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On a road trip through the Spanish ecological map

There was an uncontained joy in the environment and very special energy. It was the first time in a long time that exhibitors participating in Organic Food Iberia left their virtual bubble to participate in a brick-and-mortar fair. Those fairs in which samples of wine and ham, are truly appreciated and networking is done in the old way: face to face. And I soaked up all these good vibrations instantly as soon as I crossed the threshold of pavilion 8 at IFEMA.

I had not heard of this exhibition until I received the invitation and searching for information about it, I understood why. It is a young fair, the first edition took place in 2019, which saw its steps truncated last year due to pandemic restrictions.

Organic Food Iberia is an international fair, organized by Diversified Communications UK in collaboration with IFEMA, and is also held in Australia, Sweden, and England. Currently, Spain is booming with organic agriculture and food production, so it was logical that it would have its event.

In fact, according to data from the organizers, Spain currently cultivates 2 million hectares of organic crops, the largest area in Europe and it is the fourth largest producer in the world. The consumption of organic products in Spain grew by 20% last year and we are already reaching the levels of other countries in the north of the European continent.

Spain currently cultivates 2 million hectares of organic crops, the largest area in Europe

In a fair of this type, the best thing is to walk and let yourself be carried away by your intuition, and this is what I did. In this time, I started in reverse mode, when my interest made me begin first with dessert and stop at the ice cream stand of the Runakay company, a pioneer in the production of artisanal and vegan ice cream. I have to say that the name is not the most accurate part of the product, since it is not very catchy and reminds you of a sports store, but the ice cream was delicious.

I was very kindly attended by Manuel Sanchez, the company’s delegate in Madrid, who gave me a taste of the mango sorbet, very rich, and the horchata with stracciatella that won my heart because it combines two of my favorite flavors. Luckily, I already can find it in Madrid so from now on it is included in my shopping basket.

Then I came across an interesting corner designated to “do a wine tasting yourself”, with a selection of organic wines. The most interesting of them was Granza Crianza 2015, made with Tinta de Toro grape by the Cyan winery from Matarromera group.

The DO Jumilla has played a prominent role in this fair, with a stand entirely dedicated to its wines. The answer is that its geographical conditions, in transition between the Mediterranean climate and La Mancha plains and its remarkable altitude, between 320 and 900 meters, and the climatic conditions give their vines a natural resistance to various pests, making it a perfect enclave for the production of organic wine. Currently, 70% of the wine produced in Jumilla is organic. A good example is Numun, from bodegas BSI.

My next stop was Dehesa de Luna winery, also located in the Albacete area. I must admit that I was attracted by the smell of the Iberico ham tasting. But this farm is much more than ham. Located in a unique enclave surrounded by 2,800 hectares of nature, it has been creating organic wines for 15 years from its centuries-old vineyards and protecting the fauna and flora that surround it.

Taking a break from wine, I came across a drink more unknown in Spain and full of healthy properties. Ginger beer, which is different from its companion ginger ale. Ginger beer is produced by fermentation like traditional beer. In California, ginger is a more than familiar spice, and an artisanal and fair-trade company from there, The Ginger People, has finally just arrived in Spain. In addition to this drink, they sell too really interesting products, such as ginger syrup, ideal for preparing healthy pancakes with a zen flair.

A farm as unique as Dehesa el Milagro requires a special mention. Behind a company with such a suggestive name is Blanca Entrecanales Domecq, who a little more than a decade ago turned a mix between dreams, utopia, and the search for a quiet life in what is now an established but innovative company. The project for this ecological farm was born in Alcañizo (Toledo) to treat Nature with the utmost respect so she, in return, returns us healthy products of the highest quality. On the farm, they try to be self-sufficient to the maximum through a closed production cycle in which the cattle are fed with their pastures and in which seasonal products are respected to the maximum.

The intention of its creator was also to make consumers participate in the excellence produced by the land. For this reason, its objective was to eliminate intermediaries in the distribution chain, and therefore its products can be purchased online. Their latest launches are a line of products already prepared such as meat for tacos, very rich, and also an ecological stuffed chicken with which they won the award for the best innovative product. We will have to have it on the radar for the festivities to come.

I still had two interesting stops to finish my tour of Organic Food Iberia. The ecological preserves Monjardin, a family business on the Navarra riverbank that has been producing quality products for more than 50 years. and another of my favorite products and which is now starting to hit the ground running in Spain: kombucha.

The first company in the country to make them by hand is Mun Ferments, created by Jordi Dalmau in Mataró in 2015. Kombucha, a common drink in yoga studios in the western United States, is a probiotic fermented drink made from green tea that improves intestinal flora and promotes the detoxification of the organism, and is also a guilty free soft drink since its composition of sugars and alcohol is very low.

In short, a very interesting route that combines tradition and innovation. Because they are not only compatible. They are a combination of success.

Chefs Eateries and restaurants Healthy life

Jason Stratton, chef from Aragona. Echoes from my homeland in the Seattle Waterfront

Jason Stratton Aragona

Elena Fernandez

It could sound bizarre to interview a chef about his new project without having tasted his food. Well, not exactly. My most rewarding culinary experience since I came to Seattle a year and a half ago was my visit to Spinasse to enjoy their amazing squash ravioli.

I´ve made two reservations in Aragona that I had to cancel in the last minute, every mom should understand me, and you need to book so in advance that It´s been impossible for me to come. But I contacted Jason Stratton, Aragona´s chef before Christmas and I didn´t want to lost the opportunity to interview him. So let´s think in this post as a previous intro to Stratton´s culinary universe that more sooner than later will be tested in the field.

The love relationship between Stratton and my country began a long time ago in Granada. “I wanted to be a writer and I lived Granada, Lorca´s homeland for a few months. It was there when I feel deeply in love with the Spanish cuisine”, explain. In fact, he still keeps his scrapbook from that time full of ideas and thoughts.

But he needed two previous business, Piedmontese cuisine Spinasse and Artusi Bar, to come to his final dream of having a “not authentic but fully Iberian in spirit” Spanish restaurant.

The election of the name Aragona, coming from my homeland region, has a reason of being too. “I´ve read a lot about the Crown of Aragon and I´m fascinated about how they conquered the West Mediterranean and about this powerful influence in the cooking of the East of Spain”, says. “Visiting some different areas from Spain I realized this particular style could fit perfectly in the Pacific Northwest, where you can find many ingredients like veggies, seafood, fish and truffles too”.

Spanish cuisine is all about few but high quality ingredients, flavors and simplicity.  But as Steve Jobs said: “Simple can be harder than complex”. So for Jason Stratton looking for the best fresh ingredients has been a priority since the beginning. “We work with local producers and artisans to assure the best ingredients for our dishes, like Viridian Farms in Portland”. In this farm Spanish varieties like Padrón peppers, cardoon an borraja grow from spring to late fall.

But simplicity is not always easy to be embraced. When I ask Jason about which of the dishes in the menu is most misunderstood for the customers he tells me that the Black Cod in Adobo. “It´s fish marinated in vinegar and deep fried, so people think is a kind of fish and chips, low stuff”. I smile, because every andalusian would get offended to see his revered “pescaíto en adobo” treated as fast food.

In my opinion, this is the main challenge Aragon will have to face in his first year of life. The idea that an upscale dish needs bells and whistles to impress. And that you need to pay an extra for the best ingredients, although the technique, looks, maybe is not, so easy.

But Jason Stratton trusts Pacific Nortwest foodies. “Seattlelites are more interested than ever in healthy, local high quality food. I think the Spanish cuisine time is arriving”.

I agree. And I´m looking forward to come back to this airy, bright, simple but stunning place to try Aragona menu. Anyway, the wine list is so huge  overwhelming and well curated, Chris Tange is Aragona´s sommelier, that I will need to follow the experts advice and studying it in advance.

Because you don´t need to be Spanish to be a great Spanish food chef. You only need passion, talent and honesty. And Jason Stratton, this shy, kind and thoughtful chef that was elected as one of the best 10 young promises in the US in 2010, has all this attributes so far.

Aragona Seattle

 

 

 

 

Companies Healthy life Products

Jump into the legumes lovers club with PNW Farmers Co-op

Legumbres modificada

Elena F. Guiral 

January, legumes time. Anyway, every month of the year. Legumes are a essential ingredient of Spain culinary heritage, due to their high content in proteins and carbs and to their affordability.

Legumes were associated in my country during a long time with fat, high cholesterol and unhealthy meals due to their traditional association with pork ingredients as tocino, chorizo and morcilla. Luckily this myth is down nowadays and bean, garbanzo beans and lentils are recovering their role in our cooking dishes again as a realy vesatile ingredient that will fuel you for hours.

I´m happy to see that legumes are more common nowadays into the American diet too although I see them most of the time in Hummus and Lentil Soup.

Luckily a few months ago I found through Twitter PNW Farmers Co-op Specialty Foods, a  cooperative based in Spokane that sells Eastern Washington and North Idaho production. Legumes are winter crops, resistant to ice and drought, so they are perfect to that area agricultural idiosyncrasy

I´ve always thought that the best way to be respectful with Mother Nature is to eat less meat, more veggies and local production. PNW Farmers Co-op mission fits perfectly with my idea, as Kim and me have discussed many times.

So I´m proud to share with you our particular collaboration with this cooperative. They will provide me ingredients to play in my kitchen and I will provide them new recipes most of them from our traditional Spanish heritage. And both of us will show you that preparing new dishes from dry legumes is easy, fun and healthy.

Ironically, many of the products that PNW Farmers Co-op has sent are new to me, like caviar lentils, so It´s going to be a trip full of discoveries for everybody. Do you want to join me?

Where you can buy PNW Farmers Co-op legumes 

Healthy life Products Uncategorized

Truffle from Soria: the Spanish black diamond

IMG_4250The black truffle, or Tuber melanosporum , is a winter fungus appreciated in restaurants for its special aroma and flavor it brings to all kinds of dishes, bringing nuances that reflect the essence of the land and forest. Despite its scarcity and high price, the demand for truffle growing every day.

Soria is one of the three major Spanish producing provinces of black truffle, along with Huesca and Teruel. Has 1,700 hectares for planting, whose production accounts for over 30 % of the national market.

The quality of the truffle from Soria has transcended borders and much of the production is sold in England, Germany or United States. The experts emphasize that the altitude of the province and its climatic conditions give the black truffle and special aroma and remarkable texture over other truffles.

The rains this year and good early autumn temperatures have favored a campaign that could reach a total number of  5,000 kilos (11,000 pounds). Calculate the cost-effectiveness of the province is always difficult, because the market is not regulated.  the Truffle Soria Association estimate is around  $9 million.

The price per pound , which last year was around $680 , could lower this season , which runs from 1 December to mid- March. In fact, the first prices are handled are around $480 per pound.

Soria Truffle association continues to work to achieve a quality mark that distinguishes the Tuber melanosporum from Soria in the most important international markets.

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Great Spanish chefs as Pepe Rodríguez (El Bohio), Luis Alberto Lera ( Mesón El Labrador) , Óscar Perez and Pedro Mario (El Ermitaño), Víctor Martin (Trigo) or Mario Sandoval (Coque) , among others, exalt the special aroma of the black truffle from Soria and use it fresh in season to prepare their dishes. Even one of the most successful chefs, Martín Berasategui, says that Soria black truffle is “the Rolls Royce of truffles from Spain .”

One of the chefs who has worked and extolled the great potential of the black truffle from Soria is Óscar García, from his restaurant Baluarte. The Academy of Gastronomy and Food of Castilla y León recognized their work recently. IMG_4258

The menu of the day dedicated to the black truffle from Soria included the following courses:

– Our trufal
– Seasonal vegetables with truffle, prawn and mushroom soup
-Potato – truffle with candied rib
-Squid ragout, truffles, chestnuts and walnuts
-Truffled – egg
– Octopus , cabbage, truffle and dashi soup
– Bresse Pigeon with rice and mushrooms
– Ice cream with chocolate truffle

The black truffle can praise all kinds of dishes . It can be taken raw laminated or can be added to a stew or soup. It is also used for flavoring eggs , oils and cheeses.

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Healthy life Uncategorized

Mediterranean diet decalogue: more than a lifestyle

ImagenThe Mediterranean diet is a well to protect. Like this it understood it the UNESCO when it declared it Immaterial Heritage of the Mankind in 2010, thanks to the initiative of four communities of Spain (Soria), Italy, Morocco and Greece. It is considered like one of the healthiest of the world, and no only by the use and combination of ingredients, but also by a series of traditional practices related with the feeding.

The UNESCO considers that in the nutritional model of this diet, that has remained constant through the time and of the space, the main ingredients are the oil of olive, the cereals, the fruits and cool or dry vegetables, a moderate proportion of meat, fish and dairy products, and abundant condiments and spices, whose consumption in the table accompanies of wine or infusions, respecting always the beliefs of each community. The Mediterranean diet –whose name comes of the Greek word diaita, that wants to say way of life– does not comprise only the feeding, since it is a cultural element that favourable the social interaction; that’s explains that the foods in common are an angular stone of the social habits and of the celebration of festive events.

tomates

“To the trilogy wheat, vineyard and olivo, to the legumbres, to the vegetables, to the fruits, to the fish, to the cheeses or the yoghourt, to the nuts it is necessary to add an essential condiment, perhaps a basic ingredient: the sociability”, signals Lluís Serra, President of the Foundation Mediterranean Diet, in the book: ‘Ánima Mediterránea’, by Bernd H. Knöller And Xavier Mollà.

The experts think that the prevailing globalization is changing our alimentary habits and is putting in danger the survival of a diet that sinks his roots in the history.

dieta-mediterranea

www.comunidadism.com

One of the impulsores from Spain of the candidature of the Mediterranean diet to Immaterial Heritage of the Mankind, the doctor Juan Manuel Ruiz Liso, elaborated the fundamental decalogue to follow this type of feeding:

1.- You will take oil of virgin olive all the days of your life

2.- You won´t forget bread and cereals in any meal

3.- The fruit will accompany you every day

4.- You will eat salad daily 

5.-You will abuse from Vegetables and legumes 

6.- You won´t live without fish

7.- Daily milk you will drink

8.- You will not exceed the consumption of saturated fats

9.- Working and leisure will go together

10.- You will eat with company as often as possible

On the Foundation of the Mediterranean Diet web can find interesting medical articles on the health benefits of this diet, plus weekly menus and recipes as described below:

Vegetables (Pisto) with eggs

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Ingredients for four people:

2 medium red or green peppers

2 medium tomatoes

2 medium eggplants

4 garlic cloves

4 medium eggs

4 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp paprika

Salt

Pepper

How to do:

Wash pepper, remove seeds and cut into strips. Peel the tomatoes and garlic and finely chop separately. Wash eggplants, remove the ends and cut into cubes.

Heat olive oil in a saucepan and cook to heat the peppers for 5-6 minutes. Add the garlic and eggplant and continue cooking over medium heat for 5 minutes. Finally, add the tomatoes, salt and pepper, cover and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Grind salt, make some holes among the vegetables and drop the raw eggs in them. Cover and cook for 3-4 minutes, until the egg white curd. Lightly salt and pepper the eggs and serve the dish with bread.

Healthy life

Mushrooms time

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Forests and meadows are filled with mushrooms in fall, ingredients that have invaded the kitchens in recent years. Haute cuisine is increasingly attracted by to the flavor, texture, color and aroma of these treasures of nature to create dishes or enhance other ingredients.

At each location reign certain species, but some of the most appreciated by the restaurants are these:

Amanita Caesarea : orange, is highly prized for its delicate flavor and aroma. It can be prepared raw or slightly roasted, and combines well with dairy, like yogurt foam, for example.

Boletus edulis: it is a very aromatic fungus that grows in mountain areas and some can be large. White meat, compact, bulky trunk and hat in different shades of brow , it is ideal for grilled, accompanying meat and fish or cooked as a cream.

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Boletus edulis

Cantharellus cibarius : in Spain is known as rebozuelos. It is a small mushroom that grows in the highlands and humid, yellow or orange, aromatic and pleasant taste. You can cook or make preserves and can also be used as part of the dessert, because it is one of the mushrooms that support sugar preparations, as jellies or jams.

Cratherellus Cornucopioides: known as ‘trumpet of the dead ‘ by its characteristic black color. It is difficult to find, by their color and small size. It grows in coniferous forests in autumn and spring and is prized for its flavor. You can use it fresh or powdered.

Morel Mushroom: this mushroom looks like a small honeycomb. Can not be eaten raw because of its toxicity, but are delicious cooked. They are used to flavor sauces and enhance the flavors of the meat, and can also be seen in recipes that are cooked in cream.

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Cantharellus Cibarius

Agaricus campestrris: known in Spain as champiñón silvestre is one of the most abundant species. It grows in fall and spring in the meadows and its aroma is very appreciated in the kitchen. It can be prepared as an accompaniment to meat and fish or with garlic and parsley.

Tuber melanosporum: black truffle is one of the most appreciated. In Spain can be found on farms in the provinces of Soria, Huesca and Teruel , mainly. It is a fungus with intense flavor and aroma that adds tremendous value to meat and game dishes and can serve to flavor oil, cheese or eggs. It is prized in haute cuisine and can reach up to 1,000 euros ($1,350) per kilo. Grating is used to flavor all types of dishes: meats, fish, creams, salads and pastas.

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Boletus grilled, from Baluarte restaurant

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Mushroom cakes

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Sandwich with bacon and truffle

Healthy life

Healthy food, healthy environment

Elena Fernandez

LiveWell for LIFE , a WWF and Friends of Europe project, has released a milestone report: Adopting Healthy, Sustainable Diets: Key opportunities and barriers,  a three-year project closely examining the relationship between food, health and the environment, This study, a continuation of the research the Rowett Institute did with WWF-UK in 2010-11, has identified some of the most important factors that explain why governments are not supporting sustainable diets, why food companies are discouraged from promoting them and why consumers are slow to adopt them.

  Tony Long, director office, thinks that “many consumers, businesses and governments have a rather odd relationship with our food system which can be summed up as out of sight, out of mind”. People, and society as a whole, often prefer to ignore the impact that our consumption is having on the environment and our health”.

But, why is the way we eat so important? Today the average European consumes almost 3,500 calories a day, 25% more than the daily recommended level and eats approximately  70% more protein, mostly animal, than recommended. I have the feeling that these figures are not more optimistic in the US.

“Obesity in Europe is at an all-time high and rising, causing heart diseases, strokes, diabetes and 10-13% of all deaths, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). It has become one of the biggest health challenges of our time, costing our governments billions of euros in health bills,” explains Long.

But WWF´s report shows a new point of view to the debate. The way we eat doesn’t only affect our health; it affects our environment as well. One of the clearest impacts of our food addiction is the destruction of forested areas for agricultural produce.

This puts a heavy toll on our global CO2 output. Between 1990 and 2008 Europe imported and consumed about 9 million hectares of newly deforested land, roughly three times the size of Belgium, and all this despite the fact that we throw away over one-third of the food we produce.

The good news highlighted by the report is that policy makers are starting to wake up to the idea of supporting sustainable diets.  This is partly because old taboos warning politicians against interfering in what people should eat or drink, a taboo reinforced by the agri-foods industry,  are breaking down in the face of rapidly mounting health costs.

Business and industry need to accept its role and its responsibility in developing sustainable diets. Not only do they have a duty to offer sustainable products to consumers but they also need to use their marketing might to create a market for such products.

The report concludes that the final consumer has a great responsibility in his food choices too. All studies and surveys show a big gap between what people feel and say, and what they do related to Healthy food choices.

Lake Dewey from Naches Loop

Lake Dewey from Naches Loop

Healthy life

Don’t skip your (Mediterranean) breakfast

Elena Fernandez

The idea that breakfast should be the most important meal of the day is reaffirmed more than ever with the results of a new study, which concludes that skipping breakfast may increase the risk of heart disease, according to a study published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

The researchers analyzed data from food frequency questionnaires and health outcomes achieved for 16 years (1992-2008) of 26,902 male health professionals (45-82 years). Men who reported that they skipped breakfast had a 27% increased risk of heart attack or death from coronary heart disease than those who reported they didn´t.

Desayuno mediterráneoThe profile from non breakfast eaters is: younger, more likely to smoke, employed full-time, single, performed less physical activity and alcohol drinkers. In my opinion, skipping breakfast is another bad habit linked to a risky and unhealthy way of life. A dangerous cocktail that moved and shaken can led you easily to the Emergency Room.

Men who eat late at night (eat after going to bed) had a 55%  increased risk of coronary heart disease than those who did not. However, the authors were not very convinced that this is an important public health problem because few men in research reported this behavior.

During the study, 1,572 men suffered cardiac issues. “Skipping breakfast can lead to one or more risk factors such as obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, which can lead to a heart attack at the time,” said Leah E. Cahill, director of the study and postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Nutrition, School of Public Health of Harvard University in Boston.

“Eat a good breakfast every day – advised Cahill -. Incorporate many kinds of nutrients such as protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. For example, the addition of nuts and chopped fruit in a bowl of cereal or oatmeal in the morning is a great way to start the day. ”

A Mediterranean breakfast is a great alternative to Dr. Cahill suggestions: toasted bread with olive oil, light cheese or ham, a squeezed orange juice and a latte is the best and tasty way to begin your daily routine.

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