Category Archives: Argentina

Why everyone should start a blog:

free cookies and brownies, of course!

You see, I was invited to a blogger event organized by Frank, who owns a cookie shop called Sugar & Spice just a few blocks away from my house. Those of you who know me must know that an offer like that is a total no brainer, so I said YES instantly.

So I got to try different cookies (and even take home a box of brownies) and meet fellow Buenos Aires bloggers, which was a first for me, because actually I had never met fellow bloggers, be it from here or anywhere else. Needless to say I had a wonderful time munching away and talking to some very interesting people (and I even got to dust off my spoken English that has been safely resting since I finished college).


(These are totally cute and come with bags of cookies and cookies presented as lollypops, next time someone has a baby, no flowers!)

Since I don´t want to piss off those of you outside of Buenos Aires who don´t get to try the cookies, I´m adding some pictures of my venture into jam making, specifically kumkuat jam making.

I got a 2-pound bag of kumkuats (or quinotos) at the farmers´market for 2 pesos on Wednesday (0.65 dollars or so) in which can possibly be the bargain of the year so I got busy right away. I used this recipe, though I cooked the jam 10 minutes longer because I wanted a thicker consistency.

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I used some of Frank´s brownies to go along with the jam, which worked wonderfully because of the sweet-tart-sour combination.

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(Thanks to Frank and Alan for the pictures of the event. Hope to see you all soon.)

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Filed under Argentina, food, sweet

Homemade to the core

Inspired by the why-buy-it-if-you-can-do-it-from-scratch attitude of many food bloggers, I decided to do something I hadn´t attempted before: homemade “dulce de membrillo” (kind of like a quince spread, but presented as a bar.)

pasta frola 4

Besides being curious about making it from scratch and later using it to make a quince pie, I wanted to have a tried-and-true recipe to give those of you outside of Argentina to have a way to make our typical pastafrola. (Though after reading this article in Wikipedia, I´m hoping you can get hold of the fruit to begin with because apparently Argentina is among the few countries that still grow the fruit and is the source of most of the quinces found in North America.)

Anyway, where was I? Oh, yep, the quince spread… I was actually surprised at how easy it was to make (it did take like an hour and a half overall but it´s not too bad for this sort of thing and it keeps for a few months). You peel and cut the fruit, take the cores out and put them in a little cheesecloth pouch, put the fruit and the bag in a pan and cover it with water and boil until tender. Then you make a puree, mix with sugar and cook again. And you get this:

dulce de membrillo

The taste is in the apple family, yet different and you can use it to eat as is with some creamy cheese or on top of a toast or whatever you want really. I´ve just found Shuna´s post about quince, and I suggest you read it from top to bottom if you want to find out more about this poor neglected fruit.

pastafrola 2

But what I had in mind was to show you our typical pastafrola, which is a quince pie with a buttery pastry base (you can use a pate brisé, for instance) with lots of lemon zest and the quince paste on top, covered by a lattice top. I was planning on having a perfectly uniform lattice top, but the flaky dough was determined not to let me achieve perfection… so let´s just call this pie “rustique”, shall we?

pastafrola

pastafrola in the making

I don´t know if this pie will be alluring enough for those of you who´ve never tried it before… probably not, but to me it´s perfect just as it is, in all its simplicity, because it´s a bit of a national landmark by now (and it doesn´t have dulce de leche, that´s a first!), and it´s just tied to so many childhood memories.

Like the time when my mom made one with a delicious golden crust using some amazing eggs my grandma had brought from a farm, and left it to cool on the table before picking up my brother from a soccer match. When she came back our dog Perrín had eaten half of the pie! And you know how it goes… when it comes to dogs, you don´t want to assume the other half was left untouched, so the other half ended up on the bin… that was a very sad afternoon for our stomachs, but it still makes me laugh to relive the whole scene: my mom screaming, the dog hiding under a table, me mourning the lost pie.

So I still hope you get to make it or try it someday. I´ll save you this slice for whenever you make it to Buenos Aires ;)

pastafrola slice

Dulce de membrillo (quince spread)

Fresh quinces, 1.8 kg (which got me about 1.4 kg after cleaning them)

Sugar, 1.1 kg (some recipes say it should be the same amount of sugar than fruit, but it gets too sweet if you use those amounts)

1. Wash and peel the quinces (they should be firm and yellow, I used a potato peeler to peel them and it was very easy to do). Cut them in quarters and remove the cores. Put some of the cores with the seeds in a cheesecloth pouch.

2. Put the fruit and the little bag in a pan, cover with water and bring to a boil. Cook until they are tender (mine took 15 minutes or so, but it depends on the size of the fruit, just check with a fork or a knife for doneness.)

3. Strain them (reserving the water in a bowl) and puree them with an immersion blender. Mix in the sugar.

4. Put it back in the pan and cook over medium-low heat mixing with a wooden spoon every few minutes until it gets quite thick (you should be able to see the bottom of the pan when mixing) and it acquires a caramel-like tone. Be careful to cover the pot because the jam forms bubbles that pop while cooking and it could burn you. What I did was cover it almost fully with the lid and take it out of the fire and wait a few seconds before removing the lid and mixing.

5. If you want to have the membrillo in a bar like I did, let it cool a little and pour the mix in a container covered with plastic wrap. Keep it in the fridge until you need it (it keeps for a few months.)

6. If you want a softer texture to use as marmalade or something, you can add a bit of the water you boiled the fruit in before making the pure.

Pastafrola

For the pie crust

All purpose flour, 3 cups

Baking powder, 6 teaspoons

Sugar, 3/4 cups

Butter, cold, 190 grams (since 1 stick is 115g, this would be around 1 3/4 sticks)

Lemon zest, 3 tablespoons or so (I used the zest of 2 lemons)

1 egg yolk

2 eggs

Milk, 4 tablespoons

1. Zift the flour, the baking powder and the sugar.

2. Cut the cold butter into little squares and make a fine crumble with the previous ingredients. (You can also use the food processor for this, and if you work with your hands or a pastry cutter, make sure you don´t heat up the butter.)

3. Add the lemon zest, the yolk, the eggs and the milk and mix slightly to form a ball. The dough is quite crumbly and you shouldn´t knead it too much because you´ll ruin the flaky consistency this dough should have. You simply need to join the ingredients and form a ball.

4. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.

To assemble the pastafrola: 

Pie crust (recipe above, but you can use a pate brise recipe if you want, just make sure to add quite a bit of lemon zest)

Quince spread (as much as you want really)

Boiling water, 3 or 4 tablespoons to soften the spread

1. Roll out the dough until it´s about 1/2 cm thick. Cover a tart pan with the crust. Put it in the fridge. Keep about 1/3 of the dough to make the lattice top.

2. Cut the quince spread (more like bar really) and soften it with a few tablespoons of boiling water using a fork. Spread this paste over the crust.

3. Make a lattice top and brush with egg wash.
4. Cook in a 180°C/350°F degree oven for about 20 minutes or until the dough is nice and golden.

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Filed under Argentina, sweet

Happy 25 de mayo!

Yes, that´s right, it´s not all about 5 de mayo in this world, and this festivity doesn´t involve any sort of hangover-inducing activities.

In Argentina, on May 25th we celebrate one of the turning points in our struggle to gain independence from Spain. The actual independence was obtained on July 9th, 1816, but what is known as the “Revolución de Mayo” , which happened on May 25th, 1810, was the first step towards emmancipation, so it´s one of the main holidays here in Argentina.

Now, I was thinking of making a typical celebratory dish for the holiday, namely “tortas fritas” or “pastelitos”, but I ran out of time, so I thought I´d just commemorate the holiday with a recap of traditional (or not so traditional) Argentine dishes I´ve done for the blog so far and some pictures I´ve found on the web.

Alfajores de maizena

Milanesas with a twist

Pizza y fainá

a piece of heaven

alfajor de maizena

Mate con pastelitos 

 Tortas fritas

Mate

                                                                                                        

Torta Rogel

Oh, and don´t forget to check back this Sunday for the Daring Bakers´ post. 

                                                                                                                 

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a perfect lunch… alternately titled “crusty borders, part II”

I´ve rarely talked about cheese here. It´s definitely NOT because I don´t like it, it´s just that it´s always there (try to find savory recipes of mine without parmessan cheese, I dare you!). And I rarely use fancy cheese, so I don´t have any excuse to stop and discuss this or that type of cheese.

provoleta 3

Well, today is that day, and the cheese is called “provoleta”. As you can guess is a sort of provolone cheese which is grilled to serve alongside our famous “asados” (barbecues.) Just imagine this: a big chunk of hard cheese put on a grill till it morphs into a crusty shell with a soft, gooey, cheesy interior.

provoleta

The taste is that of provolone cheese, which is similar to parmessan, so you can just imagine how good this is.

provoleta... melting

I´m a bit of an embarrassment to my country in terms of my beef-eating habits, meaning I rarely eat beef, so I had a small piece of provoleta with a huge spinach salad and some of my homemade white batter bread. I don´t know about you, but that is my idea of a perfect lunch right there: crunchy, yet soft cheese, raw spinach and two incredible pieces of bread grilled along with the cheese.

provoleta 2

As there isn´t really a recipe for the provoleta, just with an invitation to come to Argentina and try it for yourself, I´m gonna give you the recipe for the white batter bread (courtesy of Deb), which is one of my favorite breads ever, is easy to make and doesn´t require kneading for those of you afraid of that part of bread-making.

white batter bread II

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend with at least one wonderful, perfect lunch… see you on Sunday with my first-ever Daring Bakers challenge! :)

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the seemingly endless dulce de leche saga continues… this time, it´s cheesecake

When I read that Peabody was hosting this month´s Hay Hay it´s Donna Day and she had chosen cheesecake as the theme, I knew I had to participate. You see, I´ve only done a cheesecake once in my life, it turned out a bit too heavy and I promised myself I would try again with another recipe.

But, as usual, the deadline for this event was approaching and apparently I´m not too good with deadlines… which probably has to do with the fact that I´m running after deadlines every day at work, so more deadlines involving a computer screen just don´t suit me too well, which explains my lack of participation in most of the amazing food-blogging events going on at all times.

Anyway, back to the cheesecake, I started thinking in twists to make to the regular cheesecake (cheeky, I know, considering I hadn´t really mastered cheesecakes to begin with). But I wasn´t going to present something completely run-of-the-mill in an event like that.

So once again I channeled my inner Argentine, and the surprising result was (you guessed it) dulce de leche!

dulce de leche

Now dulce de leche works well with many ingredients, but one of my favorite combinations is dulce de leche and coconut… I guess I had my cheesecake recipe after all.

So I used a ricotta cheesecake recipe as the base, added some grated coconut (and some cream to counter act the dryness of the coconut), spread dulce de leche over the base and voilá, dulce de leche and cocunut cheesecake.

fresh ricotta

Actually, that “voilá” might be an exaggeration on my part since the process wasn´t particularly smooth, especially the cooking part.

You see, I had the perfect excuse to make this cheesecake, the family reunion for my birthday. For once, I wasn´t going to have to freeze half of what I cooked! So it was Saturday afternoon and there I was, preparing my cheesecake. What I wasn´t counting on was the looooooooong cooking time (if you do a waterbath) and the lengthy cooling process. To sum things up, I started with a waterbath, then freaked out as it was already 7 o´clock and people would be coming over at around 9 (that´s dinners in Argentina for you). So after an hour or so I took it out of the waterbath and cooked it au-natural for 10 more minutes, then 10 more minutes… “it´s still all woobly, WTF!”

finished product, cracks included

Turns out, I should have just trusted my guts and kept it in the waterbath for 1 hour and 20 minutes, let it rest for a while and then to the freezer, but I ended up with a great cheesecake in terms of flavor, but a bit on the dry side (no surprise there), with two little cracks and not cold enough.

coconut dulce de leche cheesecake

Well, at least I learned my lesson, next time, it´s woobly all the way!

coconut dulce de leche cheesecake 2

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Argentina 101 (part III) dulce de leche basics: alfajores de maizena

One of the side effects of having this blog is paying a closer look to the food that I eat and the food that is eaten in this corner of the world. I mean, I could talk about burgers but there wouldn´t be much fun in that since there´s nothing really new about it and I´ve come to realize there´s plenty of food that´s more typical of Argentina that I could ocassionally discuss with all of you.

Besides, one of the things that engage me the most as a blog reader is discovering new ingredients, recipes and things that are staples of different cuisines I just haven´t been exposed to… of course, my beloved chai would top that list, but panko, wonderful spices like cardamom, curry, coriander follow… I can´t believe the stuff I was missing out on just a few years ago!

This leads me to dulce de leche (also called “cajeta” in some countries). The legend says that dulce de leche was invented by one of Rosa´s* maids when she was cooking milk with some sugar and left it unattended for a few hours because there was some sort of emergency: when she came back, the milk and the sugar had transformed into a thick brown dulce de leche. Now, this sounds a bit far fetched but many great inventions were born out of pure luck, so I won´t be the one to contradict that. Besides, who cares? All it matters is that whatever it was, wherever it was, lead me to this piece of heaven:

a piece of heaven

There are few things that say home to me more than a good “alfajor de maizena”. Alfajores are sweets made by joining two cookie-like layers with a sweet filling: most times dulce de leche, sometimes different jams, we have some with peanut butter fillings, chocolate mousse… pretty much anything you can think of. They can be covered with chocolate, different types of glase or nothing at all… as is the case with these alfajores de maizena.

The dough of this particular alfajor is made with over 2 cups of Maizena, which is the brand name for corn starch. The recipe I used is a very simple one that´s been in the family for decades, literally, the smudged, blurred recipe is a testimony of how many times it has been used. My mom used to make it quite often when we were kids and eating a home-made version of one of these beauties definitely reminds me of childhood and just blows my mind because it´s incredibly good.

alfajor de maizena

dripping

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Pip… unplugged

I´m back!!! Everything got fixed this morning… at 9 a.m., way too early for me since I had been out with friends till 2 a.m. and didn´t bother going to bed before 3 a.m., but this was definitely one of those cases when I don´t particularly mind sleeping less than usual.

If you had only seen me on Tuesday! I pretty much looked like a crackhead going cold turkey hahaha I do have an excuse though, I was already up to my neck with deadlines, and suddenly I had no means to upload and download stuff from the server. So what´s a girl to do? Go to one of the restaurants I have just outside of my apartment, thus solving two problems: what to have for lunch and how to upload stuff. What I wasn´t counting on was my computer not picking up their wi-fi signal correctly, but that´s another story.

A testament to how good the food is that I was able to enjoy the meal even though I was about to have a nervous breakdown hahaha AND, though it can be pricey at night, they have a very affordable lunch menu: starter, main course, drink and dessert for 20 pesos (less than 7 dollars).

I chose meat-mushroom empanadas for the starter, cheese-filled potato gnocchi with a gourgeous tomato sauce with arugula pesto… and I´m ashamed to say I chose to have coffee instead of dessert (which brought the price even lower to 18 pesos) because I knew my mind was not in a good place to allow me to fully enjoy the dessert.

Unfortunately, I don´t have any pictures of the whole deliciousness, but I do have their site (which has pictures under “fotos“) and I promise to be a good blogger next time I go and take some pictures myself. I´d definitely recommend going there for lunch if you live here or come here for a visit.

In the meantime, I recommend you follow my footsteps and make arugula pesto (this recipe doesn´t use garlic though, pesto without garlic??? WTF!). I simply made mine with a bunch of arugula, 3 garlic cloves, 1 tablespoon of parmessan and olive oil. I have it safely tucked in my fridge and used it for lunch today to make a very simple, yet very tasty, tomato-egg salad.

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Oh, and I got the cutest coffe mug the other day, to add to my already large, and VERY ecclectic, collection.

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crazy mug collection

crazy mug collection

I´ll to be back soon with a more focused post… no actual promises, you know, but at least I´ll try not to unleash 100 things at the same time without actually elaborating on anything in particular! Until then, please bear with this rambling mind for a while.

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Argentina 101: pizza and fainá

marguerita

As with any country with such a strong culture of immigration, Argentina´s food is a mixture of different cuisines… though the one that clearly wins the race is Italian food, followed by Spanish food.
I know that for all of you, pizza is as common as burgers, but I also know that most of you probably never heard of something called “fainá” in Argentina (from the Genovese dialect) and “farinata” in the rest of Italy.
It´s like a “secondary pizza” used to go with the regular pizza which is made of chickpea flour and seasoned with pepper, sometimes dried onions, a bit of parmessan, etc.

faina

It´s moist inside and crunchy outside and makes for a great complement to pizza. It can even be topped with pretty much anything and used as a pizza base (I have had it with dried tomatoes, garlic and some parmessan flakes and it is wonderful).

Since I cheated and bought a premixed base of garbanzo/chickpea flour and dried onions, I can´t abide by the recipe I´m about to give you, but it does come from an Italian site, so it should be good, right? ;)

marguerita

This is what made me turn on the oven when it was 95°F/35°C outside, so if that doesn´t show this is a winning combination, I don´t know what will.

Besides, millions of Italians can go wrong when it comes to choosing a president, but not when it comes to food!!! lol

faina

Fainá or Farinata (adapted from here)[See another interesting recipe at Recipe Zaar]

Ingredients:
• 3 3/4 cups water
• 2 1/3 cups Italian chick pea flour
• 1 teaspoon salt
• rosemary (optional)
• 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
• ground pepper
• parmessan cheese (4 tablespoons)
• onion powder (around 2 tablespoons)

Preparation:
1. Mix the water and the flour with a wooden spoon or a whisk; make sure there are no lumps, add salt to taste, and mix again.
2. Add the rosemary, the parmessan cheese and the onion powder and let it sit for a while (one to three hours or even better overnight).
3. At this point add the olive oil. Remove the rosemary and pour in a baking pan.
It should be about an eighth of an inch thick, perhaps a little more. Put it in a preheated oven at 190-200° C (375-400° F). [I have found some recipes that say you should put the pan in your pizza stone or the hottest part of your oven for 15 minutes and then put it in a colder spot, usually the middle or the top, for 20 minutes more].
4. Remove from the oven when one of the corners (or the edge) starts to appear dark. Sprinkle plenty of pepper and serve.
It is of paramount importance that the pan is perfectly flat and level when in the oven, otherwise one of the corners will be thicker and will be undercooked when the opposite corner starts to darken.

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la verdad de la milanesa

breaded chicken or milanesa de pollo with panko and dried potato flakes

Ever since I´ve started blogging, I noticed I was more aware of the food I was cooking and wanted to try new things all the time. Somehow, the stuff I considered normal or everyday food didn´t cut it, it had to be something quite new and, if possible, adventurous.
Thing is, even though I love that aspect of blogging because it even made me revisit beets (more on that later), I still find much joy in what to me is comfort food at its best.
It´s those timeless classics that taste of childhood and just feel right every single time.
In Argentina, what we call “milanesa” would be at the top of the list of classics. Basically, it´s breaded meat, be it veal, the classic, vegetables or chicken.
La “milanesa a la napolitana” is THE classic, especially with French fries as a side dish.
Milanesas are sold in sandwhiches at our typical “kioskos”, which is like a candy store-grocery store type of place found at pretty much every single street in Buenos Aires.
Yesterday, I was yet again struggling to meet a deadline at work and my stress level was quite high (for me at least, I´m usually quite calm about life and all that comes along with it, but sometimes it does get on my nerves). I recalled I had a nice piece of chicken in the fridge and that I had been meaning to repeat a bit of an invention I had done with the typical milanesa a few weeks ago.
Instead of using the typical breadcrumbs, I used my newly-discovered and much-loved panko and dried potato flakes (the stuff you use to make instant mashed potatoes). I got the idea of using the potato flakes from the Surreal Gourmet, but I figured using panko as well would be an interesting mix. Besides, here in Argentina, panko is only found at Asian markets and quite expensive, so mixing it up with the potato flakes also made sense for a stingy girl like myself lol
Ok,so, back to the “recipe”, for the egg mix, I went along the Asian route again and added ground ginger, curry, red pepper flakes and rosemary (ok, that last bit was Italian… well, you know, I´m doing “fusion cooking” hahaha). I added a bit of milk to the eggs as usual (though some people advice using a bit of soda water as well, and I have to say, that also gives a nice crust). I did the egg mix-crumbs step twice to end up with a nice thick crust.
What is lovely about this crust, besides the crunchiness, is that it helps keep the moisture in the meat, so you get a terrific contrast of textures. I cooked my milanesas in a skillet with a bit of the curry-ginger oil I did a while back.
So there you have it, more of a tip or an idea than a recipe this time, but trust me on this one and try it out, your stomach will thank you!

breaded chicken or milanesa de pollo with panko and dried potato flakes

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