The name piquillo derives from the Spanish little beak. Pimiento de piquillo are among the most iconic tapas and some of my favorites, as well, especially when stuffed with cheese.
Last evening, looking for a place for a tapa and a glass of wine, we stopped at La Rubia. This casual restaurant addresses mostly local people and is specialised in tapas and salads, or platitos, bocadillos y ensaladas de carácter local, that go with their – also local – beers, wines and vermouth.
Pimientos de piquillo, rellenos con queso de cabra
The piquillo peppers are a variety of chili or Capsicum annuum, with sweet taste and no heat. Having about 7 cm long, this variety is traditionally grown in Northern Spain near the town of Lodosa, near Pamplona, where the product has designation of origin (DO or denominación de origen). The piquillo peppers are usually (but not only) served as tapas – either stuffed, as in my case with goat cheese (queso de cabra), or with fish, meat or seafood, or mixed with contrasting ingredients such as anchovies and quail egg – one of the greatest combinations for Basque pintxos.
Typically, the peppers are hand picked during two harvests between September and December. They are roasted over embers, which gives them a distinct sweet, spicy flavour, more akin to bell peppers than chilli peppers, despite their small size. They are then peeled and de-seeded by hand, before being packed into jars or tins for sale. Piquillo peppers are high in fiber, and vitamins C, E, A, and B. In particular, their vitamin C content is very high, comparable to a citrus fruit.
Iberian Pepper Names
In the Iberian space, the family of peppers can be split into two main groups: pimientos and guindillas. The word pimiento generally refers to the sweeter and milder peppers, those that taste like bell pepper or paprika, while the word guindilla generally refers to the hotter kind of peppers. Ground pimiento in dry powder form is called pimenton.
La Rubia and the City
The area around La Rubia restaurant might be one of the most inspired places to start discovering the contrasting district of El Raval. I am talking about a pedestrian, large square, Plaça dels Àngels, where the terraces of different bistros meet the great architecture of the Museum of Contemporary Art of Barcelona (MACBA, design Richard Meier), the Gothic style of Convent dels Àngels, a former Dominican monastery of the 15th century, today a cultural space, and the eclectic atmosphere of the district’s streets.