Recipe File: Pickled Eggplant | Berenjenas en Escabeche

I have a culinary confession: I'm not normally a huge fan of pickled foods. Pickled baby corn—kind of weird. Pickled beets—yuck. Pickled eggs—not in a thousand lifetimes. But when I was offered berenjenas en escabeche on my very first trip to Argentina, I freely sampled the dish in the spirit of gastronomic and cultural open-mindedness (well, plus the fact that I didn't know what "en escabeche" meant at the time). I did, however, realize that eggplant was involved, and that alone seemed to be enough of a selling point.

Pickled Eggplant | Berenjenas en Escabeche by katiemetz, on Flickr

Pickled eggplant (also known as berenjenas en conserva or a la vinagreta) has roots in both Spanish and Italian cuisine, later making its way into the kitchens of Argentina via the massive wave of immigration from both of these countries. The dish is commonly served as an accompaniment to grilled meats at an asado (Argentine-style barbecue), as part of a picada, or all by itself on some crusty bread.

In spite of  its vinegary bite—or dare I say because of it—I discovered that I am rather fond of pickled eggplant. While I don't view this as the start of any sort of pickling addiction, I'm pleased to have this recipe in my arsenal of Argentine goodies.

Eggplants | Berenjenas by katiemetz, on Flickr

Pickled Eggplant | Berenjenas en Escabeche

Ingredients

2 pounds eggplant, peeled
¼ cup kosher salt
3 cups water
1 ½ cups white vinegar
5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 teaspoon ají molido or crushed red pepper
2 bay leaves
approx. 1 ½ cups sunflower or other vegetable oil

Directions

Slice the eggplant lengthwise into ¼-inch-thick slices, then cut the slices into ¼-inch-wide sticks. Toss the eggplant with the salt, and place in a colander set over a bowl [the eggplant will release a dark, bitter liquid] at room temperature for 4 hours.

Gently squeeze handfuls of eggplant to remove any remaining liquid. Bring the water and vinegar to a boil in a medium, non-reactive pot. Add the eggplant and boil, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain in a colander, then set the colander over a bowl and cover the eggplant with a plate and a weight. Continue to drain, covered and chilled, for 4 more hours. Pat dry with paper towels.

In a clean, 1-quart jar with a tight-fitting lid, pack the eggplant in layers, sprinkling the garlic, oregano, peppercorns and crushed red pepper between each layer. When the jar is about half full, tuck the bay leaves in between the eggplant and the side of the jar so they're visible from the outside and continue alternating layers of eggplant and spices until the jar is full. Add enough oil to completely cover the eggplant. Gently tap the jar on the countertop a few times to release trapped air bubbles. Seal the jar and place it in the refrigerator for at least 2 to 3 days prior to eating to allow the flavors to marry and the vinegar to mellow a bit.

The pickled eggplant keeps, stored in the refrigerator, for up to 1 month.

Marinated Eggplant on Baguette Slices by katiemetz, on Flickr [Resistance is futile.]

Recipe updated on June 8, 2012


Are you looking for more Argentine recipes? Click here to browse the entire Recipe File, or try out the new visual recipe index. Read More......

Mr. Sandman

A few days ago, I received an avalanche of Facebook status updates and photos in my inbox from relatives and friends up north, taunting me with messages like

"snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow"

"Up to 24" forecasted, pics taken with 10" on the ground. Merry Christmas!"

"WTF is thundersnow????"

and my personal favorite,

"Well it almost stopped snowing at 11:00PM. So far 15 inches. Your kids are supposed to shovel the snow for you. So one moves to E-town and the other to Argentina. Where is the justice?"

Ok, so maybe I have just a teensy-weensy bit of snowflake envy, though admittedly I'm not exactly envious of the copious amounts of snow that my dad anonymous Facebook contact had to shovel.

While we may be seriously lacking the white stuff, what we do have here in Necochea is massive amounts of the tan stuff: sand. Though there are no snowmen sporting jaunty little scarves and hats in my future, why not a sandman?

So, late one afternoon Daniel and I headed to the beach with our shovel, the scarf, the branches, and the all-important carrot. After arriving at our designated sandman construction site, we were assaulted by blowing sand and a chilling wind. While the seagulls seemed to be enjoying things, we decided to postpone our adventure. We headed back to the house and promptly ate the sandman's nose with dinner.

A couple days later, the conditions seemed favorable, so we packed up our accoutrements once again (including a new carrot), and headed back to the very same spot—the beach near the Puerto Quequén. Warmed by the sun's rays and the physical effort of digging, mounding and sculpting, we built our muñeco de arena in just under an hour. All in all, I think he turned out quite well. The greatest challenge was keeping his hat on for the pictures with the ever-present sea breeze.

Feelin' Artsy by katiemetz, on Flickr [I see shades of Homer Simpson in this one.]

The Sandman at Puerto Quequén by katiemetz, on Flickr [The sandman with the jetties/entrance to the port in the background]

Be Sure to Get My Best Side by katiemetz, on Flickr [That is one substantial schnoz. But, hey, it didn't hold Rudolph back, so who am I to judge?]

They Might Be Giants by katiemetz, on Flickr [Don't you just love those long late-afternoon shadows?]

Click here to view photos of the sandman that we built two years ago on the beach in Necochea.

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O Christmas Tree

Though visions of sugar plums and potential blog posts have been dancing in my head for weeks, I've been busy developing carpal tunnel syndrome by logging hours on end translating and writing for other people. Consequently, I haven't had much of a chance to update the blog; however, I managed to tear myself away from my latest translation project to tell you about the tree we decorated two weeks ago.

December 8th, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception or El Día de la Virgen, is the traditional date for decking the halls and trimming the tree in these parts. So, we dutifully unpacked the Christmas ornaments and assembled our brand spanking new artificial tree for the official "opening ceremonies" of the holiday season. (For the record, virtually no one uses a live tree here.)

Ah, but this fake tree has a story behind it. You see, two years ago I spent the entire southern hemisphere summer here in Necochea with Daniel and his family, including, of course, the holiday season. As one can imagine, I posted lots of photos documenting my time here, and I made sure, in particular, to take plenty of snaps at Christmas.

Let's just say that after reviewing the evidence, my stepdad had a hard time accepting that I could spend Christmas with anything less than an 8-foot tree, trimmed to the hilt. This man is Mr. Christmas—the king, if you will, of fabulous holiday decorating both indoors and out. If he were to ever fall upon hard times, I'm confident that he could open a Christmas store and not have to purchase a single item of stock. Seriously.

The Giant Spinning Christmas Tree by katiemetz, on Flickr O Christmas Tree by katiemetz, on Flickr

[Can you guess which of these was our old tree? Hint: it's not the one on the left.]

And well, clearly our little tree did not pass muster, so Mr. Christmas took Navidad into his own hands. He sent down with my dad—cushioned in the bottom of a suitcase filled with lots of other goodies—a lovely new tree for us that's not nearly as vertically-challenged. (Did I mention that my dad, my stepmom and my stepdad spoiled me to death for Christmas?)

Where did I get the ornaments, you ask? I actually devoted an entire small suitcase to my Christmas stash when I came down to Argentina last October. (I know, it's a sickness. Look what he's done to me.) Before I moved, I gave away many of my ornaments and decorations, but my faves made the long haul to Necochea.

Ok, so we've established that the Charlie Brown tree had to go. Now, I proudly present our new Christmas tree, version 2.0. Please, hold your applause until the end.

Our Tree at Night by katiemetz, on Flickr[Apparently Daniel likes blinky, multicolored lights. Guess who won that battle.]

Chillin' (Sweatin'?) Under the Tree by katiemetz, on Flickr[The crew under the Christmas tree obviously did not get the memo re: the new dress code for Argentina.]

Feliz Navidad by katiemetz, on Flickr[Yes, the Mexican mouse is suffering a bit of culture shock after the move, but at least he's got the language down pat.]

Stockings = Cocoa Approved by katiemetz, on Flickr [And lastly, proof that the stockings were approved by Cocoa.]

¡Felices Fiestas a todos! Happy Holidays!

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Recipe File: Tarta de Zapallo | Roasted Butternut Squash Tart

Though American fast food chains such as McDonald's and Burger King have taken root in Argentina, most Argentines looking to grab a quick meal order from the neighborhood rotisería. These take-out joints specialize in simple, classic Argentine fare like empanadas, salads, milanesas, and pastas.

While you'd be hard-pressed to find a tarta on the menu at Mickey D's, just about every rotisería offers some version of these savory tarts, with the most popular choices being pascualina, made with swiss chard or spinach; round or globe zucchini; corn, sometimes with the addition of chicken; leeks; ham and cheese; and squash. Like empanadas, tartas are quite versatile, and fillings can be adapted according to what's fresh and in season or what you happen to have on hand. Because really, whenever flaky crust meets flavorful filling, there's bound to be magic.

Tarta de Zapallo | Roasted Butternut Squash Tart by katiemetz, on Flickr

The flavors of the sage and green onion in this tart complement the butternut squash beautifully, and the texture of the filling is light and creamy. Although I used butternut squash, feel free to substitute another type of winter squash (e.g. acorn squash).

Tarta de zapallo | Roasted Butternut Squash Tart

Ingredients

1 round of pie crust dough [use store-bought or your favorite recipe]
1 medium butternut squash
2 tsp. vegetable oil
3 Tbsp. butter
3 stalks green onion, chopped
1 c. coarsely grated Gruyère cheese
½ c. grated parmesan cheese
2 whole eggs plus 1 yolk
½ c. heavy cream
1 ¼ tsp. chopped fresh sage, plus a few whole leaves for decorating [optional]
salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Cut the squash in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Lightly brush each cut side with oil, and roast the squash on a baking sheet with the cut sides down for 45 minutes or until easily pierced with a knife.

Butternut Squash | Zapallo Anco by katiemetz, on Flickr

Remove the squash from the oven and scoop out the flesh, discarding the skin. Purée the squash in a food processor for a silky texture, or mash the squash with a potato masher.

Increase the oven temperature to 400ºF. Transfer the dough to a 9-inch pie dish. Fold any excess dough under itself and crimp the edges decoratively. Prick the dough lightly with a fork all over. Bake the crust until the edges begin to brown, pressing the bottom and sides of the crust occasionally with the back of a fork, about 12 to 15 minutes. Cool slightly.

Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.

In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat and lightly sauté the green onion. Add the squash purée, and if it seems watery, continue to cook, stirring frequently, until liquid has evaporated. Season the mixture with salt and pepper to taste, and remove from the heat. Allow the mixture to cool slightly, and then add the cheeses, egg, cream, and sage. Mix thoroughly and adjust the seasoning, as needed. Pour the filling into the pre-baked shell, smoothing the top.

Bake the tart in the middle of the oven for 40 minutes or until the filling is set [it should puff slightly and brown lightly on top]. Cover the edges of the crust with foil if they are browning too quickly. Remove from the oven, and allow the tart to rest for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Decorate with some fresh or crispy, fried sage leaves, if desired.

Tarta de Zapallo | Roasted Butternut Squash Tart by katiemetz, on Flickr

I would have liked to have shown you an individual slice, but there was no holding back the hungry hordes. Trust me, you'll know how they felt if you make this tart.

Recipe updated on November 7, 2012


Are you looking for more Argentine recipes? Click here to browse the entire Recipe File, or try out the new visual recipe index. Read More......

Free Holiday Goodies

With nary a snowflake in sight here in Argentina, I admit that it can be a challenge to get into the holiday spirit; however, I must say that nothing does it for me quite like some Christmas music.  Admittedly, I feel slightly ridiculous listening to "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!" and "Frosty the Snowman" when we've currently got highs in the mid-70s and I've been wandering about in short sleeves and flip flops.  But honestly, when has merely feeling ridiculous ever truly stopped me from doing something? ;)

I love the old standards ("Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree," anyone?), but it's always good to refresh the line-up each year by adding some new holiday tunes, especially when they're free.  Yes, that's right – free.

Just head over to the Amazon MP3 Holiday Store, and click on the link for "25 Days of Free."  Every day, now through Christmas, Amazon is giving away a different holiday song.  So, download away – it won't cost you a single penny (or centavo for that matter).

While we're on the subject of free, I'd also like to mention a special promotion being offered by Google.  Send a free holiday postcard to friends or family in the U.S., courtesy of our friends in Mountain View, CA.  Google swears it'll be a real postcard made out of dead trees and not the electronic variety.  There are six designs to choose from.  Not bad, Google.  Not bad.

Ok, so go – get free stuff!

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Recipe File: Blackberry Empanadas | Empanadas de Zarzamora

With Roasted Chicken Day behind me and the holiday season now in full swing, I'm beginning to feel the spirit (despite the ever-increasing temperatures and lengthening days). So, in the name of goodwill, sharing, and tasty eats – three things that are synonymous with the holidays – every week in December I will post a new Argentina-inspired recipe. ¡Que disfruten! (Enjoy!)


We are lucky enough to have a sizeable vegetable patch adjacent to our flower garden, a space which is primarily tended to by Daniel's stepdad. All manner of green, leafy things grow there under Tomás' care, including a sprawling, prickly blackberry bush.

Ripe Blackberry by katiealley on Flickr [This one's ripe for the picking.]

Unripe Blackberries by katiealley on Flickr The other day I noticed that the blackberry bramble looked rather heavy with fruit, so I carefully picked my way over to the bush through rows of burgeoning tomatoes and peppers. I (mostly) managed to avoid the thorny stems as I poked around for the juiciest, ripest berries, all the while reminiscing of the many times I'd picked wild blackberries from bushes in the woods back in Pennsylvania. With my hands tinged ruby red by the blackberry juice, I returned to the house with my prize: a bowl filled to the brim with sweet-tart berries.

Back in the kitchen, I contemplated the possibilities for the plump little lovelies…what sort of treat could I cook up with them? I briefly lamented the fact that there weren't quite enough blackberries for a pie just before I was seized by a moment of culinary inspiration...

Though Argentines adore their empanadas, they rarely depart from savory recipes; however, I'd been itching to experiment with some dessert-type empanadas for a while. I decided that a sweet empanada would be a simple and tasty way to use this first bunch of blackberries. I love it when I'm right.

Bowl of Blackberries by katiealley on Flickr More Blackberries by katiealley on Flickr

Blackberry Empanadas | Empanadas de Zarzamora
Recipe adapted from Blackberry Hand Pies on Epicurious

Ingredients

2 c. blackberries (3/4 lb.)
1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled and coarsely grated
2 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
8 Tbsp. sugar
1 package of pre-made empanada dough (preferably tapas de hojaldre) or your own recipe
2 Tbsp. milk

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400° F, and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Cook the blackberries, apple, flour, cinnamon and 6 tablespoons of sugar in a heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring often, until the mixture just boils and is thickened, about 5 minutes. Take care not to break up the berries too much while stirring. Transfer to a shallow bowl to cool.

Place a heaping tablespoon of fruit filling in the center of the empanada disc. Moisten the edges of the dough with milk and fold in half, pressing the edges to seal. Transfer to a lined baking sheet and press the tines of a fork around the edges or make a decorative repulgue [video]. Arrange the empanadas 1 inch apart on the baking sheet. Repeat the process with the remaining discs and filling.

Brush the empanadas with milk and sprinkle them with the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar. Bake until empanadas are golden, approximately 15 minutes. Remove them from the baking sheets to cool.

[If you're feeling really hopeless about your empanada-making abilities, give this empanada press a go. It will help keep your filling in place and create a nice crimped edge. This gadget really shines in circumstances where you need to make a lot of empanadas quickly or if you have pint-sized kitchen helpers who want to get involved in the process.]

Blackberry Empanadas (Turnovers) by katiealley on Flickr

Empanadas de Zarzamora by katiealley on Flickr What's a Leaky Empanada Between Friends? by katiealley on Flickr

Are you looking for more Argentine recipes? Click here to browse the entire Recipe File. Read More......
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