Wednesday, January 28, 2009

It's the (Peach) Pits

RIP Oatmeal Peach Plum Muffiny Goodness

This one was a heartbreaker. I woke up this morning craving a big buttermilk muffin, but blueberries seem to have disappeared so I decided to try peaches and plums. Searching around the Internet, I only found recipes for dense muffins, many with traditional peach crumble topping. But I wasn't in the mood for crumble, just fluffy, fruity goodness. So I swapped out one cup of blueberries in a previous recipe, for one cup of cubed peaches and plums. 1 peach, 1 plum, and 1 red plum - to be exact.

I wasn't sure how they would turn out so I decided to experiment further. I made 3 with the exact same recipe and 3 with some oatmeal swapped in. I think I would toss another peach or plum into the original recipe, but they didn't disappoint.

They were perfectly moist and the fruit distributed equally (I was worried since peaches are heavier than blueberries).

If the oatmeal muffins had come out (literally) I would post the recipe, but they were a delicious disaster. While I did butter my muffin pan, I suppose the problem was that I didn't use enough liquid. I swapped out 1/2 c. flour for 1/2 c. oats (soaked in 1/4 c. buttermilk for 15 minutes). While the results were still fluffy (and a little heartier, as hoped) the muffin wouldn't let go of the pan! And so, they weren't muffins afterall. But I did enjoy a tasty bowl of muffin crumbs.

The tops were like oatmeal cookies and the combination of oats and fruit was breakfast heaven. I think I will try it again, perhaps using applesauce (as suggested by Katie about a previous post) or more buttermilk. I'm afraid of using more butter or oil, as I don't want them to turn out rubbery, but I welcome any comments you've got!

For a more successful use of peaches try...Peach Pie

  • All butter pie crusts
  • 4 c. peaches, peeled and sliced
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 2 1/2 T. cornstarch
  • 1/8 t. salt
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 1/8 t. cinnamon
  • 2 T. butter, sliced
This recipe calls for a 9" pie plate but I had a smaller dish and used only one crust, rolled out thinner. It tasted great but didn't look so pretty! Next time, I'll make the whole thing. Mix sugar, cornstarch, salt and water and fold in the peaches. Pour into pie crust, sprinkle with cinnamon and dot with butter. Cover with top crust and bake at 220C (425F) for 10 minutes, reduce heat to 180C (350F) and bake 35 minutes.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Stuff that Sticks

I can't believe it's been a whole week since my last post! But it's been so freakin' hot here that I haven't been whipping up much. A lot of pasta salads and cheese sandwiches--nothing spectacular. But the heat has got me thinking about global warming and all of that scary environmental stuff. So, speaking of stuff, I urge you to check out The Story of Stuff to learn more about how and why we create so much waste. It gives an overview of the economic and social reasons for our unending consumption.

It seems that Argentina doesn't have as much stuff to deal with, perhaps a positive side effect of not exactly being a first world country. In many ways, Argentina is green by default. Lacking the economic prosperity that the US has enjoyed since the end of WWII, Argentines have remained somewhat frugal. This is changing, of course, with all of the crap coming in from China--gag me.

But it's nice to see that things are re-used out of necessity. For instance, we return our beer bottles to get a peso back. And you'll often get a glass bottle of soda in a restaurant--don't try to take the bottle, they will chase you.

When it comes to food, we use everything until it grows mold. And usually we just scrape it off and use the rest. I eat food here that I would have frowned upon and quickly tossed away at home. But it makes me happy to use ugly food. For one thing, I know that my produced hasn't been shined with wax to make it look pretty. I hate waxy apples.

I use veggies that have gone soft for cooking -- tomatoes for making tomato sauce, carrots for stocks or soup, bananas for banana bread. Guille's mom plans all of her meals so that nothing goes bad. I haven't gone that far yet--I cook according to cravings, convenience, and curiosity--but it's a very economical way of eating.

For aging tomatoes - cut out the nasty bits, drop in a pot of boiling water for 1-2 minutes, drain and they will be easy to peel (but don't burn yourself), mash with a fork and you've got a great base for homemade tomato sauce. You can even freeze it for later.

The thing is, since Argentina didn't progress in the same consumer ways that the US did, eating fresh, organic produce is much more cost efficient here. I've been reading tips on how to save money during this economic crisis and one tip (from a US website) was to eat less fresh produce, buying canned and frozen to save money. How sad is that?! How is it possible that food that requires processing and packaging is cheaper?! Doesn't it make more sense to only pay for the growing and picking of the fruit, rather than an intensive preservation process and international shipping?

crazy. Argentina wins this match.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Creamy Black Beans

Argentina is very far from Mexico and though these countries share a language, they certainly don't share comida. The other day, I passed one of the few Mexican restaurants in town and the lunch special was gnocchi. Needless to say, I'm missing take-out beans and rice. I do have to say that I had a very tasty mushroom quesadilla at Davis UP last week, but no beans on the menu. So here's what I came up with:
  • 3/4 c. dried black beans
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 small to medium onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 c. vegetable stock
  • 1- 2 c. water
  • 1 t. cumin
  • 1/2 t. dried oregano
  • 1 t. rock salt (optional)
  • 1/2 c. Casan crem light
Soak beans in water overnight, drain and rinse. Saute onion and garlic with olive oil in a large pot, after 5 minutes add pepper, continue to saute on medium heat until tender (about 10 minutes total). Add beans, stock, cumin, oregano, and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil and drop heat to low. Cover and simmer, adding water as necessary (every 20-30 minutes) to keep beans from getting dry. Simmer until beans are tender, mine usually take about 2 hours. Add Casan crem (or sour cream for those in the US) and serve. You could also cook the beans ahead and, when ready to serve, heat them back up and add cream.

I sometimes serve with rice and other times use the beans for burritos. For an Argentine twist, I stuff them, along with cheese, into empanadas. I also have left out the bell pepper and used a big pinch of red pepper flakes, and that's tasty too. But my favorite way to eat these is rolled-up in a big tortilla.

Black Bean Burritos with Zucchini and Red Pepper

The last time that Guille and I attempted burrito night, we didn't end up eating until midnight. So, instead of attempting salsa and guacamole again, I added the veggies in the fridge to dress up our beans. It made for a very flavorful, yet lighter and faster homemade burrito.

For assembly, in addition to creamy black beans you'll need:
  • Flour tortillas (I only made 4 big ones with this recipe)
  • 1 T. veg oil (I was going for a lighter flavor but you could use evoo)
  • 2 zucchini, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • Juice of half a lemon (a lime would be delish here too)
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • cheese of your liking
Saute red pepper in oil for about 5 minutes before adding the zucchini. Add juice and season with s&p. Continue to cook on medium low, stirring often, until the zucchini starts to soften and brown. I like to melt the cheese right onto my tortilla while its cooking, but only if it will be immediately eaten! Then add all of the stuffings, fold and bite!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Forbidden Baked Goods

Almond Banana Bread, for when you miss your mom (or past apartments)

My mom doesn't actually make banana bread but this makes me think of my first baking experiments in sunny Atlanta, which was home to me once. Back in college, I used Bisquick to make banana bread and it was tasty enough, but my latest experiments exhibit a more mature, yet still easy to make, comfort food. Taking a cue from Katy at Pomelo Pleasures, I used azucar negro for this recipe but she suggests replacing the sugars with 1 cup of brown sugar if you've got it.
  • 1 1/2 c. flour (I would like to try this with wheat flour)
  • 1 t. baking powder
  • 1/2 t. baking soda
  • dash of salt
  • 3 bananas, mashed
  • 50 g. butter (that's not quite half a stick in the US)
  • 1/2 c. azucar negro
  • 1/2 c. sugar (I'm only using organic now)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 T. milk
  • vanilla to taste (I used about 1/8 t.)
  • 1/2 c. almonds, chopped
  • slivered almonds to top
Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt, set aside. Mash your bananas, leaving little lumps, set aside. Cream together butter and sugar, mix in egg, milk, vanilla and bananas. Combine with the dry ingredients and chopped almonds. Pour into greased and floured loaf pan and sprinkle slivered almonds on top (I would have added way more if I didn't have to sliver them myself). Bake at 180C (350F) for one hour, or until a knife comes out clean. Since I don't have any cream cheese to spread on slices, I'm using Finlandia.

Brownie con cafe
inspired by Everyday Italian

There's no way that tiny little Giada De Laurentiis is eating these, but I bet she makes a lot of other people happy, and round. This is a great recipe for a last minute dessert, since it uses a box. Now, don't be ashamed of store-bought baking--this isn't Sandra Lee and we're not going to make season-themed window treatments and pull a cocktail out of our cleavage.
  • 1/3 c. water
  • 1/3 c. vegetable oil (these are very moist, replace some with water if you want them less oily)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 T. instant espresso (I used coffee)
  • 1 box brownie mix (original recipe calls for 20 oz box)
  • 3/4 c. chocolate chips (I chopped up a bar of Aguila semi-sweet chocolate)
The only brownie mix I could find was only 15 oz so I reduced all of the ingredients by 25% (just eyeballed it). I used only one egg and a combination of 1/2 T. water mixed with 1/2 t. baking powder to make half of an egg. Whisk water, oil, eggs and coffee together. Add brownie mix and chips. Bake at 180C (350F) for 35 minutes, a toothpick should come out clean with a few crumbs.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Life is like a box of...assorted Argentine sweets

I waited until I knew my parents' Christmas package had arrived before I post this pic...didn't want to ruin the surprise. And they received it in a record-breaking 2 weeks! I've scoured the candy shops of Argentina, leaving not even a gum drop unturned, and I awarded my favorites with an all expenses paid trip to the States, via airmail. And the research wasn't easy, friends, I had to eat a lot of crap. A lot of the mass produced chocolate available here is subpar, or perhaps has just hung out on dusty store shelves too long. And there is American candy, like Twix and Snickers, but if it's made in Brazil don't waste your pesos.

From the top left-

Milka Leger - air infused milk chocolate, similar to an Aero bar
Milka Mount 3 - Milka chocolate is really very good, this one is stuffed with hazelnut nougat
Shot Crunchy - an acceptable substitute when I'm craving a Snickers bar, chocolate with peanuts
Royal assortment of Christmas goodies - turron, crocante de mani (like peanut brittle), and sugared peanuts
San Ignacio dulce de leche (I'm sure that you know what this is by now)
Bonafide Nugaton - this has become my candy bar of choice- it's like a bigger Kit Kat with layers of delicate wafers
Kinder Eggs - a thin shell of milk chocolate on the outside with a white chocolate lining and a toy inside!
Terrabusi alfajor - a classic
9 de Oros - sweet, sugar encrusted crackers (I like to eat these with cup of tea and pretend that I'm English - evnin' govnah!)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Eggplant Parmesan

I only had one white eggplant on hand so I adapted this recipe and baked in a small casserole dish with only two layers of eggplant. It made about 5 servings.
  • 1 eggplant, 1/2 inch slices (no need to salt a white eggplant, if using a darker one - sprinkle each slice generously and let set for 30-45 minutes, depending on size, rinse and pat dry)
  • 1 egg, beaten and mixed with 1/2 t. dried oregano and a pinch of salt & pepper
  • 1-2 c. bread crumbs
  • 2 c. tomato sauce (I used Guille's famous sauce that we kept frozen)
  • Mozzarella and parmesan cheeses
  • Fresh basil to taste, shredded
Dredge eggplant slices through egg mixture and then bread crumbs. Bake in a single layer for 5 minutes on each side at 180C/350F. Cover bottom of casserole dish with sauce, top with a layer of eggplant slices, add basil and a layer of both cheeses. I used about 1 1/2 cups of grated parmesan cheese and 3 slices of some form of mozzarella. Repeat - sauce, eggplant, basil, cheese. Bake at 180C for 30-40 minutes.

The leftovers make for a very yummy sandwich!

Monday, January 5, 2009

French Toasted Pan Dulce

So much pan dulce (panettone) leftover from the holidays...what's a girl to do? Here's an idea: make french toast! We ate all of the pan dulce with chocolate chips (above) but we had some of the fruity kind to use up.
  • Leftover pan dulce
  • 1 egg
  • 1 T. milk
  • Drop of vanilla and a sprinkle of cinnamon, to taste

Whisk together egg, milk, vanilla, and cinnamon. Dredge slices of pan dulce through egg mixture and fry with a little butter (about 5 minutes on med-low heat on each side). Sprinkle with powdered sugar for more devilish fun. And of course, coffee in a Mafalda mug.