Friday, June 18, 2010

The Show Must Go On!

This past week I've had a serious setback as I've been quite ill. I've been put on a strict diet by doctor's orders. I was so distraught that I decided to fulfill my foodie needs by cooking. I wasn't able to enjoy personally in the fruits of my labor but those who did take pleasure in the results were aptly satisfied and full.

I indulged in making an old favorite of mine. Classic Argentine pan relleno or stuffed bread. I love how simple and easy this recipe is. Not only does it require a few inexpensive ingredients that any ol' baker will already have stocked in their kitchen, but it also allows you to get creative with the filling.

This time I chose to use a soft, herb cheese, fleur de verte, with which I created a spread with roasted garlic and olive oil.

I then layered jambon de bayonne on top with Spanish black and green olives with chopped dried chilis.

It was a beautiful combination and would have made a great accompainment to a good red wine.

I also tried my hand at a chickenless curry salad using jasmine rice, sliced apples, celery, red onion, sliced almonds, raisins and red seedless grapes. As you can see, I used almonds as I would not be the one consuming this dish.

I began by sweating some chopped red onions in a pot with some olive oil on medium heat. I then proceeded to add the spices in order for the onions and oil to fully absorb and release flavor to the following ingredients. The spices included, garam masala, anise powder, a bit of clove, turmeric, coriander, cayenne, paprika, and cinnamon. Most often garam masala and coriander are the two that I add the most of, but this time, I went a little heavier on the turmeric as well, which was necessary for this recipe. It was safe to go much lighter on the paprika and cayenne as its not a dish meant to be very spicy. I toasted the two cups of rice in with the spices, onions and oil for a couple of minutes or so. At the same time I added in the chopped celery and raisins. I gradually added water to the pot to allow the rice to continue cooking.

I should have gradually added up to about 4 cups of water. The general rule of thumb for rice is two parts water for one part rice. I feared for when the rice began to stick thus I frantically added more and more water. This resulted in a mushy mass of curry rice ball by the end.

As you add water to rice in any recipe prepared in this way, I suggest to continue to augment your spices accordingly. It's very frequent that flavor is lost and diluted when liquid is added so be cautious of this. One such recipe that comes to mind, is the guiso, something like a basic stew. In Argentina, it's common to do make guiso with a base ingredient such as lentils (guiso de lentejas), pasta such as macaroni or tube pasta(guiso de fideos), or rice (guiso de arroz), and a tomato base liquid. It comes in a carton and is known as puree de tomate. Whatever meat of your liking can be thrown in accordingly too, anything from salchichas (small sausages/hot dogs), chorizo (real Spanish sausage) morcilla (blood sausage) , to carne molida (ground meat) o cortada (cuts of meat). Anyhow... hopefully this somewhat unrelated tangent will lead to another upcoming blog post and complete recipe for some other day.

The dish was served chilled with the sliced apples and red grapes mixed in after the rice was taken off the stove. Although the resulting texture of the rice was unsatisfactory but I trusted in the consumer, that the flavors were spot on.
I also accompanied the summer meal with a ratatouille. This time I added banana peppers which I think will become a permanent part of this recipe for me.

So there! I have been chartering culinary territory in my absence of the blog. And just for the record, I've also made the most delicious lamb burgers with jalapenos, fresh basil and mint as well as blue cheese burgers with a spiced bacon. Yum! Unfortunately I forgot to take pictures. You'll have to trust me on this one. I'm sure they will be made again at some point this summer.

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