Chimichurri

Living in Mexico means we have learned a lot about (and become friends with people from) many different cultures.  Yes, we had this at home, in Toronto, a multi-cultural city.  But here it’s been ….. different.  Why?

I suppose it is because so many of us left family and friends and our home country and came here.  And bonded together because we had that major factor in common.  When we missed our respective countries, friends, and family, we ate food that comforted us and told stories from home, all the while learning a lot about each other.  Loving new people and new cultures, it’s such a gift.

Some of our dearest friends here, who have been here since even before we arrived, are from Argentina.  A family of six moved here many years ago, learned English, and all the children are still here, some now married.

The first time we were invited to dinner to one of the son’s homes, our children were still very little.  We arrived around “Canadian dinner time”, 6:30 or so. The wife had all her groceries in the kitchen.  I soon realized she had not started any dinner.  You see, I did not know at that point that in Argentinian culture, dinner is eaten very late.  That isn’t so hard for us adults to adjust to, but a five year old and a seven year old don’t like waiting for dinner, especially when bed-time is usually at 8 p.m.  I kindly asked the wife if the kids could have a snack while we waited and of course she obliged.  From that point on, I got used to taking little snacks wherever we went, just in case I wasn’t aware of other customs and had hangry children on my hands. (A good mother would have been doing this already).

Now when they invite us to dinner, they cater to our ‘early dinner hours’ and we are usually eating by 8 p.m.  They spoil us.

The Argentinian culture is also known for their ‘asado’, or barbecue.  But this isn’t just like any old Canadian barbecue.  There may be more meat than you’ve ever seen.  And they don’t bring it all at once.  They cook a little at a time, and smaller offerings every 5 minutes or so I would say, so it’s always fresh and piping hot.  It’s very hard for me to not eat everything off the first platter, but, I’ve come to learn what cuts I like best and now I’m pretty good at holding out.

Chimichurri is always found at one of these meals.  I’ve also eaten it here with many an empanada.  Have you had an Argentinian empanada as opposed to a Mexican one?  Argentinian empanadas are baked.  I like them better most days, I find them less greasy and more filled than their Mexican counterparts.   When you order them in a restaurant, you’ll always have some chimichurri to go with them.

This sauce is very popular for a reason and there’s a million recipes out there for it, but this is how we like ours.  You can adjust it however you please.  Use it on meat, chicken, fish, shrimp, tacos, empanadas, vegetables, as a pizza base, in pasta …. I mean, the uses are endless.  Make a batch and keep it in the fridge and you’ll see how many times a week you use it.

And since the Argentinians invented it, it probably tasted even better after 9 p.m.

 

INGREDIENTS:

*These measurements are very flexible.  If you want more oil, add it; more heat, add it. 

  • 1 head garlic, cloves peeled
  • 1 1/2 bunches parsley, thick stems removed
  • 1 bunch cilantro, thick stems removed
  • 1 1/4 cups olive oil
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of oregano
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • couple shakes of hot sauce

DIRECTIONS:

Put garlic cloves, parsley, and cilantro in a food processor and process until fairly fine.  Transfer to a bowl.  Add remaining ingredients and stir to combine.  Adjust seasoning as desired.

 

 

Fresh Ricotta

Wait!  Don’t run away. I know the thought of making your own cheese sounds daunting, but trust me, this isn’t.  In fact, if you can boil water, you can make your own ricotta.

The first time I made this it blew my mind.  I like ricotta in lasagnas and every other Italian dish that they’re known for, but this?? This I could eat straight out of the strainer.  And I do. Every time I make it.  In fact this time, my daughter came in and asked if she could have some.  “Of course, but leave some for your dad,” I said.  She replied “well this recipe didn’t make very much, there’s barely any here.”   Oops.  Maybe I had already eaten more than my share.

The steps are simple. Pour all the liquids into a pot.  You can use a thermometer for this but really, you don’t need one, you can see when the whey starts separating.  It usually takes about ten minutes before you can see this and start scooping it into your strainer.

ricotta1

As you can see, it’s very liquidy.  Let it sit for at least ten minutes or so and it starts drying out and looks like this.

ricotta2

I have this beautiful Malden salt that i toss on top once it’s done.  Beautiful big flakes of sea salt on top of this pure ricotta.  What can you do with this? Well if you don’t eat it all straight out of the strainer, put it on a toasted baguette, use it in your lasagna or any other pasta, I’ve used it in a grilled quesadilla, the options are endless.

ricotta3

Don’t forget to comment on how it turned out! And how you’ll never buy ricotta again.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 8 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 2/3 cup whipping cream
  • coarse sea salt

DIRECTIONS:

Combine milk, buttermilk, and whipping cream in a pot over medium-high heat.  Bring to a boil until a cooking thermometer registers 185 degrees.  (If you don’t have one, keep an eye on the liquid to see when the curds are separated from the whey).  This should take about 10 minutes.  Stir a few times during the boiling process.

Remove from heat and using a slotted spoon, scoop spoonfuls of the curds into the cheesecloth-lined strainer sprinkling salt over it as you go along.  Let rest for 10 minutes and then check consistency.  If you would like it drier, let it sit longer.

This is best used the same day, but it will stay in the fridge for a day or two.

Adapted from: Framed Cooks

 

Chinese Black Bean Sauce

“The next time you get a chance, make me some black bean sauce”.” Make you what?” I thought, “what’s that for?”  I have heard that request a few times from my husband over the past year. When we started making Chinese food at home, he started asking for this black bean sauce.  I was so involved in perfecting my Kung Pao chicken, fried rice (ug this one took awhile), beef and broccoli, that I didn’t really think about this black bean sauce he kept pestering asking me for.

To be honest, I really wasn’t very familiar with it.  When I finally did look it up, I sadly realized there was no way I could get the main ingredient: fermented black beans, here in Playa.  Insert sad face here.

That’s where friends come in. We have friends who have a home base in Belize city but spend a lot of time doing volunteer work., so they end up coming our way at least a couple of times of year. Belize has a high population of Chinese people and therefore, fantastic Chinese grocery stores. I knew this already from the times that I have been there, but it has been a few years so it seems I have forgotten the extent to what the stores there offer.  My friend sent me a message a few weeks before they were coming to Playa and offered to visit the local Chinese grocery stores for anything that I could not get here. I was so excited I didn’t even know where to start. Of course, what subsequently happens when someone offers to get you something and you’re super excited?   I don’t know about yours, but my mind goes blank and cannot think of anything.  

I had to do some research. So I got online and searched through as many different oriental recipes I could find, looking through all of the ingredients.  I was happy to find that 90% of the items I could get here, but, there were a few things that I could not. And of course, because there were so many Chinese grocery stores in Belize, the items there were much cheaper than I could find here. I got a list of a few things, which she found quickly. Then I think to torture me she sent a picture of the shelves in the store and I almost passed out from excitement zoomed in and asked for a few more things. What was I most excited about? You guessed it. 

The fermented black beans so I could finally attempt to fulfill my husband’s request so that he would stop pestering me so I could make him happy.

I am aware that YOU can probably buy black bean sauce, making this recipe practically obsolete, but I can’t, so here we are.  Besides that fact, I love trying to create what you can buy packaged straight in my kitchen, it’s fresher, less preservatives, and I can alter the flavor to how we like it. 

I must say, I wasn’t disappointed.  There was one problem though:  the first time I made it I only made enough for one serving. I presented it to my husband after only having two bites myself. Mistake. He inhaled it and I was left with only fragments of flavor on my taste-buds. So this time I made enough sauce for a hungry group of six, and I still have some left in the fridge.   

Want to know what to put the sauce on? You’ll most often see it on noodle dishes, but it can be tossed with poultry, pork, beef, noodles, rice, you name it.  Take a look at my next post which will be up on the blog later today  to see how I prepared it.  

Make up a batch of this today, keep it in the fridge, and tell me what you try it.  

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2/3 cup fermented black beans
  • 1/4 cup cooking oil
  • 1/4 cup garlic, finely minced
  • 1/4 cup ginger, finely minced
  • 4 green onions, finely chopped
  • 1 cup vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
  • 2 Tab soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons sriracha
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 2 Tab water

DIRECTIONS:

Soak beans in water for about an hour.  Rinse and drain.  Mash beans with a fork and set aside.

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Add garlic and ginger and cook for a minute or two until fragrant.  Add green onions and cook for another minute.  Add mashed beans and cook for another minute.  Add all remaining ingredients, except for cornstarch mixture, and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes or so or until the liquid is reduced.  Stir in the cornstarch mixture and simmer for another few minutes until thickened.

Let sauce cool and keep in airtight container in the refrigerator.  Will keep for up to two weeks.

 

Adapted from: The Daring Gourmet