Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Buenos Aires Photo of the Day

As I start to organize the more than 900 pix I took in Buenos Aires, I thought I would post one (or more) a day. They will usually have a little story behind them and usually be about food, but not necessarily always.

Today's photo is of dulce de leche (caramelized milk spread). A small jar (bottom) was on my hotel breakfast table every morning. Also shown (top) is some of the ways Portenos (people of Buenos Aires, only with a tilda over the n) might start their day with the tasty spread. One memorable dessert was a coconut flan. In addition to the caramel pooling from the top of the custard and down the sides of the dessert was a slab of thick dulce de leche alongside it. Just in case there wasn't enough caramel goodness in the flan alone.

(By the way, I brought two big jars of the stuff home and have already located a local source for more.)

Buenos Aires Tourist Tip: Want to bring some of the this sweet stuff back with you? Buy your dulce de leche in groceries or supermarkets. You'll save a lot of money over buying it a more tourist-oriented and gourmet outlets and have more brands and sizes to choose from. I do recommend not buying it in foil topped plastic tubs unless you really want to wash everything in your suitcase when you get home. I wrapped my jars in plastic bags and then in clothes. Worked just fine. Another tip: Declare to U.S. customs you have purchased food. They will x-ray your bag for forbidden fresh produce, etc., but if you don't declare you are bringing in your dulce, you could end up paying a fine. Plus they'll confiscate whatever you do bring in.

Sweet-Sour Onion Soup

Regular readers know I love a good bowl of soup and often make gallons of soup at a time. In fact I make soup much more often than I post about it because 1. I forget to write down what I'm doing and/or 2. I'm doing it on the fly and not paying attention to exactly how much I've thrown into the pot when. I'm kind of a Soup Improviser.

But this latest improvisation in soup was so hauntingly delicious (and simple) I just have to share even if it is more of a technique than a recipe.

The story begins with my husband snagging a well-loved, used five-quart red enameled cast iron Le Creuset French (i.e. Dutch) oven at a local estate sale for just $18.

After I washed it, I had set it on my stove top to dry. I was looking at it and was suddenly overcome with the urge to make soup. Onion soup. One where you sweat the onions and slowly caramelize them into melt in your mouth sweetness, which a pot like this does better than any other. One inspiration led to another until before I knew it is was Sweet-Sour Onion Soup.

Here's how to do what I did:

Melt a knob of butter with a glug of olive oil
Slowly sweat/caramelize very thinly sliced yellow onions (I used 2 gigantic and 1 regular size onions) (use a low heat and a heavy pan)
Add dribbles of oil if onions seem dry as they slowly turn brown and soften. Continue to cook (uncovered), stirring occasionally until the onion's cell structure totally changes and the slices now are quite sweet and and the onions are falling apart soft and virtually melt in your mouth.
Add 1/4 cup sherry vinegar, salt, pepper, a bay leaf and about a half teaspoon of ground French Provencal seasoning and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Mix well and continue to cook for a few minutes.
Add 1 quart of good quality beef stock and 1/4 cup of dry sherry. Mix well, raise heat to medium, bring to a simmer and cover. Adjust heat and allow to simmer for about 10-15 minutes until soup is heated through. Taste and adjust seasonings. Add more vinegar if the taste isn't sour enough. Add more butter to tame a too tart taste. Simmer until the additions, if used, are absorbed. Remove bay leaf.

Serve hot with cheese-topped croutons. Try with bits of shaved cheddar or other cheese mixed into the hot soup in the bowl.

FYI -- This is my second Le Creuset. I gave myself a gift of a 7 1/2 quart oval French oven (in blue) a year or so ago. I go mine as a factory second at about half retail price at discount retailer that does not offer the same merchandise on line. I've been so enamored of its enameled goodness that I wanted a second, round one, but at even a better discount. Thanks to Mr. Blog Appetit who spotted the estate sale during his morning power walk.
Photo credit: Le Creuset website

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Bread Time Story -- History of Bread Repeats Itself

This Sunday, March 29, at 2 p.m., I'm giving my "History of Bread in Jewish Life - Meaning and Sustenance, Challah and Beyond" again. The talk is open to the public, so if you'd like to come you are very welcome. The location is at Temple Beth Abraham, 327 MacArthur Blvd, Oakland, CA.

Want more info or would like this to schedule me for a presentation at your meeting or event? You can email me at fjkblog1(AT)sbcglobal(DOT)net.

Below is information and resources from the last time I gave the presentation. I've updated the links and include some new information, too.
Tonight I am giving a talk (complete with 30 slides) on the history, meaning, rituals and traditions of bread in Jewish life.

I may decide to recap some that material here, but I thought I wouldn't wait to post my recipe "handouts" here on Blog Appetit. This way I save some trees by not copying the recipes and other info on all that paper for those who attend the presentation and I can share these wonderful web resources with a wider audience.

The first link is to an article by cookbook author Gil Marks. He explores the role of baking in ancient Egypt within the context of Joseph's dream. He then gives some wonderful recipes for Sephardic, Near Eastern and East European breads. For his recipes and explanations, please click here.

The second link is to an article about bread baking maven Margaret Glezer. Glezer wrote A Blessing of Bread, a remarkable cookbook surveying the meaning and history of Jewish bread making. This article includes an interview with Glezer and three challah (or hallah as it is sometimes written) recipes. I'd also encourage you to check out the blog Kyle's Kitchen. Kyle is a superb bread baker and has baked many of the breads in the Glezer book and posted great photos of the results. The site also has a number of links to additional baking info.

Tips for challah braiding, including a Star of David-shaped loaf, can be found here.

Much ado about bagels here. Plus I recommend Maria Balinska's book: The Bagel: The Surprising History of a Modest Bread.

I didn't cover bialies in my presentation, but I would also recommend Mimi Sheraton's book on the topic.

One other resource for you -- the Israel Museum site which has an informative summary of its exhibit about the role bread plays in the Jewish, Christian and Muslim lifecycle events. You can learn more in either Hebrew or English here. (update -- while you can find the on-line exhibit, the links to view are broken. I have notified the museum and will update again if they fix them.)

Reviewing My Trip to Buenos Aires

Forgive the lack of photo, I have not yet had time to download my approx 700 pix (not bad, really, I had 1,500 when I came back from China). (update, I just downloaded the pix and it was more than 900)

I've started posting some reviews of my trip on Trip Advisor, a service I really depend on for clarifying my hotel choices. I do take all such user-generated reviews with a grain of salt since a bee in someone else's bonnet might not even be a buzz to me. (Wow, double cliche sentence!) I say that, because my biases may not be yours, but I tried to be objectively opinionated in my reviews.

I loved the hotel we stayed in, Melia Buenos Aires, Reconquista 945. You can see my review of that property as well as the famous cemetery in Recoleta (with appropriate dining recommendations, of course) here, through my Trip Advisor profile. I hope to add to that and will let you know when I update it.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I'm Back But Please Be Patient

No jet lag, but did pick up a whopper of a cold on the way back from Buenos Aires.
I have lots to report, almost 700 photos to download, recipes I can't wait to re-create or create.
I promise to have some tasty posts soon.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Down Argentine Way, Or On the Road Again

PhotobucketI'm off to Buenos Aires. I don't know if I'll get a chance to post while I'm gone, but I'll be coming back with lots of taste memories to recreate and food experiences to share.

The photo is for an Argentinean vegetable dish baked in a pumpkin. See, it's not all beef in the land of the pampas.

Watch for the updates.

fyi - I had to use photobucket to upload this pix since blogger kept reverting it to its pre-rotated version! That's a new glitch for me. Hope it doesn't continue, especially since I had my issues with getting the photo from photobucket onto blogger.

Las Vegas Winner

On our lastest visit to Las Vegas we had a winner of a meal at Mario Batali's Enoteca San Marcos at the Venetian. A highlight was Gary's seafood stew.

More later