were tied to our past selves. We wanted this first big trip as a married couple to mark the beginning of our joint adventure in all the possible ways.
And finally, we chose Spain for THE FOOD. And THE DRINKS. Need I say more? We spent three full weeks literally eating and drinking our way through much of Spain, which is slightly bigger than California but smaller than Texas. We started in Barcelona, then ventured to Valladolid (and La Seca) for the aforementioned family time. After that we headed to San Sebastian and drove the length of the Basque coast to Bilbao before heading back toward Madrid via Avila. From Madrid we head south to Seville, Cadiz, Ronda, Malaga, and Granada before making our way to Valencia. Then we went north to Penedès (cava country) before spending our final few days back in Barcelona. We ate all the things and drank all the drinks, and I couldn't possibly pick a favorite dish or beverage or even a favorite place because they were all so magical in their own way. Indeed, much like anywhere else in the world, the food varies from place to place throughout Spain. In Barcelona we ate our weight in Pan con Tomate and Croquettes and learned that Vermouth is not just for dry martinis. In the Basque region we gorged ourselves on seafood and pintxos (small plates) and drank local Txakoli wine. In Avila, we ate nothing but beef and pork and sipped full-bodied red wines from Ribera del Duero and Rioja. In Cadiz we snacked on fried anchovies and tippled Oloroso Sherry. In Seville we discovered the simple magic of head-on shrimp, and in Valencia we tried paella in all its variations.
So how, you ask, could a single spice blend possibly encapsulate all of that? It can't. Not really. But it can pay homage, and that's what Spanish Sunset does. This blend of Spanish paprika, garlic, onion, tomato powder, white wine vinegar salt, dehydrated orange, and saffron is my ode to Spain, and every time I use it I am reminded of that trip. The Spanish paprika evokes the Pulpo a la Gallega (Galician Octopus) we ate at the Mercado de la Boqueria in Barcelona. The tomato powder is a nod to the Pan con Tomate I devoured literally almost every day. The white wine vinegar salt evokes my favorite pintxo - The Gilda - with its tangy, salty combo of olives, anchovies, and pickled piquillo peppers. The dehydrated orange brings me back to the streets of Seville, where orange trees line the sidewalks. And the saffron, of course, reminds me of all that beautiful paella.
Flavor Profile - Spanish Sunset
Spanish Sunset is a captivating medley of flavors that transports your senses straight to the heart of Spain. At the core of this artisanal mix is Spanish paprika, lending a smoky warmth that serves as the foundation for the blend. Garlic and onion add a savory depth, while tomato powder introduces a subtle sweetness and rich color. The inclusion of white wine vinegar salt brings a tangy brightness that elevates the other ingredients. Dehydrated orange zest adds a citrusy note, offering a refreshing contrast and complexity. The pièce de résistance is the saffron, a luxurious spice that imparts a delicate floral aroma and a golden hue. Together, these ingredients create a harmonious flavor profile that is both robust and nuanced, perfect for paellas, tapas, and any dish that calls for a touch of Spanish flair.
Versatility in the Kitchen - Spanish Sunset
Spanish Sunset is incredibly versatile and can add a burst of flavor to a variety of dishes. Here are some suggestions on how to use it in your home cooking:
1. Paella: Add a little Spanish Sunset to your favorite paella recipe. Don't have one? Try mine below!
2. Roasted Vegetables: Toss your favorite vegetables in olive oil and a couple of teaspoons of Spanish Sunset before roasting them in the oven. The blend will add a smoky, tangy kick.
3. Grilled Fish or Chicken: Rub Spanish Sunset onto fish fillets or chicken breasts before grilling. The saffron and paprika will impart a beautiful color and complex flavor.
4. Spanish Tortilla: Add a pinch of Spanish Sunset to your traditional Tortilla Española made with potatoes and onions for an extra layer of flavor.
5. Gazpacho: Stir in a teaspoon of Spanish Sunset into your gazpacho to enhance its natural flavors and add a bit of Spanish flair.
6. Tapas: Level up your tapas with a little sprinkle of Spanish Sunset. Think pan con tomate, gambas al ajillo, or even a simple bowl of olives.
7. Salad Dressing: Mix Spanish Sunset into olive oil and vinegar to create a unique Spanish-inspired salad dressing. It's especially tasty with sherry vinegar!
8. Marinades: Combine Spanish Sunset with olive oil, lemon juice, and a touch of honey to create a versatile marinade for meats or seafood.
9. Homemade Salsa or Tomato Sauce: Add a teaspoon to your homemade salsa or tomato sauce for a smoky, tangy twist.
10. Bread Dipping Oil: Mix Spanish Sunset into a high-quality olive oil for a delicious and aromatic bread dipping oil.
11. Rice Dishes: Stir Spanish Sunset into your rice dishes, like arroz con pollo or a simple saffron rice, to elevate them to the next level.
12. Popcorn: For a unique snack, sprinkle some Spanish Sunset over freshly popped popcorn.
These are just a few ideas to get you started. The possibilities are endless, and the blend is sure to become a staple in your spice cabinet!
A Bite of Good Recipes that use Spanish Sunset
Looking for some more concrete guidance on how to use Spanish Sunset? Check out these A Bite of Good recipes!
Spanish Sunset Tomato Sauce - This super simple tomato sauce made with fresh tomatoes becomes an absolute dream with the addition of a little Spanish Sunset.
Grilled Fish with Spanish Sunset Sauce - The fish here is great, but you're going to come back for the sauce. In fact, you should probably just go ahead and double the sauce part of the recipe.
Grilled Artichokes with Spanish Sunset Aioli - Mixing a little Spanish Sunset into some mayonnaise is perhaps my favorite secret weapon.
Head-On Spanish Shrimp - Grab some extra napkins for this one! (P.S. You can also make it with head-off shrimp.)
(Sweet) Patatas Bravas - Traditional patatas bravas consists of fried potatoes tossed in a smoky, creamy, slightly tangy sauce. Here I've swapped in sweet potatoes and roasted them instead of frying for a guilt-free version.
Grilled Seafood, Chicken, and Chorizo Paella - This right here is the absolute Queen of my Spanish Sunset recipes. If you've never made paella, now is the time.
Skillet Heirloom Tomato Tart - Perfect for a meatless dinner or a Sunday brunch, this dish is a great way to showcase some of those end-of-summer tomatoes.
Ready to get your own Spanish Sunset? Get it here.