Monthly Archives: October 2013

Olive oil: the Spanish “liquid gold”

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The Spanish Ministry of Agriculture has launched a new edition of “The Spainish Award for Best Extra Virgin Olive Oil Campaign 2013-2014″ . Participants have until December 17 to deliver the samples and participate in the contest . The objective is to give recognition to the great work of Spanish companies, as well as promoting the Spanish virgin olive oils with high organoleptic quality.

The extra virgin olive oil is one of the fundamental ingredients of the Mediterranean Diet and its healthy properties, have been amply demonstrated by several researchers. Spanish olive oils are a high quality product, thanks to its olive variety, the harvesting techniques and the care taken in its preparation. Spain is also the largest producer of olive oil in the world. Do you want to learn more about the varieties that produced what we call the “liquid gold”?

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Some of the olive varieties used to produce Spanish olive oil

Spain has more than 260 olive varieties, which can offer a wide range and diversity of flavors in their olive oils, unmatched by any other country. Here are some of the olive varieties used in the oil’s production  (source ASOLIVA, Spanish Asociation of Oil’s Producers and Exporters):

Picual: The Picual variety is the most important and represents 50% of the olives used in Spain. The main producing region is Andalusia, in particular the regions of Jaén, Córdoba and Granada. The oil produced from this variety is excellent for its high monounsaturated oleic acid content –which is essential for the prevention of cardiovascular disease–, and its high content of polyphenols –natural antioxidant. From a sensory point of view, Picual varieties are cultivated in plain areas, these make a full-body oil, usually bitter, with a woody flavor, while the olives cultivated in mountain areas tend to be sweeter, with a pleasant and fresh flavour.

Cornicabra: is the second variety in cultivation area and third in production. Its grown in Castilla-La Mancha, especially Toledo and Ciudad Real. The oil made by Cornicabra has a golden yellow color with light green hues. The oils obtained are fruity, very smooth with a velvety texture and a balanced composition of essential fatty acids.

Hojiblanca: cultivated in Andalusia, especially in the east area of Seville, southern Córdoba and northern Málaga. It is used for oil production but also for the production of table olives “Californian” style. From the sensory point of view, presents a wide range of flavors: sweet at the begining, and also fresh grass, slightly bitter green fruit and nutty aftertaste.

Arbequina: is a native variety of the Lleida’s region, but is also cultivated in Aragón (Zaragoza and Huesca) and Tarragona (Catalonia) . With this variety we have fruity oils with an exotic flavour. They are fresh and very delicate in regard to oxidation, so you have to keep it in the dark at low temperatures to ensure its quality.

Lechín of Seville: is cultivated in the regions of Seville, Córdoba, Cádiz , Málaga and Huelva (Andalusia). These oils have a flavour of grass and they are very balanced, with a slightly bitter aftertaste like green almond.

Verdial: under this name, we know different local varieties whose cultivation is spread over the South and Southwest areas of the Iberian Peninsula, as Verdial of Badajoz (cultivated in Extremadura) or Verdial of Vélez- Málaga (cultivated in Málaga) . This variety of oils are fruity with a sweet and pleasant flavour. Verdial is often mixed with the Hojiblanca variety and the result is a very tasty oil.

Empeltre: characteristic of the Aragon area (mostly Zaragoza), it produces pale yellow oils with a very pleasant fruity aftertaste.

Picudo: cutivated in the areas of Córdoba, Granada, Málaga and Jaén (Andalusia). This variety is so sweet that when the fruits are ripe, the birds tend to peck at them. The oil is very balanced and sweet, with very light and fluid flavors and a slight hint of exotic fruits.

Now, you know a little bit better the Spanish raw material of olive oil’s. Soon you will be able to read about the transformation processes that make Spanish virgin olive oil so special in the kitchen.

The Maltby cafe: the best eggs Benedict in town

Torrezno, a tasty indulgence from the soul of Spain

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This snack is a typical Spanish tapa , especially in some inland areas. Torreznos are obtained from pork belly, marinated and once dried, cut into strips and fried in olive oil. The result is a very tasty and crunchy appetizer, just depending  on the way it should  be fried.

It’s a simple dish, but it has its tricks. The proper frying method is as it follows: the bacon has to be at room temperature and cut into slices 1.5 to 2 cm wide. In a pan with a little extra virgin olive (only cover the bottom) and before heating it, lay the slices always with the crust down. Heat the pan at very  low temperature, let them frying for 30-40 minutes. Then, take them out of the pan and let cool . Finally , heat the same pan with the same oil and fat at a high temperature and brown the Torrezno until the crust gets crispy.

In a province of Castilla-León , Soria, where torreznos are so typical , ten producers have joined to achieve a quality certification mark . Torrezno de Soria ensures that the pork belly is obtained , cut and treated according to traditional standards to offer its  best flavor and taste. Traditionally , the part of the pig from which the bacon is chosen  was called ‘ the soul ‘. Today, that ‘soul ‘ has become a gastronomic flag thet coul arrive soon to the Pacific NW.

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Although it is very tasty snack , has a high fat content. However, many of these are unsaturated fatty acids , especially if fried in olive oil . In any case , we recommend a responsible consumption, within a balanced diet.

Etta´s seafood: a friendly spot in the heart of Pike Place

Elena Fernandez 

Altought I´m happy Eastsider I periodically feel the need to cross 520 bridge to keep warm my urbanite side. Last Monday I decided to meet my friend Mary with the idea of having a quick bite at Etta´s seafood and visiting after the brand new SAM exhibit Peru: kingdoms of the sun and the moon. 

I know everybody is happy enjoying a sunny day, but I love driving to the Waterfront when is cloudy and foggy because is in these days when you can nearly “touch” the real Seattle spirit. For me Etta´s seafood belongs to this real seattlelite experience nobody has to miss visiting our city.

Squash soup at Etta´sAnyway It was my first visit, so I look dissappointely to the menu looking in vain for the famous Eggs Benedict with Dungeness crab, another authentic Seattle dish. Everything 100% authentic, oh my lord.

But I rediscovered a better alternative. The $15 Seattle Week Restaurant*, menu, a real bargain! I opted for the squash soup and the salad with pasta, and mushrooms, but I didn´t want to miss the opportunity to taste the local oysters so I chose the Vancouver variety, suggested by the waitress.

Eveybody knows that we Spaniards are seafood lovers, so I was transported for a moment to Galicia, but with the local touch of Tabasco and a little fork. In Spain you eat oysters with your hands, only with a touch of lemon. I´m happy to live in a aplace with such an amazing sea creatures.

Coming back to the menu, the squash soup was really good. A bit spicy for me, but I have to say my taste is super austere, I love foods with few spices, dressings and sauces. Following the Spanish term, I´m a food purista.

That´s precisely why I enjoyed so much the pasta, arugula and mushrooms salad. It´s been tossed only with olive oil, so the aromatic flavors of green and fungi were sublimated instead of camuflated.

Mushrooms pasta con arugulaBy that time I had forgot to check my watch and Mary was giving me all the details about her new fascinating new role as Program Coordinator of Freedom Education Project Puget Sound, that provides college education inside the Washington Correction Center for Women.

FEPP  offers courses in English, Math and Spanish to more than 60 students. In addition to these classes, FEPPS sponsors a monthly lecture series. I´ve always believed that everybody deserves a second chance to give a meaning to his life, so I find this project and its mission really fascinating.

When the dessert came, panacotta for both of us, we decided to loose our maybe too ambitious schedule and to go back to the SAM exhibition in a few weeks. Sometimes is better to enjoy pleasures bite by bite.

“But next time we´ll visit first the exhibition, OK?,” I said. “Done,” answered Mary with a big smile.

*the Seattle Week restaurant ends today, October Thursday 24th

Cartel Pike Place II

Is this a giant plum? Nope, an Arkansas Black Heirloom Apple from @tinysorganic weekly delivery. Beautiful!

Arkansas Black apples are heirloom variety and are firm with smooth, clean skin and have a dark red to almost black color and should feel solid and heavy in your hand. Keep them in the refrigerator. Courtesy of Tinys Organic farm

Arkansas Black apples are heirloom variety and are firm with smooth, clean skin and have a dark red to almost black color and should feel solid and heavy in your hand. Keep them in the refrigerator. Courtesy of Tinys Organic farm

Farfalle al salmone: dedicated to Marcella Hazan

Elena Fernandez

More than a decade ago my non conosseur intutition made me buy the book The classic pasta from Giuliano Hazan. That book soon became my pasta Bible. I´ve look for recipes so often in these years than I see Giuliano and her mother Marcela, who died recently, as part of my family.

Last night I made again a great classic that my kids love and which is perfect for the Pacific NW, as Marcelo confirms in his book: Farfalle al salmone, with Coho salmon. I usually prepare it with salmon leftovers, because I don´t wanna spoil a pound of this sea blessing that we have the luck to enjoy here in Seattle area.

Salmon is a great fish for kids, with good quality fat acids to feed their energy and minerals to help their hyperactive brains. And they will love the soft flavor of this recipe, as is made with tomato sauce and whipping cream!

Ingredients

4 extra Virgin Olive Oil spoons

1 pound (500 gr.) of farfalle or penne

A minced garlic spoon

¼ chili powder spoon

1 pound (500 gr.) of shredded tomatoes or tomato sauce*

Salt

½ pound (250 grs.) of fresh salmon sliced in small pieces with no fish-bones

½ pound (250 grs.) of whipping cream grade A

2 fresh (better) or dried Basil spoons

1)    Fry the garlic and chili powder in olive oil until it has golden color.

2)    Add the tomato sauce and a pinch of salt. Cook slow for 10-15 minutes.

3)    Boil 1 gallon (4 liters) of water. Add one spoon of salt and the pasta. Cook al dente.

4)    Add the cream, the salmon and another pinch of salt to the tomato sauce and cook until the cream is been reduced (10 min aprox). Add the basil and turn off the cooking fire.

5)    Strain the pasta, blend with the sauce and add parmesan shredded cheese. Serve immediately.

* I love Trader Joe´s marinara sauce and Classico sauces.

Keynote: You can prepare and freeze the sauce previously.

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Grouper: a healthy and tasty fish

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The grouper is a tasty half-fat white fish, which it’s considered one of the richest in the market. Nutritionally, it’s rich in vitamina B1 that plays an important role in the functioning of the nervous system and it’s very suitable for women during pregnancy and breast feeding.  It also contains iron, calcium, potassium, iodine, magnesium, sodium and excellent nutricional value.

 The grouper is well recognized in gastronomy thanks to different ways of cooking: roasted, grilled, as a stew, broth or cooked with rice.

 This time, we have chosen a healthy, simple and fast recipe cooked in the oven, and the result is very tasty. Hope you like it!!

Baked grouper with soya sauce and coriander

 Ingredients:

• 4 grouper fillets

• 1 onion

• 1 lemon

• Soya sauce

• Fresh coriander

• Olive oil

• Salt

• Pepper

Preparation:

First, cut the onion into thin slices and fry slowly in a pan with a little olive oil until soft (around 10 minutes). Remove from heat.

Season the fish and add the cooked onion on top. Place it in a dish into the pre-heated oven at 356ºF. We’ll leave it there about 10-12 minutes.

On the other hand, emulsify –with the help of a beater– lemon juice, soya sauce (about 3-4 tablespoons) and two tablespoons of olive oil. Finally, grind a few sprigs of fresh coriander and add to the sauce.

Remove the fish from the oven and cover it with the sauce that we have prepared. Reintroduce the fish with the sauce into the oven for 5 minutes.

You can serve it with sauteed vegetables (zucchini, leeks, red pepper, green pepper and mushrooms).

 Enjoy it!!

A tasty way to enjoy a sunny fall afternoon in Seattle

A salty caramel icecream at Molly Moon´s, another sweet stop at Oh! Chocolate and a walk in the Arboretum to enjoy fall colors

A salty caramel icecream at Molly Moon´s, another sweet stop at Oh! Chocolate and a walk in the Arboretum to enjoy fall colors

Welcoming Fall: cranberry and smoked salmon salad


Elena Fernandez

As I work at home alone, I usually prepare a huge seasonal salad for lunch. And when I say seasonal,  It means with everything I find in my fridge. That´s why I love salads. You can pair everything with everything and the result is always healthy and tasteful.

This week I wanted to try with fresh cranberries, which are in season now and full of antioxidants and healthy properties, so I thought maybe their particular bitter taste could fit with romaine lettuce, smoked salmon, and the last tomatoes of the season. I added balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, dill and my eternal feta cheese ( I need to finish my Costco familiar package). And voilà! A refreshing salad to say hello to fall season and to keep you strong against the change of the weather.

Cranberries are one of the three original native fruits from North America. According to The Cranberry Institute, their super antioxidant properties are great to avoid urinary tract infections and protect against heart conditions and certain types of cancer related to the digestive organs.

Crop season begins in September and ends in October, but you can find fresh cranberries until December. Besides, their crispy and bitter flavour adds an interesting notch to any dish. Try them!

Ensalada de cranberries