Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Qué comen los vegetarianos #5...when it´s too hot to cook

Cabbage peanut salad, sweet plantains, cucumber salad with sweet chili sauce
Ensalada de repollo y maní, platano maduro, ensalada de pepino con salsa dulce de ají

Friday, July 22, 2011

Corn bread

A Mexican friend of mine passed me this recipe a couple of years ago. It´s amazingly good-- kind of like eating fresh corn on the cob in quick bread form. Like fresh sweet corn, the bread is quite sweet and straddles the line between sweet and savory, but I don´t think most people would consider it dessert. Here in Latin America it wouldn´t be weird to think about having a slice of it with coffee (especially toasted, which tastes spectacularly grilled corn-on-the-cob-y), but I think for Americans it fits quite well along the brunch spectrum or even as a (quickly vanishing) dinner bread. The last time I made it I didn´t follow my own notes (dumb) and took the bread out when it was still jiggly, leaving me with a raw center. So do as I say and not as I do, and make sure to leave it in the oven until it´s definitively non-jiggly and deep golden brown. 

Sweet Corn Bread

3 Tbsp. (1.5 oz or 40 g) butter
3 ears of corn
3/4 c. (2.5 oz or 70 g) flour 
1/3 c. (2.5 oz or 70 g) sugar 
1/2 c. (4 oz) milk 
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3 eggs, separated

Preheat the oven to 450ºF. Place the butter in a 9 in. x 5 in. loaf pan and stick the loaf pan in the oven to melt the butter (check the butter after a couple of minutes; take it out as soon as it's melted). Cut the kernels off the corn with a sharp knife; make sure to scrape the cobs to get as much of the creamy "milk" as you can off them. In a blender combine corn kernels and scrapings, flour, sugar, milk, baking powder and salt, and blend on medium until mostly smooth (a little bit of corn grit is fine). Add in the yolks, blend briefly again until combined. Pour the melted butter into the blender (don't wash the loaf pan); blend briefly to combine once again. Make sure the loaf pan is cool enough to touch, then use your fingers to grease the sides of the pan with the residual butter. In a large bowl, beat the egg whites on medium speed (or by hand) until stiff but not dry. Pour the batter from the blender to one side of the egg whites (don't pour it on top of them so they won't deflate), then gradually fold the egg whites into the batter. When just barely combined (some white streak are ok), pour the batter into the loaf pan. Bake for 25 min., turning once after the first 10 min. have gone by. The bread is done when it's puffed, dark golden brown, and doesn't jiggle when tapped. It will fall as it cools. Eat warm or at room temperature; store in fridge.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


There's one aspect of air travel that I've always found a bit jarring, and it is this: how is it possible to get on a plane, sleep for a couple of hours (I fall asleep almost instantly in moving vehicles), and wake up in a different time zone, climate, country, language, with no apparent trauma to your brain or body? Isn't is just a little bit off? Shouldn't something happen? I guess I feel like you should have to earn it, and perhaps that our bodies should need time to adjust gradually, not just in the sense of jet-lag, but in the same way that your body has to adjust to higher altitudes. I feel like it's kind of like skipping chapters in history books; you end up confused as to how you got there, and a bit at a loss.

Going to Popayán was the opposite of this. It's only a 2-hours drive from Cali, but it feels worlds away, or more accurately, countries away. If I didn't know where I was I could have sworn I was in Peru. The all-white architecture is preserved from Spanish colonial times, and the people are generally shorter and darker with indigenous features. There was a llama just chilling in the center square. And I haven't seen skies like that since Cuzco.

Popayán has its own version of the tamal, called tamales de pipian, which are much smaller than valluno or bogotano tamales, and are made without meat (I'd like to say they are vegetarian but I'm not sure they don't use some kind of meat stock in the preparation). Along with the corn masa, they are filled with a peanut and potato mixture, and served with a peanut ají (sauce). We had them with cafe con leche as an afternoon snack, along with a peanut cookie, a weird donut-powdered sugar thing that I liked more than Felipe did, and, um, a small piece of head cheese, which definitely tastes a lot more like some kind of animal's head than it does like cheese.

We left before sunset, as the road in between Cali and Popayán-- closer to Popayán than Cali-- has a history of guerrilla activity. Yep, still in Colombia-- as much as I wish that association-- and reality-- didn't exist. 

All of the delicious comida típica (local food) left me, already prone to sleeping, comatose on the way home, like my buddy la llama. 

Friday, July 15, 2011

Qué comen los vegetarianos #4: Receta incluída

What you see above is a variation on a quick and all-purpose lunch that I adore and highly recommend. Now, I have to say, it does kind of look like something I would hate if it were served as a side dish or at a vegetarian buffet, but trust me when I say that I understand and share your precaution towards salads like this, and that, even so, this will become your new favorite lunch.

It is also what I make for lunch when I have lots of other things to do but I know I'm going to have to eat at some point and there are lots of random things in my fridge. But I still always look forward to it. 

It goes like this: if you have a rice cooker, use it here. I only found out recently how amazing rice cookers are. All I can say is, holy crap, and I am really not a gadget person. If you haven't yet entered into the bliss that is rice cookers, it's the same process, you just will have to pay a little bit more attention to the cooking time. So, saute some farro in a bit of oil just until well coated, add 2.5 times the water and a good big pinch of salt (the salt makes a huge difference; you want the farro to taste just a bit too salty on its own), cover and cook on low. Chop up some root vegetables, toss them with olive oil, salt, freshly ground pepper, a few sprigs of thyme, and smoked paprika if you have it (and you really really should; smoked paprika makes everything better). Roast in a hot oven. Go do something else. Come back in awhile and take the vegetables out of the oven so you don't burn them.

When the farro is done (tender but not mushy; the water should be totally evaporated, if it's not, strain it out), stir them lightly, toss in the roast vegetables, some sliced scallion, a handful of dried cranberries, lemon zest and juice, and more olive oil. If you happen to have them around, add in cooked chickpeas, crumbled feta, chopped parsley, mint or arugula. You can mix this with wild rice too, just make sure to cook the wild rice separately. Check for salt. Under no circumstances do you want to reheat this salad, that's how you find yourself back to nasty buffet food. Same thing goes for using raisins instead of cranberries. Eat, listening to Otis Redding.

Also: David Lebovitz has a really nice version of a similar wheat berry salad. I had thought that I had originally used his recipe as a model, which might still be the case (I can't remember), but when I went back to look at it they are actually fairly different, or perhaps mine has just diverged quite a bit. 


Ensalada de Trigo Entero

1 taza de trigo entero
un pedazo de zapallo, 3 zanahorias, una batata o otra verdura de raíz (o una combinación)
aceite de oliva
pimienta negra
pimenton ahumado (opcional pero delicioso)
una rama de cebolla larga (verdeo), picada 
jugo y cascara de un limón
un puñado de cranberries (o cerezas pasas o damascos picados)
opcional: un puñado de perejil, menta o rúcula picado
                garbanzos, queso cuajada o feta, arroz salvaje cocido 

Si tenes arrocera, usala aquí. Saltea el trigo en una cucharada de aceite durante un minuto y agregale 2.5 tazas de agua y una cucharada de sal. Tapa la olla y deja que cocine hasta que este tierno; si todavía queda agua, escurrilo (o simplemente espera que la arrocera se apague). Mientras tanto, calienta el horno a 200ºC y pica el zapallo en pedazos de 2 cm. En una bandeja, revuelve el zapallo con una cucharada de aceite de oliva, sal, pimienta negra, una pizca de pimenton ahumado y un par de ramas de tomillo (o una pizca). Mete la bandeja al horno.
Cuando el zapallo esté tierno y empezando a caramelizar por debajo, sacalo. Mezcalo con el trigo, la cebolla larga, cascara y jugo de limón y cranberries. Echale un chorrito de aceite de oliva, revuelvelo, y agrega el perejil y otras cositas si deseas. Fijate que estè bien de sal, aunque normalmente ya con la sal de la cocción del trigo está bien.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Qué comen los vegetarianos #3

Chickpeas with spinach and lemon, sweet and sour eggplant with ginger, spicy grated carrot salad with parsley and cilantro

Garbanzos con espinaca y limón, berenjena agridulce con jengibre, ensalada de zanahoria rallada con perejil, cilantro y picante

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The gospel

I've always found the variance in aversion to foods between cultures fascinating. I remember reading an article about eating fermented shark in Scandanavia, and though I will generally taste anything with an open mind, just imagining the smell made me want to retch. In Colombia caldo de ojo (eye soup) is served, and chicken feet often make appearances in soups, sometimes to the dismay of unsuspecting foreigners. Though all these things may sound, to me, to"us", naturally disgusting, let me remind you that many, many non-Americans find root beer totally gross (Speaking of gross soft drinks, have you ever had electric-yellow Peruvian Inca Kola? I just...can't...) And many non-Americans find peanut butter rather revolting, be still my heart. I understand it's mostly a texture thing (Uy pero se me pega al palador! Ugh but it sticks to the roof of my mouth!)
The flip side of what I would call culturally-determined food aversions are the combinations considered "natural". Who doesn't know that chocolate and peanut butter are the perfect combination? (Answer: the whole world outside of the U.S.) Felipe's mom Lucy and I were planning what dessert to go with a bandeja paísa and she said, of course if you're going to serve beans the dessert should be something with panela (unprocessed cane sugar). Who knew?

I walk by this woman at least a couple of times a week. She sets up right around lunchtime, and continuously pulls and kneads the toffee-like mass in her hand. She's there all afternoon, never letting the mass rest lest it harden, selling steadily to customers and replenishing the mass from the pot below. The pot contains a very simple mixture: "pezuña y panela", hoof and unprocessed cane sugar.

What results is a creamy, soft and stretchy mixture that tastes pleasantly of panela and is a lovely accompaniment to an after-lunch coffee. Thankfully it does not taste like what I imagine horse hooves taste like (I do know, of course, that gelatin is made from hooves, but I'm pretty sure she's not using the Knox powdered stuff). It is quite sweet, though, and after awhile it becomes empalagoso-- meaning you begin to feel like the inside of your mouth is coated with a layer of sugar, and it becomes a bit overwhelming.  (Spanish-1, English-0) 

Meanwhile, I try to spread the gospel about peanut butter and chocolate. Sometimes it goes better than others. But I made oreos with peanut butter filling the other day, and they were bittersweet and salty and everything I ever wanted, and people liked them so much I was even offered a job, and now they are all gone and I want more.

Peanut Butter Oreos

For the cookies:
1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/4 c. flour
1 c. sugar (I used a mix of white and natural cane sugar, which gave the cookies a less smooth appearance but a nice depth of flavor)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
10 Tbsp. (5 oz. or 140 g.) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 egg, beaten

For the filling:
6 Tbsp. (3 oz.) peanut butter (natural)
1/4 c. (2 oz.) butter
1 c. (4 oz. or 113 g.) powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Sift the cocoa powder, flour, sugar, salt and baking soda together. Using your fingers or a pastry blender, cut the butter into the cocoa powder mixture. When you have a damp sand-like mixture, add in the egg and mix until well combined.
Roll large teaspoons of dough into balls with your hands and place them on a baking sheet 2 in. apart. I got 30 balls (rows of 5 by rows of 6) on a sheet. Flatten out each ball lightly with your fingertips, trying to keep a circular disk. Cook for 9 min., turning the baking sheet 180º after the first 5 min.
Let cool on pan. When cool, remove cookies to a plate. Repeat for the rest of the dough. 
For the filling, beat the peanut butter, butter and powdered sugar together. Make sandwiches with the cookies. Eat.

Oreos Caseros con Relleno de Mantequilla de Maní

Para las galletas:
1/2 taza de cacao amargo en polvo (sin azúcar-- también a veces se llama cocoa)
1 1/4 tazas de harina de trigo (tipo 000)
1 taza de azúcar (yo usé una mezcla de azúcar blanca y lo que se llama azúcar morena en Colombia que es azúcar rubia en Argentina)
1/2 cucharita de sal
1 cucharita de bicarbonato de soda
140 g. (5 oz.) de mantequilla sin sal, a temperatura del ambiente 
1 huevo, batido

Para el relleno::
6 cucharadas (85 g. o 3 oz.) de mantequilla de maní natural (debería decir 100% maní)*
4 cucharadas (56 g. o 2 oz.) de mantequilla (sin o con sal)
1 taza (113 g. o 4 oz.) de azúcar impalpable

Precalienta el horno a 190ºC. Tamiza el chocolate en polvo, harina, azúcar, sal y bicarbonato juntos sobre un bol, mezclandolos bien. Con los dedos, incorpora la mantequilla a la mezcla de cacao. Cuando tenes una mezcla como harina humeda, agrega el huevo y mezcla bien hasta que este uniforme.
Haz bolitas de una cucharita grande con las manos y colocalas en una bandeja, dejando 3 cm. entre las bolitas. Yo meto 30 bolitas (5 columnas de 6) a la bandeja. Aplasta cada bolita ligeramente con los dedos, haciendo un disco circulo. Cocina durante 9 min., rotando la bandeja 180º después de los primeros 5 minutos.
Deja las galletas a enfriar en la bandeja. Cuando se hayan enfriado, sacalas con una espatula a un plato y repite el proceso con el resto de la masa.
Para el relleno, bate la mantequilla de maní, mantequilla y azúcar impalpable juntos. Haz sandwiches con las galletas. Come.

*si solamente tenes acceso a mantequilla de maní con endulzantes y aditivos, deberías bajar la proporción de azúcar impalpable y mantequilla a mantequilla a maní 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Qué comen los vegetarianos #2

Roasted beets with cumin and coriander seeds, hash browns with green onions and cilantro, fried egg, ancho chile sauce, chopped vegetable salad with green onions and lime, tamarind juice

Remolachas al horno con semillas de comino y cilantro, papas con cebolla larga (verdeo) y cilantro, huevo frito, salsa de chiles (ajís) ancho, ensalada de verduras picadas con cebolla larga, jugo de tamarindo

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Just a bit

This is not the greatest picture because it was taken from the car, but let me explain. On the left you have Reyes y Sacerdotes (Kings and Priests), which is an evangelical church. On the right you have Apartahotel 7 Maravillas (Hotel 7 Wonders), an hourly sex hotel, I'm guessing with themed rooms. It cracks me up every time we drive by. The names even complement each other! It just inspires so many questions. Do they have a good neighborly relationship? Who moved in first? How many clients might they have in common (a different kind of one stop shopping, shall we say)? 

I should add that (apropos the last question, which was only meant to be partially flippant), like in Argentina, because so many people live with their parents until they are in their late twenties or early thirties, sex hotels are not considered nearly as sleazy here as they are in the U.S. Also, they often have bathtubs, something that most houses in Cali don't have. Recently a friend had the chickenpox and I told her that she should take an oatmeal bath. ¿En dónde? Oops, forgot about that minor detail.  

Not only do most houses in Cali not have bathtubs, most don't have hot water, either. The 80 degree year-round temperature means that most people don't find it necessary. I, on the hand, can't get completely used to it (though I appreciate that my shower time has been reduced by 3/4), and sometimes when I'm at an event with lots of people (who are always impeccably groomed) I look around and think to myself all of these people bathed in cold water before coming here, and it makes me shudder just a bit at the memory.