Not long ago our good friend Nuria at Recipes Pic by Pic offered to do a food exchange with us, knowing both how obsessed we are with Spanish food and their comparative scarcity over here in the States. In return she asked that we send her some typical American products of our choice as well as a Cuisinart food processor. We were delighted to oblige.
Nuria wasted no time and recently posted about a hummus she made with her shiny new toy and including a photograph of the rather idiosyncratic selection of foods we sent her. Amongst them Franks Hot Sauce, two kinds of dried Mexican chiles, Reeces Peanut Butter Cups (cause you know how much Americans love Peanut Butter) and, perhaps most amusingly, a packet of Silvia’s seasoned fried chicken coating.
Her package to us, however, contained rather more sophisticated ingredients: jamon iberico de bellota, chorizo de bellota, and some piquillo peppers. Those of you who read our Jamon, Jamon, Jamon, Jamon post back in January when we had just returned from Madrid will know how we feel about iberico ham – the finest grade of the wonderfully delicious range of Spanish cured hams made from black-footed pigs raised amidst the statuesque holm oaks of Extremadura in central west Spain near the Portuguese border. So you can imagine our delight at having a generous racione of it arrive vacuum-packed from the famed Mercado la Boqueria in Barcelona.
However, we were cautious, looking for an opportunity to savor the ham and give it the attention it deserves, we had to wait until earlier this week for the moment to finally breech the packaging. Following Nuria’s instruction we allowed it to come to room temperature – yes, there is a right way and a wrong way to enjoy iberico – and laid it out on a plate just as we had had it in Madrid, accompanied only by a couple of pieces of pa amb tomaquet (see recipe below) in a Catalan homage to both Nuria and the ham’s provenance in Barcelona.
And, how was it, you ask? Well, it was bliss. The ham’s fat was soft and almost unbelievably buttery and rich, yet strongly flavored with the scent of the acorns on which the pig was fed. The ham itself was gamey and powerful while being at once smooth and calming on the tongue. It was, in all honesty, swoon-inducingly good and provoked tearful memories of our last taste of iberico in the fug of a bar in Madrid back in January when we had sighed and wondered aloud when we might eat iberico again.
Thank you so much Nuria – muchissimas gracias a usted – for both offering to do the exchange in the first place and then trusting two complete strangers to respond in kind. It’s not only reserved you a very special place in our hearts (and stomachs) but also made us think very kindly about the rest of this wonderful food community that we’re getting to know and the fascinating and generous people who inhabit it. Buen provecho y salud a todos! Oh, and also, thank you for giving us the Blogging with a Purpose award – much appreciated!
P.S. – After the iberico we made another tapa with some of the delicious piquillo peppers Nuria also sent us. Riffing off something Jose Andres made on his show Made in Spain, we put thick slices of Manchego cheese (or you can use any other type of hard cheese that melts like Provolone, Cheddar, Piave, Gouda, etc.) into the piquillos and lightly fried them in good olive oil and served them with a sprinkling of pimenton dulce or sweet Spanish paprika. So easy and so gooey and delicious.
For other ideas for tapas and for a delicious recipe for Spanish tortilla, check out an older post of ours.
Pa amb Tomaquet (Catalan toasts or bread with tomato) – serves 2
- 2 thick slices of hearty Italian or country-style French bread
- 1 fresh and very ripe tomato (this is key – it should be ruby read and soft)
- 1 clove garlic, sliced lengthwise
- some extra virgin olive oil
What to do:
- Grill the bread pieces until toasted.
- While bread is still warm from the grill, rub the openly cut side of half a clove of garlic on each face of bread. This allows the scent and flavor of the garlic to melt into the warm bread.
- Cut tomato in half and rub each face of bread with the tomato. Rub hard and don’t be afraid if you feel it’s a bit messy – you want all the juice and pulp of the tomato to get on the bread.
- Drizzle some olive oil on both pieces of bread and then sprinkle a bit of salt on top. You can add some optional toppings of anchovies or olives or tuna for fun and a heartier tapa. MMMMMMM – enjoy!
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