Sunday, November 23, 2008

Alimentos en Buenos Aires

Empanada con carne, originally uploaded by chrisfreeland2002.

Or "Buenos Aires Food" (sorta). I just returned from a few days in Buenos Aires, which is a magnificent, grand, and beautiful city; I was thoroughly enchanted by its architecture and people. And the food! Of course, the food. So no surprise, we ate A LOT of beef - one day we had steak for lunch AND dinner - and it was fantastic. The phrase "beef eater's paradise" was mentioned more than once (of course quickly countered by "...and a cow's hell" by the vegetarians in our midst). Some culinary highlights:

  • Bife de chorizo - Sirloin steak. Fat on. Seared over an open flame. Perfection. Also of note, only once were we served a chimichurri (a fresh sauce made from parsley, garlic, and spices) alongside - I was under the impression that was a standard pairing, but not at the restaurants we dined in.
  • Alfajor - An alfajor, or alfajores, is a popular candy found at street kiosks and was first described to me as a moon pie. It's actually an apt description - 2 cookies with dulche de leche between, covered in chocolate. I love all things caramel-y, so I'm definitely going to try making some of these.
  • Empanadas - Sold as street food and starters in restaurants, empanadas are a filled pastry pocket...and are probably quite familiar to most Americans by now, given that they're available in QT of all places (hey, street food is street food). Popular combinations include Empanadas con carne (with beef, as photographed above, flavored with a hint of cinnamon) and Empandas con jambon y queso (with cured ham and cheese).
I'll see what I can work into some recipes over the next few weeks. The cinnamon-laced beef empanadas were especially memorable, so I'll probably tackle those first, unless, of course, the sweet alfajores beckon...

Cornbread Stuffing with Salsiccia & Apple Cider

Cornbread, salsiccia (or other Italian sausage), and apple cider put an unusual spin on a Thanksgiving tradition:

1 lb (2 loaves) corn bread, cubed
3 lb salsiccia or other Italian sausage, casings removed
2 yellow onions, chopped
1 bag celery, chopped
2 red bell peppers, chopped
12 large sage leaves
½ stick butter (1/4 cup)
1 cup apple cider, divided
½ cup chicken broth

Preheat oven to 325 °. Spread cornbread cubes in single layer on large baking sheet. Toast in oven for 35-40 minutes until cornbread is crusty on edges, stirring twice during baking.

Remove salsiccia from casings and brown in large skillet. Use a slotted spoon to transfer sausage from pan to large mixing bowl lined with paper towels, reserving oil in pan. Remove paper towel and add toasted cornbread to bowl.

Add chopped onion, celery, and red pepper to skillet and cook until golden (probably have to work in 2 batches – add oil to pan, if needed, during 2nd batch). Add ½ cup apple cider to skillet. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 3 minutes until sauce is slightly thickened. Pour contents of skillet onto cornbread. Melt butter in skillet and add sage, cooking until leaves are dark green, about 3 minutes. Add to bowl.

Mix contents of bowl well. Season with salt & pepper to taste. Butter large baking dish and spoon stuffing into it. Drizzle remaining ½ cup apple cider and ½ cup chicken broth over stuffing. Cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate for 3-4 hours (can be made immediately, but flavors develop if you wait). Bake covered in 350° oven until heated through, 1 hour. Remove foil and bake for another 10 minutes, until top starts to brown.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Roasted Fall Veggies (with radishes!)

Roasted Fall Veggies, originally uploaded by chrisfreeland2002.

I love roasted vegetables, and I especially love making them in autumn when there are all kinds of delicious root vegetables available. Making roasted veggies is like making chicken stock - you just throw in whatever you have on hand. Sure, there is the Holy Trinity of Carrots, Potatoes, and Onions, but other options abound like parsnips, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, cauliflower...even radishes.

Now, if you've never had a roasted radish you are missing out on one of nature's most sublime roasted vegetables. I like raw radishes, but they do have a bit of a bite. A roasted radish is quite different. Like all roasted veggies it gets sweeter with roasting, but it also gets more...mellow...almost creamy. I've served roasted radishes to two different sets of (enthusiastically voracious) guests to rave reviews. Give 'em a try, either by themselves or with a mix, as below.

1 lb carrots, sliced
2 lbs small potatoes, quartered
1 yellow onion, quartered
1 head cauliflower, broken in florets
1/2 pie pumpkin, cut into squares with the rind off
1 bunch or bag radishes, tops & bottoms cut off
2 tsp olive oil
2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp curry powder
1 sprig rosemary, chopped
1 small bunch parsley, chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Chop all veggies into pieces about the same size (you want them the same size so they roast evenly). Spread into a single layer in a roasting pan or baking sheet (or two). Drizzle with oil. Season evenly with salt, pepper, curry powder, and rosemary. Mix by hand. Roast for 20-30 minutes, until vegetables are browned but not burnt and tender inside, shaking the pan twice during roasting to make sure the veggies don't stick to the bottom.

Remove pan(s) from oven and place veggies on a large platter. Sprinkle with the chopped parsley and serve.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Pumpkin Bread

Pumpkin Bread, originally uploaded by chrisfreeland2002.

When I was in Australia two weeks ago, pumpkin was turning up in the oddest dishes - on sandwiches and in quiches & stuffed pastas. This was a good thing, as Chris and I both love pumpkin, and it made me just the tiniest bit homesick to be missing out on prime pumpkin time in the States. So, as soon as I could find some time to cook something to blog about, I knew it would have pumpkin in it.

I went with a fairly traditional pumpkin bread, mostly because Chris Cozzoni listed it at the top of his favorite pumpkin dishes (I live to serve). I used one of my mom's recipes, but of course found a few ways to amp up the flavors by adding in some of my favorite pumpkin-enhancing spices (cinnamon, cloves, fresh ground nutmeg) and crunchy mix-ins and toppings (dried cranberries, walnuts, pumpkin seeds).

One last note: A good friend, and one of the original South Comptonites, Eric Becker, gave me a fantastic gift years and years ago. I was complaining that I didn't have any loaf pans and Eric, in all his generosity & wisdom, gave me 4 mini loaf pans (5.75 x 3.25 x 2.25-in.), rather than 1 or 2 of the regular sized ones. That random act of kindness has begat many more, as I now make 4 mini loaves of breads (pumpkin, banana, zucchini), save one for us, put one in the freezer, and are left with two to give out to friends and neighbors. I would definitely recommend that everyone have a set of 4 mini loaf pans on hand, in addition to 2 regular pans, as those around you will be happy to receive a little loaf of something from time to time.

Dry Ingredients:
3 C flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp fresh ground nutmeg

Remaining ingredients:
3 C sugar
1 C vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 can pumpkin

Toppings & mix-ins:
-dried cranberries
-chopped walnuts
-pumpkin seeds (also sold as pepitas)

Preheat oven to 350degrees. Grease and flour 4 mini loaf pans or 2 regular sized ones.

In a large bowl, measure and combine the dry ingredients. Sift into a medium bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl, or using a stand mixer, beat the sugar and oil until well combined. Beat in the eggs and pumpkin, then add flour mixture, stirring just until the dry ingredients are dampened. Pour mixture into prepared pans.

If you're going to go with the cranberries, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds (all three are great together, or mix and match your faves), add them to the top of each pan then use a knife to cut them into the batter. Sprinkle some on top of the batter, then bake for 1hr, or longer as needed. Check for doneness by sticking a toothpick into the loaf; if it comes out clean it is ready.

Let loaves cool for 5 minutes, then turn out of loaf pans onto a rack. You can use a knife to separate the loaf from the pan, if needed, but the grease + flour should make them pop right out. Let the loaves cool to room temperature, then wrap with aluminum foil. These loaves are actually better the second or third day, so try reeeeaaaally hard to resist cutting into them straight away.