Restaurante Don Vito

There are several nice restaurants within about 6-8 blocks of our home.  Don Vito happens to be one that we have frequented several times. It has a really big menu from pizza to steaks and pasta and seafood and so much in between.

We started our dining at Don Vito’s with chivitos when we came here a few months ago looking for a house to rent. But soon moved up to Sunday steak dinners.  The food is plentiful and Joe and I found we could order one meal and just split it and that is more than enough for us.

The steak we chose has been on the Chefs suggestion special daily menu. Bife Ancho similar to a sirloin as it is a thick cut, but tender like a tenderloin. The cut is like rib eye. We ask it to be cooked very rare. It is cooked on the parrilla which is a style of roasting meat over wood. It came with a baked white potato, a baked orange sweet potato, a roasted red pepper as well as rolls and a condiment tray which had chimichurri, an assorted chopped up pickled veggies and a mayo garlic and herb spread that we actually used on our baked potato. Yesterday we ordered an OJ for me as I am fighting a cold and a cappuccino for Joe and the total bill including a 10% tip was 669 pesos or $24. It was great this is the third Sunday we had it for lunch, so much food we can’t fit anything for dinner.

The kids love that they have a few parrots at the front of the restaurant.  Keeps them busy while their parents enjoy a nice lunch.

It was a beautiful sunny day for an enjoyable outdoor dining experience.  This happens to be our favorite restaurant so far.

Rudy The Burger House, Montevideo Uruguay

Image may contain: food

You must taste the burgers at Rudy’s. Located on Av 26 de Marzo here in Montevideo.  Oh MY Oh MY.  First the restaurant located almost next door to the apartment we rented for the past 3 months. The burgers we had were nothing short of fabulous. The meat was excellent, juicy is not the word for this burger, maybe super juicy would be better.  We ordered the burgers jugoso which mean juicy but it actually is rare but not bloody red, just very juicy and dripping flavor. By the way, the server told us they make their own hamburg rolls as well.

It is a cute place with out front seating on a patio overlooking the sidewalk and road, inside seating in several different rooms as well as a patio out back that is walled and super private.  Our first visit we opted for the patio in the back and it was cozy, private and perfect for our lunch date.

The menu is burgers and fries. We wanted the cheeseburgers with all the trimmings and rustic fries.

Excellent.  We went back several more times before we moved and each time I brought the camera and the battery was dead. Guess I need a new camera.

If you are visiting Montevideo you MUST make a trip to Rudy. The best burger we have ever had. The beef here in Uruguay is outstanding and these folks know how to do it right. The only thing they do is burgers…..out of this world delicious.

Look At This Lunch Meat

I am not sure how the Uruguayan people would take me calling this lunch meat, but that is what it resembles to me.

Joe did a great deal of research before we moved here, we saw videos, had slide-shows and generally discussed Uruguayan customs, foods, housing, language, futbal and of course its people.

One major discussion item was food. I love to cook, I love to bake and we both love to eat, so many of our after dinner slide-shows included food.

montevideo-2-3-2Matambre is a rolled stuffed beef dish made here in Uruguay as well as Argentina.   We have seen it for sale in the local supermarket and decided to try it.

montevideo-2-3-3The bread is Pan de Campo or country bread. It was a huge round loaf and this sandwich is only half a slice of bread. I am not sure what the Uruguayans would use on the sandwich but I added leaf lettuce and mayo.  It went over very well.  I would buy it again. Yum!

Kofta Kabobs and Tzatziki Sauce Come To San Clemente

Another great recipe to use with the Pita Bread recipe from a few days ago are kofta kabobs with tzatziki sauce.  Most recipes for the kabobs I have seen and my original recipe were made with lamb.  Because we cannot find lamb very easily here I have modified my original recipe to use part ground pork and part ground beef. It worked well and tastes great.

Kafta Kabobs

  • 2/3 pounds ground pork (needs a good bit of fat)
  • 1 1/3 pounds of ground beef
  • 4 stems of parsley or cilantro *
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped *
  • 3 cloves garlic, roasted, peeled and chopped *
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • Small pinch of clove
  • Small bunch of mint leaves, very finely chopped
  • Salt to taste
  • dash of chili flakes to taste

*Note: if you are grinding your own pork and beef add the onion, garlic and cilantro to the grinder, it just makes it so much faster and then it will be blended completely into the meats.

Roast the cumin, coriander and clove in a frying pan until they release their aroma, about 1 minute.  Cool slightly and grind to a fine powder in a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder.  Add all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl mixing well and refrigerate until ready to cook.

Shape the meat into a 6 inch tube shape like a sausage.  Gently cook for 3 minutes on a side, the meat will flatten out a bit but continue to cook until all sides have taken on a nice brown color and are a bit crispy.

Tzatziki Sauce

  • 1 medium cucumber peeled, seeded and grated – then squeeze out excess liquid
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup thick yogurt or Kefir
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated fine
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
  • for garnish, chopped dill or cilantro and a dash of cayenne pepper

Mix all ingredients together and sprinkle with garnish and refrigerate until ready to use.

Make your pita bread (or use rolls) and place one kabob in the center of the pita and liberally cover with tzatziki sauce.  You can also use hummus or hummus and tzatziki together for yet another taste sensation… Beyond Yummy!!!!

Chunky Beef Chili

I can’t say that we ever get really cold weather, but some days when it is overcast and the wind is whipping off the ocean, it is fairly cool. On those days I really love a good stew or soup – or even better, chili.

Early this week I had all the ingredients needed to make a mean chili.

San Clemente 8.3.2013 005The first thing I did was make a spice blend of dried chili peppers.

San Clemente 8.3a.2013 004A friend brought these back from the states, I have only seen dried chili peppers in a small open air market in Quito three years ago. It is not something that you would find at Super Maxi on a regular basis. But adding different types of ground dry peppers adds not  so much heat but intense flavor to your chili sauce. Even when we were living in the US and able to find all sorts of prepackaged chili mixes I still added this special touch to bring an authentic quality to my chili.

Beef Chunk Chili with Fresh Red Beans

  • 1 to 1 1/2 lbs of Lomo Fino (tenderloin of beef) cut into bite sized pieces (I know, steak, but we pay $2.50 / lb. off the truck for it)
  • green and red peppers cut into chunks
  • tomatoes cut into quarters
  • 1 lb of fresh red beans, washed and picked through
  • red onion cut into quarters
  • carrots cut into large pieces
  • garlic crushed
  • celery cut into large pieces
  • 2-3 Tablespoons of chili seasoning (see recipe below)
  • large bunch of cilantro chopped fine (save 2 tablespoons for sprinkling on finished chili)
  • vegetable oil for browning meat
  • 1/2 Cup of red wine (drinking variety not cooking wine)
  • 4 cups of beef or vegetable stock (fresh is best but a few cubes in water will work)
  • pepper
  • salt and dried red pepper flakes to taste…if you used stock cubes use salt sparingly

First I took one of the large New Mexico Chilies and three of the smaller Chili Japones peppers and with scissors cut them into small strips, seeds and all. Added 1/2 teaspoon of my dried yellow pepper flakes but first dry cooked them on low heat on the stove until I started to cry and Joe needed to leave the house…To this I added cumin, paprika, cayenne pepper, black pepper and garlic powder. Honestly I have no real measurements so use your imagination. Do not burn, just gently sauté until you can smell the spices. Set aside to cool. Add this cooled mixture to a coffee grinder or a mortar and pestle and grind to a fine powder.

Brown the meat with a small amount of vegetable oil in a large pressure pot until the meat is colored on all sides and the juices are sealed in. Do this step in stages so as not to crowd the pan or you wind up boiling the meat. You want to seal in the juices so the heat should be high and the oil hot. Remove meat and set aside. Turn up the heat and add the red wine to deglaze the bottom of the pot. Add the balance of the ingredients plus the meat back to the pot, stir and bring the liquids to a boil. Turn down the heat and secure the lid. After the pressure valve begins to rock, cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour depending upon the amount of veggies added. Remember do not overfill the pressure pot. Keep the heat low and the pressure valve rocking slowly or your food will scorch to the bottom of the pan.

I do not like seasoning with salt until the meat is completely cooked. Taste for seasoning and add salt and extra red pepper flakes at this time.

San Clemente 8.3.2013 007Sprinkle balance of cilantro on chili and serve with rolls or crackers. Honestly this is a great dish and can be made ahead and refrigerated for several days to intensify the flavors even more. If you are not into spicy, use more of the dried peppers and less of the hot pepper flakes and cayenne. Buen Provecho!

Another Episode of Little House On The Costa

Some days I feel like I am living the part of Caroline Ingalls in Little House On The Prairie. I am not complaining – it is a unique and wonderful feeling, bringing me back to a simpler time. I can remember my Mother and Grandmother canning pickles, plums, apple sauce and even meat. Memories of my father butchering a cow or pig and all the adults cutting up the meat, making sausages, packaging the meat in white butcher paper and labeling them for the huge freezer my parents had in the basement. Looking back, it was a wonderful time. My father and mother were proud of their accomplishments, storing foods for many months for a growing family that required a great deal of food on a limited budget.

kowalczyk (241)

Above are the first four of us with Dad, missing is Mom who is taking the picture I’m sure and not yet born John Jr. and Lori Ann.

Here in Ecuador we are basically going back in time, very few processed foods are available and if you can find them at the big supermarkets they are expensive and the varieties are very limited. So to make our lives better we do many things from scratch an example is canning hot peppers, mango jam and assorted pickles and even sauerkraut, which I made this past week.

San Clemente 1.28.2013 002

My latest is grinding my own pork for sausage and beef for hamburg. I purchased over 5 lbs of res lomo fino (beef tenderloin) last Saturday, I honestly think it was still warm from the cow. I have learned to wrap these tenderloins in clean kitchen towels and place them on a wire rack on the lowest point in the refrigerator for several days to allow the meat to dry out a bit and age. This has worked wonders for the tenderness and taste of the beef. After a few days of aging, I got out my trusted ceramic knife (a gift from Joe purchased from the states) a good cutting board and started the task of cleaning the meat for steaks and chopped meat for hamburg. It is a labor of love, done because it is important to have good food, prepared with love. It took me over two hours to complete the task, package my treasures and cleaning up. On Thursday I purchased 5 lbs of pork tenderloin and put a dry rub on it and placed it in a plastic bag back in the refrigerator overnight, the next morning it was already in the oven wrapped in triple thickness of tin foil for a 4 hour marathon. It emerged tender, juicy and extremely tasty. The following is the recipe for the dry rub and the BBQ sauce to go with it.

Pork Dry Rub

  • 4 tablespoons sweet paprika
  • 2 tablespoons natural meat tenderizer
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon celery salt or 1/2 tablespoon crushed celery seed
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon ground oregano
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Mix together and apply to pork. Rub into the meat and allow to season overnight in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.

Southern Vinegar BBQ Sauce

  • juice of one lemon
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  •  2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon prepared mustard
  • 2 tablespoon fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup vinegar

Mix the first ten ingredients together, stir until sugar is dissolved. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat, allow to cool for several minutes. Blend vinegar and basil in blender until basil is pulverized. Stir vinegar mixture into other ingredients and allow to cool completely, refrigerate.

It was actually fun preparing these things from scratch. Living in Ecuador can be daunting to some folks, our attitude is what else have we got to do with our time. Having that attitude towards any job makes the job less tedious and more rewarding.

Lomo Fino – Carne de Res (Beef Tenderloin)

My purchases of Lomo Fino (beef tenderloin) since moving to San Clemente have been of  sporadic quality. It has not been the Lomo Fino that we have come to love…it has been chewy, chewy, chewy. Sort of like a zapatilla (sneaker) instead of a tender piece of steak.  I honestly must tell you that I have actually cut a Lomo Fino up into chucks and stewed it for hours and still did not have what I wanted. To use it as a fine piece of tenderloin has not been an option. I spoke with my traveling butcher on Thursday when he stopped by with only Chancho and requested five pounds of carne de res – lomo fino – but I wanted small filets not something from the oldest cow in the bunch. Early Saturday morning, I mean 6:30am early he was outside my gate with these steaks.

Well they sure looked beautiful but the true test is can I serve them as a suave steak? Both Joe and I have researched at home methods of tenderizing meat after our friend Scott from Las Tunas, down the coast told us about how he puts his beef in a large pot on a wire rack and leaves it in the refrigerator for several days to tenderizer.  We wrapped our steaks in clean dish towels according to the American Test Kitchen you tube video and placed them on a wire rack at the lowest point in our refrigerator, they will stay there for four days.  I have used this process with my last purchase of the larger tenderloins and was disappointed as it did not seem to tenderizer them one little bit.

I will let you know how it turns out, if not I will need to find a butcher in Portoviejo who has aged beef.