Sunday, August 30, 2009

Como Les Gusta Quejarse A Los Gringos

At the end of last weekend, I was more exhausted than I've been in a long time, and I blame it all on South Americans and their general disregard for sleep. Call me racist, or continentist, or whatever, but the memory of how tired I was makes me as I write this right now too tired to care. It all started Thursday, when I had class for 10 (!) hours in a row, and then after coming home to make peanut butter cookies to bring to someone's house the next day (American habits die hard), went to Felipe's salsa show and got home at 5 in the morning, only to repeat the 10 (!) hours of class the next day (and we didn't go to el remate, the afterparty. Did I mention this was a Thursday night, and everyone had class and/or work the next day?) This would have been quite enough for me, but my group from the master's program had wanted to have dinner together (thus the peanut butter cookies) and I didn't get home until almost 1, knowing that I had to get up at 8 the next day for class (with the same people). After another half day of class, it so happened to be the annual Colombian Independence Day celebration (celebrated one month after the fact because everything was shut down here because of swine flu in July), where I knew no less than 4 independent groups playing (cue blaming South Americans once again) and wasn't really given the option of not going (unsupportive friend, girlfriend, what have you) so I was there until 7 at night (I'm not saying this is so much to complain about as it was a music and food festival, there were arepas de choclo, and given that they gave the musicians of each group a free meal and Felipe played with two different groups, free pandebono (a typical pastry-bread from Cali, Colombia-- Facebook even has an application that allows you to send these to your friends) and tamal (the huge Colombian kind that are steamed in plantain leaves- one alone is a meal in itself). And then it was a friend's birthday party, that began, you know, around midnight, so guess who got home at 5 in the morning again?

Yeah, the tired grumpy American, that's who. And though it's still officially winter, this week was the week of the famous Santa Rosa, the storm that comes every year and drives the temperature up to the high eighties as well as the humidity, so I was strangely sticky the whole time.


I blame it all on the South Americans. And they really appreciate it, almost as much as when you ask them how's it going down there in Mexico (my sister to Felipe last night. But I'm pretty sure he was making fun of her for not having any friends on her second day of college so he deserved it.)

These lentils are for my brother, lover of Colombian rice, hater of time spent in the kitchen (how we love to complain, us gringos.) Per his request, I'm writing the recipe for the hybrid Colombian-American lentils that have evolved around here. Far soupier than this lentil salad, this lentils are best served hot or warm, with rice or some carb to mop them up with. For a complete, cheap, eminently satisfying and relatively fast meal, make the lentils, and while they're cooking make this rice. When you have both simmering on the stove, make the chard. But really do make the chard. I could eat chard, or kale when I'm on a continent where it exists, cooked this way every day, and in fact I often do. At any rate, Max, here you go- complete protein, lots of vitamins and lot of potential leftovers.

Lentils with Potatoes and Caramelized Onions

1 cup brown lentils, rinsed to remove any debris
2 bay leaves
1 med. potato (russet or baking potatoes work well here), peeled and cut in 1/4 in. cubes
1 large onion, chopped
2 Tbsp. olive oil
black pepper (optional)

Begin to saute the onion in the oil over medium heat until it caramelizes and turns dark brown. There will be some burny parts at the edges, that's just fine. Stir the onions every now and then while you prepare the lentils.
Put the lentils, in a pot with water covering them by a good 3 in. Bring them to a boil, skim off the foam that collects in the middle, and then throw in the potatoes, bay leaves, and 1 tsp. salt. Turn down the heat so that the lentils are gently simmering, and cook them for about 30 min., until the potatoes are tender and the lentils have begun to burst and turn mushy. If the lentils begin to dry out add more water, you want the final texture to be like a very thick soup. Stir in the onions while the lentils are still on the heat and check to see if it needs more salt and pepper.
Eat them hot with rice.

Sauteed Chard

1 bunch swiss chard or kale
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium round or two plum tomatoes , sliced into thin wedges
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
pinch red pepper flakes (optional)

Rip or cut the leaves off the stalks of the chard. You can either toss the stalks or use them later-- broiled with olive oil and parmesan is a pretty great use of them if you ask me. Roll the leaves up in a bundle and chop them into pieces 1 to 2 inches wide. Stick the leaves in a colander and wash well, shaking the colander to get rid of the excess water. In a heavy skillet over med-high heat, warm 1 Tbsp. of the olive oil with the garlic until it begins to turn gold, then throw in the chard. Using tongs, or a big spoon if you don't have tongs, turn the leaves to coat them with oil. Then add in your additional tablespoon of olive oil and continue to stir the leaves until they have wilted down a bit. Add the tomatoes, a big pinch of salt, and a pinch of red pepper flakes if you like (certain South Americans prefer this part left out), and continue to turn and stir the chard. After a minute or two, when the tomatoes begin to soften, taste the chard and see if it needs more salt. It should no longer taste raw, and should have what I can only describe as a sweetish taste. If the chard still tastes a bit raw, cook a bit longer, but this whole process should only take about 5 minutes.

Para una comida completa, barata y deliciosa (o ponele bueno, bonito y barato si quieres), haz las lentejas, y mientras estan cocinando, haz este arroz. Cuando tienes las dos en el fuego, haz la acelga- solo te va a demorar a lo maximo 10 minuticos. Proteina completa, muchas vitaminas, y muchas sobras potenciales.

Lentejas con Papas y Cebolla Caramelizada

una taza lentejas, lavadas para quitarles los desechos
2 hojas de laurel
una papa negra (de tamano medio), pelada y cortada en cuadritos de 0.5 centimetros
una cebolla grande, picada
2 cucharadas de aceite de oliva
pimienta negra (opcional)

Empieza salteando la cebolla en el aceite con fuego medio hasta que caramelice y tome un color cafe. Habra partes quemaditas en los bordes, eso esta bien. Revuelve las cebollas cada tanto mientras preparas las lentejas.
Coloca las lentejas en una olla con agua cubriendolas por 5 cm. Llevalas a hervir, saca el mugre que se concentra en la superficie en el centro, y echa las papas, hojas de laurel, y una cucharadita de sal. Hierve las lentejas a fuego lento (baja el fuego) y cocinalas por alrededor de 30 minutos, hasta que las lentejas esten blandas y ya empiecen a reventar. Si las lentejas empiezan a secar, echales mas agua, para que la textura final sea coma una crema muy espesa. Echa las cebollas a las lentejas mientras todavia estan en el fuego, y fijate si necesitan mas sal, y pimienta si te gusta.
Comelas calienticas con arroz.

Acelga salteada

un atado de acelga o col rizada
2 cucharadas de aceite de oliva
un tomate redondo o dos tomates peritas
un diente de ajo, picado chiquito
una pizca de aji molido o un aji fresco, picado (opcional)

Tira o quita con cuchillo las hojas de las ramas de la acelga. Bota o guarda las ramas-- asadas debajo de un fuego con aceite de oliva y queso parmesano es un uso delicioso de ellas, si me preguntas a mi. Enrolla las hojas y picalas en pedazos de 3 o 4 cm. ancho. Echa las hojas en un colador y lavalas bien, agitando el colador para escurrir el agua. En una sarten pesada con fuego medio-alto, calienta una cucharada del aceite de oliva con el ajo hasta que empiece dorar, despues echa la acelga alli. Con pinzas, o una cucharada si no tienes pinzas, voltea las hojas para untarlas con el aceite. Entonces echa la otra cucharada de aceite, y siga revolviendo las hojas hasta que se marchiten un poquito. Echa las tomates, una pizca grande de sal, y el aji (algunos suramericanos prefieren que esta parte quede afuera), y siga revolviendo la acelga. En un minuto o dos, cuando los tomates empiecen a blandar, prueba la acelga y fijate si necesite mas sal. Ya no deberia saber crudo, y deberia tener un sabor que solo puedo describir como dulcecito. Si la acelga todavia sabe crudita, cocinala por otro ratico, pero todo el proceso solo deberia tomar alrededor de 5 minutos.

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