HAVE A GREAT MANCHEGO SUMMER!

young girl on the road with a suitcaseThis is my last post before I leave on vacation. After a very busy year trying to handle the many roles being a working mum involves, it’s now that very much expected time to get away with the family and spend the long summer days lounging by the seaside, strolling in the nature and dining under the stars.

This means I will be putting this blog on stand by until summer is over and I’ll be – hopefully – back with the batteries topped up with all the energy of the sunshine.

I would like to thank you all for following me during these months. I hope I was able to share with you my passion for Manchego cheese and explain all the tradition, history, care and craftsmanship its wonderful taste conveys. I hope I gave you some ideas on how to enjoy it and, most importantly, hints on how to recognize the authentic Manchego cheese vs. the industrial lookalikes.

I wish you all a superb summer, filled with joy and laughter, and also, why not, with a touch of Manchego. Enjoy!

A WORLDCUP WINNER: MANCHEGO & CHORIZO PIZZA

Manchego & Chorizo pizzaPizza is my favorite food to share with friends while watching sports on TV. Here’s my recommendation for this World Cup matches: a Manchego & Chorizo pizza. It’s full of taste, just perfect to top up your energies while supporting the USA!

The distinctive sheep’s milk flavor of the Manchego cheese, together with its buttery texture, makes it perfect for pizza. Pair it with other traditional Spanish ingredients and you’ll have something reminiscent of tapas, but on a crunchy, golden, edible plate. Delish!

Just make sure to buy 100% Spanish ingredients: ensure the Manchego cheese & chorizo are authentic (not Mexican substitutes) and try to find Spanish olives and jarred Piquillo peppers if possible.

What you need:

  • Food-processor pizza dough, ½ batch
  • Canned crushed tomatoes, ¾ cup
  •  Manchego cheese, 4 oz. grated
  • ¼ small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 roasted Piquillo peppers, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup green Spanish olives, pitted
and halved
  •  1 1/2 oz. Spanish chorizo, thinly sliced

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven following the pizza dough instructions.
  2. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a 12-inch round and transfer to a floured pizza peel.
  3. Spread the tomatoes over the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border uncovered. Sprinkle with the cheese, then top with the onion, peppers, olives and chorizo. Transfer the pizza to the oven.
  4. Bake until crisp and browned.
  5. Enjoy!

MANCHEGO POPCORNS & MOVIES

Popcorn & Manchego CheeseI love summer in La Mancha with its bright skies and warm days. But when it’s so terribly hot that’s hard to sleep, staying awake until late watching classic movies is a great pastime.

My latest extravaganza is to make a special theme evening watching a couple of films (and sometimes even three!) on a particular topic, while enjoying drinks and snacks carefully chosen to match the occasion.

Last weekend I organized a La Mancha movie evening with friends and, we enjoyed so much I have to share the experience with you.

First of all, I prepared a selection of classic films from La Mancha. We watched in this order:

  • All About My Mother (1999), a comedy-drama written and directed by Manchego film director Pedro Almodóvar, that won him his first academy award for best foreign language film.
  • Man of La Mancha (1972), an adaptation of classic novel Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes, starring Peter O’Toole as the famous knight and Sophia Loren as sexy Dulcinea.
  • Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988), my favorite Almodóvar film, a totally hilarious comedy, perfect to take you through to the wee hours.

Then the snacks… since the movie snack “par excellence” are my beloved popcorns, I decided to try a Manchego version of them. Here’s what I did.

What you need:

  • Butter, 2 tbsp
  • Garlic, 2 cloves, pressed
  • Spanish smoked paprika, 1/2 tsp
  • Salt, a pinch
  • Popped corn, 6 cups
  • Manchego cheese, 1/4 cup, grated

Instructions:

  1. In a small saucepan over low heat, cook butter, garlic, paprika and salt.
  2. Scrape over popped corn.
  3. Add Manchego cheese.
  4. Mix well and add more salt if desired.
  5. Serve immediately and enjoy.

So, what do you think? Are you up for a Manchego movies evening?

TOP 10 VEGETARIAN TAPAS (Part II)

Manchego Veggie tapas IIDid you think that last week’s list was absolutely delicious? Did you have the opportunity to try all the veggie “tapas” I recommended? Then get ready for more to come! Who said Spanish food was just about paella & meat?

6. Salmorejo – Vegetarian cold soup

This is similar to gazpacho but even tastier. Ensure it comes “sin jamón” (without ham), as many versions come with Serrano ham sprinkled on top.

7. Huevos rotos – Fried eggs with potatoes

Simple food at its best. Again ask for “sin jamón, por favor”.

8. Pimientos de padrón – Spicy bell peppers

If you’re the kind of person who likes surprises, this will surely be your tapa of choice. As some peppers are sweet and others spicy, you’re in for a fun ride!

9. Croquetas de espinacas – Spinach croquettes

Croquettes are a must have “tapa”. For veggie enjoyment, as for croquettes “de espinacas” or “de setas” (mushrooms). Yum!

10. Queso Manchego frito – Fried Manchego Cheese

Fried cheese is a commonly found “tapa” in the La Mancha region, home of the Manchego cheese. Try it with some marmalade on the side to maximize the enjoyment. Surely, the perfect end for a veggie “tapas” feast.

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!

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

www.themanchegocheese.com

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!