Sunday, September 30, 2012

New Adventures

Well, I said my last goodbyes and packed up my apartment in Tucumán, in Northwest Argentina.  I'm back in the USA. My experience in Argentina--the laughs, the love, them amazing friends I made, the beauty, the dulce de leche, all the memories, have left their mark on me forever.

And with my culinary view expanded from my travels abroad, the size of my kitchen and the range of ingredients available to me are expanded by being home, and it's about time I shared my new adventures in the kitchen, so I created a brand spankin' new blog:

In it, I share recipes, photos, and stories from my kitchen. Anything and everything I'm cooking is up for discussion. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, and snacks, from everyday American to Middle Eastern to Latin to Asian is on the menu. The only common thread running through all the recipes is healthy and satisfying. I believe you are what you eat, and I want to bring you food that will keep you and your family at your very best.

Un beso y un gran abrazo,
(A kiss and a big hug)


Monday, November 7, 2011

Dulce de Leche Covered Apples

I had been rolling different delicious ideas around in my head involving the combination of dulce de leche and apples for weeks.

I ended up going for super-simple, just a slight twist on the classic American fall treat: caramel apples. This is so easy it’s barely a recipe.

1 teaspoon vegetable oil
400 grams (about 1 cup) dulce de leche
6 medium granny smith apples
Crushed peanuts, mini chocolate chips, shredded coconut, or other topping if desired

Prepare a large plate for the finished apples: Cover with plastic wrap, and then rub with the oil.

Wash and dry the apples thoroughly, then take an apple, and just barely poke the top, right next to the stem, with a table knife or a popsicle stick, just enough to hold onto it.

In a medium pot, heat the dulce de leche on low, stirring frequently. After around 5 or 10 minutes, it will start to thin. At this point, remove from heat, and begin dipping the apples. I let mine get too hot too fast, which is why mine look a little lumpy.

To dip the apples, take an apple, lower it into the dulce de leche, and swirl it around to coat. Roll in peanuts or other topping if desired, then transfer to the prepared plate. Allow to cool for 12 to 24 hours (this can be in the refrigerator or out.)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Magic Spinach and Cheese Lasagna

Hello all!

So lovely to see you again! I don’t have a good excuse for my lapse. I wish I did. I wish I could tell you about how fine the powder was snowboarding Bariloche, tipsy wine tastings in Mendoza, or climbing Machu Picchu at dawn—but those things only happened in my imagination. Instead I could tell you about how first I was sick, and then had a visitor, and then the internet went out. I could tell you about my crazy schedule teaching at elementary schools, high schools, and the college. I could tell you about what a chub-a-lub I've been turning into and how I swear every time I go near the kitchen, my thighs grow a little just on principle! But what’s important is: I’M BACK! And I have a whole menu of exciting stuff planned! Starting with this fantastic lasagna! What's magical about it you ask? It's happens to be another triple-threat: It's the quickest lasagna I've ever made, it's easy (I promise), and it's actually really healthy, packed with veggies and low-fat.(which is important...for the chubster over here!)

Never-Know-It’s-Low-Fat Speedy Spinach and Cheese Lasagna
(Makes about 8 servings)
2 tablespoons olive oil + 1 tablespoon
1 onion, diced
1 large carrot, diced
2 cups tomato puree
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon garlic powder

1 lb (about 2 cups) low fat ricotta cheese
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 egg
1 teaspoon dried parsley or thyme

9 no-boil lasagna noodles
3 cups fresh spinach, torn into bite sized pieces
1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil 2 to 3 minutes, then add onions and sautee about 5 minutes. Add carrots, and sautee about 3 more minutes. Add tomato puree, salt, and garlic powder, and bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to medium low.

While it’s simmering, combine ricotta, parmesan, egg, and herbs in a large bowl. Grease your baking dish with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. This is when I tear the spinach and shred the cheese. The sauce should cook a total of about 10 to 15 minutes, but whenever you’re done with everything else, go ahead and remove the sauce from heat.

Then bring together all the ingredients for assembly: sauce, ricotta mixture, noodles, spinach, and the mozzarella cheese for topping. Start by ladling enough of the sauce into the bottom of the baking dish to barely cover it, then put in a layer of noodles. Next, add the spinach, then another layer of noodles. Add another layer of sauce, then the ricotta cheese mixture. Top with one more layer of noodles, then any remaining sauce, and top it off with the shredded mozzarella.

Bake uncovered at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes. Devour.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Argentine Everything Sandwich

There’s nothing quite like a great sandwich. This is a re-creation of one I had in the tiny town of Tilcara, in the province of Jujuy. It features the Argentine staple Milanesa, which is a piece of protein (usually meat) pounded very thin, then breaded and fried. This milanesa, instead of the usual steak or veal, is made of textured soy protein.

Here are a few photos from my trip:
Tilcara, Jujuy, Argentina
La Cascada in Tilcara, Jujuy, Argentina
After hiking all day, my traveling companions and I were completely famished. We were thrilled to find an adorable vegetarian open air sandwich shop. The sandwiches were very tasty and the price was right: These loaded sandwiches cost us about $4 each. They were incredibly delicious, with each ingredient adding to the overall effect. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but somehow they reminded me a little of the Vietnamese Banh Mi sandwiches I eat whenever I’m in Houston, TX, and have been craving. I added pickled vegetables to my version in honor of my beloved Banh Mi sandwiches.

Did I mention they were good? So good I had to go back for a second one. So good that that still wasn’t enough, I had to recreate it at home.

Highlights: Hearty whole wheat bread, soy milanesa with its unctuous flavor, crunchy exterior and soft slightly chewy interior, fried egg, fresh green lettuce, beautiful sliced tomato, melty cheese, and crunchy slightly-sour pickled vegetables.
(recipe after the jump!)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Strawberries with Ricotta and Dulce de Leche

Spring in Tucumán, Argentina is a contradiction, but a beautiful one in its own way. In early September, the temperature starts to climb, and the scent of orange blossoms fills the air from the trees that line the city’s avenues. Ash from sugar cane mills (ingenios) falls from the sky, leaving a fine gray powder on everything. As the temperature warms, your mind wanders to the stunning mountain, Cierro San Javier, just a few miles outside town and perfect for hiking and cycling, normally visible from any high point in the city like my apartment balcony on the 13th floor of a charming dilapidated building in town, but on most days, the mountain is now completely obscured by the smoky haze. As you walk down the sidewalk, Lapacho trees in pink, yellow, and white drop their petals in front of you, creating carpets of vibrant color. 

Photo credit:Paula Rey

Probably my favorite part – my produce market (verdulería) is overflowing with strawberries! This is exciting for me, because I did not see a single berry—fresh, frozen, canned, or even dried, all winter here – so different from the fluorescent-lit 24 hour, grocery store-pharmacy-photo-drycleaner-eye-doctor-you-name-it supermarkets in the US, where you can buy anything anytime no matter the season.

This easy dessert will have you head over heels. The sweetness of the strawberries and the richness of the ricotta – the buttery lightness of the cookies with the boozy bite of the dulce de leche liquor – the flavor pairings here are perfection.

[Recipe after the jump!]