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Posts Tagged ‘spain’

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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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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coca castle castilla y leon

Coca Castle Castilla y Leon

Known as the magical land of castles, Castilla y Leon is the region that gave birth to the Spanish language, the legendary hero El Cid and Saint Teresa of Avila. It is a land where ancient history, myth and legend have become so intertwined that it is hard to separate reality from fairytales.   Castilla y Leon is home to some of Spain’s most magnificent buildings and stunning scenery such as the walls of Avila, the cathedral of Burgos, the University of Salamanca and the aqueduct of Segovia.

The Cuisine of Castilla y Leon

The spectacular gastronomy of Castilla y Leon is an expression of this history, culture and landscape.  Traditional foods such as complex asados (roasts), magical potajes (stews), and spiritual dulces (sweets) coexist with avant-garde recipes using the treasured Iberico fresh meats, delicate cheeses and cheese accompaniments and characteristic vegetables of the region. The foods from Castilla y Leon are just like the people from this region of Spain: solid, authentic, natural, intense and enigmatic. Are you ready to experience more?

Stay Tuned for More on Castilla y Leon

During the next few months, A LA PLANCHA will feature the foods from Castilla y Leon, from Iberico and Serrano ham to artisanal cheeses and traditional tapas foods like the tortilla Española.  And of course, we must start with the king of Spain’s cuisine, Iberico ham.  We’re not holding back. We’re not saving the best for last. Here it is.

The Treasures of Castilla y Leon

Iberico Ham

The iconic Jamon Iberico (Iberico ham) is considered one of the world’s culinary treasures together with truffles and caviar.  It is made from a pure breed of pig exclusive to Spain called the Iberico pig which ranges freely in an ecosystem characterized by expansive pastureland spotted with Oak and cork trees called la Dehesa. The Iberico pig’s diet of acorns and rich grasses transfers its aromas and flavor to its meat, transforming it into a delicious morsel that melts in your mouth. The taste and texture is different from any other cured meat in the world.

Iberico Ham in a Fairy Tale Kingdom

La Alberca, Spain

La Alberca, Spain

I recently had the opportunity to travel to La Alberca in Castilla y Leon to visit the home of Fermin, maker of Iberico and Iberico de Bellota hams, as well as Iberico Lomo, Serrano Ham and Serrano Lomo. Yes, I was impressed by the spotless, state of the art facilities, but what really made an impact on me was the family that runs the company and the land they call home.

The three generations of family that run Fermin have a unique relationship with the land. They are well aware of the importance of caring for the land called the Dehesa that gives the Iberico pig life and makes the Iberico Ham what it is.

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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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Torta del Casar Cheese

The world of Spanish cheese is a wide and wonderful one. From the classic Manchego, and the assertive Covadonga blue to the conical Tetilla and the tangy Monte Enebro, there is something for everyone in Spain’s world of cheese.

Today we’re going to put a spotlight on one of our favorites, the Torta del Casar. This sheep’s milk cheese from the Extremadura region in Western Spain is unique both in flavor and form.  The flavor is full, intense and slightly salty. Some say the cheese has a smoky and somewhat rustic flavor. The cheese gets a subtle bitterness from the rennet  used to curdle the sheep’s milk when it is made, which is derived from the pistils of a wild thistle plant. All of these characteristics would make this cheese a unique one, but we haven’t even touched on the Torta del Casar’s shape and consistency.

Gooey and Gorgeous

Torta del Casar has a soft creamy texture and takes part of its name, Torta, from its cake-like shape. At room temperature, which is how this cheese should be served, the center has an almost liquid, melted quality. In Spain Torta del Casar is cut into slices or a hole is cut in the top and the cheese is scooped out with a spoon or a piece of bread or cracker. Serve this gooey delicacy along with caramelized onions or chutney.

Bocadillo of Veal with Peppers and Torta del Casar

Yes, serving the Torta del Casar opened at the top with a little crusty bread is certainly a traditional and classic way of serving this cheese. But there is more to this versatile cheese than meets the eye. Serve triangles of Torta del Casar with an accent of Spanish Sherry Syrup. Or serve it with pasta, atop onion soup, cooked into a sauce and drizzled over a steak, or fried and served with a raspberry syrup.

Follow the links below for these recipe ideas and more.  (Titles in Spanish link to recipes in Spanish)

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