The last few days have seen a series of odd little requests coming in from folk via the blog here, each starting off with a compliment on how useful and wonderful and life changing and mind blowing (okay maybe not quite) it is and then immediately segueing into a request. That in itself is not all that unusual, folk who want something generally figure that buttering someone up will lead to a higher likelihood of favor being granted (wrongly in this case because I pretty much always answer email, buttering or no, but sure, I’ll play along and pretend the compliment had no other agenda).
But what’s been different is the “where” of the favors being asked. While each writer of a missive has told me how they’ve pored through the pages and feels as if they know me, each has, in contrast to the usual requests for recommendations on what to see and do and eat here in BA, or sometimes other parts of Argentina, pulled some other part of the world out of the hat. I’ve been asked for assistance with restaurants and underground restaurants and food shopping by half a dozen people who were looking for that help in Los Angeles, Boston, Porto, Rome, Paris and London. And when I responded to them that they were a bit out of my purview, at least the four who then responded back, with some embarrassment, hadn’t realized I wasn’t in their city, or near to it. So much for in-depth reading of the blog. I don’t really mind, it’s an easy response, and probably just coincidence that they all came in over a two day period, but really? Unless they’re just blanket sending out the same email to every food blog they can find, it’s just bizarre to me. Come to think of it, that would be bizarre too.
So, on to last week’s dinners, held here at Casa SaltShaker, in Buenos Aires, Argentina…. Another international week featuring guests from, as always, the US, Canada and Argentina (our three top contenders pretty much every week), and also South Africa, Lebanon, France, Italy, Australia and Denmark.
My thought on this dish when I first planned it was just that it would be an interesting heart of palm and avocado salad. At some point I realized as I was adding ingredients and playing around with it that it was, in essence, a vegetable ceviche. Not that there was need of curing the vegetables, but it’s what I was doing, our classic ceviche marinade tossed with hearts of palm, avocado, corn and red onion. But on the side, a little different, and part of the original salad idea, our own homemade cocktail sauce. Really, from scratch, not from ketchup and bottled horseradish or chilies, but a slow cooked blend that started with plump, ripe tomatoes and all the spices and finished with freshly grated horseradish root – a recipe I put together for a recent class where someone wanted me to teach them how to make shrimp cocktail.
Continuing with our summer chilled soups, a salmon and cucumber one that got rave reviews over the week. Into a pot with a chopped onion, leek, carrot, a couple celery stalks, parsley, a green chili and some chicken legs (basically, we’re making chicken stock at the same time as making the soup), along with salt and white pepper. Cooked those in a little butter until the vegetables were soft and the chicken slightly golden, then topped it up with water, a couple of peeled and diced potatoes, and about a pound of fresh salmon cut in cubes. Simmered it all together until the potatoes were soft, then pureed it all (except the chicken pieces, which we ate) with a handful of fresh tarragon. Finished with a little sour cream just before serving. Garnished with chopped garlic chives and a drizzle of a late harvest orange vinegar.
Playing around with a very intense risotto, here made with white wine and vegetable stock, then finished at the end with chopped leaves of radichetta, a type of chicory, confited cherry tomatoes, and some goat’s milk feta cheese, and at the last moment a radish leaf and pistachio pesto swirled into it. Topped with a fresh pea puree just slightly foamed up for lightness.
Gatuzo. It’s a fish, not a response to a sneeze, actually a sort of shark, the “narrownose smooth-hound” in fact – which I’ll get to in another fish round-up soon. Lightly breaded with panko crumbs and parsley and quickly fried. Served over our favorite mixture of chinese cabbage and white beans in browned butter, miso and shichimi, and topped with our summer popular kiwi relish, for which I’ve gotten four requests for the recipe from the weekend already. (The link to my article at the BA Herald brings to mind that I’m no longer writing for them effective a week ago, my decision. It was a nice year long run though.) The first night of last week I made this dish with grouper, but the flavor of the fish got lost with all the other strong flavors on the dish, it may have just been that particular grouper, but I decided to switch to something with a stronger flavor and the gatuzo looked absolutely pristine and delicious, and it worked really well for this dish.
A couple of weeks ago we served an apple butter tart to rave response and I wanted to bring it back and dress it up a little. Instead of whipped cream, this time around, a cheddar and cinnamon gelato. Yes, you heard it here first. Cheddar and cinnamon gelato. That’s going to show up again on some future apple preparations, but for the moment, it worked brilliantly with the tart, and the drizzle of bourbon caramel sauce. And, it’s going in the cookbook. Which I need to go spend some time working on now, so that ends the wrap-up of last week’s dinners.