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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


A purple touch in your Kitchen… and beyond


Elena Fernandez

Two weeks ago I crossed Puget Sound and Hood Canal with my family to spend a weekend in Olympic peninsula to catch the last sun rays before rain goes back. Anyway I saw more rain than sun but that´s what makes this place so special.

I wanted to see the end of lavender season at Sequim and to look up into its culinary properties. A few things are more Mediterranean than lavender!

I picked Mike Reichner´s Purple Haze Lavender Farm to visit because in its on line shop I saw a wide array of culinary products. And I was not wrong. Mike is one of the fathers of lavender crops not only in Washington State but in the US. He began to cultivate lavender in 1995 after attending a conference about commercial opportunities for herbs cultivation. “I remember I was the only man,” he jokes.

Sunny Sequim, protected by the Olympic Mountain  rain shadow, and with less than 20 inches of rain per year, has similar weather conditions as the French region of Provence. So Mike thought  it would be worth to take a chance.

Today,  more than 36 growers cultivate lavender in the valley, and an annual festival brings them all together to share their products with visitors. But Purple Haze Lavender Farm keeps on being the pioneer in offering new and innovative products extracted from his 12 acre organic crops.

DSC_0027The visitor will find more than 30 lavender varieties and 15.000 plants in Purple Haze Farm apart from lavender lemonade and ice cream. I tried the lemonade and it was amazing! (see photo) And the smell was… so relaxing! But if you look closer, Mike will show you how every variety has its own characteristics. “For culinary uses you need to pick English lavender, sweeter and more subtle,” he explains. “If you use stronger varieties the flavor would overwhelm the food”.

“The culinary products were the most risky option because people are only used to lavender properties in the Medical and Beauty fields,” says Mike. “I decided to begin with something not to innovative mixing lavender and Herbs de Provence”. Then the best seller came along: the salad dressing.

I know I´m a bit traditional and not too fond in tossing salads with something different from olive oil and vinegar, so I opted for the herbs mix. But  any good foodie find mustard, honey, chocolate and tea, among many products and a recipe brochure too to bring the magic of lavender  home.

I asked Mike If he had worked with other local partners: “Of course, Molly Moon makes its icecream with lavender from our farm, and we work with Cashmere Cider Mill to handcraft our lavender cider”

The farm is open from early May to Labor Day but  now that lavender season is nearly finished you could find Purple Haze products on line and in their Sequim Downtown shop all year round.



Prosciutto IS NOT Serrano ham

Elena Fernandez

Serrano ham… no Spaniard has grown up without this delicacy. In fact, if you opened  every Spanish fridge I bet you could find ham (jamón Serrano) in 85% of them.

That’s why we find it SO  difficult to live without  ham when we reside in the US. We know the price here is completely unaffordable but we simply can’t help buying and buying it. And don’t try to fool your Spanish kids with Italian or German ham. They will spit it out with no mercy.


When I was living in Miami I bought my ham in Milam’s supermarket in Sunny Isles. The first time I ordered “Serrano ham”  at the counter the sales clerk asked me: “Do you mean prosciutto?” After one second of complete astonishment, I began to shake my head like the girl in The Exorcist: “No, no, prosciutto IS NOT Serrano ham! I want Serrano ham, please”

In theory, prosciutto IS like Serrano ham. Both come from the pork’s leg and the process is the same, as you can read at Wikipedia. But the final product is pretty different. I prefer Serrano ham because it is more cured, saltier and more intense in flavor and scent. And because I´m Spanish, of course!

Yes, I know. You´re not a Spaniard. You can live without ham. You have lived without ham. And you´ve lived really happy. And it´s super expensive ($25 per pound). But… you should give our national treasure an opportunity for a special occasion. Because it  is healthy, the preparation is a no brainer, and it´s simply delicious.

Healthy ham
Serrano ham has a high composition of proteins and minerals and a high content of monounsaturated fat (50%), a powerful antioxidant and is a good friend of your heart. After undergoing the dry-cured process, ham is high in minerals such as sodium, iron, potassium and phosphorus too. Incorporating it into your diet in moderation is a really good option for quick and tasty meals.

And what about the calories? Don´t freak out! 3,5 ounces of ham are half as caloric as a cookie and less caloric than white boiled rice too.

Don´t overcomplicate

piquitos matiz

Less is more when you want to enjoy Serrano ham. No sauces (please!), no spices, no preparation needed. The best way to enjoy ham is with toasted Italian bread, you could find it at every supermarket, extra virgin olive oil and natural tomato squeezed on the top. But you can garnish it with melon or grilled asparagus if you want to prepare a complete meal. Are you in a rush and guests are coming home? Serve ham with picos, a kind of Spanish little grissini made with olive oil too.

The wine. Yep, you´ve paid a lot for your ham so you want to be savvy with the wine… I recommend a Spanish red wine made with garnacha grapes, like Borsao Tinto Selección 2011. You can find it for less than $10 and the quality is really good.

After enjoying your Serrano ham maybe you will wonder Can I cook it diced in other recipes? Or What about trying the Iberico Serrano ham (much more expensive)? So yes you can. Yes, maybe one day you will indulge yourself and you will buy Iberico Serrano ham. But this is another story… and another post.

Where you can find… (Greater Seattle area):

Serrano ham

The Spanish Table

Metropolitan Market

Picos Matiz

Metropolitan Market

Garnacha red wine

QFC (not in every supermarket)

Metropolitan Market

Total Wine

Really interested in Serrano ham? Find more info here