Wednesday, December 30, 2009

It´s Complicated (not the movie?)

"So how's it going down there in Argentina?," I often get asked. "Do you like it it?" I don´t have a simple answer. We have a complicated relationship, Argentina and me. And the last couple of weeks of the year, before going back to my family in Minnesota for my "summer" vacation really brought to the forefront all of those mushed-up feelings.

Exhibit A: sitting in one of the last classes of the year, the loveliest old man delivered one of the best lectures of the program so far, expounding on social inclusion and the attempt at providing equal health care for all. He taught the class with such reassuring ease, and lyrical, story-filled narration, and compassion, and with the exception of one misogynist joke he made (after warning us that it was coming) that was so predictable to the point of being rendered innocuous, I was ready to take him home to be my very own healthcare-mentor grandpa. And then, at the very end of the class, he says aloud to the class, referring to a woman sitting in the front row, “it was really hard keeping my gaze up because she has such nice legs. It's like one time a friend of mine said to a woman, 'What nice legs you have.' 'Thank you,' she said. 'So what time do they open?'”

Yeah, we were all pretty confused, too. It was one of the least necessary comments ever. Thankfully my classmates, who are mostly Argentine, were horrified as well, though they weren't quite as shocked as the other gringo and I were.

But it's summer in Buenos Aires, meaning that everyone is showing their legs, not to mention sunbathing in bikinis in the parks in the middle of the city. My friend Carolina and I went to see that embarassing movie that no one else is seeing, which I certainly don´t regret although I liked the first one better. And Jacob got way more attractive. And I think people are taking it a bit far when they see domestic violence in werewolf behavior...sometimes a werewolf is just a werewolf, dearheart. The most disturbing thing about the movie for me was the commercial that was played beforehand. It was kind of like the comment in class-- just so unnecessary.
I like spending my summers lying in the sun on friends´ patios instead of being in some bizarre competition with them, and eating chocolate tarts, as we did the other day when my other friend who happens to also be named Carolina had her birthday and there were not one but two basically pure chocolate tarts, an Argentinean one and an American one. And beer and wine and aguardiente. And class in the morning, with my confusing professors.

Chocolate Truffle Tart
Adapted from Tartelette

For the chocolate crust:
1 stick (113 g.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (60 g.) unsifted powdered sugar (I used granulated sugar mixed with a tiny bit of cornstarch because that´s what I had, and it worked just fine, but I imagine the texture would be finer with the powdered sugar)
3 egg yolks
pinch of salt
1 ¼ c. all purpose flour
1/4 cup (20 g.) unsweetened cocoa powder

In a mixer, whip together the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks and pinch of salt and mix until incorporated. Add the three different flours and cocoa pwder and mix briefly. Dump the whole mixture onto a lightly floured (use more flour) board and gather the dough into a smooth ball. Do not work the dough while in the mixer or it will toughen it up. Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.
Preheat oven to 350F and position a rack in the center.
When the dough is nice and cold, roll it out on a lightly floured board or in between two sheets of plastic so that it is big enough to fit into a 9-inch spring form pan and go 3/4 of the way up the sides. Use your fingers to distribute the dough evenly on the bottom and up the sides, if it tears just patch it up, but don´t overwork the dough and reroll it. Prick the dough with a fork and parbake it for 10 minutes. Take the tart out of the oven but keep the oven at 350F.

For the chocolate truffle filling:
8 ounces (240 g.) bittersweet chocolate
12 tablespoons (170 g.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 (50 g.) cup sugar
1/4 cup (60 ml) strong brewed coffee
4 large eggs

Place the chocolate in a medium bowl. In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, bring the butter, sugar, and coffee together to a boil over medium. Pour the mixture over the chocolate and leave it undisturbed for 2-3 minutes. Gently whisk until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time whisking quickly until the mixture is smooth. Pour the batter into the tart shell and bake for 10-15 minutes, rotating the tart halfway through the baking (most ovens have a hotter side), until the filling looks just set.
Let cool completely. To finish the tart, whip 1 cup (200 ml)- taste it while you´re whipping it to gauge how sweet you like it. The chocolate in the tart is not particularly sweet, and I like the tart to stay not very sweet, but it´s a question of personal taste and custom. Whip the cream until you have soft peaks (don´t overwhip it), then spread the cream over the cooled tart. It´s great with a cup of strong coffee. I like the tart best on the first day but it will keep fairly well in the fridge, lightly covered, for a couple of days.

Tarta de Chocolate
Adaptado de Tartelette

Para la masa de chocolate:
113 g. de mantequilla, a temperatura ambiente
una media taza (60 g.) de azucar impalpable, sin tamizar
3 yemas
una pizquita de sal
1 ¼ taza de harina de trigo comun (tipo 000)
1/4 cup (20 g.) cacao amargo en polvo (sin azucar)

Bate la mantequilla y el azucar juntos hasta que la mezcla este liviana y esponjosa. Echa las yemas y la sal y mezclala hasta que este incorporado. Tamiza la harina y el cacao juntos sobre el bol y mezcla brevemente. Echa toda la mezcla a una superficie aharinada ligeramente y junta la masa en una bola suave. Si estabas usando una maquina antes ya no la uses en este paso porque hara que la masa se endurezca. Aplana la masa en un disco, envuelvela en plastico, y dejala reposar en la heladera durante una hora.
Precalienta el horno a 180 C y pone la rejilla en el medio.
Cuando la masa este bien fria, estirala sobre una superficie aharinada o entre dos superficies de plastico para que este lo suficientemente grande y quepa en un molde desmontable de 22 cm y subir los lados. Utiliza los dedos para distribuir la masa uniformemente en el fondo y los lados, y si se rompe remiendala con los dedos, pero no vuelvas a estirarla para que no se ponga dura. Pincha la masa con un tenedor y horneala por 10 minutos. Sacala del horno pero deja el horno prendido.

Para el relleno de chocolate:
240 g. de chocolate amargo (no sin azucar-- una barrita de chocolate amargo, de entre 60-70% solidos de cacao funciona bien)
170 g. de mantequilla, a temperatura ambiental
50 g. (1/4 taza) de azucar
1/4 taza de cafe bien fuerte
4 huevos

Coloca el chocolate en un bol. En una olla mediana, calienta la mantequilla, el azucar, y el cafe con fuego mediano hasta que hierva. Echa la mezcla al chocolate en el bol y dejala sin revolver durante 2 o 3 minutos. Batela hasta que este suave. Añade los huevos, uno a la vez, revolviendo rapidamente para que los huevos no cuajen. Cuando la mezcla este uniforme, echala en la tarta y horneala durante 10 o 15 minutos, hasta que el relleno se vea justo cuajado.
Dejala enfriar completamente.
Para terminar la tarta, bate una taza (200 ml) de crema de leche con un par de cucharadas de azucar y una cucharita de vanilla-- pruebala mientras estas batiendola para evaluar si quieres echarle mas azucar. El chocolate en la tarta no es muy dulce, y a mi me gusta que este postre no quede tan dulce, pero es una cuestion de gusto personal. Bate la crema hasta que tengas picos blandos- al punto que levantes el batidor y dejes un pico que se caiga un poco (no la bates demasiado), despues echa la crema encima de la tarta (ya fria) y untala para que cubra toda la superficie. Es buenisimo con un pocillo de cafe bien fuerte. Me gusta mas la tarta el primer dia pero dura bastante bien uno dias, tapada, en la heladera.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

San Francisco Love

Quite a bit of time has passed since I last wrote...and of course there have been a million things I should have written about and didn´t (what part of writing stuff down so I can remember it later do I not understand?) Felipe´s mom, also known as the lovely Doña Lucy, came to visit and stayed with us for 3 weeks, and the craziness of the end of the year has already been manifest in its full glory of goodbye parties, holiday get-togethers, frantic packing and end of the semester assignments. And it´s Hannukah and I barely realized it. I need to fry something in olive oil, like, right now. Or I could show you where we took Felipe`s conservative Christian mother:

Even being from San Francisco, I honestly have to say I was not prepared for the amount of naked transvestites I saw at the Buenos Aires Gay Pride Parade. There were more fake boobs and butts there than there are on a Colombian beach, which is a statement I never thought I would be able to make.

I also made a very strange discovery. Doña Lucy had asked me to teach her how to make whole wheat bread, and though she initially wanted it with chopped dried figs, prunes were all that the store had. (Colombians are big proponents of the deep fryer, not so much of the oven. Now that I think of it I think I should be exempt from Hannukah frying this year given all the frying we did when she was here.) I adapted a recipe for buckwheat-raisin bread that I love, replacing the raisins with prunes, and rye flour for the buckwheat, and when all was said and done, I took a bite...and was blasted back to San Francisco, circa 1989 (which would make me 4), blue stroller and all, when my mom used to give us whole wheat rolls with dried fruit and nuts. I don´t know where she bought them, and I haven´t had anything like them since, but I remember loving them, and in the moment I tried this bread I realized that it was the prunes that gave those little breads their distinctive flavor.

San Francisco Hippy Bread
adapted from Deborah Madison

The Sponge
1 1/4 c. warm water
1 Tbsp. active dry yeast
1 1/3 c. bread or whole wheat flour
1/2 c. dry milk (or replace some of the warm water with an equal measure of warm milk)
3-4 Tbsp. molasses, honey, or a mixture (I use half and half blackstrap molasses and honey because I find the molasses too strong by itself but I like its flavor)

Mix everything together in a big bowl until smooth, then cover and set in a warm place for an hour, or two if your kitchen doesn´t have a warm place. You want it to be risen and bubbly when you finally stir it down for the next step.

The Bread
2 Tbsp. oil or melted butter
1 3/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. chopped prunes
1 c. walnuts, optional
1 c. rye flour
1-1 1/2 c. whole wheat or white flour
1 Tbsp. butter, optional

Stir down the sponge and add the oil, salt, prunes, walnuts, and rye flour. Add wheat flour until the dough clears the sides of the bowl, then turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead until resilient, 5-10 minutes. You will probably need to add a bit of flour as you go as the prunes make everything a bit sticky; you don't want a super dry dough though, just add enough so that the dough is workable. Oil a bowl, form the dough into a ball, place in the oiled bowl and then turn it over so the top is lightly coated with oil. Cover the bowl and leave it to rise until it's doubled, 1-2 hours.
Lightly oil a 9 x 5 in. loaf pan. Gently deflate the dough, form it into a flat rectangle, and roll it up tightly so that it fits lengthwise into the loaf pan. Pinch the dough together to seal it and place it seal side down into the loaf pan. Cover loosely and let rise again until doubled, 40 min.- 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 375 F, and once the dough is risen bake the loaf for 45-55 minutes, until hollow-sounding when tapped. At this point you can brush the top with the tablespoon of butter, it gives the whole loaf a buttery taste that I love but that some people (hippy mothers die hard) would not approve of. Let cool before slicing...we're going to pretend that this happens, and that Felipe doesn't always want to immediately eat any and all warm bread in his vicinity. It is better though, as it is with almost all breads, to let it cool all the way down before cutting into it.

Pan Hipi de San Francisco
adaptado de Deborah Madison

La Esponja
1 1/4 taza de agua tíbia
una cucharada de levadura seca
1 1/3 taza harina de pan o integral (de trigo)
1/2 taza de leche en polvo (o reemplaza parte del agua tibia con la misma cantidad de leche tibia)
3-4 cucharadas de melaza, miel, o una mezcla (yo uso mitad miel de purga y mitad miel porque me gusta la melaza pero sola me parece que da un sabor demasiado fuerte)

Mezcla todo en un bol grande hasta que este bien incorporado, tapalo y dejalo en un lugar calientico por una hora, o dos si tu cocina no tiene un lugar calientico. Quieres que este con burbujitas y que haya crecido cuando ya lo vayas a usar en el siguiente paso.

El Pan
2 cucharadas de aceite o mantequilla derretida
1 3/4 cucharita de sal
una taza y media de ciruelas secas, picadas
una taza de nueces, opcional
una taza de harina de centeno
1-1 1/2 taza de harina de trigo integral o blanco
una cucharada de mantequilla, opcional

Revuelve la esponja y echale el aceite, la sal, las ciruelas, las nueces, y la harina de centeno. Añade la harina de trigo hasta que la masa se despegue de los lados del bol, despues echala a una superficie enharinada, y amasala hasta que este elastica, de 5 a 10 minutos. Es probable que vas a necesitar echar mas harina poco a poco mientras estas amasando porque las ciruelas hacen todo un poco pegajoso, pero echale por poquitos ya que tampoco quieres una masa muy seca, solo que se pueda trabajar con ella. Aceita un bol, haz una bolita con la masa, colocala en el bol y volteala para que la superficie este cubierta ligeramente con aceite. Tapa el bol y dejala reposar hasta que doble su tamaño, 1-2 horas.
Aceita ligeramente un molde de 22 x 12 cm. Desinfla la masa, y forma un rectangulo plano y ruedala apretadamente para que quepa a lo largo en el molde. Pellizca la masa para cerrarla y colocala con el cieere abajo en el molde. Tapala sin apretar y dejala crecer otra vez hasta que doble, 40 min.- 1 hora. Precalienta el horno a 180 C, y cuando la masa ya haya crecido horneala por 45-55 minutos, hasta que el pan suene vacío si le das un golpecito. En este momento puedes rozar la parte de arriba del pan con mantequilla, le da un sabor de mantequilla que a mi me encanta pero que a algunas (las mamas hipis quizas) no les gustaria. Dejalo enfriar antes de cortarlo...vamos a fingir que eso pasa y que no es que Felipe siempre quiere comer cualquier pan caliente que haya en sus inmediaciones. Igual es mejor, como con casi todos tipos de pan, dejarlo enfriar antes de cortarlo.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Y En Eso, Llegó El Verano

Two days ago I was still wearing fleece, and now my back is stuck to the wall because of the humidity, and my hair is just lovely. The side benefit of having all the doors open is that I can hear my neighbors screaming even louder than usual. I think there is a general difference in speaking volume in cultural terms-- not only between American and Latinos but between Argentines and the rest of Latin America. Our next-door neighbors in particular really seem to like to share their fights with the rest of the building, you know, make sure that we all know that los hijos son tuyos y me tienes que ayudar! (the children are yours and you need to help me!) As Felipe says, if a couple were fighting like that in Colombia (or I would assume in the states), they would be weeks away from a separation. Here no one seems to think much of it, but they make sure to tell Felipe that it´s not their fault that he has to practice, and why doesn´t he find somewhere else to rehearse.

In general, people seem to have shorter fuses here-- and they easily change from being very warm and friendly to extremely pissy, which can make situations very difficult to read. When we first moved into this apartment, the owner promised us that a refrigerator and dresser were going to arrive later in the week, and that she would open a door bolted shut between to of the rooms (something particularly helpful in wintertime, so you don´t have to go outside to get from room to room.) Weeks and weeks went by without a sign, and I finally decided to say something to her (you might thing it would make sense for the South Americans around here to take care of any confrontations, be it with landlords or cockroaches, but it´s definitely la gringa who does both). Well, to say she took it badly would be an understatement, though she did open the door for us, and promptly stormed out. I thought she was never going to talk to me again, and resigned myself to an uncomfortable relationship. But since that day, she has been nothing but sweet, and yesterday she told us she would be our garante if we needed one. In Argentina you can´t just go out and rent a normal apartment, you need a garantia, which is basically when someone puts their house up as collateral if you fail to comply with the rent contract. This makes it almost impossible for foreigners to rent under normal, that is to say inexpensive, conditions, and makes her offer an incredibly generous one.

I´ve heard Argentines give the bipolar weather here as explanation for this phenomenon more than once. I have no idea, but finally after all the heat and humidity the rain finally came, big warm drops, and we got into the cab and the cabdriver was singing Italian opera, and when we got to the milonga it was in one of those huge old houses with high ceilings and beautiful molding and red light and mirrors, and I was so delighted to be exactly where I was. Who´s bipolar now, I ask you?

And as far as not knowing your own brain goes, all I know is that I need to re-remind myself of the same things all the time.

Like that I really need to bring my camera with me more often, because how else am I going to remember that the girl in front of me waiting for the bus was wearing black stretch pants with white skeleton hands screen printed on to look like they were grabbing her butt?

And why do I cook things that I absolutely love and then forget about them for two years? Part of the purpose of this blog is so that doesn´t happen as much.

Therefore, to remind myself of how utterly pleased I was this week to be eating it, I´m putting my recipe for oriza, a wheat berry-sweet potato oven-baked dish that I got out of a library book years ago- I think it´s supposed to be Morrocan-Jewish- and it´s one of those things that I always want to make again immediately after it runs out the first time. Now I just need to recreate those skeleton pants...


adapted from Kitty Morse

2 Tbsp. olive oil

2 big onions, finely diced

1 tsp. sweet Hungarian paprika

¾ c wheat berries, rinsed

2 cups water

1 tsp. salt

1 small sweet potato or batata, peeled and cut into ½ in. cubes

4 shallots, peeled (or use more garlic cloves)

4 garlic cloves, unpeeled

Preheat the oven to 325. Heat the oil in a cast-iron or other ovenproof skillet on med-high heat. Add onions and paprika and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft and have started to carmelize just a bit. Add wheat berries and cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes. Add water, sweet potato, shallots and garlic. Seal pan with foil and lid. Bake until berries are tender but chewy and, 2-3 hours. The garlic cloves will be squishy and the pulp comes out easily, so squish them with a fork or your fingers and throw out the husks, leaving the sweet garlic mush in pockets among the wheat berries.

Oriza es un plato judio-marrueco de trigo entero y papa dulce (o batata) que se cocina lentamente al horno.


adaptado de Kitty Morse

2 cucharadas de aceite de oliva

2 cebollas grandes, picadas chiquitas

una cucharita de pimentón

¾ de taza de granos de trigo entero, lavados

2 tazas de agua

una cucharita de sal

una batata chiquita, peleada y picada en cubitos de 1 cm.

4 ecshalotes, peleados (o usa mas dientes de ajo)

4 dientes de ajo, no peleados

Precalienta el horno a 160 º. Calienta el aceite en una sartén de hierro fundido u otra que se pueda meter al horno (que no tenga manga de plástico) al fuego medio-alto. Echa las cebollas y el pimentón y cocínalos, revolviendo cada tanto, hasta que se ablanden las cebollas y empiecen a caramelizar un poquito. Añade el trigo y sigue cocinándolo, revolviendo, por 2 o 3 minutes. Echa las 2 tazas de agua, la batata, los eschalotes, y el ajo. Cierra el pan con papel de aluminio y con la tapa encima. Hornea hasta que los granos estén tiernos pero al dente, 2-3 horas. Los dientes de ají estarán blandos y la pulpa saldrá fácilmente, así que apretales con un tenedor o los dedos y bota las cascaras, dejando pedazos de pulpa entre los granos.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Pure Spider Oreos!

I used to get asked a lot why I moved down here, and the (simplistic) response of "to learn Spanish" always received a similar response, no matter whether I was talking with Argentines or other native Spanish-speaking foreigners: "but we/they speak terrible Spanish here!" I don't know about good/bad Spanish, I'm not such a big fan of talking about "purity" of language (nor of much else, though with drugs and the food supply I suppose it can be pretty important. I've always found the FDA's requirements of "no more than 8 spider parts per pound" a bit off-putting), and I get a little annoyed when Argentines tell me that British English is the "pure" form of English, which they all supposedly study here in school but that somehow produces an accent that sounds nothing like a British one. It is true, however, that in their own language Argentines use a ridiculous amount of lunfardo (slang), much taken from Italian because of the quantity of Italians that have immigrated here over the past century. There also seems to be a propensity for using words not heard in the Spanish-speaking world outside of Argentina. A factura is a pastry, although the word factura typically means invoice (Argentines use it for both...can you fax me the croissant for my croissants? Great thanks.) And although businesses called panaderias and lavaderias are found all throughout Latin America, the factureria, a place that makes facturas, is a distinctly Argentine invention, not to be outdone by the paraguerias (umbrella stores), colchonerias (mattress stores), and cuchillerias (knive-selling stores).

And certain people around here turned 30, though I don´t even know how it´s possible that I know people that old. I thought that by the time you were thirty you were supposed to have stuff more or less figured out with, I don´t know, a house and stuff (I think I also thought that 25 was the ideal time to have kids? Let´s just say, at least in my case, umm...) On a bit of a heavier note, sometimes I see people here in the hospitals who are, you know, 26, with 6 kids, and I cannot even begin to imagine it (and I´m seeing them in the hospital because they have HIV...)

But back to birthdays, a cake had to be made, and as the birthday person´s favorite two desserts seem to be cheesecake and brownies, it was not a very difficult thought process to decide to combine the two (nor was it original-- I had seen this ridiculous invention here).

And although it looks like a lot of work, it actually wasn't-- I hardly planned it well, and was rushing to get to a workshop in Varela, a township an hour and a half outside of the city (an hour and a half in bus, but worlds away-- the first time I went out there I asked the woman sitting next to me if she could tell me where to get off, and because I was afraid I would pronounce the name wrong I showed her the address-- to which she responded that she couldn't read. Oops. Slap myself on the forehead.)

At any rate, this cake is wonderful and the perfect kind of ridiculous for a birthday, and it was declared "the best cake I've ever eaten in my life," by Chako [really named Francisco, because he grew up in Chaco (don't even ask about the spelling inconsistency), a province in Northeastearn Argentina.] And it's not a lot of work, though I would definitely make the brownies the days before and chill them in the fridge before cutting them. And I would not substitute the oreos in the crust for anything else, I once considered using Argentine brand oreo-cookie like things, and I know some people like using chocolate wafers or teddy grams, but I really don't find the oreos to be substitutable here. And I definitely don´t find the rainbow birthday candles substitutable.

Brownie-Oreo Ridiculous Cheesecake

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

For the Brownies:

2.5 oz. (70 gr.) unsweetened chocolate

6 Tbsp. (which is 3 oz. or 85 gr.) butter

scant cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup flour

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 9-inch square baking pan with foil, with ends of foil extending over sides of pan. Grease foil.

Place the butter and chocolate together in a heat-safe bowl over a pan of simmering water (bain-marie; you want the water level fairly low so it doesn't touch the bowl above), stirring occasionally. When the chocolate is almost all the way melted, remove the bowl from over the pan and continue stirring until chocolate is completely melted. Stir in sugar. Blend in eggs and vanilla. Add flour and salt; mix well. Spread into prepared pan.

Bake 25 to 30 minute or until toothpick inserted in center comes out with fudgy crumbs. (Don´t overbake.) Cool in pan on wire rack. Remove brownies from pan, using foil handles.

Cool brownies, ideally in the fridge over night (easier to cut that way), then cut them into 3/4- to 1-inch squares for use in the cheesecake. Add cubes to cake batter as directed below.

For the Oreo Crust:

12 oz. crushed oreos [buzz them in a food processor briefly, leaving lots of chunky bits, or stick the oreos in a ziplock bag and, using a rolling pin, take out all of your aggression at the fact that this country somehow can´t have a functioning coin system on those ill-fated cookies. Or use wine bottle (try not to break it by banging too hard on the counter)..]

1/2 c unsalted butter (1 stick, which is 8 Tbsp, or 4oz, or 113 gr.), melted

1/2 cup granulated sugar

small pinch salt

Stir everything together and, using your fingers, press the mixture into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-in springform pan. It won't be perfect and the sides will crumble a bit, just press the fallen bits in again and try to more or less evenly distribute the mass. Fill right away or chill up to 2 hours.

For the Cheesecake:

21 oz. (600 gr.) cream cheese, softened

4 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup granulated sugar

2 cups brownie cubes (from recipe above)

Make crumb crust as directed above. Preheat oven to 350°F.

Make the filling-- beat cream cheese with an electric mixer until smooth and add eggs, 1 at a time, then vanilla and sugar, beating on low speed until each ingredient is incorporated and scraping down bowl between additions.

Fold brownie cubes in very gently and pour mixture into prepared pan. Pour filling into crust and bake in middle of oven 45 minutes, or until cake is set 3 inches from edge but center is still slightly wobbly when pan is gently shaken. Put in the fridge to cool at least 4 hours.

When completely cool, top with chocolate ganache:

For the Ganache:

3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

2 ounces butter

1/4 cup heavy cream

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon sugar

Grind the chocolate into powder in the food processor, scald the butter and cream in a saucepan (or in a Pyrex cup in the microwave). With the machine running, pour the hot cream/butter mixture slowly through the feed tube onto the chocolate. Blend until completely smooth, stopping machine to scrape down sides once or twice. Add the extract and sugar and process until smooth. Spread over cheesecake while ganache is still warm. Chill until ready to serve.

Torta Ridicula de Brownie-Oreo Cheesecake

Adaptado de Smitten Kitchen

Para los Brownies:

70 gr. chocolate amargo (sin azucar)

85 gr. mantequilla

una tazita de azucar

2 huevos

1/2 cucharita de vanilla

1/4 cucharita de sal

1/2 taza de harina

Precalienta el horno a 180°C. Cubre un molde de 22 cm. con papel aluminio, extendiendolo encima de los lados del molde. Amantecar con mantequilla el papel aluminio.

Coloca la mantequilla y el chocolate en un bol seguro contra el calor en un baño maria (no quieres que el agua alcance el bol arriba asi que no pongas tanta agua abajo), revolviendo de vez en cuando. Cuando el chocolate este casi derretido, quita el bol del baño maria y revuelve el chocolate hasta que este completamente derretido. Echa el azucar y revuelvelo bien. Añade los huevos y la vanilla y revuelve. Echa la harina y sal, mezcalo bien. Unta la masa en el molde preparado.

Hornea por 25 a 30 minutos o hasta que metiendo un cuchillo en el centro salga con migas mojadas. (No los hornees demasiado.) Dejalos enfriar, despues sacalos del molde usando el papel aluminio.

Enfria los brownies, es una buena idea dejarlos en la heladera por la noche (ya que sera mas fácil cortarlos), despues picarlos en pedacitos de 2 cm. Echalos a la masa del cheesecake.

Para la Masa de Oreo: 

300 gr. (3 paqueticos, si comes una o dos de las galleticas..) oreos aplastadas [muelelas en la procesadora brevemente, dejando muchos pedazos grandecitos, o coloca las oreos en una bolsa de plastico y, usando un rodillo, saca toda tu rabia por el hecho que la ciudad no puede tener un sistema de monedas que funciona y usala contra las pobres galleticas. O usa una botella de vino (trata de evitar quebrarla por pegarle demasiado duro al superficie)...]

1/2 taza (113 gr.) de mantequilla, derretida

1/2 taza de azucar blanca

una pizquita de sal

Mezcla todo junto y, usando los dedos, presiona la mezcla hacia el fondo y los lados de un molde desmontable de 22 cm. No va a estar perfecto y los lados van a caer un poquito, solo presiona los pedazitos otra vez y trata de crear una distribucion nivelada. Llenala con la masa de cheesecake inmediatamente o dejala en la heladera hasta 2 horas antes de llenarla.

Para el Cheesecake:

600 gr. queso crema (yo uso Finlandia)

4 huevos grandecitos

una cucharita de vanilla

una tasa de azucar

2 tazas de cubitos de brownie (desde la receta arriba)

Haz la masa de oreo. Precalienta el horno a 180°C.

Haz el relleno de cheesecake: Bate el queso crema hasta que este suave y incorpora los huevos, uno por uno, y despues la vanilla y el azucar. Batelo bien pero trata de no incorporar tanto aire a la mezcla asi que si estas usando una batidora usalo a velocidad baja.

Añade los cubitos del brownie (si quieres que los pedazitos se quedan intactos, incorporalos muy suavemente), y echa la mezcla a la masa de oreo. Hornea la torta por 45 minutos, o hasta que este cuajada alrededor pero todavia se mueve en el centro. Dejala enfriar en la heladera por lo menos 4 horas.

Cuando este completamente enfria, echa la salsa de chocolate encima:

Para la salsa de chocolate:

85 gr. chocolate semi-amargo, picado

50 gr. mantequilla

1/4 tasa de crema de leche

1/2 cucharita de vanilla

una cuchara de azucar

Calienta la crema de leche y la mantequilla en una olla chiquita. Cuando esten a punto de hervir, echalas a una batidora donde ya hayas colocado el chocolate y el azucar. Batela hasta que este completemente suave, y despues echa la vanilla y batela otra vez. Por otro lado, si tienes una batidora de inmersion puedes hacer esto pero quitando la olla del fuego despues de calentar la mantequilla y la leche, echando el chocolate y el azucar alli, y batiendola alli en la olla hasta que este suave. Despues echa la vanilla y batela otra vez. Cuando la salsa este tibia pero no fria echala encima de la torta cuando esta ya este fria. Devuelvela a la heladera otro ratico, hasta cuando la vayas a servir.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

To Last Me 'Til Next Year

There have been lots of passing of epochs lately here, whether formally marked, acknowledged, or not. September 21 was the first day of spring here, which is actually fully celebrated (it`s also el dia del estudiante, so no one has class, and the parks are filled, and I mean filled, with kids). Rosh Hashanah came and went, and now Yom Kippur. One of the common occurrences being a foreign student (and having foreign student friends) is that there tends to be a lot of mobility, there´s always someone going back to their home country, or arriving anew, or someone's cousin´s friend just moved here etc...A Colombian friend, a pianist, is returning indefinitely to Colombia after not having been home in almost 2 years, and Saturday night there was a surprise goodbye party involving lots of beer and Colombian folk music played with upright piano and double bass (not a very typical combination, but you do what you can.) After a drizzly windy 5 o'clock in the morning return journey (read: freezing) certain people didn´t get out of bed until 3:30 in the afternoon (the day was made, made to stay in bed) although they had invited the pianist and his lovely girlfriend over for a goodbye 3. Luckily the party didn't end until 9 in the morning [we were super flojos (wusses) for leaving at 5], so no one was exactly raring to go. In the end it turned into a very late lunch/pre-Yom Kippur dinner (for the Jew), and I ended up so full I don't think I'm going to need to eat for the next two days anyway, which I blame, oddly enough, on a lemon tart that managed to taste ridiculously of butter, though it really didn't involve anymore than any typical recipe that I would tend to make. My mom used to always make us a bunch of lasagna right before Yom Kippur, my dad would eat half (if not a full) pan, and we would all end up satisfied, that is until we returned from Kol Nidre and I would become sharply aware of the long, dark 20 hours ahead of me. But after this meal I seriously think lemon tarts, while not particulary Jewy or traditional in any way, may be the way to go.

Does this look like spring to you? Not quite, but apparently we´re getting there...on the other hand, this is one of the coolest hospital facades I´ve seen...even the barred windows look classy.

Along with the ridiculous lemon tarts, I also made some chocolate cookies that, though pretty rich tasting, go down much lighter. I love them, everyone always loves them, and they´re pretty much the easiest cookies you could possibly make-- I say this because there is no creaming of butter, which I really think sometimes is an issue, especially for those of use who don't have mixers, and there are no eggs. They also use cocoa powder, which frankly is much cheaper than melting down chocolate and mixing it with the butter, and they seem to stay chewier for longer.

Cocoa Cookies

Adapted from Orangette, adapted from Alice Medrich

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (000)

1/4 tsp. baking soda

small pinch salt

4 Tbsp. unsalted butter

2/3 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup light brown sugar (or mix 1 cup granulated sugar with 1 tsp. molasses to account for all of the sugar in the recipe)

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I´ve had some terrible experiences with cocoa powder in Argentina, mainly because it´s mostly sold in bulk so you don´t know what you´re getting beforehand. I mix a bit with equal parts sugar and a bit of water, and if it tastes kind of like dirt, well, I throw it out...not such a big fan of dirt-flavored cookies. Muddie buddies, on the other hand, I would totally go for right now...)

1/3 cup plain yogurt, preferably not low- or nonfat

1 tsp. vanilla extract

½ cup chocolate chips or chopped chocolate, I like bittersweet but I've seen chocolate toffee candy bars chopped up and thrown in to good results as well, so it's flexible...walnuts might be good too...kind of like a calmer brownie with walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (Do I always do this? No. I almost never have parchment paper. Sometimes they stick...not terribly, but they do. It's up to you whether you feel like dealing with it, and whether you want picture perfect cookies.)

Heat the butter until just melted. Add the sugars and the cocoa, and stir well to break up any lumps in the cocoa (you can sift the cocoa first to avoid this if you want.) The mixture will be somewhat thick and pasty, like wet sand. Add the yogurt and vanilla and stir to mix thoroughly. Sift the flour with the salt and baking soda into the bowl with the chocolate mixture, and stir everything together just until it´s combined. Add the chocolate chips and stir to incorporate. Drop the dough by generous tablespoons onto the prepared baking sheet. The cookies spread a bit so leave space, an inch or two, in between them. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes (rotate the sheet at 5 minutes so they cook evenly), or until the tops of the cookies have crackled slightly and look set. Transfer the sheet pan to a wire rack, and cool the cookies on the pan for 10 minutes. Transfer them to the rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough. Makes about 20 cookies.

Unas de las galletas mas faciles hacer, y a todos les encantan. No hay que preocuparse por incorporar aire a la mantequilla, y ni siquiera llevan huevo. Ademas llevan cacao, que es mucho mas barato que chocolate derretido con la mantequilla, como se hace en muchas recetas de galletas de chocolate, y parece que quedan masticables por mas tiempo.

Galleticas de Cacao

Adaptado de Orangette, adaptado de Alice Medrich

una taza de harina de trigo (tipo 000)

1/4 cucharita de bicarbinato de soda

una pizquita de sal

4 cucharadas de mantequilla

2/3 taza de azucar blanca

1/3 taza de azucar rubia (o 1/3 taza de azucar blanca mezclado con una cucharita de melao)

1/2 taza de cacao amargo (sin azucar...a ver, en Argentina he visto una diferencia de calidad y esto depende del lugar. Yo compro el cacao en las dieteticas, donde no hay marcas y lo venden suelto, asi que diria que tienes que probar el cacao, mezclalo con la misma cantidad de azucar y un poquito de agua, y si no tiene buen sabor asi, botalo...por ahi se encuentran unos que tienen saborcito de tierra...y asi sabran las galleticas)

1/3 taza de yogur natural (sin azucar, entero)

una cucharita de vanilla

½ taza de chips de chocolate o chocolate picado, a mi me gusta el chocolate semi-amargo aca pero se puede usar cualquier tipo de chocolate o pronto nueces, seria como un brownie mas suave con nueces

Precalienta el horno a 180°C. Cubre una bandeja con papel de hornear (La verdad es que no lo hago siempre...casi nunca tengo papel de hornear en casa. A veces se demasiado, pero si, pegan. Es una cuestion de molestias...¿comprar el papel, o tener galleticas pegaditas y menos perfectas?)

Calienta la mantequilla hasta que este justo derretida. Añade los azucares y el cacao, y mezclalo bien para romper grumos que esten en el cacao (puedes tamizar el cacao antes para evitar eso si quieres). La mezcla estara espesa y pastosa, como arena mojada. Echa el yogur y la vanilla y mezclalo bien. Sobre el bol que tiene la mezcla de chocolate, tamiza la harina junto con la sal y bicarbonato de soda y mezcla todo solo hasta que este combinado, no te excedas revolviendolo. Echa los chips de chocolate (o cualquier otra cosa que quieres echar ahora), y revuelve.

Coloca bolitas del tamaño de una cucharada en la bandeja preparada. Las galletas van a crecer entonces deja por lo menos 3 cm entre las bolitas. Hornealas por entre 9 y 11 minutos (voltea la bandeja a los 5 minutos para que cocinen uniformemente), o hasta que las superficies se vean un poquito rajadas y no tan humedas. Translada la bandeja a una rejilla de enfriamiento y dejalas enfriar por 10 minutos. Sacalas con una pala y transladalas a la rejilla para terminar de enfriar. Repita el proceso con el resto de la masa. Rinda alrededor de 20 galleticas.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Old Old and New Old

This year I went to two Rosh Hashanah dinners, one on Friday night, and then another one on Saturday. Both dinners were completely lovely, and the conclusion that I have come to is that el mundo es un pañuelo (the world is a handkerchief-- meaning small) -- and sometimes it feels freaking tiny. The first dinner, held at the house of the mother of my cousin Leora´s friend Lorena (they met in Israel, I met them when Leora came into town for Lorena´s wedding), was pure Ashkenazi Judaica-- challah, tongue, roast chicken, kasha, apple and honey cakes, (apples and honey), fish balls and fish loaf-- it could have been a dinner of my bubby´s, Detroit circa 1960. There was another American there (North American, sorry, as I am reminded daily we are all Americans here in the Western Hemisphere, though you know what? I´m almost always introduced by others as americana, it´s just that I´m not allowed to call myself that. Kind of like Jews and Holocaust jokes), also a friend of my cousin´s who grew up in San Francisco at 2nd and Lincoln, that is to say, 8 blocks away from me. I asked her how she likes Buenos Aires, and she said she´s having a great time, but she misses burritos. Felipe turned to me and said, "talking to her is just like talking to you." Well, I didn't come into being out of thin air. Then Lorena's mother Claudia asked me if I had plans for the second night of Rosh Hashanah, and I told her I was going to the house of the director of the foundation where I intern. Guess what? They grew up together, his wife's a famous artist, and I have to make sure she shows me around their house while I'm there because her art is everywhere and it's gorgeous.

And the house was gorgeous, in that quirky way that artists´ houses always are-- salvaged doorways and unexpected colors and strange chairs-- one side of their dining room table was occupied by an old pew from a synagogue. And there was more round challah and smoked salmon and trout and pickles and I brought an apple cake and so did another girl. And it´s true this is all happening very far away from where I grew up but I have to tell you most of the time it doesn´t feel that way, and it really didn´t feel that way this weekend.

And it often doesn´t feel that way when I´m in my house, either. I have a core set of things that I have been moving around with me since high school-- the quilt my mom made for me for my eighteenth birthday, the plaid wool blanket my dad brought from Scotland, the slowly-growing collection of scarves that litter(decorate?) the walls/unadorned surfaces...and so my rooms tend to end up looking familiar to me. And my sister, who has just recently moved into college, seems to be adopting the same tactic, with the addition of taking my old stuff I left behind. We were skyping (yes, that horrible, not a verb verb again) the other day and I saw the old buddha lamp that went with me to college, and one of my silk scarves that surreptitiously ended up in LA. She claims anything left at my parent's house is automatically up for grabs because I left them and I'm in South America. And then she complains to me that she misses her beloved bakery Rustica in Minneapolis (a more devoted employee they will never find), and she especially complains if she sees I'm baking something in the background (the wonders of technology), because although Occidental apparently has amazing savory food, it's lacking in the sweet department.

I can't say I'm totally sympathetic to her food plight-- I would kill for some good Mexican food right now, see above-- but I do understand her dessert dilemma [which I'm sure could be rectified (man how we used to laugh at that word) if she ventured to leave campus, or the Eagle Rock neighborhood where Occidental resides]...but, that's okay. We're allowed to miss these things. And though there is certainly much comfort to be found in the fact that Jews actually do things quite similarly here in the Southern Hemisphere, I miss my family a lot during these holidays. I miss going to shul (synagogue) with them, and I miss all of the cooking and general noise that accompanies all of our holiday activities. Every family has it's own rhythm for these things, I think. During Passover my sister and I make chocolate meringues. When I say "during Passover," I don't exactly mean once, or twice, or even three times over the eight's really more of a daily thing, and although the sensible person would say, why not just make a triple recipe and save yourself the work, well, they would never make it to the next day...maybe there is a saturation point for these meringues during Passover, but we´ve never reached it. They are ridiculously good, and super light, more like pieces of chocolate air that just seem to disappear, until it's time to make another batch. And I'm looking forward to next Passover, all together back at my parent's house in Minnesota, when we can make (8 batches of) them again.

Chocolate Meringues

Adapted from Pure Chocolate by Fran Bigelow

4 large egg whites

1 c. sugar

1 tbsp. plus 1 1/2 tsp. cocoa (Dutch-process or Scharffen Berger-- Scharffen Berger doesn´t make a Dutch-process cocoa because they say they prefer their cocoa unalkalized; both worked well for me)

4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

Place the rack in the middle of the oven and set the oven to 200°. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a bowl, whisk egg whites until foamy and white. Add half of the sugar and whip until stiff peaks. Sift cocoa and remaining sugar together then fold into whites. Fold in chopped chocolate.

With a pastry bag, or with a spoon and your finger, make peaks with a 1.5 in. base.

Bake 1 hour, turn off the oven, and then leave the meringues in the oven 6 hours or overnight.

Durante La Pascua Judia, nosotras hacemos estos merengues. A ver-- cuando digo durante la pascua, es decir, todos los dias, no una o dos veces durante los ocho dias...mas bien es una cosa diaria, y aunque la persona sensata diria, ¿entonces porque no triplican la receta y listo?, pues, no durarian hasta el dia pronto hay un punto de saturacion de los merengues, pero no lo hemos pasado nunca.

Merengues de Chocolate

Adaptado de Pure Chocolate por Fran Bigelow

4 claras de huevo

1 taza de azucar

1 cucharada mas 1 1/2 cucharitas de cacao alcalizado

115 g chocolate amargo (amargo pero no sin azucar, comestible) picado chiquito

Coloca la rejilla en el medio del horno y pon el horno a 100°. Cubre dos bandejas con papel de hornear.

En un bol, bate las claras hasta que esten espumosas y blancas. Añade la mitad del azucar y batelo hasta el punto de nieve. Tamiza el cacao y el resto del azucar juntos y revuelvelo muy suavemente con los huevos. Añade el chocolate picado, mezclando muy suavamente.

Con una bolsa pastelera, o simplemente aporcionandolo con una cuchara (y el dedo ayudandote sacarlo), haz bolitas sobre el papel de hornear con una base de 4 cm., terminando en picos.

Hornea una hora, apaga el horno, y deja los merengues en el horno 6 horas o por toda la noche.