¡Buen Provecho! – Venezuela

Venezuela: Tequeños con guasacaca, Arepas, Pabellón criollo, Besitos de coco

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A few weeks ago I hosted a Venezuelan dinner. I’ve never had Venezuelan food, and, spoiler alert, I’m a fan after this meal. The appetizers ended up being my favorite dishes, which is often the case for me. Some of my favorite meals are just a spread of appetizers.

First up, tequeños, which are essentially Venezuelan cheese sticks. Here’s the recipe I used. These are easy, fun to make, and delicious. In my search for recipes I also came across a version that included jalapeño, almost like a pepper popper, so I added strips of jalapeño to some of the tequeños, which is deliciously spicy. Or spicily delicious. 2016-04-30 16.21.12 2016-04-30 16.27.22 2016-04-30 16.35.39 2016-04-30 17.49.02

I love making dough. I always hold my breath a little bit, but when it ends up working it feels like such an accomplishment! 2016-04-30 17.27.57
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2016-04-30 18.18.10 2016-04-30 18.05.38 2016-04-30 18.45.462016-04-30 18.50.38These were a hit. I also made guasacaca to dip them in using this recipe. Guasacaca is almost like a pureed guacamole with a tangy bite. It’s delicious and also really fun to say🙂 I doubled the recipe and ended up with a lot of it, and since it was so tasty I sent one of the guests across the street to the corner store to buy some tortilla chips so we could snack on it as I made the rest of the meal (which, par for the course, wasn’t ready on time). 2016-04-30 15.41.51 2016-04-30 15.55.45 2016-04-30 16.07.072016-04-30 18.31.01The second third appetizer was arepas. We put cheese, guasacaca and peppers on top and they were tasty. 2016-04-30 16.30.35 2016-04-30 16.35.392016-04-30 19.13.122016-04-30 19.13.46
The main dish was pabellón criollo, which is a very popular dish in Venezuela. The dish consists of four primary components: shredded beef, black beans, white rice and fried plantains. 2016-04-30 12.50.57 2016-04-30 13.02.19

The beef cooks for over four hours, so this is definitely a plan ahead meal.

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Lots of bell peppers in this cuisine. 2016-04-30 17.11.17 2016-04-30 17.16.47 2016-04-30 17.21.102016-04-30 19.35.24 2016-04-30 19.49.04 2016-04-30 19.42.03 2016-04-30 19.53.40 2016-04-30 20.27.52Here’s the vegetarian version, made with a fried egg.
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Dessert was besitos de coco – coconut kisses. I made these earlier in the day and enjoyed a warm one to taste test with a cup of tea from my personalized couch cuisine mug from Adena. 2016-04-30 13.39.30 2016-04-30 13.55.45 2016-04-30 14.01.54 2016-04-30 14.13.182016-04-30 14.29.15 2016-04-30 14.30.11

Lounging and looking over the rest of my prep list, which makes me feel like I’m on Top Chef I’ve found very helpful.2016-04-30 14.14.552016-04-30 14.33.47

The cookies are simple and coconutty and pretty perfect.

We had a lovely evening together. Trevor snapped this shot of me explaining how to assemble the pabellón criollo, and it cracks me up because it looks like I’m explaining and demonstrating how to use a fork. In other words, how to eat🙂

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I would make all these dishes again.

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Ăn ngon nhé – Vietnam

Vietnam: Shrimp spring rolls, banh mi, chicken pho, broken rice with pork, Vietnamese iced coffee, bananas and tapioca with coconut milk, assorted pastries

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Just a block from my Philadelphia apartment was a wonderful Vietnamese restaurant that I frequented regularly. As I planned this meal I thought fondly of many meals shared there.

I was happy to find a great Asian market in Rochester where I was able to purchase many of the necessary ingredients for this meal. IMG_0008

I prepped some of the meal the night before – marinating the pork and pickling the vegetables. I was chopping til midnight :) IMG_0014

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This was a fun, fresh, time consuming meal. I probably overdid it a bit and made an overly ambitious menu. On Saturday I spent most of the evening in the kitchen rather than relaxing and eating, but had wonderful guests who helped me prep and clean and made the work fun. The kitchen was a mess and the dessert ended up being an utter failure, but otherwise the food turned out wonderfully and I was really pleased with the meal.

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First up, shrimp spring rolls.

We had a little trouble with the spring roll sheets, but discovered the trick was to use only warm water, not boiling hot. I also bought approximately 17 times the amount of spring roll sheets I needed to, so I’ll be experimenting with turning lots of things into spring rolls over the next several years! These were fresh and tasty and fun to eat. I did MYO spring roll and these were a hit. Next time I’d make more shrimp.

The second appetizer was banh mi. My vegan-loving neighborhood of West Philly adores a tofu banh mi sandwich from a corner store also a block away from my apartment. It is practically legendary. I’m a fan as well. Since all my guests were meat eaters this meal I made the pork version. I partially used this recipe, though I added daikon to my pickled vegetable lineup per another recipe for a tofu version and used elements of the marinade for the pork from this recipe. The pickled vegetables turned out beautifully. IMG_0031

I found these great sliced pork chops at Wegman’s, which I (indoor) grilled, half of which I sliced for the banh mi and half of which I kept whole for the rice entree. IMG_0036

The banh mi sandwiches were also MYO and were fresh and delicious. A filling appetizer course. IMG_7667IMG_0040

I made two entrees, starting with pork and broken rice. I used this recipe, though just did the pork and broken rice, not the meatloaf. I love that the store had super broken rice. Which may mean this wasn’t the true Vietnamese broken rice, but I tried.

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I was busy working on the pho when I served the pork and broken rice, so didn’t sit to enjoy it, but it was gobbled up so I’m assuming it was good!

Pho. A classic Vietnamese dish. I’d never had pho before moving to Philly but was quickly surrounded by people who made eating pho almost an art form. In graduate school one of my roommates used to bring me chicken pho when I was sick and I swear it worked to speed up the healing process. Essentially a chicken noodle soup with all sorts of bonus ingredients. I was nervous to make it and have to say, am quite proud that it turned out well. It’s quite a process. I had a little panic moment when I realized that doubling this recipe meant my stockpot was not nearly big enough to double the amount of water required for a 7 pound chicken. So, I channelled the Italian motto “make do with what you have” and stuffed the chicken into the biggest pot I had and just made it work. I will also confess here that despite my culinary adventuresome spirit, whole poultry makes me nervous.  I think this is the first time I’ve ever single-handedly dealt with a whole bird.

Ta Da! It worked!

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The broth turned out beautifully, with layers of flavor punctuated by spicy toppings of fried shallots, cilantro, lime, bean curd, etc. I was quite relieved.

I sat and enjoyed the pho with my 16 lovely guests. They were all so gracious about the fact that we were eating soup without tables and chairs, given that I don’t have enough seating for everyone. A tricky feat with a hot bowl of soup. Couch cuisine, indeed. IMG_0037

I’m not quite ready to talk about the disaster that was dessert. Or, really, that wasn’t dessert, because it was completely inedible. I tried to make tapioca with coconut milk and bananas. However, the tapioca did not cook even after several hours, but instead turned into a congealed, uncooked mess that ruined the dutch oven that I unthinkingly cooked it in. Major. Fail. Thankfully I’d bought a few pastries at the Asian market and also prepared Vietnamese iced coffee (coffee with sweetened condensed milk) so the sweet tooth folks were at last partially satiated. IMG_7687

It was not the smoothest, most organized of my couch cuisine meals, but most of the dishes turned out really well, and I would make them again. It was a great group of people and the evening reminded me, again, how grateful I am to have a community of friends who can fill my apartment with healthy appetites, laughter, and cheer. Moving to Rochester has had its challenges, and I often miss the friends and amenities of my Philly life. However, this meal and evening made me grateful for this season – for the little things like recreating a favorite dish from West Philly in my own home, and for the new people who’ve come into my life in my new city.

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Smacznego! – Polska

Polska: Farmer’s Cheese, Rye bread, Kielbasa, Pierogi, Kapusta z Grochem, Kapusta z Kielbasa, Mizeria

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This was a really fun meal to cook and host (and eat!). A few months ago I saw that my friend was teaching a class on making pierogi at the Rochester Brainery, so I signed up to learn all things pierogi. It was a fantastic class and I felt quite prepared after the class to cook pierogi for a crew. I sat with a wonderful couple at the class who told me about their family’s heritage of Polish food and culture. 2016-02-01 19.19.072016-02-01 19.23.35

2016-02-01 19.38.512016-02-01 20.09.10I planned out my menu, and it was only until I started cooking that I realized that for a meal highlighting cheese and carbs in the form of pierogi I’d decided to make cheese and carbs for an appetizer (bread and cheese). Oops! Or, Awesome! Depending on your perspective :) 2016-02-27 13.39.31

I’ve been into making homemade bread lately, so I made homemade Polish rye bread – a simple version that uses buttermilk rather than a starter. And so easy with the Kitchenaid. It’s a dense bread that smells heavenly while baking and perfect for slathering with butter or cheese.

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I made homemade farmer’s cheese to accompany the bread, which is a common cheese in Poland. It’s super simple and similar to making ricotta cheese. I let it drain a little too long, even though I didn’t use the weight like the recipe suggests, so it got a bit dry and crumbly, but still had great flavor with the herbs.

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To round out the appetizers I bought two types of smoke kielbasa at Polska Chata, a great Polish store in Rochester. 2016-02-25 17.02.43-2

Double smoked and garlic kielbasa worked great as appetizers and I served it with mustard and horseradish.2016-02-27 16.25.51

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Next up – pierogi! I made cheese and potato pierogi, though there are many variations of fillings. I cooked the filling the night before the dinner to spread out the workload, and that worked well.2016-02-26 22.15.082016-02-26 22.21.53

You should take Anna’s pierogi class at the Brainery to learn how to make this version! But in the meantime here’s a recipe from the husband’s grandmother of the couple I sat with at the pierogi class.

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I served the pierogi with carmelized onions and sour cream, and it really doesn’t get much better than that for a cheese/potato/sour cream lover! 2016-02-27 12.56.32 2016-02-27 12.57.20 2016-02-27 13.05.172016-02-27 13.51.342016-02-27 13.54.302016-02-27 13.54.522016-02-27 13.55.512016-02-27 14.18.252016-02-27 15.47.08

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I made two versions of kapusta (cabbage) – one with kielbasa and one with split yellow peas. For the kielbasa version I used this recipe and for the split yellow pea version I used this recipe. For the vegetarian version I ended up cooking it longer and adding brown sugar per the other recipe, since that seemed like it would add more flavor. Ultimately I ended up liking the flavor of the split pea version best because the fresh cabbage diluted some of the sourness of the straight sauerkraut, and the peas added some sweetness.2016-02-27 12.11.11 2016-02-27 12.36.222016-02-27 16.10.522016-02-27 16.13.03

To add a little freshness to the dinner I made Mizeria, a simple Polish cucumber salad.2016-02-27 15.54.57

For dessert, I bought some Polish chocolates at Polska Chata and Ashley made really delicious doughnuts.2016-02-27 17.41.39

There were eight adults and two babies for this meal and we had a great evening of chatting and laughing and eating, all while listening to polka music!

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2015 Gingerbread House

Every year my family makes a gingerbread house for the Christmas season. When my brother and I were young we made simple houses with lots of candy and little design. However, as the years rolled by my mom and I became more and more elaborate in our gingerbread house designs. It’s a wonderful tradition that is one of my favorite parts of the holidays. We’ve done Christmas in 100 Aker Woods, a ski resort, a log cabin, a waterwheel, and many others. This year, we drew our inspiration from Tuscany. Here’s a quick how-to guide.

First, the inspiration. Take some time to decide on your inspiration and map out the overall plan. This year we used Bramasole (pictured below) as our design, and we named our house “Seasons under the Tuscan Sun.” I wanted to capture all the seasons of Tuscany, so this seemed fitting. 2015-05-26 12.09.59

When you don’t use a pre-made design you need to put on your architect hat and make your own! 2015-10-25 13.02.162015-10-25 12.44.43

It’s best to roll the gingerbread out pretty flat, and it needs to cool completely before you begin assembling the house.

The number one rule in gingerbread house making: flexibility. Things will likely go wrong at some point, so you need to go with the flow. This time we spent about 2 hours trying to work with small pieces of styrofoam to form the base of our hill, only to realize it was not going to happen and that we had a lovely, large piece of styrofoam which worked much better. Four hours into the morning we had a base!

You WILL make a mess. 2015-12-05 12.29.14

Next we prepped the windows.

2015-12-05 14.33.15Typically we assemble the house next, but since we were doing terra cotta walls and roof we prepped these first. It’s important to use royal icing, which dries quickly and completely, and also high quality food coloring (not the cheapo watery 4-pack ones).

Part of the planning process is getting the right candy for decorations. We brainstormed using various colors of twizzlers for the terra cotta roof, and were thrilled when we stumbled on all the colors we needed in a store in California!

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It’s best to assemble the walls of the house and let them rest for a bit to allow the icing to firm up before putting the roof on (but don’t let it dry completely in case you need to adjust the walls to fit the roof). 2015-12-05 18.33.30

Typically we use the royal icing as snow in a wintry scene and put it on any sections that need extra support, so this was a trickier house since we didn’t use snow. But, our architectural plans worked and it stayed standing! You can use cans or other items to hold up the walls or other components as it dries if needed.

The past few years we’ve gotten into using fondant, which is pretty easy to make. This year we used a fluff+sugar recipe. 2015-12-05 21.42.49

It’s all about the details! 2015-12-06 15.58.082015-12-06 10.27.292015-12-06 15.57.56

Make sure you block out plenty of time in your schedule, as it will take longer than you think! This one took us 3 full days (and by full I mean up until midnight full). So worth it! 2015-12-06 15.57.18

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Spring: wisteria 2015-12-06 19.21.36-2

Summer: sunflowers2015-12-06 19.45.10

Fall: ready to harvest grapes

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Winter: Christmas decorations

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Working on this brought back so many wonderful memories of Italy! 2015-12-06 19.44.532015-12-06 19.46.052015-12-06 19.45.56

Did I mention you’ll make a mess?!2015-12-06 19.46.36

The finished product: 2015-12-06 19.48.312015-12-06 19.51.22

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Bom apetite! – Brasil

Brasil: pão de queijo, feijoada completa (feijoada, arroz branco, farofa de dende, banana de terra, couve, laranga, pimenta malagueta), brigadeiro, mousse de maracujá, doce de leite, caipirinhas, guaraná

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I love Brasilian food. I was introduced to it in Philly and now I keep an eye out for Brasilian restaurants when I travel. I’ve been looking forward to making this meal for some time and have had the menu in mind all along. Last month the Rochester Brainery (which is awesome, by the way!) offered a class on making feijoada, the classic Brasilian dish. I was thrilled, since I already had this meal planned. Mallory Ferland taught the class and did an excellent job, and I furiously took notes.

I shopped for ingredients at the International Food Market in Rochester, which has a surprisingly good supply of Brasilian ingredients.

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(Note: the picture of the passion fruit juice (maracujá) above is the wrong thing – I had to go back the morning of the meal and buy the concentrate rather than the juice. #worthit)

What a fantastic group I had for the dinner! We maxed out at 15 adults again (plus another super cute baby). Most people didn’t know more than a few other people, so it was fun to bring people together from different facets of my life. My friend Angela, who I know from Philly, was visiting for the weekend. We had so much fun cooking together, and she was such a good sport about spending the whole weekend in the kitchen! She was around when I first started this project, was at my very first meal, and has been so enthusiastic about it all along. I love cooking with her and we had a blast being in the kitchen together again. I’m regretting not getting any pictures of the two of us, or anyone that night for that matter.

About half the guests were newbies to my international meals, so I explained to them that my hostessing style is messy and chaotic “casual.” The kitchen is a mess when guests arrive, the food isn’t yet ready, I might put you to work, and I’m so glad you’re here and I want you to feel comfortable and welcome.

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(as I’m posting this I’m seeing my typos in the menu!)

We started off with pão de queijo as an appetizer. This is a cheese bread that is made with cassava flour. I bought frozen pão de queijo as a backup in case our homemade version didn’t work, and for awhile it was looking like we might need it. I was using google translate to try to translate Portuguese to English, but was getting things like “six cups of tea,” and the dough was literally jumping out of the kitchenaid mixer as we made it (video evidence on facebook).

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Thankfully, it worked and the backups remained in the freezer. 2015-11-07 17.16.362015-11-07 17.46.00

They were gobbled up quickly.

Next up: feijoada completa.

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This is the national dish of Brasil, and it’s considered to be an event. It’s only served on Wednesdays and Saturdays (though the days vary depending on the region/city) because it’s such a process to make.   Feijoada Completa consists of feijoada (black beans and pork – plus beef in the US since we can’t get all the same meats that are available in Brasil), arroz branco (white rice), farofa de dende (cassava flour in red palm oil), banana de terra (friend plantains), couve (sauteed collard greens), laranga (sliced oranges), and pimenta malagueta (Brasilian hot sauce). All the recipes for the feijoada components are from Mallory Ferland. This recipe serves 8 (I doubled this recipe).

Feijoada

1 lb dry black beans

10 cups water (I used 2 cups beef broth + 8 cups water)

1 lb baby back pork ribs (cut into individual ribs)

1 lb beef ribs (cubed)

2 chorizo sausages (cut in discs)

1 lb smoked ham hocks

2 chopped onions

2 tbsp chopped garlic

8 bay leaves

salt and pepper to taste (wait to salt until end)

2 tbsp olive oil

  1. Heat a large stockpot over medium heat and add olive oil. Dice onions and garlic and saute for a few minutes. Add bay leaves and pepper.
  2. Cut ribs into individual pieces (slice down between each rib bone). Add ribs, ham hocks and dry rinsed beans (prepped the day before by soaking in water according to directions) to stock pot, saute for a few minutes.
  3. Add water (and broth if using) to stock pot and stir. Bring to a boil.
  4. Once full boil is reached, reduce heat to low, cover and let simmer for 4 hours. Add sliced chorizo sausage and simmer for 2 more hours.
  5. Check to make sure means are fully cooked. Salt to taste. Remove 1-2 cups beans from the pot and puree in a blender or mash with a potato masher. Return pureed beans to stock pot and stir (I totally forgot this last step of pureeing the beans!)

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LOTS of garlic! 2015-11-07 14.02.48-12015-11-07 14.25.54-2 2015-11-07 14.31.182015-11-07 14.38.48

2015-11-07 23.12.19Couve

1 large bundle collard greens

1 tbsp chopped garlic

2 tbsp olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

  1. Wash and thinly slice collards into long strips
  2. Heat olive oil in a saute pan until garlic starts to brown. Add collards and stir.
  3. Cook over medium heat until greens diminish in bulk, usually around 15 minutes.
  4. Season with salt and pepper.

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Farofa de dende

2 cups farofa flour

2 tbsp red palm oil

1 tbsp garlic

salt and pepper to taste

  1. Heat red palm oil in saute pan, when hot add garlic. Saute until lightly browned.
  2. Add farofa and mix. Let sit for a few minutes and stir again. When the farofa appears dry (all the oil has been cooked off) it is finished. To test, shaek the pan. If it moves round finely it is finished. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Brasilians have a saying that if you don’t like a dish, just add farofa to it! 2015-11-07 18.58.242015-11-07 19.08.52

(picture fail of finished product)

Banana de terra frita

2 plantains (yellow and very ripe – brown spots good!)

2 tbsp coconut oil

salt to taste

  1. Chop plantains into half inch size cubes
  2. Heat coconut oil in a large saute pan. Fry plantains on each side until golden brown. Remove and let cool on a paper towel. Sprinkle with salt to taste. 2015-11-07 18.33.34(picture fail of finished product)

I also made a vegetarian feijoada since I had several vegetarian guests. I did the same first step of the feijoada (oil, garlic, onion, bay leaves) then added the beans and water and vegetable stock as well as a chipotle pepper (in adobo) to get the smoky flavor. I simmered that until the beans were tender, then added chopped sweet potato, red bell pepper, and zucchini and simmered until the veggies were tender. Finally, lots of salt and pepper. If I made this again I’d add soy chorizo. 2015-11-07 18.13.38

The spread! 2015-11-07 19.47.122015-11-07 19.47.28

I used white rice from Brasil and made it in the rice cooker. First, put white rice on the plate, scoop feijoada on top, then put all the toppings on and enjoy!

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Feijada is best accompanied by caiprinhas2015-11-07 15.53.13

The first time I tried mousse de maracujá (passionfruit mousse) I licked the bowl. 2015-11-07 14.46.56

I adjusted this recipe to match what some other recipes showed and used just 1 1/2 cans of the table cream for a double recipe. I also chilled it for several hours. It was a little loose so I think it would have been good to chill even longer and I should have put some fresh passionfruit on top to make it prettier. It doesn’t look like much, but it’s seriously delicious.2015-11-07 14.59.04

We also made brigadeiro – a chocolate truffle essentially. These require smothering your hands in butter to roll them out – so fun!2015-11-07 16.09.042015-11-07 17.34.15

Finally, I served the doce de leite that I’d made last week for Chile, since that’s also common in Brasil.

Once again, I failed to take pictures of the group. But, we had such a fun evening and I felt so honored to host and feed everyone. Someone asked me why I call my project “couch cuisine.” I explained that I came up with the idea in grad school when I couldn’t afford to travel much, and I decided I could do my best to explore the world by sitting on my couch learning about the cuisines and cultures of other countries by surfing online, then cooking those recipes and sharing meals with friends. Philip said he thought “couch cuisine” meant that I was inviting friends into my home to enjoy food together in a casual atmosphere of sitting on the couch to eat. I like that better! For this meal we had 10 of the 15 people squished together on my couches, balancing plates of food and glasses of wine, smiling, laughing, connecting, bouncing a baby, listening to Brasilian music, and eating. Couch cuisine indeed. I’m grateful.

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¡Buen apetito! – Chile

Chile: empanadas, sopapillas con pebre, pastel de choclo, vegetarian pastel de choclo, tres leches cake con dulce de leche, merenguitos con dulce de leche225px-Flag_of_Chile.svg

I had a fun mix of people from different aspects of my life for this meal, and bonus: there were 3 cute kids! I really enjoyed the group, who were all very gracious about having 15 adults squeezed into my one bedroom apartment. 2015-11-01 19.50.57

We started with empanadas as an appetizer. I’ve made these before, as they’re popular in other countries as well. The most traditional Chilean versions are made with meat, but since some of my guests are vegetarians so I made a cheese version.  Wegmans had recalled their queso fresco and had none in the store, and the person assisting me informed me that they were recommending fontina and monterey jack as substitutes. Really?!? I’m such a cheese snob and tried not to show my disbelief about this recommendation. I beelined it to PriceRight where I found queso fresco aplenty, and where I also scored frozen empanada dough preshaped into discs. PriceRight for the win! 2015-11-01 13.17.58

I used both the pre-packaged empanada dough discs and puff pastry for the empanadas, and used this recipe for the filling. 2015-11-01 14.12.41 2015-11-01 14.12.452015-11-01 16.04.16I loved the egg-yolk wash on top that made them really pretty.

Beef, potatoes and corn are popular ingredients in Chile, and I made pastel de choclo for the appetizer – a traditional version and a vegetarian version. The corn topping was fun to make, and I found it so interesting that corn in Chile has a higher starch content, so making the corn topping with U.S. corn required adding cornstarch and cornmeal to the frozen because it’s non corn season fresh corn. 2015-11-01 14.54.382015-11-01 15.23.262015-11-01 15.22.232015-11-01 15.32.152015-11-01 15.44.47 2015-11-01 15.52.41 2015-11-01 15.54.352015-11-01 16.56.24

I enjoyed both versions – the beef version is rich and flavorful, and the vegetarian version contains two of my favorite things: potatoes and cheese.

Alongside the pastel de choclo I served sopapillas con pebre. These sopapillas are made with pumpkin, so that was fun for the season. 2015-11-01 16.18.23 2015-11-01 16.42.29 2015-11-01 16.54.16

I don’t have much experience frying, and asked my guests if they had any tips (because of course dinner wasn’t ready when everyone arrived and I was still dashing around the kitchen as I greeted people). Autumn told me that you put a wooden spoon in the oil, and if bubbles form around the spoon then it’s hot enough. Good tip!

The pebre is a kind of fresh salsa. 2015-11-01 13.06.302015-11-01 17.07.14

I made two desserts with dulce de leche, which I love. I’ve made it before the traditional way with cream and sugar, etc. This time I thought I’d try the version of boiling a can of sweetened condensed milk in water for hours. It did not go so well. I boiled two cans for over two hours. I opened one can and it wasn’t even close to done. So, I finished that one in the oven and boiled the unopened can for a few more hours. It was a late night. 2015-10-31 23.18.55I used some of the dulce de leche to top tres leches cake. I’ve always wanted to make tres leches cake, and though the dessert likely originated in Mexico, it’s  popular in Chile. 2015-11-01 12.34.25I don’t think I’d make this version again, as it was a bit soggy and not very beautiful, but it’s definitely a treat.

I also made merenguitos, or little merengues, to sandwich the dulce de leche. They’re supposed to look like little kisses, but I don’t have the proper tools and instead used a sandwich bag with a cutoff corner. 2015-11-01 12.38.282015-11-01 12.43.16

I failed to take a picture of the group, but it was a lovely afternoon/evening.

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Bon Appetit: Australia

Australia: Crash Hot Potatoes, Meat Pie, Vegetable Pie, Roasted Carrots, Damper, Pavlova

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Growing up, my family was obsessed with watched a Disney television series called Five Mile Creek, which was set in Australia. The show made me fall in love with the idea of Australia, and Australia is on my bucket list of places to visit. My friend Lalita is Australian, and she gave me some great tips on Aussie recipes. 2015-09-12 18.39.51-1

For an appetizer I made crash hot potatoes with gorgonzola. How amazing is that name?! These are so simple and really tasty. 2015-09-12 19.19.22image (9)

Meat pie is a classic Aussie dish, and Lalita sent me the recipe she uses. It smelled so delicious while cooking for several hours, and my apartment smelled and felt so cozy and fall-y as this dish came together. It felt a bit like making beef bourguignon, which was fun since that was the first dish I made in this couch cuisine project. 2015-09-12 15.10.11 2015-09-12 15.14.17  2015-09-12 15.17.462015-09-12 17.11.592015-09-12 17.58.32

I also made a vegetable pie since one of my guests is vegetarian. It was challenging to find a recipe for a vegetarian version of  “meat” pie as I think Aussie’s are pretty pro meat! But I used this recipe since it had a nice fall feel to it, though I made it as a whole pie instead of small individual pies and I just used a regular saute pan. It was really flavorful, though the texture could have been better – I think pureeing half the vegetables would have improved the texture for a pie preparation.2015-09-12 18.09.33 2015-09-12 18.18.05 2015-09-12 18.28.192015-09-12 20.05.20

I made damper, which is a rustic, simple bread I read is sometimes called Bush Bread. It was basically a big biscuit. 2015-09-12 16.42.50 2015-09-12 17.15.10Since the meal felt very hearty and autumnal I made roasted carrots as a side. I used this flavorful recipe, though I roasted the carrots for added flavor and excluded the chipotle peppers (though I think they’d be fun to add if everyone is pro spicy foods). 2015-09-12 17.25.19image (10)

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The dessert was so much fun to make! I was nervous about it because I’ve never made meringue before, but it turned out really well. I made pavlova, a very traditional Australian dessert made of meringue, fresh whipped cream and fruit that is light, sweet and fun. 2015-09-12 13.30.00 I whipped the meringue for about half the time that this recipe called for as several other recipes suggested shorter times. I also sifted the dry ingredients.2015-09-12 13.36.16
I held my breath while the meringue baked, but it turned out great!2015-09-12 16.24.51Kiwi and passionfruit were great toppings. 2015-09-12 18.50.44I adore passionfruit, and it added a nice tang to balance out the sweetness of the meringue.

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Such a fun group to share a meal together! These are friends from different facets of my life, so it was special for me to have an evening with the combined group. 2015-09-12 21.33.35

We ate in the living room since I don’t have a dining table big enough for everyone. As evidenced in this photo, my hosting style is messy casual. 11988696_10204771985755281_2081754588345598238_n

When you arrive, I will put you to work, the kitchen will be a mess, I’ll be a bit rumpled, and we will never eat on time. But, I’ll also be so glad you gave of your time to be here and hope that you feel comfortable and at home.

I have several more couch cuisines planned in the next few months (spoiler alert: the guest number will be more than double this group!) and I’m really enjoying being back in the swing of this. Community and food are high on my list of things I love, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to combine them.

Notes for Next Time:

More passionfruit on the pavlova! Make sure to put the parchment paper smooth side up – I did it the wrong way and the meringue stuck to the paper.  I used puff pastry for the pies, but it didn’t rise and fluff like usual; I’m not sure why. I might try them with pie dough next time. The vegetable pie texture needed to be a bit different, as mentioned above. Find better Aussie music for ambiance🙂

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