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For the Colombian cuisine dish see Picada (Colombian cuisine)
Picada (Catalan pronunciation: [piˈkaðə]) is one of the characteristic sauces and culinary techniques essential to Catalan cuisine and Valencian cuisine. It is not an autonomous sauce like mayonnaise or romesco, but it is added as a seasoning during the cooking of a recipe.
Often the preparation of a concoction begins with another essential sauce, like the sofregit, and ends with the final adding of the picada some minutes before the cooking termination. Picada is used to blend and thicken juices, to provide an excellent finishing touch to a multitude of recipes: meats, fish, rice, soups, legumes, vegetables. There are many variants for the rest of ingredients. The commonest ones are garlic (so often it is considered almost essential), saffron (considered essential too by many cooks), and / or parsley (yet another regular appearance too). Other possible ingredients used more rarely are cinnamon, cooked liver (of chicken or rabbit), chocolate, cummin, herbs and other spices.
The picada is prepared in the mortar and must contain a basic triad: almond, bread and some liquid. Almonds are toasted and can be replaced by another nut like hazelnut, pinenut, walnut, or some combination of those. Hard, dry bread is crushed on the mortar, that is, toasted or stale, or bread crust, or fried in oil on the pan, or even some sort of sweet biscuit or cookie. The liquid used is usually the cooking juice but stock or hot water can be used as well.
A typical preparation of picada:
Put a little salt in a mortar, to prevent slipping, and four cloves of garlic. Crush the garlic with a pestle and then add a dozen toasted almonds, a dozen pine nuts, a slice of toast, and a few strands of saffron. Crush it all together to get a sort of paste. A few parsley leaves can be added too. When the batter becomes homogeneous, throw in a few spoonfuls of the juice left in the pan (from cooking a meat) and mix it to get a more or less thick sauce. About ten minutes before finishing cooking the dish, pour the paste of the picada and spread it all over the entire surface, letting it join the stew on low heat.
Historically, picada of almonds is documented in Catalan cuisine from its very beginning. It is already present in the oldest medieval treatises. Other neighboring Mediterranean cuisines, as Occitan or Italian ones have essentially similar sauces such as pesto.