November 13, 2012

The Vineyard at the End of the World Book Giveaway!

Ian_Mount Vineyard jacket c

If James Bond drank Malbec instead of Martinis, he would be in this book.  At first, I'll admit, I was skeptical–would I be interested in reading a whole book about the history of Argentine wine?  But reading this book  is like having your BFF climb into bed with you and tell you all the latest chisme.  Only your BFF happens to run with the inner circles of Argentina's wine world.

Author Ian Mount (an American expat living in Buenos Aires and raising his family there) pens the history of Argentina's wine from the time of renegade gauchos riding the pampas to today's Malbecs scoring mad points with Robert Parker.  Between the pages of this volume are all the drama, intrigue, politics and passion possible–and like a multi-course wine-pairing dinner, readers are treated to the best anecdotes along the way.  One tidbit: Mount describes how Jose Galante, a winemaker at Catena during the nineties got his nickname "White Shoes"–he was so concerned about his impeccably clean footwear he wouldn't leave the lab and risk dirtying them.  Throughout the book the reader is treated to story after story like this, interwoven with the history of Argentine wines rising to the top.  These amusing accounts made me turn page upon page.

This book is not only a great read, but with the holidays on the way, it would be a great gift for your favorite wine aficionado, along with a bottle of Malbec of course!  Today I'm giving away a copy of the book!  Here's how to enter:  Go to the BRAND NEW From Argentina With Love facebook page, and Like us if you haven't already.  Then leave a comment below the 'Vineyard at the End of the World' post.  A winner will be chosen at random on Nov. 20, 2012 at 12:00 Mountain time. Good luck!

November 8, 2012

Fried Cheese Empanadas–Empanadas de Queso Fritas

Fried empandas 006

As the old adage goes, "patience is a virtue".  Why is a patient person more virtuous than the average person?  Because no one has any patience, or at least patience is something that has to be cultivated, not a natural-born trait.

So often, part of our human nature leaves us with a nagging question in the back of our minds: "What else?" Like, is this…it?  As an American, it seems even more present in my mind–we're focused on success, the perfect house that is always tidy and pretty, the coolest car, the next vacation…and we forget to be happy with all that we already have.  We are doing instead of being.

I often find myself wanting to be in the opposite place of where I am.  If I'm working too many hours, I miss my kids.  We start remodeling, I want it done yesterday.  I seem to want it all, all of the time.  But really, it would be much better if I could enjoy where I am at any given time. We really do have so many choices, attitude being the most important one.

The exception to my impatience is cooking.  It grounds me, makes me slow down and be present in the moment.  I know that each step is an important part of the process.  Each step affects the outcome, which is true with everything–care and patience is required in all things, from painting a wall to writing an article to child-rearing.

Can I claim that cooking makes me a more patient mother?  Maybe not.  But I know that when I'm grounded and centered, I can stop and enjoy little Nora's smile, and Esteban's all-boy busy energy.  The mess and chaos don't seem that important, and neither does the car/house/vacation. 

This empanada recipe is one I featured in my last empanada workshop. What I like best about it, besides the fact that it is amazingly delicious, filled with gooey cheese and fried, is that it comes together rather quickly.  So something that usually seems daunting when you're a little pressed for time, like making empanadas, suddenly seems doable and satisfying.  Perfect for someone who's a little impatient, you might say.

Fried Cheese Empanadas

Empanadas Fritos de Queso

makes 16 empanadas

2 1/2 cups flour

2
tablespoons vegetable shortening, softened

1
teaspoon salt

1
teaspoon baking powder

1
teaspoon baking soda

1
tablespoon sugar

3/4
cup milk

<
¼ cup water

16
oz.  jack cheese (or other, like
mozzarella)

About 2 cups vegetable oil for frying

In
a food processor, combine flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and sugar.
Add the vegetable shortening into the flour and process until fine. Heat the
milk and water in the microwave in separate containers and heat until very hot, about 1 and a half minutes. Pour the hot milk into
the flour mixture and process. Add half of the water and process. Add more
water (1 tablespoon at a time) if mixture seems too dry/crumbly, or add in
more flour if mixture is too wet. When the mixture is combined,
remove it from the food processor and turn out on to a floured work
surface.  Knead until a smooth, silky and maleable dough is made.

Divide
the dough into 16 pieces, and roll each piece into a ball. Let dough rest for
5 minutes, covered with a linen towel so it doesn’t dry out .  Chop the cheese into ½ to 1-inch cubes. Roll
each ball of dough into a 4-inch diameter circle. Place 3-4 cubes of cheese in the center of each dough circle.  Fold dough in half over the cheese to form a
semicircle. Press down firmly along the edges to seal. Using the twisting repulgue technique, press along the edges to
seal.

Heat
the vegetable oil to 350 degrees in a deep skillet, pot, or deep fryer. Fry empanadas in batches, turning until golden brown all over.
Drain empanadas on a paper-towel lined plate. Optional: dust in sugar before
serving. Empanadas can be kept warm in a 200 degree oven for up to 1 hour
before serving. Serve warm.

Tip:
If your frying oil is too hot, it will cause the dough to open and the cheese
to ooze out. Lower temp also ensures nice, melty cheese inside.

 

October 11, 2012

Empanadas in the Oregonian!

ARGENTINA 2011 199

Aren't these emapnadas just mouth-watering?  They came from a pizzeria in Buenos Aires on our last trip there, and we ate them in one sitting, while admiring the 'repulgue' code indicating what different fillings awaited us inside.  Pretty clever if you ask me.  No mysteries, just different seals, along with a small flyer of hand-drawn models to classify each empanada.
Last month, The Oregonian ran a great article by Susan G. Hauser about her empanada obsession.  In it, she describes how her love for the stuffed pastry pocket began on a trip to Argentina and returned with her to Portland, where she sought out the best empanada joints in the Northwest and had a lovely chat with Laura Catena.  Pretty interesting stuff!
The article includes recipes for several types of empanadas (including my Humita–corn and roasted red pepper empanada), plus information on dough (store-bought or homemade) and even a link to the original 'replugue' video by yours truly.  Nice!
The article is a great introduction to one of Argentina's national foods.  If you happen to be in Denver, you can check my schedule page and book a private empanada-making workshop with me or attend one of my classes at the Seasoned Chef  (Empanada Workshop is next Tuesday, Oct. 16th!) or at Colorado Free University.  

October 9, 2012

Fall Classes at the Seasoned Chef Cooking School

Summer 2012 277

 

Back by popular demand, we've added two new classes this fall at the Seasoned Chef.  Hope to see you there!  The classes are intimate, hands-on, and a fun way to learn how to cook something new while you meet new people. Details are below!


Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012
EMPANADA WORKSHOPWant to become an empanada expert? In this class we'll learn to make Empanada Dough from scratch and make fried, baked and dessert Empanadas. Fillings will include Ham and Cheese, Butternut Squash with Goat Cheese, Beef with Potato and Raisin, Fried Cheese, apple Pie and Dulce de Leche. We will learn basic and advanced replugue (sealing) techniques, plus learn about different empanada traditions across South America.

Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012 "IT'S SUMMER IN ARGENTINA"
While in Colorado we're making snow angels, in Argentina they are enjoying the summer sun. In this class, we'll make plates that are perfect light dishes for summer, but also great to take along to share, or make the whole menu for your own Argentine-style holiday party! We'll make Limonchamp – a fizzy cocktail of Champagne and Lemon Sorbet; Pionono (roulade) with Crème Fraiche and Hearts of Palm; Empanadas filled with Blue Cheese, Onion and Walnut; Rice-Stuffed Tomatoes; Churros (a Spanish long donut); Dulce de Leche Filled Crepes. 



October 2, 2012

Tomato Jam–Dulce de Tomate

 
Dulce-de-tomate

What do you do when your sweet Argentine husband confesses that he's homesick? If you're like me, you find that food–while never being quite like the real thing–brings you pretty close to home. And having that comforting flavor of home in your mouth soothes the homesick beast (even ten years, two kids and a mortgage later) for a little while.

And also if you're like me (sometimes a little loca when I get going on a recipe) you hit the farmer's market on Saturday morning and come home with 25 pounds of tomatoes.  Most of those tomatoes became Dulce de Tomate, and our funky old kitchen became a virtual factory of blanching, peeling, seeding, chopping, boiling and canning. 

Dulce de Tomate was one of the first recipes I posted here when I started out, and I'm embarrassed to admit that since then, I haven't made it even once. As far as the flavors of Argentina go, classics like the alfajor and chimichurri tend to get all the attention, while equally interesting and delicious treats like Dulce de Tomate are the wallflower in the corner.

So with my mother-in-law, Florencia, coaching me via Skype, those piles of tomatoes shrank into candied tomato jam, which found its way into jars and onto our pantry shelves. If you have an abundance of tomatoes this season, Dulce de Tomate is a delicious way to explore one of Argentina's unsung heroes of taste, one that will bring you–or your sweetheart–right back home.

Below is the orginal recipe I posted for Dulce de Tomate with some additional updated notes. 


Dulcedetomate

Dulce de Tomate

Tomato Jam 

This recipe is my mother-in-law, Florencia's. She has lived on a farm almost her entire life, and in her years as a farmer's wife, has canned literally thousands of pounds of tomatoes in one form or other.  Serve the tomato jam on toast or crackers.  It would make a great companion to a cheese course or picadito plate with a dry sparkling white wine.

6-7  lbs.  fresh tomatoes (about 2 dozen)

6 cups sugar

2 cups water

Wash the tomatoes and bring a large pot of water to a boil.  When the water is boiling, submerge the tomatoes for about 20 seconds to blanch them. Remove to a bowl of cold water to stop the tomatoes from cooking.  Peel them, cut in half and remove seeds.  I found that the easiest way to do this is to use a serrated knife to remove the top, then squeeze the skin off from the bottom.  Then cut them in half and squeeze the seeds out or used your finger to pull them out. Chop the tomatoes into large dice.

Weigh them–for every 6 pounds of tomato pulp, you'll need 6 cups sugar and 2 cups water. If you don't have a scale, you can guesstimate–a bag of flour weighs five pounds, so it will be slightly heavier than that. Also, a good rule of thumb for making jam is to do just one batch at a time and avoid the temptation to double the recipe–it doesn't cook as well.

Why removing the seeds is important: Florencia says this is just for looks, since sometimes the seeds turn dark and in general the jam looks prettier without seeds.  However, it's fine, flavor-wise, if the seeds remain, so it's up to you.

Put the 2 cups water and 6 cups sugar in a pot on the stove top.  Stir over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved in the water, making a simple syrup.  When the syrup is at a boil, add the 6 lbs. tomatoes, and cook for 15-20 minutes, lowering the heat to a simmer. Be sure to watch the pot so that it doesn't boil over and it does foam!  The foam can be skimmed off the top.  After 20 minutes, turn the stove off and let the mixture sit for a few hours. Florencia says this is also aesthetic; the dulce de tomate takes on a shinier, more brilliant look if it goes through a cooling and re-cooking process.

After a few hours, re-heat, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, taking care that it doesn't stick or burn.  Bring it to a boil,  then lower the heat and let cook for 1-2 hours, stirring periodically.  After this time, the tomatoes should have a shininess and transparent look. 

Let cool and then put it into jars.  It can keep for a couple of weeks refrigerated, or can according to the manufacturer's instructions of your canning kit.