January 28, 2013

Video: Making Gnocchi with Esteban–Video: Preparando Ñoquis con Esteban


Just in time for the 29th–a video with a gnocchi recipe so simple, even a five-year-old can make it!  I recently shot a series of technique videos, and in this one, my son Esteban teaches ME how to make Ñoquis del 29.  We had a blast shooting this one–I hope you enjoy!

January 23, 2013

Empanadas in The Huffington Post!


Wow!  I am so honored to be included (twice!) in a round-up of Empanadas on The Huffington Post Taste Blog!  I am in great company, the slideshow they created is amazing, and my mouth was watering just looking at all the photos.  The recipes look delicious, I can't wait to check out many of the ones shown there…and kudos for The Huff Post for featuring a delectable lineup of South America's most treasured food!

January 22, 2013

Celebrate the Flavors of Argentina: A Wine and Food Pairing

Fried empandas 002

Fried Empanadas are just the beginning.

Let's call them a gateway food….

On Thursday, Jan. 24, I'm partnering up with sommelier Ashley Vaughters to present an evening of tastes of Argentina–beginning with fried cheese empanadas and a sparkling Argentine wine, followed by a Torrontes with fish in a spicy Mar Del Plata sauce; a Pinot Noir with bruschetta a la Provenzal (mushrooms and ham); a young Malbec with gnocchi and tuco sauce; an aged, oaked Malbec with steak and chimichurri sauce; and a late-harvest Torrontes with alfajores, the classic Argentine sandwich cookie filled with dulce de leche. This is truly a special evening!  I hope to see you there for fun, flavor and wonderful information~use the link above to register.

January 15, 2013

El Patio de Babushka


"My brother wants to take us to lunch today," Guillermo announced as we were sitting at my in-law's green kitchen table, tearing into a brown paper bag of pastries from Al Pan Pan.  "He knows of a farm where the family runs a restaurant out of their house, and they cook all Ukrainian food."  That was enough to make me nearly swoon with pleasure. 

Paradoxical as it may be, Ukrainian food and traditions are alive and well in the rural area known as La Escandinava that surrounds General Alvear and Bowen (pop. 4, 562).  Guillermo's parents live in Bowen now, but he spent his childhood nearby on the family farm where his father grew up, too.  The area was settled by Scandinavians, Russians and Ukrainians who dug the irrigation system that made farming there possible and gave it its name.

My hands-down favorite thing about traveling to this area are all these little culinary gems that are founded on a long-standing tradition, and that we only get to do because we have a local with inside information (usually someone in the family).  Couple that with the idea that everything is made from scratch and served with pride, well, it's the antithesis of the American food culture and that's where my admiration comes in.

At lunch time, we drove down dirt road after dirt road.  Farm after farm blurred together, green alfalfa, plum trees, then grape vines, all surrounded by alamos trees that are the signature 'fence' of the area.  Finally, we pulled off and drove down another dirt road, only this time we could see a farmhouse surrounded by trees and a windmill at the end of the drive.  We had arrived at El Patio de Babushka, a well-tended farmhouse with a long tiled patio shaded by a grape arbor.


We were welcomed with hugs and kisses all around by Sra. Orlowski, who led us to the table, simply but elegantly set, in the middle of her living room.  Out came the wine, the bread, a wooden board of picadita–homemade salami, a marinated carrot and onion salad.  Followed by an unending stream of plates, starting with canellones.  Shredded carrots and cabbage in vinaigrette.  Braised chicken.  Ribs.  A tomato and onion salad made with tomatoes from the garden.  Homemade vareniki.  We ate.  Talked.  Drank. Laughed.  Ate again.  The afternoon waned.

Canelonis patio de babushka

Dessert was served on the patio under the grape arbor, while we relaxed into deep seats and watched how the afternoon sun filtered through the grapes, heavy with sweetness.  The kids ran around the farmyard without a care in the world, looking at all the animals and playing on the swingset. 


Dessert came in two courses, a homemade peach and fig compote that acted as a digestif from the heavy lunch, and later, coffee with Russian Honey Cake.  Everything was served simply, in a homey way that made us relax completely.  That feeling of peace is the hallmark of our trips 'home' to Argentina.  For all that we have here, we don't have that feeling most of the time, we're too busy running around to just stop and enjoy something simple. 


 A day spent at El Patio de Babushka–a rural treasure.  Where things are still done the old-fashioned way and guests leave feeling like they're part of the family.  (Ok, not totally old-fashioned: they have a website with many more photos and a facebook  page, too!)  If you find yourself in the area, don't miss having lunch there–you'll feel welcome and get to take part in a wonderful and authentic traditional meal.


January 8, 2013

Zapallo en Almíbar, Parte Dos–Candied Squash, Part Two


My recipe for Zapallo en Almíbar is evolving!  I think that’s how it starts with all family recipes that get passed down.  Everyone makes their adaptations until it tastes just right for them, and then they write it in a tattered notebook where their prized family recipes are held.  (Does your family have one of those?)  I love those notebooks, so full of history and written in a way only the cook can understand. 

In my last (and first) attempt, of making candied squash, I made it without cal viva, the hard-to-find quick lime used to soak the squash before cooking.  It’s what gives it the crunchy outside texture (while the inside remains smooth and creamy) that makes this treat so unique. On a recent trip to a large Latin supermarket, I found some cal!  I had to try again, this time with cal viva.  The difference is the texture, thought the flavor is nearly identical; it’s just as delicious either way.  If you find some, give making it with cal a try, too.


I’m still not convinced I’ve prefected my recipe for Zapallo en Almíbar.  When we head to Argentina in March I’m going to beg Hilda (from the last post) for her recipe–it was perfectly crisp outside, and had a tangier flavor and darker color than this version.  The last photo here is of the cal and another product I found at my usual supermarket that claims to be for giving the crunch needed in pickling without the mess of cal.  I haven’t tried it yet, but I love experimenting and comparing the results.

The main issue with cal viva (aka quick lime, it’s used in construction) is that it can be caustic if it touches your eyes or skin.  It heats the water to a scalding almost 200 degrees Fahrenheit.  Thus, as recommended by many, it would be irresponsible if I didn’t suggest using glasses or goggles and rubber gloves when in the cal part of the recipe.  No burned eyeballs or skin allowed in the kitchen!

How does it compare?  I’d love to get your thoughts–and how do you do things a bit differently?


Zapallo en Almíbar–Candied Squash

About 2 lbs. butternut (or other hard winter) squash (1 large)

2 lbs. sugar (same quantity per weight as the peeled and cubed squash)

50 grams Cal Viva (1/4 cup)

2 liters (8 cups) water