Monday, January 26, 2009

sunday lunch

I had the most wonderful lunch today.
And while my lunch almost always consists of a turkey and spinach sandwich (my favorite), this was just as simple but twice as good.
Realizing there were one too many potatoes and one too many dozen-eggs, I opted for a childhood favorite that I hadn’t had in ages - tortilla de papa.
Now, don’t let the name fool you cause it’s not what you think. And for years I wondered why we called it a tortilla, too. Turns out it’s a traditional Spanish tapas dish, sort of between a frittata and an omelette.
The idea is to slice the potatoes very thin. There’s no need to pull out your mandoline, though. A sharp knife will do the trick just fine. You also need a fair amount of oil. You want the potatoes to almost shallow fry and get really golden and crispy.
Cut into wedges and served up with a really simple salad - we got lettuces growing in the backyard that we picked and plated (my gardening endeavors excite me!) - tossed with lemon juice and olive oil, this makes for a delicious and delightful lunch any day of the week.

Tortilla de Papa
Open the door and let the sun shine in for this one. Or perhaps just take it outside.

2 large russet potatoes, peeled
8 large eggs
1/4 cup parsley, chopped

1. Heat up a large skillet with a good amount of vegetable oil, around ½ cup, on high heat.
2. Thinly slice the potatoes and throw into the hot pan. Let brown.
3. Meanwhile, crack the eggs and whisk together with the parsley and a good pinch of salt.
4. Once the potatoes start to brown, salt them and dump in the egg mixture. Let cook for a couple of minutes until you see the sides start to cook.
5. Grab a large plate and place on top of the tortilla. Flip the pan over and slide the tortilla back into the pan so the other side can cook.
6. Let cook a couple of minutes more.
7. Cut into wedges and serve.

Monday, January 19, 2009


I just finished a book. A good book, a funny book, a book that - as all books tend to do to me - threw me into another world and made me feel good. And this feel-good feeling is lingering. Which I like. Which I really, really like. Because life should always be about feel-good...whether you get it or whether it takes you a year of Julia Child to get it.
Julie & Julia. Fabulous.
I remember when Julia Child passed away. Everybody had something wonderful to say and part of me really shrugged at it while the other part of me was a little jealous that I wasn’t particularly old enough to get it. Cause let’s face it - I’m not.
And so in this modern age of technology and me being in with the times (kinda sorta not really...), I looked up plenty on Youtube. And I think I’m starting to get it.
Yes, ok. A couple of videos on Youtube aren’t going to give me some goddamn epiphany on Julia Child and aren’t going to open up a big window and aren’t going to completely make me realize the wonder of the woman. Not yet, anyway. But it’s a start.
This woman had passion and love and knowledge. She was a klutz and she was funny and she was odd and unusual and that’s what made her human. And perhaps what made her so damn appealing. And people decided to embrace French food for once. As they fucking should.
Classical Cuisine. One of the best classes I have ever taken. I would walk out of there a pound heavier from all the butter consumed, but satisfied and happy and walking on clouds.
This is what French food does to me.
And it’s what French food did to her. And she fell into it and fell into teaching people about it and somewhere down the line one woman in 2002 decided to fall into it, too, discovering French food and the pure joy of Julia Child which changed her life around.
And so.
Yes, it was a good book. It was like a little bit of hope tucked away on a bookshelf.
(Or the clearance section of TJ Maxx where I was wandering around aimlessly and managed to find this book turned over for $2.)
And yes, I feel like Julia Child really is something.
And this makes me happy, while at the same time makes me crave something good and French and full of butter.
When I decided to head to culinary school, one of my mom’s friends gave me a ridiculous amount of cookbooks that she had lying around the house that she never used. Perhaps she was thrilled that she could give them to someone who would truly find some use in them. I can’t say I’ve really used them since. But in that bunch was a Julia Child & Company cookbook that I shrugged at and put aside. (I’ll confess part of me was hoping it would be the classic Mastering the Art of French Cooking....just like I hoped for the pile to really contain something of history or real depth - like the hell-of-a-book Larousse Gastronomique that hung around the bookshelf all on its own and I stared at with eager eyes every single day of Food Production class in high school. There was none of it. Except for the cool cocktail food book which I will say I liked. But I really do digress...). The point is, perhaps there is some real desire to peer inside the book now. To say "ok, fine. I’ll read what you have to say about holiday entertaining or whatever the hell else". Because well, I kind of care.
And I envy Julie Powell who went mad and made the best decision of her life.
But still, really. I’m at feel-good. And that’s just wonderful.

"Julia Child wants know how to make good pastry, and also how to make those canned green beans taste all right. She wants you to remember that you are human, and as such are entitled to that most basic of human rights, the right to eat well and enjoy life."

"Julia taught me what it takes to find your way in the world. It’s not what I thought it was. I thought it was all about - I don’t know, confidence or will or luck. Those are all some good things to have, no question. But there’s something else, something that these things grow out of. It’s joy."
-Julie & Julia

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

anytime pasta

From the past entries you are now aware of the way the grocery store spoils me these days with those boneless, skinless chicken breasts. I keep them on hand all the time. Usually along with ground turkey as well.
So when it comes time to make a quick and simple, no-brainer kind of dinner, I pull out a box of pasta, pull out the poultry and get cookin’.
This is the everyday, anytime, whenever/whatever pasta dish that is so completely satisfying and nourishing, you couldn’t expect anything more.
The mix of the potatoes and the pasta together may come off as a bit odd. Carb-fest, anyone? But maybe you could just think of it as a leftover-Thanksgiving kind of meal.
And who doesn’t love turkey day leftovers?
Oh, yes. You know you do.
This really is just nice. A pasta dish should be nice and comforting. And spaghetti dishes specifically should be that perfect bite that I twirl around my fork and pop into my mouth, getting that juicy burst of buttery sauce. And not literally butter here, but that rich, creamy mouthfeel. I don’t know. It’s how I feel about pasta sauces and how I feel about this pasta dish.
Of course any pasta shape will do here, but I just love a good bowl of spaghetti every now and then.
How could you not?

Spaghetti with Chicken and Sweet Potatoes
we're pretty big pasta eaters around here so a 1/2 lb of spaghetti works pretty well for us two gals. but of course, four can easily be fed with this amount just the same.

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or ground poultry, if you prefer)
salt, pepper
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
1 cup chicken stock
1 bay leaf
pinch dried oregano

½ lb spaghetti

Parmesan, for sprinkling

1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Cube chicken breasts and drop into hot oil. Season with salt and pepper and brown. Remove from pot.
2. Add in onion, garlic, carrots, and celery and saute for about 2 minutes. Add in sweet potatoes and saute 2 more minutes.
3. Add in tomatoes, stock, bay leaf, oregano, and browned chicken. Bring heat down and let simmer for 20 - 30 minutes.
4. In the meantime, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, salt the water and drop in the pasta. Cook until al dente (oooh, fancy), around 7 - 8 minutes.
5. Drain and drop into the sauce. Mix all together and serve up with a good sprinkling of parmesan cheese.

Friday, January 2, 2009

new year's eve: north meets south

Don’t even ask me how it happened cause I have no idea myself.
All I know is that one day my mom said "I want to make matambre and empanadas for New Year’s Eve"
and I said "ok".
I was (extremely, ridiculously, super-duper) lucky to get new year’s eve off this year. I didn’t know how I felt about the partying, but the food? That’s always a good time with me.
And while I do love my greasy, gooey cheeseburgers and my soda and my whatever-else-that’s-"American", a good Argentinian meal is a great thing. It’s the food I grew up on and the food I still love to eat. And hell, I always will.
So, matambre. The rolled up meat thing I couldn’t stand when I was younger. It had eggs and olives and all sorts of things poking out of it that I just did not approve of.
The empanadas on the other hand, well, my mom is practically famous for those.
But I figured, I have to give this a try.
We bought a nice piece of flank stank and butterflied it open. Some sprinkles of Parmesan cheese and parsley, some sprinkling of breadcrumbs. A couple of hard-boiled eggs, some olives, and a handful of grated carrots. Rolled up into a big fat log, thrown into a pot of water and boiled for a good 1 ½ hours.
You make it the day ahead and let it cool completely overnight. And then, you slice it. And you serve it up with the best side dish ever: ensalada russa. Which is, you know, potato salad with peas. Duh.
And it was good. Much better than I remember it being when I was around 7, of course. It was a good slice of meat with all sorts of fixin’s just thrown in. And - even better - it makes a pretty yummy sandwich slathered with some mayo. Mmm mmm.
I’m a total mayo freak, I can’t help it.
(And yes, that means I have standards. And yes, that means I choose Helmann’s.)

But what about the famous empanadas? Oh, those were a hit, too. They always are even if things have changed a bit. The original recipe is with ground beef. And she would always fry them. Always.
These days, she's a health-conscious lady (and who isn't?) who enjoys her whole grains and soy milk and bee pollen and raw honey. So you can say that beef and deep-frying aren't part of the agenda much anymore. Instead, chicken. Or turkey. And baking, not frying.
And they're still irresistable.
Filled with white and green onions ("they both give a little something"), hard-boiled eggs and olives (yes, again), and white pepper (it makes a distinctive difference..), they are just as good as I remember them being when I was 7. The empanadas just don't change.

It was a dinner I couldn’t wait to sit down to enjoy. And enjoy it I did.
So ending one year with a good meal and starting a new one with a good meal...that’s gotta be a good thing, right?
Happy 2009 to everyone.