Thursday, May 31, 2012
Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Dinner from nothing, our favorite game.
In a small frying pan I sautéed pancetta, onions, garlic and crushed red peppers while the pasta water boiled. I quickly drained the spaghetti and put it back in the still warm pot along with the crisp pancetta mixture along with 1 beaten egg mixed with a splash of milk and grated parmesan cheese. I stirred everything together and the residual heat cooked the egg just enough to fashion a creamy, rich, ready in a minute sauce.
Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Monday, May 28, 2012
We've been here for about six months now but the barbecue is still not set up (a lot of things on the list before the BBQ) so I needed to make our ribs in the oven. But, my friend Emily was driving up for lunch and a visit -- her first time at our new place. This was a meal that had to be worth renting a car for. And yet, I decided to try a new recipe. I doused the ribs with olive oil and seasoned them, on both sides, with S&P and garlic powder. I didn't have the whole cloves the recipe called for so I sprinkled on ground cloves and then added about 8 whole allspice berries, I poured a bottle of beer over the ribs, sealed the pan with foil and baked them in a 300º oven for 2 hours. The meat came out super tender, already coming away from the bone, if not exactly picturesque. It was time for sauce.
The recipe I was following called for 1 cup of peach or apricot jam. But I zeroed in on this particular dish as an excuse to use up the half jars of jelly in my fridge. I mixed apple jelly, peach jam, and honey (to total 1 cup or so), 1 cup of ketchup, 3 TB of lemon juice, a heavy pinch of chiles, and the pan juices from the ribs in a saucepan and let it reduce down into a sticky irresistible sauce for about 20 minutes over medium high heat.
With the ribs meat side down I brushed a good quantity of he sauce over the bones and popped the sheet pan under the broiler for about 7 minutes. I turned the ribs over and brushed on half of the remaining sauce and broiled another 10 minutes. Lastly I brushed the rest of the sauce over the meat again and broiled another 10 minutes until the ribs were deeply browned and just a tad charred. Picture perfect sticky delectable ribs, and only two pans to clean.
"You'll be making those again," James declared.
Our first summer squash of the summer farmer's mart season was a quick braise with yukon gold potatoes, tomatoes and onion flavored with celery leaves, basil, and a few mustard greens from our garden.
I sent Emily home with cobbler to go.
Sunday, May 27, 2012
Saturday, May 26, 2012
Friday, May 25, 2012
"As soon as you're around I get hungry," James said while I was looking in the bare fridge for something to eat.
"How about scrambled eggs?"
"Do you have ingredients for that?" James shot back.
Going one better I turned what we did have -- eggs, the last bits of several cheeses, a box of mushrooms on it's last legs, and a bag of almost too old spinach into a late night, last minute frittata.
Broiled omelettes at bedtime.
Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
An epicenter of LA's Asian noodle scene JTYH, parked in a Rosemeade mini-mall. It seems like years since I first read rave reviews of the knife cut noodles at this unassuming, friendly place.
Much like I saw in China -- as we walked in a woman was dutifully rolling dumpling skins and filling delicious pockets we'd soon be thinking about ordering.
I was hoping for the crisp sesame seed covered buns I grew to love in Shanghai (still have not found them in the states). Eric, a wiling partner in a cuisine exploration -- especially if it involves noodles, and I started with these pan-fried buns. Other than delicious I am not at all sure what the crunchy crust was, but it made a welcome contrast to the doughy, somewhat wonder-bready exterior. Eric declared these the same as he had tasted in Vancouver (another city with great Asian food). The filling was flavorful and juicy but with so much dough it's hard to get a real taste of it. I am still searching for my Shanghai style dumplings.
The house specialty, knife cut noodles. To creates this insanely popular dish a ball of dough is held over a pot while the chef shaves pieces off into the boiling water. The resulting fresh dumplings are generally stir-fried or served in soup. Eric and his wife Shari shared a dish of knife cut noodles with cumin while working in Vancouver and we have been on a search for a similar dish ever since. We have found the noodles, which were chewy and delicious, but the cumin sauce search continues. These noodles get high marks though -- great texture, taste, and just a bit of slip.
Onion pancake. A standard dish served in so many restaurants it's almost a test taste. Admittedly I skipped it -- I just couldn't stay away from the lamb ribs and noodles.
JTYH has been there waiting for me serving great food for a while. I'm not sure what took me so long. Maybe it's just so poplar with LA eaters I doubted it's greatness. But it is exactly the kind of place I love. No pretension, no fuss, just great food at the right price. Extravagant dinner for two (with food for 3 easily) $32. Thanks Eric.
Sunday, May 20, 2012
All I found in the fridge was a handful of fresh green beans. I set a pot of water on the stove to boil while I snapped the beans planning to cook them along with the spaghetti (I added them in for the last 5 minutes of pasta cooking time). Meanwhile I reached for one of the jars of tomatoes I canned from last year's plants. and simmered a quick, flavorful, pantry ingredient sauce from red wine, olive oil, oregano, chili peppers, garlic and caned tomatoes. One of our friends is a vegan or else I might have finished the sauce with a dollop of butter. Instead I served up two versions of our hasty supper one with spaghetti, green beans, and hearty tomato sauce the other topped with zesty fresh goat cheese and grated parmesan.
Saturday, May 19, 2012
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Today, with a little time to wander I strutted off the San Telmo looking for a place real Argentines eat. Enough of white tablecloth dinners at the high dollar restaurants by my hotel. Enough of being catered to. Enough of elegance and Buenos Aires with "airs".
Desnivel is a simple, dare I say it, no frills restaurant where local families and friends out to share a meal together gather. This is not the white glove service offered in the more exclusive restaurants in town but simple, homey, and -- by the way-- delicious fare offered at reasonable prices for working people -- and anyone who loves good food.
Right by the door, where you will be waiting for a table if you arrive anywhere near meal time, is the mammoth grill that fires many of Desnivel'd entrées and feeds a small counter for fresh made grilled meat sandwiches. The heartbeat of this friendly place and a pretty warm place to stand --- even on a crisp fall Buenos Aires day.
It's probably not much to look at. The decor is pretty much a rag-tag collection of old flags, posters, and an odd photo collection of Argentine film stars, comedians, and soccer players. None of them signed as if they had been customers, just dusty old photos covering a little space on the walls. The food, placed on the red checkered (covered in vinyl) tablecloths with a hurried smile, is the real decor here.
I started with the classic Argentine appetizer and evidence of the food genius of this food centric country, Provoletta. A thick slab of grilled provolone cheese flavored lightly with spices and olive oil. Fondue at it's most elemental taste, Raclette with no potatoes. Thick, oozy, flavorful cheese. I've got to remember to make this at home.
Although I was tempted by the delicious looking special of baked lamb, I felt compelled to compare and contrast. It was my last day, my last Argentine meal for a while after all. I went to order my usual collection of grilled offal -- sweetbreads, intestines, blood sausage. My waiter, though hurried (not at all unpleasant) with many tables to serve, pointed out the restaurant's mixed grill platter. "Less expensive that way." he advised. I ordered the platter and for less money added grilled kidneys to my dinner.
I have a new favorite place. The meats were perfectly grilled. Tender, crispy, delicious. The chimicurri sauce -- the argentine condiment of choice -- was peppery and vinegary and the perfect foil to the fatty, rich-tasting organ meats. Desnivel is my new must visit in BA. It has everything I look for in a bustling, vacation restaurant. Great food, friendly people, and a full menu of dishes you want to try. In spite of the long line on anxious patrons waiting for tables you never feel rushed, always welcome to linger and be one of the restaurant's family.
I'll be back for the baked lamb.
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Monday, May 14, 2012
I haven't had the nerve to order this particular Argentine invention yet.
Sunday, May 13, 2012
Although I usually make the effort to cross town to track down some regional specialty or hidden local treat, some nights a simple place I can walk to is in order. Luckily in Buenos Aires you don't have to go very far. Less than 3 blocks away from my hotel is El Mirasol, one of a small chain (5 locations) in BA serving grilled meats and multiple varieties of fried empanadas.
A bit more expensive than many of the excellent parillas (grill restaurants) in the capitol city, El Mirasol's locations are a favorite lunch spot of businessmen and diplomats -- and open early for dinner (many restaurants don't even open the doors until 8 pm or later), handy for visitors not accustomed to Argentina's late night dinner hour.
The namesake flower on the restaurant's napkins. White tablecloths and careful, formal, French style service are the norm at Argentina's traditional, better restaurants. The informality of cheerful servers introduced by name has, perhaps mercifully, not caught on here.
I started with a "gaucha" (cowgirl) salad, a mix of potatoes, broad beans, beets and tomatoes all tossed in olive oil dressing. Delicious with just a sprinkle of salt.
I started, as I generally do, with grilled sweetbread -- mojellas. These were crisp and sweet and delicious -- though maybe not the mind-blowing flavor of La Brigada's version.
Another of my usual standbys. chinchulines -- grilled intestine. Though super tasty these didn't have quite the exterior crunch I crave. I think this is one dish perhaps better served in the back alley dives and lower end restaurants. It needs no dressing up.
Entraña. Grilled skirt steak. A little rare for my taste but packed with flavor.
Saturday, May 12, 2012
El Sanjuanino is place that'd be easy to miss (though no one does) if you didn't know what was hidden behind the rustic front doors. Just a short stroll from my hotel is a place generally regarded as making some of the best empanadas in Buenos Aires. And, believe me, there is a lot of competition.
I slipped in and took a chair at the last empty table.
The Argentines use a knife and fork but I couldn't resist picking up the meaty pie.
As I marveled in the perfectly formed seals of crust a non-stop flow of locals waited at the tiled counter for endless carry out boxes of the beautifully formed pies.
Friday, May 11, 2012
I am no vegetarian.
My last trip to Argentina I had a mind-blowingly delicious steak at tourist and local stalwart La Brigada. Delicious though it is, La Brigada is not generally the kind of restaurant I frequent. It is fairly expensive in a country where good, affordable, delicious food is everywhere. The menu has an English translation (which generally sends me running for the hills). La Brigada is not a secret dive. The waiters are all charming, serve with a flourish and generally speak English. More strikes against it.
But, even Anthony Bourdain could not argue with the beef I remember from my last trip.
Mojellas, Argentine style grilled sweetbreads, are the food I crave and can rarely find outside of the land of the gaucho. These are maybe the best I have ever had -- and believe me, I've had them everywhere. Crisp exterior, delicate creamy interior, brought to life with just a squeeze of lemon. I think my eyes rolled back in my head after just one bite.
I should have stopped there.
Clearly I was flustered when the waiter questioned my choice to not order, as he called it, "meat." I capitulated and allowed him to steer (no pun intended) me towards bife de chorizo, a monster sized strip loin steak. I know better. This more than man-sized cut did not have the toothsome flavor of thinner or more exercised Argentine cuts I prefer (and will be tasting soon). In fact -- in a first for any steak I have had in this beef loving country -- La Brigada's offering was actually dry and chewy. I was so shocked I left it standing on the plate. Another first.
I blame myself. Like a restaurant rookie I ordered fast and -- in a hurry to get to an afternoon meeting, didn't order well. I'll go back to La Brigada and try again. In the meantime I will linger in the memory of the most delicious sweetbreads ever -- and make sure to order them again.
Thursday, May 10, 2012
Wednesday, May 9, 2012
Tuesday, May 8, 2012
I started with chopped onion sautéing in a good quantity of olive oil over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Next I tossed in the cut asparagus and about 1/2 tsp of crushed red chiles. After another 5 minutes the asparagus was barely tender and I added in the drained pasta, a splash of pasta cooking water, a couple tablespoons of fresh goat cheese, and fresh thyme. After a few turns in the pan the cheese melted into a creamy, delicate sauce.
A simple dish to highlight the flavor of spring.
Monday, May 7, 2012
Sunday, May 6, 2012
Nothing warms up a day like homemade soup.
There was a small head of cabbage in the fridge and that seemed like a good place to start a hearty vegetable soup. I started by sautéing chopped onion and garlic in olive oil. Next I tossed in diced celery and carrots and let all the vegetables soften in the pan.Shredded cabbage went in next and then I added in cooked white beans (I had some tucked away in the freezer) and a good quantity of chicken broth and several large handfuls of chopped spinach. All of that simmered away for about 30 minutes and then I added in about a cup of fregola, the Sardinian rolled and toasted pasta. After 20 more minutes the pasta was tender and the soup ready for a rainy afternoon.