Rio, I’ll Be Watching

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There are lots of opinions about the Olympics.  Good, bad, uplifting, indifferent, commercial, political . . .

“All its manic neediness, demanding attention from all corners of the globe, 24 hours a day for two weeks straight, dishing out prepackaged, overdramatized “sport” to the delight of corporate sponsors everywhere.” (http://www.sanluisobispo.com/news/local/news-columns-blogs/joetopia/article39210417.html#storylink=cpy)

The opening ceremonies with the Parade of Nations. The best athletes ALL those nations present to “wow” us in the next two weeks with their prowess of the human body, coming together on a global stage in a tenuous peace.  And a nod to ancient history in Greece with a fledgling democracy and their Olympic festivals to honor the “athletic ideal” (http://www.pe04.com/olympic/olympia/).

No matter what your views of that once-every-two-or-four-years extravaganza, the Olympics, you should have a cocktail, right?

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I’m going with the best-known Brazilian cocktail, the Caipirinha, “little peasant girl”.  I’m using Pitu “the lobster” cachaca (pronounced kah-sha-sa), made from fresh cut sugar cane juice and typically not aged whereas rum is made from molasses, a by-product of cane juice, and aged.

So what does it taste like?  Here we go!

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For my tastes, a little like a white rum mixed with tequila, and similar to Pisco (which, also, always reminds me of tequila), the brandy hailing from Peru and Chile.

Per serving, use 1/2 lime cut into quarters and muddle with 2 tsp. sugar to release the juice and a little of the oils of the lime peel.  Add 2 (or 3) shots of Cachaca, pour over ice, and get ready to enjoy the Games!

Saude (sah-oo jee)!

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Passport Dinners brings you DIY (Do-It-Yourself) themed adventure dinner party kits for you to taste the world, one country at a time.  It’s not just dinner.  It’s a party!

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Memories of South America

IMG_3006I have the good fortune of being married to a man who, as a child, lived in South America for seven years, both Chile and Argentina.  And I’ve been able to travel with him TWICE to both countries, mostly to attend class reunions with kids (now adults) he went to school with.  These friends of his now live all over the world, many here in the U.S.

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Classmates from International School Nido de Aguilas

 

 

 

 

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Parrillada for Class Reunion

 

 

 

 

 

So when our Supper Club chose to have a wine and food pairing evening (A World of Wine, and the Foods That Love Them), South America, specifically Argentina, was on the menu for the spouse and me.

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We’re busy preparing our two (make that three) dishes to pair with a Torrontes wine, a dry yet fruity white wine from the Riojano region of Argentina, tucked near the Andes where the climate is dry and the nights are cool.

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So we’ll be pairing two types of the national snack food, empanadas, both beef and cheese, along with sweetbreads, aka mollejas.  I’ve covered the preparation of sweetbreads before (https://passportdinnersblog.com/2013/08/02/neither-sweet-nor-breads-offal-by-any-other-name-is-delicious/), those delicious little grilled morsels that pair so well with wine.  Today I’ll walk you through my empanada steps.

First, the empanada pastry:  You can purchase empanada dough online.  La Tienda, La Saltena, Goya, and Blancaflor are all sources or brands that can be used.  Or you might be lucky enough to live near a Latin market.  If you choose to make your own, here’s the one I used this time:  http://laylita.com/recipes/2008/06/11/empanadas-mendocinas/.  My mother-in-law simply uses a flour tortilla dough.  I have also used a pie crust dough.  All will get you yummy, edible results.

Cheese and Onion Empanadas:

You’ll need olive oil, sweet onion, cheese (I used mozzarella, but I would choose a more robust one next time, such as manchego), marsala wine, a little sugar, some chopped parsley, and egg wash for the dough.

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Olive oil

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Sweet onions

 

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Marsala wine

 

 

 

 

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A little sugar

 

 

 

 

 

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Saute until caramelized

 

 

 

 

 

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Fill each dough portion with cheese, onion mixture, & parsley

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Brush edge of dough portion with beaten egg white

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For step-by-step instructions on how to fold (repulgue) an empanada, watch the video below from Global Table Adventure.  Edges can also simply be pinched or crimped with a fork.

 

 

 

While filling and sealing your empanadas, preheat oven to 400 degrees.

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Brush tops of empanadas right before baking

Bake empanadas for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.  Once baked, remove from baking stone/sheet and place on wire racks to cool.  Can be eaten warm or at room temperature.  If not baking right away, empanadas may be frozen for later.  Just add the egg white brushing right before baking.

Empanadas mendocinas (beef):

You’ll need 1 lb. ground beef, olive oil, chopped onion, paprika, cumin, chili powder, green olives (pitted, no pimentos), hard boiled egg, boiled & chopped potato, chopped green onion, and salt & pepper.

 

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Olive oil

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Ground beef, brown in olive oil

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Onions

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Potatoes

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Paprika, cumin, & chili powder and mix together

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A little water; simmer about 5-7 minutes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Browned ground beef; boiled egg, green olives & green onion

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Fill each dough portion with ground beef mixture

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Brush edge of dough portion with beaten egg white

 

 

 

 

 

 

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For step-by-step instructions on how to fold (repulgue) an empanada, watch the video above from Global Table Adventure.  Edges can also simply be pinched or crimped with a fork.

 

 

While filling and sealing your empanadas, preheat oven to 400 degrees.

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Brush tops of empanadas right before baking

Bake empanadas for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.  Once baked, remove from baking stone/sheet and place on wire racks to cool.  Can be eaten warm or at room temperature.  If not baking right away, empanadas may be frozen for later.  Just add the egg white brushing right before baking.

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Salud!

 

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Passport Dinners brings you DIY (Do-It-Yourself) themed adventure dinner party kits for you to taste the world, one country at a time.  It’s not just dinner.  It’s a party!

 

 

 

 

Cool, rainy weather. Warm, savory dinner.

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Winter in southern California has been challenging.  November and December afforded us the opportunity to pull on the warmer coats, wrap up in scarves, and zip up the winter boots.  But then the cold weather, and the rain, all but disappeared.

But March has given us a taste of winter again, just a few days before Spring actually begins!  El Nino is splashing us with some much-needed rain.  And the heater is coming on in the mornings.  And morning walks outside are punctuated with frosty breath from both me and my german shepherd, Wolfgang.

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Wolfgang

This much-desired cool, rainy weather reminded me of an item I received in my Foodie PenPal box,  a Pennsylvania Dutch specialty, chicken pot pie soup mix.  The Pennsylvania Dutch pot pie is served with square-cut noodles and no pastry, unlike the pot pie I am familiar with.  From Wikipedia I discovered:

“In the Pennsylvania Dutch region, some people make a dish is called “bot boi” (or “bott boi”) by Deitsch-speaking natives. Pennsylvania Dutch pot pie is a stew and has no pastry.  It is usually made of a combination of chicken, ham, beef, or wild game with square-cut egg noodles, potatoes, and a stock of onion, celery and parsley.”

The Pennsylvania Dutch are a cultural group formed by early German-speaking immigrants to Pennsylvania and their descendants.  And it appears to me that their food reflects their German heritage with hardy meals to warm and nourish the body.

The Chicken Pot Pie Soup Mix (Cherchies brand) came with the pot pie noodle (or is it pasta?) squares, a packet of dehydrated vegetables (onion, red bell pepper, carrot, celery), salt, sugar, soy protein, garlic, parsley, white pepper, turmeric and other spices.

When did noodles become pasta?  The spouse and I had a conversation about the terminology earlier this week.  Our mothers refer to all pasta as noodles.  My position is that it’s marketing.  As one comment in an article stated (http://www.chowhound.com/post/noodles-pasta-793188):

“Roughly the same time that squid became calamari, which is also about when corn meal became polenta, but much later than when rocket became arugula.”

Back to the Chicken Pot Pie Soup Mix.  The directions asked for:

  • 1 lb. cooked chicken (I poached chicken breast in chicken broth), cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 4 T. olive oil
  • 10 cups water

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After about 20 minutes, the dish is complete and ready to nourish and warm your body.  Or a bunch of bodies.  This package made 9 cups!  So, one last hurrah for winter.  Spring is right around the corner.  Short sleeves.  Flipflops.  Spring flowers.  I’ll be ready!

 

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Passport Dinners brings you DIY (Do-It-Yourself) themed adventure dinner party kits for you to taste the world, one country at a time.  It’s not just dinner.  It’s a party!

 

Salmon, Times Two

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I’m a professed foodie.  I watch cooking shows.  I read cooking magazines.  I stroll through those kitchen supply stores, the kind that are harder and harder to find.  My family has a tradition of pulling-out-all-of-the-stops Friday evening meals, sampling new menus and recipes for both drink and food.

One of my favorite things to explore are appetizers.  Or hors-d’oeuvres.  Or amuse-bouches (for a randy, and amusing, definition of this word, check out definition no. 2 on Urban Dictionary).

Quite a bit of time ago, when Tyler Florence actually had a cooking show on The Food Network, I hastily scribbled down rudimentary instructions for a French classic hors-d’oeuvre, Salmon Rillettes.  Last week I pulled out my scribbles and decided to go for it for last Friday’s appetizer.  When I looked online for a little more instruction as to how to proceed, I was surprised to find Tyler Florence stating that he has too much respect for Thomas Keller and Bouchon to knock off these Salmon Rillettes (http://www.foodnetwork.com/videos/tyler-florence-rillettes-0191156.html).  Uh, sorry, Tyler, I watched you make these on your now-archived cooking show.

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While googling about various ways to proceed, I discovered from David Lebovitz, that former Chez Panisse chef who lives and works and writes in Paris, that rillettes are a type of pate, a country-style spread, often prepared to make a rustic paste to spread on bread.  Sounds good to me.  Especially when using two types of salmon.

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An 8 ounce mason jar will serve about 8 guests.  You’ll need:

2 oz. fresh salmon, lightly poached in Pernod, a la Bouchon (or substitute Absinthe, as I did).  Traditionally, it is poached in white wine.

2 oz. smoked salmon

1 T. chopped shallot

2-3 T. creme fraiche (you want the mixture to be thick, so don’t add too much).  Traditionally, mayonnaise is used.  I prefer the creme fraiche.

1 T. of your best olive oil

1 egg yolk

1 T. lemon juice (yep, forgot that in the photo)

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Break up the two salmons into chunks and mix together, but don’t overmix.  You want pieces of salmon for texture.  Pack into your mason jar, and top with clarified butter, about 1/4 inch.  Though I think I poured a bit more than that!  Need a refresher for making clarified butter?  http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2010/03/how-to-clarify-butter-recipe/.

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Chill for 1 hour.  While chilling, slice baguette pieces and toast.  Serve with baguettes.

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The butter can be removed before serving.  In some restaurants it’s left on the table to be slathered on warm rolls that are presented.  Or, if you didn’t pour quite as much on as I did, you can eat it along with the rillette.  Ah, come on, organic butter made from milk from grass-fed cows can’t be that bad, once in a while!

Once removed, the rillettes should be eaten within 2-3 days.  The butter acts as a seal until it’s removed, much like the wax my grandmother used to seal jams.  I also read that it can be frozen and used for later.  Hmmm, I haven’t tried that yet.

And it’s Friday again.  What do I explore?  I think I see bone marrow on the menu, a la Fergus Henderson of St. John.  Lucky for me, I stumbled across this awesome restaurant while on a trip to London, before I knew how lucky I really was!

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Cool, Clear, Water, A Cowboy Song

“With throats burned dry and souls that cry for water, cool, clear, water”

When I was a kid my Dad would sing in his clear tenor voice this cowboy song, Cool Water, a song recorded by Marty Robbins.  Well, today it’s the first day of Autumn, 83 degrees, 72 percent humidity, and no AC, and cool, clear water sounds lovely!  Whether straight or enhanced, it’s the perfect antidote for summer heat.

So for the past two summers I’ve been playing around with enhanced or flavored waters.  You know, those fragrant ones they hand out at a spa.  Or a cutesy restaurant.

And I thought I’d share some of my favorite flavorings.

And what do you know!  In addition to being tasty and rejuvenating, they can also be beneficial.  I’m a big fan of reverse-osmosis water.  Use whatever you usually drink.

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There’s the spa-worthy cucumber, sliced thin and added to 4 cups water.  Refrigerate overnight.  CUCUMBER promotes healthy aging and can heal a hangover.  Hmmm, gotta’ remember that one!

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To make the CUCUMBER water my favorite, I add some slightly bruised BASIL leaves.  BASIL is a natural stress and anxiety reducer.  This is a perfect after-work water.

IMG_2416For a sweet summery water, try a CANTALOUPE water.  The vitamins in a ripe cantaloupe promote eye health.  I added slightly bruised TARRAGON, which imparts a slight anise flavor and is an antioxidant.  This one should be consumed quickly, within 1-2 days.  The melon softens rapidly in water.

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Another flavorful summery melon variation is WATERMELON water.  WATERMELON is the highest fruit or vege in lycopene, plus it has an abundance of other vitamins and minerals including Magnesium.  As a melon, it will also soften rapidly in water.  I added some punch to my WATERMELON water by infusing it with ROSEMARY, which is anti-inflammatory and an immune booster.

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A new water for me this summer was PINEAPPLE-MINT water.  What a refreshing combination!  A little sweet.  A little minty.  PINEAPPLE has a mixture of enzymes called bromelain that digest protein, has  anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidants which prevent free radical damage.  MINT is a well-documented aid in digestion, nausea, and headache.  Refrigerate this one overnight.

A super-pretty water is RASPBERRY – SAGE.  The berries are sweet/tart, and the fragrance of the sage is awesome.  RASPBERRIES are antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.  SAGE, part of the mint family like ROSEMARY and BASIL, is a herb with one of the highest antioxidant levels, helping cell’s recover from damage.  Drink this one within 1-2 days.

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As with most fresh-fruit-or-vege-infused drinks, the fruits and/or veges used are generally not very good after infusing the waters.  Just add them to your compost.  So cool down these last summer days with your own yummy and beneficial flavored waters.

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Smokin’ Hot Hatch Chiles

IMG_2590One of my favorite memories is traveling with my Dad from Texas to college in California, and making a stop in New Mexico for some of their not-to-be-missed dishes prepared with Hatch Chiles.  Yum!

As described in Wikipedia:

“Chile grown in the Hatch Valley, in and around Hatch, New Mexico is called Hatch chile. The peppers grown in the valley, and along the entire Rio Grande, from northern Taos Pueblo to southern Isleta Pueblo, are a signature crop to New Mexico’s economy and culture.[1][2] The chile pepper actually is a fruit, however, it is savory and eaten like a vegetable in a main dish or side. It is New Mexico’s state vegetable, and the official New Mexico state question is “Red or Green?”.[3]”  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Mexico_chile

So I’m thrilled every August when they show up in one of my local markets.

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Last night half of my Hatch Chiles were roasted under the broiler and added to a pizza which included:

  • a whole wheat & chia crust I put together last week
  • Jarred marinara sprinkled with smoked paprika
  • crispy bacon
  • caramalized onions with a little basalmic
  • a selection of shredded mexican cheeses
  • garlic oil-infused garbanzo beans

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Spicy, smoky, garlicy, and the sweetness of the caramelized onions, with a thin and crunchy crust.

Oh, yes, I love Hatch Chile season!

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Creamy Korma Curry

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Yes, I do make the dinner kits I sell! My honey and I have a Supper Club that explores the world through food. Last Saturday night was Passage to India, a great selection of northern Indian foods. I contributed my Lamb Korma Curry, creamy and spicy.

We at Passport Dinners buy the exotic and fragrant organic spices for you so you don’t have to.

IMG_2525There’s all those great, fragrant organic spices plus my local, sustainable fresh ingredients.

Supper club, here we come!

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Passport Dinners brings you DIY (Do-It-Yourself) themed adventure dinner party kits for you to taste the world, one country at a time.