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 #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?

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.