Monday, January 25, 2010

The whole is more than the sum...

fruit + cheese + nuts = good eats

Yes, that's always a pretty nice combination -- especially because I can get them through security and onto a plane.  But about 6 months ago, I discovered a new fruit, a new cheese and a new kind of nut.  This combination is now a staple in my airline-food pantry.

Whenever I have work in Manhattan, I get off the train and head straight to Grand Central Market to buy lunch.  So one day at Murray's Cheese, there was this divine little package of quince paste, manchego cheese and Marcona almonds.  [It was so good that, at the end of the day, I bought another package to bring home for dinner.]

Perhaps I am the only one in the world who never knew about this classic combination, but in case there are others, let me share:

Quince is also known as membrillo (Spanish) and "quince paste" in Spanish is dulce (or carne) de membrillo. I've seen the paste packaged with either or both names.

Dulce de membrillo is cooked over a slow fire, made of quince fruit, sugar and water.  It should taste sweet and only slightly tart.  The consistency is firm and sticky and it is sold in squares or blocks.  To serve, cut into thin slices and spread over toasted bread or sandwiches -- or as here, with cheese.

I've only ever physically found quince paste at a cheese counter -- and both places have made it fresh.  You can mail order online, but I'd try to get the real thing first.  If you are good at these things, the delicious:days link above will take you straight to a recipe.

Manchego is a sheep's milk cheese from the La Mancha region of Spain.  It is protected by its DenominaciĆ³n de Origen, which controls its production, ensures the exclusive use of milk only from Manchega sheep, and dictates an aging period (in natural caves) of no less than 2 months.

The flavour is very distinctive, slightly salty but not too strong.  It has a slight piquancy, and leaves the characteristic aftertaste of sheep’s milk.  The cheese seems like it will taste 'drier' than when you actually eat it.  It has been compared to feta cheese, but it is creamier and less salty.

Manchego also goes well with a medium-bodied beer or a Rioja wine (or in my case tonight, Red Truck).


The Marcona variety of almond is shorter, rounder and sweeter than the more well-known almonds.  They are also more delicate and have a 'wet' texture -- similar to a Macedamia nut.  These nuts are traditionally served after being lightly fried in oil, which is why I chose this picture.  This is what the almonds should look like.  I buy these in their unadulterated state and fry them myself, but I see that you can order them online pre-fried.  I couldn't find a typical oil that is used, but try to use an oil that doesn't impart its own taste (e.g., canola, vegetable, sunflower).

Have you tried any of these yet?  How did you like them?  And if you have any recipes, I'd love to hear them!
The 10th Victim, Clifford Gilberto
She Began to Lie [remix], Greg Hale Jones
Heaven's Gonna Burn Your Eyes, Thievery Corporation

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