Cheese is our favorite focus when reading the Culinaria Series, but we did notice a few other delights that caught our attention:
The Cataluna region boasts a simple dish known as “Tomato Bread”. You toast slices of hearty bread and rub the inside flesh of a very ripe tomato over one side of the toasted bread. Then drizzle with EVOO and enjoy. Simple and yet elegant.
The Cataluna region is also the home of Alioli, the creamy garlic spread that every chef has adapted to fit their needs. The ingredients are garlic, salt EVOO and lemon juice.
We learned how to tell if shrimp is really fresh (page 25), discovered that the Spanish culture incorporates fish into more meals in a week than the average American does in a month (maybe even a year). While I was enthralled with the varieties of fish and sea offerings… The Lady… not so much.
Due to the terrain, more cheeses are made from goat and sheep milk than with cow milk. Goat and sheep adapt better to the rugged terrain and flora that lacks traditional grass that cow grazing requires.
The first bottle of Cava was uncorked on the Estate of Can Codorniu in 1872. This sparkling wine is fermented and matured in the bottle; a process invented by the French Benedictine monk Dom Pierre Perignon. Josep Raventos Fatjo embraced the methode champenoise. Soon the upper crust of Madrid were demanding this new drink. Fatjo built a cool cellar, called a cava, and the rest is history… today more than 250 bottles of cava are produced annually, almost catching up with France’s production of Champagne.
From Cataluna we “traveled” to the Islas Baleares. On Minorca, Mahon cheese is made. Unusual is a Spanish cheese made of cow milk. Queso Mahon – Menorca is one. The rind is rubbed with oil and paprika to aid in its preservation and maturation.
Aged Mahon is a favorite on many Tapas plates. Small dishes of delicacies that can be eaten as appetizers or instead of the entree. Tapas bars are extremely popular in Spain and gaining popularity here in the US.
In Navarra, Roncal is produced. Not as well known as Manchego, Roncal is also made from sheep’s milk and is protected with the D.O. designation: it must be made between December and July from raw milk of the Lacha and Rasa breeds. Animal rennet must be used and the cheese must be matured for a minimum of four months. A festival in August celebrates this cheese.
The region of Pais Vasco boasts a bacon pie made using a rabbit. from the same region is another protected cheese, Idiazabal, a smoked ewe’s milk cheese.
Cantabria is home to that eggy dessert, Flan, a favorite around The Manse.
Throughout Culinaria Spain, we discovered yet another recipe The Lady “just has to try” and yet another cheese that your favorite Feline Foodie “just has to taste and review”… stay tuned.
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