The Foods of Extremadura, Spain

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This was my first time climbing up the orchard’s terraced slopes to pick the ripest of Spain’s famous cherry crop. I can reach all the dwarf trees’ branches – especially those hanging low with the weight of luscious red fruit. extremadurafood07

The cool of the night left one side chilled while the other, freshly warmed by the morning sun, is hot and bursting with flavor. Popping one into my mouth, I spit out the pit and chew, letting the juices roll luxuriously over my tongue, the flavors combining into the best cherry I’ve ever tasted.

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That was my welcome to the region of Extremadura, also called Spain’s Pantry, for a Farm-to-Table experience that made the over-used expression relevant again. Everything the region is known for – cherries, paprika, cheese, wine and pork was on the agenda – soon to be on the table – of this culinary dream trip.

Spain’s Extremadura region hugs the country’s western border with Portugal. It goes from mountains down to the rolling, oak tree dotted fields called dehesa, where the famed Jamon Iberico Bellota, or acorn fed, black hoofed pigs live.

extremadurafood09These pigs are free-range, with one for every five acres. They need that much space because they consume 20 pounds of acorns a day, gaining only one pound for that gluttony. They’ll spend at least four months on this diet doubling their weight to 350 pounds before they are ready to butcher.

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The hams are then shaped, salted and air dried until what is known as the finest ham in the world is ready for sale. The whole process can take as long as five years! The result is a ham marbled with a monounsaturated fat that is good for you, like olive oil.

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As each slice melted on my tongue, the incomparable flavors convinced me that feeding them the acorns rich in oleic acid is worth it. Chewing the paper-thin slice released a umami combination of nutty, sweet goodness with the mouthfeel of rich olive oil – delicious! extremadurafood12

While searching for the pigs I saw thistles growing wild and learned they were used to make the vegetable rennet for Extremadura’s premier cheese – Torta del Casar.

extremadurafood11It is a soft sheep’s milk cheese, creamy and rich, served in small rounds with the top cut off so you can dip things into it. It has a pungent aroma, some would say foul smell, and a bitter aftertaste that is moderated with foods and styles of serving. I like it as a vegetable dip, but it is also good breaded and deep fried.

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The last ingredient I tasted was smoked paprika made from the red peppers that filled the cultivated fields. Dried over an oak fire before being finely ground, this paprika adds a smoky depth to cheese, stews and soups, while lending a little bit of heat. I use it to flavor an olive oil that is excellent for seafood.

Each of these ingredients, and sometimes a combination of them, are featured in the

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regional cooking of Extremadura. All were paired with the lush red and refreshing white wines of the region to create the freshest dining experiences.

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Posted in cheese, Culinary, Extremadura, Farm to Table, food, Spain, Travel, Uncategorized, wine | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Ludwig Piano/Cello Duo at Saugerties Pro Musica Sunday 11/19 @3 p.m.

Each November the Bard College Conservatory of Music sends Saugerties Pro Musica some of their most talented musicians to perform.

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This year, the Ludwig Duo, made up of Pianist Erica Allen and Cellist Chang Pan, will be our featured performers. One is a second-year student in the Advanced Performance Studies program of the Bard College Conservatory of Music, the other teaches in the music program. Both have performed extensively on the world stage to favorable reviews. Please join us on Sunday, November 19th, 2017, at 3 p.m. in the Saugerties United Methodist Church. A”meet the artists” reception with refreshments will follow the performance.

Pianist Erika Allen a native of Blue Hill, Maine, received her master’s degree in collaborative piano at Juilliard. In 2008, she completed a master’s degree in solo piano performance at New England Conservatory, under the tutelage of Vivian Weilerstein. She received her bachelor’s degree from Oberlin Conservatory where she won the school’s 2006 Mozart Piano Concerto Competition. An avid chamber musician and collaborator, Allen has performed with numerous artists including violinist Ray Chen, violist Peter Barsony, and members of the Cassatt Quartet. She has served as an accompanist for the Bowdoin Music Festival, Juilliard, New England Conservatory, and Boston Conservatory choirs. In past summers, she has attended Kneisel Hall Chamber Music Festival, Banff, Eastern Music Festival, and Bowdoin International Music Festival. Allen was a Collaborative Piano Fellow at the Bard Conservatory of Music from 2011-13, and now teaches in the Music Program at Bard.

Cellist Chang Pan, a second-year student in the Advanced Performance Studies program of the Bard College Conservatory of Music, has appeared as a soloist, recitalist and chamber musician throughout Asia, Europe and U.S. Of his Carnegie Hall concert in 2016 the New York Concert Review said, “The principal virtue of Chang Pan’s playing is his extreme absorption in the music; he has a rapt, intense look, as one who is communing directly with the mysterious source ‘out there’ that sustains and inspires true artists—and he possesses the technical ease to bring that inspiration into his instrument and project it to the listener. His bow arm, intonation, and the variety of colors he obtains from the cello are all sublime.”

Their program includes Beethoven’s 7 Variations on ‘Bei Männern, welche Liebe fühlen’ plus Schubert’s Sonata for Cello & Piano in A minor (the “Arpeggione Sonata”) and Schumann’s Adagio and Allegro Op.70 in A Flat Major

There is no concert in December. Our season resumes in 2018 when the Strawberry Hill Fiddlers return to start the New Year with a blast on January 21st, Saugerties’ own, tenor Thomas Leighton, comes home on February 18th,  Yalin Chi returns on March 18th, Iva Bittova & Tony Fajt make a rare appearance on April 15th, and we close our 22nd season with the cello ensemble of Ani Kalayjian and Friends on May 20th .

Saugerties Pro Musica concerts are quality musical performances by world-class musicians in a comfortable, intimate setting, and at very affordable prices. Concert times are 3 p.m. Sunday afternoons at the United Methodist Church, on the corners of Washington Avenue (#67) and Post Street in Saugerties. Adults $15 and Seniors $12. Students are always free. Call 845-679-5733, email hopefarm@hopefarm.com for more information, or visit our website for the most up to date programming schedule: http://www.saugertiespromusica.org

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Speech – A Catskills Cantico

Alf’s benchmark regional history and a collection of essays

Last Saturday evening I spoke at an event – 100 Years of Art in Woodstock – about the life of Alf Evers. This is a transcript of my speech:

Good evening. My name is Richard Frisbie. Thank you for coming to what I’m calling a Catskills Cantico – Cantico is an Algonquin word meaning a ceremonial dance. And – No – I’m not going to dance. I’m here to tell you about my friend, noted historian and author, Alf Evers, and I’ve been given 5 minutes to cover nearly a century of his accomplishments.

My presence here is not without precedent. I spoke at Alf’s 90th birthday party, and again in 2001 for what was called a “Celebration in Recognition of Alf Evers’ Contributions to the Furthering of New York History”. That’s the rather grand title for what was actually a very impressive ceremony on the grounds of the Senate House in Kingston. Alf was surrounded by County, State and Federal dignitaries – everyone from a Pulitzer Prize winner to a Congressman. After 14 people spoke, and Jay Unger and Molly Mason performed, Alf spoke for an hour! His speech was engaging and captivating and covered the important influences in his writing carrier. It was great! I’m sorry if you missed it.

I can’t match the speech he gave, but I can promise to be brief.

For those of you who don’t know – Alf Evers was the preeminent historian of the Catskills. He is renowned for his definitive 800-page histories, “The Catskills: From Wilderness to   Woodstock”, “Woodstock: History of an American Town” and his final book, “Kingston, City on the Hudson”. His other books include “In Catskill Country: Collected Essays on Mountain History, Life and Lore”, as well as more than 50 children’s titles written in collaboration with his wife, Helen. In total, he wrote almost 10,000 pages of Catskill Mountain history!

Alf was born in the Bronx, and came upstate with his family when he was nine. They moved to a farm in Tillson where he first became aware of the Catskill Mountains and where his love of the Catskills began. As an adult, he moved into the Catskills, settling finally in Shady, where he raised a family of his own. His strong bond with the region remained his passion until his death in 2004 when he was 99 years old.

In his lifetime, besides the aforementioned books, he was the associate editor of the New York Folklore Quarterly. He wrote articles for the New York Conservationist. He also wrote many newspaper articles on regional history. In addition, he served as Vice-President of the New York State Folklore Society, President of both the Woodstock Historical Society and the Woodstock Library, and he was the town historian of Woodstock for many years. Through all this, he actively encouraged the preservation of the landscape and character of Woodstock and its environs.

My signed, numbered commemorative copy “In Catskill Country”

Personally, I always knew Alf to be generous with his  vast knowledge. One day while I was President of the Board of Management of the Woodstock Tree Trust, (and yes, there was such a title) Alf asked me: “Did you ever see a chestnut tree? You know we have one growing here in Town.” Since the American Chestnut had been virtually extinct since the beginning of the 1900s, he had my attention. He said come on – I’ll show it to you. We jumped into my car and he said turn onto Plockmann Lane. I immediately thought – all right, we’ll go through and on up Lewis Hollow Road to find an isolated stand of trees up near the State Land. That made sense.

Nope.

Just a little way in he pointed to a short skinny tree and said there it is. Right there on the side of Plochmann Lane – the rarest of rare trees – an American Chestnut. He explained that every few years the highway department cuts back the roadside so cars can pass – Plochmann Lane is narrow. Since the virus attacks mature trees, and a cut chestnut grows from sprouts on the stump, this one was cut and it grew, and cut and grew, and cut and grew for nearly a century, but it was never old enough to get the virus. It survived.

Who knew? Alf Evers Knew!

In 1995, Overlook Press had a book signing / birthday party on the occasion of Alf Evers’ 90th birthday and the publication of his book “In Catskill Country“. It was a benefit for the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development. The event was called A Catskills Cantico, meaning a dancing, singing, fiddle-playing party, like the old-timers used to have in the Catskills – and much like what we’re having here. It was called that as a concession to Alf, who actually wanted that to be the title of his book.

And that is how I knew Alf to be, a person with the depth of knowledge so great about the Catskill Mountains that he knew the answer to every question. He knew where the last American Chestnut was in the Town and what a cantico was –and why it would be an appropriate title for his collection of essays. And still, as a respected historian and bestselling author who was revered in his community, he was modest and unassuming enough to bow to the wishes of his publisher. So, to honor him tonight, I referred to this event as he would have: A Catskills Cantico – A Song of the Catskills. I hope you’re enjoying it.

Thank you

Posted in Alf Evers, book review, free lance writer, historic preservation, Hudson Valley and Catskill Mountains, journalism, New York History Books, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Halloween Ghost Story From Curacao

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Curacao is an island in the Caribbean off the coast of Venezuela. Blessed with temperatures in the 80s, sunny skies and beaches to rival the best in the world, this Dutch island has all that plus enough colonial heritage and history – including the oldest Jewish cemetery in the Western Hemisphere – to please every tourist. My recent visit there also revealed some unanswered questions about its past.

First off, Halloween isn’t celebrated on Curacao. Santa Claus statues already tower over public squares and roundabouts, and the lamp post decorations were being put up while I was there, a full two months before Christmas. And yet, I think of this as a Halloween story . . .

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The UNESCO World Heritage Site: Sonesta Kura Hulanda Village & Spa in Curacao, conveniently located in the center of Willemstad, is a hotel made up of the original houses and streets of an 18th century village. It includes the Village Square and other small squares and parks, some now with pools and sculpture, connected by ancient cobblestone lanes that are lined with the beautiful facades of colonial architecture. It is quaint and very pretty. Walking around you actually feel as if you’re in the old village. Hidden behind the charming exteriors which once were homes to slave owners and slaves alike, are the slightly faded remains of luxurious hotel suites and duplexes, some of which harbor more than a memory of their past. Some of the 82 rooms are inhabited by ghosts!

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Whether they are the original occupants, their slaves, or any one of the inhabitants over the centuries is unknown, but sightings and eerie sounds have convinced some that a few of the rooms are haunted – perhaps as many as four rooms are scenes of late-night disturbances. Tales are told of strange sounds, doors mysteriously opening and closing, guests in their loft bedrooms being awakened in the middle of the night by the sounds of people downstairs. Some even tell of seeing shadowy people walking around their hotel room. When the lights come on – no one is ever there – and there have never been reports of violence or poltergeist activity, just noisy sightings.

My room there, room 107, I’m assured is not haunted. Yet, while showering one evening, the closed bathroom door opened and no one was there. So – it’s an old building, winds came in the louvered windows, a step on a floorboard – probably something normal caused it, not ghosts. But that’s how  found out about the other hauntings.

History reveals that over the course of centuries, generations of folks were born, lived and died in these converted homes – perhaps violently. Some would say that it is not unlikely for some vestigial remains of their beings to persist; some element, uneasy in death, left to wander in an unknown netherworld with an overlapping border to our own. Occasionally they may cross that border to be seen and heard.

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So, the next time you are disturbed by the strange sounds of ghosts in the dead of night at Sonesta Kura Hulanda Village & Spa, content yourself that they are just lost souls for whom you can only wish a peaceful transition to the next plane, then roll over and go back to sleep. In the morning they will be gone, and you’ll still be in sunny, beautiful Curacao!

Happy Halloween!

Posted in Adventure/Sports, Curacao, free lance writer, ghost story, Halloween, historic preservation, Pop Culture, Rightnowincuracao, tourism, Travel, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Major Changes at Hope Farm Press

Just to make it official, folks. After 58 years of book shop operation, Hope Farm Press will only be selling Hope Farm imprints online. All my other titles have been sold to Inquiring Mind Book Store of Saugerties and New Paltz.

You can still order my titles from this page:

http://www.hopefarm.com/orderfrm.htm

and they will still be available wholesale to bookstores.

I thank you all for many successful years and many happy relationships. It really was a wonderful run. Now, at the age of 69, I’m looking forward to being employed part time only. Of the 2500 titles I catalogued, only 25 will be available from me from now on.

Thank you all again.
Richard Frisbie, proprietor

I’ll continue posting my musings to my blog:

https://richardfrisbie.wordpress.com

And we can remain connected via:
https://www.facebook.com/richard.frisbie
https://www.instagram.com/frisbierichard/

where links to my culinary travels articles will appear.

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Saugerties Pro Musica Concert Sunday

The Boston Trio Sunday 9/17 @ 3 pm

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Pianist Heng-Jin Park – cellist Jonah Ellsworth – Violinist Irina Moresanu

THE BOSTON TRIO

Praised by the Boston Globe after their Tanglewood debut at Ozawa Hall, “Whenever this trio plays, drop everything and go hear them!” The Boston Trio has established itself as one of today’s most exciting chamber ensembles.

Program:
Jennifer Higdon: Piano Trio
Korngold: Piano Trio, op. 1
Dvorak: Piano Trio in f minor, op. 65

Violinist Irina Moresanu, cellist Jonah Ellsworth and pianist Heng-Jin Park have distinguished careers as soloist, recitalist, chamber musician, and have appeared with major orchestras and premier chamber music festivals throughout the United States and Europe. Please join us for their return engagement on Sunday, September 17th, 2017, at 3 p.m. in the Saugerties United Methodist Church.

The Trio has coached chamber music at the Tanglewood Institute of Music and served as Ensemble-in-Residence at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in Cambridge from 1997 to 2004. They were also in residence at the New England Conservatory Preparatory School. Recent concerts include performances at UCLA, Detroit Pro Musica, University of Arkansas, Maui Classical Music Festival, Rockport Chamber Music Festival, Cape Cod Chamber Music Festival, Virtuosi Concerts in Winnipeg, performances of Beethoven’s Triple Concerto with the Boston Classical Orchestra, and nationally televised performance at Belgrade Music Festival at Kolarac Foundation Hall in Serbia.

The individual members serve on the faculties of the New England Conservatory, the Boston Conservatory, Harvard University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. They are committed to bringing chamber music to a broader audience and are in demand as master class teachers throughout the United States, Asia and Europe.

Concert times are 3 p.m. Sunday afternoons at the United Methodist Church, on the corners of Washington Avenue (#67) and Post Street in Saugerties. Adults $15 and Seniors $12. Students are always free. Call 845-679-5733 or email hopefarm@hopefarm.com for more information. Visit our website for the most up to date programming schedule: http://www.saugertiespromusica.org

Save the dates:

The Harmonic Brass of Munich on October 15th, Bard’s Ludwig Piano & Cello Duo (please note program change) on November 19th, the Strawberry Hill Fiddlers return to start the New Year right on January 21st, Saugerties’ own, tenor Thomas Leighton, comes home on February 18th, Yalin Chi returns on March 18th, Iva Bittova & Tony Fajt make a rare appearance on April 15th, and we close the season with the cello ensemble of Ani Kalayjian and Friends on May 20th. A season ticket for all 8 concerts is $75.

Saugerties Pro Musica is a 501 (c) (3) not for profit organization.

hopefarm@hopefarm.com

http://www.saugertiespromusica.org

Posted in concert, Hudson Valley and Catskill Mountains, music, Saugerties Pro Musica, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Still Star-Crossed in Trujillo, Spain

 

StillStar02On a recent visit to Extremadura, Spain – that region of natural beauty and unsurpassed food that lies along the border with Portugal – I stopped in Trujillo. It has a large square with a statue of Francisco Pizarro (he was born there) below and outside of the old walled city. The ancient stone ramparts and structures rise up behind the walls to an old Arab fortress on the hilltop. Everything is so perfectly preserved that you could walk the streets and think a time warp had sent you traveling back to the 12th century. It is an amazingly beautiful town.

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So much so that two movies were being filmed there earlier this year. The castle on the hilltop is the home of one of the families in Game of Thrones to be seen next year. Before that – tonight, actually – ABC TV will air the first episode of Still Star-crossed, a show that picks up where Romeo and Juliet left off. It begins as the Capulets and Montagues are still feuding and a fight breaks out at the funeral of Romeo and Juliet. Where it goes from there is anyone’s guess.

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The reality of this period piece is enhanced by the medieval setting that is Trujillo.  Two of the photographs I included are of the old cistern on the hilltop next to the castle. With a few additions it was made to look like a Venetian fountain where one of the scenes from Still Star-crossed takes place. The other two are of the castle itself. One is from the road up and the other from the top. The aged stonework, scarred with lichen and centuries of use, really sets the mood for the films.

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And, when you are done with the film tourism, visit one of the Paradores, Spain’s reasonably priced historic hotel chain, for a peek at what the insides of those old buildings look like and a taste of their fantastic food!

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Posted in cheese, Culinary, dessert, dessert, Entertainment, Extremadura, Farm to Table, film, Stand-In, pilot, food, Game of Thrones, historic preservation, Paradores, Spain, Star-crossed, tourism, Travel, Trujillo, Uncategorized, wine | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Vinegar Braised Chicken

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For a couple of years I’ve been making my own red wine vinegar. But, since my SO prefers apple cider vinegar, I’m always searching for recipes that help me to use up all my very tasty, homemade vinegar.  It goes in my bbq sauce, my mustard, and now in this go-to braised chicken recipe from Bon Appétit. http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/vinegar-braised-chicken-legs

This dinner almost cooks itself. It had to. I was outside gardening on May Day. (Where else would one be on May 1?) And rather than follow the recipe as written, which would mean shopping for ingredients I didn’t have, I substituted what I did have.  Turns out, it is a very forgiving recipe.

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You can follow the link above to read the whole recipe. This is just what I changed.

Instead of 4 chicken legs I used a whole 4 lb chicken, quartered.

Instead of 4 medium shallots I used one large onion.

Instead of 8 dried shiitake mushrooms I used 8 oz of fresh white mushrooms.

Instead of 2 3-inch cinnamon sticks I used ½ tsp cinnamon.

Instead of 1 red chile I used a jalapeño.

Instead of 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth I used the whole 14.5 oz can.

The other 8 ingredients I had.

Then, of course, I also altered the directions for 2 reasons: I’m lazy and I didn’t want to eat all that fat. That meant using only one pan and separating the liquid. So I browned the chicken in the Dutch oven and simmered it with the herbs and spices in the vinegary broth as they said to do. While the chicken cooked I simmered a multi-grain rice mix so both were done at the same time. I set the rice to warm while I rested the chicken on a plate, separating out the solids from the broth and removing the fat. Putting the chicken back in the Dutch oven I crisped and browned it under the broiler. Then the chicken was back on its plate in the now warm oven while I reduced the defatted braising liquid.

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The bowls for the chicken & rice were warmed in the oven, too, while the plates had a small salad built on them. To serve – place the hot bowls on the room temperature salad plates, put the rice in the bowl, add a piece of chicken and a large serving of the reserved solids and pour a generous amount of broth over them.

Cooking & prep was about 2 hours, most of it unattended. The vinegar braised chicken looked good, smelled great and tasted fantastic! Thank you Bon Appétit!

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Posted in Culinary, food, recipe, slow cooker recipes, soup, recipe, smoked food, stew, stew, Uncategorized, wine | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Torta del Casar – Cheese of the Gods

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At first glance I thought this cheese of the Extremadura region of Spain was the cheese of Caesar. With its creamy dippable interior barely contained in the bulging low walls, the rich flavor seemed clearly meant for the most exalted leader. That’s what happens when I let my eyes and my mouth translate. It is, in fact, the cake or loaf (of cheese) from the Caceres area, along Spain’s border with Portugal; a sheep’s milk cheese from the shepherds, using vegetable (thistle) rennet and traditional cheese-making processes to create a most flavorful ivory-colored runny cheese.

I first encountered this at the international food show Salon del Gourmet in Madrid in 2005, with the top removed from a low, round wheel of cheese inviting bread to be dipped in for tasting. Delicious! And so unusual! Instead of the usual hunks of cheese I was served a smear resembling melted cheese in consistency, but not heated at all, merely kept at room temperature. It was like having a Swiss raclette or a fondue without the need for a heat source to melt the cheese. It was heavenly!

At the Eat Spain Up! event in October in New York I had another encounter with Torta del Casar, unfortunately not an edible one. I was flipping through a copy of the cookbook Extremadura – Cuatro Estaciones, and landed on a page dedicated to the region’s best cheese. Now, at least, I know where it comes from. But finding the cheese in local cheese shops, even good ones, is unlikely. La Tienda, here I come!

In Spain, a PDO is a Protected Designation of Origin, meaning specific criteria must be met to use that designation – sources, aging, processing and appearance are all controlled. This is true for cheeses, hams, olive oil, breeds of animals and agricultural products. Torta del Casar is one of many products so protected in Extremadura and throughout Spain. When traveling in Spain, seek out these local foods, the unique PDO flavors that brand the culinary heart of the place, and you’ll taste the terroir along with the flavors of centuries of tradition.

Posted in cheese, Farm to Table, food, Spain, tourism, Travel, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Slow cooker Smoked Turkey & White Bean Stew

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This is a riff on a Basque dish I was served in Spain. The original uses the great local smoked sausages found throughout the region. I’ve replaced them here with smoked turkey so all my friends could enjoy the dinner. I cook a watered down version of this as a soup using kale instead of Napa cabbage at Hudson Valley Dessert Company. This is a richer, thicker version of that soup.
Soak
1 lb white beans overnight in water
Roast @ 350 for 1 hr
1 whole head of garlic, top cut off, drizzled with olive oil, wrapped in aluminum foil. cool
Put in a 5 qt slow cooker
1 smoked turkey leg
1 med onion diced
Soaked white beans drained & rinsed
1 stalk celery diced
2 medium carrots diced
¼ head napa cabbage chopped
1 Tbl smoked paprika
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp salt
Cayenne pepper to taste (I used 1/8 tsp)
1 head of roasted garlic (squeeze out of skins)
1 qt chicken stock plus enough water to cover (or one 14 oz low sodium can chicken stock plus two cans of water)
Start on high for 1 hour, turn to low for 8 hrs.
After 7.5 hours carefully remove turkey leg, de-bone and skin. Return shredded meat to stew. Adjust seasonings and serve with fresh homemade bread.

Alternately, four 14 oz cans of white beans with liquid could be substituted for soaked beans. Adjust chicken stock and salt to compensate when using canned products (canned foods contain sodium already) and only add liquid to cover.

Posted in Farm to Table, food, free lance writer, recipe, slow cooker recipes, soup, recipe, smoked food, stew, Spain, stew, Uncategorized | Leave a comment