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Archive for July, 2011

The setting is Bunol spain in the heart of Valencia. It is early morning on the last Wednesday in August and the streets of Bunol are clean, quiet and deserted. But that won’t last for long because today is the festival of La Tomatina. When the shot from a starting pistol pierces the air at 11:00 a.m. mayhem will reign and the streets will begin to run red with the flesh and juices of ripe tomatoes being hurled at anyone who finds himself on the street.

For 60 years, the town of Buñol has been home to La Tomatina which started in the forties when some friends started a tomato fight in the main square for reasons no longer known. Over the years La Tomatina has evolved into a weeklong celebration that culminates in a battle where the townspeople (and over 20 thousand tourists from around the world) pelt each other with ripe tomatoes brought in by the truck loads specifically for this event.  The days leading up to the short but epic battle are filled with parades, fireworks, food and street parties.

la tomatina bunol spainGood, Messy Fun

Then, early Wednesday morning, shopkeepers and business owners along the Plaza start covering windows and doors in preparation for the messy battle. Large trucks rumble up the cobblestone streets, arriving in the crowd-filled square and, from the back of these huge trucks, official instigators begin the tomato tirade by pelting the awaiting warriors with their vegetable cargo: sloppy, squishy tomatoes from the four corners of Spain. The revelers take up the battle call and about a half an hour and 150,000 tomatoes later everyone reconciles with their former targets and heads to the river to clean up.

tomato bread from CataloniaTake Tomatina to You

We’re not suggesting that you wage your own tomato war, but La Tomatina is so much fun. Why not host a Tomatina themed party or dinner during the month of August?  The cuisine of Spain offers so many recipes that are perfect for your Tomatina fun.  Start out with a Catalonian Pa amb Tomaquet (tomato bread) and Gazpacho or Salmorejo.  Serve Paella Valenciana, typical of the region where Buñol is located, and traditionally served during the Tomatina street parties. The tomato is a key ingredient in so many Spanish dishes you’ll have not difficulty putting together an appropriate menu. Just be careful if your guests arrive with bags of overripe tomatoes and a mischievous gleam in their eyes.  You might just have a messy Tomato fight on your hands.

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Spanish Charcuteria PlateThe cheese plate typically gets all of our attention. It’s great with wine and is even offered as a dessert, but what about the charcuteria plate?  A selection of cured meats can be every bit as elegant, flavorful and delicious as a cheese plate. And  Spanish charcuteria has a special place in our hearts. Spain makes so many different types of cooked and cured meats; from the classic Serrano ham to the iconic Iberico ham and from cured pork loin (known as lomo) to chorizos in various sizes. Why not build the perfect charcuteria plate focusing on these gastronomical delights from Spain.  

Okay, so I’m hoping I’ve piqued your interest and convinced you to give the charcuteria plate a try. But what belongs on the perfect Spanish charcuteria plate?   There should be a mix of cooked and air-cured meats, accompanied by a food with some amount of acidity to compensate for the meats’ richness. A combination of Iberico ham, Lomo Serrano, Fuet and Chorizo Riojano would provide a nice selection. For the acidity, consider some Spanish olives. Manzanillas, Gordals, and Arbequinas are the perfect little friends  to come out and play with Spanish meats. And don’t forget some picos and some crusty bread on the side.

Presentation is Everything

The Chartuteria plate is perfect for parties and gatherings of friends. All you need to present the charcuteria plate nicely is an attractive cutting board, a slate tablet or even just a rustic hunk of wood. Make sure you use a platter that won’t be damaged by a knife.  We know that estimating how much meat you’ll need is a challenge, so here are some tips. The more kinds of meat you have, the more people will eat. If you serve only one type of meat, an ounce per person will suffice. With two or three different meats, you’ll want to up the quantity to two ounces per person. For more than three people, three ounces each will do. And if you’ve got a lively group and your party goes on for more than a couple of hours, double these amounts.

This summer why not experiment with your own charcuteria selection? Just pick a ham, lomo and chorizo. Drizzle them with a little extra virgin olive oil and serve them on a wooden tablet along with some marcona almonds, crusty bread, and olives. If you’re feeling inclusive make some room for a little Manchego cheese to accompany these dark meaty beauties. Add some full bodied Spanish red wine and you’re good to go. Take the charcuteria challenge!

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