Thursday, May 31, 2012

Lomito Italiano

A stack of sirloin, a tower of guacamole, the mayhem of melted cheese and mayo - and there my friends is a beautiful hand-crafted sandwich, the lomito italiano - Germany and Italy's contribution to Chile's beloved sandwich (of course, for pig lovers, the original is none other than the El Lomito).

For $7, this goliath of a sandwich comes with a refreshing glass of beer. Artery clogging, gluttonous, obscene - a sandwich you would share with God. You live only once chicos. Buen provecho! PS bring a bib.

Good eats in Chile: Vina del Mar @ Fuente Bavara

lomito italiano @ fuente bávara
lomito lush

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Chocolate / Banana & Apple Pixie Pies

On a housebound rainy Sunday, there's nothing I want more than a hot, milky tea and some home baked pie! 

rainy day in vina del mar, chile

But in my tiny rooftop kitchen in Chile, since I don't have an oven, only a toaster oven, a nice pixie pie shall do...then I can devour many of them (guilt-free), share with you how I made them and insanely cute photos to boot :) Here's to having your pie and eating it too. Enjoy, chicos.

apple pixie town pie
pookie (pie + cookie) sized or pixie

Recipe for Pixie Pies aka Pookies 
makes 24 (2 1/2 inch) pies

2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
2 tablespoons sugar
200 g cold butter or 1 1/2 sticks (cut into pea sized cubes)
1/2 cups cold whole fat milk

In a bowl, combine dry ingredients. Mix in butter. I like to use fingers to mush done into smaller pieces. The flour and butter will look like grainy sand but with some buttery pebbles. Then add the milk. Stir to incorporate dough. Pour everything in a plastic bag and refrigerate for an hour.

When thoroughly chilled, flour surface and roll out dough until it's quite thin (1/8 inch). For a standard cookie sized shape or "pookie" sized, cut out circles using a 2 1/2-inch cutter (or a small bowl / candle holder, anything you can find like what I found below). For pixie, use a bottle cap (e.g., twist off wine cap as pictured, from a good chilean wine, of course). Place in fridge to chill for another 30 mins before using.

2 cups thick apple sauce (or homemade from a microwave: 2 medium apple, finely dice with peel, 2 tablespoons sugar - microwave covered for 7 mins. finish with 2 tablespoons butter and chill to thicken. One of the advantages of making applesauce in the microwave, I find is, the apple retains it's shape vs in a sauce pan, it quickly melts away and there is hardly any water, which is good for this tiny pies).
1 chocolate bar
1 banana

To assemble
For 2 1/2 inch, fork bottom shell, place a thin slice of banana and chocolate or a teaspoon of apple filling. (NOTE: Apples tend to release juices while baking so make sure the filling isn't too wet as you may risk a disastrous looking pie vs a cute one). Wet finger tips with some water and dip on the edges of the dough. For the top, slightly press and gently thin the dough out (as the top needs to be a tad larger than the bottom to accommodate the filling). Cut vents with a knife. Place on top and fork the edges. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar before baking. For even smaller pixie pies, use the same technique and fill with the tiniest dab of apples or chocolate that permits you to cover and still crimp edges. Let rest in the fridge for 15 mins.

Bake at 210 c or 410 f for 20 mins or until golden. Although small, their smell is so good and potent! Cool for 5 mins before serving.

banana + chocolate = pookie monster
bake in toaster oven for 20 mins @ 210 c / 410 f
guilt free pies

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Friday, May 25, 2012

Wontons From a Microwave

I love, love wontons! I've had this all consuming nostalgia for them ever since Peru when we tried the chifas - peruvian "chinese style" restaurants (which I appreciate). On our last night in Tacna, Peru I ordered a bowl of wonton soup. Although the broth was delicious, the wontons were sad looking - cardboard curtains filled with q-tip sized meat. I ate the soup, while longing for a memory.

Wontons were my favorite growing up. Gathered around the kitchen table, I'd help mom make them. She loaded each wonton with a generous dollop of filling - the smell of sweet shrimp, ginger, scallions and white pepper. Between dexterous fingers, she created round, plump pillows. Then, over the boiling pot of water, after lining up several plates full of loving labor, mom would call out, "how many do you want sweetie?" to which dad and I would call out lucky numbers like customers in a casino - 11, 7!

wonton factory

Shazam to the present moment - in my tiny rooftop kitchen in Chile, equipped with a microwave and toaster oven, I attempted what seemed an impossible culinary feat. Homemade wontons from scratch cooked inside a microwave oven. If you can make hot water in a microwave, why not use it to cook wontons? 

So, why from scratch you ask - might we be a little too ambitious Mai? Well, for the life of me, I couldn't find wonton wrappers in my new hood of Vina del mar. And we searched and searched. Soy sauce (and the most delicious I've tasted - Pearl River Bridge - note to self to find it back home) and sesame oil - yes, readily available but no dumpling wrappers.

As it turns out, the wrappers are super easy to make if you like to play with flour and water (which I do). As for the filling, instead of the traditional mix of ground pork and shrimp - ground turkey had to do.

As you're probably asking yourself, will these wontons a la microwave merit such a faux pas - wontons the likes of rubber wellingtons? On the contrary, dear amigos, they came out splendid. A miracle. Comforting, convivial, homecoming.

Here's to technology - microwave ovens - what wonders!

wontons from a microwave - yes you can
size does matter - wontons that is...

Recipe - Wontons from a microwave
Wonton Filling
Chicken broth
Chopped cilantro and scallions for garnish
Lemon wedges for garnish
Sesame oil for garnish
Good soy sauce for garnish

To assemble, add a teaspoon of filling to the center of wrapper. Dot edges with water. Press down and seal wontons. Let rest for a 15-20 minutes before boiling. To cook, fill a large microwave safe bowel with boiling water (from an electric kettle or stove top). Delicately add wontons (5-7 for a regular serving). Make sure the water covers the top of the wontons. Cover with a plate and cook in the microwave on high for 5 minutes or until the wontons float to the top (an indication when they are cooked). To serve, in a bowl, place cooked wontons, cover with hot chicken broth, garnish with cilantro and scallions. Place a plate of lemon wedges, soy sauce and sesame oil for individual taste.

simulating a boiling pot - place in microwave for 5 mins until they float

Turkey Filling or Traditional Wonton Filling (shrimp and pork is the best for wontons if readily available)
1 package of ground turkey 
2 medium scallions thinly sliced 
1/2 c chopped onions
3 tablespoons good soy sauce
2 eggs
A couple dashes of good pepper
1 small knob or 3 slices of ginger - chopped finely

Put everything in a plastic bag, mix and let it rest in the fridge.

Wonton Wrappers (makes 24) - Adapted from
1 egg
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 to 1/2 cup water, as needed

Beat the egg. Add salt, water 1/2 c water. In a large bowl, mix in the flour. Add as much of the remaining water as necessary to form a dough. (Add more water than the recipe calls for if the dough is too dry).

Form the dough into a ball and knead for about 5 minutes, or until it forms a smooth, workable dough. Wrap dough with plastic wrap, let rest for 1 hr in the refrigerator. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Form into a doughnut, then break the circle into a long strand. (For the technique, check out this video at 1:52) Cut into 1/2 inch pieces. Roll out with a wine bottle or rolling pin until very thin, and cut into 3 1/2-inch squares or with a large coffee mug. Store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator or freezer until ready to use.

use a coffee mug to cut out the circles
...and an empty wine bottle to roll out the dough (mom would be proud)
store bought you ask? why no - I made these...not too shabby

-For the filling, gravitate to wet vs dry. You want a moist filling. And these wontons will be nuked after all. Add a couple tablespoons of chicken broth if you need to add moisture.
-Cook a little of the filling to taste in order to make sure the seasoning is on point.
-Let the dough rest in a cold place. Makes it easier to roll out and for the wrappers to keep its shape.
-Once wontons are wrapped, sprinkle with a little flour and allow to rest for a good 20 minutes until the skin is slightly dry. Don't cook wontons immediately after they are made - they are likely to burst when cooking.
-To add extra flavor to the chicken broth, infuse (for an hr) with a couple slices of ginger and a sprig of scallion.
-Don't over cook wontons. As soon as they float - they are done. You can also allow them to rest for a couple minutes before serving - they will continue to cook.
-Make sure there is plenty of water covering the wontons before placing them in the microwave.
-I find that cooking 6 wontons at a time in a large bowl inside the microwave is best, preventing over crowding and uneven cooking.

allow for ample rest before the final boil

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Definition of Quality Control

Biela making sure every kibble is accounted...

good, good...
yes, more...
now deposith directly on the tongue pleaseth

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Completo Gigante -12" Floppy Clown Shoe

Remember this episode on Chile's No Reservations when Bourdain is assaulted by the world's largest hot dog - referring to it as "12 inches of floppy clown shoe", "ron jeremy-esque tube of meat?" Well, since we're in Vina del Mar...say hello to my little friend, completo gigante - chile's national hot dog. We didn't get ours with choucroute, but the avalanche of avocado made up for it. Tasty, excessive, belly busting ? - yes, yes and yes.

Personally, I prefer my wieners with a little color vs boiled au naturale. But, hey when in Rome...buen provecho, chicos!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

In the Center of the Earth

by Pablo Neruda

In the center of the earth I will push aside
the emeralds so that I can see you---
you like an amanuensis, with a pen
of water, copying the green sprigs of plants.
What a world! What deep parsley!
What a ship sailing through the sweetness!
And you, maybe---and me, maybe---a topaz.
There'll be no more dissensions in the bells.

There won't be anything but all the fresh air,
apples carried on the wind,
the succulent book in the woods:

and there where the carnations breathe, we will begin
to make ourselves a clothing, something to last
through the eternity of a victorious kiss.

Foto del dia

Vina del Mar, Chile

Sunset. Rainbow in the clouds.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

On the Go: Arica - Iquique - Antofagasta - Bahia Inglesia

"For 5 days straight, we hit pavement in northern chile, mining town after mining town with landscapes (more like dreamscapes) that reminded us of Mar's surface and the movie Total Recall. Arid cracked canyons. Dust, rock and cinnamon hues.

The ocean - it's salty smells and soothing temperatures - has been very very welcoming to us California folk, even though the most foggy and haunting of coast lines - as if thousands of years ago and still today, the epic battle wedges forth between the mountain and the ocean gods - monolithic boulders, crashing titan waves...

On another note, it's been impossible to find adapters (the voltage difference was surprising). Luckily, the hotel here in Bahia Inglesia loaned us an apple adapter. We're here in this nice, calm refuge by the bay for the weekend. Then on the road again for Santiago's coast (Vina del Mar). We are gradually making our way to the middle - at times it feels like ants pace (but then we pinch ourselves that we are in Chile and that this elegant slither of land is so long and never ending)."

stuck behind the hay truck 
iquique (vegas meets miami)
ruins along the coast
monolith mountains
skipping antofagasta - no pet friendly hotels here
last of the sunbeams
cloudless day @ bahia inglesia

On the Go: Tacna - Arica, Chile Border

Easily the quickest and cheapest (cost = $0) border crossing in South America IF you have no dogs. But in our case, the longest, most rigorous and frustrating. In order to enter Chile, we needed a special "Zoosanitary Export Certificate" from the Peruvian customs. We found ourselves in bureaucratic limbo for hours - 9 hours to be exact.

But there were angels on both sides and we were lucky.

We don't blame the Chileans, just the policies. (Read here for the full story). Bienvenidos a Chile! We're now entering Neruda's country - and what a sight!

only 40 mins to the chilean border
ciao ciao
hello chile!

don't let the 60s decor fool you - the most expensive joint in arica


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