Saturday, February 28, 2009

Rosario, Off the Beaten Path

I've already mentioned some of my favorite vegetarian restaurants in Rosario, but there are plenty of other great places in town. Julia was our first American friend to visit so we wanted to show her some authenticity. There are a lot of fancy parillas for impressing guests, but we decided to go to one of our favorite eating spots - el vomito. Ok, so it isn't really called that but it was lovingly given its name because the food is so delicious and plentiful that you eat until you're ready to rupture. It's real name is Comedor Balcarce (on the corner of Balcarce y Brown) and it's cheap.

This restaurant is among the bodegons of Rosario, remnants of the old city. Places where soda comes in vintage bottles and sifones, and the waiters memorize your order.

I suppose that there is a nostalgia for the past in all cities; reminders of a forgotten era scattered about here and there. This restaurant serves the kind of dishes that have been typical 'comfort food' forever here. Guille likes to get huge milanesas or supremas for about 16 pesos. Here's one covered in cheese:

It was also a great place for our guests to sample unusual dishes like cow tongue and intestine. They actually liked the tongue, pictured below, but weren't impressed with the latter. I love the potato tortilla and the homemade pastas.

Another restaurant with the spirit of 'old Rosario' is Santa Maria pizzaria, which deserves its own post (I'll get to work on that research ;)

After dinner, we took them to Davis, a trendy restaurant located at the base of the MACRO (contemporary art) museum. It's right on the river and is a great place for drinking on summer nights. I occasionally (every time) order coffee flan, which comes with a shot of coffee liquor.

And we didn't let them escape our fair city without gelato from Yomo. Yes, it's a chain but their flavors are so well perfected that I prefer it over boutique ice cream shops. I recommend tiramisu, lemon pie and dulce de leche granizado.

If we would have had more time with our guests, we would have taken them to Caracolas, on La Florida (a strip of beach), for fizzy lemonade and fries at merienda time. And to other hidden gems around town like this little cafe where we had breakfast this morning (Maipu y Urquiza).

I'm still delighted by the tiny cookies that often come with coffee here. Free and sweet makes me smile (even before I've reached the bottom of my cafe con leche).

And we could have stopped by El Cairo for chopps (beer on tap) and pizza or a lunchtime salad - the space is huge and filled with artsy motifs (Santa Fe y Sarmiento).

Or we could have had a meal on the shaded patio at VIP, which is just steps from the flag monument and across the street from the river.

So thanks for visiting Rosario, and come back soon!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Fabulous Fideos

Corkscrew Pasta with Cremini Mushroom Sauce

This made a very hearty pasta, with a flavor as rich as french onion soup. The sauce is based on the one that tops this polenta, but is thinned out with extra liquid. (Always cook with wine that you would drink!)

  • 200 g. corkscrew pasta
  • 200 g. cremini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced
  • 2 T. EVOO (and/or a butter/oil combo)
  • 1 T. fresh rosemary, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 c. white wine + more for drinking while cooking
  • 1 c. vegetable stock
  • 1/4 t. cornstarch, dissolved in 2 T. hot water
  • S & P to taste
  • Shredded parmesan cheese to top
Saute onion and garlic in oil over med heat until translucent (it helps to have a Guille tossing these for you like a pro).

Add mushrooms and rosemary and stir to coat. Reduce heat to low and saute for about 10 minutes - allow the mushrooms to brown and onions to slightly caramelize (see photo below, don't burn your camera) before adding wine, 1/2 c. stock, and cornstarch solution.

Simmer for 5-10 minutes, adding more stock as necessary for desired consistency and S&P to taste. Don't allow the liquid to cook out as in the polenta recipe. Combine with cooked pasta and top with cheese.

Variations on Pasta Primavera

Pasta Primavera is one of my favorite dishes and can be made with any assortment of veggies, but I always prefer that it include zucchini and fettucine. Typically, my recipe goes something like this:
  • Saute 1 medium sliced onion and 1 clove garlic in EVOO for a few minutes
  • Choose 3 or 4 veggies:
    • carrots
    • peppers
    • zucchini
    • yellow squash
    • asparagus
    • broccoli
    • peas
    • tomatoes
  • Add the thickest vegetables (sliced thin) first to allow for more cooking time, simmer in water and/or veg stock (about 1-2 cups, adding more as necessary) for about 15 minutes
  • Add al dente pasta and simmer together for a couple of minutes while the noodles finish cooking and the sauciness thickens
  • Top with a TON of parm cheese

I also made a spiral noodle version with shredded carrots and zucchini and added cherry tomatoes when it was close to done. The veggies and cheese got into all the cracks and were delish!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

My Funny Valentine

I finally get to spend this silly holiday with Guille. We've spent one other Feb 14 together, thanks to a snowstorm that kept him in New York an extra week, but we pre-celebrated so the actual day was uneventful. I realize that it's a day soaked in over-consumption but I thought that a little homemade surprise wouldn't hurt to set the mood for this weekend.

Guille isn't as big of a fan of chocolate as I am (I actually need chocolately goodness to survive) so I made one of his favorite recipes with a cheesy romantic twist. Yep, I used a tall, heart-shaped cookie cutter to make Scones de mi Corazon. (JAJAJAJA) And I sprinkled raw sugar on the top before baking.

I'm absolutely delighted that my dear friend Julia and her boyfriend are visiting Argentina this week! (Bienvenidos!!) And they're making the trek out to Rosario too! I'm totally excited that we're traveling with them back to Buenos Aires and spending the weekend in the city. I'll be sure to tell you where we take them out to eat here, and what places we find in BA. Your recommendations are warmly welcome!

Guille and I are staying at Moana, a B&B in San Telmo (shamelessly romantic part of town) so that's our present to each other. The scones will undoubtedly be gone by then. So, yay! Fun filled mini-break with friends instead of crazy stuffed animals for Valentines!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Another Weekend in Funes

To update you on one of my first posts, the grapes have matured and we found something else to cook a la parilla.

Guille came across a great idea for cooking veggies on the grill - put them in a juice box. Ok, it seems a little silly but it creates a great little oven with its foil lining. So, wash out your juice box, throw in any combo of veggies with a little evoo and seasonings, and cook on the parilla for about 30 minutes.

This dish has sliced carrots, whole grape tomatoes, and cubed onions, garlic, red peppers, potatoes, and eggplant. We've also had delicious success with other versions including butternut squash, sweet potato, and zucchini. The flavors melt together wonderfully. A touch of oregano, paprika, black pepper and salt are in our typical flavor regime. Fresh rosemary and thyme punctuate an herbed version nicely. Today we added dried portobellos (that we first soaked in red wine) to potatoes, red peppers, zucchini, garlic, and onion. We ended up with veggies in a rich mushroom sauce - yum! Be certain to toss all of veggies so that they are lightly covered with oil - this prevents them from sticking and burning inside the box.

Last week, it was time for the grape harvest. Luckily, Guille's younger (and nimble!) cousin was in town to climb up into the grape vines and cut them down. Thus, we began the wine-making process, which consisted of us cleaning and squishing the grapes. We then put them in a big bottle, added sugar and covered with fabric. Today we strained it and couldn't help but sample it:

Maybe we'll give it a few more weeks? Te amo Guille.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Tofu Pesto for a Rainy Day

I started working again so I'm getting back into the swing of things this week. Luckily, it's a part-time Virtual Assistant job that I found on oDesk. So far, I'm really enjoying it because during my alone hours I can get a little work done (thus feeling accomplished and financially viable), whip up some sort of homemade dish (satisfying my need to 'homemake'), and stay in my pajamas as long as I want. It also cuts down on the amount of free time that I have to secretly indulge in my worst habit - reading wedding blogs. ugh. Why do I torture myself so?

It's also nice because I can turn off work whenever I need/want to. And I can still make dollars (though far fewer). So yay for a job that I feel comfortable with! And on to the food...

We had a crazy summer storm here the other day - it hailed! (I know you can't really tell from this shaky pic, but those are hail stones next to my rosemary.)

And this lightning was non-stop.

(de Rosario 3)

Watching the storm was like gawking at a train wreck, we just couldn't look away. And so instead of cooking, we grabbed a bottle of beer, peanuts and sandwich makings, along with this tofu peso, and starred out the window. The recipe that I used as a guide calls for a pound of tofu, but I had about 300 grams so the measurements below reflect my adjustments. Nothing needs to be exact, though; it's an easy-going dish.

Almond Basil Pesto
  • 1/2 c. - 3/4 c. fresh basil (that's all I had)
  • 1/4 c. almonds, roughly chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove, briefly sauted (I prefer the cooked flavor to raw garlic, but it's up to you)
  • 3 T. Parmesan (or Reggianito) cheese, grated
  • Dash of S & P
  • 2 - 3 T. EVOO (I hope Rachel Ray didn't trademark this)
Put everything but the EVOO into a food processor or blender and process until finely chopped. Stream in EVOO while continuing to process until combined.

Tofu Pesto
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 T EVOO
  • 300 g. tofu, patted dry
  • 1 small tomato, chopped
  • S & P to taste
Saute onion in oil on med-low heat until translucent (about 5 minutes), crumble in tofu and add tomato, continue to cook, stirring often, for another 5 minutes or until tofu is browned to your preference. Fold in pesto and cook 2 minutes. I let it rest for about 2 hours at room temperature before digging in.

This would make a delicious version of bruschetta. We started eating it on top of crackers until we stopped ourselves and made it more dinner-like by crafting open face sandwiches. It was delish served along with beer and peanuts but you could definitely fancy this up.