Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A Buenos Aires Engagement

Guille & I spent a lovely, unseasonably warm weekend in Buenos Aires to celebrate our 4th year anniversary. To my surprise, we returned home as fiances. :)

The weather was perfect for a celebration drink at Milion. The prices are a little ridiculous for Argentina, but anything goes in this town where metropolitan chic and the third world collide. Our drinks were around 25 pesos each but it was fun and the atmosphere is unique.

The Bar

A REAL Cosmo and a little bling

For real Frozen Mojito

And since we were throwing caution to the wind, we had a late dinner at Cafe San Juan - it looks like a normal bodega but the food will surprise you. Our helpful innkeeper recommended it as a local secret and made our reservations. There are 2 dinner seatings on weekends at (around) 8 and 11.

(Fotos de Guia Oleo)
The server presented the chalk board menus at our table and it was a little weird deciding so fast, but there were only a few veggie options so that helped. We shared a tapa dish and an entree, as we heard that the portions were large (and pricey) along with a half bottle of wine. I assume that the menu changes daily - we had bruschetta with sun-dried tomatoes and brie (SO much brie!) and crepes with goat cheese and basil in a creamy tomato sauce. Seriously, it was amazingly delicious and plenty for two. So much that I declined dessert, GASP!

I also have a confession to make - to satisfy my craving for real mac and cheese we popped into Hard Rock Cafe for merienda. And I don't regret it! (Though that probably added to my inability to stomach dessert later that night.)

Since it was sunny, we wondered over to Puerto Madero for a stroll along the river. There's not much else to do since it's an over-planned and under-populated upscale neighborhood but it made for a great walk and we did find Tea Connection, where we enjoyed a couple pots of tea - Indian Chai and Sweet Vanilla, to be exact. And had some time for ring pics.

Yay! What a wonderful weekend!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Biscotti Two Ways

When I said that the Joy of Baking was my best friend, I meant it. This biscotti rocks. I often whip up only half of a batch or else split the batch into 2 logs to make shorter cookies. I also cut them into 1/2 inch pieces to make biting easier.

Almond Chocolate Chunk Biscotti
  • 3/4 c. (110g) almonds
  • 3/4 t. baking powder
  • 1/8 t. salt
  • 1 3/4 c. flour (I use half wheat, half white)
  • 2/3 c. (135g) sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 110g semi-sweet chocolate, cut into chunks
Blanch almonds (see below), roughly chop and toast slightly. Blanching isn't necessary (especially if you are able to purchase peeled almonds) but I did notice that it made a difference, and I liked it. Set aside to cool.

Whisk together bp, salt and flour and set aside. Use mixer (med high) to combine sugar and eggs until thick and pale (about 5 minutes), add vanilla. Slowly add flour until completely incorporated. Stir in chocolate and almonds.

Pour/spoon the batter out onto parchment-lined baking sheet and form into a log (or 2 logs for shorter biscotti) about 12 inches (30cm) long. It helps to have damp hands when spreading out the dough. Seriously, you will want to use parchment paper for this so don't forget to pick some up the next time you're at the store. Bake at 180C, 350F for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool. I pick it up by the paper and let cool on a rack for 10 minutes.

Slice as thick as you like, on the diagonal, and bake on each side for 10 minutes or until it reaches your desired level of crispiness. Try to save some to dip in your morning coffee.

Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti
The recipe and directions are the same, just swap out your add-ins. I use half wheat flour for this recipe too - it gives it an extra level of crunch.

  • 3/4 t. baking powder
  • 1/8 t. salt
  • 1 3/4 c. flour (I use half wheat, half white)
  • 2/3 c. (135g) sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 c. (6og) shelled, unsalted pistachios, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 c. (50g) dried cranberries

Blanched Almonds
It is blanch or blanche? Well, whatever. It didn't work great for me. Apparently you're suppose to place your almonds in boiling water for only 1 minute, then drain, then slip off the peels by squeezing the nut between your thumb and forefinger (I ended up putting more work into it by picking off the peels). Then pat dry.

My advice? Do it in small batches - the peels are more likely to slip off when hot. I also re-submerged some in boiling water and waited another minute. This worked better but maybe they were a little soggy. It didn't seem to matter though, as I toasted out the moisture. I prefer the blanched version, as you're not choking on almond peels stuck in your throat all night. Especially in green beans with almonds. Yay! Eat nuts.

Monday, May 11, 2009

An American teaches English and makes soup

Argentina me is somehow slipping back into NYC me. It's a familiar routine that goes a little something like this: work, work, gym, quick dinner, bed. Luckily, I don't expect it to last long. I'm substitute teaching English classes around the city and it has been exhausting, especially on top of my work-from-home job, but surprisingly fun. I never would have thought of myself as a teacher, given that I hate speaking in front of crowds (including classroom-sized), but it turns to to be something I really enjoy. I spend my free time planning out lessons and crafting worksheets. For the conversation classes, I play podcasts and episodes of The Office and follow these with lively discussion. It's totally fun!

2 things motivated me to take this temporary work - the need to make friends with locals and the need to take regularly scheduled Spanish classes. I'm actually trading English for Spanish! So, while my 5-days-a-week teaching schedule will only last another 2 weeks, I decided to take on a permanent class of my own. I know, I know, I've turned in to an ex-pat English teacher cliche. Oh well, at least I get to direct the Socratic Method at someone other than Guille.

The downside to this current routine, obviously, is that I'm so drained at the end of the day I lack the motivation to cook, one of my favorite things, and then blog about it. A canceled class this evening has given me the chance to tell you that I woke up Saturday morning and realized it was fall. So I baked a peach pie and figured out a perfectly autumnal soup.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

  • 1 medium butternut squash (calabaza)
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 4 T butter
  • 1-2 T olive oil
  • 2 celery stalks, cut into small cubes
  • 1 carrot, cut into small cubes
  • 3 cups veg stock
  • cinnamon, s & p to taste
Melt 2 T butter and use to coat bottom of 9X13" glass casserole dish. Add olive oil if it isn't enough butter to coat the pan. Halve squash and spoon out the seeds. Cut onion into 4 chunks and peel garlic. Place squash, cut side down, in baking dish along with onion and garlic. Drizzle onion with extra olive oil. Roast at 190C (375F) for 45 minutes or until squash is cooked through. Remove from oven and let cool.

Melt the other 2 T butter in a sauce pan and saute celery and carrot until soft. Add cinnamon (I used about 1/2 t.) and a good sprinkle of s & p. Add stock and simmer a few moments while you spoon out the roasted squash. Add vegetables to soup, bring to a boil and drop to a simmer for 10 minutes.

Either transfer soup to food processor and puree or use hand blender. I used hand blender and it left it a little chunky. It would be delicious to add a little cream after blending but I couldn't justify it along with all of the butter. It was still incredibly yummy.

UPDATE: I made this again but sauted the onion instead of roasting it. It blended easier and made for a more tasty soup, I thought. Oh, and the dollop of Casan crem added a little something extra.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Cafe de la Musica

I've got a new favorite spot in town. Last weekend, we had a tasty lunch at Verde with Vicky and followed it up with coffee and dessert at Cafe de la Musica (Santa Fe y Moreno).

I'd been wanting to stop by and I'm so glad we did! It's a restaurant in an old house with a subtle whimsical motif and an outdoor patio. Their specialties are homemade pasta and desserts.

Just look at this lovely outdoor space!

Chocolate Mousse with Ginger

Dessert was absolutely delicious and beautifully presented (fancy, but not expensive). I loved the place so much that we tried it for dinner too! I'd say stick with pasta for dinner, the portions of other items are tiny for the price. We did try an interesting Gruyere and mushroom flan appetizer, but it was so small they should have just served in on a spoon. But the atmosphere was romantic, thanks to the live guitar music (jazz, tango, bossa nova) and Malbec in gigantic wine glasses.