Today’s Recipe: Ratatouille

This morning we woke to 40 degree weather with a wind of around 18 mph.  A good day for a warm and hearty stew recipe. I had all the ingredients for a wonderful Ratatouille so that is what I have made.

If you like zucchini and eggplant you will love this recipe. The cutting up of the veggies takes the most time, the cooking time is super fast and you end up with a very hearty meal.

Ratatouille

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Adobo seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • 6 large cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 large red pepper, sliced
  • 1/2 large green pepper, sliced
  • 1 large eggplant, cut into sticks
  • 2 large tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 2 zucchini, cut into long sticks
  • 2 stalks of celery chopped including leaves
  • 1/2 lb ground beef (use better quality)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Parmesan cheese for garnish
  • Parsley chopped for garnish

Use part of the olive oil to sauté the beef with the dry herbs. Set meat aside on a plate when almost cooked.  In the same pot add the balance of the olive oil and sauté the onions, celery and peppers for 2 minutes, add the balance of the veggies and cook just a few minutes, stirring occasionally. At this point you may need to add 1/4 cup of water but the veggies will release more of their own juices making more sauce. Add the ground beef and stir, cover and cook for 10 minutes.  Check the tenderness of the veggies, they should hold their shape but be tender.  This is the time to make adjustments to the seasoning, adding salt or pepper to taste.  Sprinkle with chopped parsley and a grating of Parmesan cheese.  Serve hot or at room temperature.

This tastes even better the next day.  You can serve over a baked potato or rice to make a more filling meal.

This recipe is from Sandy Hill who we met in South Miami years ago.  We have lost contact over the years but this recipe has lasted the test of time.  Of course I have made several additions to make it my own but the basic recipe is the same as when Sandy had Joe and I over for dinner back in the late 70’s.

La Pippona

Empanadas anyone? What we are used to is a fried empanada with more crust than filling. These empanadas from La Pippona are light and flaky baked crusts with filling galore. We have tried several of them and so far our favorites are the Mexicana which is super spicy for Uruguay and the Ham and Cheese which is filled with chunks of great ham and a rich creamy melty cheese.  I failed to tell you we did order a little pizza as well, this went into the fridge for another meal.Each empanada is marked with dots to represent what the filling inside is and is delivered to your door hot and ready to just dig in.

But we have also fallen in love with the Lebanese open-faced Lehmeyun. These thin crusted pizza like flat treats are covered with a meat and spice mixture – this is so different yet so wonderful it sparks your taste buds.  Sprinkle a little fresh lemon juice (slices provided with your meal) on top and you are transported to an even better taste experience.

And to top off an already great meal they have dessert empanadas. Yes, you heard me correct.  We have tried two of the four desserts offered and really loved them.  One is an empanada apple pie, hot from the oven excellent. Just the right amount of sugar and cinnamon, thin sliced apples, divine is the only word that can describe this dessert. Actually tastes like the pies Mom used to make. As well as the National Postre (dessert) for all of Uruguay Dulce de Leche we ordered the one with chocolate chips. Honestly not so overly sweet just right for Joe and I to share.

In our research on Uruguay we saw so many comments about the lack of food choices here.  We have not found that to be true at all. The food varieties are wonderful, you have your pastas even with a special day the 29th of each month where noquis are on the menu at almost every restaurant. You have your choice of flame cooked meats from pork, beef, lamb, chicken as well as sausages galore and if your taste runs to innards they do that as well. Our favorite restaurant so far in Atlantida is Don Vito, the food, the service, the atmosphere are just perfect for our Sunday lunch. They have seafood choices, chivitos, pasta, salads, pizzas and meats as well as a beautiful display case filled with desserts to die for.  While in Montevideo we found Tres Fuegos had similar service and food. We have found hamburger restaurants serving just hamburgers, beef or veggie like our favorite Rudy Burgers on 26 de Marzo in Montevideo’s Nuevo  Pocitos section.  You want Japanese we have found several, even in Atlantida we have Sushi Brothers (will be doing a post on them real soon). Are you into seafood? The supermarkets have several varieties of local fresh fish and in Atlantida we even have a fish monger if you really want it fresh. Montevideo has Indian restaurants even take out Indian is available.

I just don’t see an issue with the choices. What we have learned since moving from the US in 2006 is you may have to do a little work to have what you want to eat. I have learned how to make so many things from scratch and that only makes me a better cook and we have more wholesome food and eat so much better as I can control what goes into my food when I use fresh ingredients. So you like Thai make it at home you can find most ingredients at your local supermarket.  Want Thai Spring rolls, make them. Here the supermarket has spring roll wraps, sushi nori, rice noodles, tahini, soy and oyster sauce, wasabi powder…you want to make Pho they have the spices and other ingredients needed to make your own home-made version.

It’s all part of the great adventure. You need to go with it.

 

More Firewood (Leña)

We have gone through almost three loads of firewood so far this season and just ordered another two loads a few days ago. At 4,500 pesos or $160 US this is going to be an expensive winter season here in Uruguay.

I found out a few days ago that there are two types of wood red and white, I believe the eucalyptus is about the only wood burned here.  And that the red wood burns longer.  I had no idea, what we have received is the white. I also understand from Doug a long-term resident, that the round rolls of wood are cheaper than cut wood.

We have one fireplace and it is located in the main living area of the house. So that is where we spend most of our time now. Not a hardship as it is a big comfy room with a grand picture window, a full couch and 2 great easy chairs, a table and chairs for the computers and a writing desk. Oh yeah, and a propane stove, a few really warm throw blankets and a pass through to the kitchen. And lots of firewood!

Shopping at Tienda Inglesa – NOT

For the past few days I have had vertigo. For those that don’t know what that is, my world is spinning.  It happened several days ago when I turned in bed and then went to cough.  Something shifted in my ears and the room started to spin. Joe quickly got me in a sitting position and then I went through the exercises to shift these crystals in my ears.  Well I still don’t feel right.  And making a shopping trip was not anything I was interested in attempting to do.

Here you can go online with Tienda Inglesa http://www.tinglesa.com.uy/compras.php and place your order. You can pay by credit card, pick your delivery time and just sit back and wait for them to deliver.Honestly when you are not feeling well this is a wonderful service. All your food and supplies delivered right to your door – actually they brought them in and set them on my kitchen counter and floor.  Kudos to Tienda Inglesa…this is a great service.  And those great steaks from the Tuesday Lunch post – they were part of the delivery.  Gotta love it.

Tuesday Lunch

I decided to make use of the fireplace and make our lunch in it today.  I know I am starting to act like Mrs. Ingals on Little House on the Prairie (or Francis Mallmann for you foodies). This house does have two parrillas but I had a perfectly good fire going in the fireplace why would I want to make more work for myself. SO I wrapped a white potato and a boniato sweet potato in tin foil and dropped them under the grate on the hot coals.Then I took a beautiful piece of Rib Eye steak called Ojo de Bife Angus here and set it up next to the wood fire just above the hot embers. Lunch is served! I made a fresh chimichurri sauce to go with the steak as I had just purchased fresh cilantro as well as fresh parsley, added some spices, olive oil, salt and fresh ground pepper and fresh lemon juice.  YUMMY It looked great. It tasted great and I would make my steak this way again. And hey, potatoes are vegetables.  And for dessert we shared an alfajor.

Creamy Potato and Leek Soup

Each week when I go to the feria (Thursday Street Market) I am looking for what fresh and wonderful things they have for sale. Then I make my decision on what I will be serving during the next week.  This week they had the most beautiful leeks so I had to have them.  I paired them up with some good-looking potatoes and some pancetta and decided on Potato and Leek Soup.

Here is my recipe:

Creamy Potato and Leek Soup

  • 2 T of Olive oil
  • 4 slices of bacon or smoked pancetta – cut into small pieces
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary chopped fine (use fresh if you have it)
  • 1 teaspoon adobo (here it is spice mix with several herbs and spices combined)
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Add everything except the bacon to a good-sized pot, cook, allowing the spices to fragrance the kitchen do not burn. Add the pancetta and cook until crispy.  Set aside a small quantity of this for a garnish.

  • 4-6 good-sized leeks (trim green stalks and clean well to remove any grit)
  • 4 or 5 large potatoes cut into cubes (I do not remove the peel – more roughage)
  • 8-10 cups of stock chicken or vegetable (I used two bouillon cubes from Knorr)
  • Pepper to taste
  • fresh thyme sprigs (extra for the garnish)

Add the veggies to the spice mixture and sauté for just a few minutes, not to brown just for more flavor.  Add your stock and cook for 30 minutes.  Check to see if the potatoes are cooked.  If not cooked through, give them another 10 minutes.  Remove 3 ladles of the mixture to a plate and set aside.  Using an immersion blender blend the remainder until it is smooth and creamy.  Most recipes call for cream I think it tastes great without using it.  After the soup has cooled a bit add back the potato mixture you set aside.  Taste for seasoning and adjust according to your palate. When serving sprinkle the top with crispy pancetta and some fresh thyme.

Enjoy!

Being raised in the US our custom was to have our main meal of the day at dinner time, after work.  These were large heavy meals but our friend Eva suggested moving our main real to lunch making the dinner meal lighter. So that meal now consists of a bowl of hearty soup.  That is why I make so many different soup recipes.

Checking the Pinecone Inventory

Here we use pinecones to get our fires started as well as getting it going a bit hotter when we have left it a bit too long without checking.  So each week several guys come around selling big bags to help stock up our inventory.  They run from 60 pesos a bag to 80 or $2.15 to $2.85 US per bag.

Right after I took this photo our guy came by and we bought two more bags of cones so our inventory is 4 full bags and 1 partial. That should take us for a few weeks when the weather turns cold again.  The past several days it has been up into the high 60’s even got up into the low 70’s so we have not had a fire going.