Thursday, February 22, 2007

I´m moving!!!

No, I´m not moving again, I´m moving from Blogger! Basically, I´m really bad when it comes to technical stuff and blogger was making it really hard for me to change my template.
So I´ve just relocated to Wordpress here which is more user-friendly and that´s exactly what I need. Bear with me for a while though because I just decided to make the switch today so my new banner has an accent problem and I still need to figure out how to put up that cool flickr flash thingy over there, among many other things.
But I do think this will be an improvement, and all posts have been easily imported, so it´s not going that bad so far.
So come on over and tell me what you think of the new place. See you there!!!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

gruyere-serrano ham focaccia

I´ve only ventured into bread-making quite recently and I can´t believe it took me so long to jump in. I mean, there must be something inherently scary about yeast, you know, all the fears about "killing it", no wonder people are scared of bread if they choose those words to describe the process!
First, I tried my hand at pizza, then I did a white batter bread which turned out beautifully, and was so happy with it I did repeats for different people quite a few times... oh, the bread-maker´s ego.
I even jumped in the no knead bread bandwagon.
There was only one way to feed my new addiction: buy a bread-making book. Which I did a few weeks ago. I chose this book by an Argentine specialist I had seen on tv a few years ago and marvelled at the "foaminess" of his creations.
There are 145 recipes, so I will have plenty of stuff to keep me entertained, but the first recipe I chose was a gruyere cheese-serrano ham focaccia.

gruyere cheese-serrano ham focaccia

I usually know whether a recipe will succeed or not just by looking at the ingredients list. In this case: gruyere + ham = deliciousness.

Plus, the recipe was pretty easy and it yields 4 loaves, so I knew I probably would have 2 loaves left over from my dinner party that I would freeze and recycle for future dinners.

gruyere cheese-serrano ham focaccia

I wasn´t disappointed, the only slight problem was that the ham was a bit salty for my taste (then again, I´m used to eating with very little salt because my dad has high blood pressure so salt is pretty much non-existent at my parents´). So try your ham first and adjust the amount of salt you add to the dough accordingly.

You can also use the recipe as a base and exchange the ham for sun-dried tomatoes for instance. Just think of things you would like to find in there and you are set to go.

gruyere cheese-serrano ham focaccia

Gruyere-serrano ham focaccia (from 145 Recetas de panes y facturas by Marcelo Vallejo)

All-purpose flour (here it is called 0000), 500 grams (1.1 pounds)
Salt, 2 teaspoons
Fresh yeast, 25g (around 10g of instant yeast, 2 teaspoons)
Water, 300cc (around 10oz)
Egg, 1
Unsalted butter, 2 tablespoons
Serrano-style ham, 125g (around a 1/4 pound)
Gruyere cheese, 125g (around a 1/4 pound)
Extra-virgin olive oil (to brush the bread)

Yield: 4 loaves

1. Place the flour and the salt in a bowl. Make a hole in the middle and put the yeast, the lukewarm water, the egg and the softened butter there. Mix slightly.
2. Chop the ham slices thinly and the cheese into tiny squares. Add to the dough.
3. Knead until you get a soft, homogeneous dough (about 3-5 minutes).
4. Put back in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let it rest for 30 minutes.
5. Divide the dough into 4 rolls. Cover and let the balls rest for 15 minutes.
6. Pull out each ball with your hand, giving it an oval or rectangular shape. They should be about 1cm thick.
7. Place them on oiled pans. Brush the top of each loaf with extra virgin olive oil. Cover and let them double.
8. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).
9. Bake for 30 minutes. Serve warm.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

lazy ravioli

I´ve really come to love Asian food in the last few years, but Italian will probably always be what I eat when I want comfort food. So last week I made ravioli marrying the two cuisines in a way... no, I have come to hate the whole "fusion cuisine" movement because it is way too snobish, so I won´t categorize my recipe under fusion cuisine.
Basically, I was too tired to make the ravioli dough from scratch, so I grabbed a pack of won ton wrappers I had in the freezer and made some huge ravioli with a shitake-panko-potato flakes-onions-parmessan filling with a mozzarella cube in the center, served with a very simple tomato sauce.

raw won-ton ravioli

They turned out great. I managed to avoid extra moisture in the filling by adding panko, parmessan and potato flakes (the stuff you use to make instant mashed potatoes). I used some dried red mushrooms and shitake mushrooms and soaked them in hot water for a minute (you could use white wine or anything else you want to add another layer of flavor).

won-ton ravioli with mushroom-cheese filling

I cut some small cheese squares and wrapped the filling around them before placing them in the dough... so the ravioli would end up having a lovely melted cheese center, I mean, the equation could not go wrong, mushrooms, parmessan, onions, mozzarella, a hint of Tabasco sauce, served with tomato sauce, a bit of fresh cream, a drizzle of olive oil and parmessan flakes, what´s not to love?

Oh, and another recipe suggestion. We run out of mushroom filling (we had enough wrappers to make 50 ravioli), so for the second batch we simply used some mozzarella and some salami for some, and mozzarella and green olives for the rest. My mom gave them a fancier shape, which probably has a name in Italian but I have no idea what it is, anyone knows what these would be called?

won ton ravioli with salami-cheese filling

They are also easy to make. Use 1 won ton wrapper instead of 2, put the filling in the center, paint with egg, fold it to get a triangle and join the two side tips.

I´ll attempt to give you a recipe, which will read more like guidelines than anything because I wasn´t really measuring anything. The main point though is for you to try your hand at ravioli even if you feel lazy or don´t have a pasta roller. Using this method, we made 40 ravioli in an hour, and none of them opened at all while boiling!!! now, that´s a first.

won-ton ravioli with mushroom-cheese filling

Won ton ravioli

50 won ton wrappers
around 2 cups dried mushrooms (I used shitake and red mushrooms)
1 medium red onion
1/2 cup panko
1/2 cup parmessan
1/2 cup potato flakes
a dash of Tabasco sauce
around 1 tablespoon of pesto

1 egg (as a glue to seal the ravioli)

1. Chop the onion finely in the food processor and saute it with a bit of butter for a few minutes just to tone down the flavor a little bit. Put them back in the food processor.
2. Soak the mushrooms in water for 1 minute. Rinse and blend them in the food processor along with the cooked onion.
3. Place the mix in a bowl, add Tabasco sauce, the pesto and the salt.
4. Then start adding alternately panko, grated parmessan cheese and potato flakes until you get a firm mix which will be easy to work with your hands. Let it rest in the fridge while you lay out the won ton wrappers.
5. Cut some small mozzarella squares.
6. Place the won ton wrappers on the counter. Wrap the cheese squares with the mushroom filling and put the little ball you formed in the center of the wrappers.
7. Paint the borders with a whisked egg. Cover it with another wrapper making sure the borders are hermetically glued together and you have eliminated as much of the air that forms inside the ravioli as possible.
8. Boil it gently in salted water for around 3-4 minutes (do check though).
9. Serve the ravioli with a nice tomato sauce, a bit of fresh cream, a drizzle of good olive oil and some parmessan flakes. Enjoy!

STRANGE TRIVIA I noticed looking at Google Analytics that I have 1 reader from Carbonera!!! You say, what is Carbonera, well, Carbonera is a small town in Treviso, Italy where my dad´s family comes from. I mean, it is really small, so I almost fell from my chair when I saw "Carbonera" in the statistics. I was there once and I love the place... for what it is, for the family I have there and for all the place means, so if you are that reader from Carbonera, leave a comment or email me, I´d love to hear from you! (by the way, that extends to every single reader of this blog, I don´t discriminate against non-Carbonera people haha).

Thursday, February 15, 2007

the "joys" of "motherhood"

yep, the quotation marks were truly necessary. You see, I´ve been missing in action because of work, but mostly because of the new member of my household.

playing wiht my fake sister

Yep, lovely, isn´t she? I introduce to you officially: Phoebe, readers; readers, Phoebe.

Well, although she is dreamy indeed, she is also particularly energetic these days... which means she likes to chew on wires, jump and bite me while I´m watching tv in the couch like the true couch potato I am.

Don´t get me wrong, I love her to bits and I knew puppies could be troublesome. I mean, we did raise Maia and she turned out great. But the main problem must be in the "we". This time, it´s all on ME... she depends on me for food, entertainment, everything. And she doesn´t seem to sleep as much as she should, which means I don´t get to relax as much as I should, which means my patience is not at its highest level at the moment. And it´ll be two more months before the vaccines kick in and I can take her to the park and let her blow off some steam and play with other dogs. In the meantime, I´m stuck at home trying to come up with a way to create a safe environment to leave her in when I have to leave the house for a few hours.

Ok, that´s enough... all I meant to tell you is that I haven´t forgotten about you... it´s just been a rough week for me and I´m adjusting to that before I jump back in the kitchen. I do have a few recipes I made last week that I have to tell you about. I´ll probably write about them in the weekend.

And I´m sorry for going off-topic like that. It´s just that this week is all about this

giving the teeth a little workout

instead of food.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

How to get a nice suntan

Yes, I do know it´s still winter in the northern hemisphere, but this entry isn´t strictly about suntans... it´s more about carrots. Don´t worry, I´m not going to write a full entry about a carrot salad, more like a fantastic carrot cake.

carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and lemon powder

Thing is, I love carrot cakes, yet I had only eaten them twice in my whole life. Here in Argentina they are pretty much unheard of, in fact, some people might think it odd to use carrots in a dessert. That´s actually what I thought when I was offered a piece of carrot cake with hazelnuts in Zurich back in mmmm 1997. But, since the tour we had booked included that dinner and the other choices for dessert were kind of blah, I thought to myself "what the hell" and ordered it. It was incredibly moist and packed with flavor and I rejoiced in every single bite. Yet when it was over, I had no way to replicate it (oh, Internet, how I love thee). Until I saw a recipe for it on tv and tried it... I didn´t love it as much, which is what usually happens when you have years and years to fantasize about and remember a particular dish... pretty much a recipe for disaster.

But after seeing the amazingly moist cake Brilynn came up with the other day, I just knew it was time to let go of fear and give carrot cakes another try... I mean, I can´t justify another trip to Switzerland just to have some carrot cake, right? well, now that I think about it, maybe I could...

I was all set to make it, yet I was missing some key ingredients for this particular recipe (like shredded coconut), so I decided to put it on hold for a while. Fate intervened in the form of the arrival of a new cookbook I had ordered online, which coincidentaly had a carrot cake recipe in it.
I did have to use dried apricots instead of white raisins, but that was pretty much all the tweaking I did. This is definitely one of those recipes that actually taste better the second day because the flavors get more intense as time goes by. And the cake is really moist so there´s no need to worry about it getting too dry.
I apologize for the crappy pictures, but I made the cake at night so the light wasn´t working for me. But, please trust me on this one, disregard the pictures and go for it, it´s a really easy recipe which tastes remarkably well... and can help you with your tan... what more can you ask for?

carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and lemon powder

Lemon/orange powder

As you might have noticed, there is a yellow "powder" sprinkled over the frosting. Well, that´s a great tip I discovered thanks to my new book: lemon/orange powder. It is really simple and can really add to the presentation (and flavor) of many dishes. You simply peel some oranges or lemons with a potato peeler (trying not to get much of the white peel), put the peels in glass container and cover it with a lid (or with plastic wrap) and microwave it on maximum for 6 minutes (they say 6 minutes for the peel of 4 oranges, just adjust using your common sense, they peels should dry out). Let the peels cool for a few minutes and then grind them in the food processor until you get a nice powder.

Carrot cake (adapted and translated from La cocina de Mauricio y Eduardo)

carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and lemon powder


Conversions from this great site.

Eggs 2
Sugar 1 cup
Honey 100 grams (around half a cup)
All-purpose flour 210 grams (a little less than 1/2 a pound)
Baking powder 1 teaspoon
Ground cinammon 1 or 2 teaspoons
Nutmeg 1 teaspoon (I didn´t have any so I didn´t use it, it could work really well though)
Salt 1/2 a teaspoon
Corn oil (or canola oil) 160cc (5.6 ounces)
Finely grated carrots 1 1/2 cups
White raisins (or dried apricots or whatever you have you think could work) 1 cup
Pecans or walnuts 1 cup


1. Whisk the eggs with the sugar and the honey using an electric mixer at medium speed for 2 or 3 minutes.
2. Incorporate the previously sifted flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg to the egg mix. Add the oil.
3. Add the carrots, the nuts and the raisins/dried apricots.
4. Pour into a previously buttered/floured pan (I used a fluted pan of around 24 centimeters of diameter).
5. Cook in a 170°C/340°F oven for around 35 minutes (mine was done after 20 minutes, which might mean it was too hot or that they use a smaller pan and get a taller cake).

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Pip... unplugged

I´m back!!! Everything got fixed this morning... at 9 a.m., way too early for me since I had been out with friends till 2 a.m. and didn´t bother going to bed before 3 a.m., but this was definitely one of those cases when I don´t particularly mind sleeping less than usual.

If you had only seen me on Tuesday! I pretty much looked like a crackhead going cold turkey hahaha I do have an excuse though, I was already up to my neck with deadlines, and suddenly I had no means to upload and download stuff from the server. So what´s a girl to do? Go to one of the restaurants I have just outside of my apartment, thus solving two problems: what to have for lunch and how to upload stuff. What I wasn´t counting on was my computer not picking up their wi-fi signal correctly, but that´s another story.

A testament to how good the food is that I was able to enjoy the meal even though I was about to have a nervous breakdown hahaha AND, though it can be pricey at night, they have a very affordable lunch menu: starter, main course, drink and dessert for 20 pesos (less than 7 dollars).

I chose meat-mushroom empanadas for the starter, cheese-filled potato gnocchi with a gourgeous tomato sauce with arugula pesto... and I´m ashamed to say I chose to have coffee instead of dessert (which brought the price even lower to 18 pesos) because I knew my mind was not in a good place to allow me to fully enjoy the dessert.

Unfortunately, I don´t have any pictures of the whole deliciousness, but I do have their site (which has pictures under "fotos") and I promise to be a good blogger next time I go and take some pictures myself. I´d definitely recommend going there for lunch if you live here or come here for a visit.

In the meantime, I recommend you follow my footsteps and make arugula pesto (this recipe doesn´t use garlic though, pesto without garlic??? WTF!). I simply made mine with a bunch of arugula, 3 garlic cloves, 1 tablespoon of parmessan and olive oil. I have it safely tucked in my fridge and used it for lunch today to make a very simple, yet very tasty, tomato-egg salad.


Oh, and I got the cutest coffe mug the other day, to add to my already large, and VERY ecclectic, collection.


crazy mug collection

crazy mug collection

I´ll to be back soon with a more focused post... no actual promises, you know, but at least I´ll try not to unleash 100 things at the same time without actually elaborating on anything in particular! Until then, please bear with this rambling mind for a while.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

out of service

Just letting you know why I´ve been missing in action: my modem decided to die on me and I have to wait till Thursday for my beloved ISP to come and give me a new one... so I have to abuse one of my friends´good nature and crash at her place with my laptop to meet all my deadlines at work (given that I work freelance at home).

I promise to be back in a few days with more dishes and pictures.

In the meantime, I leave you with some eye candy... of the puppie variety.

sisters in arms


stop snapping pics at me


shaq 3

And my favorite one:

playing in the garden