Tag Archives: traditions

Heavenly Cheeses, Food & Wine Pairings

Hello everyone! This is probably my longest blog post to date, because it is my favorite, and most passionate subject,  Food & Wine. This explains my blog name, Foodiewinelover.  I have put together a compilation of my dining and wining experience on Heavenly Cheeses, Food & Wine Pairings.  Please do not forget to read the descriptions on all my photos.  Cheeses are among my favorite food groups, and when I’m entertaining, I love pairing them with delicious wines. There is an abundance of cheeses, and wines from all corners of the world, but unfortunately, there aren’t enough time to mention all of them.   Ideally, I love pairing cheese with the wine from the same region, or country, especially when I’m having a themed party. However,  there are no set rules about it, and, you can mix and match food and wines from different countries, as you please. There are hard, soft, and semi-soft cheeses. One of my favorite cheeses is Parmigiano-Reggiano, an Italian Parmesan cheese, aged 36 months, that I brought back with me from Italy. To me it’s considered the king of Italian cheeses, and has a lovely nuttiness to it.  According to Giada de Laurentiis, a famous Italian Chef, it’s best if you pick it with a knife, to get into all the nook and crannies, for optimal flavors.  In general, white wine is ideal to pair with cheeses because of their higher acidity content, and boost up the layers of flavors of cheeses. However, If you are not a big fan of whites, don’t fret, red wines  also make a nice pairing. Ultimately, you decide what works well with your palate. I am also sharing with you some delectable food that goes with some interesting wines.  Here are a few suggestions to impress your friends at your next gathering.

Guidalberto paired with Parmigiano Reggiano
Sexy, seductive, full-bodied, Super Tuscan, Italian wine, blend of Cabernet and Merlot – 2012 Tenuta SanGuido – Guidalberto . The color is a scintillating cherry-red. At first, floral aromas and dark cherries on the nose, then, when I swirl it, the earthiness comes out. I smell barnyard and chocolate. I swoosh it in my mouth, I get hints of tobacco, chocolate, leather, and all the flavor profile I desire in a wine. The finish is succulent and lingering. This wine pairs heavenly with Parmigiano Reggiano.
Cheese and wine pairing
Great cheese and wine pairings: Pulenta Cab from Argentina, Robert Mondavi, Emblem California Cab, & a platter of barrel aged Feta, Ginger and Mango Stilton, Pecorino Romano cheese.
Epoisse
Wine & Cheese for Dinner! Époisses, the stinkiest cheese ever. Lol! Prima Donna, a blend of Parmigiano Reggiano and Gouda, paired with La Crema, Pinot Noir. If you prefer white, you can pair with an Albarino, or a nice Chablis, (Chardonnay from Burgundy)
Manchego and Crianza
Manchego cheese paired magically with Miguel Torres Celeste Crianza, from the Ribera del Duero region of Spain. A beautiful pairing of cheese and wine from the same country.
Malbecandcheesepairing
Girls Night Out! Malbec paired with scrumptious Comte, Idiazabal and Ossau Iraty cheeses. 🍷🍷🍷
MerlotandHumboldtFog
Merlot and Humboldt Fog cheese….Pinot Noir would have been a nice choice as well
BrunellowithDeliceDeBourgogne
Le Delice De Bourgogne cheese paired with a fantastic Brunello.  If you are into white wines, another suggestion for this cheese is an oaky Chardonnay 

 

Foodiewinelover Stonecrabs
Stonecrabs paired with Champagne for my birthday in 2014

 

Foodiewinelover Bubblies
When in doubt, bubblies go with almost everything

 

Espinacas y Garbanzos
Spinach and Garbanzos, paired with a lovely white Rioja
Bai Gorri Rioja
Bai Gorri Rioja, An elegant white wine, well-balanced with intense flavors of oak, paired heavenly with an assortment of Spanish dishes, Shrimp with Garlic, Spinach with Garbanzo beans, Paella, and Manchego cheese. This was at our Spanish-themed wine party.

 

Lamb Loin Chops
Lamb Loin Chops pair beautifully with Chateau-Neuf-du-Pape or a nice red Bordeaux

 

Paella
Paella pairs deliciously with a nice Rose’
Rose' pairs nicely with a Paella
Rose’

 

Beets and Goat Cheese
Beets and Goat Cheese pair lusciously with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc
Gouda and Epoisses cheeses paired with Merlot
Gouda and Epoisses cheeses, caramelized walnuts and fig spread, paired exquisitely with Chateau Lyonnat, a Merlot from the Bordeaux region. Delicieux!
Veal Bolognese
Veal Bolognese over Pappardelle, paired nicely with a Rosso di Montalcino
Porterhouse for two paired with a Super Tuscan
Aged Porterhouse for two paired scrumptiously with a Super Tuscan

If you are a salmon lover, pick a lush Pinot Noir from Oregon, or one from the Russian River Valley, Sonoma county, California.  They both would make great choices. For any white fish, select a crisp white wine, if you want to get fancy, try a delightful Sancerre, (Sauvignon Blanc) from the Loire Valley.  If you are on a budget, stick to a nice chilled chardonnay.  Spicy food pair well with an off-dry Riesling, Viognier or Gewurztraminer. Pungent cheeses such as Gorgonzola, or Blue Cheese stand up to dessert wines, port or cognac. Sauternes, a French dessert wine, with notes of apricots,  is a nice complement to Roquefort cheese and Foie Gras. Let’s not forget about Ricotta cheese which is used in savory dishes such as stuffed shells. They make a great pairing with a nice Chianti, Rosso di Montalcino, or any medium-bodied Italian reds.  Ricotta cheese is also used as a scrumptious filling in cannolis, and goes well with a Moscato d’Asti, a lovely dessert wine from the Piedmont region of Italy.  If you are looking for a match made in heaven,  my friend, fellow-sommelier, Certified Italian Wine Specialist, Angela, from Constant Wining suggests pairing a cantuccini, an Italian biscotti, with Vin Santo. We had it at one of our Italian-themed wine party, and it was a major hit, and a fantastic way to end a superb evening with fun friends. Mascarpone, is an italian sweet cheese, and one of the main ingredients in the delectable dessert Tiramisu. It can be paired with either the Vin Santo, or the Moscato d’Asti.

I am posting links to some of the cheeses that I feature in this blogpost,  so you can learn more about their process, origin, and history.

Parmigiano Reggiano and Pecorino Romano, two Italian giants, are excellent grating cheeses for pasta dishes.  Gorgonzola,  Blue Stilton, Roquefort,  are considered some of the world’s most famous Bleu Cheeses. Feta Cheese is one of the most famous Greek cheeses. Humboldt Fog, is a goat milk and pungent in flavors. Epoisses is a pungent cows-milk cheese.  Delice de Bourgogne, is a French cow’s milk cheese. Manchego is a sheep’s milk from Spain. Comté is a cow’s milk from France. Ossau Iraty is a sheep’s cheese from France.  Idiazabal is a sheep’s milk from Spain.

I hope you have enjoyed some of my food and wine suggestions, and in closing, I would love to share some fun quotes with you.

“All four elements were happening in equal measure – the cuisine, the wine, the service, and the overall ambience. It taught me that dining could happen at a spiritual level.” Charlie Trotter

“Wine to me is passion. It’s family and friends. It’s warmth of heart and generosity of spirit. Wine is art. It’s culture. It’s the essence of civilization and the art of living.” Robert Mondavi

Most importantly, I enjoy sharing food & wine with close friends, and family. It elevates the experience to another level.

Disclosure: All the pictures in this blog post are my own, and were taken either with my iPhone or my Canon Rebel T3 camera.  They were shot at various restaurants, a friend’s house, and my home.

Cheers to good health and a well-lived life!

Gina, aka, FoodieWineLover 

 

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Leg of Lamb, Greek-Style

Leg of Lamb

Leg of Lamb, Greek-Style

Leg of Lamb, Greek Style
Today we are celebrating a special birthday, and I am dedicating this blogpost to my lovely fellow-foodie-blogger friend, Athina, from  Kicking Back The Pebbles.  She is one of the 6 admins at Foodify, (including myself) a fabulous Facebook group of food bloggers  from around the world.  She is such a valuable  asset to the group, and has a generous heart.  She lives in Greece, and I am doing it the Greek way with all the fanfare.  In Greece, depending where you live, lamb is usually the meat served at Easter. I  made this leg of lamb, (1/2 to be exact) a while back in April, for Greek Easter. I normally cook a whole leg of lamb, but this time, I was cooking just for the four of us. I asked the butcher to cut the lamb in half, and he did. Today, I will share my version of a Leg of lamb. I have made this dish on many occasions, and it’s always a big hit.

Serves: 4-6 Level of difficulty: Easy-medium
Prepping time: about 10 minutes, cooking time: 1.15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 leg of lamb, 3.5 lbs.
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, whole
  • Olive oil, a generous amount
  • Oregano, to taste (lots)
  • 2 cups of water, or low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1 cup of dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes, canned or fresh *
  • 1.5 cup orzo (a shape of pasta)
  • Salt & pepper to taste

    Preparation:

    1) Season lamb with salt & pepper, pierce some holes, and place the garlic cloves in the meat.  Place the lamb in a large deep metal tray.  Sprinkle oregano, and put the onions on top of the lamb. Drizzle generously with olive oil.

    2) In a 350 degree F. preheated oven, bake the lamb for about 35-45 minutes. Remove the tray with the lamb from the oven.  LEAVE THE OVEN ON!  Sprinkle the orzo all around the lamb.  Add the tomatoes, water, more olive oil, salt & pepper to the liquid. Give it a good stir. Place the tray back in the oven to continue cooking until the orzo is done. Always, keep an eye on your food. Add more liquid if necessary. It should come out, nice and moist.

    Leg of Lamb
    Leg of Lamb (in my kitchen)

    This is a picture of a whole leg of lamb, in my kitchen from the past.  If you are cooking for a crowd, use the same method, adjust the measurements, and allow for more cooking time.

    Leg of Lamb and lemon potatoes also make a beautiful combination, and is more traditional.

    Wine suggestions:

    Agiorghitiko from Nemea,  in the region of Peloponnese, a fruity red wine.

    Xinomavro, from Naousa, in the region of  Macedonia, a rich red wine with more tannins.

    Let’s not forget, Ouzo goes with everything! Opa!  (DO NOT CONFUSE ORZO WITH OUZO)

    Wait!!! That’s not all, no party would be complete without some Greek deliciousness. I am serving  Kouzounas Kitchen scrumptious, Loukoumades. They are mouth-watering Greek doughnuts. Like her saying goes: “let your taste buds say Opa!”

    Loukoumades, Kouzounas Kitchen
    Loukoumades, Kouzounas Kitchen

    χρόνια πολλά,  Happy Birthday Athina! Hope you are enjoying your celebration in style.

Polla Filakia! (Lots of kisses) darn, WordPress, wanted to change         Filakia to Tilapia, LOL!

Love, Gina

 

Spaghetti al Pomodoro con Basilico

Spaghetti al Pomodoro con Basilico

San Marzano Tomatoes

San Marzano Tomatoes

Spaghetti al Pomodoro Con BasilicoSpaghetti al Pomodoro con Basilico is Italian for spaghetti in a tomato sauce with basil. It is one of the most traditional, and classic dish you will find in Southern Italy. It originated in Naples, the land of my paternal grandparents. In the Campania region, this dish is known to be a poor man’s dish because of the simple ingredients. It is made with San Marzano tomatoes that are indigenous to the area, where they are grown on volcanic soil. They are known to be the sweetest tomatoes in the world, very succulent, and less acidic. Here in the US, there is nothing poor about this dish, because it is made with high quality ingredients. There are many variations to this traditional dish, but today, I will share with the you the basic ingredients to make a killer sauce. Italians are very proud of their heritage, and DO NOT LIKE IT, (to put it mildly) when their original recipe is modified, or altered in any way. That is totally understandable, because they are trying to keep hundreds of years of traditions.  Unfortunately, when a traditional Italian recipe is recreated, it tends to lose some of its authenticity, primarily because an ingredient cannot be found, or because it is adapted to meet a person’s lifestyle. I can honestly say for this dish, I was able to find all the ingredients, but of course, everyone has his/her own style, and method of cooking. Ideally, fresh San Marzano tomatoes would be better, but they cannot be found in my area. Canned peeled San Marzano tomatoes with the D.O.P. label is perfectly acceptable, even by Italian standards. Follow me, Let’s get cooking!

Serves: 4-6 Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. Spaghetti, Anna brand, or any brand of your choice
  • 1/2 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil, + more to drizzle
  • 6 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 4-6 fresh basil leaves, divided
  • 2  28- oz canned-San Marzano, peeled tomatoes, Flora brand
  • Himalayan salt, or sea salt to taste, for sauce and pasta
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano

    Preparation:
    1) Do your prepping, slice the garlic, leave one can peeled tomatoes whole, and crush the other one with your hands like the Italians do. It’s so much fun to use your hands, but, I use gloves because I have very long fingernails. (If you want to cheat, put it in the blender for 5 seconds. I didn’t tell you that, shhhhh!) Chop up 2-3 basil leaves. Set aside.2) In the meanwhile, bring water to a boil for the pasta. While that’s happening, you will have plenty of time to make the sauce.

    3) In a medium-size pot, heat up the olive oil over medium-high heat, sautee the garlic, as soon as it releases its aroma, (if you wait too long, the garlic will burn, and have a bitter taste) drop the peeled tomatoes, the hand-crushed tomatoes, basil, and salt to taste. Bring to a quick boil, lower the heat to medium – medium-low, simmer uncovered  for about 10 minutes. Stir occasionally.

    4) You will be working simultaneously, while your sauce is simmering, the pasta water will come to a boil, add salt to taste, and cook pasta al dente, (to the bite). Follow package directions, minus 2 minutes of cooking time.  To check for doneness, I do it the old fashion way, I taste a strand or two of pasta.

    5) Drain pasta. By this time, the sauce should be done. Pour the pasta in the sauce, turn off the burner, and mix very well until every strand of spaghetti is coated with the sauce. It will look like a lot of sauce, but the pasta will absorb it in no time. Some cooks don’t crush the tomatoes, but that’s a personal preference.

    6) Put the spaghetti in a pasta bowl, add a little sauce on top, drizzle some extra virgin olive oil, and garnish with basil leaves. That’s it!

    Tip #1) please note, black pepper is not used, because the tomatoes are the featured ingredients in this dish.  I didn’t want the pepper to overpower the sweetness of the tomatoes.  This is the case, where less is more in this particular dish.

    Tip #2) Some Italian cooks prefer to serve the grated cheese, Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano on the side.

    Tip #3) Do not throw the pasta on the wall to check for doneness. Use the timer, or simply taste it.

    Tip #4) It is not necessary to put oil in the pasta water. Just stir the pasta at the beginning, to avoid them from sticking to each other. Once they start cooking, they will separate from each other.

    You will pay a premium price for these canned tomatoes, but it will be worth the dining experience. Take it from me, I have been in the kitchen for the last 25 years.

    I have used different brands of San Marzano tomatoes, but I must tell you, it was the first time I tried the Flora brand, and my family and I could not get over the sweetness, and the complex flavors of the tomatoes. I am certain there are many other great brands out there. This is my opinion, and I did not get compensated to write about it.  I’m simply sharing my experience with you in Gina’s Kitchen.

    A little known fact, Neapolitan pizza is made with San Marzano tomatoes,  known to be the best pizza in the world. Now, you can finally understand the reasoning behind it.

    I recommend a delicious Italian red wine to pair with this scrumptious dish. A super Tuscan, a Chianti, a Rosso, the list is endless, and the choice is yours. If you can find Lacryma Christi, it would pair beautifully, since it’s from the same region, and similar volcanic soil as the tomatoes.

    All the images belong to me, Foodiewinelover, except for the last image of the tomatoes. Photo credit is given to Goldlocki, found in Wikipedia.

    Spaghetti al pomodoro con basilico

Everything you see, I owe it to Spaghetti As Sophia Loren puts it, “Every thing you see, I owe it to Spaghetti.”

San Marzano Tomatoes

I hope you will try this delectable sauce, and share your experience with me.

Buon Appetito!

Happy Crushing!

Cinco De Mayo Avocado Salad

Avocado Salad

Avocados

It’s Cinco de Mayo,  time to celebrate Mexico’s independence. There are a varieties of food and drinks associated with Mexico. Tacos, Tamales, Tostadas, Guacamole, Margaritas, Tequila, and more. Avocados are widely used in Mexico to make guacamole, a delectable avocado dip. However, today, I am sharing with you a simple, and yummy Cinco de Mayo Avocado Salad. If you’ve never had avocados, you are missing out on some yumminess. They are delicious and very healthy for you. They contain good fat, the one that doesn’t clog up your arteries. However, keep in mind, eating too much of it will make you gain weight.

I spent my childhood in the West Indies, Haiti, where my parents owned a business. We had 2 large avocado trees, needless to say, I grew up on avocados. Those varieties were the big ones, and very tasty. It is also a big staple in the Caribbean culture, and part of their daily diet.

There are many ways to prepare avocados, you can make guacamole, or stuff them with shrimp salad. I often make a lovely salad that’s easy to prepare, and adds beautiful color to a plate.

When choosing avocados, make sure they give a little to the touch, if they are hard, it simply means they are not ripe yet. You can buy them to make at a later time, but don’t wait too long as they ripen quickly. There are many varieties, but the most common one is Hass, sometimes marketed as Haas Avocado. Here is a link from Tasty Kitchen showing you how to safely open and peel an avocado:

http://tastykitchen.com/blog/2010/02/how-to-open-an-avocado-and-keep-all-10-fingers/

Servings: 3-4       Level of Difficulty:   Easy

Ingredients:

  • 2 Haas Avocado (From California), cut up in pieces, or diced
  • 2 – 3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • Salt & black pepper to taste

Preparation: 

1.) Follow instructions how to open the avocados safely. Next, cut them lengthwise, then chop them in small pieces, or dice in equal sizes. They don’t need to be perfect (unless you’re a perfectionist)

2) Add all the remaining ingredients, mix well. Chill for at least an hour.

Serve as a delicious side dish.

Tip: You can substitute the vinegar with lime juice for a different take. It will come out equally delicious.

Happy Cinco de Mayo!!! Ole!

Buen Provecho y Salud!

 

Gina’s Ultimate Paella

 

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I have been in the quest for making a perfectly delicious Paella for a long time. I have tried different recipes, using various ingredients, but this time, everyone in my family raved about the taste. Here is my latest version of Paella. Paella originated in Spain, and the most famous one is Paella Valenciana.

Serves 8 as a main dish – Degree of difficulty – Easy to Medium
Prepping and cooking time from start to finish: 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups rice ( 16 oz.) Valencia
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 – 12 oz. can of beer (I used Corona) *
  • Saffron thread, 2 pinches *
  • 2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 6 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 lb. mussels
  • 18 clams
  • 3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, + more to drizzle
  • Chorizo sausage, 2 links, cut up in pieces
  •  red bell pepper, 1/2 cut in julienne
  •  4-6 oz. frozen peas, rinsed and drained well
  •  Hot sauce to drizzle
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Flat leave parsley, for garnish

Preparation:

For this traditional dish, I recommend a Paella pan, 15 inch in diameter.

1) Peel and deveined shrimp, wash and scrub mussels and clams well. Chop onions, garlic, chorizo, bell pepper, get all your spices and ingredients ready.

2) On medium high heat, in Paella pan, heat up olive oil, and brown the chorizo, 2-3 minutes. Add onions, 1-2 minutes, then add garlic, 1 minute. Add the rice and stir well, 1-2 minutes. Add the beer, water, paprika, salt, pepper, saffron, and let it come to a boil. Lower the heat, add all the seafood one by one. Sprinkle the peas around the pan, and decorate with the bell pepper like you see in the picture. Let it simmer and reduce a little, for about 5 minutes or so. Cover with aluminum foil and turn the burner off.

3) In the meanwhile, pre-heat the oven at 350 degrees, and place the paella on the second shelf from the bottom. Bake for at least 30 minutes. Check for doneness, once the rice is cooked, everything else should be done, because the seafood takes the least amount of cooking. If rice is not done, you may put it back in the oven for an additional 5-10 minutes.

Remove from the oven, take off foil, drizzle liberally with olive oil, garnish with the parsley, and place on the table. Serve with hot sauce, as a condiment.

This may take some practice, don’t expect to hit a home run the first time, however if you did, it’s because, you followed my directions, step by step.

*If you don’t want, or cannot have alcohol, substitute with chicken broth, or water. Make sure, you use the same amount of liquid.

* If you don’t have saffron, use a product called Sazon, by Goya, con cilantro y tomate, (with cilantro and tomato) it comes in a package that can be found in the Spanish aisles of your grocery stores. Beware, they tend to be salty, and contain MSG, however, they give wonderful flavors. Use two packets, for this recipe. I have used them before, but WITHOUT THE beer and paprika. (Use chicken broth or water, or a combination of both. This way is equally delicious.

There so many variations to this dish, you can also add bay scallops, and or chicken. We eat chicken often, I just didn’t want to part with it this time. There are some authentic recipes that call for rabbit. If you want to fancy it up, for a dinner party, place a lobster in the middle. Your guests will be very impressed with the presentation.

I served a nice chilled Rose’ with the Paella. It was a heavenly pairing. The rose’ is light and refreshing, and beautifully complements the rich flavors of the beer and paprika.

I had the pleasure of having Paella in Barcelona, and it was an amazing dining experience that I will always cherish.

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Always cook with a smile, and your food will smile back at you!

 

 

A Taste Of Beautiful Barcelona

Spain is a beautiful country rich in history, with stunning architecture, and known for its cultures, and delicious cuisine. They are famous for The Running Of The Bulls, which is held every year. It is a Spanish tradition that started in Northeastern Spain, in the 14th century.  Spanish love their soccer, and are world-renowned. They won the World Cup in 2010, and defeated the Netherlands. Gastronomy, and great wines are also a major part of their cultures.

Follow me for A Taste Of Beautiful Barcelona!

In 2011, my family and I embarked on an amazing Mediterranean cruise, and we visited many beautiful cities in Europe. One of the port of calls, was the magical city of Barcelona.  We spent an entire afternoon frolicking the famous, and happening area of Las Ramblas.  The streets were filled with creative artists,  mimes, vendors, restaurants, and thousands of tourists.  We ate delicious Spanish tapas, drank beer and sangria,  and visited lots of souvenir shops. We enjoyed a beautiful stroll in this vibrant and fun city, and had a grand time.

 

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Taking pictures and having a good time….

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A family that travels together stays together

 

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Beautiful artwork

 

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More artwork
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The big boys in front of Christopher Columbus statue in Barcelona

 

 

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Roaming the streets of Barcelona
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posing with a mime

 

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La Boqueria, famous market

La Boqueria is probably one of the most famous markets in Europe. You will find a vast selection of  cured meats, and scrumptious cheeses. The Serrano ham, and Manchego cheese  are delicacies in Spain, and can be found all over the place.

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Sangria

Sangria is a must have, when visiting Spain

 

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Tapas

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Later in the afternoon,  we went back to the cruise ship to get ready for nighttime. On the schedule, there were two activities, either watch a spectacular performance by Flamenco dancers,  or have some free time, and eat Paella al fresco (in the outdoors).  Although, we were torn between the two fantastic choices, the foodie in us  could not resist the idea of eating this traditional and delectable Spanish dish.

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The Paella was delicious and the entire experience was surreal. Sadly, one day was simply not enough to visit this enchanting city, but the good thing about it, we can always go back.

In closing, I would like to share with you this famous quote by Charlie Trotter:  ” All four elements were happening in equal measure  – the cuisine, the wine, the service, and the overall ambiance. It taught me that dining could happen at a spiritual level.”

I hope you have enjoyed my wonderful trip to Barcelona.  Stay tuned for more exciting blogs on My Food, Wine & Travel Lifestyles.

Buenos Dias! Have a great day!

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Tree-lined and animated street of Las Ramblas district (stock photo)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pork Loin Chops Cuban-Style

Pork Chops Cuban Style
Mise en place

 

Sour oranges
Sour oranges

 

Sour Orange
The inside view of a sour orange

 

Cuban Mortar and Pestle

 

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Pork Chops in the marinade

 

Pork Chops
Browning the pork chops
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Adding the marinade to the pork chops
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The bottom of the pan should have a nice caramelization when it’s done

 

Avocado salad
Avocado salad
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Celia Cruz, The Queen of Salsa – click on photo to read her bio

 

I feel blessed to live in beautiful South Florida. The weather is glorious, but what makes it exciting,  is the multi-cultural population, with a large Cuban influence. Cuba is known for its delicious cuisine, and pork is a big part of their tradition.  I want to share with you my Pork Loin Chops Cuban Style. I make it with a Cuban signature marinade, using sour orange, which can be found in most grocery stores. It is known as the Mojo sauce.  Equal parts of regular orange, and lime juice can be used, if you cannot find the sour orange in your area. You can also buy it in a bottle, labeled Mojo sauce, but it’s not as good as homemade.

Servings: 4   Degree of difficulty: Easy

Ingredients:  

  • 4 Pork loin chops (thick cut with bone)
  • 1 sour orange, juiced, + a little more if needed
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, plus 1 tbsp. for pan frying
  •  6 garlic cloves, smashed using mortar, or broad side of knife
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 1 tsp. red wine vinegar

Preparation:

1) In a large bowl, season pork liberally with salt and pepper on both sides, then add the remaining ingredients.  Mix well, and let it marinate for a minimum of 30 minutes to infuse all the flavors.  The longer it marinates, the more intense the flavors will be. When you are ready to cook, remove pork chops from marinade, shake them a little to remove some onions,  but some will stick to the pork chops. That’s what you want! You will be pan-frying them on high heat and they will create a nice caramelization. Save the marinade and the rest of the onions.

2) Over medium-high heat, in a large heavy-duty skillet (with a lid), heat up 1 tbsp. olive oil, brown the pork chops, 2-3 minutes on each side until they obtain a golden brown color. Next, add the marinade to  deglaze.  Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer for about 10 – 12 minutes, or until the pork is cooked through. Do not over cook the pork, as it will get tough. Serve them with arroz y frijoles,  (rice and beans.)  I also made a nice avocado salad as an accompaniment to this fabulous meal.

This dish calls for a nice chilled beer, if you don’t drink beer, a nice white wine of your choice will do.

Traditionally,  Cubans enjoy a roasted pig on Christmas Eve, called Noche Buena. They gather with loved ones to  have a good time, and are passionate about dancing to the rhythm of salsa. Celia Cruz  was the queen of Cuban music and entertained us for decades.

If you are into cigars, you already know that Cubans make by far the best ones. They are also known for their coffee, called cafecito, (Cuban espresso) which is similar to an Italian espresso, with the addition of sugar while it is brewing.  There are a varieties of ways in which they enjoy their coffee, and it is part of their daily social activities.

Most of all, I love all my Cuban friends, because they know how to live the good life.  I hope you have enjoyed this blogpost, and will attempt to make this awesome dish in your kitchen.

Happy Cooking from My Kitchen To Yours! Salud! Cheers!