Saturday, February 6, 2010

A History

I've fallen by the wayside in terms of cooking enthusiasm... I suppose it's bound to happen mid semester. I apologize for the premature decline in posts... Sophia and I have been keeping up a busy schedule outside of food world. However, today I decided to dedicate a lovely sunny saturday morning to food while all members of the household are nestled snugly in their beds still sleeping!

I don't want to be a name dropper.. but much of my inspiration this week has come from Rebecca Caro of From Argentina with Love...a Denver woman married to an Argentine

and Katie of Seashells and Sunflowers...a Philadelphian woman living in Necochea, Argentina with her boyfriend

Alas their classic Argentine recipes got me excited about going back to the kitchen again. For me, the appeal to authentic Argentine food is the tradition that it carries with it. You know the kind of recipes that are shared in conversation with all the town folks. The kind of recipe that you have to get by waking up early and having breakfast with the oldest lady that works in the bakery before it opens. True story, someone did exactly that in order to get me an authentic recipe for empanadas.

Real Argentines have the knack for making virtually everything casero, homemade. I mean really, why buy it when you can make a better version yourself?

Preblog times Sophia had made bread on a couple of occasions and it had the exact taste and smell and look of pan casero, a homemade bread made in the countryside of Argentina. The authentic kind traditionally is baked over a wood fire. It's a dense bread that gives me comfort in cold weather with a mug of mate cocido.

Classic Argentine homemade bread and sweet potato filled empanadillas, enjoyed but not cooked by me

(Courtesy of

That week I made pan relleno or stuffed bread, also an Argentine favorite, and originally from a recipe that was passed to me by word of mouth that week. I admit, although I just finished talking about the appeal of tradition and oral history of recipes... I almost always back up one recipe with another... just to find commonalities and to see ways to improve. The tomato, mushroom, thyme filling was all of my own creation. Thus was born our blog.

Last week Sophia and I fell in love with eggplant (and coffee if you hadn't already picked up on that). Eggplant is so beautiful that I made a friend this week for the love of this gorgeously curvaceous vegetable.

(Courtesy of

The first time I tried eggplant, it was fried and I couldn't appreciate its flavor. The second time was at my first Argentine asado/barbeque. It was served on bread with olive oil. It is by far one of the most simple and most delicious ways to savor this lovely plant! It's basically marinated eggplant with a little bit of garlic and crushed red pepper. Thanks to both Katie and Rebecca, I am able to finally make it myself.

Thereby I present to you:
Berenjena en Escabeche or Marinated Eggplant

Step One: Steep Eggplant in salt for several hours

Step Two: Stew eggplant in vinegar and water

Step Three: Marinate eggplant in garlic, crushed red chili pepper and oregano

Unfortunately the final product doesn't look all that appetizing. You'll just have to take my word for it...

I accompanied this celebration to eggplant, with a new and improved ratatouille and french bread!

It was a bit dense and didn't keep fresh for very long. By the next day it started to become hard. But I must say when it was freshly warm out of the oven and eaten with soft melted butter it was delicious especially after a night of dancing tango!

Earlier this week I helped out Sophia with the vindaloo meal by making pakoras. The recipe I took almost word for word out of a cookbook, which to my dismay was a huge mistake. The pakoras were flavorless and spongy! Halfway through I decided that particular cookbook had never served me any good, and I threw it whatever spices at hand, coriander, garam masala maybe? turmeric, cayenne...I don't even remember. Lesson learned? Trust your instinct on spices and adding flavors... never abide by a single recipe, unless it's a damn good one, pardon my french. I was able to sample some of the best pakoras in town last night and I think the key ingredient involves some sort of seed...fenugreek maybe? I've yet to figure it out, same goes for samosas.

I also made naan, which was naan for maybe less than an hour and then starting taking on the characteristics of pita bread then pita chips. How to remedy a naan turned pita chips?

Make hummus!

First time that I've made hummus. Fairly straight forward. I cheated and used canned chickpeas. I've heard soaking the chickpeas in water for a little time before use is highly recommended... don't ask for the reason.. just trust me on this one. Who knew hummus is just chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice and garlic? Well I didn't obviously. I had originally planned to roast the garlic and add it something else to add some pizazz? (pizazz? who have i become really??) But at 10:30 at night when all you've been running on is caffeine all day, I really couldn't be bothered. The quick fix solution?

Chipotle chili powder. A lot of chipotle chili powder.
All in all the hummus was a bit thick and more of a paste than a spread. Nonetheless it was a hit in the household.

I think I'm back on the cooking train... stay tuned to see where it will take my fellow comrade, Sophia and me in the upcoming week.

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