QUICK & TASTY RECIPES #11- Grilled asparagus with Manchego & walnuts

la foto 2Spring has sprung and so we’re kick starting barbecue season. Hooray!

If you, like me, love to add vegetables to any BBQ, here’s a fantastic recipe that has become an all time favorite in my family. This is so simple yet healthy and yummy that I’m sure your gang will love it too.

 

What you need:

  • 1 bunch of asparagus (about 1 pound), trimmed
  • 1 tbs extra virgin olive oilwww.themanchegocheese.com
  • 1 ounce of Manchego, shaved with a vegetable peeler
  • 2 walnuts
  • 1 tbs soy sauce
  • Salt & pepper

Instructions:

  1. Heat grill to medium-high.
  2. In a big bowl, toss the asparagus with the extra virgin olive oil, salt & pepper.
  3. Grill until tender, about 5 minutes.
  4. Pour the soy sauce on it
  5. Transfer to a plate and sprinkle with the Manchego and walnuts.
  6. Enjoy!

PAIRING: MANCHEGO CHEESE & ALMONDS

Almonds & Manchego CheeseLast week I talked about enjoying Manchego with nuts as a fantastic way to boost your health and energy levels. Manchego & walnuts are my favorite combination. Almonds and pecan nuts are excellent options too.

Today I’ll dedicate the post to pairing Manchego with almonds. This is an all time classic snack in Spain, popular as a small “tapa” for the “aperitivo” and also great to eat while watching TV.

Manchego goes well with both raw and roasted almonds. Spaniards normally enjoy Manchego with the Marcona type of almond. This nut – native to Spain – has also become a very popular item in specialty cheese stores in the US too. This tells a lot already about its versatility as a cheese partner!

Try and find Marcona almonds roasted in oil and salted – I prefer them without skin but, since you can also eat their skin, with and without skin are perfectly fine options.

Here are two suggestions to savour this fantastic pair:

  • Almonds + Manchego + Apple slices = The perfect mid-morning snack. Not only tasty and healthy, also easy to prepare and carry to the office.
  • Almonds + Manchego + Cava (Spanish sparkling wine) = A sophisticated appetizer that will surprise your dinner guests.

Just two great ways to enjoy Manchego & almonds. What would your suggestions be?

PAIRING: MANCHEGO CHEESE & WALNUTS

Manchego cheese & walnutsNutrition experts keep on telling us that we should include nuts into our daily diet. Apparently, these little wonders are packed with heart-healthy fats, protein, vitamins, and minerals. They’re nature’s way of showing us that good things often come in small packages!

Pairing them with cheese is a good idea for a super healthy snack – great for people with special nutritional needs such seniors, children or pregnant women – or a simple yet delish dessert.

Manchego cheese goes well with different types of nuts. Having tried it in different combinations, I would recommend pairing your Manchego with walnuts, almonds or pecan nuts.

I’ll dedicate this post to the Manchego & walnut combination, my favorite couple from the three mentioned before, and a heavenly combination when made as a trio with a little honey on the top. Yum!

But, why is Manchego & walnuts such a great pair?

The crunchiness of walnuts is a tasty contrast to the texture of the Manchego. Also walnuts have an earthy flavor that compliments the taste of the Manchega sheeps’ milk really well.

Nutritionally, walnuts are great for the heart and arteries. They have high amounts of alpha linoleic acid (ALA), an acid that helps to prevent heart arrhythmias, reducing inflammation and oxidation in the arteries. Great news!

So, what are you waiting for? Do like me: At least twice per week, enjoy a platter of Manchego cheese sprinkled with walnuts and drizzled with Rosemary honey – Health and pleasure on a plate.

MANCHEGO, A GREAT CHEESE TO EAT WHEN PREGNANT

Manchego CheeseThree of my favorite food indulgences are cheese, wine and cured ham. So when I fell pregnant and started worrying about everything – if you’ve been expecting, you’ll know what I mean – it made me very sad to read in different forums – yes, part of the “worrying about everything” includes compulsive internet searching – that cheese wasn’t safe to eat during pregnancy!.

Since I was already ruling out of my diet cured ham and wine, I was at least counting with me beloved Manchego cheese to make me feel better during the moody pregnancy months. I couldn’t believe it! This couldn’t be true!

So I started reading more on the topic – reliable sources, not the usual Internet rubbish – and asked various health specialists. And you know what? To my relief, they all agreed: Manchego is not only safe to eat but highly recommendable for pregnant women. Hooray!

Manchego is rich in protein and calcium, while also contains A, D & E vitamins, all of which are excellent nutrients for both mom & baby.

Also, as it’s a hard cheese, which has endured a long maturation process, the possibility of having any dangerous bacteria, such as listeria, is close to nothing – The CDC, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, considers hard cheeses generally safe for expecting mothers.

However, if you want to eliminate this tiny little possibility, reach for Manchego cheeses made using pasteurized milk. Ask your regular cheese monger and/or look at the cheese label if in doubt. Manchego cheeses made with pasteurized milk are 100% safe and an excellent source for both nutrients & food pleasure.

Can you already guess how this story ends? Yes, you’ve guessed it. Since I learnt about this, I spent my pregnancy tucking into Manchego: Manchego & grapes, Manchego & Dulce de membrillo, Manchego & Dates, Manchego & Figs, etc. Ummm. I enjoyed those little pleasures so much! I felt great and gave birth to a very healthy little girl. However, my hips still remember those lovely Manchego nibbles. Or was it something else? Well, I guess that’s a topic for another post.

5 REASONS TO BUY CHEESE WITH A PDO

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As Europe has recently started a legal battle with the US to prevent Americans from using certain European cheese-identifying terms, I think it’s a good moment to see why those names – representing geographical indications – should matter for American consumers too.

As you would know if you are a cheese lover, a cheese sold in the US as a Manchego type of cheese bears no resemblance with the real Manchego that carries the PDO label. This misuse causes confusion amongst consumers and damages the image of the authentic product.

But, why should we as consumers look for cheeses with a specific origin, granted by a PDO label such as Manchego?

  1. Quality. The PDO label is always a guarantee of high quality standards. Behind each PDO there’s a regulating council makings sure every single cheese is up to certain high standards established by each specific PDO. In that manner, the PDO label works like a brand, representing certain values a specific way of doing things.
  2. Taste. If you’ve tried a “Manchego type of cheese” and think that’s how Manchego tastes like, you don’t know what you’re missing. As the quality and cultural baggage a PDO represents has its best expression on an original taste. PDOs are there to preserve those authentic tastes.
  3. Tradition. The PDO label protects products that are part of traditional culture expressions – this includes traditional craftsmanship, rituals, music, art and much more. They are the expression of a region’s tradition, of its people and its heritage, something that has been passed from generation to generation. Consuming products with PDO helps protect that valuable heritage.
  4. Food safety. Of course, the strict standards set by the PDO Councils also apply to food safety. With all this amount of careful food monitoring, you can be sure that a product carrying a PDO label has been produced following natural processes and is 100% sure to be eaten.
  5. Environment. Last but not least, when you buy a cheese with PDO you can be sure it has been elaborated following ancient traditions, in a manner that is respectful with the animals and the natural environment of that region.

Do you like the authentic tastes, love traditions, respect the environment and want to buy a top quality cheese that taste amazing? Look for the PDO label!

PAIRINGS: MANCHEGO CHEESE & SHERRY WINE

Manchego Cheese & SherryAs I’m really into wine & cheese, I’m always on the lookout for new exciting pairings. I’ve already talked here about some of the possibilities Manchego offers in this respect – Pairing it with wines from La Mancha, red Tempranillos or white Verdejos are all fine options.

Today I want to explore a different kind of pairing involving what is regarded by many writers as a “neglected wine treasure”: Sherry.

Sherry is a fortified wine made from white grapes, primarily Palomino grapes, that are grown near the town of Jerez de la Frontera in Andalusia, a region that neighbors La Mancha from the South.

Sherry is produced in a variety of dry styles ranging from light versions similar to white table wines, such as Manzanilla and Fino, to darker and heavier ones that have been allowed to oxidize as they age in barrel, such as Amontillado and Oloroso.

My favorite is Manchego & Fino Sherry but – since this is a very personal choice – you might want to try the other combinations too. All spectacular, believe me!

Why do Sherry and Manchego go so well together? As Manchego, Sherry is layered and complex. It has rich flavors that “make you think”, if you know what I mean. Also, both Sherry and Manchego have protected designation of origin status and are in fact two of the oldest PDO councils in Europe. There’s plenty of history and tradition in this pair!

This combination makes for a perfect tapa before lunch or a great post-dinner treat, next to dessert. Just remember: Sherry needs to be served chilled and drunk fresh so it’s better to buy it from a shop or online retailer that has a good turnover of bottles.

HOW TO TASTE CHEESE LIKE A PRO – Part III

Manchego cheese tastingAre you enjoying our cheese tasting class? I hope you are.

After getting the basics straight and admiring the visual appearance of the cheese, we now move on to the final part of the tasting, my absolute favorite part, as now it’s time to let your imagination run wild and I can tell you: for good or bad, my imagination has no limits.

What we’re looking for is a description of the flavor of the cheese. In wine tastings, we sniff and savor to come to such a description. With cheese, we can use the following techniques:

  • Smell vs. flavor: Like wine, sometimes the scent and flavor are synonymous. Other times, they are complete opposites. Before tasting the Manchego, give it a good whiff and compare the scent to the taste. Are they similar?
  • Use basic adjectives: Start with basic flavors to describe the cheese. Is it salty, sweet, sour, or acidic? Manchego cheeses have complex tasting profiles and so you might want to use a combination of these adjectives to describe them.
  • What the animals ate: As I said on the first part of these series of articles, the flavor of the milk often shines through and tastes like whatever the Manchega sheep ate, whether it was grass, hay, or wild flowers. Can you appreciate those notes?
  • Similes: Does your Manchego smell as a sweaty pair of socks? Does the flavor remind you of a stick of butter or even walnuts? The fun of tasting is to link the cheese to memories of foods or strong smells you’ve experienced. That’s why tasting is such a personal experience.

So how about you? How would you describe your favorite Manchego cheese?