2007.Feb.25 Sunday · 1 comment

in Casa SaltShaker, Food & Recipes

Buenos Aires – You all remember 6LL3 don’t you? The cloned sheep that we were all up in arms about, some of us on one side of the issue, some on the other. Oh, yeah, you probably don’t know her by her “real” name, but by the name that some stockman who helped deliver her named her… why? Because she came from a mammary cell, he thought it’d be cute to call her “Dolly”, after the well known country music star… and the name stuck in the popular press. Though she was born in July of 1996, it wasn’t until ten years ago this weekend that her existence was announced publicly. It seemed a good enough theme for Casa S… lamb, sheep, even goats… But first we ended up with a whole bunch of chili peppers… one of the local stores had a display and I couldn’t resist… they all get used somewhere in the mix.


The big red pepper that looks almost like a tomato is a pimienta colorada – it’s a sweet pepper, with a little bit more meatiness than a standard red bell pepper. The other red pepper is a piquillo, the first time I’ve seen fresh ones here – usually you just find them canned, already fire roasted. The yellow one was identified as a ají amarillo peruano, but the typical pepper called that is long and thin – I honestly don’t know what kind this is, it looks similar though not quite the same as what’s called a yellow limo chilie… it’s mildly hot. The dark, wrinkly green pepper is a pasilla, medium hot, and the bright green one was offered up as a jalapeño, which, unless it’s a variety I’m not familiar with, it’s not – it looks to me closer to a serrano. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it…

Mache saladMache is a lovely little green leaf, slightly bitter, slightly sweet. It’s used in all sorts of fancy restaurants. It’s hard to find here. Why is it important to 6LL3’s anniversary dinner? It’s also called lamb’s lettuce, so of course you can see the connection. I put together a simple salad of mache, arugula, endive, and radicchio, topped with some roasted beets and a roasted garlic and curly leaf parsley vinaigrette. Nice and fresh, bright clean flavors, a nice way to start off a meal on a hot day like the last two have been. Have I mentioned before how much I like roasted garlic sauces?

Quinoa Peanut soupInspired by our very recent visit to Peru, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about dishes with quinoa, so expect to see alot of them in the near future. I even picked up a great book in Peru called Cocina Novoandina – Quinua – Herencia de los Incas, published in a joint effort by Le Cordon Bleu and the Proyecto Quinua Organica – a very creative look at the use of this grain. But why quinoa? Because it’s also known in some parts of the world as lamb’s tongue. This recipe isn’t Peruvian, it’s actually based more on a West African soup – a quinoa and peanut soup. It’s quite simple to make, and amazingly delicious – one of those where several of our guests from the last couple of nights have already requested the recipe. I took one butternut squash and two yams, peeled them, diced them, and put them in a pot. I added to seeded yellow peppers (from above), and four coarsely chopped green onions. Water to cover, and boiled until the vegetables were soft. Then I pureed that mixture in the blender, water and all, along with a large handful of cilantro leaves and a half cup of organic peanut butter (the kind you find in natural food stores that doesn’t have sugar and salt in it). Dump it all back in the pot, add an equal volume of water – so now it’s kind of thinned out… and I had about 3 quarts of soup. I added two cups of rinsed and drained quinoa and let it cook in this – it ends up absorbing a good percentage of the liquid and makes a nice thick soup. Added salt to taste and topped with some chopped green onions for garnish (not in the photo). Eat.

Goatfish (Red Mullet) with Chive-Lime SauceThere exists out there in the world a Sheepfish. It’s a very pretty black, white, and yellow fish, with a sort of odd looking face that I guess is vaguely reminiscent of a sheep’s. They’re not, as far as I know, eatin’ fish – and they don’t exist here in Argentina. But there is a Goatfish. Actually, there are quite a few different ones, and it seems to be applied to species that are only related by virtue of swimming. It’s one of the names for a Red Mullet – the fish, not the haircut. It’s one of my favorite fish, flavorwise. I do hate the fact that they have a zillion little bones in them – and it’s a pain to eat them, but the flavor is well worth the trouble. I cleaned and scaled the fish but left them whole, other than decapitating them – too many diners don’t like those heads and eyes… Then I took a bunch of corn on the cob, and cut the corn off the cob. I put the cobs in a pot of water and boiled them up for some fairly intense corn stock. The kernels went into a saute pan with some chopped leeks, butter, salt, and white pepper. I cooked them over very low heat, stirring regularly, until cooked through and soft. To cook the fish, I laid them out in a casserole pan, poured the boiling corn stock over them and stuck them in a hot oven for 10 minutes to poach through and absorb the corn flavor. The fish and the corn mixture were presented on the plate as you can see, accompanied by a sauce made by pureeing chives with melted butter and lime juice, simply seasoned with salt and white pepper.

Lamb ChiliOn to the centerpiece of the dinner (though in retrospect, maybe the soup was the centerpiece… it’s so hard to tell), a Lamb Chili. I had to put some real lamb into the mix somewhere, no? I chopped up a bunch of lamb, white onions, garlic, the sweet red peppers mentioned above, some green bell pepper, and put them all in a pot with a little olive oil. Sauteed until browned along with some fresh thyme leaves, ancho and chipotle chili powders. I purposely kept it a bit mild, not knowing if our guests would want it as spicy as I tend to like it. Added a bottle of red wine and cooked for a couple of minutes to absorb, then added a whole lot of black, red, and pinto beans that had spent the night soaking in cold water. Added water to cover plus a little extra, since the beans were going to absorb a lot of it. Cooked for the whole day over low heat. Added salt to taste. I served it up accompanied by bowls of chopped red onions, and of mixed chopped chili peppers – the pasilla, piquillo, and serrano above, so that people could add as much extra spice as they liked. They used a fair amount of each both nights, so a good number of people apparently like it spicy!

Sheep’s Milk CheesecakeOn to finish off with one of my cheesecakes, this time made with the addition of a slightly salty sheep’s milk cheese to the mix. I like that touch of salt with the sweet, and it worked well in this version. It’s topped with a very simple carob syrup, giving it a hint of a chocolate flavor, though subtly different. The flavors blended together really well, and the cheesecake disappeared quickly. Regular readers know that I’m under a severe Hungarian evil curse not to reveal the cheesecake recipe… one of these days I have to get that curse lifted…

For wines, respectively, we paired up our house champagne, the Nieto Senetiner Extra Brut, then Don Cristobal Verdelho, which worked very well with the soup, the star match of the evening was the Jean Rivier Malbec Rosado with the fish, good but possibly needing something with more oomph to it, the NQN Picada 15 with the chili, and our fave local dessert wine, the Finca El Retiro Tardio with the cheesecake. All in all, a quite successful dinner. We had some repeat guests from past dinners, a former customer from the wine shop I worked at in Brooklyn (I guess she’s probably still a customer, I’m just not there), and a bunch of new folks to meet. A good time had by all!


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