Memories of… Argentina

Rib eye at La Cabrera - Buenos Aires

Rib eye at La Cabrera – Buenos Aires

I could have opened with “Don’t Cry For Me…” but that just seemed melodramatic….

I have been absent for the last few weeks due to a recent work trip to Argentina.  I was working with a group of amazing women entrepreneurs from Latin America and the Caribbean through Vital Voices.  It left me exhausted yet so inspired!  But I know, you really want to hear about the food…

Well, I don’t usually eat red meat other than venison from the SO about once a week.  I think I met my 6 month quota in the ten days in Argentina and it was amazing!

Early on in the trip, we went to La Cabrera in Buenos Aires where I enjoyed the best rib-eye steak I have ever tasted.  That was after the appetizer of chorizo, sweet breads & blood sausage.  Chorizo: amazing.  Sweet breads: total pass.  Blood sausage: tasted & that was enough for me.  If you ever get the chance to dine at La Cabrera, do not leave without the total overindulgence in the dessert of crepes & dulce de leche: I am not a dessert fan & no sweet tooth but this sent me over the top!

And for the rest of my time there, the beef just kept coming & coming…I couldn’t stop it and I couldn’t resist…

Cafe con leche - Plaza Dorrego

Cafe con leche – Plaza Dorrego

Now, the coffee….well, I love my coffee.  And in Argentina they serve it with hot milk.  That just makes sense, no?  Why can’t Starbucks do this?   I loved my last morning in BA sitting with my cafe con leche watching the crowds in the Sunday morning market at Plaza Dorrego…definitely something worth checking out if you are in BA for a Sunday.

Wine & Buenos Aires sunset

Wine & Buenos Aires sunset

Last but not least…the wine.  I usually react badly to South American wine (like I do to MSG) but no problems while I was there: which is interesting (at least to me).  Working 12+ hour days meant that there wasn’t much time / opportunity to indulge but I did make the most of my last night in BA sitting on the terrace of my hotel with a lovely Tempranillo as I watched the sun set over San Telmo.

Definitely will be going back to Argentina some time soon when I have more time to explore the country…any recommendations on places to explore while there would be much appreciated.

Posted in Random musings | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Kitchen Dreamin’ : Fellow Foodie Input Invited

Screen Shot 2014-09-23 at 4.04.29 PMSo it has been just over a year since I posted on my dream kitchen.  And when I wrote that post, I never imagined that I would now be in the position of actually being able to bring that dream to life!

The SO & I are about to embark on a major project – gutting the main floor of a bungalow and adding a second floor!  Yikes!!  Assuming all goes well with getting permits from the City, the project will kick off in about 3 months and we will, fingers crossed, be in our new space by May 2015.

So…now I am actually faced with the opportunity to build the dream kitchen.  I have already worked out alot of the design & details  – I get my big pantry, my double sink, double ovens and lots of counter space but I still have a few quandries that need to be settled in the next few weeks.  And who better to ask than a bunch of fellow foodies?

If anyone cares to weigh in on the following, I would really appreciate your input:

1.  Floor coverings:  I know I don’t want to carry the hardwood floors into the kitchen (too easily marked up when moving heavy appliances) and tile is just too hard when you’re standing for hours.  Any thoughts on pro’s/con’s of cork floors (especially if you have a dog) or on linoleum?

2.  Induction vs gas?  I am going back and forth on this one.  I was all about the gas stove top and then veered over to induction until I realized that I might have to replace all my pots & pans.  Would love any input on this debate that you might have to offer up.

And any other tips / ideas that come to mind would be greatly appreciated as we are still in the design stage…

Posted in Cooking, Random musings | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

Falling for salad: Beet, Fennel & Orange

Beet, Fennel & Orange Salad

Beet, Fennel & Orange Salad

I love September  – the crisp clean air in the mornings, the cool nights, and ultimately the seasonal permission to start cooking with fall ingredients.   Don’t get me wrong: I also enjoy the summer but I am more of an “autumn” type person – cooking and otherwise.

I came up with this salad last week and realized it is one I can make right through the next few months…love the combination of fennel & beets, and then it just seemed right to add citrus to the mix.  I couldn’t find blood oranges (which would be the perfect accompaniment but I acknowledge they are not seasonal) but I made do with what I could find..

The colour combination is beautiful, and I love the silkiness/earthiness of the roast beets combined with the tartness of the orange and the crunchy fennel, and the saltiness of the added feta cheese on top just finishes it off perfectly.

Beet, Fennel & Orange Salad (for two)

1.   Toss 2 – 3 beets with generous splashings of olive oil and set in a roasting pan.  Roast until fork tender in the oven (move them around every 10-15 minutes to make sure all sides are getting equal roasting time).

2.  Remove beets from oven, let cool and then peel.  Chop into large pieces.

3.  Roughly chop up or slice one large fennel bulb after removing the green sprigs (you can keep these for garnish), the core and the outer layer.

4.  Peel and section 2 medium oranges.  Separate the fruit from segments.  Retain centre core.  Chop orange segments.

5.  To make dressing: squeeze remaining core of orange into small bowl to release juices & add olive oil, salt & pepper to taste.

6.  Mix chopped beets, fennel & orange.  Add the dressing and mix.  Garnish with feta  cheese & retained fennel green sprigs.

Enjoy!  Would love any suggestions on other additions / variations to this salad.

Posted in Cooking, Recipes, Vegetables / Herbs / Salads | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Processing…Not Just Tomato Sauce

Making Tomato Sauce

Making Tomato Sauce

Rather than share a photo of the end result (27 jars of tomato sauce) or the starting place (one bushel of ripe Ontario roma tomatoes), I chose to share a photo of the mid-way point of my 10 hour tomato sauce extravaganza yesterday.

Yup..those three pots are the messy delicious glorious results of having processed a bushel of tomatoes with my favourite new kitchen gadget – a food mill…I’ve read about food mills for years and finally realized it was time to get me one of those things.   And it has changed my whole approach to canning tomatoes.

But I apparently was processing more yesterday than just tomatoes.  I like to listen to CBC (the Canadian version of NPR) when I am spending hours in the kitchen canning, and there was a fascinating interview with a woman about the importance of empathy.  She spoke about being physically attacked while living in Central America and how she dealt with it.

And then I spent many hours, while stirring my reducing tomato sauce, reflecting.  About ten years ago,  I was held up at knife point on my first day in South Africa.  Luckily, I  was not physically assaulted. I only lost my money and my mobile phone, but I remember thinking while it was happening – “please don’t kill me, and please don’t rape me because that is probably also a death sentence”.   It probably lasted less than a minute but every second is still vivid in my mind.

Even though it happened in a park during daylight, I am still terrified of confined dark unpopulated spaces, especially underground parking garages (although I can’t avoid them) and it took years after I got back home to be able to walk on the street – even busy ones –  alone at night, although I now do it easily but that’s only because I feel safe with the dog at my side.

But the processing part – particularly in terms of empathy?  I never blamed the young man who held me up.  He was obviously more desperate than I could ever be – and just as scared as I was, if not more.  He got my money & my phone, and I kept my life: it seemed like a decent trade.  And I could have left South Africa the next day but I chose to stay on for two months – I was not going to run away scared…

Now every time I go out at night, or go into an underground parking garage, I think “I am stronger, I am conquering my fear, and I am not going to be a victim”.

I love my new food mill, and looking at the 11 litres of tomato sauce sitting in my pantry, but – really – I would still feel completely blessed without them.  And yesterday reminded me to count my blessings, and appreciate the life I have.


Posted in Cooking, Memories, Random musings, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Taking (lobster & duck) stock…

Seafood Stew with Lobster Broth

Seafood Stew with Lobster Broth

Although the new year starts on January 1st, it always feels like Labour Day is truly the beginning of the year.  I still get excited about the idea of fall: buying binders, pens & paper, and thinking about the sweaters & boots I am going to enjoy digging out of the closet again.  And it will soon be the right type of weather for hearty soups & stews!

On digging into things: the SO and I have been busy doing that as we have about 3 months to consolidate the contents of two fridge freezers + one chest freezer into one small unit.  I am the queen of throwing left-over bones into a freezer bag & then into the freezer to later turn into stock…and those bones have come back to haunt me in the last few weeks.

Last weekend, I took the remains of two roast ducks and made stock – first time I’ve done this, following my usual chicken stock MO, and ended up with 1.5 litres of very gelatinous (albeit with gorgeous colour and aroma) duck stock.  I will definitely put it to use but would love to know if anyone has any tips / thoughts on how to make duck stock that is more liquid-y?

And yesterday, I pulled out a bag of lobster shells with the goal of making lobster stock, which I have never done before.  Not much different than making any other kind of stock but I did pick up a great tip online which would work for any type of shellfish stock.  Break up the shells before hand into large chunks (if they are not already in pieces) and roast the shells for 10 minutes (at 400 degrees) before making your stock.  Amazing tip for adding flavour to your stock, and one I will definitely try in the future for meat bones as well…

We dined on a wonderful fragrant rich seafood stew last night so all is well in my world as I head into September.  The freezer(s) actually don’t seem less full but I am looking forward to making lots of soups & stews with all that stock over the next few months…







Posted in Cooking, Seafood, Soups | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Chicken Noodle Soup with an Asian twist

Asian style Chicken Noodle SoupWhen the evening is rainy and you don’t feel like venturing out to the store for dinner fixings, there is nothing like big bowl of soup to get you through the night.   Especially when it is easy and quick to prepare, and good for you.

I had to do a bit of digging into the freezer, the fridge and the pantry to see what was available, and in the process came up with a new soup recipe.  I have been reading similar recipes for years but have never tried this combination of ingredients before.

I loved the richness that the mushrooms and their broth added, the bright green of the spinach, the play of textures with the tofu and rice noodles, the saltiness from the tamari & miso paste…I could go on.  In case you haven’t guessed, this soup will definitely be made again and soon.

Chicken Noodle Soup – Asian style (serves 2)

1.  Cover 15 grams of dried mushroom with boiling water and let soak for 10 minutes.  Squeeze out the mushrooms (reserving the broth) and roughly chop.  You can use fresh mushrooms as well but I like the “meatiness” and variety of using dried mushrooms.

2.  Heat 500 grams of chicken stock in a medium sauce pan over medium heat.

3.   When stock is heated, stir in 1 tbsp of tamari (or soy saucee) and 1 tbsp of miso paste.

4.  Add two generous handfuls of baby spinach, 50 grams of rice noodles (I broke these up in pieces before adding) and the mushrooms along with their broth. Mix together and cover.  Cook until noodles are soft.

5.  Add 100 grams of chopped firm tofu, turn heat down to low and let simmer for 5 minutes.

6. Serve & enjoy!

You could add slivered green onions as a garnish, use soba instead of rice noodles, substitute with vegetable broth if you want to keep this vegetarian.  So many options…

Posted in Cooking, Recipes, Soups | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Making up for lost (summer) time: Gazpacho

Creamy Gazpacho with Avocado

Creamy Gazpacho with Avocado

Oh my!   We are now less than two weeks away from Labour Day.  Summer is flying by and already the mornings here in Toronto are getting cooler…I saw my first leaf drop yesterday when I was out walking the pup.

With this, I realized that I had not made gazpacho yet this summer, which is one of my summer stand-bys.  Thing have been busy and actually, when you think about it, late August / early September is a great time for this recipe as it relies on fresh tomatoes as a base.

One of the reasons I love gazpacho – beyond the fact that it is so easy because everything is just thrown in a blender or food processor –  is that you can adjust it in so many ways:  making it creamy with the addition of bread crumbs and/or almonds, varying the ratios of tomatoes to cucumber and peppers, levels of seasoning, types of garnishes, etc.  And if you are in the mood to clear out the vegetable crisper, it is a great way to extend the use of the vegetables you have on hand.

Regardless of the recipe you follow, or the ingredients you are working with, I believe that there are a few key things to creating a great gazpacho:  ripe luscious vegetables, good quality olive oil and excellent sherry vinegar (believe me, the vinegar is what will make this dish sing!).

I don’t normally make a creamy gazpacho but had some bread crumbs to be used up along with some almonds in the pantry so here’s the recipe I used last night.  It seems like there are many steps but, trust me, this doesn’t take more than about 15 minutes in total to prepare.

Gazpacho (for tw0)

1. Coarsely chop one red pepper (after seeding).  

2.  Coarsely chop one cucumber.   I used a field cucumber which I peeled and then seeded before chopping but you could use an English cucumber as long as you peel it before chopping.

3.  Coarsely chop 1/2 of a medium-sized red onion.

4.  Coarsely chop 3 large tomatoes after peeling.  The easiest way to do this is to make an X mark with a knife at the base of each tomato, place in a large bowl and cover with boiling water.  After two minutes, rinse the tomatoes in cold water and the skins should slip off easily.

5.  Combine the pepper, cucumber, red onion and tomatoes in a blender or food processor along with 75 grams of bread crumbs and 35 grams of toasted almonds.  (You can easily leave out the bread & almonds).  Pulse until smooth.

6.  Add 50 mL of good quality olive oil, 1.5 tbs of sherry vinegar, and then salt & pepper to taste.  Pulse again.

7.  Chill for at least two hours and then serve.  I used diced avocado as a garnish but you could also use parsley, croutons, cilantro…whatever takes your fancy.

As I said above, there are so many versions of gazpacho…what are your favourites?


Posted in Recipes, Vegetables / Herbs / Salads | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments