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Manchego Cheese with Membrillo/Quince Paste

11 Jul

I truly do not know if this is typical Spanish combination, but it definitely reminds me of my last trip to Spain…

Walter and I visited Bilbao during our last trip to Spain, and even though the Guggenheim Museum was on top of our list of places to see and visit, walking thru the city and eating well ranked a really closed second. 

Guggenheim Bilbao Museum

We decided Bilbao was not as big and we would walk it out and during our walk we found the Plaza or the city market and we had to go in.  There were the most awesome variety of Spanish produce and some gorgeous stained window treatments.

 

     

As a snack we wanted something we could carry around, would not spoil easily and that it was typical Spanish…  Walter decided out of all the cheeses available he wanted manchego.  Why?? I still do not know because you can get manchego super easily here in Puerto Rico, but he wanted manchego, so we bought manchego.  So I decided to accompany that with something a bit more local and that is not readily available where we live – Membrillo paste.

Photo Courtesy of nami-nami.blogspot.com

Membrillo is known as quince in English…  a sweet fruit that looks like a cross between a pear and a guava.  Membrillo is not commonly eaten in Puerto Rico, so for the purposes of our Spanish-inspired dinner we had to make do with guava paste.  Very delicious too, but not quite the same.  I guess this would be the Spanish equivalent to the Cuban – guava paste and cream cheese I grew up eating.

 

MANCHEGO AND MEMBRILLO PASTE

Manchego Cheese – in slices or cubes
Membrillo Paste – in slices or cubes

 

  1. Just assemble them in a pretty way together and enjoy them in all one bite together…

 

It’s delicious as a snack or as a light dessert…  YUM.

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Green Salad with Sherry Vinaigrette

10 Jul

A great feast for me is never complete without a fresh salad.   Maybe I will not feel as guilty to eat all the fried Spanish foods we were having the other night if there is a little greenery on the side.

GREEN SALAD WITH SHERRY VINAIGRETTE

Little less than ¼ cup of sherry vinegar
1 tsp of Dijon mustard
About ½ cup of extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
A bag of salad greens – we used baby romaine lettuce
½ a pear, sliced thin
½ cup of toasted walnuts

 

  1. Toast walnuts in a skillet over medium heat or in a 350F oven for about 10 minutes, until the nuts start to smell a bit.  Cool off and set aside.
  2. In a medium container mix together the sherry vinegar, mustard, salt, pepper and olive oil.  Whisk well to combine and emulsify.
  3. In a large salad bowl place the lettuces and arrange pear slices and walnuts on top.  Drizzle with about ½ the vinaigrette and toss to combine.  Serve more dressing on the side for whoever wants some more…

 

Ana Yolanda’s Sangría

9 Jul

Ana Yolanda has become our resident sangría maker… and her recipe is extremely delicious. 

She knows how to make it with real red wine, but also, to please her vegetarian and pregnant friends, she also has learned to make a non-alcoholic version too.  Ana makes this sangría for us when we go skiing in Vermont, at birthday parties and most specially when we get-together to celebrate the wonderful dishes of Spain…  Doña Tina fully-approved.

ANA YOLANDA’S SANGRÍA

1 bottle of Welch’s Red Grape Sparkling juice
1 can of orange concentrate – she prefers Minute Maid Low Acid
1 bottle of natural lemon-lime soda
Orange Slices
Green apple slices

 

  1. Mix all ingredients in a large pitcher.
  2. Serve over ice.

 

 

Spinach Croquetas

8 Jul

I love croquetas… when I was little, my dad used to take us to La España to eat ham croquetas.  It was the treat while we were waiting for our Media Noches or Sandwiches Cubanos.  And the croquetas needed to be eaten with a squirt of lemon to taste in their prime.

But now that I am vegetarian, I miss eating croquetas.  So, in good vegetarian fashion, we need to start making them ourselves.

We got together in my friend Angie’s house to enjoy a whole Spanish feast to celebrate the start of San Fermín – among all the dishes we made, we made these croquetas.  Not to worry… you’ll be seeing the rest of the dishes we had in the next few days. 

We even got out our Spanish aprons for the ocassion…

We mixed a few techniques…  what my aunts in Miami have told me, a few recipes I had found on the internet, the fork-frying technique from Angie’s Cuban mother-in-law Graciela and our daringness to not give up on the first try if things did not turn our exactly as planned.  The results were delicious…

 SPINACH CROQUETAS

1 cup of frozen spinach, measured frozen, thawed and squeezed dry
½ yellow onion, diced small
1 garlic clove, smashed
1tbs olive oil
1 small pat of butter
2 tbs spelt flour
About ¾ to 1 cup of milk
Salt and Pepper to taste
About 1 cup of whole-wheat breadcrumbs
Canola Oil for frying

 

We will be basically making a thick béchamel that we will mix with the spinach, breading and then frying.

  1. In a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat, add the olive oil, butter, onions and garlic.  Sautee them until they become softened.  Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Remove the pieces of garlic and add the spelt flour and stir all together to form a paste.  Move around the saucepan a bit to cook the paste as much as you can to avoid having a raw flour taste afterwards. 
  3. After about 1-2 minutes of cooking the onion/flour paste, slowly add the milk while whisking.  Whisking will prevent lumps from forming.  Continue whisking once in a while until the mixture starts to bubble.  It’ll need to bubble to know how thick the sauce will really be.  Add more milk if you believe the sauce is too thick, but it needs to be on the thick side to withstand the frying later.
  4. Take off the heat and add the dry spinach.  Season with salt and pepper again.  Mix together well to avoid having big lumps of spinach.
  5. Take the mixture off the sauce pan to help it cool off.  You can place in the refrigerator, if you’d like.
  6. After the spinach béchamel has cooled, we can start making the croquetas…
  7. Place the breadcrumbs in a shallow container.  Set aside.
  8. In a large skillet, pour about ½ inch of canola oil and allow it to become hot enough for frying.  We always check using a wooden spoon.
  9. While the oil heats up, we take about 1 tsp of spinach mixture and roll it in our hands to make a ball. 
  10. Drop it on the breadcrumbs and roll around to coat it well on all sides.
  11. Place breaded balls in the hot oil to fry.   It’ll take about 5 minutes to cook on all sides until they’re golden brown. 
  12. The croquetas are delicate so the best way to handle them while frying them is using 2 forks.  Use the forks to roll them from one side to another to ensure they cook well on all sides and to take them out of the oil.
  13. Make sure the first side has cooked enough and is crispy to withstand being moved.  If you move them too soon, they will just break and form a sloppy mess on the frying pan.
  14. Take them off the frying oil and drain them on some paper towels while they cool off a bit.

 

The croquetas were a real success – we ate them all up before the husbands ever arrived.  We had such a great time frying and eating as they came out of the skillet.

Natalia and Mariana tried the croquetas for the first time and I think they were a hit – more with Natalia than with Mariana, but I feel confident I can make these again at home and they will both eat them all up.

        

These Spinach Croquetas may not be the ones I originally learned how to eat in La España.  But, with a little rearranging of the letters, these are also as Spanish as they can be.  And a squirt of lemon will not hurt these either…

Brandad-Stuffed Piquillo Peppers

7 Jul

Today, July 7, the Fiestas de San Fermín start – the festival celebrating the patron saint of Pamplona, Spain.  Every year, from July 7 until the 14, Spain gets up early to watch 5 bulls run through the streets of Pamplona when thousands of people are running in their way.  I do not condone or agree with the Corridas de Toros, at all.  But the Encierros is sort of the “revenge of the bulls”, IMHO.

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I can’t believe it’s been 3 years since my last trip to Spain.  I believe that I was Spaniard in some other life… because I love the country, the food, the people…  last year, I took this opportunity to showcase a few Spanish recipes made the vegetarian way.  I enjoyed it so much that decided to do it all over again…

Bacalao, or salted cod fish,  is something I used to enjoy a lot before I went vegetarian, but I have found that frozen tuno can be molded and seasoned into tasting like many types of seafood dishes.  One of them being brandad – a mixture traditionally made with bacalao and potatoes.

Here is how I did it…

 

BRANDAD-STUFFED PIQUILLO PEPPERS

6 roasted piquillo peppers
½ cup of Tuno Antipasto recipe
2 medium-sized russet potatoes, boiled
A drizzle of olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

 

  1. In a medium-sized bowl, mash the potatoes well using a potato masher.  Mix together the Tuno Antipasto and season with salt and pepper.  Drizzle a bit of olive oil to give it added gloss.
  2. Take the roasted peppers and carefully stuff them using a small spoon.  Place them in a shallow gratin dish and drizzle again with a little olive oil.
  3. Roast in a 400F oven for about 15 minutes until the peppers dry a bit and the filling is warmed up.

 

Serve alongside a green salad for a light supper or by itself as a tapa.  They’re super easy to make and very filling.

Jonathan loved this dish and he didn’t even suspect it had soy tuna in it… the flavors are so good, he just gobbled them up.  That’s the way to introduce your omnivore friends to your vegetarian cooking – don’t tell them all the ingredients before tasting anything.  People are prejudiced if you tell them of any soy product substitutes.  Have them taste the food first, and after they’re in love with it, reveal the details, if you want to…

Viva España and enjoy the next few days of San Fermín and Spanish recipes, OLÉ!!

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