Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Mate as a Study Mate

You might be wondering why this year there are so few posts or perhaps you've forgotten all about our lovely Quinn Street blog. I'm afraid Sophia and I will be leaving our beloved little Halifax and whisking away to different places and to live different lives. This doesn't mean that we don't have to stop sharing our cooking adventures but it does mean that we will no longer be able to call ourselves the Quinn Street Attic.

I thought I'd show you my recent days.

There's nothing that goes better with reading Don Quijote than mate, which provides alertness and focus, and is traditional to Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay. It is a tea like drink similar to a bitter green tea. There are many health benefits to mate and it can come in many forms. Many claim that it promotes weight loss and a healthy metabolism. There are new brands that contain flavors such as grapefruit, orange, coffee, lemon and citrus. I've even seen new fangled mate variations that have chocolate, vanilla and sweeteners. This type of mate is more common in the U.S. and Canada and is very different from mate brands that you find in South America. I think of them as the western versions of this traditional mate. A traditional mate drinker will tend to put in their own additives to their mate during the preparation. Sugar is the most common additive. Other people will add a little bit of ground coffee. Some prefer it bitter. There are a variety of brands that vary in strong to mild taste. Cruz de Malta, La Nobleza Gaucha y Taragui are a few that I found very strong myself.

If you're unaccustomed to mate, a strong brand can make your stomach feel out of sorts, as if you've drank a very strong cup of tea. Guayaki has a few flavors that are non-traditional like mocha java and vanilla nut. This is a brand that I've seen often in stores in the U.S. and Canada. I personally prefer CBSE.

I love this brand because it's relatively mild and its original, 'palo compuesta' has 'hierbas serranas' or mountain herbs such as peppermint(peperina), pennyroyal mint (poleo), cedrón or lemon verbena (aloysia citrodora), boldo (peumus boldus) and regular mint(menta)?

Depending on place, you can find that people use different dried or fresh herbs in their mate during the preparation. In Tucuman, I came across burro (Aloysia polystachya) and poleo (mentha pulegium). We actually had a poleo plant, also known as penny royal mint, in our backyard. There was nothing better than picking a few leaves off it for a round of mate. I loved it so much that I'm going to try to find the plant in the U.S. and plant it in my garden in my new home in Massachusetts.

The mate aparatus consists of a gourd (porongo) or a metal mate which holds the tea, a bombilla (wooden or metal straw and filter), thermos with hot water and yerba mate of choice.

It is pertinent that the water doesn't come to a full boil or the mate leaves will be burned and lack flavor and you may burn your lips on the metal straw. This hurts!!

I learned to splash a drop of cold water in the bottom of the mate before introducing the loose leaf yerba mate. You may layer sugar, ground coffee or a type of herb for flavor if so desired. Fill the mate a little less than half way. Then introduce the hot water. The perfect mate should have a frothy bubble at the surface. It is common place to drink the entire mate before refilling with water and sharing with the person next to you. Typically in a mate circle there is a person that is the designated mate server who refills the mate, changes the yerba accordingly and assures that the mate is passed along the circle. The yerba needs to be dumped out and refilled entirely once the leaves start to float in the water at the surface.

The first mate that I brought home and bought for myself was a gourd. You must properly cure a mate before use especially when using a gourd mate. Mine rotted after a short time. My friend sent me a new one made of wood with a little metal piece. It's a very standard mate.

Here's an ornate mate.

Valentine's Day Saga

Can you believe it that in that same night we also made home made artisan boule bread?!

Yes. Believe it. We actually sat down to have a wine and cheese break after the bread was fresh out of the oven. And yes, we remembered to take pictures. It's unfortunate that these were the only ones that we have to show for all the cooking we did that day.

This was probably one of my best breads that I've made yet. I found it a bit too porous and spongy for my liking. I like a bit of crustiness to my bread. However it lost that yeasty flavor that my french bread had.

The cheese was to die for. We picked out a stilton, a blue, a hard aged gouda and a Grand Cru. The wine was a montepulciano d'abruzzo.

Here's the recipe:
Artisan Boule Bread

Courtesy of the Urban Spork from Chicago

Valentine's Day Continued...Empanada Marathon

On the aforementioned postponed Valentine's day, I chose to make it a special day by cooking in the kitchen all day and all night, a calculated 14 hours. The original intention was to prepare empanadas together while slowly sipping on wine all day.

Courtesy of Corazón Porteño (http://www.diariobuenosaires.com.ar/nota2.asp?IDNoticia=2838)

Empanadas are a gigantuan task and I always fail to remember how much time they actually require. We also chose three different fillings and I made enough dough for about 50 or so empas. This is probably why I only get around to making these once a year. For those of you who don't know, empanadas are a meat filled palm sized pastry pie. They can be found all over the Latin American world but each country and region makes their own variety. Naturally I make mine Argentine style and particular to the region of Tucuman, the smallest province of Argentina, where I lived for a year. These empanadas are traditionally baked in an adobo clay oven outside as opposed to being deep fried. I bake mine on a pizza stone in a conventional oven.

Courtesy of Cocina Típica

Labor intensive, time consuming and exhausting, you have to really love to cook to make these little buggers from scratch. Many Argentines themselves, conveniently buy premade tapas, the dough already formed in discs and ready to fill. Pascualina is a typical brand but Goya is more popular in the U.S. and Canada.

For the record, my fellow blogger, temporary Nova Scotian and long time best friend, Sarah, recently used my written recipe to make her own empanadas from scratch. She had much success and she's never even seen them made before! You can check out her blog here:

However, I consider her a far better cook than me and her boyfriend is a pretty damn good chef. Together they make magic happen in the kitchen.

Have no fear, folks! All it takes is some guts, perserverance, a healthy love for a kitchen, and some alcohol on hand to get you through the day. It always helps to have some good company as well. These are delicious and well worth the wait!


butter or lard
salt water

Dilute some salt in a glass of water. Taste for saltiness. I used a whole bag of flour the last time I did empanadas which yielded about 50 empanadas. I suggest about 2 1/2 cups flour. Take tablespoons of lard or butter and crumble in the flour with fingers or with a pastry cutter until you have a crumbly flour mixture. Then make a hollow in the flour and slowly pour a bit of water and fold in the flour until you start to make a homogeneous round ball of dough. You may add flour if it becomes too sticky.

Next roll out into a long about an inch wide. Ticker with marks with a butter knife between each inch alongside the whole log. If you're not going to roll out the discs for the empanada dough right away I suggest that you wrap the log with a damp cloth.
Next you tear of each little piece that you marked with the knife and you pull the outside corners inward to the middle so you have a little ball with a small point. Each ball you will then roll out into a disc. I like to use something to flatten the ball first before rolling it out. We happened to have a chapati/arepa/empanada steel flattener that served very well for this purpose.

You fill the empanada with a small teaspoon of filling. You don't want the filling to be too watery or it will leak out. I hold the empanada disc in my hand and place in the filling in one half and then fold in half. I dab the empanada edge with a bit of water to be able to seal the empanada and then I twist the corners to close it. This part is called el repulgue and here I've enclosed a video from youtube to show how it's done. (This is not my video).


Filling (Tucuman style)

hard boiled eggs
bell peppers
green onions
shredded chicken or ground beef
cayenne or chili powder (I like to use chipotle chili powder)
lemon juice

I chop up the veggies very fine and sautee in a pan with a bit of olive oil with the beef. I squirt a bit of lemon juice on the beef to tenderize the meat. If using chicken, I either buy a rotisserie chicken or I poach chicken in boiling water with a whole onion, then sautee lightly with the spices and veggies to season it. You may add a pinch of cumin, and as much chili powder or cayenne as you like. Whatever your measurements, I insist that the paprika is the spice of the biggest proportion. Sometimes I like to add the smallest dash of cinnamon. The hard boiled eggs must be chopped or sliced into chunks and added to the filling last.

I haven't experimented that much with finding a proper cut of meat that I can use to get those chunks of meat in my empanada. This is where I found chorizo an excellent substitute.

Before cooking the empanadas you may choose to brush with with an egg wash, melted butter or milk. I prefer not to glaze my empas, myself. This preference also varies according to region and local. When you see empanadas with a shiny polished look, they've been glazed. I like the rustic empa myself as pictured in the photo.

Some even prefer to deep fry their empanadas. I like to cook the empanadas on a pizza stone in the oven for about 20 to 30 minutes on medium hot heat. They are to be enjoyed with a squirt of lemon juice after the first bite and with a glass of lovely red wine. I find that 5 of these is more than enough to fill up one person.

We also made

Empanadas de Humita (a corn based filling with a white sauce)
white sauce: melt butter, add flour or corn starch and create a paste. Whisk in hot milk. May add grated cheese if so desired such as parmesean. Add nutmeg. Add humita (choclo) or grated corn.

Mozza and Spinach Empanadas
frozen spinach sauteed
squeeze the water from the spinach or else it will make the dough very gooey
This would have been excellent with basil or parsley.

I think by the end of the night we combined the two veg fillings.

Here I'll indulge you with a variety of styles pertaining to the Argentine region. I listed the extra ingredients that are added in other regions to this recipe that I use here. In all recipes the cut of meat varies. I omitted this technicality as it is difficult to find Argentine cuts of meat in Canada or the U.S. so you have to work with the quality of meat and the best cut you find appropriate.

green olives
a bit of sugar is added

Catamarca, Salta, La Rioja

potatoes and raisins

chopped garlic
black olives

may also feature tomatoes

Entre Rios

San Luis
carne molido ground beef

San Juan
tomato sauce

Santiago del Estero

Santa Fe

Other types of empanada:
onion and cheese
Cheese and basil

Friday, March 11, 2011

A Postponed Valentine's Day

Pistachio and Date Truffles

I postponed Valentine's day this year for the following week, which is when I was on break and could actually celebrate. I started off my break in typical fashion by taking on a cooking/baking project. I made 4 different types of truffles to created an assorted box of chocolates to gift to my sweetheart (ha! pun intended!)

Unfortunately I was too wrapped up in gifting that I forgot to photograph any of my efforts. You'll have to trust my word that they turned out beautifully.

All of the following recipes I found from other food bloggies so I wanted to say thanks to The Food Addicts, Chocolate and Carrots, Confections of a Foodie Bride, and Anja's Food 4 Thought!

Oreo truffle (http://thefoodaddicts.com/oreo-truffles-dusted-in-cocoa-powder/)

cream cheese
crushed oreos
cocoa powder

Mix crushed oreos and cream cheese. Add a bit of water if needed to form small cookie dough balls. Then roll in cocoa powder and allow to chill in the fridge.

Cookie Dough Truffles (http://chocolateandcarrots.com/2010/12/cookie-dough-truffles)

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 (14 ounce) can fat free sweetened condensed milk
1/2 mini semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used a heaping 1/2 cup full.)

Beat the butter and brown sugar until fluffy.
Add in the vanilla and beat.
Alternating, add the flour followed by the condensed milk, beating well between.
Stir in chocolate chips.
Scoop out 1 tablespoon balls, place on parchment paper and refrigerate for about an hour until they are firm.
Roll into balls. Dip into chocolate and chill.

I actually forgot to dip them into chocolate. I started this the night before I was about to leave on a 12 hour bus ride bound for the states, at this point it had to have been around 1am or 2am when I got to the cookie dough truffle. I did try rolling a few in cocoa powder and I do not recommend it.

Grand Marnier Dark Truffle (http://www.jasonandshawnda.com/foodiebride/?p=3612)
Taken directly from the Confections of a Foodie Bride blog.

Chocolate Truffles
5 oz of your favorite dark chocolate
1/4 cup heavy cream
pinch of salt
1 1/2 tsp Grand Marnier (or other flavored liqueur, optional)
Cocoa powder or chopped nuts for rolling (I used three types of cocoa for color variation: unsweetened, Special Dark, and dutch process)

Chop the chocolate into small pieces and place into a small bowl. Heat cream, salt, and liqueur (if using) over medium heat until bubbles began to form along the edges. Pour cream over chocolate and let sit for a couple of minutes. Stir chocolate until smooth. If there are still unmelted pieces, microwave in 10-15 second bursts, stirring in between until all pieces have melted.

Scrap down the sides of the bowl and place in the fridge for 45 minutes to an hour. Once completely cooled, use a buttered melon baller, spoon, or small dough scoop to portion the chocolate in ~1 Tablespoon balls. (I cleaned up the shape by placing the ball of chocolate into my buttered palm and lightly rolling with the spoon.) If you have problems with the chocolate becoming too soft while you work, place the bowl in the freezer for ~10 minutes and then continue.

Place the truffle into cocoa powder (or chopped nuts) and roll to coat. Store in the fridge in an airtight container (I actually keep mine in the freezer and cover the bottom of the container with a dusting of cocoa powder).

Adapted from Martha Stewart Living, May 2000
Yields ~15 truffles

Pistachio and Date Truffle (This was the most popular and it's a vegan recipe!)

Taken directly from Anja's Food 4 Thought. I omitted the coconut oil and no one seemed to mind. I didn't have it on hand and I find that it's really expensive.

1/2 cup dried dates, or Medjool dates
1/4 cup pistachio kernels
1/4 cup desiccated coconut
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

desiccated coconut
chopped or ground pistachios

Yields ca. 20-25

If the dried dates are too dry and hard, soften them by pouring boiling water over them and soak for 10-15 minutes. Drain excess water.
Combine all ingredients in a food processor. Blend until ingredients stick together. Add more coconut oil if the batter doesn't hold together. Form balls of the size of a cherry or walnut. Roll each one in your preferred coating. Keep in mini paper muffin liners. Store in airtight container at room temperature.

Truffles are so easy to make! I suggest you give them a try! Here are some other recipes that I'd like to try out!

Dark chocolate pistachio or hazelnut truffles

Hazelnut and chocolate is my all time favorite combination.


Thanks to Judicial Peach who also got inspired by Valentine's day.

Caitlin’s Recipe!
PREP TIME: 10 minutes
DOWN TIME: 75 minutes for cooling
COOK TIME: 5 minutes
YIELD: 15 to 20 Truffles

6 ounces high-quality, white-chocolate, chopped (Caitlin likes Ghirardelli)
4 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or caviar from 1 vanilla bean)
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves


1. Pour the cream into a small heatproof bowl and place over a pan of simmering water, making sure that the water does not come into direct contact with the bowl. Stir the cream with a wire whisk until heated through (i.e. warm to the touch).

2. Combine the spices in a small mixing bowl; set aside.

3. Stir the white chocolate into the cream until it is melted and smooth. Remove the bowl from the double-boiler, and stir in the vanilla and about one-half of the spice mixture. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place into the refrigerator to cool for approximately 1 hour. When ready, the ganache should be firm but pliable enough to scoop.

4. Using either a teaspoon or a small ice cream scoop, place mounds of the ganache onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate again, for 15 minutes.

5. Remove the sheet from refrigerator and roll the ganache mounds in the palms of your hands to create rounded truffles. Try to work quickly; the truffles become stickier as they warm to room temperature. Depending on size, this recipe yields about 15-20 truffles.

6. Dust truffles with the remaining spices, cinnamon, or powdered sugar. If you plan to ship the truffles or give them away as gifts, as I did, you can purchase candy cups and boxes from a craft store like Michael’s.

7. Store the finished truffles in the refrigerator, but allow them to come to room temperature before eating.

Dark Chocolate and Dark Beer Truffles

(makes about 28 truffles)
1/2 cup (120 ml) heavy cream
3 tbsp dark beer
9 oz (255 g) dark chocolate
1/2 vanilla bean
1 1/2 oz (40 g) cocoa powder
if you wish: 1/4 tsp chili powder

1. Combine heavy cream with vanilla seeds (scrape them from vanilla bean) and put on low heat. When it almost boils, remove from heat, add chopped chocolate and stir well until it combines. Leave to cool on room temperature.
2. Slowly add beer to the previous mixture and pour it into a square baking pan. Cover with plastic wrap and leave to cool for 3 hours in the fridge. The mixture should be firm enough to shape truffles.
3. Take 1 tsp of the mixture and shape uneven balls (truffles). Coat them with cocoa powder and serve. You can mix cocoa powder with a bit of chili powder.

Thanks to Sticky Gooey Creamy Chewy Bloggie for these Chocolat inspired recipes!


Spicy Chocolate Chili Truffles (Les Truffes pour Vianne)
8 oz good quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, 62% cacao or higher.
1/2 cup cream
1/2 tsp chili flakes
1/2 tsp chipotle chili powder
1 tbsp softened butter
Good quality cocoa powder for coating
Chop chocolate in a bowl.
Heat cream to simmer. Add chili flakes and steep for 15-20 minutes. Reheat cream to simmer. Add chipotle powder and stir.
Pour cream mixture over the chocolate through a strainer. Let sit a few minutes and gently stir until well combined.
Drop small bits of butter into ganache and continue stirring until smooth and homogeneous.
Let ganache sit until cooled. Chill in the refrigerator for a few hours until firm and “scoopable”.
Remove, and with a teaspoon or melon baller, scoop out balls of the ganache. Roll in your hands quickly to avoid melting, and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Place in the refrigerator overnight.
Roll truffles in cocoa powder and serve.

Chocolate-Espresso Truffles (Les Truffes pour Roux)
8 oz good quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, 62% cacao or higher. (I used a mix of each)
1/2 cup cream
2 tsps espresso powder
1 tbsp softened butter
3 ounces white chocolate, chopped for coating
Roasted espresso beans for garnish
Heat cream to simmer. Add espresso powder and stir until dissolved.
Pour cream over chocolate and let sit a few minutes. Then, gently stir until well combined.
Drop small bits of butter into ganache and continue stirring until smooth and homogeneous.
Let ganache sit until cooled. Chill in the refrigerator for a few hours until firm and “scoopable”.
Remove and with a teaspoon or melon baller, scoop out balls of the ganache. Roll in your hands quickly to avoid melting, and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Place in the refrigerator overnight.
Melt white chocolate in a small bowl. Carefully dip truffles in and set on parchment paper. Top with an espresso bean and let sit until coating hardens.