Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Argentine Gifts - Drink Edition

I'm running out of time but wanted to mention a few other uniquely Argentine gifts. If you've ever been to Argentina you probably recognize the bottle of Fernet Branca above. This tiny version was found at a wine store and will be much easier to lug home than a full bottle but it still gives the recipient the full Argentine experience. Read more about Fernet here

If you want to give a mate to someone who won't actually drink it, how about a keychain from Raices instead?

And finally, I've mentioned Inti Zen tea before, but it's worth a reminder. The variety box gives you 8 blends including yerba mate and dulce de leche. Happy Holidays from Argentina!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Passion of The Soap

Before you rush home for Christmas/New Year/Whatnot you'll have to pick up some souvenirs from your beloved Argentina. Dulce de leche and Malbec are soooo overdone. I thought I would dedicate a few posts to Argentine souvenirs. 

I really love the soap from La Pasionaria (and no, they're not paying me to say so...though they should since I buy so much of it). And, they have several Argentine-themed soaps - perfect souvenirs!

Here's one from the Patriotic Scents line (which includes the three flowers considered in the contest for the national flower). The orange one (pictured below) is not the winner but is my favorite and is actually la passionaria.

And instead of taking home a tub of dulce de leche (which you can actually buy in the states), you can take an easy-to-pack bar of dulce de leche scented soap, which is oh so much easier for packing.

And in case you want to pass along Argentina's signature drink but don't want to have to smuggle all the gear and a package of yerba home, here's Yerba Mate soap! (Look - it even explains what it is in English on the package).

Wow, it seems that I have confessed my love for this exclusively Argentine brand but I couldn't help but get carried away - the soaps were just so photogenic. The shops are in various locations around the country and there are several in Rosario including a kiosk in both malls. Most soaps are sold in sets of three in addition in individual bars. There's a three-pack of red wine scents too. ¡Salud!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Permanent Residency Obtained

(FYI-You need a copy of the signed page in this book to apply for residency based on marriage)
We celebrated our one year wedding anniversary last week. Weeee! And yet, I still hadn't gotten notice from the immigration office regarding my residency. As a reminder, I've had to renew my temporary version of permanent residency every three months since we submitted all required information to immigration right after our wedding.

As a heads up to anyone who has to go to the immigration office in Rosario - they've decided that they will just give out a finite amount of numbers each day so you can't just go during open hours and expect to be helped. They were out of numbers before 11am yesterday.

So, here's something that they don't tell you: You can check the status of your residency application here - click Consulte Su Trámite de Residencia. This is how we learned that my permanent residency had come through and my papers were ready to be picked up as of November 1. However, the immigration office had told us to wait for a notice to come in the mail. Don't do that. It's December 1 and I haven't received a notice. Just go get your stuff. So, now I have some more papers (that don't even have my photo stapled to them this time), which allow me to apply for a DNI.

So, previously I had thought that a DNI was required for me to apply for an American residency visa on behalf of my spouse. However, after communication with the US embassy in Buenos Aires, it seems that an established residency (so, Residencia Precaria in my case) is sufficient. Then what could possibly be the benefit of applying for a DNI at this point? Well, I suppose that I'll be able to get a credit card from the grocery store now. Hmmmm. Question: is having a DNI overrated???

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Scenes from el Circuito

I suppose if I'm gonna eat like a champ, I need to exercise like one too. Luckily, the city of Rosario has come up with a brilliant initiative for recreation: Cambiá el aire! Calle Recerativa.

On Sundays from 8am to 1pm 13km of streets are closed to traffic so that bikers, skaters, runners and walkers can enjoy without fear of getting run down by cars. Yay! I don't have to be afraid anymore :)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Peas 'n Carrots Masala

I will not pretend that I know anything about Indian food, aside from the fact that I like it and cannot buy it here. I also didn't know the difference between curry powder and garam masala but I decided that I wanted to try a masala recipe so I watched this video and made my own.

Garam Masala

  • 2 T. cumin seed (semillas de comino)
  • 2 T. coriander seed (semillas de cilantro)
  • 2 T. black peppercorns (grandos de pimienta negra)
  • 1 T. cardamom pods (cardamomo)
  • 1 cinnamon stick (canela en rama)
  • 4 bay leaves (hoja de laurel)
  • 1 t. whole cloves (clavos)
Toast all spices except bay leaves in a pan over medium heat - tossing continuously -  for about 3 minutes. Let cool. Grind all ingredients together (including bay leaves).

My notes: All ingredients are available at dieteticas in Rosario, but I used already ground cinnamon (1/2 teaspoon). I didn't want to aromatize my coffee grinder so I used an emulsion blender with good enough results - I had to sift out some seed shells that wouldn't grind. The scent of garam masala is way different than curry powder (which is available at Safyta and other spots around town).

Forrest and Jenny's Masala
adapted from En Samayal Pakkam

  • 2 1/2 cups fresh shelled peas and carrots, diced
  • 1 small or medium onion
  • 1" ginger (jengibre)
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 t. fennel seeds (hinojo)
  • 1/2 t. cumin (comino)
  • 1/4 t. coriander seeds (cilantro)
  • handful of fresh cilantro leaves (I didn't have any)
  • 2 or 3 mint leaves
  • 1 green chili (or substitute cayenne pepper to taste - I used 1/4 teaspoon)
  • 2 T. oil (I used sunflower)
  • 1 big tomato, finely chopped 
  • 1/2 t. turmeric (cúrcuma)
  • 1/4 t. chili powder
  • 1/2 t. garam masala
  • salt to taste
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream or plain yogurt

Steam peas and carrots with some salt until soft - to your desired tenderness (5 minutes for me), set aside. Blend together everything from onion to green chili into a paste - I used an emersion blender but it left some chunks so I would suggest a food processor. Fry paste in oil 'until the raw smell goes away' - about 5 minutes. The recipe didn't list amount or type of oil so I used 2 T. sunflower oil.


Then add chopped tomatoes and turmeric, chili powder and garam masala. Saute for 5 minutes until the tomatoes are mushed up and oil spots appear on top.

Add water (more if needed) and bring to a boil. Add vegetables and bring to a boil. Taste for seasoning, add salt and other spices to taste. Give the gravy a minute to cook down a bit, then remove from heat and stir in cream.

I served over white rice. Yes, that's my impatient shadow looming over this dish. Clearly, I was very hungry. Between the ginger, pepper, cayenne, and chili powder it's a spicy dish but the level of heat can be easily dialed up or down according to your tastes.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Quinoa Is Good For You!

Being a superfood, quinoa is totally good for you. The tricky part is getting it clean - I have to pick it over for rocks and other random debris, then soak it for a few minutes (skimming off any floaters), and rinse in a wire mesh colander. I also give it a bit of a scrub between my hands while soaking to get rid of any clinging saponin.

Double Broccoli Quinoa
adapted from 101 Cookbooks
  • 3/4 cup quinoa, cleaned
  • 3 cups broccoli, cut into small florets and steamed
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup parmesan
  • salt
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
After cleaning quinoa, bring to a boil with 1 1/2 cups water and a big pinch of salt, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes - it's done when you can see the curlicues. To make the broccoli pesto, puree 1 1/2 cups steamed broccoli with nuts, parmesan, salt, and lemon juice in a food processor. Drizzle in the olive oil and cream and pulse until smooth. Toss pesto and quinoa with the remaining florets. Add extra salt, lemon juice, or parmesan, as you prefer. I added a few dashes of Al Wok seasoning (brand is Indo Deli), which includes garlic, coriander, ginger, onion, and basil.

Quinoa with Black Beans
adapted from All Recipes

  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • splash of olive oil
  • 1/2 cup quinoa, cleaned
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • dash of cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3/4 cup corn kernels
  • 1 1/2-2 cups cooked black beans
  • handful of chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in onion and garlic and saute until lightly browned - about 6 minutes. Add quinoa and cover with stock. Season with cumin, cayenne, and a big pinch of salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir in corn (if using frozen, simmer until heated through), beans and herb. Then, pat yourself on the back for making such a healthy meal and reward yourself with dessert.

Friday, October 15, 2010

¡La Fabrica del Taco!

Found: Amazing tacos just a short 3-hour* drive from my house to Palermo Viejo.

*Assuming there are no protests being held between here and there

La Fabrica del Taco serves by far the best Mexican food that I've tried in Argentina. The decor is Mexican kitsch and the lighting is jaundice yellow...it just adds to the charm. Sure, I could spy on our table through a small keyhole from a stall in the ladies' room. So what? Better to keep an eye on all that guacamole.

And the drinks are refreshing - we tried la limonada and la michelada. Reasonably priced considering the neighborhood: Guacamole with nachos and salsa (which included mango among its delicious ingredients) was AR$21.

Mild, medium, and hot sauces are free...guess which are which:

Cheeky, aren't they? Tacos are on the small side - I had a vegetarian taco with cheese ($15) and Guille had two of these multiple-meat tacos ($13 ea) that came with a fresh slice of pineapple.

Road trip, anyone? ¡Andale Andale Arríba Arríba!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Ree's Petite Vanilla Bean Scones

This recipe is delicious, in every way. I only wish that I had a bigger house so I could invite everyone over to share them. That's the problem with a tiny apartment - no room for entertaining. So, I ended up eating way too many of these tiny scones. And I'd rolled the dough out too thin so I had more than 24. Yikes.

Keep in mind that this recipe takes some time - the scones will need about 30 minutes to cool completely (and if you're working in batches like I had to, this time will be extended) and the glaze needs nearly an hour to set. Plus, if your vanilla bean is encased in a glass tube you'll need extra time to shriek about it.

I bought the one above at La Defensa, but I found them cheaper and in easier-to-open packaging at Rey de Copas (Rioja 1629).

Petite Vanilla Bean Scones

  • 3 cups flour
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 5 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 226 grams (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 vanilla beans (I only used one, so I added a teaspoon of vanilla extract)
  • 3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1/2 cup whole milk (I used 2%)
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • dash of salt
Split two (I used one) vanilla beans down the middle lengthwise and scrape out the beans. Stir into cream. Set aside for 15 minutes (you can throw the rest of the scraped bean in the cream for additional flavor, but remove before using cream).

Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut cold butter into pats, then use a pastry cutter or two knives to cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles crumbs.

Mix vanilla cream with egg, then combine with flour mixture; stir gently with a fork just until it comes together. Turn dough onto a floured surface and lightly press it together until it forms a rough rectangle (mixture will be crumbly). Use a rolling pin to roll into a rectangle about 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch thick. Use a knife to trim into a symmetrical rectangle (but save and bake the scraps for your husband to eat), then cut the rectangle into 12 symmetrical squares/rectangles. Next, cut each square in half diagonally to form two triangles.

Transfer to a parchment lined or non-stick cookie sheet and bake at 180C (350F) for 18 minutes, removing just before they start to turn golden. Allow to cool completely before adding glaze.

Split one vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape out the beans. Stir into milk and allow to sit for a while. Whisk powdered sugar with the vanilla milk until smooth. One at a time, dunk each scone into the glaze, turn over to coat the entire scone, remove and allow the excess glaze to drip back into bowl. Place on a cooling rack to set - takes about an hour.

Then, figure out how to fit more people into a studio apartment.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Overnight (or not) Cinnamon Rolls

There is a secret family recipe for my great-grandfather's famous cinnamon rolls but I am not privy to that information so I tried this recipe and was simply amazed. Amazed, I tell you!

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls

  • 4 large egg yolks, room temperature
  • 1 large whole egg, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 6 Tablespoons (85 grams) butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 4 cups AP flour, plus additional for dusting
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons instant dry yeast
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • oil or cooking spray
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • pinch salt
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons (21 grams) butter, melted
  • 2 1/2 ounces (1/4 cup) cream cheese, softened
  • 3 Tablespoons milk
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
See Alton's recipe if you are so fortunate as to have a stand mixer (not that I'm bitter or anything). Otherwise, using a hand mixer, combine egg yolks, egg, sugar, butter, and buttermilk. Add about 2 cups of flour along with the yeast and salt. Turn dough out onto a well floured surface and knead by hand for 15-20 minutes kneading in all but 3/4 c. flour and adding more as necessary - dough should be soft and moist but not too sticky. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, lightly oil the top of the dough, cover and let double in volume 2 to 2.5 hours.

Combine brown sugar, cinnamon and salt; mix until well incorporated. Set aside.

Butter 9x13-inch baking dish. Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface.

Gently shape dough into a rectangle with the long side nearest you. Roll into an 18 by 12-inch rectangle. Brush dough with melted butter, leaving 1/2 inch border along the top edge.

Sprinkle the filling mixture over the dough, leaving 3/4 border along top edge (I left one all around but will remember not to next time); gently press filling into dough.

Beginning with the long side nearest you, roll dough into a tight cylinder. Firmly pinch the seam to seal and roll the cylinder seam side down. Very gently squeeze the cylinder to create even thickness.

Using a serrated knife, slice into 1.5-inch rolls; yielding 12 rolls. Arrange cut side down in the baking dish. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator *overnight or up to 16 hours.

*I didn't have all night, so I covered with plastic wrap and left out at room temperature for 30 minutes. Remove rolls from refrigerator (or not) and place in an oven that is turned off. I ended up flipping over the end pieces so that the cut side faced up (opposite of the way they are shown in the picture below) and the gooey goodness would be less likely to ooze out of the roll).

Fill a shallow pan 2/3 full of boiling water and set on the rack below the rolls. Close the oven door and let the rolls rise until they look slightly puffy; about 30 minutes (see pic below). Remove rolls and shallow pan of water from the oven. Cover rolls lightly with plastic wrap or damp towel. Preheat oven to 180C (350F).

When oven is ready, place the rolls on the middle rack and bake until golden brown. 25 minutes was enough for me. Keep an eye on them - some commenters that baked for 30 minutes said they were too dry. I misted the rolls with water while still in the oven at about 15 minutes into the cooking time.

While the rolls are cooling slightly, make the icing by mixing cream cheese (with hand mixer, if that's what you've got) until creamy. Add milk and combine. Sift in powdered sugar and mix until smooth. Spread over the rolls and serve immediately.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Easy Peasy & Asparagus Pasta

This blogger has now gone where she had never gone before - the land of meat. Well, I didn't really go there but I looked up recipes for Guille, went shopping for prosciutto, and told him how to incorporate it into the recipe. So, I didn't actually touch it but I did cook next to it. Yeah, marriage!

Spring just arrived and brought along some lovely English peas and asparagus.

While my vegetarian version of this pasta was delicious, I'm sure that the prosciutto added an extra level of flavor that many others can appreciate.

Pea & Asparagus Pasta (Prosciutto optional)
Adapted from yumsugar
  • 1 c. shelled fresh peas
  • 1 bunch of asparagus (or 3/4 pound), cut on the diagonal into 2 cm pieces
  • 2 1/2 cups dry bow-tie pasta
  • 1 T. (15 g.) butter
  • 1 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • About 180 g. prosciutto, cut into ribbons (optional)
  • 1 small onion (can use green onion or shallot)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
  • Big pinch of salt (not much needed if using prosciutto)
  • Pinch of black pepper
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine (substitute with stock if you don't have any on hand)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable stock
  • 1/3 cup whipping cream
  • 1-2 T. lemon juice (optional)
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, add the chopped asparagus. After 2 minutes, add the peas. Cook another 2-4 minutes - until the veggies reach your desired texture - they should be tender but still have some pop. Remove veggies using a slotted spoon and immediately place in a bowl of ice water to shock. Return the veggie water to a boil and cook pasta until al dente, reserve pasta water.

Meanwhile, in a separate pan (or 2 pans if you're making 2 versions), melt butter and oil over medium heat. If using prosciutto, add now and cook for 2 minutes. Add onion and garlic and saute until tender (5-8 minutes), add salt and pepper. If using wine, add and turn up heat to medium-high for 3 minutes, then reduce heat back to medium. Add stock, cream, peas, asparagus, parsley, and optional lemon juice (Gui did not want lemon added to his version). Toss to coat and add additional salt and/or pepper, if needed.

Add in the pasta and toss to coat. If needed, add as much pasta water as you like. Stir in parmesan cheese. Here are both of our pots - we split the recipe to make half in each (that's about 90 g. of prosciutto in Gui's pan):

Both of us ended up with leftovers - yum! If you're making the veggie version, I would add either wine or lemon juice (along with a little lemon zest) for flavor, as using just stock and cream will leave the flavor a little flat. The butter (double the oil) and cream (replace with stock or pasta water) can be left out for a healthier dish.

Since we used the same recipe to make 2 versions, all we needed was one extra pan to each get what we wanted. It seems there's room in the kitchen for both of our styles.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Sleeping in Barcelona

Room Mate Emma is a lovely, moderately priced hotel that provided the perfect refuge in Barcelona. Located in the upscale Eixample district about 3 blocks from the subway and Passeig de Gracia (Casa Mila) and 2 blocks from Las Ramblas, it's an amazing value. Plus, it's modern with fresh design and ambiance (lighting and surround-sound music channels in each room).

Even the shower has style! That said, the bathroom doors are glass so its kind of an intimate space. Being a standard room, we didn't have a view, but we also didn't mind since we nearly slept through most of our first day (jet lag, ugh) and the lighting can be adjusted to fit your mood. As is common in Europe, our double room didn't have a double bed but 2 smaller ones pushed together (which temporarily solved our nightly sheet fight). It seems that they do have rooms with a double bed and they told us to check the next day to see if one was available but the next day we heard them giving that speech to another couple - so if you really want one I suppose you'll need to request in advance. Still, we were just so glad to be able to check-in at 9am!

We didn't have breakfast here, but there are many nearby cafes. Oh, and there are free apples in the lobby! Score! (I'm talking about edible apples, not a Mac - instead there's a PC in the lobby for free internet access - but we got an excellent wifi signal in our room.) Everyone has an opinion on hotel stays so check the reviews on TripAdvisor to see if it would fit your travel style. And if you book far enough in advance, it can cost under €100 per night. No, they're not paying me to write this post - we genuinely enjoyed our stay.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Eating & Drinking in Barcelona

A few highlights of Barcelona eats...

Chorizos Artesanales with caramelized onions and fried plantains with lime and coriander mayo at El Atril in El Born.

Pimientos de Padron (salted fried green peppers) at Cervesería Catalan along with a caña (draft beer) and a rosé...yes, I know it's a beer house (and a rather fancy one) but I was saving that for Bruges.

An assortment of tapas also at Cervesería Catalan, which was easily our favorite restaurant and we weren't the only ones who thought so... 30 minute wait even though we went late (after 11pm). Totally worth it. This is only a percentage of the tapas we tried here - the best part is that fresh food just kept coming throughout the 'meal'. Below: grilled sausage with caramelized onions, jamon crudo mondadito, peanut battered cheese croquette with raspberry sauce, grilled shrimp.

Patatas with alioli (garlic sauce - yikes, that flavor will follow you around the entire day) at QuQu (a little overrated).

Obviously, we needed something to wash it all down...

Una clara (beer and fizzy lemonade) at Drac Café outside the natural science museum in Parc Ciutadella. Great for a mid-morning snack (hummus, nachos, etc) and a shady place to sit and get spritzed by hydro-fans.

Sangria from Atril...goes down easy

And we just couldn't resist the novelty of icebarcelona, which is basically just a large freezer modeled to look like an igloo night club.

For 15 euro you get coats, gloves, and a drink in ice glasses.

Of course, these are just a few tastes of the city. There are still Spanish wines and cava to try, along with the multitude of tapas this city has to offer. Plus there's paella and tortilla and gazpacho...oh my! El Born is a great neighborhood for tapas bars and restaurants...everything from € (where bars compete for offering the cheapest mojito) to €€€€ (where I haven't been because 4 euro signs are just too much). Tapas bar hopping is totally acceptable and can be easily affordable, especially since many places will give you a free tapa with your drink anyway. As I've mentioned, TimeOut is an excellent resource for finding trendy places to eat & drink. ¡Salud!