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Indulging my interest in food and flavor, I love to write about cooking, gardening and life's bounty. My new book - "Discover Cooking with Lavender"- is now available

Friday, November 27, 2009

Membrillo and Manchego: Meant for Each Other

Experimenting with new foods and flavors fascinates me. Recently, in a discussion about quince, my friend Jan Schwert mentioned that when she was traveling in Spain, she discovered quince paste.  “This paste is served on crackers with cheese at nearly every meal,” she said.

I wanted a taste of this quince paste and I wanted to know more about it. After discovering the Spanish word for quince is membrillo, I stopped at my neighborhood grocery store. Not sure if they had it, I first looked near the jams and jellies. Not finding it there, I went to the cheese section. A small container was labeled Homemade Membrillo. Suggestions for serving read: “Pairs harmoniously with cheese; excellent as a dessert. Ingredients include quince paste, sugar and lemon. Membrillo, a type of fruit cheese, is wine-colored, and can be sliced or cubed.

If you have quince and a couple of hours you can make membrillo at home. Click here for a recipe and easy-to-follow directions. I decided to buy my membrilo.

Sometimes, this type of paste is called fruit cheese. Fruit cheese - made with apples, pears, plums or quince - is a deeply concentrated fruit paste that can be cut into cubes or slices. Fruit cheese, frequently served on a cheese plate, adds sweetness and flavor.

The Spanish like to serve Manchego cheese with membrillo. In fact the pairing is often referred to as Romeo y Juliet because just like these lovers, manchego and membrillo were meant for each other.

Manchego, sheep’s milk cheese, is hard with a herringbone pattern on its inedible rind. Manchego comes from La Mancha, Spain’s largest wine region and the home of Don Quixote. Aged for 3, 6 or 12 months, Manchego tastes mild and  salty; its texture is creamy and its color is light, nearly white. Manchego has a higher fat content than cheese made from cow’s or goat 's milk. When heated, the cheese becomes soft and gooey.

With the two main ingredients in hand, I was ready for tasting. I spread membrillo on a cracker, added a slice of manchego and popped it into my mouth. The taste intrigued me; the membrillo added a fruity, slightly sweet taste complementing the salty, nutty taste of the cheese. I wondered how it would taste if I put the cheese on a cracker and zapped it for 10 seconds in the microwave to melt the cheese, then the membrillo. Yes, this was divine.

Still curious to discover more ways to use  membrillo, I searched the internet and found a video showing how to make membrillo and manchego quesadillas. I discovered a cookbook, The Spanish Table, offering more recipes.









This recipe, quick and easy, makes an interesting and tasty appetizer.

My husband and I made a large green salad to accompany our quesadillas for a light Sunday supper.








My adventures with food and flavors seem to be endless. I wonder how membrillo and cream cheese with a pinch of lavender might taste spread on toast. That will have to wait for another day. Now I want to hear from you. Have you tried membrillo? What is your favorite way to serve it? Please share your food and flavor adventures. 


Membrillo & Manchego Quesadilla

1 cup grated Manchego

2 ounces membrillo, cut into small cubes

1 tortilla

1/2 teaspoon olive oil

1. Place tortilla in skillet over high heat for about 10 seconds.

2. Drizzle olive oil over tortilla. Flip tortilla over.

3. Place grated cheese on top of the tortilla.

4. Place cubes of membrillo on top of cheese.

5. When cheese begins to melt, fold tortilla over itself. Continue to cook for about 1 minute until cheese is melted.

Remove from pan and place on cutting board. Cut into wedges and serve.


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