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?

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!

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?

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.

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?

WHEN TO EAT CHEESE? IS IT AFTER OR BEFORE?

Manchego Cheese blogThe way we eat is determined by our culture.

The way we eat cheese even more so.

Spaniards usually eat Manchego as a “tapa” or a starter BEFORE lunch. Together with a glass of wine or a beer and accompanied by freshly-baked bread, Manchego brings the perfect flavors to get the taste buds ready for a Mediterranean feast.

French, on the other hand, enjoy cheese AFTER every meal. A tray of fine cheeses normally follows the main course. Sometimes these cheeses are presented as dessert, in which case fresh fruit or/and fruit spreads may go on the side. In other occasions a sweet dessert follows – as for the French sucré must always follow salé.

To make things even more complicated, British would never offer a sweet dessert after the cheese. As they’ve learnt to enjoy cheese with a glass of the rich fortified wine they invented, for them cheese should always mark the end to any bohemian evening.

Then, what should we Americans do? The solution is pretty simple: Let’s take the best of all cultures and enjoy Manchego before and after, day and night.