My latest addiction…

Tapas bar in northern Spain.

On our trip to northern Spain last year, our local friend taught us all about Iberian ham. It was love at first bite.  As soon as I got home, I began my research on Jamon Iberico, a.k.a. pata negra, cerdo negro, or black pig. I was planning to buy a whole, cured, leg, like they have on display in tapas bars all over Spain, but, much to my dismay, discovered it has only been available in the U.S. for a few years, and is very expensive (like $1300. DOLLARS for a leg!)

The most delicious, and healthy, of the Spanish ham is the “jamon Iberico de bellota”, which comes from free ranging, black pigs, that eat mainly acorns. I read that because of the pigs diet, this ham has more “good” fat than olive oil, helps increase HDL, and lowers LDL, not to mention the taste is out of this world. Ditch the statin drugs America! Sign me UP for the Jamon diet!

On our recent trip to NYC, I was on a quest to find my new drug of choice, eat as much as possible, and bring some home, hoping it might be more readily available and less expensive in New York, as they are closer to Europe than our home in California. (European wines are always a better buy than California wines in NYC) Mission Accomplished! We scored a 1/4 pound of the deep red, fat streaked, delicacy at Murrays for about $30.

Tonite, while winter rages outside (finally), we broke out a bottle of Tempranillo (from Rioja, via Trader Joes) and I made Pan Tomaca (a.k.a. pan con tomate, pan tumaca, or pan amb tomaquet). It’s similar to Italian Bruschetta (Brus-Ketta, not Bru SHetta!), but the tomatoes are not chopped.

There are many ways to make it, but this is how I was taught in Spain:

Carefully unwrap the delicate sliced ham, which should be separated by wax paper, and rolled, as they did for us at the deli in NYC.

Position a flat cheese grater over a bowl to collect the juice and pulp, rub tomato over the grater until all you have left in your hand is skin, discard skin.

Add a little (Spanish) olive oil and salt to the pulp/juice in bowl.

Toast or grill some good bread until crunchy.

Rub raw garlic over the bread, or not, if you prefer a cleaner, more pure tomato taste.

Add a slice of Jamon Iberico, or Jamon Serrano if you don’t want to splurge on Iberico de Bellota.

Pour a glass of wine, bite into crunchy, salty, dripping toast, enter heaven of the taste buds!

My new retirement plan now includes living in Spain, or raising my own cerdo negro on a farm somewhere!

Great article in the NYTimes on acorn fed pigs – a must read!!