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.

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.

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.