Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Divine Combination - Olives and Wine from an Organic Vineyard in Cadiz

In the wild mountains of southwest Spain in the province of Cadiz and in the area of Jerez de Frontera- known for Sherry- is the organic vineyard of Viña Greduela-Sierra de Lijar. Situated on the banks of the Guadalete River, the  vineyards contain a mixture of four grape varieties - Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Tempranillo - all of which are harvested by hand. Viña Greduela produces three wines: Artesanal Crianza 2007, Coupage Cosecha 2008 and the winner of the prestigious organic award, Biofach Mundus Vini GOLD Germany 2010, their Coupage Crianza 2007.

The Coupage Crianza 2007 is an exceptional dry, dark red wine with much depth and flavor and a smooth after taste - wonderful on its own or with a meal. You can enjoy it while eating bread dipped in their special olive oil as well.

The Sierra de Lijar Aceite de Oliva (Olive Oil) is strong and fresh - utterly delicious and certainly one of my favorites. The olives used -mostly Lechín and Manzanilla varieties - are native to the region and come from olive trees that are hundreds of years old- some even as old as one thousand years. The production is limited due to low yields from such old and wise trees as well as difficult harvesting because of the mountainous terrain which means no motorized vehicles but rather humans on foot accompanied by donkeys or mules.

Both the olive oil and the wines are treasures from the Sierra de Lijar - look for them when in Spain and if you want to visit the vineyard email or call in advance.

Ecologia Sierra de Lijar, Parque Tecnológico Agroalimentario • Parcela 6.12 • Jerez de la Frontera, (Cådiz) Spain; Tel:(34) 956 310 972; Email: info@ecolijar.com

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

New and Old Organic Discoveries at the Mercado Central

I love that I can discover new wonderful places even after ten months of living some place. Yesterday I went down one of the many aisles at the Mercado Central and discovered SuperGourmet where lovely Ana showed me the many local products they carry as well as the organic (ecologico) selections. SuperGourmet actually has three stalls in the Mercado Central de Valencia (Central Market) - one for cheese and cured meats, one with fresh baked goods including breads, pastries and olive sandwich rolls, and the third with a very full selection of foods and wines from Spain as well as gourmet products from other countries.

SuperGourmet offers a number of organic products including LA Organic olives oils from Cordoba, Spain (not Los Angeles), local, organic Valencian Orxata de Xufa (horchata de chufa in Castilian- see below), Cueva wine from Utiel-Requena, plus a myriad of other local products - rice from the Valencia region, salt from Andalucia, seaweeds from Galicia, pates, jams and honey. At SuperGourmet you can taste much of what they offer and they sell sample sizes of a number of products which make great gifts.They can also prepare platters, picnics and cater for parties, or you can buy the supplies yourself for a fantastic picnic.

A note about Orxata de Xufa for visitors to Valencia - it is a very popular beverage in Valencia having been introduced by the Arabs hundreds of years ago. You will find it sold on street corners and most cafes. The botanical name for the xufa (or chufa) is Cyperus esculentus, an edible tuber used to make a "milk"- horchata. The organic brands simply contain paste of the chufa and organic sugar. Other varieties can have additional ingredients. The prepared versions can be a little heavy on the sugar for my liking but you can buy the dried chufa and make your own milk and sweeten it to taste. You can find bags of the chufas with instructions at SuperGourmet .

A few aisles down in the market you will find a favorite organic stall, La Morhada, run by wonderful Lucia. Here you will find all manner of organic products and a bouquet of produce. Favorites here include the sheep and goat cheese from Los Corrales, as well as the divine organic fruits and vegetables.

The Mercado Central, a beautiful indoor market, is open from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm Monday to Saturday although sometimes individual stalls have slightly different hours.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

A Summer Salad from Spain - Cool, Delicious & Healthy, Organic & Local!

Being from New England I am especially appreciative of long growing seasons since ours feels like about one week long. Spain's growing season is virtually never-ending with something to harvest any time of the year. We have passed through orange season, strawberry season, are in the midst of cherry season, and of course pretty much all year is salad green season.

As the days grow warmer and hotter here in June I am naturally drawn more to salads and living in Spain, I have grown very fond of sardines. Sardines are a great fish choice in general and so easy for salads. They are high in healthy omega-3 fats and, being small and low on the food chain they do not contain the large amounts of mercury found in tuna - a common salad protein ingredient. Here is a delicious, easy and inexpensive salad made with all fresh and local ingredients which you can even make in New England although the olives and sardines will obviously and unfortunately not be local.

Spanish Sardine Salad
Pepiños (cucumbers) chopped
Pimentos rojas (red peppers) chopped
Mezclum (Mesclun) salad mix
Mache (cornsalad/Valerianella locusta)
Rucula (arugula)
Olives sliced
Sardines - 1 tin - Sardines from the Galicia region of Spain are the best packed in olive oil - mash up with a fork
Drizzling of Olive Oil (see the upcoming e-book Olive Oil...An Olive Lover's Guide to the Organic Oils of Spain for a choice of over 35 organic olive oils available soon on this blog)
Drizzling of Balsamic Vinegar

You can serve the salad with a side of olive-rosemary bread drizzled with olive oil, or a little grated Manchego sheep cheese.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Deep Organic and Groovy in Valencia

The longer I am in a place the more opportunity  I have to sniff out its organic and groovy world and Valencia is full of surprises. In the Green Earth Guide: Traveling Naturally in Spain, I cover many sources for organic and natural foods, but Valencia has other gems slightly hidden from the beaten path which I am listing below. Wherever you go remember to bring your own bags!

This coming weekend (Friday June 4 through Sunday June 6) is the 23rd Fira Alternativa de Valencia (Alternative Fair of Valencia)  featuring all organic and alternative foods and goods with many local artisans and farms represented. The fair, open from 10:00 am to 11:00 pm each day, will be in the Turia Park between the Bridge of Flowers and Calatrava Bridge. 

The new, airy Bio Basic Supermercat Natural, is next door to the Gobinde Yoga studio in the Russafa neighborhood of Valencia. Bio Basic sells teas, personal care products, supplements, dry goods, some gluten-free foods, and they have a small refrigerated food case and some produce. If you bring your own bag(s) and pay with cash you can get a 3% discount. BioBasic, calle Pintor Salvador Abril (Abrir) 31, 46005 Valencia; Tel: 963 349 327; open Monday to Friday from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm/5:00 pm to 8:30 pm, Saturdays from 10:30 am to 2:00 pm.

L'hortet is a cute health food store in Russafa. While not large it is well stocked with a full range of products including produce and some interesting choices - that is some products not commonly found at the other health food stores in Valencia, for example some of  the Mon Deconatur body-care products which are high quality and made in Spain. A favorite of mine is the Alcohol de Romero (Rosemary Alcohol) excellent for rubbing on tired feet at the end of the day. The Mon Deconatur product is simply made with wild rosemary, lavender and bitter orange alcohol extracts. While not in the general tourist zone, L'hortet is only about five blocks from the train station and only about one to two blocks from the Russafa Mercado. L'hortet Ecologia Vital, Calle de Cadiz 38, Valencia; Tel: 963 126 372; Open Monday to Friday from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm/5:00 to 8:30 pm, Saturday from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm

Just outside of the north part of the old city, out past the Serranos Towers is Ecologicos La Llavoreta, a sweet coop food store with organic, mostly Spain-grown, produce, and a variety of other dry goods and dairy, a little slim on gluten-free. The Ecologicos LaLlavoreta, c/ Orihuela (or La Oriola) 14, 46009 Valencia; Open Monday 11:00 am to 2:00 pm/5:00 to 8:00 pm, Tuesday to Friday from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm/5:00 to 8:00 pm and Saturday from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm.

On the same street as the Amnesty International Valencia offices in the old part of Valencia a few blocks from the Quart Towers there is a small Fair Trade store with some delicious treasures but limited hours. Tenda de la Solidaritat, Calle Carniceros 8 (on the corner of Calle Villena); open Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday from 6:00 to 8:30 pm, and Tuesday and Wednesday from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm.

Listed in the Green Earth Guide to Spain, Ecorganic is worth a second mention as a Green Earth Guide Favorite. Ecorganic, out by the University on Ave. Blasco Ibañez, is large and well-stocked with a down-to-earth feel and good selections of everything.

See the recent Traveling Naturally post for information about the new cafe and health food store, L'Eco Russafa.

The La Morhada organic stall at the Mercado Central, listed numerous times in the Green Earth Guide: Traveling Naturally in Spain, is a favorite - and wonderful Lucia always has beautiful produce and food.

There are even more spots which I will cover in future posts- stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy all the green that Valencia has to offer.