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Pork belly kebabs

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We Are Never Full

(Read caption) Pan-grilled pork belly results in moist, delicious meat with the crispy edges synonymous with grilled food but without the burnt flavor. These kebabs have been soaked in olive oil and seasoned with cumin, pimenton, thyme, and pepper.

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Moorish influence remains as evident in Spanish cookery as the impact of the age of exploration and the conquest of the New World. The Moorish introduction of citrus, saffron, cumin and rice to Spain and the introduction from Mexico of peppers, tomatoes, beans, potatoes, and corn fundamentally shaped the flavors and preparations we instinctively associate with Spanish cookery and that differentiates it from the cuisine of anywhere else.

One of the most ubiquitous and well-loved tapas menu items at tascas throughout Spain, pincho moruno, or Moorish kebab, might be the dish in which the Moorish and Mexican influences on Spanish cuisine are best demonstrated. Traditionally made with chunks of marinated pork grilled over coals it persists as an echo of the North African lamb brochette, adjusted to ignore halal and accommodate the Iberian obsession with pork. The hearty seasoning of cumin and hot or sweet pimenton, garlic and thyme pairs two of the most emblematic spices of the Moors and of Mexico.

In many parts of Castilla la Mancha and Extremadura, if you order pincho moruno in a tapas bar, you’ll be asked “sin o’ con?” (with or without), referring to the level of spiciness you’d like in your kebabs. A typical order would be “dos sin, tres con” (two mild, three spicy), the latter having been marinated in spicy paprika. In yet another example of Mexican influence on the most Spanish of things, it was in the monasteries around the Extremaduran town of La Vera where the first peppers brought from the New World were planted. Indeed, pimenton de la Vera remains the gold standard among Spanish pimentons.


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