Saturday, November 27, 2010

Digressions

One of the best lines I´ve read in a long time: Dr. Le Pileur, working during World War I and remarking on the fact that after traumatic injuries the second biggest health issue was rampant syphilis, “Without a doubt, it would be better to be chaste, but chastity is like peace; we always talk about it and we don't often keep it.” If only I were a French doctor I could be so eloquent.

Other awesome things present in my life this week:

     A Single Man- every frame of this movie is like a perfume ad (the non CK heroin-addled kind).        It´s also refreshingly upfront about gay sexuality (neither of these things are surprising given that      Tom Ford is the director)
     That Cee Lo song (be warned that profanity is unavoidably implied in clicking that link) that            everyone else in the world seems to heard of before me, but what can I say, I'm a little late to          the table these days
     More importantly, and most likely far longer lasting, Your Precious Love by Tammi Terrel and        Marvin Gaye 

Not so awesome? Obama giving George H. W. Bush the Medal of Freedom. Really? Really?

But I digress. 
     The very best "Save the Date" card in the probably not so very long history of "Save the Date"        cards from a college friend (proof that those 4 years of liberal arts education wan´t for nothing)


Also, delicious bok choy, at my brother Max´s request.

Bok Choy with Spicy Peanuts
     adapted from Deborah Madison´s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

3 Tbsp. raw unsalted peanuts
2 tsp. sesame oil 
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
salt
1 1/2 lbs. bok choy, stems removed from leaves and chopped into 1-in. pieces (leaves remain whole) 
2 Tbsp. peanut or vegetable oil (I use sunflower)
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 tsp. minced ginger 
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. cornstarch mixed with 3 Tbsp. water

In a wok or a skillet, fry peanuts in the sesame oil over medium-low until golden (be careful not to let them burn, which can happen very quickly). Remove them from the pan and chop them with the pepper flakes and a big pinch salt.
Turn the heat up as high as possible and add the peanut/vegetable oil, swirling it once around the sides of the pan. When the oil is hot, throw in the garlic and ginger and stir-fry for 1 min. (don´t let them burn). Add in the bok choy and a big pinch of salt and stir-fry until the leaves are wilted. Add in the soy sauce and the cornstarch mixture and stir-fry a bit more until the leaves are shiny and glazed, 1-2 min. Toss in the chopped peanuts and a drizzle of sesame oil, and serve hot.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I'm Bringing Water Balloons

Oh look, they´re throwing oranges on the field!

That was me, a couple of weekends ago, at my first Argentine soccer game, that hollowed event legendary for its displays of passion, ruckus and occasional violence. I´d never been at a sports event before where the fans of the opposing sides were completely physically isolated from one another. And this game was Boca-Independiente, Boca being the Argentine team most known for its nutso fans.

The Independiente fans-- the team not known particularly for its nutso fans-- were the ones throwing stuff on the field and chanting "Go back to Bolivia, all your family is there!" "You brought us the cholera!" because according to Argentinean soccer folklore (according to fans of teams that aren't Boca that is) no true Argentine is a Boca fan, they are all Bolivians and Paraguayans (which due to the xenophobic feelings many Argentines have towards Bolivians and Paraguayans is considered an insult).  A couple of years ago a law was passed outlawing xenophobic songs during soccer matches. Obviously it's had a big affect.

But wait! Those aren´t oranges on the field. They´re balls of fried dough-- Bolivian fried dough, you see-- and those cute little umbrellas that are put in cocktails (umbrella=paraguas=paraguay).

The loudspeaker came on, warning the crowd that the game couldn´t start if they kept throwing things onto the field, and that it wouldn´t start if the offensive chants didn´t stop.

I do have to say, as far as throwing things on the field goes, the strangest thing I´ve ever heard of is the Detroit fans who throw octopi onto the hockey rink. My jaw was on the floor the last time I was in Detroit and my uncles off-handedly mentioned that Michigan residents are prohibited from buying octopus in fish markets on game days in other states. 

Personally I think water balloons have got to be the best thing to throw, though cabbages would probably be pretty satisfying too, with their nice heft and leaves splaying out in the air. Though I would want to eat the cabbage after and that seems like an untenable plan. I'm also kind of oddly impressed that people went to the trouble to fry dough balls just to toss them on the soccer field. I would have just wanted to eat them too (says the person who made donuts for dinner last night).

My mom used to buy cabbage instead of lettuce when there were lettuce boycotts, and then I think she just got used to it at a certain point and bought it even if the lettuce was PC that week. I love cabbage and I eat it all the damn time, most often cooked with apples, german grandmother style, or in mayonaise-less coleslaw with lime juice and cilantro. Lately though I´ve been making it in two very different styles which I highly recommend. First we have green cabbage sauteed with fennel, spices, and amchoor (green mango powder), which gives it an addictive sour and salty tang. If you don´t have amchoor, lemon juice works too. Second of all is a red cabbage salad that is sweet, sour and salty, one of those things that is so good that you make for lunch and all you want to do is make it again for dinner. I should say that I think it´s still a bit weird for me to make recipes that are not vegetarian friendly. This salad I made with chicken originally but I think seitan or tofu could be used really well there too; the only non-replaceable non-veg item is fish sauce, which if you are a vegetarian, depending on your own personal dietary boundaries may or may not be an issue for you. All of that said: make this salad, it´s delicious. It will have whoever eats it skyping you at work to find out what you put in it. Or don't, so at least you can get some work done.


Tangy Indian Cabbage

1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tsp. butter
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. mustard seeds
half large bulb fennel, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
half large red onion, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced 
half head green cabbage, thinly sliced
pinch red chili flakes or 1 fresh chili, deseeded, deribbed and finely sliced
½ tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. amchoor (green mango powder) or the juice of 1/2 a lemon
salt

Melt the oil and butter together over med-high heat. Saute the cumin and mustard seeds until fragrant, about 30 seconds, then toss in the fennel and onion and saute until soft and beginning to caramelize a bit, around 8 minutes. Add the turmeric and a pinch of salt and stir, and then add the cabbage gradually as it cooks down and enough room is made in the pan to hold all of it. Throw in the chili if you feel like a bit of heat. Cover the pan and lower the heat, stirring occasionally to get the caramelized bits off the bottom, until the cabbage is quite soft, around 25-30 minutes. Taste for salt (it might need quite a bit; add in the amchoor and lemon juice and check again) and stir in the amchoor or lemon juice.
I had this as part of my lunch the other day with some roasted beets and the sweetness of the beets worked great with the lemony saltiness of the cabbage-- or as a filling for a crepe.



Vietnamese Red Cabbage Salad
     adapted from Orangette

1-2 small red or yellow chiles, seeded and finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. sugar
3 tsp. rice vinegar (white vinegar can be used too)
3 Tbsp. fresh lime juice (I used lemon because limes here are crazy expensive)
4 Tbsp. fish sauce
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil (I normally use sunflower)
1 red onion, peeled, halved, and very thinly sliced
Freshly ground black pepper
4 c. cold cooked shredded chicken, shredded seitan, or smoked/pressed tofu cut into thin strips
1 ½ lbs red cabbage, quartered, cored, and very thinly sliced (about 8 cups, sliced)
½ lb red radishes, thinly sliced into rounds
¼ c. chopped fresh cilantro

In a very large bowl, whisk together the chiles, garlic, sugar, vinegar, lime juice, fish sauce, and oil. Add the red onion and a grind or two of black pepper, stir to cover the onion in liquid, and set aside to marinate for 15 minutes while you shred the chicken/seitan or slice the tofu. Add in the protein, and let marinate for another 15 minutes while you slice the cabbage and radishes. Add the cabbage and radishes, and toss gently to coat with dressing. Add the cilantro, and toss to mix. 

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Bring On The Grunge

Awhile ago we found ourselves in one of the many grungily beautiful cafes of Buenos Aires, there for a casually organized jam session that was actually really a birthday party (Was it weird that we didn't know the birthday girl? Kinda. They gave us cake anyway.)


The walls were covered with definitions of lunfardo, an Argentine slang with Italians roots that was originally used by prisoners in the jails here. But it's now been around for many years and has its own nostalgic elegance. I have a hard time imagining that even after the passage of 100 years, the words "ho" and "grip" might evoke anything as poetic as Carlos Gardel in a derby hat. I also find it unlikely that grimy La-Z-Boy recliners will find any hidden glamour after the passage of a century. At any rate I can tell you that from my experience, in the here and now nowhere does grungy antique chic quite like Buenos Aires. 
See these cookies?


You can´t tell by the picture, but as far as I´m concerned they are the picture of gritty elegance as far as cookies go. They aren´t so pretty, and their rustic black and whiteness would make them entirely at home in a run down tango bar. But, oh, wow, they are so good in every way, and though you didn´t know they were missing from your life you will know soon, right after you make them for the first time. Buckwheat might sound a bit too health foodish and slightly grannyish for a cookie, but trust me, it works-- it makes for a wonderfully soulful, deep-flavored and slightly nutty-tasting butter cookie, classy without being flashly. Consider it a start to the legacy.

Buckwheat Cookies
     adapted from Alice Medrich

8 oz. (2 sticks or 225 g.) butter, room temperature
2/3 c. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. natural vanilla extract
1 1/4 c. (5.6 oz. or 160 g.) white flour
3/4 c. (3 oz. or 85 g.) buckwheat flour


Beat the butter, sugar and salt together until creamy, about 1 min. Stir in the vanilla. Stir in the flours and mix just until incorporated. Bring the dough together with your hands to create a coherent mass and form it into a log 2 inches thick. Chill for at least 2 hours or overnight, wrapped in plastic. 
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Cut the log into 1/4 in. thick slices. Place the cookies on a baking sheet leaving 1 1/2 in. between the cookies to spread. Bake for 10-12 minutes until the cookies begin to color around the edges, rotating the baking sheet 180º after 5 min. Gently remove the cookies from the sheet to a rack, then continue with the rest of the dough. Makes approx. 4 dozen cookies.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Strange Days

Wednesday was National Census Day. In Argentina that means that all stores are closed and no one has work or school; your obligation as a citizen (or improperly documented student as is my case) is to stay in your house until the doorbell rings and then answer the nice lady's questions (she was nice, and she didn't even mind when the cat started biting her finger). It's been a tumultuous month on a public level around here. Nestor Kirscher (the ex-president and husband of the current president) died, and though all anyone ever did was complain about him, now everyone seems to love him (who knew). Last week a member of a group that was blocking the trains in protest was shot and killed, sparking strikes and general outrage. There were strikes in the music conservatory this month because they´ve been shutting down bars with live music as a reaction to the deaths of two people in a club after a stage fell on top of them. It´s an understandable reaction but it leaves the musicians without work. A bus driver was shot and killed in the suburbs during his regular route, setting off a bus strike. You begin to understand why there isn't a big premium put on punctuality here.

Last week there was also no garbage service for 48 hours; I´m a bit embarrassed to say I didn't even notice, I just remember thinking, man this city is dirty, and then not giving it a second thought. I realize I sound like a jaded ex-pat today, and the truth is that at the end of the day, I'm not from here and I'm not planning on spending the rest of my life here, so my discomfort with the civil situation isn´t all that important compared to that of Argentines.

Sometimes I come home from seeing and hearing some rough stuff in the hospitals or in the street, and all I want to do is crawl under the covers. I crash for a bit and then I get up and make home food. People here think that the only truly American food is McDonalds. I come home wanting to make cinnamon rolls, or tacos with fresh tortillas, or wild rice with cranberries and roasted squash, or my mom's matzoh ball soup. 

I´m not complaining about the census, though, I think it´s great. We´ve had to use data from 2001 for all our studies up until now, which is pretty outdated given all the changes that have happened over the past 10 years here. And I got a day at home, so I made carrot cake to bring to a Colombian dinner later (and then I learned that it is never a good idea to eat a bandeja paisa at 11 pm).


Bandeja paisa is a quintessential Colombian meal-- rice, beans, ground meat, arepa, fried egg, fried sweet plantain, fried sausage, avocado, hogao (tomato-onion sauce) and chicharron (which we is hard to find in Argentina so we didn't have any Wednesday night; I can't say my stomach protested all that much). I wouldn't say the carrot cake afterwards was strictly necessary.  

I do love Colombian food, but it's relatively new in my life. Arepas are great, but we don't have the long-standing relationship that tortillas and I have.  Tortillas-- both flour and corn-- are far up there on the essentials list for me, like the good native Californian that I am, but making them was never high up on my list because of their availability. But, here I am, in the land of pizza and pasta, and though they sell dried-out flour tortillas in the supermarkets, they don't really cut it. Maseca, the lime-treated corn meal used for corn tortillas, is nowhere to be found down here, so my energies have been concentrated on the flour ones. I had a couple of failed attempts making flour tortillas before I really got the texture right. When I was little, my family used to go to Chevy's for dinner occasionally, definitely not the most authentic Mexican (or Californian-Mexican or Tex-Mex or anything really) place, but I think we mainly went there because it was family-friendly and my mom liked the smokey-tasting salsa that came with the chips. I loved it because of the sweet corn pudding (which I later learned is called tomalito and one of these days will make around here) that came with everything and because we liked to watch the tortillas being made. I don't know if all Chevy's have the tortilla-producing conveyer belts, but we were completely fascinated. Sometimes the person in charge of putting fresh dough in would give us a dough ball to play with, and for some reason this made us very happy, though I don't know exactly what we did with it. What I realized when I finally got the tortillas right-- and this should have been a big duh-- is that the texture of the dough was exactly what I remember playing with as a kid in Chevy's. It's kind of like a doughier play-dough, and it kind of has an earlobe-like texture, and unfortunately it seems like the exact quantities to reach this texture change depending on the humidity and the brand of flour, so I think failure the first couple times is pretty likely. But-- but-- after those first few times, your reward are the flour tortillas that ex-pats dream about, the kind that come warm in a basket wrapped up in a cloth along with the searing hot fajitas you ordered. They also make the perfect, perfect breakfast, filled with a scrambled egg and topped with chipotle oil (I always make sure I bring a can of chipotles in adobo with me if I know I'm going to be in a country for awhile that doesn't do spicy. It keeps forever in the fridge if you rejar it and add additional vegetable oil to the jar whenever you take out a chipotle, keeping the chiles covered with a layer of oil so they don't go bad and making you an almost endless supply of chipotle oil).





Flour Tortillas
     adapted from Cheryl and Bill Jamison

2 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. vegetable oil
3/4 c. warm milk

In a large bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, and salt together, then mix in the vegetable oil with your fingertips. Add in the warm milk slowly, stirring as you go, until you have a sticky ball. Lightly flour a counter and your hands and then knead the dough for a couple of minutes until you have a consistent dough that feels a bit like an earlobe. Place the dough in a bowl or on a plate and let it to rest covered with a plastic bag or a damp towel for 20 min. 
After the dough has rested, roll the dough into 8 balls, put them on a plate without touching one another and let rest covered with your plastic bag or damp towel for 10 min.
Heat a cast iron or other heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Take a ball of dough and pat it into 3-4'' circle, then roll it out with a rolling pin (or wine bottle or whatever) to an 8'' circle. Place in skillet and cook for about a minute, until light brown spots begin to appear, then flip it over with a spatula (I use my fingers) and cook until the second side also gets some light brown spots. It should puff up a bit, though you don't want it to balloon out or the tortilla will lose its soft texture. (You may have to play with the heat on your stove to get it just right.) Repeat with the rest of the dough (you can roll out all the balls first and have them ready, covered, while you cook them one by one; I roll the dough out on the counter next to the burner while keeping an eye on the tortilla cooking in the skillet), stacking the tortillas on top of each other and keeping them covered with a kitchen towel so they stay warm.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Notes From a Sunday

Useful when waking up at 2 in the afternoon hungover (I´m not an alcoholic I'm just a lightweight; I can sometimes feel a glass of wine the next day), fridge empty, chinos (supermarkets run by chinese immigrants) closed: thinly slice 2 potatoes and boil them in salted water until tender but not falling apart. Meanwhile chop up a green onion or two and mix it in a bowl with 4-5 eggs, a good pinch of salt, and a handful of chopped cilantro. Drain the potatoes when tender and add them to the eggs, mixing lightly so they don't cook the eggs in their heat. Preheat the broiler. Place a cast iron skillet over medium heat and add in 3 Tbsp. good olive oil. When the oil is hot, swirl the pan to coat the sides, then pour in the egg mixture, flattening the potatoes down. Sprinkle the top with smoked paprika and drizzle with olive oil. Turn the heat down to low and cook for 5 minutes, then stick the skillet under the broiler for another five or until the eggs are set. Water, coffee, oranges. 

I don't generally feel all the connected to the Midwest, but a couple of things in the news made me feel that way today:
-This looks fascinating. I can´t wait to get a hold of the book.
-Eyedea died yesterday. I was 14 when my friends were listening to Rhymesayers, the Minneapolis underground hip-hop record label. That means Eyedea was 18. By the time I went to college, every other kid who considered himself "in the know" about hip-hop in the country was talking about them as a new found hipster-approved discovery. Strange path all of it. 

Though a slightly different situation than the one that's lived here in Argentina (the South Korean economy is considerably more stable than the Argentinean one, well, that and the fact that most Argentines wouldn't be caught dead eating kimchi), this article sounds familiar. Last week tomatoes here were 12 pesos/kilo, up from 3 or 4 the week before. It's no kimchi, but people here do eat an awful lot of tomatoes (as you can imagine when the diet staples are pasta and pizza). 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Snickerdoodles?

Part of the reason I like learning new languages is because it makes you reflect more on your own mother tongue. Someone asked me, why is grapefruit called grape-fruit? What does it have to do with grapes? I had never made the connection and had no answer. Awhile ago I found myself in a verduleria (vegetable store) thinking that naranja de ombligo (belly button orange) was the funniest name I'd ever heard for an orange, when I realized that, duh, we call them navel oranges, I'd just never made the association.

And the other day when I was asked about what the word "snickerdoodles" meant, I was pretty much out. Not even wikipedia could help me. Eh. I love linguistics, but I think I´m gonna put that question in the "there are more important things in life" file and go on eating cookies.

Speaking of cookies (and since when do I ever talk about anything else), when my sister and I were first in Argentina together we never got tired of badly pronouncing the national cookie, alfajores, correctly pronounced alfa-HOR-es, the singular being alfa-HOR. We of course in our infinite maturity privately called them alpha-whores. Strike three-hundred and six for American cultural sensitivity! Sweet. 




A word about this recipe: I've tried several snickerdoodle recipes, and though they all produced tasty cookies, none of them tasted exactly snickerdoodle-y, if you know what I mean. I endlessly frustrate my non-American friends here when I try to make something American and it doesn't come out right. But it tastes good! they protest, as in, give it a rest, stop being so difficult and come eat. Sure, I try to explain, but it doesn't taste right. These do.


Snickerdoodles

4 oz. (113 g. or 1 stick) butter, room temperature
3/4 c. white sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1 tsp. natural vanilla extract
1 1/3 c. (180 g.) all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt

To coat:
3 Tbsp. white sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon

Beat the butter and sugar together until the mixture has lightened, ideally until you can´t feel the sugar between your fingers anymore. Beat in the egg and then the vanilla, mixing well. In another bowl, mix the flour with the baking powder and salt, then throw the flour into the bowl with the butter. (Alternatively, place a sifter over the bowl with the butter mixture and put the flour, baking powder and salt together in the sifter, sifting directly into the bowl.) Stir together until you get a smooth mixture. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a plastic bag and put in the fridge for at least an hour or up to 2 days.
Preheat the oven to 400ºF. In a small bowl mix the 3 Tbsp. sugar together with the cinnamon. Take the dough out of the fridge and roll balls 1 in. in diameter. Roll each one in the cinnamon-sugar mix, covering it all over. Place the balls on a cookie sheet, leaving 2 in. between each ball for when they spread in the oven. Bake for 8-10 min., rotating the sheet 180º after 5 min. so they bake evenly. The cookies are done when they are golden underneath and at the edges. Remove them with a spatula to a cooling rack and continue with the rest of the dough. Makes around 30 small cookies.


Me pidieron una receta básica de galletas. Si nunca has hecho galletas, esta receta es un buen comienzo. Utiliza la técnica básica de las galletas norteamericanas, no es difícil hacer y son riquisimas.

Snickerdoodles (Galletas de Canela y Azúcar)

113 g. (1/2 de taza) de mantequilla, a la temperatura ambiente
3/4 de taza (150 g.) de azúcar
1 huevo, a la temperatura ambiente
1 cucharita de extracto de vainilla natural
1 1/3 taza (180 g.) de harina de trigo (tipo 000)
1 cucharita de polvo de hornear
1/4 de cucharita de sal

Para espolvorear:
3 cucharadas de azúcar
1 cucharita de canela

Bate la mantequilla con el azúcar hasta que la mezcla se ponga mas blanca. Incorpora el huevo y después la vainilla. En otro bol, mezcla la harina con el polvo de hornear y la sal. Echa la mezcla de harina a la mantequilla y revuelve hasta que tengas una mezcla uniforme y suave.
Tapa el bol con una bolsa de plastico y metelo en la heladera durante 1 hora o hasta 2 dias.
Precalienta el horno a 200ºC. En un bol pequeño, mezcla las 3 cucharadas de azúcar con la cucharita de canela. Saca la masa de la heladera y forma bolitas de 2.5 cm. Pasalas por la mezcla de azúcar y canela hasta que esten cubiertas totalmente. Ponlas en una bandeja, dejando 3 cm. entre las bolitas para dejarles espacio para cuando expanden.
Hornealas entre 8-10 minutos, volteando la bandeja 180º después de 5 minutos para que horneen uniformamente. Sacalas cuando esten doradas abajo. Quita las galletas de la bandeja con una espatula y ponlas en una rejilla a enfriar (o en un plato si no tienes rejilla). Sigue con el resto de la masa en la misma manera. Rinde aprox. 30 galletas chiquitas.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

October 12

October 12 is a holiday in all of the Americas, down here it's called Día de la Raza, in the states it's generally considered to be Christopher Columbus Day, unless you grow up in San Francisco in which case you are taught that it's Indigenous Peoples' Day and Christopher Columbus was a murderer who cut peoples' wrists off if they didn't bring him their monthly quota of gold.

October 12 is also my brother's birthday, which is much less politically complicated. Happy birthday Max, may your year be filled with interesting conversation, home-cooked meals, good whiskey and better music. As Ruben Blades says, everyone spends their life looking for something, some people look for problems and some people look for solutions My brother tends to look for questions, which makes him a forever interesting and endlessly frustrating person to talk to. Love you chipmunk.

Max asked me for eggplant recipes the other day. I've always loved eggplant, though I know a lot of people have issues with it. This recipe, from Francis Lam, is one of those people who had eggplant issues, so take that as testimony of its effectiveness. They sell dried eggplant in health food stores here but I still haven't figured out why; I asked once and they told me that it was useful for when eggplant was expensive. The dried stuff was easily 4 times as expensive as the fresh stuff though, so I just sort of nodded my head and moved on with my life. Then I made this pasta, a bunch of times, and you should too.



Eggplant Pasta 
     adapted from Francis Lam

1 lb. eggplant 
1/3 c. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, smashed with the side of the knife and peeled
pinch dried thyme or oregano (or a couple of sprigs fresh if you have it)
1 c. water (use vegetable stock if you have it)
1 bay leaf
8 sun dried tomatoes, chopped or snipped into bits with a scissors
small handful basil leaves, snipped with a scissors
salt 
freshly ground pepper
1 lb. dry pasta (spaghetti or linguini)

Slice the eggplant into 1/2 in. rounds and salt them. Stack the rounds back up and let them sit for at least 20 min. In a large skillet over low heat, heat the olive oil with the garlic. You want quite low heat really, you don't want the garlic to burn. 
With a paper towel, dry off the eggplant and cut it into chunks.  When you start to smell the garlic, throw in the eggplant and stir it around to coat it in the oil. Throw in your pinch of thyme and turn up the heat to med-high. Stir the eggplant every now and then, and when it's looking translucent add in the cup of water and the bay leaf. Let the mixture come to a boil and then turn the heat down to med-low. Cover your pan, leaving it open a crack and stirring once in awhile to keep it from sticking to the bottom.
While the eggplant mess cooks, bring a big pot of water to boil, salt it well, and cook your pasta.
When the eggplant has absorbed most of the liquid, mash it up with your spoon and remove the bay leaf. If it needs a bit of a lift add salt. Drain your pasta and toss it with the eggplant mush, then toss in the chopped basil and sun dried tomato. 
Dash a bit of olive oil on top. Fresh pepper. Parmesan if you feel like it. Dinner. Yum.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Que Queres Que Te Diga...


















I like living in Once. And I swear I wasn´t even trying, these things just happen.

Para Carito


Arroz para sushi

350 g. (1 2/3 tazas) de arroz de sushi
475 ml. (2 tazas) de agua
40 ml. (3 cucharadas) de vinagre de arroz o vinagre de alcohol
38 ml. (2 1/2 cucharadas) de azúcar
1/2 cucharita de sal

En una olla mediana echa el arroz y el agua. Tapala y hazle hervir por 2 minutos. Baja el fuego a medio y deja que hierva 5 minutos mas. Baja el fuego lo mas bajo posible y cocina durante 15 minutos (tapada). Apaga el fuego y pon una toalla entre la olla y la tapa. Vuelve a tapar la olla y dejala allí por 10-15 minutos mas para que absorba la humedad.
Mientras el arroz esté cocinando, disuelve el azúcar y la sal en el vinagre sobre fuego bajo. Quitala del fuego y dejala enfriar.
Saca el arroz a una bandeja y cuando este frio salpica el arroz con la mezcla de vinagre. Mezcla el arroz suavamente para incorporar el vinagre sin dañar la textura del arroz.
Esparce 2-3 cucharadas de arroz en una sabana de nori (alga seca para sushi), dejando 3 cm. en una de las bordes. Coloca el relleno en el centro, creando una linea. Envuelva el relleno con la sabana, haciendo un rollo muy apretado, empezando desde el lado contrario del cual dejaste los 3 cm. libres de arroz. Corta el rollo con un cuchillo afilado en rodajas de 3 cm. Come con salsa de soja y wasabi.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Viva la pressure cooker

A couple of months ago my brother decided to buy a pressure cooker, a frankly very uncharacteristic move, not only for him but also for your average American.  We´re not generally big on pressure cookers. I certainly wasn´t until I lived with Colombians and was ushered into their magical ways-- black beans in 20 minutes! Rice pudding in 10! I´m not sure if it´s due to our general reliance on canned beans or our use of the microwave for speed-cooking, but it´s just not standard equipment in the typical American kitchen. I was sent a pressure cooker from Colombia last year and since then 90% of the cooking that I do is either in there or in a cast-iron skillet (if you don´t use the lid on the pressure cooker it also works great as a stock pot, and as my kitchen is tiny and my brain tending towards the migratory I´m all about multi-use equipment...and really awful rhymes, thank you very much).

Anyway, since this purchase of his he´s been asking me for recipes, and I´ve been playing around a bit to find things that a) don´t involve an inordinate amount of chopping because certain people probably won´t do it; b) are very close to a complete meal by themselves and c) are very fast, even by pressure cooker standards. So for now I give you two: first, red lentils (that turn yellow from the turmeric; also, cooked red lentils without turmeric can look a little vomity) that is very dal-like but thick enough to be eaten as a soup on its own or with rice. The whole thing gets done in 10 minutes and it´s fantastic. The second recipe is a barley risotto. It´s not hard to make and it fills you up and it´s really really flavorful. You can make arborio (short grain rice) risotto in a pressure cooker even faster and that works great as well, but barley fills you up better, is more nutritious, and also happens to taste really good. I had a professor in college who was renowned for the traditional Italian feasts he would invite people to at his home. One time he invited some friends and me over for dinner, and while he finished stirring the risotto he told us, the rule at the end of risotto is add cheese until delicious. Then we had a 5 course meal, and I at least resolved privately to aim to eat that way for the rest of my life. Then I went back to eating lentils. And here we are. As my boss here would say, en fin...






Red Lentils 
     adapted from Deborah Madison

2 c. red lentils, sorted and rinsed (the tiny salmon-colored ones)
1 Tbsp. turmeric
1 Tbsp. salt
2 Tbsp. butter (1 Tbsp. goes with the lentils, the other with the onions)
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. mustard seeds
1 c. cilantro, chopped
juice of 1 large lemon

Throw the lentils in the pressure cooker along with 4 1/2 cups of water, the turmeric, the salt, and 1 Tbsp. butter. Secure the top and bring it up to pressure. Cook for 8 min, then release the pressure.
Meanwhile in a saute pan over low heat cook the onions with the oil, 1 Tbsp. of butter, the cumin and the mustard seeds for about 10 min. or until the onions are soft.
You can puree the lentils with a blender (especially a hand one) or leave them whole.  Put the pressure cooker back over low heat. Add in the cilantro a cook for a minute or two and then throw in the onions. Add in lemon juice.
Serve with rice, and it's even better if you make it a day ahead.

Barley Risotto

1/2 oz. dried porcini mushrooms
1 tsp. butter
1 tsp. olive oil
1 med. onion, chopped, or 1/2 onion and 1/2 bulb fennel, chopped
1 tsp. fennel seeds (opt.)
1 c. barley
1/2 c. dry red wine
4 c. water
1 Tbsp. salt
freshly ground pepper
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. dried thyme
at least 1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese (not the green canister kind, and freshly grated will taste better than the pre-grated kind)

Soak porcinis in 1/4 c. warm water. Heat the butter and olive oil together in the pressure cooker over medium heat. Throw in the onion and fennel seeds and saute until the onions are soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add in the barley and saute for a couple of minutes, stirring well. Add in the wine and stir until it evaporates. Add in the water, salt, a couple of turns of pepper, the bay leaves, and the thyme. Chop the mushrooms and add them and their liquid to the pot. Put the lid on and bring up to pressure. Cook for 20 min. then depressurize. Take off the lid and let simmer until the barley is cooked through but still toothsome and the mixture is still very wet but not soupy. Turn off the heat and stir in parmesan cheese until delicious.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

From The Movies

Last week, knowing that we were in for an 8-hour day of research proposal presentations in class, I brought oatmeal cookies, figuring the day would be more agreeable spent eating. Which is not to say I don't want to listen to presentations; it's just that, well, 6 hours in, you know, sometimes you need a little push. So around 4 in the afternoon I brought them out and passed them around. "Are these the cookies Americans are always eating in the movies?" a classmate of mine asked. I explained that the most common cookies for us are chocolate chip, but that these run a close second. People in Latin America always find it strange when I explain that baking is such a part of American culture that there are many people who know how to make cookies but that don't really cook.

These particular oatmeal cookies are adapted from a Regan Daley recipe. They have been my favorite for a couple of years, something about the honey and nutmeg just make them even more oatmeal cookie-ish in exactly the way you want oatmeal cookies to be. The last time I made them I threw in some wheat bran and it fit in quite nicely, and replacing part of the all-purpose flour for whole wheat flour works well too.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
     adapted from Regan Daley

3.5 oz. (100 g. or 7 Tbsp.) butter
1 c. brown sugar (I like to use muscovado sugar here)
1 egg
1 Tbsp. honey
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 c. all-purpose flour
small pinch of salt
scant 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
1/8-1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1 1/2 c. rolled oats
2 Tbsp. wheat or oat bran (optional)
1 c. dark raisins 

In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until it´s lighter in color and you can no longer feel the sugar granules between your fingers. Beat in the egg and then the honey and the vanilla. In a medium bowl stir the flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg together. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix just until combined, then mix in the oats and the wheat bran. Mix in the raisins. Cover the bowl with plastic and chill the dough for at least an hour in the fridge.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Use a tablespoon to make balls and place them on a cookie sheet, leaving 2 in. in between the cookies to allow for spreading. Bake for 10 min., turning the cookie sheet 180º after 5 min. so the cookies bake evenly. Take them out when they are set and just beginning to look a bit golden, don´t let them burn. Use a spatula to remove them to a cooling rack, and continue with the rest of the batter.
Makes around 2 dozen cookies.
In her book, Daley gives this recipe alongside one for cinnamon ice cream in order to make ice cream sandwiches. Some day I will do this and all of my dreams will come true. 



Galletas de Avena con Pasas
     adaptada de Regan Daley

100 g. de mantequilla
1 taza de azúcar rubia (o 1 taza de azúcar blanco mezclada con 1 cucharada de melaza si no tenes azúcar rubia; a mi me gusta usar azúcar moscovado aquí)
1 huevo
1 cucharada de miel
1 cucharita de extracto de vainilla natural
3/4 de taza de harina de trigo (tipo 000)
una pizquita de sal
escaza 1/2 cucharita de bicarbonato de soda
una pizquita de canela
un poco de nuez moscada recien rallada
1 1/2 tazas de avena gruesa
2 cucharadas de salvado de trigo o de avena (opcional)
1 taza de pasas de uva negras

En un bol bate la mantequilla con el azúcar hasta que estén bien mezclados y la mezcla este más blanca (en este punto, ya no deberías sentir los granitos de azúcar). Echa el huevo y batelo bien. Echa la miel y la vainilla y mezcla bien. En otro bol revuelve la harina, la sal, el bicarbonato de soda, la canela y la nuez moscada. Echa la mezcla de harina a la mezcla de mantequilla y revuelve hasta que este incorporada. Echale la avena y el salvado de trigo a la mezcla y revuelve. Anade las pasas y mezcla bien. Tapa el bol con plástico y dejalo en la heladera durante por lo menos una hora.

Después de la hora de reposo, precalienta el horno a 180ºC. Forma bolitas con una cucharada y colocalas en una bandeja, dejando 3 cm. entre las bolitas. Hornealas durante 10 minutos, volteando la bandeja 180º después de los primeros 5 minutos para que horneen uniformemente. Sacalas cuando ya no veas la masa cruda en el centro pero solamente han empezado a broncear  (entre las galletas al lado en la foto, la galleta entera está demasiado bronceada/quemada). Con una espatula quitalas de la bandeja y dejalas enfriar, mejor en una rejilla de enfriar o sino en un plato. Repite el mismo proceso con el resto de la masa. Rinde aprox. 24 galletas.