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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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Tool and Gadget Envy

I must admit, I’m a sucker for the latest cooking tool, appliance or gadget. A walk through Williams Sonoma, Sur la Table, or Crate and Barrel is like a walk through wonderland. I just know that shiny, beautiful Cappuccino machine would look so cosmopolitan on my countertop. That set of Global knives would tell everyone who steps into my kitchen that I am a professional. That beautiful new ceramic tart dish would make my blueberry tart taste like something you’d serve to the Queen of England.

Jamonero Love

Recently a whole new item has caught my eye and that is the artisan crafted jamonero, or ham carving stand. The Spanish name is so much more interesting than the English one and jamonero is not hard to pronounce. Say it with me… jamonero. The jamonero is the latest tool I have developed a crush on.  It has the warmth and solidity of natural hard wood, the strength of chromed steel, its hand carved acorns provide a touch of artistry and its shape is solid and curvy. What’s not to like?

Ham it Up Like a Professional

The jamonero is an essential tool for presenting and slicing bone-in Spanish Hams. Simply place a beautiful, meaty Iberico Ham (commonly known as Pata Negra) or Serrano Ham on a jamonero for slicing and you can expect a round of applause. My favorite jamoneros are hand crafted in the Salamanca, Spain workshop of Don Paulino and his family. These works of art are made from African Sapele wood, Beech or Walnut accented by the shiniest chromed steel you’ve ever seen. And Don Paulino’s works of art include everything from his small portable jamonero (just in case you need to take your bone-in Spanish ham on the road) to his gigantic rotating jamonero table from which knife wielding Spaniards can slice 6 hams at once.  My favorite jamonero is called Lisboa.  The African Sapele wood gives it the color of autumn leaves and it uses a special rotating clamp that allows me to turn the ham without taking it out of the holder, an ingenious feature that allows me to carve each and every tasty morsel off the ham with ease.

Once this beautiful ham work of art is ensconced comfortably in my dining room, I will have all the tools I need to put on my ham carving show with an Iberico de Bellota ham from Spain as my guest of honor. This time I am sure that my jamonero love will not be an unrequited one. What’s more, it will be a love that I can share with all of my friends as I carve of long thin strips of Iberico ham for them to enjoy.

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The Life of an Alpine Goat on Santa Gadea Farm

French Alpine Goats

French Alpine Goats on Santa Gadea Farm

You are a French Alpine goat living on Santa Gadea Farm in a valley, near Burgos in Castilla y Leon, Spain. Go ahead, picture it. You live on 2,500 acres of land along with 999 of your best goat buddies, as well as deer, wild pigs, foxes, wild cats and even Egyptian vultures. Quite a cosmopolitan mix! You make your home in a unique region that is halfway between humid, Northern Spain and dry, Mediterranean Spain. It is land of rocky peaks and naked valleys, blanketed with snow during the winter and abundantly green during the summer. You spend your days grazing in beautiful organic pastures that are completely absent of transgenic or chemical fertilizers.

Winter in the Valley

Can you picture it?  You are the envy of other French Alpine goats not lucky enough to live on Santa Gadea Farm. You have been selected by Alfonso Perez-Andujar to help him fulfill his dream to build a sustainable goat cheese farm from scratch. Your organic milk is used to make creamy, artisan cheeses like Santa Gadea No1 and Santa Gadea No2. You contribute your milk to the making of delicious cheeses that are produced sustainably, with a positive impact on the environment.  If goats could drive I’m sure you’d own a hybrid car!

Santa Gadea Cheese

Santa Gadea Cheese

The cheese called Santa Gadea No1 is creamy, rich and smooth with a multi-dimensional flavor that lingers on the palate. It is a soft white moldy medallion covering a smoot and creamy paste. Santa Gadea No2 is has fresh, rich aromas, begins its life with mild flavors and finishes with a sharper taste. It is a short, ivory colored cheese with a clay-like rind and an almost fluid center. 

When you think of people around the world serving your cheese with fresh or dried fruit, some almonds, crunchy artisanal bread and a glass of crisp white wine, how can you not be the proudest French Alpine goat in Castilla y Leon, Spain?

Okay, snap out of it. You’re no longer a goat but I hope we’ve left you with the urge to try these wonderful cheeses.  We look forward to the imminent arrival of these cheeses as part of our campaign to celebrate the foods of Castilla y Leon.

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Selecting cheeses and accompaniments for the perfect cheese plate is more of an art than a science.  There are a few rules of thumb, but with so many cheeses to choose from, the cheese plate is an expression of the person who puts the selection together. This post will give you some tips for building an extraordinary Spanish cheese plate that reflects the personality of you, the chef.  
 
 

Spanish Cheese Selection

Spanish Cheese Selection

Tip #1:Include a variety of flavors and textures.

Cheeses generally fit into a few main categories: aged, soft, firm, and blue. Or you can select cheeses by type of milk used to make them: cow, sheep, goat, or a blend. Regardless of the cheeses you select, it is always a good idea to include one more familiar cheese, like Manchego, but your choices are bounded only by your creativity and of course availability.

Spanish Cheeses by Category

  • Aged:  Montelarreina, Idiazabal, Rosemary Sheep’s Milk
  • Soft: Camerano Semi Cured Goat, Torta del Casar, Monte Enebro
  • Firm: Organic Raw Goat, 12 Month Manchego
  • Blue: Covadonga, Cabrales, Valdeon
 Spanish Cheeses by Milk Type
  • Cow: Mahon, Tetilla, La Peral
  • Sheep: Manchego, Idiazabal, Montelarreina, Rosemary Sheep’s Milk, Olive Manchego, Torta del Casar
  • Goat: Camerano, Garrotxa, Wine Goat, Organic Raw Goat, San Mateu Catalonian Goat
Tip #2: Offer a variety of breads. You can vary taste, textures, shape and size of breads just like you do with cheeses. Include a chewy baguette and fig bread, or picos and tortas de aceite for variety and flavor.
 
Piquillo Pepers

Piquillo Peppers

Tip #3: Offer jarred sauces or vegetables as an easy accompaniment. Quince paste, or membrillo is a perfect sweet accompaniment to a salty and firm cheese like Manchego or Montelarreina. Piquillo peppers have a sweet, rich flavor that compliments tangy goat cheeses or even blues like Covadonga.

Tip #4: Add a sweet and a salty food.  Salty jamon Serrano or jamon Iberico are perfect accompaniments to a combination of cheeses from Spain, as are Marcona almonds, salty Gordal olives and sweet caramelized olives.

What’s on your ideal Spanish cheese plate?

 

Interested in the Spanish foods you read about on this blog? Wholesale clients like restaurants and retail stores, please visit. www.Solexapartners.com. Consumers, please visit www.FoodSpain101.com.

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It’s that time again. The year is drawing to a close, and it’s time to take stock of 2010. What were the best movies of 2010, our favorite songs, the most important events? Here at Solex, we’ll leave all that to the pundits and media. What we care about is authentic food from Spain. So, we’ll share with you our own list of the Solex staff’s favorite Spanish foods of 2010.

This Year’s Favorite Foods from Solex Staff

Eva: My favorite food of 2010 is Lomo Serrano from Fermin. A taste of this cured meat brings me back to the house my maternal grandparents had in a town called Cibanal on the border with Zamora and Portugal. The town of only 50 inhabitants was very close to Salamanca, home of the Iberico pig and for generations the humble people of this area have lived on cheese they  make from their own sheep’s milk and the chorizos, lomos and jamones they cure in their own homes, hung by the chimney, like Christmas stockings. The Lomo’s smoky aroma and flavor of the Spanish Dehesa countryside in winter transport me back to my childhood.

Barbara: In 2010 I found the Caramelized Olive! And it is unlike anything I’ve ever tried before. The first time I bit into one I was expecting a regular olive and was surprised by its sweetness.  Since discovering it, I have enjoyed seeing the look in someone’s eye when I introduce them to this unique olive. Plus, it goes so well with other foods, like strong cheeses or meats.

Carmen: My favorite food is Cana de Cabra, a traditional fresh goat milk cheese, served with quince paste. I love the combination of the creamy, tangy cheese with the sweetness of the quince.

Christie:  I would say that my discovery of the year is the Rosemary Panoleta.  I love the fact that this cheese is unique, not only in flavor and taste but also in the shape and size.  I love the hint of Rosemary that comes along with every bite. Yum.

Rocio: I’m in love with Ventresca. It’s cut from the belly of Bonito del Norte tuna and has a consistency like butter. I love fish but this is something on a whole new level. The first time I tasted Ventresca I thought I would never stop eating it.

Ruth: This year I have been fascinated by Extra Virgin Olive Oil with White Truffle. Truffles have always seemed special to me. It could be something about the way they are harvested, sniffed out by dogs and pigs. Or it may be their unassuming appearance, camouflaging the delicious flavor inside. But combine white truffles with extra virgin olive oil and you’ve got a fantastic, flavor-packed, extravaganza.

Miguel: I love the “Banderillas” we sell!  Named for tool used in bullfighting, they are like tiny little swords that spear a row of olives, peppers, onions and gherkins. They’re so festive and can be used as appetizers or drink garnishes. When I open up a jar of these I have an instant party.

Ignacio: Without a doubt, my 2010 find was Monte Enebro goat cheese. It’s a very delicate cheese that is produced by a small company in Avila and as a result it is sometimes hard to get. But its texture and lightly tangy flavor are totally worth it. I have a hunch that I’m not the only person who has discovered this unique cheese either since many of the chefs we serve order it regularly; they immediately see menu possibilities. Throughout the country I have seen Monte Enebro served in different ways, each one of them delicious. In Texas I had it served cold over fresh vegetables and in Indiana it was even breaded and fried. This cheese is a sure bet!

What are your favorites? We’d love to know!

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SOLEX gives you now full access to all three product lines of Albert y Ferran Adria. Check out this feature website:

solex-texturas1

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Huevo hilado

The slightly sweet huevo hilado, wrapped in a slice of Jamon Iberico is one of the most perfect and simple bites my palate ever tasted! Huevo hilado are sweetened threads of yolk, cooked in a high sugar/water solution for only a few minutes and then shocked in cold water. I enjoyed it on my last visit at Santa Teresa in Avila, a company with long tradition and fame in Spain for its artisan pastry, egg yolk products and quince paste.

Huevo Hilado

Huevo Hilado

Unfortunately, as of now an artisan egg product like huevo hilado cannot be imported to the US. But with a few tries one might be able to develop a great own recipe.

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