Mediterranean Lifestyle: Tapas, por favor!

This week’s Mediterranean Lifestyle Cooking Class at vomFASS in Mall of America put the spotlight on Spain and their delightfully delicious tradition of tapas.

Tapas are a variety of small savory Spanish dishes, often served as a snack with drinks, or with other tapas as a meal. To “tapear,” going from bar to bar for drinks and tapas, is an essential part of the social culture of Spain, especially in the south. Learn more about tapas in this great guide to tapas bars and restaurants in Sevilla.

 

Tapas are perfect appetizers for your summer parties, or serve several for a “small plates” dinner party. Pair them with one or more of our Spanish wines currently in stock. I especially love Cava or Tempranillo with these dishes. These recipes were a huge hit in class this week (and vomFASS staff scarfed up the leftovers very quickly!). I hope you enjoy them as well! And I invite you to join us in a future cooking class. Check out our schedule.  Call us at 952-426-3222 to order the vomFASS products included in these recipes.

Tater Tapas Serves 8 – 10

15-20 mini potatoes

Tapas Cooking Class Potatoes Tom vomFASS Mall of America
Tom did a great job of demonstrating how easy it is to create Tater Tapas!

¼ C. Manchego Cheese, finely shredded
¼ C. vomFASS Truffle Extra Virgin Olive Oil
vomFASS Sea Salt & Pepper
¼ C. Sour cream or Plain Greek Yogurt
½ t. vomFASS Fried Potato Spice
3 green scallions, tops cut on a diagonal

Fill stock pot with enough water to cover potatoes, add a teaspoon of sea salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are fork tender, about 5 – 10 minutes, depending on the size of potatoes (do not overcook).  Strain and cool enough to handle or refrigerate up to 4 days before using.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Using a paring knife, cut each potato with 3 to 4 slices halfway through. Place potatoes on baking sheet. Drizzle with Truffle oil. Sprinkle with cheese, salt & pepper. Roast until slightly brown and crispy, about 10 minutes. While roasting potatoes, combine Fried Potato Spice and sour cream or yogurt. Remove potatoes from oven and cool slightly. Top with a tiny dollop of sour cream/yogurt mixture and garnish with scallions before serving.

Tuna & Red Pepper Toasts Serves 12

½ C. mayonnaise

Tapas Cooking Class Tuna vomFASS Mall of America
Jake demonstrated impressive kitchen skills as he showed the class how to create delicious Tuna & Red Pepper Toasts.

½ C. vomFASS Don Carlos Extra Virgin Olive Oil, divided; more for serving
1 T. minced garlic
3 t. vomFASS Calamansi Balsam Vinegar, divided
2  – 7 oz. cans tuna, drained
1 small shallot, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
1 T. small brined capers
3 T. minced fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, divided
vomFASS Pyramid Sea Salt and freshly ground Peppercorn Mix, to taste
1 jar vomFASS Red Pepper Pesto
¼ C. Manchego Cheese, finely shredded
12 baguette slices, cut on a sharp bias Brush baguette slices with olive oil and lightly toast under a broiler or on a grill.

Combine mayo, ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, minced garlic, 1 t. Calamansi Balsam Vinegar and sea salt, to taste. Set mixture aside for a moment or make in advance and refrigerate up to 2 days.

Combine Red Pepper Pesto with Manchego cheese and set aside.

Place tuna in a medium mixing bowl and break it up with a fork. Add to tuna: ¼ cup of the aioli you just made, minced shallot, 2 teaspoons Calamansi Balsam Vinegar, capers, 2 tablespoons minced parsley, and ¼ cup of olive oil. Fold mixture gently to incorporate all ingredients. Adjust seasoning to taste with salt and pepper, adding more vinegar, olive oil, or aioli for flavor if desired.

Spread Red Pepper Pesto mixture in a thin layer onto toasted baguette slices. Arrange baguette slices on a serving board. Top them with a spoonful of tuna mixture, followed by a small dollop or drizzle of remaining aioli. Sprinkle with remaining parsley, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with coarse sea salt. Serve immediately.

vomFASSified by Tamra Kramer, inspired by this recipe from Serious Eats.

Shrimp and Chorizo Flatbreads Serves 16

One 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained, or 1 1/2 C. fresh diced tomatoes
2 T. vomFASS Don Carlos Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 T. vomFASS Forest Honey
1 T. vomFASS White Balsamic Vinegar
1 small shallot, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 t. vomFASS Aglio Olio Pepperoncino spice blend
vomFASS Sea Salt and freshly ground Peppercorn Mix
½ C. hummus (see recipe below)
4 pocketless pita breads
½ C. thinly sliced dry chorizo (2 ounces)
½ pound shelled and deveined cooked small shrimp
1 C. Manchego cheese, shredded
vomFASS Aceto Balsamico Maletti, for garnish

Preheat oven to 425°. In a medium bowl, mix tomatoes with olive oil, honey, vinegar, shallot, garlic, spice blend, salt and pepper. Stir in shrimp.

Spread hummus on pita breads. Top with chorizo and Manchego. Bake directly on the oven rack for about 4 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Transfer flatbreads to work surface. Using slotted spoon, top with tomato mix. Quarter flatbreads, drizzle with Maletti and serve.

vomFASSified by Tamra Kramer, inspired by this recipe on FoodandWine.com

Garlic Hummus

1 can chick peas, drained

Tapas Cooking Class Hummus vomFASS Mall of America
Nice job of making hummus for the first time, Pete! And what’s up with only the guys demonstrating recipes this week?!

2 T. vomFASS Toasted Sesame Oil
2 T. vomFASS Garlic Extra Virgin Olive Oil (more, as needed)
1 T. vomFASS Calamansi Balsam Vinegar
vomFASS Sea Salt, to taste

Directions

Using a food processor or blender, combine all ingredients. Slowly drizzle in more garlic olive oil while mixing, if needed, until desired consistency. Serve with corn chips, fresh veggies as a dip. Also good as a sandwich spread or pizza base sauce.

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Easy Summer Party Food

It’s summer in Minnesota, and if your calendar looks like mine, it’s clear that we all try to IMG_3005pack in as many gatherings as possible with family and friends during the social season – otherwise known as summer, a.k.a. road construction season. And to me, socializing goes hand in hand with fabulous food and drink!

I’ve noticed that my cooking class recipes have had a certain Summer theme: Food and drinks that are fast and easy (because our summers are SUPER busy!), don’t require much heat to prepare (because it IS occasionally hot in Minnesota!), and include ingredients that can be left out for a couple hours at an outdoor party without spoiling (olive oil, balsamic vinegars and spices are great for that!) Of COURSE these dishes are delicious, because otherwise, what’s the point?! (psst! don’t tell anyone they’re pretty healthy, too!)IMG_3003

So here is the handout from one of my recent cooking classes: Mediterranean Lifestyle Summer Party Recipes. Three quick and easy party food recipes and three yummy sangria recipes to get you started on your summer party menu planning. By the way, there are LOTS more recipes from my classes, so if you need more ideas, just stop by vomFASS at Mall of America or call us at (952) 426-3222. Ask to speak to someone about ideas for putting vomFASS products to work on a SMASH HIT menu for your next social gathering, whether you’re hosting or just bringing a dish to pass!

Happy Summer Socializing, fellow foodies!

Watermelon Cucumber Vodka Cooler

Serves 1

Ignore the fact that we’ve lost more than an hour of daylight each morning and evening already! Focus on soaking up these last sultry summer rays with a refreshing beverage in your coozy, pretending the leaves aren’t about to turn and ignoring the Santa counter (that insists there are only 16 weeks until Christmas). I have just the cocktail for the job! It features our new cucumber vodka from Prairie Organic Spirits, made here in Minnesota. We vomFASSified Prairie’s “Garden Variety” recipe from their website – we’re betting you’ll approve!

Ingredients:WatermelonCukeCooler

2 oz Prairie Cucumber Flavored Vodka
4 one-inch cubes of seedless watermelon
2 slices of lime (bitter ends removed)
1 oz FassMix Passion Fruit Syrup
vomFASS Basil Citrus Salt

Directions:

Lightly salt the rim of a low-ball glass with Basil Citrus Salt. Add first four ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake and pour into salted glass. Garnish with a slice of cucumber and a lime wheel. Enjoy!

vomFASS Wins Again!

 vomFASS recently received the results of this year’s iTQi Superior Taste Awards Ceremony which was held in Brussels, Belgium.

 

The International Taste & Quality Institute – iTQi – is the world’s leading organization iTQi 2016.pngdedicated to testing and promoting superior food and drink. Once again, we have received awards for our high-quality fruit balsamics from the iTQi!

The Superior Taste Award is a unique international recognition based upon the blind judgment of some of the most prestigious Chefs and Sommeliers in the world who are opinion leaders and experts in taste.

vomFASS is extremely pleased to announce that we were, once again, able to achieve excellent results with our in-house specialty balsamic vinegars including the following:

  • Apple Balsamic Vinegar –  3 Stars and the Crystal Taste Award (granted to products that have received 3 stars, 3 years in a row.)
  • Blueberry Balsamic Star – 3 Stars
  • Passion Fruit Balsamic Vinegar – 3 Stars (Coming soon to vomFASS at Mall of America)

The star ratings are defined as follows:

3 Stars = Exceptionall products with 90% and more of total marks

2 Stars = Remarkable products with marks between 80% and 90%

1 Star = Notable tasting products with marks between 70% and 80%

Stop by vomFASS at Mall of America to taste these award-winning products and many other superior taste award-winners to decide which are the winners on your palate!

Fair Trade is Good Trade at vomFASS

One of the many reasons I am proud to own a vomFASS shop is the ethics and caring demonstrated by vomFASS International. One example is the relationship vomFASS has and the support we provide for the work of Father Shay Cullen, who is the founder of the PREDA Foundation.father_cullen

Father Cullen was nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize and other Human Rights awards. Father Shay Cullen founded the PREDA Foundation in 1974 to promote human rights, justice and peace. He strives to eliminate child abuse and promote respect for children’s rights. The purpose of his projects is to:

  • educate for peace
  • free children from brothels and jails and
  • give them a chance to recover in therapeutic homes and be reintegrated and have a happier life free from jails, brothels, traffickers, violence and abusers.

The foundation operates protective therapeutic recovery shelters for the victims. There are 89 professional Filipino staff implementing the 12 projects for Preda. (visit http://www.preda.org for more information).

Filipinos in Mango field
PREDA stands for People’s Recovery, Empowerment, Development, Assistance Foundation

PREDA’S Mission statement

  • To work for just laws and their implementation that will empower the poor, and protect their rights.
  • To protect the weak and the defenseless especially children and women exploited in demeaning labor, especially prostitution.
  • To come to the assistance of the sexually abused and develop Fair Trade programs that will help alleviate poverty and exploitation.

PREDA products are safe and healthy. The dried fruit and fruit purees are chemical free and are fairly traded. Adherence to Fair Trade practices guarantees that the families who make these products benefit directly from them. Fair trade also promotes training and supports farmers by providing benefits such as medical insurance. Customers can be assured that there is no child labor, sweatshop conditions, and exploitation of any kind.

vomFASS is Fair!

vomFASS helps and supports the local economies with fair prices and premium payments to producers to improve working and living conditions. We source the fruit pulp for our customer-favorite Calamansi Balsam Vinegar, Mango Balsam Vinegar and Wild Mango Balsamic Star from a PREDA plantation. A percentage of sales of these products in contributed towards the planting of as many as 2,000 mango trees a year.

As a vomFASS owner, I am proud to be associated with PREDA’s humanitarian efforts. As a vomFASS customer, you can enjoy your food even more, knowing that it is ethically sourced and supports these noble projects.

Enjoy!

Tamra (a.k.a. Tomboy Tam)

Wild about Wild Mango Balsamic Star

We recently added a new Star to the constellation of specialty balsamic vinegars at vomFASS at Mall of America! If you’ve loved our Mango Balsam Vinegar, your palate will leap over the moon when you taste Wild Mango Balsamic Star! Mango Salad

How are Stars made? 

As you may recall, vomFASS makes all our fruit balsamics at the world headquarters in Waldburg, Germany. We use fresh fruit, press it into juice, ferment it  and incorporate the magical vinegar “Mother” bacteria, before it is aged to perfection. Our “Star” balsamics are basically the same process, with one major difference: they have a higher concentrate of fruit (or honey, in the case of our Honey Balsamic Star). The additional fruit results in a sweeter, thicker, lower-acidity specialty balsamic that is to die for (except for the fact that it’s such a healthy condiment!)

Our new Wild Mango Balsamic Star is composed of mango puree and mango vinegar. It has the full, fruity taste of ripe mangoes of the “carabao” variety, grown on a fair trade plantation in the Philippines (read more). You may enjoy it for refining summer salads, meat or fish dishes or as a base for barbecue sauce.  It’s an exotic complement to desserts, oatmeal or cocktails. Personally, I love it in sparkling water and as a marinade for shrimp or pork. It pairs beautifully with any vomFASS extra virgin olive oil, our organic Avocado Oil, Styrian Pumpkin Seed Oil and Chili Sunflower Oil. It’s also yummy paired with our Lemon Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Blueberry Balsamic Star, such as in this salad recipe.

Mango Blueberry Watermelon Salad ~ Serves 6-8

Watermelon_Feta_Salad

Ingredients: 

For the vinaigrette:

  • 1 T. shallots, finely minced
  • 2 T.  vomFASS  Blueberry Balsamic Star
  • 2 T.  vomFASS Wild Mango Balsamic Star
  • ½ cup vomFASS Lemon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • vomFASS Salt and Pepper to taste

For the salad:

  • 8 cups salad greens
  • 3-4 cups red watermelon, rind removed, seeded, and cut into cubes
  • 8 oz. feta cheese, cubed or crumbled
  • 2 cups blueberries OR 1 cup black olives
  • ½ cup (2 oz.) fresh mint leaves, minced

Directions:

  1. Whisk together the shallots, vinegars, salt and pepper.
  2. Slowly whisk in the olive oil until emulsified.
  3. Taste for flavor and seasoning. Add a little olive oil if less tartness is desired.  Add a little honey if additional sweetness is desired.
  4. Place the greens, watermelon, feta, blueberries or olives and mint in a large bowl.
  5. Drizzle with enough vinaigrette to coat the greens lightly and toss well, but gently.
  6. Taste for seasoning and serve immediately.
Tip: Store any leftover dressing in the refrigerator. To make this dish more savory, use black olives instead of blueberries.

Enjoy! 

Tamra (a.k.a. Tomboy Tam)

How to ID authentic EVOO

Pouring olive oil in the salad over a spoon

The news is full of information about extra virgin olive oil. On the one hand, we read and hear about the benefits of incorporating more high quality extra virgin olive oil into our diets for healthier hearts, brains and general well-being. On the other hand, there are reports that up to 70 percent of extra virgin olive oil on U.S. store shelves may not be 100% authentic. In fact, it may not even be olive oil! What’s a health-conscious, earth-aware consumer to do?

My advice is to find a reputable source you can trust, such as vom FASS, and stick with it. While this statement may seem self serving (since we sell extra virgin olive oil at vom FASS) you may use the following three questions to help you evaluate the authenticity and quality of olive oil from any source.

Q: Where does the olive oil come from?  The more information that is available, the more likely it is to be reliable. 
– Wholesalers or directly from growers and producers?
– Country of origin and region within a country?
– Specifically which olive groves and trees?
– Who is the grower and where is it pressed?

vom FASS Answer:
We have long-term relationships directly with family growers and small producers in Italy, Greece, Spain and France from whom we source our extra virgin olive oil. vom FASS selects supplier partners whose sustainable and ethical production philosophy match our own high standards. The founder of vom FASS in Germany and vom FASS staff personally visit olive oil growers before harvest to inspect the quality of the olives to determine whether vom FASS will include that harvest in our offerings. As a vom FASS owner, I’ve had the opportunity to visit vom FASS product suppliers to see for myself where the trees grow that produce our olive oils and meet the growers and producers.

Our short, controlled supply chain (grower to presser to vom FASS) eliminates the opportunity for tampering along the way. The packaging includes the relevant IGP designation that guarantees a product originating from a region or a country whose quality, recipe and characteristics can be traced back to its geographical origin, as well as controlled organic certifications, as applicable. Finally, in our own food laboratory (vom FASS Germany), state-certified food experts continuously monitor the quality of our products.

Q: How has the olive oil been handled?
– How are the olives picked?
– How much time elapses between picking and pressing?
– What is the pressing method?
– How much time between pressing and packaging?
– How is the product packaged?
– How long before the product ends up on the store shelf?
– How is the product stored on the store shelf for tasting and purchasing?

vom FASS Answer:
Our suppliers hand pick their olives and quickly and carefully transport them to be pressed locally within 24 hours of picking, so there’s no chance of pre-crushing or fermentation due to transportation or storage. The olives are mechanically (no chemicals) cold-pressed according to the EU and International Olive Council‘s designation and definition of “extra virgin.” Our oils are unfiltered, with the exception of Pepone, which is lightly filtered.

The oil is immediately packaged and sealed in vom FASS’s unique “bag in box” (BiB) system, labeled with origin and specific batch information and shipped to vom FASS. The sealed BiB is not opened again until it is tapped in a vom FASS shop. Even after tapping it, the oil remains in that BiB on our shelves in our beautiful Amphora (crocks), protected from air, heat and light until the customer samples the fresh taste and purchases the bottles we fill for them.

vom FASS manages inventory forecasting to ensure we are able to get the new harvest oils on our shelves as soon as they are available. This means our customers have the unique opportunity early each year to taste very fresh extra virgin olive oils just a couple of months after the olives are picked, when it has a very green, grassy and pungent flavor. That “green” taste mellows out after a few months.

Q: How does the olive oil smell, taste and look? 

vom FASS Answer:
There are five key factors that determine the flavor of olive oil (a future article!), but in general, the following characteristics can help you identify authentic, fresh, quality extra virgin olive oil:

  • Sniff it: you should notice a fresh, green or fruity aroma. If it smells “off” or rancid, stop there. Hay, cardboard, vinegar, mud and mustiness are some of the aromas that indicate an olive oil has gone bad. It has to pass the “smell test” before you even consider moving on to a taste test. Read more about identifying rancidity or “fusty” olive oil.
  • Taste it: Open your mouth, breathe in to dry your palate, and then take a little sip of oil from a spoon or glass – yes, just the oil! Real, quality olive oil should have a flavor – green, grassy, fruity, peppery, pungent, bitter – all of these flavors are hallmarks of good extra virgin olive oil. No flavor or a musty taste or greasy mouth feel are not good signs of a fresh, quality olive oil. Read more about tasting olive oil.
  • Visually evaluate it:
    • Your first visual cues should include the information on the labels:
      • Does the label list any ingredients other than 100% extra virgin olive oil?
      • Does it identify the geographic origin? The more specific the better.
      • Does it state DOP, PGI (Protected Designation of Origin and quality certification) or IGP (less stringent) indication of geographical protection?
      • What is the best by or harvest date?
      • Is there a batch or other specific identification information?
    • The appearance of the oil itself isn’t necessarily an easy way to pinpoint authenticity, but look for:
      • Color may range from vivid green to gold to pale straw.
      • An unfiltered extra virgin olive oil may be cloudy and/or have sediment. Don’t worry – that’s just more flavor and nutrients!

At vom FASS Mall of America, we are proud of our authentic extra virgin olive oils. We love to talk to you, guide you through the tasting process and help you select the extra virgin olive oil that is right for your palate and recipe!