Monday, April 27, 2009

Sunday, April 26, 2009

"Miniature" soft pretzels

Well, these weren't mini by any definition I've seen, although I guess if you make them half-size, they'd be cute.  I made the mistake of following Martha's recipe for the first half, and Smitten Kitchen definitely made some improvements.  

Soft Pretzels (Smitten Kitchen)

Makes 16 full-sized or 32 miniature

2 cups warm water (100°F to 110°F)
1 tablespoon + 2 tablespoons sugar
1 packet active dry yeast
5 to 6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons canola or other neutral oil
1/4 cup baking soda
1 large egg
Coarse or pretzel salt

Vegetable-oil cooking spray

1. Pour warm water into bowl of electric mixer fitted with a dough hook*. In a small bowl, combine water and 1 tablespoon sugar, and stir to dissolve sugar. Sprinkle with yeast, and let sit 10 minutes; yeast should be foamy. 

2. Add 1 cup flour to yeast, and mix on low until combined. Add salt and 4 cups flour, and mix until combined, about 30 seconds. Beat on medium-low until dough pulls away from sides of bowl, about 1 1/2 minutes. Add 1/2 cup flour, and knead on low 1 minute more. If dough is still wet and sticky, add 1/2 cup more flour (this will depend on weather conditions); knead until combined, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a lightly floured board, and knead about ten times, or until smooth.

3. Pour oil into a large bowl; swirl to coat sides. Transfer dough to bowl, turning dough to completely cover all sides. Cover with a kitchen towel, and leave in a warm spot for 1 hour, or until dough has doubled in size.

4. Heat oven to 450°F. Lightly spray two baking sheets with cooking spray (parchment paper, ungreased, also works). Set aside. Punch down dough to remove bubbles. Transfer to a lightly floured board. Knead once or twice, divide into 16 pieces (about 2 1/2 ounces each) or 32 if making miniature pretzels, and wrap in plastic.

5. Roll one piece of dough at a time into an 18-inch-long strip. [I find the pretzels much easier to roll on an unfloured board, oddly enough, but see what works for you.] Twist into pretzel shape; transfer to prepared baking sheet. Cover with a kitchen towel. Continue to form pretzels; eight will fit on each sheet (you may need a third sheet if making miniatures). Let pretzels rest until they rise slightly, about 15 minutes.

6. Meanwhile, fill large, shallow pot with 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil. Add baking soda (and step back, it foams up quickly) and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Reduce to a simmer; transfer three to four pretzels to water. Poach 1 minute on each side. Use slotted spoon to transfer pretzels to baking sheet. Continue until all pretzels are poached.

7. Beat egg with 1 tablespoon water. Brush pretzels with egg glaze. Sprinkle with salt. Bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool on wire rack, or eat warm. Pretzels are best when eaten the same day, but will keep at room temperature, uncovered, for two days. Do not store in covered container or they will become soggy.

* These days, I mix all of my bread doughs by hand, with a wooden spoon. I find it a fantastically easy process, and not very hard to stir by hand. No need to mix for several minutes, just a minute or so after it looks combined. To save even more dishes, I rinse out the bowl, oil it and use it for proofing the dough. And you thought making bread wasn’t simple!

The only change is that the salt needs to be adjusted for Argentina.

Kemp's Black Beans

I made this epicurious recipe for black beans.  I had the beans cooked, and couldn't find sherry at the downstairs grocery, so I subbed port.  I had to reduce the liquid, as my 3 cups water to one cup beans was too much.  Here's what I did...

  • 1 cup dried black beans
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 cup port
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

  1. Soak the beans overnight.
  2. Cook in soaking water for 45 minutes-1 hour.
  3. Saute the onion in olive oil.  Add beans and salt when the onion is soft.  Add port, soy sauce, and balsamic vinegar, to taste.  Simmer, uncovered, about five minutes.
The beans were tastier the next day, as reviewers had noted.  They weren't spectacular, however they were nice, and a good healthy meal for myself.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Melt-in-your-mouth Chocolate Cake

I made this cake to try and get the most bang for a small amount of cannabutter I had. Unfortunately, the cannabutter failed to come through (i.e. it wasn’t strong enough for the two servings we divided the half cake into), however the cake was chocolately, rich goodness, a bit like a giant brownie. As I only made a half-recipe, it ended up a bit burnt—or maybe that was due to the lack of a temperature gauge on the oven? Either way, I’d probably stop the half recipe after 15 minutes next time.

- 200g (2 sticks minus 1 Tbsp) butter
- 200g (7 oz) dark chocolate
- 200g (1 C) sugar
- 4 eggs
- a rounded tablespoon of flour

Note: like all dark chocolate cakes, this cake is best made a day ahead (or at least in the morning if you serve it for dinner).

Pre-heat your oven to 180°C (350°F). Line an 8-inch round cake pan with parchment paper (no need to if you're using a non-stick pan).

Melt together the butter with the chocolate (in a double-boiler or in the microwave slowly and for just a few seconds at a time, blending with a spoon between each pass). Transfer into a medium mixing-bowl. Add in the sugar, stir with a wooden spoon and let cool a little. Add in the eggs one by one, mixing well after each addition. Finally, add in the flour and mix well.

Pour the dough into the pan, and put into the oven to bake for 30 minutes. Turn the oven off but leave the cake inside for another ten minutes, then put the pan on a cooling rack on the counter to cool completely. Cover with plastic wrap, refrigerate, and take it out about an hour before serving.

Update 4/24/09:  I made this again, exactly as specified.  I'm not sure if it was my memory that betrayed me, or the changes, but while it was delicious, it wasn't quite as addictive as the last time.  I think part of this was due to leaving it in the fridge overnight, it was very cold, as opposed to straight-from-the-oven melty.

Burrito Night! Rice and beans

On Saturday we had a burrito party at Jen’s, and I made black beans and rice for the event. Both turned out well, the black beans went like crazy (or perhaps a double recipe wasn’t enough for 15 people). I had to sub a crazy kick-ass southwestern blend of spices for the chili powder, but otherwise it was great. (I didn’t use the chiles, as they weren’t on-hand.) The rice also turned out well, adapted from a recipe on All Recipes. It was a bit wetter than I like the first day—next time I’ll use tomato paste, or reduce the broth a bit, however everything had absorbed by the time I got to the leftovers the next day, and it was good. Also could have benefited from the addition of chiles/picante.

Mexican-style Black Beans

  • 1 T oil
  • ½ onion (about 4 ounces), finely chopped (should yield about ½ cup)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ t. ground cumin
  • ½ T chili powder
  • ½ t. dried oregano
  • 1 ½ cups cooked black beans
  • ½ cup vegetable stock/water/bean cooking liquid/14.5 oz. can of chopped tomatoes
  • salt and pepper (1/2 t and ¼ t)
  • oz. can of chopped, green chiles (optional)

Heat 2 Tbs. vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, and cook, stirring often until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for one minute longer. Stir in the cumin and chili powder and cook for 1 minute. Add the beans, the liquid/tomatoes, and chiles, if using cover, and cook until the beans are very soft and the flavors have blended, about 5 minutes. Use a fork or potato masher to coarsely mash the beans. Season with salt and pepper. You should have about 4 cups.

Mexican Rice

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup uncooked long-grain rice
  • 1 clove garlic
  • ½ t. salt
  • ½ t. ground cumin
  • ¼ c. chopped onion
  • ½ c. tomato sauce
  • 2 c. broth

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and sauté onion and garlic. Add rice. Cook, stirring constantly, until puffed and golden. While rice is cooking, sprinkle with salt and cumin. Stir in tomato sauce and broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Helados Ferruccio Soppelsa (Mendoza)

Various locations throughout the city.

Of course, what would a trip in Argentina be, without sampling the local ice cream craze? Ferruccio Soppelsa was the place here. They had a special Syrah gelato, which Dresden tried and let me sample--an odd taste combination, but she said it grew on you, and she loved it after a minute. I had a chocolate with brownie chunks and lemon ice cream. The lemon was great and VERY lemony, not what I was thinking, but still, they did it well. The chocolate was fabulous, as only chocolate can be. Two thumbs up.

Friday, April 10, 2009

El Palenque (Mendoza)

Arístides Villanueva 287

Another Mendoza hotspot, Dresden and I arrived here a bit early, but the patio was already packed. Their claim-to-fame is apparently the penguin-shaped pitchers which are used to serve sangria and other libations.

The prices were moderate. I went with a pizza with arugula and lemon juice, which was tasty (and very lemony). I got a kick out of the name of the pizza--El Gaucho, as it seems about as un-cowboy-friendly as possible. However, they had an American pizza, which was simply mozzarella and olives, and about as Argentine as I can imagine.

Dresden ordered a simple Caesar salad, which she said tasted overly-fishy. The sangria was tasty, but with no fruit and probably very little alcohol.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Mercado Central (Mendoza)

Las Heras and Patricias Mendocinas

While not exactly a restaurant, I ate a couple meals here, as it's a cheap place to grab quick food. I first bought a couple slices at the de un Rincón de La Boca stand, which reputedly has the best pizza in Mendoza. I found it rather average. There was a flavorful drizzle of oil on top of the pizza, however the crust was fairly basic, if not an odd mix between the thick crust, french-bready Argentine dough, and the regular wood-fired dough.

The next day, I was ravenous at that sticky 6-o'clock hour. Still hours before dinner, but enough past lunch that no one is eating a real meal, so I stopped by the mercado again, this time for empanadas. There was a good selection of basic vegetarian empanadas--I went for the choclo and olive and cheese options. Then, I sent the choclo back, as it appeared to have fish or chicken in it.

The girl at the counter promptly brought it back to me, promising it was only corn and seasonings. Dubiously, I gave it a try, and after all, I believe she was probably right. However, I can't explain what gave it the appearance. The filling was tasty.

However, with both pies, the pastry got in the way. It was too flakey--felt like it'd be better suited to a dessert pastry than the heavier, savory fillings it contained. It probably shouldn't have been so distracting, but it was. Yet, I left with my belly ready to withold the dinner-wait.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Montecatini (Mendoza)

General Paz 370

The Lonely Planet says, "For over 40 years Montecatini has been dishing out some of the city{s finest pasta, handmade by the same chefs for nearly as long. The dated but classic Godfather atmosphere and side-street location add to the appeal." friends went and recommended it. It looked a little classy for a lunch spot, but I was starving, having just gotten off a 17 hour bus ride from La Plata, and decided to do my thing there. Service was excellent. There were very few vegetarian choices, but I went with the Spinach fettucini with mushrooms. I had a choice of a white or red (tomato) sauce, and went with the red, because I felt like I needed something a bit lighter and healthier, although it seemed to be a bit oily (re: tasty), so I'm not sure I accomplished my mission. I'd say the combination definitely was meant for a cream sauce.

Given that, the pasta was excellent, as was the tomato sauce. I finished it, although I really didn't need to. Bread was served with butter--always a treat here! And I finished things off with an espresso, hoping to find drive to continue the afternoon, but the caffeine boost was unfortunately ineffective.

Monday, April 6, 2009


On 10 and diag. 74, across from La Trattoria

We came here for the Last Supper--Mary Andrew's going away dinner, before I left for Mendoza, and she left for the US, forever.

The menu has a superficial American twist--like Fridays, or Appleby's, your eye is immediately drawn to the American Pizza, the nachos, or the American burger. However, closer inspection reveals that the nachos come with --, the American pizza has egg on it, and well...I probably should have ordered the Greek Pizza with a larger grain of salt.

But it said "goat cheese," and well...what more could I ask for? Pickles? Well, yeah, it also had pickles. Not the greek combination I was hoping for, and nothing to knock my socks off, but an interesting experience, for an okay price.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Sundried Tomato Stuffed Mushrooms

For the Despedida of Mary Andrews, I made a Spanish Tortilla and these stuffed mushrooms. Regarding the recipe--it made enough stuffing to fill over 25 mushrooms, and still have a lot leftover (I just ran out of stuffing).

The stuffing is tasty, although I'm not sure it blends well with the mushroom--it's a little light for the heavy, earthy mushroom. I may use the rest to stuff a zapallito, although I think the breadcrumbs may be better suited to tomatoes--with something to replace the sun-dried tomatoes...but then it really isn't the same recipe, is it?

Either way, they were eaten up, with no complaints. =)

Mushrooms Stuffed with Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Adapted from Gourmet, March 1996

1/2 ounce dried tomatoes (about 5, not packed in oil)
2 tablespoons olive oil
18 white mushrooms, stems pulled out and chopped fine and caps reserved
1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup fine dry bread crumbs
1 large egg yolk, beaten lightly
1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves, washed well, spun dry, and minced
1/2 teaspoon dried basil, crumbled
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan

Preheat oven to 400°F.

In a small bowl soak tomatoes in hot water to cover 5 minutes. Reserving 1 tablespoon soaking liquid, drain tomatoes well and chop fine. (Skip this step if using oil-packed tomatoes.)

Lay mushroom caps, stems removed, face down on baking sheet either lightly sprayed with cooking spray or parchment paper. Bake them approximately 10 minutes, or until their liquid puddles underneath. Remove from the oven. Carefully pour off liquid that has gathered in the bottom of the pan, and then again, carefully, turn mushroom caps over so they are ready to be filled.

In a small skillet heat oil over moderate heat until hot but not smoking and cook chopped mushrooms stems, shallots and garlic, stirring until shallots are softened. In a bowl stir together mushrooms mixture, bread crumbs, tomatoes, reserved soaking liquid, yolk, parsley, basil, and salt and pepper to taste. Mound stuffing in reserved mushroom caps and arrange caps in a lightly greased shallow baking dish, or the same parchment-lined pan you’ve roasted your mushrooms in. Sprinkle mushrooms with Parmesan and bake in middle of oven 15 minutes.

Makes 18 hors d’oeuvres.

Based on the reviews, some ideas for next time: Cook in white wine, add more tomatoes.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Machu Picchu

Jessie was having a going away party, and chose the Peruvian restaurant in Plaza Italia. I had passed it before, and noted the range of pastas and pizzas offered--not particularly Peruvian by any means.

However, they did offer ceviche and a potato dish with cheese sauce that sounded familiar. Unfortunately, the potatoes were the only Peruvian vegetarian option, and I'd had something similar for lunch, so I went for the pizza and a pisco sour. I ordered the pisco sour shortly after arriving. Most of our party was VERY late, so 45 minutes later, when we were ready to order, I was still waiting for my drink. The waitress passed by several times to confirm I still wanted it (and to see if we were planning to order food). Finally, the drink came, and we waited for her to return to take our order.

And waited. She arrived, at last, and the food followed shortly after. Unfortunately, the rest of the group, who had ordered drinks with their food were left waiting. My pizza, while not inedible (can pizza be inedible?!) was the least impressive I can think of. Another cheese bread, with a very slight layer of cheese that seemed nothing like mozzarella, although that's what the menu had claimed. However, I can't say the food was bad, as all was eagerly eaten, with nearly nothing left over. Most of the drinks came about 10 minutes after the food; however some followed 20 minutes after we had finished eating. Each time, the waitress passed frequently, acknowledging that we had ordered a drink, and it was coming, with no acknowledgement of the ridiculous delay.

As far as the pisco sour, it was tasty, light on pisco and sweet. Perhaps a good summary of the restaurant? Short on substance, with a great, light attitude.