Saturday, April 21, 2012

Like, officially

So, somehow I've avoided mentioning this until now, but awhile ago I was contacted to write as an "Official Blogger Promoting Tourism in Colombia." When I told my mom this, her response was, "wait, have they read your blog?," a question that, frankly, had crossed my mind as well. I wouldn't consider this blog pro-any country, really; I would more consider myself an equal-opportunity complainer, and eater, as it were. Unsurprisingly, most of what I've written for the Colombia blog so far has to do with food. I've made empanadas de cambray (cheese and guava-filled empanadas), Colombian-style juice, and papas rellenas (stuffed potatoes). This week I'm writing about littering and (intentionally) dropping cheese in your hot chocolate. My sister also makes her Official Internet Debut, in fine form. Check it out.

Anyways, now that that's out of the way, my dad's coming to visit next week! I am, needless to say, very excited, although I wish I felt a bit more confident as a tour guide. We have done painfully little in terms of tourist-y destinations since we've been here and my Portuguese is certainly not where I would like it to be. My dad always jumps at the chance to travel (I say this as if the apple had fallen far from the tree), and when I lived in Buenos Aires he came to visit after I'd been living there for about the same length of time I've been living here, around 6 months. My Spanish was very iffy, and I was still figuring the place out myself. We had a great time, but the difference between when he came and when my mom came to visit 2 years later was day and night as far as my feeling Official Tour Guide-ready. Unsurprisingly, that same situation seems to be playing out again in Brazil, and I'll do my best but I can't help but go back to feeling inadequate for the job.

Invariably, whenever anyone from my family comes to visit, I send a list requesting foods for them to please pretty please bring me. Before living outside of the states, I had a vague notion of what "American" food was (and I knew that Europeans thought peanut butter was gross), but I never thought about it in terms of, how would my grocery shopping be limited if I lived in another country? Well, in case you were wondering what it's like, or in case you're ever planning on visiting a friend living outside of the country and want to bring them something from home, this is my typical request list:

TJ's peanut butter (4 jars crunchy and 2 jars smooth)
TJ's Pound Plus dark and bittersweet chocolate bars
Dried cranberries
Wild rice
Buckwheat flour
Maple syrup
Bourbon (Maker's Mark or Knob Creek)
Chipotles en adobo (La Raza brand)
Masa harina
TJ's wasabi trail mix (my mom got Felipe hooked on this when she visited us in Argentina)

David Lebovitz, who writes one of the most well known ex-pat food blogs from France, has written about stuffing his suitcase with dried cherries, Chex and corn syrup. Anecdotally speaking, peanut butter seems to be a common denominator among all American ex-pats. Those of us living in Latin America tend to complain a lot about the cheese available here, but unfortunately most of our beloved friends and family are not so keen on carrying a cooler stuffed with goat cheese and sharp cheddar onto international flights, so I at least have mostly given up on that. There are some things I used to request-- vanilla extract, candied ginger-- that I learned to make myself. Other things that were difficult to find in Buenos Aires-- (good tasting) coffee, molasses, coconut milk-- are thankfully abundant in Brazil. And obviously, if I were living in Mexico, the chipotles and masa harina would not be on the list. But just in case you happen to be fantasizing about moving to another country, consider the scenario of walking into a grocery store with no peanut butter and no bourbon. Now go make yourself a peanut butter sandwich for me, and consider me Officially Jealous.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Passover 2012, Rio de Janeiro

Definitely not the most traditional nor the most elegant seder I've ever been a part of-- we used wasabi instead of horseradish, paper plates, and I made the matzoh (yes, you read that right, I made the matzoh)-- but I was grateful to be in the company of friends, even if they had no clue what on earth was going on. And they didn't even complain when my explanations as to why, exactly, they had to dip parsley into salt water and eat it, and why, exactly, there was a bone on the plate in the center of the table were less than stellar. Felipe said, sympathetically, well, we don't have the books (meaning the haggadahs). Ha. Years and years of Hebrew school, and for what?

We ate Hillel sandwiches and matzoh ball soup and wild rice pilaf and vanilla bean flan with matzoh brittle. At one point one of our friends, who is half Colombian half Peruvian, said, this is so cool, I love eating ethnic food. Which made me crack up. Eye of the beholder, indeed. And much love to those who participated.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Persimmon Butter

There's a lot of wonderful fruit here, but sometimes I miss the berries and amazing apples that make such great jam and fruit butter in the states. There was a marked overflow of ripe persimmons at the market last week, though, and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to make persimmon butter. Persimmon butter is richly sweet in an ancient kind of way, like honey and medjool dates, like what I imagine manna might have tasted like. It's exactly what I want to have in the fridge to spread on toast, or English muffins. Sometimes fresh guava juice only gets you so far.

Persimmon Butter

1 kilo (~ 2 lbs.) very ripe persimmons
1/4 kilo (~ 8 oz.) white sugar
juice of 1 rangpur lime (what I had from the market, I know my life is hard, or 1 lemon)

Remove tops of persimmons and place the fruit in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Add the sugar and lime/lemon juice and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cook everything together gently for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, then turn of the heat and let it cool off a bit. Strain the mixture, pressing through as much fruit as possible, then pour it back into the pot and bring it back up to a simmer, stirring frequently and making sure to scrape the bottom often, until thickened. Pour into sterilized jars, cap them, and let them cool on the counter. When the jars are cool, store in the fridge (I'm sure you could can this for real, but I knew there was no way the butter would last that long for it to be necessary, so I didn't bother). Makes 2, 8 oz. jars. 

Mermelada de Caqui

1 kilo de caquis, muy maduros
1/4 kilo de azúcar blanca
jugo de un limón o una lima mandarina

Quita las hojas de los caquis y colocalos en una olla grande de fondo grueso. Echale el azúcar y el jugo de limón/lima, y pon la mezcla a hervir lentamente. Cocina todo con fuego bajo, revolviendo cada tanto, por 10 minutos, después apaga el fuego y deja la mezcla enfriar un toque. Pasale por un colador, utilizando una cucharada para pasar toda la fruta posible, después devuelve la mezcla a la olla y cocinala otra vez con fuego bajo, revolviendo con mucha frecuencia y fijando bien que no se esta pegando al fondo, hasta que esté espesa. Echale a jarras esterilizadas, tapalas y dejalas enfriar. Guardalas en la heladera. Rinde 2 jarritos de 250 g.