Saturday, March 28, 2009

Happy Birthday, Darling

What kind of cake do you bake for the love of your life when he says that he wants brownies for his birthday cake? Well, you could just make brownies but these don't usually come out of the pan and sit nicely atop a vintage cake stand. So you could amaze him with this simple recipe instead.

I found this version from Chocolate & Zucchini, who found it from someone else, and I thought it was helpful to read through the comments people left. Some of them encountered random problems when making this cake, but it came out perfectly for me. I think the trick is to use a gas oven and parchment paper, and to let it cool before attempting any flips.

All you need is:
  • 200 g butter, cubed (high-quality is suggested, I used stuff from the grocery store)
  • 200 g dark chocolate (at least 60%), roughly chopped
  • 200 g sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 rounded Tbsp all-purpose flour
Butter an 8 inch pan, line the bottom with parchment paper, and butter the paper too. Melt the butter and chocolate together (I used a make-shift double-boiler but the microwave works well too, as long as you stop and stir frequently). Pour mixture into a different bowl and stir in sugar (the sugar should not melt - it will be gritty), allow to cool about 10 minutes. Using a spatula or wooden spoon gently mix in eggs one by one, being sure to incorporate each one fully before adding the next. Finally, stir in the flour until shiny and properly mixed (the batter thickens). Pour into prepared pan and bake at 180C (350F) for 30 minutes. Turn off the oven but leave the cake in for another 10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely (the cake will sink a little) before inverting (remove parchment), and then reverting onto its final resting place.

This cake is better after it has rested for a day so make ahead of party time! I left it in the refrigerator overnight in the pan. Then I let it sit out on the counter for an hour before flipping it out (I placed a tinfoil-covered cutting board on top of the pan to flip, then put the cake stand on top of the cake and flipped again).

Now this isn't going to look like something from Martha Stewart. It's simple and modest, and best dressed with a dollop of homemade whipped cream. I made two flavors for variety - vanilla and Tia Maria (coffee liquor).

Vanilla Whipped Cream
  • 250 g. heavy cream
  • 1/2 t. vanilla
  • 2 T. powdered sugar
Using a hand-mixer, blend vanilla and cream, and add in sugar. Continue to blend on medium high speed for 3-5 minutes, until it reaches whipped cream consistency!

Tia Maria Whipped Cream
(you can also use Kahlua or any other coffee flavored liquor)
  • 250 g. heavy cream
  • 4 T. Tia Maria
  • 1 T. powdered sugar, if you prefer
Using a hand-mixer, blend booze and cream, and add in sugar. Continue to blend on medium high speed for 3-5 minutes, until it reaches whipped cream consistency!

If you're making this as a birthday cake, don't forget the super candle. Feliz Cumple!

Monday, March 23, 2009

When Words Fail

Sometimes in life, unavoidable situations occur which make people sad. I don't usually know what to say in such situations. A sympathetic 'I'm so sorry' is about all I can muster.

And sad people don't really think about food or even remember that they are hungry. But they do have to eat something. This is where you can help them.

Casserole-giving isn't a tradition in such situations in Argentina, but if you get the chance, leaving some slices of banana bread or a few brownies on the table might help some sad nibblers. Without being too specific, Guille also decided to invite over our saddened loved ones for a casual lunch (and an opportunity for them to leave the house).

Although we live above a gourmet pasta shop, we thought it would be worth it to make homemade pasta, along with tomato sauce, in order to squeeze every bit of love and care into lunch. Nothing fancy, just food.

Guille brought home a retro pasta maker last week and I had no idea how simple it would be to actually make it work (I'm always underestimating him). But he made me delicious spaghetti last week in the time it took me to whip up a simple pesto.

And so, Guille got it out again to make fettuccine and zini shaped pasta for our lunch. This recipe makes enough for 2 conservative servings but it is easy to double, triple, quadruple...

Egg Pasta
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 T. water
  • 1 T. oil
Whisk together flour and salt in large bowl. Add egg, water, and oil and stir until it comes together to form dough (adding additional flour as necessary). Turn out onto a floured surface and knead a few minutes to bring it together.

At this point we push it into the pasta maker while turning the hand crank (but you can roll it out and cut into strips). It took us a while with this thing but our guests even jumped in to help, momentarily distracted. It only takes a few minutes to cook fresh pasta - drop it into boiling water with a drop of oil. In the end, shared effort and a shared meal resulted in full bellies. And when a sad person says 'I'm full,' and you know that it's true, those words mean more than anything in the world.

Guille's Tomato Sauce
  • 2 T. evoo
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 large carrot, shredded
  • 1 med bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 can peeled, diced tomatoes
  • 1 Knorr veggie cube
  • 2-3 cups water
  • s & p to taste
  • 1/2 T. freshly chopped basil
  • 1/2 T. freshly chopped oregano
Saute onion and garlic in evoo over med high heat for 4 minutes. Stir in pepper and carrot, cook for 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, 1 cup water, and veggie cube (or you could use 1 cups of veg stock). Season with s&p, drop heat to low, cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes, adding water (can use pasta water) every 5 minutes or so. Finally, stir in herbs and toss with cooked pasta.

There were leftovers, which Guille mixed with a couple dollops of Casancrem (not-so-sour cream), topped with shredded parm cheese, and baked for 10 minutes in a moderately hot oven.

To make brownies from scratch, follow Joy the Baker's recipe (I cut it in half and baked in a 7" round pan). You will never want to use a box again. Be sure to use quality cocoa powder - if you live in Argentina, that means you'll need to ask for it at a specialty cake store. I also left out the nuts and coffee, to create a simple chocolate brownie.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

As Irish As I Wanna Be (or I'm Becoming My Mother)

There's no parade here today. No green rivers. And I could pinch just about everyone I pass on the street (though my desire to not be punched in the face prevents me from doing so). So I'm desperate for a way to celebrate the one day of the year when I feel proud about my reddish hair and weird middle name.

I will be at an 'Irish' pub tonight but they don't have Guinness or Harp on tap so this day is what I make it! That's why I mixed traditional pub food with a tacky touch - just to get it all in! I won't lie, Guille didn't really want to eat my green food but he did enjoy it once he got over the color. You see, my mother always dyes food green on St. Patrick's Day and it just makes me think of fun.

So here are some recipes for filling up with a hearty meal before running to the pubs, where you will surely lose your sense of taste, and decency.

Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie with Guinness

There are many takes on Shepherd's Pie out there, but I decided to add a combination of Guinness and sauted mushrooms to create the illusion of meaty flavor. Oh, and I dyed the mashed potatoes green (don't judge me!).
  • 2 T. butter
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large carrot, chopped into small cubes
  • 1/2 kilo mushrooms (I used cremini), sliced
  • 1 small can (350g) peas
  • 1/2 t. dried thyme
  • 1/2 t. dried rosemary
  • s & p to taste
  • 1 cup Guinness
  • 1 T. soy sauce
  • 1/4 t. cornstarch dissolved in 2 T. water
  • 2 - 3 cups mashed potatoes
Add butter, oil, garlic and onion to large skillet or non-stick pot. Saute on medium high heat for 5 minutes. Add herbs, s&p, and mushrooms, stirring often, and cook until they are moderately browned. Add peas, Guinness, and soy sauce, drop heat to low and simmer for about 10 minutes - you want the veggies tender. Add the cornstarch towards the end of this cooking time. Keep an eye on the mixture and add more Guinness (or veg stock or water) as necessary. Transfer mixture to casserole dish and spread the potatoes on top, to the edges. I used only 2 cups but it depends on how thick you want the layer to be. Bake at 190C (375F) for 20-25 minutes.

Irish Soda Bread

I followed this Joy of Baking recipe exactly, adding the oats as suggested. I chose this version because it didn't include raisins or shortening, but search around for the one that sounds best to you. It was amazingly simple to throw together and was perfect with our pie. I'll probably cram in a few more buttered slices before I leave tonight.

Irish Surprise Lemon Layer Cake

Yeah, this really isn't Irish but it's so pretty! The Lemon buttercream frosting was way too sweet, so shoot for something a little easier on your teeth. It was surprisingly easy to make this homemade cake (food coloring added) and I love that it is adapted from a 1945 recipe in Gourmet magazine. I would like to try their frosting but I wasn't in the mood for dealing with lemon curd today. I followed SmittenKitchen's cake tips and froze both layers yesterday, this made it easier for me to trim them into shape and frost. I also iced the entire cake with a thin layer, put the whole thing in the frige for 15 minutes, and then spread the rest of the frosting on top of the hardened layer, thus preventing the green crumbs from poking out and ruing the surprise!

So sorry for linking to recipes, but in the tradition of my father and my father's father, I've got some drinking to do.

And it's no, nay, never,
No nay never no more,
Will I play the wild rover
No never no more.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A Gelato By Any Other Name Isn't The Same

In an earlier post, I professed my love for Yomo, but soon after I wrote the words I stumbled upon the most delicious ice cream shop, San Remo (Av Godoy y Crespo). And it was packed with ice cream seekers at 2am! I should really stop calling it ice cream, though, because it's gelati (Italian). Ice cream is called helado here, but this shop isn't messin around, they are a gelateria.

This sweet, creamy dessert is my favorite food. It brings back memories of breakfast, lunch, and dinner in Italy with the girls. I love that there are so many flavors packed into this little shop:

Just have a look at the swirls and chunks of deliciousness crammed into each flavor!

Guille and I split a 3-flavor concoction in a waffle cone bowl for only 7 pesos. This is Oreo & Cream, Dulce de Leche San Remo (fudge swirls), and Choco-chunk. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Buenos Aires Mini Guide

I'm not an expert on Buenos Aires, but I have been a tourist in BA a few times now. Julia wrote a series of posts about her trip with a lot of helpful info. I thought I might also post my list of favorites.

The must-dos:
Catch a tango show
Eat stake (If you're not a veggie)
Eat empanadas
Eat alfajores
Drink Malbec
Try mate (tea)
Visit museums
Ride the Subte

Visit these neighborhoods:

Downtown (Avenue 9 de Julio, Casa Rosada, Plaza de Mayo, Florida Street)

La Boca (Walk down the caminito, visit the small museum mentioned below, and get out--it's not a neighborhood for a leisurely stroll)

When you're in La Boca, it's worth it to visit La Boca's Fine Arts Museum "Benito Quinquela Martin" museum (the views from the rooftop garden are great) and it's the studio of one of Argentina's most famous artists.

Palermo (Palermo Soho has nice boutiques)

Recoleta (Evita's grave is in Recoleta Cemetery)

San Telmo flea market (Sundays)

My favorite places to eat include:

Cafe Tortoni for churros and a cortado (coffee) or a submarino (hot chocolate).

(Foto de

Filo for gourmet pizzas and delicious pasta. We eat here every trip.

El Cuartito for more pizza, of course! This is a classic restaurant and you really must try it - photo courtesy of Julia.

Buenos Tours has many great posts on off-the-beaten-path places to visit.

In case you're learning Spanish - There's a podcast called Coffeebreak Spanish and the first 30 episodes focus on the phrases that you need for tourist travel.

Here is a rough guide to menus:

Salchichon, Chorizo (grilled), Morcilla (blood) - types of sausage

There are different cuts of beef: If a la parilla (on the grill) you can get these cuts for steak - vacio, entrecot - or you can get ribs (costilla). Other cuts/types of meat come in small bites in picadas, along with cheeses, peanuts and such. You could also order lomo, which is a medallion of meat that you can get with different sauces, and it usually comes as a dish with potatoes - or you could get a lomo sandwich, which is flattened meat. There are also milanesas which are very thin steaks, breaded and fried. You can get these as pollo or carne and they're great with fries (says gui).

When ordering pasta, you pick the type of pasta and also the type of sauce (salsa), sold separately. So you could get noquis or tallarines (spaghetti) with salsa rosa/tuco (tomato sauce), crema (seriously just cream, not alfredo), mixta (a combo of both), or bolognesa, etc.

Ensaladas don't always come with lettuce (lechuga) but it's yummy to get a carrot, beet, corn salad or something like that.

Agua sin gas typically comes in bottles, instead of being just tap water.
Soda or Agua con gas = sparkling water
Gaseosa = soft drinks (coca, esprite, fanta naranja, paso de los torros (grapefruit-yum), quatro (also grapefruit), etc)
Exprimido = freshly squeezed juice
Liquado = smoothie (you choose with agua or leche)
If you want draft beer, ask for a chopp