Tag Archive: Stews and soups

Soup with a chill

Watermelon gazpacho
Chilled green bean sopu

Buenos Aires Herald
On Sunday supplement
Food and Wine

Anyone who knows me knows that I’d be perfectly happy to live on soup, day in and day out. Well, and maybe pasta. And sushi. And, well, okay, not so much day in and day out, but I like my soup and am happy to eat it on a regular basis. Here in Argentina soup is not a commonplace menu item. There are rich, hearty stews like locro and lentejas, but a simple bowl of soup, other than the sudden appearance of cream of squash soup that seems to happen every fall, is hard to find.

I blame it on Mafalda, the nationally treasured cartoon character who despite not having been published for going on 40 years seems to maintain a massive influence on people’s attitudes about politics, culture, and, soup. She wasn’t much for the stuff, and it seems that devotees of her are not either. There was even a study done in 1998 that showed a remarkable inverse correlation between those who considered themselves fans of hers and those who considered themselves fans of soup.

When hot weather rolls around we start to think about chilled soups here at home. They make great lunches with a nice bit of fresh bread from the oven, or the bakery, and they also make a great start to an evening’s repast. Here are a couple of favourites, just to start the season. I may get a little more elaborate down the line, we shall see.

Watermelon Gazpacho

1 large wedge of watermelon (enough so that the pulp will pretty much fill a standard blender)
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
1 onion
1 cucumber
2-3 chilies
2-3 cloves of garlic
1 bunch basil
60 ml good olive oil
60 ml red wine vinegar
salt and pepper

Some people like their gazpacho pureed, others like it chunky. I fall somewhere in between. I puree a part of it and leave the rest in small dice. If you’re not a watermelon fan, replace the watermelon with 7-8 plum tomatoes and proceed.

Remove as many seeds as you can from the watermelon and take it off the rind. Pack the flesh into a blender along with the chilies, garlic (start with 1-2 each and work your way up until you get the flavor you like), basil, olive oil and vinegar. Blend until smooth, strain to remove any remaining seeds that you might have missed. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Dice the bell peppers, onion and cucumber (peeled or not, your choice) and add to the pureed soup in a large container that will fit in your refrigerator. Chill until it’s quite cold, four or five hours minimum. Serve with a crusty bread loaf and enjoy!

Chilled Green Bean Soup

Everyone makes chilled pea soup, why not do something a little different?

½ kg green beans (either French or Italian – round or flat)
3-4 leeks
1 large potato
2 tablespoons butter
1 liter vegetable stock (from cube or homemade)
1 bunch mint
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon white pepper
½ teaspoon ground cloves
200 ml cream
pea sprouts or watercress to garnish

Clean the leeks well and coarsely chop them. Cook them with the butter over the lowest flame your stove will manage until they’re soft – “sweating” them. Peel and dice the potato and add it to the pot along with the seasonings and the vegetable stock. Turn the heat up, bring to a boil and then simmer until the potato is cooked through.

Meanwhile, “blanch and shock” the green beans and mint. If you ever wondered just what that meant – bring a pot of lightly salted (1 tablespoon/liter, roughly) water to a boil. Add the green beans, trimmed of their ends, and cook until they turn bright green and just soften – about 5 minutes. Add the mint and simmer for just about 10-15 seconds longer. Drain the beans and mint through a colander and then plunge them into very cold, preferably iced, water to stop the cooking and set the bright green color.

When both these components are ready, puree them together in a blender. Add most of the cream, reserve a little for decoration. Chill well, about 4-5 hours. Serve topped with a drizzle of the cream and the fresh pea sprouts or watercress.

A series of recipes and articles that I started writing for the Buenos Aires Herald Sunday supplement, Food & Wine section, at the beginning of 2012. My original proposal to them was to take local favorite dishes and classics and lighten them up for modern day sensibilities. We’re not talking spa or diet recipes, but at the very least, making them healthier in content, particularly salt, fat and portion size. As time went by, that morphed into a recipe column that, while emphasizing food that is relatively “good for you”, wasn’t necessarily focused on local cuisine. At the beginning of 2013 I decided to stop writing for them over some administrative issues, but it was fun while it lasted.


Wheat, not pink, berry

Wheatberry stew

Buenos Aires Herald
On Sunday supplement
Food and Wine

The Turkish have their Bugday Çorbasi, the Saudis their Shorobat Il-Jereesh and the Jordanians their Shourbat Freekeh, and the Yemenis, Shorba Burr. From Cyprus, Tarhana; Algeria, Jary; Zanzibar, Shorba; India, Alisa, Poland, Zur, Armenia, Madzoon Abour, and Iran, or Persia, Aash-e Gandom. I could probably keep going, but by the time I was done, I’d have forgotten what I was writing about, and probably put all the celiacs into anaphylactic shock. Because what do these all have in common? They’re wheat based soups. What brought all this on? Monday.

Why Monday? It’s a day in the northwest of Peru, originally from the mountain region, though in modern day centered around the coastal city of Trujillo, when, week in and week out, local cooks prepare a dish called Shambar. It’s a pork and wheat soup, very thick, very hearty, and the reasons behind the Monday only tradition are pretty much lost to time. It’s generally assumed that, being the first day of the work week, it was a way of providing plenty of nutrition to start the week. But that assumes that back in antiquity, in the indigenous cultures, Sunday was somehow a day of rest, if there even was one, as it became after the arrival of the conquistadors. That’s unlikely, unless the day of rest just happened to coincide, and this tradition is reputed to go back well before the Spaniards arrived.

Here in Argentina (though shambar is available at virtually every Peruvian restaurant at Monday lunch), we have the Guiso de Trigo Candeal – no fancy names for us, just tell it like it is, “Durum Wheat Stew”. It’s not one of the more commonly seen one-pot meals, at least not here in Buenos Aires, but it’s a traditional and hearty winter dish from the mountain regions of the country, where it is, I’ve been assured, recommended to be consumed with “a group of brave friends”. I assume that since the only person telling me that is a porteño, that it’s because the stew contains a couple of hot chilies, which require sallying forth valiantly, spoon in hand.

Not surprisingly, as with, it seems most of the stews here, beef and bacon make an appearance. Far be it for me to eschew bacon, the “gateway meat”, and I generally leave it in the dish, it’s a small amount, but if you prefer, leave it out of the following recipe and just add a teaspoonful of liquid smoke, or use smoked salt in place of regular salt, to give that hint of wood smoke. For those of you who don’t cope well with spicy dishes, substitute a red or yellow bell pepper for the chilies.

Wheatberry Stew

250 grams of wheat berries (trigo pelado)
1 large potato, diced (250-300 grams)
100 grams smoked bacon (optional)
1 liter vegetable or chicken stock
2 hot chilies, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 green onions, chopped
1 red onion, chopped
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
60 ml whiskey
250-300 grams chicken breast, diced
10-12 sprigs of parsley, chopped, stems and all
4-5 sprigs of oregano, leaves stripped off the stems
240 grams canned, peeled plum tomatoes (1 can)
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Wash the wheat grains well to remove any chaff, and then leave to soak in cold water for 20 minutes. Drain. In a good sized pot, saute the bacon (optional, as noted), onions, garlic, chilies, and paprika in the olive oil until the onions are soft. Add the chicken and cook until lightly browned on the surface. Add the whiskey and deglaze the pan to get up any stuck bits, let the liquid absorb. At this point add the remaining ingredients (wheat, potatoes, herbs, tomatoes, and stock), bring to a boil, reduce the heat to minimum and simmer, covered, until the wheat and potatoes are cooked through, approximately 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Note: You can also make this dish with whole, unpeeled wheat grains, just soak them overnight and plan on the cooking time being more like 45 minutes; or, with bulgur wheat, which is a cracked type of wheat and takes less cooking time, 15-20 minutes.

A series of recipes and articles that I started writing for the Buenos Aires Herald Sunday supplement, Food & Wine section, at the beginning of 2012. My original proposal to them was to take local favorite dishes and classics and lighten them up for modern day sensibilities. We’re not talking spa or diet recipes, but at the very least, making them healthier in content, particularly salt, fat and portion size. As time went by, that morphed into a recipe column that, while emphasizing food that is relatively “good for you”, wasn’t necessarily focused on local cuisine. At the beginning of 2013 I decided to stop writing for them over some administrative issues, but it was fun while it lasted.


A bowl of chic

Hummus soup

Buenos Aires Herald
On Sunday supplement
Food and Wine

For years I’ve maintained that Argentine cooking is the only cuisine on the planet to eschew soups. Oh, there are stews, big heaping one pot meals – we’ve tackled locro and lentejas in this column – but an actual soup? Most of my Argentine friends and guests assert that they only ate soup as small children, or these days when they’re ill, in which case they resort to chicken bouillon cubes dissolved in hot water.

There is, of course, the Spanish derived puchero, a big boil-up of beef and vegetables, and traditionally served in two courses – first the solids, then the broth. But those same friends and guests tell me that these days, they generally just toss the broth, eat the meat and perhaps a bit of the veg. After all, they’re not poor anymore, they can afford to eat meat, meat and more meat, the rest of it is unnecessary. Shades of my home country post-WWII.

But are there actually soups in the Argentine culinary canon? The answer is, traditionally, yes. In modern life perhaps not so much, but the recipes are still out there. Among my favorite Argentine cookbooks is one that lists not only a dozen different ways to make puchero, but another dozen plus actual soups, most of them surprisingly vegetable based (though all, of course, managing to throw in some meat in some fashion or another – bacon, chorizo, beef, chicken). Another lists a solid five dozen different soups, albeit a few are clearly just foreign imports included for convenience.

At my table, a recent addition to our repertoire has proven to be a consistent hit, and it came about while playing around with several Greek and Middle Eastern dish ideas. It’s based on our old friend cicero, the chickpea. The sopa de garbanzos, or chickpea soup, uses a beef broth base and simmers them away with a mix of vegetables – potato, tomato, carrots and escarole – plus, not surprisingly, a good amount of bacon.

So when it comes down to it, this recipe, other than including chickpeas and potato, has really nothing to do with the Argentine one, but it’s become such a favorite that I can’t not share it with you all. The spicing on it is reminiscent of hummus, which was the intent from the beginning. (Take out the potato and the water and puree the rest with olive oil and you’ve got a killer hummus.)

Hummus Soup

250 grams dried chickpeas, soaked overnight in water
1 large potato
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
100 ml tahini (sesame paste)
peel of 1 lemon
2 teaspoon smoked pepper (ideally something middle eastern like aleppo or urfa biber, but smoked paprika will work)
1 teaspoon cumin, toasted
salt to taste (1-2 teaspoons)
1½ liters water

About as easy as it can get – put all the ingredients into a soup pot (use 1 teaspoon of salt at the start, you can add more later, you can’t take it out once added), bring to a simmer and cook until the potatoes and chickpeas are soft. Puree in a blender or food processor. Add salt if needed. Serves 4-6 as a first course.

Now, I like to add a little something to the soup for texture, and over time we’ve come up with several different options. You can emphasize the chickpeas by adding fried chickpeas to the pureed soup. A personal favorite is to lightly char cauliflower florets in a pan or under the broiler, lightly coated with olive oil and ground sumac. Diced roasted beets. Toasted almonds slivers. Unsweetened plain yogurt, perhaps flavored with some lemon or orange juice. Chives and/or green onions. Spiced olive oil. If you could add it to hummus, you could add it to this soup!

A series of recipes and articles that I started writing for the Buenos Aires Herald Sunday supplement, Food & Wine section, at the beginning of 2012. My original proposal to them was to take local favorite dishes and classics and lighten them up for modern day sensibilities. We’re not talking spa or diet recipes, but at the very least, making them healthier in content, particularly salt, fat and portion size. As time went by, that morphed into a recipe column that, while emphasizing food that is relatively “good for you”, wasn’t necessarily focused on local cuisine. At the beginning of 2013 I decided to stop writing for them over some administrative issues, but it was fun while it lasted.


Locro, taking wing


Buenos Aires Herald
On Sunday supplement
Food and Wine

We’ve heard it all before. We’ve been bombarded by news and websites and tweets and posts. We’ve been China Studied and Eating-ed Animals until we’re ready to crawl into a box with a milk fed calf and join in. And the truth is, we’re really not that interested. It’s not that we don’t want to live longer and healthier lives, we’re just not going to live them out of a salad bowl filled with fair trade, hand-picked greens harvested by indigenous people living down the block, growing plants with their own family’s waste products.

Because while dining as a locavore/herbivore may be dandy for all the folk who just “eat to live” and imagine their lifespans stretching into eternity while day trading, some of us “live to eat” and prefer to imagine a significantly shorter mortal coil while indulging in mouth-watering treats. And we’re not fooled by “it has the taste and texture of” adverts, because the only people who truly believe that are ones who never had the original, and likely are the same ones who keep infomercials doing brisk business offering shoes that guarantee to take off 20 kilos within 17 minutes.

We know there needs to be some balance, and we’ve already added in the shared salad, switched from fries to mashed, and gone for the half entraZa instead of the kilo lomo. And while I’m not here to convince you I can take a traditional, artery stopping recipe, flip it around so it can get a cute little heart symbol tacked on, and have it “taste just like the original”, I am convinced we can make a delicious version of a classic dish or three that might not add another layer of plaque to our carotids. Why not start by lightening up a classic locro stew for summer?

1 cup dried white corn
2 ears of fresh yellow corn, cut the kernels off the cobs
2 medium white onions, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
2 1-cm thick slices of smoked turkey breast, cubed
4 chicken thighs
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon hot paprika
½ teaspoon of ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
½ butternut (anco) squash, peeled and diced small
1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced small
1 large potato, peeled and diced small
2 plum tomatoes, cut in small wedges
2 tablespoons olive oil

Soak the dried corn in water overnight. In a large pot, cook the onions and garlic in the olive oil over medium heat until they’re soft. Add in the meats, fresh corn, cumin, paprikas, bay leaves, liquid smoke, black pepper and a large pinch of smoked salt and continue cooking for ten minutes. Add the vegetables and soaked corn kernels, water and all, and add water to a level 5cm above the level of the ingredients. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to lowest setting, cover and simmer for 2 hours. Every 20 minutes or so give it all a stir. Fish out the four chicken thighs, you can leave them whole or remove the meat from the bones and shred it. Use a wooden spoon or spatula and press the vegetables against the side of the pot, working your way around until about a quarter of it is mashed up and thickens the soup. Add smoked salt to taste. Add the chicken back in if you’ve shredded it, otherwise just put one thigh in each serving bowl – ladle the soup into the bowls. Add fresh chopped chilies if you like it spicier. Serves 4 as a full dinner.

A series of recipes and articles that I started writing for the Buenos Aires Herald Sunday supplement, Food & Wine section, at the beginning of 2012. My original proposal to them was to take local favorite dishes and classics and lighten them up for modern day sensibilities. We’re not talking spa or diet recipes, but at the very least, making them healthier in content, particularly salt, fat and portion size. As time went by, that morphed into a recipe column that, while emphasizing food that is relatively “good for you”, wasn’t necessarily focused on local cuisine. At the beginning of 2013 I decided to stop writing for them over some administrative issues, but it was fun while it lasted.


Brazilian Kitchen on Tour


Time Out
500 ways to experience Brazil around the world
June 2010
pgs 131-132

Brazilian Kitchen on Tour
Spice up your repertoire with these three classic recipes

feijoadaYou could spend years exploring the canon of dishes from various parts of Brazil; but if you’re new to Brazilian food, a dip into a handful of classic regional favorites will make a useful starting point to appreciating the richness and diversity of what’s on offer.

From the delicate flavors of a crab casquinha to spicy, aromatic fish moqueca, and on to the rich depths of the feijoada, Brail’s iconic bean-and-meat stew, the three simple recipes that follow demonstrate just how varied Brazil’s cuisine can be.

Any one of them will bring a smile to the face of a homesick Brazilian friend, and though at first glance they might appear complex, none of these dishes is difficult to make. While they call for the odd ingredient that might not be available where you live, there are easy-to-find substitutes for each that, while not preserving the dish’s pristine authenticity, do preserve its spirit and flavors.

Casquinha de Carangueijo

This easy-to-make stuffed crab is from the area around São Luis in the northern state of Maranhão, a region known for its beautiful coastline and fresh seafood. With its delicate crabmeat enhanced by familiar flavors like tomato, onion, garlic and parsley, the dish is especially evocative of the region. Serves six.

1 lb (450 gm) lump crabmeat, with pieces of shell removed
juice of 3 limes
2 oz (60ml) olive oil
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
4 green onions, chopped
4 tablespoons chopped parsley
2-3 hot peppers
4 oz (110 gm) butter
3 garlic cloves, minced
12 oz (340 gm) manioc flour
12 black olives, chopped
salt and pepper

Mix the crabmeat and lime juice and let stand for 10 minutes. Drain off the liquid. In a frying pan, saute the tomato, onion, green onion, peppers and parsley in olive oil for 3-4 minutes. Add the crabmeat and combine well. Fill crab shells or gratin dishes with this mixture.

In another frying pan saute garlic in butter until it is golden. Add manioc flour (or breadcrumbs if not available) cook for another minute. Add the olives and season with salt. Spread this mixture over the top of the crabmeat. Place under the broiler and cook until golden brown – 1-2 minutes.


This deep, complex and delicious meat-and-bean stew is the national dish of Brazil, and there are countless variations, from the type of beans used to the cuts of meat, and even which animal they come from. Almost all come with farofa on the side; but While the “poor man’s” feijoada usually involves some nose-to-tail eating including pig’s trotters or calve’s feet, ears tongues and the like, it’s by no means a requirement, and many home cooks and restaurants use more familiar cuts of meat and sausages as the base. It’s a lot of ingredients, but don’t be put off: it all comes together easily. This is a Bahian version, without the ‘variety meats’. Serves six.

1 lb (450 gm) of black beans (dry), soaked in water overnight
3 bay leaves
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
½ lb (225 gm) bacon, cut in small cubes
1 lb (450 gm) smoked sausage, cut in slices
1 cured chorizo style sausage (or any spicy cured sausage)
2 fresh chorizo style sausages (or any spicy fresh sausage)
½ lb (225 gm) chuck or rump roast, cut in cubes
½ lb (225 gm) pork shoulder, cut in cubes

4 oz (110 gm) butter
3 garlic cloves, minced
12 oz (340 gm) manioc flour
4 tablespoons chopped parsley

2 oranges, peeled and sliced
12 oz (340 gm) uncooked white rice
32 oz (950 ml) water

1 large bunch of kale or chard, washed and cut into strips
1 garlic clove, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil

Drain the beans and place them in a pot with the bay leaves and twice their volume of water. Cook until tender. Keep warm. Remove one cup of beans and puree them in a blender with a little water.

In a large stewpot saute the onion and garlic in olive oil until they start to brown. Add the meats and cook, stirring regularly, until browned. Add the beans and their cooking water plus the pureed beans. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat and cook until the meat is cooked through, about 15-20 minutes.

For the farofa, sauté the remaining garlic in butter until lightly browned, then add the coarse manioc flour (or breadcrumbs) and cook for 1-2 minutes until lightly golden. Stir in the parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Separately, saute the kale or chard with the sliced garlic in olive oil until wilted.

Place the farofa and greens on the table and ladle a plate of feijoada out for each person, garnished with orange slices and accompanied by cooked white rice. Let people add the accompaniments to their personal tastes.



This wonderfully aromatic fish and tomato dish probably comes in a close second for national dish. This version is from the south-east. On the spicy side and very aromatic, moqueca is delightful when paired with a well chilled, medium-bodied beer, or a fragrant wine such as Riesling, Gewürztraminer, or Viognier. Serves six.

3 lb (1.5 kg) of white fish fillets – pollack, sea bass, perch are all good choices
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and cut in wedges
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut in thin strips
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 bunch of basil, chopped
4 oz (120ml) coconut milk
2 tablespoons dende oil
4 tablespoons olive oil
5-6 malagueta peppers (usually available pickled, in small jars)
salt and pepper

Saute the onion and garlic in the oils for two minutes, just to soften. If you couldn’t find dende oil, use six tablespoons of olive oil, and add a half teaspoon of ground turmeric at the beginning for color.

Add the fish fillets to the onions, garlic and oil in one layer. Cover the fish with the remaining ingredients. If malagueta peppers are unavailable, use any small, hot chilies, pickled if available, or add a tablespoon of vinegar to the dish to give it some zip. Cover the pan and cook for ten minutes over low heat without stirring until the fish is cooked through. Place fillets with vegetable and herb toppings intact on to plates and accompany with rice. Season the liquid in the pan to taste and pour over the fish.

Ingredient notes

farofa dumplingsDende palm oil adds delicious earthiness and a vivid orange color to the dishes, and it’s the hallmark of the Bahia region. It’s tricky to substitute, as its flavor is so unique; but if it’s impossible to find where you live, you can mimic the color, at least, with a pinch of turmeric – see the moqueca recipe.

Manioc flour, finely ground, is used as a thickener; and in coarse form is toasted to create golden farofa, a essential accompaniment to many a Brazilian dish. It’s also known as ‘tapioca flour’. If you can’t find it, cornstarch will do for use as a thickener; but for farofa, if manioc flour is unavailable in coarse form, then breadcrumbs prepared the same way make a good substitute. Better that than trying to use ordinary flour, which will just end up as a paste.

The folk at the “home office” of Time Out contacted me after I’d written for Time Out Buenos Aires for several years and asked if I’d write a recipe section for their forthcoming book on Brazilian culture.


A walk on the gaucho side

Cuisine & Vins
May 2008

cuisine insider tips
A walk on the gaucho side

La Payuca - pastel de lomo y calabaza
Argentina offers one of the most delicious cooking in the world. Cocina de campo is a treasured secret that every tourist want to find out. [This was a copy editor’s addition, obviously not fluent in English.]

La Querencia - pastel de papas norteñas
Trying to define what “country style” cooking is depends not only on what country you’re from, but on what part of that country as well. Whether it’s a farmer’s breakfast from the Midwest of the U.S. stacked with pancakes, hash browns, eggs, bacon, sausage, and ham, all at once and on the plate or an English ploughman’s lunch with cheddar, Branston pickle, bread, butter, boiled egg, apple, and a green salad – the one thing you can bet on is it will be filling, nourishing, and hearty. After all, country living tends to be hard work, and you need something to keep you going. Here in Argentina, as in many places, stews and casseroles are the order of the day, and they are plentiful.

La Querencia - locro
In the stew category, a quartet make up the core of cocina de campo here. Locro starts with a base of dried white corn or hominy, with the addition, almost always, of potato, squash and sweet potato, which are often cooked until they’re literally fallen apart and become part of the liquid that surrounds the bits of diced meats and sausages. Depending on where its from it can range from mild to spicy, usually a simple matter of either green onions, chili flakes, or chili oil being added to or not; and from some regions, a bit of cheese is added atop and melted just enough to be able to stir it in. Carbonada can be, in some ways, similar to locro, though often a bit on the lighter side, and characterized in particular by the addition to the stewing mix of pieces of sun-dried peaches that give it its unique flavor; and using fresh corn rather than dried white corn, either loose kernels, or, more commonly, sliced rounds of corn on the cob. The next two are probably more widely known throughout the Americas, lenteja is a lentil stew, generally with bits of meat and sausage lurking within, and mondongo, a tripe stew flavored with tomatoes, onions, and herbs, and a generous addition of potatoes.

La Querencia - lentejas
It would not be out of place to look at Argentine country casseroles and find them familiar – one of the most common, the pastel de papas is little different from a classic shepherd’s pie, generally made with diced steak beneath its browned crust of mashed potato. Variations do occur, and the potatoes may be replaced with squash or sweet potato, respectively called by most, cacerola de lomo con calabaza or con batata. One unique dish is the humita casserole, a baked dish of sweet corn, often spiced with what we might think of as sweet spices – cinnamon, nutmeg – and sometimes even sweetened with a bit of sugar – and topped with cheese before baking. It’s a simple dish, but completely delicious, and is also often found, tamale style, in small portions steamed in corn husk, or as a filling for empanadas.

La Payuca
While a trip out to the countryside and a day, or weekend, at an estancia, or ranch, is a great way to get to try some of these dishes, or even spending the time at Buenos Aires’ nearby “gaucho town” of San Antonio de Areco, an easy bus or car trip of less than two hours, and which you can do on your own or with a guide. But for the short-time visitor or someone who simply prefers not to venture out to the countryside, the city abounds with options for rustic, campo cooking. One favorite spot at which to sample many of these dishes is La Payuca, with two locations, at Santa Fé 2587 in Recoleta and Arenales 3443 in Palermo, serves up piping hot bowls of all four of the above stews and a few variations of the casseroles, in traditional clay dishes, and right out of a wood-fired oven. La Payuca’s locations are big, bustling places, that might at first strike one as a sort of touristy spot, but listen up and you’ll realize you’re surrounded by locals just looking for good country fare. They’ve also got a reasonably extensive wine list, and a good selection of wines by the glass to accompany your meal.

Another favorite, of both the local and tourist sets, is La Querencia, with three locations, Chenault 1912 in Las Cañitas, Paraguay 434 in Retiro, and, probably its most popular locale, at the corner of Junín and Juncal in Recoleta. The versions served up here are, perhaps, slightly less rustic in style, with just a touch of city-refinement, but filling and delicious just the same. Their wine program is limited, but a simple flask of house wine actually fits the bill perfectly with this sort of food. Your choices are by no means limited to these two spots, and country fare is very popular, especially in colder weather, with the local populace – as the temperature drops, signs appear in restaurant windows like mushrooms after a storm – “Locro hoy!”, “Hay Mondongo!” – they won’t be hard to find.

In October 2006, I started writing for this Spanish language magazine, covering their English language section for travellers. I wrote for them for about two years. The copy editor, apparently not fluent in English, used to put each paragraph in its own text box on a two column page, in what often seemed to be random order, making the thread of the column difficult to follow. I’ve restored the paragraphs to their original order.


Melting pots

Time Out
Buenos Aires for Visitors
Summer/Autumn 2008
Page 20

Melting pots
Dan Perlman takes a tour through the gastronomic delights of Argentina’s far flung provinces without leaving city limits.

Argentina is 3,800 km (2,360 miles) north to south and 1,420 km (884 miles) east to west. That’s just less than 30 percent of the size of the United States; the eastern states of Canada and all of the UK would sit quite comfortably inside the province of Buenos Aires alone. In short, Argentina is a very big country indeed.

No surprise then that food culture varies markedly throughout the country. Fortunately, BA is pretty much the focal point of the country, so you don’t need to leave the capital city to get a chance to stab your fork into these tasty regional dishes.

Food from the north-west area of the country is well represented. What might be called Argentina’s rustic simply styled ‘mountain cuisin’, is featured in Jujuy, Salta, Tucumán, Catamarca and Santiago del Estero. Their rich hearty meals for example, locro (corn, potato, squash and meat stew), carbonada (stew of meat, vegetable and occasionally fruit), and mondongo (tripe stew) are often left in a pot simmering over the fire all day, ingredients being added over the course of one or more dinners. Many of these dishes share influences throughout the Altiplano, a region that extends into northern Chile, southern Peru and Bolivia.

Spots to sample this cuisine tend to be casual, almost lunch counter affairs usually starting with empanadas (turnovers), tamales or humitas (stuffed cornmeal dough steamed in corn husks) followed by a stew. The menus often offer little else, maybe a simple house wine and a flan casero (home-made flan) for dessert. Among our favorites are the two branches of La Cocina (Pueyrredón 1508, 4825 3171; Florida 142, 4326 7892). They focus on the reasonably spicy cooking of Catamarca. Their locro is easily one of the best in town, and offered with a choice of chilli sauce with various cheesy add-ons.

The cooking of Tucumán and Salta is probably best represented by the always popular La Querencia (Junin y Juncal, 4821 1888). Here the empanadas arrive with cracker like crusts and are stuffed with a variety of interesting fillings, but spicing tends to be more muted in comparison to other north-western regions. For the somewhat more picante cooking of Santiago del Estero, the empanadas at La Familia (Chile 984) in San Telmo are delicious if you don’t mind takeout only.

The north-east, strangely, is not well represented – the provinces of Formos, Chaco, Missiones, and Corrientes ahve a cuisine that’s heavily influenced by neighboring Paraguay. Often there is a stall at the weekend Mataderos gaucho fair that serves up excellent food from Paraguay and the north-east, well worth the trek if you’re a foodie.

For the specialty fish of the Paraná river that weaves through Santa Fé and Entre Rios, Jangada (Bonpland 1670, 4773 0411) in Palermo serves simple, perfectly grilled fish straight off the parrilla with just a touch of herbs, oil, and lemon.

Off to the west, Mendoza and San Juan are etter showcased. In a spot combining Mendozan art with the cuisine, Pan y Teatro (Las Casas 4095, 4924 6920, www.panyteatro.com.ar) in Boedo has superb pastel mendocino (potatoes flavored with a cinnamon and sugar mixture) and rabbit stewed in white wine. San Juan as the ‘don’t miss’, truly ‘don’t miss’, outposts of El Sanjuanino (Posadas 1515, 4804 2909; Sanchez de Bustamante 1788, 4822 8080; Pedro Goyena 700, 4924 0888, www.elsanjuanino.com) in Palermo, Recoleta and Caballito respectively, serving up divine empanadas and tamales.

Moving on south, the multi-province region – generally known as Patagonia, is easily the best covered part of the country. You could spend weeks just trying out all the little, and not so little, eateries that cover the rich culinary heritage of the forests, mountains, and coastline. Game, fish, and shellfish are strongly represented and interesting fruits, especially berries, figure in much of the cuisine. It’s also, in some ways, a more contemporary culinary experience, with many of the more creative chefs in the city featuring Patagonian ingredients with modern twists on classic cooking. The most famous is probably Patagonia Sur in La Boca, where star chef Francis Mallmann offers up high end dining at a high end price. Easier on the wallet is Aires de Patagonia, in Puerto Madero, which turns out beautifully elegant cuisine. Likewise the San Telmo and Palermo Hollywood locales of Divina Patagonia serve delicious modern versions of dishes such as venison with chocolate sauce, wild boar with raspberries, the famed Patagonian lamb in a variety of ways, and some wonderful seafood dishes that are equally creative.

For a more simple approach, it’s hard to miss San Telmo’s Mitico Sur. You can order from a alarge number of regional wines, paired with a variety of tablas – platters loaded with Patagonian specialities such as locally made cheeses, cured meats, smoked fish, pickled vegetables, and plenty of lamb – and nibble away to your heart’s content.

In mid-2006, I started writing for Time Out Buenos Aires. With changes in their way of conducting business, I decided to part company with them after my last article and set of reviews in mid-2009.


Liquid Salad

Outlet Radio Network
August 20, 2004

Liquid Salad

The end of summer is already visible on the horizon and I feel like it’s barely started. A strange one, at least here in New York. Grey and drizzle have predominated, blazing sun has alternated, and the usual July/August steambath just hasn’t happened. No dog days for us this year.

As anyone who knows me knows, I love to cook. During these warm months, I try not to turn the stove on more than I have to, so that means having fun with cold foods. I’ve always been a bit of a soup fanatic, and this time of year is perfect to experiment with the cold versions. I’m not talking about vichyssoise, which requires cooking and then cooling. I’m thinking cold fruit soups, cold herb soups, and, my favorite, gazpacho.

For those who aren’t familiar, well, first, just where have you been living? Second, it’s a cold vegetable soup, or maybe bread soup, or almond soup, or… and, umm, it’s from Spain, or Mexico, or South America, or… I’ve read through dozens of “official histories” of gazpacho and its origins and no one seems to agree on just what it is or where it is from. The name may have come from ancient Spanish, Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, or any of several other proposed languages. The most prominent theory seems to be Andalusia in Spain, and that it involves pounding stale bread, garlic, tomatoes, vinegar and olive oil together into a paste and then adding water to get your consistency right.

But walk into any restaurant here in the states that offers gazpacho and the most likely thing to be put in front of you is a bowl of fancy tomato soup. Cold. I’ve seen and tasted versions that were indistinguishable from Campbell’s tomato soup served straight from the can, I’ve seen versions that looked like they’d been constructed at the salad bar and doused with water, and every variation in between.

I’ve tried white gazpacho – a bread and almond concoction, redolent of garlic. I’ve tried yellow, green, orange, and red gazpacho. I’ve seen them with no tomatoes. I’ve seen them made with fruit – melons being the most prevalent. (In fact, finely diced watermelon replacing finely diced tomato in salad or soup makes a wonderfully refreshing alternative!)

Gazpacho is easy to make if you’re willing to forego classic notions of pounding in mortars and just have some fun. At it’s simplest, toss a piece of stale bread, a couple of tomatoes, a cucumber, a bell pepper, an onion, and a couple cloves of garlic into the food processor. Pulse until you get a coarsely chopped consistency. Add salt, pepper, olive oil, and a splash of vinegar, mix well, chill and serve a few hours or the next day later.

Recently, I went with an all-green theme for a dinner party. I wanted a touch of smokiness, so I spent a little extra time on this one. I charred some green tomatoes and some green “Italian frying peppers” (as the supermarkets insist on calling them) on my stove. I seeded the peppers, removed most of the charred skin from both tomatoes and peppers, and proceeded as above. Heaven in a bowl!

Charred Green Gazpacho

3 green tomatoes
2 green Italian frying peppers
1 cucumber
3 scallions
3 cloves of garlic
1 stale bread roll
¼ cup sherry vinegar
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
crème fraîche

The first step is the hardest one. Charring the tomatoes and peppers. You need an open flame, preferably the top of your stove or a grill. If you have an electric stove or induction burners, you’re pretty much screwed on this one. Go out and buy a small propane torch at your local hardware store…

Over a low to medium flame set the tomatoes and peppers on top of your burners. Let the skin come in contact with the flame and char. When it blackens, use tongs or your fingers to gradually turn them around so that pretty much all the surfaces get an even charring. Remove them and place them in a paper bag and close it. Let them steam for a few minutes – this helps loosen the skins, and infuses more of the charred flavor into the vegetables. Take a couple of paper towels and rub the skins off – it’s messy, but it works. You don’t need to get every bit of skin off, a bit of the blackened skin adds more to the smokiness of this dish. Open the peppers and remove the seeds.

Plop the tomatoes, peppers, cucumber, scallions, garlic, and bread roll into a food processor. Use the pulse feature, or, if you don’t have one, just pulse it on and off by hand. Process until coarsely to finely chopped. This is pretty much a matter of your personal preference and how chunky you want the final soup to be. Add the vinegar and olive oil and mix. Add some cold water to get the consistency you want – probably about ½ a cup, depending on how juicy the tomatoes were. Add salt and pepper to taste. Put in the refrigerator, covered, and chill for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight. Taste, add more salt and pepper if needed (after chilling you often will need to add a touch more).

Finely chop the chives, mix into a little crème fraîche (fancy sour cream, which you can use if you can’t find the crème fraîche). Ladle the soup into bowls, top with a dollop of the crème, enjoy. Eat.

Serves 4.

I started writing food & wine columns for the Outlet Radio Network, an online radio station in December 2003. They went out of business in June 2005.