Sunday, March 14, 2010

Bussing and Portkeying

I love the buses in Buenos Aires. First of all, I love them because they're privately run, so the routes have no coherency (just the coherency of supply/demand, I guess), and the busses are personalized by their drivers. This means that black lights, mirrors etched with the names of sweethearts and children, Jesus portraits, and fringe are all likely to be found adorning your bus during your commute. And that Madonna or the Rolling Stones will very likely be blasting-- Argentineans seem to have special places in their hearts for both-- so much so with the Rolling Stones that “los Rollings”are referred to as a social group the same way you would talk about emos or hipsters.

They also run 24 hours a day, and a bus is just as likely to be packed at 4 am as it is at 4pm. 24-hour bus service is one of those luxuries that changes your lifestyle. Never ever having to worry about what time it is for fear of not having cheap transportation (at 1.20 pesos, or about 35 cents, it´s hard to beat) back home certainly helps the social life of the general culture. As far as my own social life, I realized when I got back to Minnesota, 24-hour bus-less, car-less (not to mention still license-less at 25), and in -10 degree weather...what can I say. My friend Lila and I decided to embark on various labor-intensive cooking projects. Tamales, which turned out delicious but no kidding as far as the labor part went. I now understand why people make them in bulk, with help- it doesn't seem to take much longer to make 10 than it does 50; it's going to take you awhile either way, and it´s the perfect kind of work for catching with people you love but don´t see nearly enough. We made various kinds of homemade pasta- sweet potato raviolis, linguine, bowties. We, along with my sister and her friend Kari, made an absolutely disgusting looking gingerbread house. Pop-rocks and cream cheese frosting? You don´t even want to know.

And we made a 9-part Indian meal after trekking down to 18 ½ St. and Central Ave. It's like Indian Harry Potter, that street only exists if you know to look for it, and then you find 20 lb. bags of basmati rice and curry leaves in the middle of the grey saline slush that is a couple of warm days in January in Minnesota. After lots of cooking and eating, it was agreed that the tamarind chutney was the winning dish-- which in my case is not that strange as I always love chutney and I love that sweet and sour tamarind sauce that they give you with the mint sauce in Indian restaurants along with papadum-- but we reached a consensus, baby. It was freaking delicious with the lemon-peanut rice, delicious with the curries, and would probably be delicious on a piece of cardboard (which means it will be perfect for Passover! That is a seriously exciting idea, no joke.) I would make this all the time if I had access to tamarind, which means that I might have to go take a bus down to the tiny Chinatown here to see if they have it-- although not having an exhaustive selection in any way, Barrio Chino is where everyone tells you to go if you can´t find something, be it marshmallows or passion fruit. I will unfortunately have to obey normal time schedules as Barrio Chino´s markets close at what would be considered a normal hour even in Minnesota.

In the U.S., tamarind is sold in blocks in an Indian, Southeast Asian, or Mexican market. After you hack off the amount you want to use, it must be soaked so you can remove the pulp from the hard fibrous part.

Tamarind Chutney

1 ½ c. boiling water

¼ c. tamarind, cut off a block

1 tsp. cumin seeds, dry roasted in a skillet

3 Tbsp. chopped dates

3 Tbsp. chopped peanuts (I used salted and roasted because that was what we had, and which worked great)

3 Tbsp. unsweetened coconut

2 Tbsp. chopped cilantro

½ tsp. cayenne pepper or paprika

Pour the boiling water over the tamarind and let rest for 30 min. Meanwhile, chop all the other ingredients, roast the cumin seeds. After 30 min., using your fingers, separate as much tamarind pulp as possible from the hard matter. Strain the mush over a medium-size bowl, pressing out as much pulp as possible. Stir in the rest of the ingredients. Let sit for 30 min. to allow the flavors to blend- and it will get much better over this period of time, I promise. Check for salt-- I didn't add any due to the salted peanuts, and I don't think it needs much anyway.

Chutney es una conserva agri-dulce, delicioso con comida salada.

Chutney de Tamarindo

una taza y media de agua, hirviendo

¼ taza de tamarindo, cortado de un bloque

una cucharita de semillas de comino, tostadas en una sarten seca

3 cucharadas de datiles, picados

3 cucharadas de mani, picados (usé los con sal, tosteados, que salió muy rico así)

3 cucharadas de coco rallado

2 cucharadas de cilantro, picado

½ cucharita de pimentón

Echa el agua (hirviendo) al tamarindo y dejalo reposar durante 30 min. Mientras tanto, pica el resto de los ingredientes y tuesta las semillas de comino. Despúes de los 30 min., con los dedos, separa toda la pulpa que puedas de los pedacitos duros. Pasa la mezcla por el colador a un bol de tamaño mediano, escurriendo toda la pulpa posible. Echa todos los otros ingredientes y mezclalo bien. Dejalo reposar durante 30 min. para que armonicen los sabores- va a mejorar mucho durante este tiempo, te prometo. Fijate si hace falta sal-- no la añadé debido al mani salado, pero tampoco me parece que requiere mucho.

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