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Archive for October, 2010

Iberico Ham on Columbus DayFestivities Fit for a King

Last week we celebrated the anniversary of the day that Christopher Columbus first set foot in the Americas. Here in the United States we call it Columbus Day. Schools are closed, cities host parades and those of us who have to work grumble about it.  In Spain the day is called Fiesta Nacional, or National Day of Spain, and it is also celebrated with a parade. But not just an ordinary parade,  in Madrid the parade is presided over by a member of Spain’s royal family, King Juan Carlos I.  Here in Chicago, Solex Partners celebrated the day with the Spanish Consul, 200 happy Spaniards and a Jamon Iberico de Bellota. Madrid had the King of Spain, we had the king of hams! And the Jamon Iberico de Bellota, or Pata Negra, truly is an example of porcine royalty. 

Food Around the World

As you can tell, in the Solex world everything ties back to food. So, Columbus Day got me thinking about our bounty of old and new world foods, and the wonderful results of their coming together. By the time Columbus left Spain with the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria, the country already had a long and delicious culinary history. Beautiful cheeses like Manchego have thousands of years of history behind them. Today, the rind of the Manchego is still characterized by a braided pattern that harkens back to the grass baskets that were originally used to cure the cheese.Manchego Cheese I could talk for hours about foods that are synonymous with Spain like chorizo, paella, and olive oil! But let’s talk new world foods.

 

Old World Meets New

The new world offered new and (then) exotic foods like the tomato, the potato, chocolate and vanilla. These foods would change the face of Spain’s and the world’s gastronomy forever. Juicy, red tomatoes are the signature ingredient for Spain’s cool and velvety gazpacho.  And who can imagine the tasty Tortilla Espanola without the potatoes that give it that extra firmness? Finally, what would the churro be without its friend, melted, gooey chocolate? They are two foods that were made for each other! Just like Spanish and new world foods.

Churros and Chocolate

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Ode to the Olive

The olive. It is elegant, sumptuous, and versatile. I think it may even be the perfect food.  Here, at Solex Partners, we are friends of the olive. We love the olive whole, stuffed, in extra virgin olive oil, even in cheese. If you’re reading this, you’re probably already a fan so you can sing along with me as you read this Ode to the Olive.

Olive Tree

A Little History

History? Yes, I know, you didn’t like history in high school. But we’re talking about the history of olives! Trust me, it’s fascinating. So, according to Greek mythology Zeus planned to give a region called Attica to the deity who could devise the most useful invention for humanity. Poseidon submitted the horse. Athena offered the tiny olive. The horse could haul, carry and even be used as an instrument of war. The olive provided food, fuel and medicine and was a symbol of peace. The horse had to be fed and cared for and then lived only a few decades. The olive thrived in poor soil, with little water and bore fruit for more than a century. Athena won the contest hands down and the city of Athens is named for her.  And as they say, the rest is history, let’s move on.

Olive branch with oil

Little Jewels

Whole, olives are plump, round, and shiny, like little jewels. Their salty and slightly bitter taste is unmistakable. But not just any olive will do. I clearly remember the first time I ate a true Spanish olive. I was traveling in Barcelona, Spain and a dish of small, unassuming olives was brought to my table. The second I bit into one, I knew this was something different and I would never go back to the flavorless black spheres that often masquerade as olives.  Fortunately for me, here at Solex we sell some of the best Spanish olives. With names like Arbequina, Manzanilla and Gordal, you can taste the Spanish sun that ripens them in each juicy bite.

O-Med Olive OilAs oil, the olive glistens like liquid gold. It takes on the most humble tasks but is also the guest of honor in salads, fried foods and cooked dishes. Today, Extra Virgin Olive Oil also takes center stage. Spain’s most innovative 3 star Michelin chefs started developing culinary works of art with olive oil as a centerpiece back in the 90’s; think albacore tuna with a garnish of extra virgin olive oil ice cream. I only dream about dining at Ferran Adria’s Elbulli in Spain, so I have to look closer to home to find culinary masterpieces. Fortunately, Black Dog Gelato, a Chicago venue, serves a fudgesicle made with olive oil gelato. Here at Solex, the Arbequina Extra Virgin Olive Oil by O-Med is one my personal favorites . Its taste and aroma remind me of apple and green plantain. And I love that I have actually met the family that produces this artisanal product for us. Their knowledge of and love for their products are amazing.

 

Southern Coast of Spain Guiltless Pleasure

One of the best things about the olive is that I can enjoy its gifts without guilt. Like red wine, I’m now told that this perfect food is actually good for me! I think I may just devote my life to living the Mediterranean diet.  I’m off to the Southern coast of Spain with a bottle of olive oil and a bowl of olives. Meet me there with a little Manchego, some Chorizo and a loaf of bread.

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