Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Parmesan Polenta with Rosemary Mushroom Sauce

I've been wanting to recreate this appetizer from Bar Toto, my favorite restaurant in Brooklyn. It's been quite a while so I'm not sure if it's similar but it was just as delicious as I remembered.

Cook polenta according to package instructions (mine indicated a polenta to liquid ratio of 1:3) and pimp as necessary. Here's how I did it:
  • 3/4 c. polenta
  • 3/4 c. water
  • 3/4 c. milk
  • 3/4 c. vegetable stock
  • 1/4 c. shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1 t. fresh thyme, chopped
  • salt & pepper to taste
Saute garlic and thyme in olive oil until garlic is slightly browned. In a seperate pot, bring water, milk, and stock (or any combination of liquid you prefer) to a boil, add polenta and remove from heat. Whisk constantly until smooth. Add in olive oil mixture, cheese, and s&p. Immediately pour into a 9x9 inch glass plan, allow to cool and refrigerate until set. When ready to serve, cut into slices for serving. Coat a pan with cooking spray and cook polenta over medium heat, about 5 minutes on each side.

Rosemary Mushroom Sauce

I stumbled upon a box full of humble white mushrooms at my neighborhood verduleria and aspired to turn them into something spectacular. And so I did...
  • 250 g. (1/2 lb) mushrooms, chopped
  • 1-2 T. olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 1/2 c. white wine
  • 1/2 c. vegetable stock
  • 1/4 tsp. cornstarch dissolved into 2 T. water
  • salt & pepper to taste
Saute onions and garlic in olive oil until softened, 7-10 minutes. Add mushrooms and rosemary, stir every few minutes but allow these to slightly brown (add a touch of olive oil if needed), about 7 minutes.

Add wine, stock, and s&p, simmer on low. After about 10 minutes, the sauce will reduce some, add cornstarch if desired. Allow most of the liquid to cook out. Serve on top of polenta slices.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Where's the B-12?

Earlier this year, my 9th year of being a vegetarian, my doctor discovered that I was vitamin B-12 deficient. As a result of this deficiency, my feet (and sometimes hands) tingled constantly. So my doctor recommended that I take a daily B-12 supplement of 1000mcg plus a daily multi-vitamin. A month later, the tingling had nearly stopped and I now only feel it occasionally.

Vitamin B-12 is found naturally in animal products, though dairy contains significantly smaller amounts than meat. B-12 is needed for cell division and proper functioning of the nervous system (this is my tingle problem). You can read more about it here.

Duh! How could I have neglected to do my research?! The truth is, I never planned to be a vegetarian and I just began to embrace it recently. Somewhere between 16 and 17, I unknowingly cut out meat. First, it was beef - due to looking at a McDonald's hamburger. Then, I started to feel sick when I smelled chicken cooking. And eventually, I wasn't interested anymore and didn't miss meat. And so I became a vegetarian by default. I spent a lot of time being apologetic for my diet, and feeling guilty. Some of my family thought it was a phase that they hoped I would outgrow. My grandfather (a Baptist preacher) tried to convince me that it was unnatural and against the Bible. Holy Cow! And I was always told 'just pick out the meat.'

But in the last few years, I figured out how to cook vegetarian meals instead of just eating sides. And living in New York made it so easy for me to fit in. I no longer was told that I had to choose a restaurant where there would be something for me to eat. I could eat anywhere! It was nice that people didn't feel uncomfortable around me and it became a non-issue. And then I moved here.

I ran out of my B-12 supply and haven't been able to find any. The pharmacists are incredibly confused by my request and the closest thing they found was a B-complex vitamin - 30 days supply for 70 pesos. wtf?! I found a defense-complex vitamin at a dietica for around 23 pesos but with a minuscule percentage of my doctor recommended dosage. And so, my tingly feet and I will have to write home to Mom and ask her to send my special vegetarian vitamins for the freakshow that I am.

Of course, I could just eat a lot of eggs and dairy. According to this Wiki article, 10 eggs would provide a daily amount. yummers. I feel a lot of omelets coming on. Please let me know if you have any suggestions (or egg recipes)!

(image from

Monday, December 22, 2008

Something for Santa

In my silly little mind you can't have Christmas without cookies and other goodies that you deprive yourself of all year long. Determined to make it feel like Christmas down here, I spent a few days selecting and adapting my favorite recipes. In addition to classic Nestle Toll House and Quaker Oatmeal cookies, I whipped up a sugar cookie recipe passed down from my great-grandmother, a Paula Deen inspiration with an Argentine twist, and I attempted fudge for the first time ever.

Buttermilk Drop Cookies

These are classified by my family as sugar cookies, but they are cakey and taste very much like madelines.
  • 2 c. flour
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 2 t. baking powder
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 227 g. margarine (grandma's recipe called for oleo), softened
  • 1 egg
  • 2 t. vanilla
  • 1 c. buttermilk or 1 T. vinegar (or lemon juice) into 1 c. milk
Mix together flour, bs, bp and salt and set aside. Cream together the sugar and margarine, add egg, vanilla, and buttermilk. Slowly add flour mix and chill the dough for several hours. Bake at 190 C. on the top rack for 8-10 minutes. I used parchment paper to get that madeline-like edge but butter and flour a sheet pan if you want a thicker edge.

I made icing out of powdered sugar (available at Royal or cake supply stores) and warm milk and butter. In a small pot, I melted together probably 1 T of milk and 5 g. of butter, then added powdered sugar (stirring constantly) until I got the consistency I wanted and immediately smoothed it onto the cooled cookies.

The green sprinkles were a challenge. Colored sugar sprinkles aren't anywhere to be found so I decided to make my own to give the cookies Grandma's Christmas touch. I bought green paste at a cake store and was told to make dye by mixing equal parts of water and alcohol. I used a tiny amount of water and vodka to mix with an even tinier amount of paste. Then I dripped it over my sugar and meshed it together with my plastic wrapped fingers, and spread it out to let it dry. After it dried out and was all clumped together, I smashed it back into little crystals. Quite a process for a small detail!

Fudge with Walnuts
  • 350 g. Aguila chocolate (or any bittersweet/semi-sweet type), chopped
  • 1 can (395 g.) sweetened condensed milk
  • 30 g. butter
  • 140 g. walnuts, chopped

Place butter, condensed milk, and chocolate in a double-boiler or your makeshift version -- I placed a glass casserole bowl (with handles) in a heavy pot with about an inch of boiling water on low heat (don't let the water touch the bowl) -- allow the butter and milk to warm up and begin to stir the chocolate into the mix.

Continue stirring until completely mixed and smooth. Add nuts and pour into a 9x9 inch pan, allow to cool and refrigerate until completely set. I poured on a little melted peanut butter as soon as I poured it into the pan for just a touch of extra flavor.

I lined the pan with plastic wrap but it was still tricky to cut the fudge out. Next time I'll try parchment paper. I would also add a dash of salt and try a dark chocolate version as suggested by Nigella Lawson.

Paula's Pistachio Linzertorte Cookies
from Food Network

Oh. My. God. I love this woman. and her butter. These cookies were perfect for combining with membrillo for that Argentine twist. Her recipe is listed below but I made a half batch with some egg finagling and listed this alongside:
  • 3/4 c. butter, softened (or 85 g. if you're making half of the batch)
  • 1 c. powdered sugar (1/2 c.)
  • 3 egg yolks (1 1/2)
  • 1 1/2 c. flour (5 oz. for half)
  • 1/4 t. nutmeg (1/8)
  • 1/4 t. cardamom (I omitted)
  • 1 1/2 c. ground roasted and salted pistachios (3/4 c.)
  • Cherry Jam (I replaced with membrillo)
I found pistachios at a dietica, peeled about 175 grams, and ground them up in a food processor until the consistency was like crumbs. These were the priciest cookies out of the bunch.

Combine flour and spices and set aside. Beat butter and sugar on medium and add in yolks, followed by flour mixture. Stir in the nuts, cover and chill for a few hours. My dough was too dry so I added a little water to bring it together. Roll out dough 1/4 inch thick and cut out into desired shapes.

The bottom cookie should be full size, while the top cookie should have a hole. Bake at 160C on parchment paper for about 10-12 minutes. Spread the membrillo on the bottom cookie (I warmed it in the microwave to make it spreadable) and sandwich with the top cookie. Bake another 2 minutes.

Unfortunately, the holiday season is also swimsuit season here on the flip side of the world so I'm feeling really guilty about these indulgences as I pack for our trip to the beach. Fortunately, Christmas cookies are easy to give away.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The best investments ever

Okay, so I obviously haven't ever purchased Apple stock. But these really are lifesavers in the kitchen.

Magnetic Kitchen Timer - Saves all of my cookies. I brought this with me and I use it for everything I cook because I'm so freakin' forgetful.
$12 - Anthropologie

Oven Thermometer - Since my current oven only has 2 heat settings (big flame and little flame) I'm dependent on this little gadget. Now I can regulate the temperature with some door opening and fanning. weeeee!
25 pesos at a random store

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Do you know your Muffin Pan?

Tiny Apple Pies

Guille splurged to buy me a muffin pan (the aforementioned funny shaped one made out of blue silicone) so I'm baking everything I can come up with in it. I had a little leftover pie crust so I rolled out 2 circles (about 4 inches each) and fit each into a muffin cup.

Then I made a variation of apple pie, slicing up one apple and tossing it with a sprinkle of cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar, flour, and a squeeze of lemon juice. This mixture filled up the 2 cups and I topped each with a mixture of flour, brown sugar, and butter and baked at 180C, 350F for 30 minutes.

These tiny pies were delicious topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and the crust to pie filling ratio was amazing. mmmmm.

Parmesan and Basil Baked Eggs

Late last winter I was wandering around Noho or Soho or someplace south of 14th street on a drizzly day. And somewhere I stumbled upon a french cafe and had the most wonderful brunch with a huge bowl of baked eggs and a good friend. And when we planned another brunch date there, we couldn't find the right spot. Sad times. But yummy eggs.

So this morning, on another gray and dreary day, I attempted my own version of muffin-sized baked eggs while Guille studied away.

Each muffin cup gets:
  • 1 large egg, organic is always more tasty
  • 1 T. milk (or cream)
  • 3 basil leaves, torn
  • 1 T, shredded parmesan cheese
  • sprinkle of salt and pepper
As a test, I greased only some of the cups. Since I have a silicone pan, I found that I didn't really need to do this, and the ones I greased ended up a little too chewy on the bottom. My advice for this kind of pan is to skip the greasing.

I put a little of the basil and cheese in the bottom of the cup, plopped in the egg, sprinkled with s&p, added the rest of the basil and cheese and poured in the milk. No need to mix. Bake for 10-15 minutes at 180C.

Next time, I'll want to add tomatoes and perhaps a stronger cheese.

Monday, December 1, 2008

A Very Argentine Thanksgiving

The goal was to cook an authentic Thanksgiving feast for my Argentine friends. Quite tricky with the 90+ degree heat. Of course, I don't eat turkey, and they're few and far between here anyway, so here's what I was able to whip up. The recipes are traditional, but altered to fit available ingredients and could be of use to other ex-pats.

The Menu:
  • Green bean casserole
  • Scalloped corn
  • Stuffing
  • Hashbrown casserole
  • Dinner rolls (previous post)
  • Deviled eggs
  • Cranberry Sauce (I splurged on this - 11 pesos - found in the int'l foods aisle at Jumbo)
  • Apple pie
  • Baked chicken

Green Bean Casserole
  • 2 cans (350 g. each) green beans
  • 1 package Knorr mushroom sauce (for pasta) cooked according to package directions
  • dried onions to cover top (found next to the spices)
Mix beans with sauce in baking dish, bake at 180C for 30 minutes. Add dried onions on top and bake another 10 minutes.

Scalloped Corn
  • 2 cans (350 g. each) cream style corn
  • 3/4 stack saltine crackers, crushed
  • 48 g. butter
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cans (use the corn can) milk
  • dash of salt
Mix all ingredients together. Bake in shallow baking dish at 180C for 1 hour.

inspired by SimplyRecipes
  • 10-12 c. cubed day-old bread (I used french bread)
  • 2 c. celery
  • 2 c. onion
  • 85 g. butter
  • 2 green apples
  • 2 c. veg stock
  • 1/4 c. chopped parsely
  • 1 t. dried sage (salvia)
  • 1 T. fresh thyme (tomillo)
  • 1 T. fresh rosemary (romero)
  • 1 t. salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 T. apple cider vinegar
Melt half of the butter in a saute pan, stir in bread to coat and allow to toast. You may want to do this in a couple of batches if you don't have a super large pan. In a separate pot (dutch oven or non-stick pot would be ideal) saute onions and celery until translucent - about 10 minutes. Add vinegar, apples, herbs, s&p and bread. Stir in stock to moisten all of the bread. Cover and cook on low for approximately 30 minutes, adding stock as necessary. (Mine only took 30 min but it would take longer in a heavier pot.)

Hashbrown Casserole
  • 4 c. shredded potatoes
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 package Knorr mushroom sauce (for pasta) cooked according to package directions
  • 20 g. butter, melted
  • 2 c. shredded cheese (I used Sardo)
  • 1 large package Casan cream
  • Bread crumbs to cover top

Peel and shred approx. 4 potatoes. Squeeze out excess water using a dishcloth. Mix potatoes with onion, sauce, cream and half of the shredded cheese. Spead into a greased baking dish, top with cheese, bread crumbs and melted butter in that order. Bake at 180C for approx 45-50 minutes.

Apple Pie

  • All butter crust, refrigerated
  • 6 small apples, peeled, cored and sliced
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 2 T. lemon juice
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 2 T. flour
  • 3/4 t. nutmeg (nuez moscada)
  • 3/4 t. cinnamon (canela)
Roll out half of the crust and place in pie pan. Mix sugar, flour, and spices together. In a large bowl, mix together water and lemon juice and add apples as you cut them. Drain apples and toss with sugar mixture. Add to pie pan.
Roll out other half of the dough and place on top. Pinch crusts together and cut slits in top. Brush milk on top and add sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 190C for 30 minutes.

Thanksgiving Part Two

After 10 guests on Thursday, we were running a little low on leftovers so we added the following dishes for family Thanksgiving on Friday.

Parmesan Mashed Potatoes
  • 5 baking potatoes, cubed and boiled in salted water until tender
  • 1/2 c. parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 c. veggie stock
  • 2 T. milk
  • 1 T. butter
Drain potatoes and immediately add remaining ingredients. Mash with potato masher. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Green Beans with Almonds
  • 3 cups fresh green beans, snapped
  • 1 small onion, sliced thin
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1/3 c. almonds
Boil beans in salted water for 10-15 minutes. Slice and toast almonds (I toasted these in a pan over low heat, flipping often, for 5 minutes but a toaster oven works well too.) Saute onions in olive oil until translucent. Drain beans and add to onion. Cover and simmer 10-15 minutes, until the beans reach your desired consistency. Toss with almonds and serve.