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!

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?

ENERGY BOOSTING BREAKFASTS

Manchego cheese breakfastWe’ve all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day but, during a busy morning, it’s easy to let breakfast fall low in your list of priorities.

A good breakfast fuels you up and gets you ready for the day. Also, eating a substantial, protein-rich breakfast keeps you full, so you end up eating less during the day. Yes, research shows that including protein at breakfast is critical to successful weight loss!

Manchego cheese has more protein than meat and so adding Manchego to your breakfast is not only yummy but a fantastic idea too. Here are three suggestions for a 100% delish energy boosting Manchego breakfast:

1. The healthiest option

A balanced, easy-to-assemble make-ahead morning meal: Grab an apple, wrap 1 to 2 ounces of Manchego in plastic, and toss ¼ cup of fiber- and protein-rich walnuts into a re-sealable plastic bag. You can snack this while driving to work.

2. The sweetest one

A quick and sophisticated alternative suitable for the everyday: Cut a couple of slices of bread – a French baguette if possible. Drop a bit of olive oil on each and toast them on the grill. Place a slice of Manchego cheese and a thin slice of membrillo paste on top of each toast.

3. The perfect brunch

A one-pan meal that will be an instant hit: In a large skillet sauté in olive oil ½ sliced onion and 2 sliced potatoes. Once ready, pour the mix in a bowl, then crack two eggs into it and add a handful of sliced green olives together with 2 ounces of Manchego, sliced thin. Stir gently with a whisk, then pour the mix back to the skillet and bake it in a medium-high heat oven until ready. Serve with freshly squeezed orange juice, hot coffee and a bread roll.

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.

TOP 10 VEGETARIAN TAPAS (part I)

Manchego Cheese tapaSpain has lots of delicious tapas”, but a healthy chunk of them involve meat. True, being a vegetarian in Spain is not that common and may draw lots of weird looks. However, it’s entirely doable and enjoyable!

If you’re vegetarian and are planning a holiday in Spain, arm yourself with two short phrases: “lleva carne?” (does it have meat?) and “sin carne, por favor” (without meat, please) and take note of the below list of vegetarian “tapas”, all of them commonly found everywhere in Spain:

1. Aceitunas – Olives

Olives are fantastic in Spain. They come in all type of varieties and flavors. If you’re strict vegetarian just beware of the ones stuffed with anchovies.

2. Pan con tomate – Toast with olive oil & tomato

A humble, yet tasty and delish, dish. Being originally from Catalonia, it’s nowadays found pretty much everywhere in Spain.

3. Queso Manchego

Of course, this has to be our preferred veggie “tapa”! Ask for it with some “membrillo” (quince) on the side, and get ready for an out-of-this-world experience.

4. Patatas bravas y alioli – Fried potatoes with salsas

For complete enjoyment, wash these “patatas” down with a “caña” (small glass of beer).

5. Tortilla española – Spanish omelette

This has to be the basic vegetarian go-to dish. Just make sure it’s homemade and slightly moist in the center – dry and hard “tortillas” are awful, believe me.

Want to know more delicious veggie “tapas”? Then watch this space!

5 TIPS FOR A PERFECT PICNIC… WITH CHEESE

www.themanchegocheese.com1. Choose wisely

It’s hard to imagine a picnic without cheese, but when you’re going to be out all day in the sun, you should choose wisely. I’m sure you don’t want your painstakingly selected cheese to end up as a runny mess!

Taking into account how long the cheese will be away from refrigeration, how hot the weather is and how the cheeses will be transported are key. Of course, choosing top quality tasty cheeses are crucial too!

Firm cheeses like Manchego do well in the wilderness. They’re quite resistant to the heat, easy to eat and combine well with a wide variety of simple foods.

2. Pack it well

Make sure to pack your cheeses correctly. My favorite way of doing so is using individual airtight containers, just a little bigger than the cheese. Separating each cheese will prevent you from mixing the flavors so I’ll rather use separate containers than mixing all the cheeses in one.

3. Keep it simple

Forget complex dishes and reach for simple yet tasty foods. Manchego cheese, a selection of sliced meats such as Serrano ham, “chorizo” or “salchichón”, some sturdy fruit such as apples or, better yet, a small container of jam or “dulce de membrillo”, and a fresh loafer of bread with raisins, nuts and seeds, are almost all you need for the perfect picnic lunch.

4. Take the essentials

Now you have the food sorted, let’s look at the other essentials. Here’s a basic list:

  • Cooler fully stocked with ice
  • Small cutting board and knife to cut and serve cheese
  • Picnic basket to carry supplies
  • Small storage containers for leftovers
  • Soft picnic blanket or tablecloth to lay on ground
  • Utensils/plates/cups
  • Napkins/paper towels
  • Trash bags
  • Music player

5. Don’t forget the wine

Last but not least, make sure not to forget the wine. After all, is there a better way to relax than savoring a glass of wine with your picnic cheese menu?

QUICK & TASTY RECIPES #12- Portobello mushrooms & Manchego Cheese

Portobello Mushrooms Stuffed with Caramelized Onions, Fresh Bread Crumbs and Manchego Cheese-287Having so great temperatures outside we don’t feel spending so much time cooking at home. We bring this week a quick and tasty recipe that will let you spend your free time enjoying the possibilities that the Spring offers you. Thanks to Aviva Goldfarb, a Manchego Cheese lover that shared it with us www.thescramble.com

What you need:

  • 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small red onion, slivered
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 10 oz. portobello mushroom caps (4 – 6 mushrooms), gills removed (use a grapefruit spoon for that)
  • 1 piece whole wheat bread (or use 1/2 cup coarse bread crumbs)
  • 2 oz. Manchego Cheese, grated (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp. dried Italian seasoning or use 1 Tbsp. fresh parsley
  • 1/4 tsp. salt

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat, add half the oil, and when it is hot, add the onions. Saute them, stirring occasionally, until they are nicely browned, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and stir it in for about 30 seconds, then remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vinegar.
  2. Meanwhile, toast the bread until it is well toasted, and let it cool on a cutting board.  Chop it into very small cubes, and combine it in a bowl with the cheese, Italian seasoning, and remaining oil.
  3. Put the mushrooms stem side up on a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat or sprayed lightly with cooking spray.  Divide the onion mixture evenly between the mushrooms, then top it evenly with the bread crumb mixture, even if it is spilling out a bit. Season them with the salt, and bake them for 15 – 20 minutes until the filling is nicely browned on top and the mushrooms are very tender.  Serve immediately or refrigerate them for up to 3 days.
  4. Serve it with roasted Brussels sprouts and fried eggs.
  5. Enjoy it!