Sunday, October 5, 2014

How to Make the Best Paella

Have you ever had a good paella? No, I mean a really good eyes-roll-back-in-your head paella? There are a million different recipes out there for paella. Some with chicken, some with seafood, veggies, and others with a virtual kaleidoscope of ingredients - everything from beans to snails and beyond. Some recipes are simple and others might take hours of time just to arrive at the very building blocks of a good paella; making from scratch the sofrito and the caldo that add so much depth and complexity to the final dish.

The key to making a good paella is less about whether you choose chicken or seafood, or decide to spend hours of time in the kitchen versus minutes. The key is starting with the right basic ingredients and then knowing which shortcuts to take to arrive at maximum flavor with minimal hassle (meaning more time to relax at the table with friends!). Here are a few tips and tricks that will elicit that "oh-my-gosh-delicious!" reaction each and every time.

1.  Not all rice is created equal: Have you ever made a paella with just plain ol' long grain white rice? If so, you probably noticed that the cooking liquid didn't absorb as quickly, and the result wasn't so flavorful - turning out more like a plain rice-and-something recipe rather than the rich and meaty, even creamy, rice quality you would expect from paella. Using genuine Spanish rice is key, such as our Matiz Bomba or Paella Rice, as it absorbs an incredible amount of liquid which means that the flavors in your broth and the juices from your proteins will infuse the entire dish.

 2.  Shameless shortcuts: Let's be honest. If you want to get to that wow-worthy paella that you remember having on the beach on some hot summer night in Alicante... you're going to have to take some shortcuts. Rich, complex flavors usually come from hours in the kitchen making homemade caldo (broth) with just the right ingredients, technique and time. Same goes for the traditional Spanish sofrito that is the base of every great paella recipe. Sofrito is a combination of tomatoes and olive oil and is roasted for hours, reducing the tomatoes to a thick sauce. Why not break out Matiz Sofrito and Aneto Valencian paella base to add layers of flavor in just minutes? Go ahead, we won't tell.

3.  Saffron is gold: What makes paella unique is it's use of saffron, the tiny pistils found at the center of crocus flowers. They are hand-cultivated, making saffron a rare and usually expensive spice. Don't fall for the cheap and bright yellow saffron sometimes found in the markets.  Go for Azafran Oro, which is authentic saffron from the region of La Mancha in Spain. You might pay a few extra dollars more, but because the bright red pistils give off so much flavor you can use less.

Are you hungry yet? Grab one last essential, a round paellera and a bottle of wine (okay, that's two essentials) and start cooking! Check out our paella recipes on our recipes page to get started.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

What Makes Spanish Extra Virgin Olive Oil Different?

Did you know that Spain is the largest olive oil producer in the world? So often we think of olive oil as the stuff of the Italians. For many Americans, an Italian restaurant is the place where they were first introduced to that golden green liquid, as the bottle graced most checkered tablecloths before anyone of the U.S. began adding it to their own pantries.

Now, olive oil can be found in every large and small grocery store across the country. However, much of what is available is far from the fresh, high quality oil that most of Europe enjoys. Spain produces the finest extra virgin olive oil in the world, but has had to work hard to let the world know this, and to cultivate an understanding that not all olive oil tastes the same. Extra virgin olive oil is of greater quality, and must meet certain standards to carry this label.

We import a few of these very high quality extra virgin olive oils from Spain. One of these is Castillo de Canena, an oil that continues to win awards and accolades from all over the world. Castillo de Canena is part of an organization called Grandes Pagos de Olivar, an association of small olive oil producers who have banded together to export and promote their product overseas. A recent article from Foods from Spain discusses this association, and how these small producers maintain quality from field to table.
Producing extra virgin olive oil is a difficult and expensive process, but the resulting oil is well worth the effort. Extra virgin olive oil must meet certain requirements to call itself "extra virgin". The oil must have no more than 0.8% acidity and pass flavor and quality tests. What makes Castillo de Canena and others in the Grandes Pagos de Olivar association unique is that they label the year that each oil was harvested. Labeling wine with production year is common, but Castillo de Canena is one of the few to do this with olive oil. Freshness is key, and consuming the oil within two years of harvest assures that flavor and acidity aren't lost to oxidative damage and natural oil breakdown that happens over time on the shelf.

When you buy extra virgin olive oil from Spain, you're getting some of the very best! Be sure to check out Castillo de Canena on our producer page, and look for it on your local gourmet grocer's shelves.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

6 Ways to Kick Up the Flavor with Arvum Sherry Vinegars

Vinegars (like good wines) vary in flavor and complexity by grape varietal, and also by production method. Arvum is a co-op of over 1200 small grape growers and winemakers who follow traditional methods for growing and production. Their commitment to quality and tradition make their vinegars and vinegar sauces truly unique. These distinct and elegant sherry vinegars are surprisingly versatile. Here are a few ways to add a splash of "wow" to your next meal:

  • Combine the Muscatel Reserva with a few cloves of chopped garlic, a splash of Spanish olive oil, flor de sal and rosemary, and pour over chicken before baking
  • The lightly sweet flavors of Pedro Jimenez Reserva will make your next spinach strawberry salad sing!
  • For an easy appetizer, wrap canteloupe melon with thin slices of Spanish jamón and drizzle with Balsamic Cream
  • A fresh summer dessert: place a dollop of vanilla ice cream in a ripe nectarine or peach half, and drizzle with Arvum Arrope
  • Toss chopped mangos, blueberries and mint or basil with Balsamic Sauce and serve with pork or salmon
  • Drizzle roasted or grilled vegetables with Gran Reserva and serve with torn basil or rosemary 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Celebrating the Sea: Spanish Seafood

The sea has always been a blessing to the people of Spain. With hundreds of miles of coastline, Spain’s culinary traditions are based on the bounty that comes in on fishermen’s boats. Squid, octopus, tuna and clams all make their appearance in the famous paellas, seafood salads, stuffed peppers and stews that Spain is known for.

We want to highlight three of our vendors who provide us with exceptional quality seafood. Conservas la Gaviota, located in the Basque region, produces extraordinary bonito tuna and anchovies in oil under the Arroyabe brand. Siro & Xavi, just north of Barcelona, uses only the freshest anchovies to cure delicate white Matiz boquerones. And Connorsa from the coast of Galicia produces award winning canned fish, such as Matiz Sardines, Pulpo (Octopus), and Berberechos (Cockles).

As with all of the vendors that Matiz sources from, these companies uphold responsible business practices that support both the health of their employees and the environment. Conservas la Gaviota uses only rods and live bait to catch their delicious bonito tuna that is famously used in Spanish stuffed piquillo peppers. They also employ mostly women in their factories and set wages on a collective model with the lowest wage being double that of Spain’s minimum wage.

Siro & Xavi is a family-run business that started in 1975. They produce amazingly flavorful boquerones that are free of any preservatives. They use simply sunflower oil, wine vinegar and salt. The company is run by the grandsons of the original founder, and produce an impressive 13% of Spain’s boquerones.

Siro & Xavi founder with grandsons

If you haven’t tried Matiz Sardines, Pulpo and Berberechos then you’re in for a treat. Connorsa has been canning flavorful seafood since 1985, using sustainable methods of harvesting and working with the natural cycles of sardines to maintain healthy fish stocks. Canned seafood is a favorite at tapas bars all over Spain and, with little more than a few grains of salt and a toothpick, they are the perfect answer to a glass of minerally white wine!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Matiz Veggies - Big Flavor in a Small Jar

Here at Culinary Collective we always love sharing stories about the people and farmers behind our best-selling products. Since the beginning, we've been importing the finest Spanish veggies from Pedro Luis. Pedro Luis is a small family-owned company that preserves the piquillo peppers and artichokes that go into our Matiz line of jarred veggies.

Pedro Luis began over 40 years ago in the Navarra region of northern Spain, and is now run by second generation family. If you've ever been to this part of Spain, you know that piquillo peppers are found in just about every tapas bar and on most restaurant menus - either stuffed, on salads or simply all by themselves. Piquillo means "little beak", and it's easy to see how they got their name. These bright red peppers have a triangular beak-like shape, and the flavor is sweet and pungent.

These little peppers are special for a few reasons. Pedro Luis peppers are fire roasted right after harvest, and the char from each pepper is delicately removed by hand, not by pressurized water which rinses away all of the flavor. Also, these peppers are hand-picked in the Ribera del Ebro region of Navarra where piquillo peppers originate, and carry an exclusive seal of authenticity, granted to only those piquillos harvested in that region. 

Pedro Luis also provides the big, beautiful artichoke hearts for our Matiz brand. They are hand-picked and jarred with only a bit of salt - nothing artificial! They melt in your mouth and are perfect on pizza or to pair alongside a few olives and cheese. 

Check out our recipe page for the myriad ways to use piquillo peppers in everyday meals and tapas. ¡Buen provecho!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Five Recipes with Romesco You Can’t Live Without

Here at Culinary Collective, we’re all big fans of romesco. This sauce, originating from Cataluña, is our secret weapon for adding flavor on the fly. Romesco is a sauce made from tomato and ground nuts and traditionally used by Spanish fishermen to add flavor and richness to their weekly catch. Our Matiz Romesco is made with local ingredients sourced by the Molí de Pomerí company in Cataluña.  It is also gluten-free and made with just a few simple, fresh ingredients; olive oil, tomatoes, almonds, hazelnuts, vinegar, garlic, herbs, salt and beet fiber.

Romesco is our secret weapon to making any dish taste better – from roasted fish to pork chops, this sauce can be served on the side or blended into a soup broth to add flavor and texture. Going beyond simple meat and fish, why not try these five creative dishes that highlight the rich flavor of this traditional sauce.

Romesco Pizza
An intense but lovely pizza combination by blog Dolly and Oatmeal –   RomescoPizza with Spiced Chickpeas and Arugula. Feta, pine nuts and olives (but we’d throw on a a few dollops of our Matiz Olivada instead) makes this one a delicious and healthy weeknight keeper.

Baked Eggs
This is just too easy and hearty not to try – BakedEggs Romesco with Kale and Cheese sounds like the ultimate comfort food to us. Nutty, rich Matiz Romesco with bitter greens and salty, pungent cheese is a combination made in heaven.

Everyone loves tapas, and these fritters are perfect for our Matiz Romesco – ChickpeaFritters with Romesco. Add a salad and you have an easy, light meal.

Lamb Koftas
Step one: make LambKoftas with Yogurt Mint Sauce. Step two: run to the Mediterranean market and pick up some lovely fresh pita. Step three: wrap the lamb, yogurt sauce and romesco into each pita and serve.

Manchego Bites
The last recipe is a shortcut to elegance when you’re entertaining and want a perfect pairing to a bottle of Spanish red. Break our Matiz Tortas de Aceite into bite-sized pieces and put a dollop of Matiz Romesco on each. Top with thin slices of manchego cheese and chorizo. Warm in oven until cheese just begins to melt. Garnish with parsley and serve. 

How do you enjoy romesco?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Spanish Fruit Breads and Cheese - A Perfect Pairing!

Chances are, if you’re lucky enough to be in Spain during the holidays and are invited to share a meal, you’ll be offered all sorts of traditional holiday sweets. Maybe some almond turrón or a few alfajores... but you also might be offered a slice from a large, solid round reminiscent of a wheel of cheese. However, this wheel is dark in color and more solid – it is comprised solely of dried fruit and nuts. Spanish “fruit breads” are the essence of sweet simplicity.

The “fruit breads” of Spain aren’t really bread at all, but a sweet compressed round of dried fruits and nuts that are eaten in slices. Fruit breads are most typically eaten around the holidays, but are also enjoyed year-round as a simple dessert or as an accompaniment to cheeses. Our Matiz Fruit Breads are made from figs and apricots paired with walnuts and almonds. We source our fruit breads from a family-owned Spanish company called Biovera. The Sanchez family cultivates fruit trees in La Vera, located in hot, arid Extremadura in central Spain.

Figs and apricots were originally brought to Spain by the Moors. These fruits are original cultivars of the Middle East and northern Africa, but were natural transplants to the desert-like climate of southern and central Spain. In fact, Spanish dates are the most northern dates grown in Europe. Figs are picked and dried in the fall months, preserving them for winter. Once these fruits are dried, their nutritional properties remain intact. Figs and apricots are high in fiber, and apricots are high in vitamin C.  They are an all-natural, delicious treat that you can feel good about!

This holiday season, may we suggest this “recipe” for a festive cheese course with fruit breads and other fine accompaniments from Matiz. !Buen provecho!

Matiz “Just Add Cheese” Course

Lay out an array of some of our finest Spanish cheese accompaniments, add a few good hunks of Manchego, Idiazabál or Mahón and your cheese course is complete!

Matiz Fig Bread
Matiz Apricot Bread
Matiz Date Bread
Matiz Picos and Tortas de Aceite
Matiz Quince Paste
Matiz Marcona Almonds
Dequmana Cured Olives
Matiz Piparras
Arvum Sherry Vinegar