Saturday, October 20, 2012

Lo que mas se vende: Empanadas Colombianas

I did not grow up making empanadas; I didn't even grow up eating them. I've talked about Argentine empanadas here before, but until now haven't mentioned the Colombian version because I didn't feel like I had adequate experience with them. But after making hundreds and hundreds of Colombian empanadas, based on a carefully documented tutorial from Felipe's mother, I feel at least mildly qualified to talk about them; if you`d like to hear about them (and for a detailed recipe in English), head over to Colombia travel this weekAs they say, ¿Que hacemos? Empanadas que es lo que mas se vende, o buñuelos que se voltean solos? (What should we make? Empanadas that sell the most or buñuelos that turn over by themselves?)

For the English version of the recipe, head over to Colombia travel. 

Empanadas Colombianas
     adaptada de mi suegra

Para la carne y papa:
¼ kilo de espaldilla  (en Brasil uso el corte que se llama "lagarto")
2 tallos de cebolla larga (verdeo)
un diente de ajo, picado
1/2 cucharita de comino molido
1/2 cucharita de pimienta negra
1 cucharada de sal
¼ kilo de papa (sería la papa criolla en Colombia o la arracacha si te gusta, o sino cualquier papa que sea buena para puré)

Coloca la carne en una olla de presión con 2 tazas de agua y la cebolla larga, comino, ajo, pimienta, y sal, tapala y cocinala a presión por una hora. Si después de 1 hora al meter el dedo a la carne no está blandita, cocinala otra media hora a presión, y sigue así hasta que este blandita. Espera hasta que la espaldilla se enfríe, sacala de la olla y desmechala. Puedes cocinar la carne y después de que se enfrie la olla, guardala la olla (con el agua) en la nevera, dejando para el otro día la desmechada de la carne y la cocinada de las papas.
En el mismo agua donde se cocinó la carne, echa la papa y cocinala a presión; cuando la olla pite la papa ya debería estar. Saca la papa de la olla y ve mezclándola con la carne para que forme una masa unida. 

Para el guiso:
1/4 taza de aceite vegetal
4-5 tallos de cebolla larga (verdeo), picada
un diente de ajo, picado

Sofreí la cebolla y ajo en el aceite hasta que esten blanditos y empiecen a dorar un poco (no dejes que el ajo se queme).

Echa la mezcla de cebolla y ajo a la carne y papa, mezcla bien y pruébala para ver que este bien de sal y de comino (se puede agregar otra media cucharita de comino si queres).

Para la masa:
Si vives en Colombia, si quieres, puedes comprar la masa ya lista en el supermercado; vas a necesitar ½ kilo de masa.
O puedes hacer la masa de areparina: en un bol grande, mezcla 1.5 tazas de areparina con 1.5 tazas de agua, 1 cucharada de aceite vegetal, una pizca de sal y una pizca de curcuma (si estás usando areparina blanca) para darle color a la masa. Amasa la mezcla hasta que tengas una masa suave; si la masa está seca, anda agregando más agua, poco a poco, hasta que tengas una masa flexible y suave (la cantidad de agua depende de la humedad donde estes; es posible que tengas que agregar hasta media taza más de agua). Haz una bolita y tapala con plástico. Deja la masa reposar por 15-20 minutos.
O, si tienes un molino de maíz, puedes hacer la masa de maíz. Cocina 250 g. de maíz (el que se usa para arepas) a presión hasta que esté tierno (aprox. una hora), después muelelo en el molino. Echa sal a gusto (no quieres una masa muy salada pero si quieres que sepa a algo) y (si el maíz es blanco) curcuma para darle color. Con las manos, amasa la masa hasta que la sal (y curcuma, si la estas usando) esté uniformemente distribuidas y tengas una masa suave. Tapala con plástico si no la vas a usar inmediatamente para que no se seque.

Para armar las empanadas:
Forma bolitas de 40 g. (como una bola de golf). Coloca un pedazo de plástico sobre una superficie y coloca una (o dos) bolitas sobre él. Dejando suficiente espacio para expandir, dobla el plástico sobre la bolita y usa un rodillo para hacer un circulo fino-- la masa puede estar un poco transparente pero no tanto que se vaya a quebrar). Abre el plástico doblado y coloca 2-3 cucharadas de relleno en el centro del circulo, después dobla el plástico de nuevo sobre el relleno, usando el plástico y un bol pequeño u otra herramienta redonda para ayudar a darle la forma, como se ve aquí (la misma técnica pero con empanadas de cambray). Fijate que está bien sellada. Sigue con el resto de la masa y el relleno. Ahora puedes congelar las empanadas, bien protegidas por plástico, para freírlas cuando quieras, o puedes freírlas inmediatamente. 
Ten un plato con papel de cocina al lado de la estufa. Frie las empanadas en abundante aceite bien caliente, 3-4 a la vez. Si echas más a la olla en el mismo momento, se baja la temperatura del aceite y las empanadas se desbaratan. Sacalas cuando estén doraditas y crocantes, dejalas en el plato con papel de cocina y sigue friendo las demás.
Sirvelas calientes, con cualquier ají. Rinda ~16 empanadas. La receta se puede multiplicar, guardando las mismas proporciones, sin problema.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Qué comen los vegetarianos: Colombian breakfast!

House-sitting for Colombian friends, this morning we woke up to a mostly bare fridge, save some staples: eggs, tomatoes, onions, leftover rice from the night before, and plantains. While heating up water for coffee, Felipe sauteed tomato and onion together before stirring in the eggs, a Colombian classic called huevos pericos, then fried the plantains. Breakfast on the table in 5 minutes.

Actually, the plantains would have taken longer but they had already been fried once and frozen. These were green plantains, called patacones pisaos, and they need to be twice-fried, once to flatten them and the second time to make them crispy. Patacón pisao (really pisado, but the "d" gets dropped) means stepped-on plantain. Though many people use wooden presses or the bottoms of heavy pots to flatten the plantains, Felipe's aunt literally steps on them. She puts the plantain in a plastic bag and then steps on it slowly, repeatedly, using the sole of her sandal to flatten out the plantain evenly. We find this much easier, especially with bigger patacones, and people always seem to get a kick out of watching their breakfast/lunch/dinner get stepped on. Though perfect as an accompaniment to eggs and rice, patacones are a really good vehicle for all kinds of toppings, salsa, guacamole, or even used instead of buns for sandwiches and burgers. Gluten-free, vegetarian, everything you could possibly want except for oil-free, ha.

Plantains after the first fry

Patacones Pisaos (Fried Green Plantains)

green plantains (as green as you can find, this won't work with yellow plantains) 

abundant vegetable oil for frying

Peel the plantains: use a big knife to cut of the top and tail of the plantain and then make a long vertical cut, using the knife to help you pry the skin from the plantain. You can make patacones any size you want- the ones shown here are each from half a plantain, though  you can make huge ones from whole plantains, or smaller ones if you cut the plantain into 2 or 3 inch sections.  For the patacones seen here, cut the plantains in half horizontally (like the bananas here). 

Heat a couple of inches of oil in a large pot over low heat. After a couple of minutes, add the plantains and fry until cooked through but not browned. Use tongs or a strainer to remove the plantains, then slip them one at a time into a clean plastic bag. Use your foot to slowly flatten the plantain. If the plantain breaks or is very difficult to flatten, it wasn't cooked all the way through. At this point, the flattened plantains can be frozen (well wrapped) until you're ready to use them. 
When you are ready to serve the patacones, heat the oil until it's very hot. Line a plate with paper towels and place it next to the stove. Fry the plantains one or two at a time, until they begin to brown at the edges. Sprinkle with salt and serve hot, on their own or with hogao, guacamole, shredded meat, or whatever else you have lying around.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Mont Branco, or Brazil by way of France, sort of

I didn't know what Mont Blancs were until I saw them on Bravetart's excellent website; during my one and only trip to Paris post-college we skipped Angelina's (who apparently has the famous, definitive version), having heard that it was overly expensive and a bit rundown. (Also, we had a whole list of chocolate shops to walk to, jeez.) For some reason that I still can't quite put my finger on, the chestnut-flavored spaghetti dessert sounded appealing, with one major problem: chestnuts are not readily accessible around here. So, another recipe/idea was filed away for who knows when.

But as it were, I had started to see enormous brown woodchip-like somethings around the markets here in Brazil, and then Tom from the informative eatrio blog explained that they something akin to giant pine nuts, called pinhão. I initially thought maybe I could make something like pine nut shortbread with them, so I picked some up. What I soon realized was that pinhão are much milder in flavor and starchier than pine nuts, less fatty, and as they were described as chestnut-like (by Tom, actually, I'm just a bit dense), I began to think about using them in place of chestnuts and doing a variation of a Mont Blanc. For the filling I decided on a dulce de leche-enriched whipped cream (my Argentinean housemate's father was visiting, which means amazing dulce de leche in the house).  

I wish I could call it Pão de Açúcar, but Pão de Açúcar is greenish, and, uh, snow free. Mont Branco? (Branco=white in Portuguese.) There we go. I should probably mention that we just bought a new camera in the states and these are hopefully that last of the sad but occasionally entertaining pictures taken by my extremely worn out old camera. I was trying to line up the building's dome with the (ridiculously precarious-looking) peak, but then the batteries went out.

Look, I realize all of this makes me a total crazy person. I'm not even sure if there is any point in posting the recipe because, well, if few people would make the regular version, who the hell is going to make it with giant South American pinenut-chestnuts? But I'll post it for myself, in any case, if I ever decide to replicate the lunacy which, frankly, is rather unlikely, not because the results weren't delicious but because overly-involved projects mostly interest me when they're experiments, not when I know they, you know, work. Which is why a good amount of the time, if I want something sweet I make oatmeal cookies or vanilla pudding. BUT just because I've already done this experiment doesn't mean you have (GIANT PINENUTS, people). I dare you.

I tried several variations for the base and decided that I liked the basic meringue base the best, though the pictures show a pate brisee-ish base.

Mont Branco

125 g. boiled, peeled pinhão (from about 200 g. raw and unpeeled)
1/4 batch pastry cream
2 Tbsp. salted butter
6 egg whites
pinch salt
1 1/2 c. white sugar
3/4 c. heavy whipping cream, cold
3 Tbsp. dulce de leche, jarred or homemade

Process the pinhão with the pastry cream until mostly smooth, then add in the butter and process until the butter is fully incorporated. Load a pastry bag (fitted with whatever tip you like) with the pinhão cream and refrigerate until needed (you may want to take it out of the fridge 10 minutes before using just to warm it up a bit).

Preheat the oven to 250F. Beat the egg whites with the pinch of salt until they form soft peaks, then gradually add in the sugar until you have a stiff and glossy meringue. Pipe or spoon the meringue onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper into circles with a 4'' diameter. Bake for an hour, until dried out but not browned. Turn off oven and leave the meringues in the oven until thoroughly cooled.

To assemble: beat the whipping cream with the dulce de leche until you have fluffy peaks (don't overbeat the cream or you will get butter). Place large dollops of the whipped cream in the center of the meringues, then pipe the pinhão cream around it. Serve immediately, and refrigerate any leftovers.

Saturday, October 6, 2012


We just got back from a visit from mi tierrita (aka the U.S.) this week, which for some reason makes me want to clear out some odds and ends of drafts I have laying around in the blogger account. It's also been pretty dead around here lately so I can't think it will be a bad thing.

The following two recipes came into my possession shortly after arriving in Rio de Janeiro, and I've made both of them on multiple occasions ever since. Both are cakes, aka bolos (after much grilling of Brazilian friends, the difference between a bolo and a torta is that a torta has frosting and a bolo doesn't...except for when it does), and though these two bolos quite different than one another, to me they are quite characteristically Brazilian. First off is a cake that uses grated yuca that my friend Jenny, who is from Brasilia, showed me how to make. It's probably not like anything you've had before, and it uses not only yuca but also coconut and cheese; all three are common ingredients in desserts here. It's also delicious and filling in a way cakes normally aren't, something I attribute to the fact that it has a lot more stuff in it than your typical butter-sugar-flour cake. I know that "filling" is probably not a quality that most people look for in a cake, but if you think about it, isn't it strange how 2 tons of butter and sugar can be whipped into fluffy, ethereal cake, none of which will fill you up, not even in a million years? A piece of this cake, alongside a strong cup of coffee with sweetened condensed milk (not Brazilian, just my current preference), will tide you over perfectly until dinner.

The second cake that I'd like to introduce you to today, ahem, is a cornmeal cake with cheese; in fact, it's make with fubá, the cornmeal that I couldn't distinguish from farinha de milho (corn flour) when I had just recently arrived here. Fubá is finely-ground cornmeal. It lacks the nubbiness that medium-ground American cornmeal provides; texture-wise it's much smoother, similar to masa harina, a substitute used by some Brazilians living in the states. This cake (and it is a sweet cake, don't let the cheese fool you) happens to be gluten free, and though it's dense in its own way it's not at all heavy, which as far as I'm concerned also makes it an excellent breakfast cake. It's also mixed entirely in the blender, which seems to be a thing here, and makes for very quick clean up. The woman who gave me the recipe said that the milk and cheese can be substituted for coconut milk, which I haven't gotten around to trying but I think sounds lovely (and dairy free if we're counting). You can also add chunks of guava paste to the batter if you like (in the picture below I added fresh guava chunks, but I think the more traditional guava paste is a better fit as the raw chunks are a bit acidic). The combination of cheese and guava paste is considered a perfect combination and known as Romeu e Julieta.

Bolo de Fubá com Queijo (Cornmeal Cake with Cheese)

1 c. whole milk
1 c. white sugar
¾ c. vegetable oil
3 eggs
5 oz. fresh cheese (Mexican queso fresco or even well-washed feta would work here; if you have access to Colombian queso cuajada or Brazilian queijo minas that would be ideal)
2 c. finely ground cornmeal (blitz normal cornmeal in a food processor until very fine, or you can use masa harina*)
1 Tbsp. baking powder
A pinch of salt-- if you're using feta or another salty cheese, a very small one as fresh cheese tends to be less salty

Preheat the oven to 360ºF. Butter two 8 in. round cake pans or two loaf pans (9x5 in. will work as will 8x4 in.) Add the milk, sugar, oil, eggs and cheese to a blender. Blend for a minute or two until the mixture is more or less homogenous (you're not looking to create an emulsion, just that everything is more or less broken up and well dispersed). Add in the flour, baking powder and salt, and pulse just until everything looks well blended, then pour directly into the two greased pans. Bake for ~ 35 minutes, until a knife slipped into the center comes out clean and the cake has begun to pull away from the sides.
Let the cakes cool in the pans, then turn them out. I think you could certainly do a lemony cream cheese frosting here if you wanted to, though I like the cake plain as a more everyday sort of thing.
Leftovers should be covered with plastic so they don't dry out.

*Masa harina (which can be found in Latin markets) is treated with lime, but it doesn't seem to make a difference here in the flavor.

Bolo de Mandioca e Coco (Yuca and Coconut Cake)

1 lb. fresh yuca, peeled so you're left with pure white flesh (remove the purple layer too) (~2.5 c. grated)
5 oz. fresh cheese (Mexican queso fresco or even well-washed feta would work here; if you have access to Colombian queso cuajada or Brazilian queijo minas that would be ideal)
3.5 oz. (1 c.) sweetened grated coconut
3 eggs
2/3 c. white sugar
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1/2 c. whole milk
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 Tbsp. baking powder

Preheat the oven to 350F. Oil and flour a 9 in. round cake pan or a 9 x 5 in. loaf pan.
Grate the yuca on a box grater into a large bowl. Grate the cheese into the same bowl as the yuca. Add the coconut and stir to mix and evenly distribute the ingredients. In a separate large bowl, whisk the eggs to break them up. Add in the sugar and continue to whisk until well combined, then whisk in the oil and milk. Place a sifter over the bowl and sift the flour and baking powder directly into the wet mixture. Use a spatula to fold the flour and baking powder in just until combined, then use the spatula to fold in the yuca-cheese-coconut mixture into the batter.
Scrape the batter into the pan and bake until golden on top and beginning to pull away from the side, ~30 min.

Bolo de Fubá com Queijo (Torta de Maíz con Queso)

1 taza de leche entera
1 taza de azúcar blanca
¾ taza de aceite vegetal (canola, girasol o soja)
3 huevos
150 g. de queso fresco (queso cuajada colombiano por ejemplo)
2 tazas de harina de maíz fina (se puede sustituir masa harina* o tal vez hasta areparina, aunque sinceramente no he probado con areparina)
1 cucharada de polvo de hornear
Una pizca de sal-- dependiendo del nivel de salado que sea el queso, si es un queso muy salado entonces una pizquita nomás

Precalienta el horno a 180ºC. Amanteca 2 moldes redondos de 20 cm., o 2 moldes de pan rectangulares de 20 cm. x 10 cm. Echa la leche, azúcar, aceite, huevos y queso a la licuadora. Licua por un minuto o dos hasta que la mezcla esté más o menos homogenea. Echa la harina, polvo de hornear y sal y pulsa solo hasta que todo parezca estar bien incorporado, después echa la mezcla directamente a los dos moldes amantecados. Hornea durante ~ 35 minutos, hasta un cuchillo metido en el centro salga limpo y la torta haya encogido de los lados del molde.
Quita las tortas del horno y dejalas enfriar en los moldes, después voltealas sobre dos platos. Pienso que se podría hacer una cobertura de queso crema con limón si uno quisiera, pero a mi me gusta así, simple, como una torta para el consumo diario.
Tapa las sobras con plástico para que no se sequen.

*Masa harina es tratada con cal pero al parecer no cambia el sabor aquí.

Bolo de Mandioca e Coco (Torta de Yuca y Coco)

1 libra de yuca fresca, pelada (~2.5 tazas rallada)
150 g. de queso fresco (tipo queso cuajada colombiano)
100 g. (1 taza) de coco rallado seco y endulzado
3 huevos
2/3 taza de azúcar blanca
1/2 taza de aceite vegetal
1/2 taza de leche entera
1/2 taza de harina de trigo blanca (tipo 000)
1/2 cucharada de polvo de hornear

Precalienta el horno a 175ºC. Aceita y enharina un molde redondo de 23 cm., o un molde de pan de 23 cm. x 13 cm.
Ralla la yuca con una ralladora de caja en un bol grande. Ralla el queso en el mismo bol Echa el coco y revuelve para distribuir bien los ingredientes. En otro bol grande, bate los huevos con el azúcar hasta bien combinados, después echa el aceite y la leche y bate bien. Coloca un tamizador directamente sobre el bol de los liquidos y tamiza la harina y el polvo de hornear, dejandolos caer en el bol abajo. Con una espatula mezcla ligeramente la harina y polvo de honear justamente hasta que estén incorporados, después usa la espatula para incorporar la mezcla de yuca a la masa.
Echa la masa al molde y hornea hasta que esté dorada encima y ya quitandose de los lados del molde, ~30 min. Sacala del horno y dejala enfriar en el molde.