A Little Cheesey

March 11, 2016

in Experiences,Food


manchego_d_20151208_191726“We should learn to make cheese,”  he said.

“Huh?”  I responded.

“Cheese.  We should learn how to make it at home,” he replied.

Poor guy had no idea what he’d just gotten himself into.

At first we tried our hand at a couple of simple cheeses made with rennet (the coagulant that’s used in almost all cheeses) from a local hardware store. Seriously?  A hardware store? Go figure. They had all the supplies a new cheesemaker needed. But it was pretty much a disaster.  One try, and we gave up.

Then about a year later we were walking along, headed to meet some friends, when we spied a little clapboard  sign, “Cheesemaking Classes — This Way –>”

We were running a little late, but that cheese invitation was just too good to pass up. So we took a quick detour and about a block later we found the place.  “Learn to make cheese at home” the signs said.  The people were friendly, the cheese samples were excellent, so we grabbed the flyer with the details and ran off to meet our friends.

And that was the beginning of a love affair with cheesemaking. From disbelievers to “certified” artisan cheesemakers, in 6 months.  But that’s just the beginning…

Now that we’re back in Spain, we’re exploring the world of “Quesos Caseros” — homemade cheeses.  It turns out that, like with  many Spanish products, the Spanish are amazingly UN-greedy.  Mostly (there are always exceptions) they don’t really care about becoming gazillionaires and turning their products into mass-produced corporate cardboard products. They prize 2 things:  1. Creating something that is uniquely and consistently high quality, that they can be proud of, and 2. Having a lifestyle that allows them to enjoy plenty of time with friends and family.

That attitude means that Spanish cheeses aren’t as well known in the rest of the world as their counterparts from France or Italy — and no, I’m not saying that French and Italians are greedy.  They’re just better marketers.  But don’t let that fool you.  There are literally hundreds of types of cheeses in Spain, and the quality is equal to (and often better than) their European neighbors.

The tricky part, for a home cheesemaker interested in Spanish cheeses, is that in the U.S. we have access to homemade cheese recipes from all over the world.  Except Spanish cheese recipes.  The selection is quite slim.

So… I’ve designated myself the detective of Spanish Artisan Cheesemaking, and I’m searching for YaYa’s (grandma’s) recipes for all kinds of wonderful goodies like Cabrales, or Arzúa, to the more common ones like Tetilla, Mahon, and Idiazabal, to name just a few.

Have I got your attention?  Cheesemaking is not all that hard.  Yes, there are a few tricks of the trade, but it’s pretty easy, and incredibly rewarding.  So let me help you get started.

First, try your hand at soft cheeses, like goat cheese or the same type of recipe made with cow’s milk.  You won’t believe how easy — and delicious — it is.  I’ll let the experts show you the ropes, just click here: http://www.cheesemaking.com/Chevre.html And, by the way goat cheese is goat cheese, the world over.  In the US it’s “Goat Cheese,” in France, it’s “Chevre,” and in Spain, it’s “Cabra.”  Have fun! And check back here from time to time. As I uncover Spanish cheese recipes, I’ll share!


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The Rain in Spain….

April 15, 2015

in Food,Recipes


I tend to be a fair-weather…. everything. I like my soccer teams to be winners, I like my food and wine to be great, and I want the sun to shine. Is that so much to ask?  Don’t answer that.

CocasThis spring in Dénia has been super cloudy and cool. And since I’m from a very dry climate, of course I’m the one who caught the nasty cold. But you know what? I’m still loving the heck out of being here. I’ve had so many incredible meals and sampled all kinds of new and interesting (wonderful) wines. And hanging out in Rosario’s kitchen while she whips up something delectable is always a huge treat.

A couple of days ago Rosario made Cocas for lunch — basically Spanish mini-pizzas.  Very simple, and oh-so-good. It’s simple – a yeast bread dough (flour, yeast, water, salt). Let the dough rise for a little bit, then make small flat circles of dough about the size of your open hand.  Top with pretty much anything. This week Rosario made a quick pisto – fresh red peppers, onions, eggplant, garlic sauteed in olive oil for one topping. And the other was peas and caramelized onions. And she topped them with little bits of de-salted dried tuna.  YUM!  No cheese involved (normally but of course you can add whatever you like). Bake til the dough is crispy, serve with a little salad and a good Spanish wine, and you’ve got hand-held heaven.  Enjoy!

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Oh Where, Oh Where Did the Time Go?

January 23, 2015

OK, I admit it. It’s been a crazy long time since I wrote on this blog. But it doesn’t mean I wasn’t thinking about you.   I’m not going to bore you with what I’ve been doing and all my excuses. Let’s just say that no matter what else is going on in my world, […]

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Spanish Gold — Smoked Paprika

May 23, 2013

As Emeril used to say, I wish I had smell-a-blog.  (Well, OK, he said smell-a-vision).  My kitchen in Spain has a heady fragrance of wood fire and smoke.   That’s because we’re the lucky recipients of 3 kilos  of the magical spice that gives so many Spanish  recipes a distinctive flavor — Pimentón — Smoked […]

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Sweet Spanish Serendipity

March 14, 2013

So… we landed on Saturday night, after a day of many MANY flight delays (on an airline who shall remain nameless — but is on the “never-again-if-I-can-help-it” list).  We drove to Dénia, stepped out of the car, and walked smack into a friend who was sitting at the outdoor bar beneath our apartment.  He had […]

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A Busy, Busy Season

November 28, 2012

OK, so that’s my way of saying “oops… sorry!”  When we returned to the U.S. from Spain, things started moving at a rapid clip.  The requests kept coming in for classes with Rosario (yes, really, I’m not making this stuff up), and we’ve hosted lots of wonderful people from all over the world.  Well, technically […]

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Chelo’s Spinach Nests – Nidos de Espinacas

July 27, 2012

Chelo doesn’t cook real often, but when she does, you better be there.  One of my favorites is her “Nidos de Espinacas.”  I beg her to make it for me every time I’m there.  This time she said “OK, but you’re never gonna learn unless you do it yourself — so I’ll direct and you’ll […]

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Summer Sangria!

July 20, 2012

Rosario, our incredible chef instructor for Tipsy Toro classes in Spain, just sent us her personal recipe for Sangria.  I’m sharing it with you before I’ve even had a chance to try it myself.  Check it out! ROSARIO’S SANGRIA Mix to your own taste: Red wine (if you wouldn’t drink it straight, don’t put it […]

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Parteeeeee!!!! Summer in Spain

June 15, 2012

A few years ago, one of my (many) Spanish teachers got all offended because in my final exam — which was a little speech in Spanish in front of the class — I said I read that Spain had more festivals than any other country in the world.  She didn’t like that one little bit. […]

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Spanish Serendipity

April 27, 2012

Sometimes things just fall in your lap and you have NO idea where they came from.  But mine is not to question why… Remember the Calcotada I told you about?  Where you eat giant onions dipped in pepper and almond sauce (Romesco)?  Well, a few weeks ago in Dénia, we were walking along an area […]

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