Again I am without photographic evidence, but trust me on this one: it was the most surprisingly satisfying and delicious thing I’ve cooked in a long time!!  It was delicious fresh and even more delicious a few hours later after it had sat for a while.  The best part:  I made it up using all stuff that I happened to have lying around, loosely based on a typical indian cabbage and potato stir fry dish.   The sweet-spicy-lightly peanuty sauce, the crunchy tender cabbage, the firm mushy potato bits, the hint of indian flavors…  I swear I am going to cook this again as soon as I get the chance, it was seriously that good!  Dear cabbage, I think this is the start of a beautiful friendship.

1)  Heat a small amount of olive oil in a skillet.  Throw in half of 1 ají amarillo (peruvian yellow chile pepper) very finely sliced, along with one chopped garlic clove.  Let fry about 30 seconds.

2)  Toss in a few generous handfuls of shredded/finely sliced cabbage, carrot, and finely diced potato,

3)  Drizzle with a tasty sauce (mine was:  1 tbl red wine vinegar, a few tbl soy sauce, a few tbl brown sugar, a pinch of ginger, a pinch of cayenne, a generous pinch of garam masala, and a tbl peanut butter all mixed together)

4)  Mix well, turn heat down, cover, and let simmer 5-10 minutes, or until potato is cooked.  Serve with rice.

So, what’s your favorite cabbage recipe?

The last time I was in Manhattan, my dearest Marissa took me to a crowded little place called Rice to Riches.   Imagine all the amazing variety you’d find in a Ben & Jerry’s or Cold Stone Creamery, but dedicated to rice pudding instead of ice cream, with an in-your-face attitude and impeccable attention to detail.  Holy crap.  It was AMAAAAAAZING.   Rocky road, peanut butter, french toast, banana, mascarpone, coconut, passion fruit, the flavor list goes on.  I daydream of that place on a weekly basis.

Today I had a craving for rice pudding.  Thick, rich rice pudding.  And caramelized apples.  So, I made it.  I have no photos to prove it, but trust me, it’s worth making.  The trick is arborio rice for a super luxurious texture.  Next time I want to try other flavors — perhaps orange blossom water or saffron, or peanut butter honey banana, or chocolate espresso…. … …

THE RICE:

1/2 cup arborio rice

4 cups whole milk

1/3 cup brown sugar

a generous amount of cinnamon, whole or ground, as you like.  (cloves and cardamom might mix in nicely as well!)

2 tbl dried flaked coconut, unsweetened

pinch of salt

Combine in large saucepan, bring to boil, let simmer for at least half an hour (stirring every few minutes to avoid burning or boiling over), or until the rice is soft and the whole mixture thickens.  Remove from heat.

Now, if you’re feeling sassy like I was today, at this point please drizzle in a few lugs of condensed milk, you will thank yourself later.  Perhaps some vanilla essence or liquor, go for it!

Now, peel and chop an apple (the more acidic kind — the “manzana israel” here in peru is the best).  Sautee for a few minutes with butter and a little brown sugar.  I sprinkled in some cinnamon and ground ginger to punch it up a bit.

Serve rice pudding warm with apples on top.  Enjoy!

There are endless things to be said about the wonders of food in Peru — the fresh, versatile, cheap  ingredients, the irreplaceable ají amarillo and rocoto chile peppers, the fusion of countless culinary traditions, the universal passion for sharing good home cooked food, the rise of gourmet peruvian restaurants …  but for now I just want to talk about this dish.  Pastel de choclo. More or less translates to “Corn cake.” The concept is simple, more like a kugel than a cake, made from ground fresh corn.  But when it’s well done, oh! the texture! the perfect sweet spicy mushiness, like a fresh and slightly undercooked cornbread, with an intense savory filling.  Heaven in your mouth.  I’m not exaggerating.

In order to make an authentic Pastel de Choclo, first you need real choclo.  Imagine corn on the cob, but paler in color, less sweet, and monstrously large. Then you need ají amarillo, the yellow chile that is the core of many Peruvian dishes.

Recipe:  Pastel de Choclo, my way

Ingredients:

Corn batter:

1/2 c. minced onion

1/2 c. pureed ají amarillo

6 fresh choclos, corn kernels cut off the cob and ground in food processor or blender  (i like to blend it with the next ingredient, the milk)

1 c. evaporated milk (which really gives a richer flavor than fresh milk)

3/4 c. sugar (I use brown)

150g. grated parmesan cheese

1 egg

salt, pepper

Prepare batter:

In a large skillet, heat a tablespoon of oil (olive or vegetable, as you like), sautee onion and ají amarillo for 5 minutes.  Add ground choclo and evaporated milk, season with sugar, salt and pepper.  Over low heat, stir constantly with wooden spoon as it thickens for 5 minutes.  Remove from heat, pour batter into heat resistant bowl.  Add half of the parmesan cheese and the egg, mix well. Set aside.

Filling:

** The typical filling for this dish includes minced onion, garlic, minced ají amarillo, chopped steak or ground beef, black olives, raisins, and hard boiled egg. I’ve chosen to make a vegetarian version because I prefer it that way.  A simpler vegetarian filling would be slices of queso fresco or the cheese of your choice and sliced black olives.

For my filling, I used:

1 cup finely diced eggplant

1/2 cup diced red pepper

4 cloves of garlic, minced

2 tbl. tomato paste

1 package button mushrooms, sliced

A small handful of black olives, finely chopped

A generous pinch of capers, finally chopped

Sautee eggplant for one minute, add red pepper and eggplant, cook until softened, 10-15 minutes.  Add mushrooms and tomato paste, cook 5 more minutes.  Salt to taste.  Add olives and capers at the end, cook one more minute and remove from heat.

Prepare Pastel:

Spread half of the corn batter in a baking dish (I used a 10 inch ceramic baking dish — a large Pyrex would do nicely too, or any casserole dish).   Spread the filling evenly, sprinkle with remaining cheese.  Cover with the rest of the batter.  Bake at 180 C for about 45 minutes.  Enjoy!

An alternative is to use the corn batter as a filling for stuffed peppers.  SO GOOD.  You can spice it up with chopped green onion, olives and oven-roasted tomatoes, with cheese, or really anything you like.

I’d be interested to see variations of this made with good ol’ american yellow corn.  It would require less sugar, I imagine.  Let me know how it goes!

Hi world,

I think this blog might eventually have to become much more about food than about knitting.  I OBSESS about food.  about what i’m cooking, what i want to make. what other people are making, how they are doing it, how i could do it too but maybe differently… … …

before i get all giddy over foodstuff, here’s a glimpse of what’s been coming off my needles lately:

it’s a baby blanket (Tweed Baby Blanket, pattern courtesy of jared flood at brooklyntweed.blogspot.com) for my cousin’s new baby girl.  It took much longer than i expected, but the yarn was so delicious that i didn’t care.  Babies still need blankets when they’re a few months old and no longer tiny little newborns, right? .. Right!!  Now I’m slowly but surely plugging my way through a gorgeous manly cabled sweater for D, an old design from Rowan.  So far so good.

i also made these sweet little shoes for my sweet little one-month-old goddaughter.

And hey, my hands can do other stuff too — i made my very first CHALLAH!!  And holy sesame seeds, batman, this is GOOD.  thanks, smitten kitchen, for the easy to follow recipe!

(*** i want to make lots more bread.  i really honestly do.  i just need to make time for it.  but yeah. i really, really should.)

and then there’s this.  K for P (that’s kosher for passover) spongecake, an old family recipe.  The batter includes half a lemon and half an orange grated whole, potato starch, separated and firmly beaten eggs, sugar, and a whole lot of love from the person who has to carefully fold all those ingredients together.  Maybe this recipe is reserved for a special holiday because the only way the cake doesn’t fall down in the oven is if you pray for it.

But I jest.  It’s really not so difficult to create a succulently moist, citrusy, sweet, satisfying, melt-in-your-mouth spongecake. All you need is a good egg beater, one authentic 1950’s-era glass diet soda bottle for hanging the cake upside down while it cools, and a trusty rubber spatula for folding. Smother it with cool whip and fresh berries and you’ve got yourself a birthday celebration on a plate (happy birthday mom!).

arisaig

I began this sweater on a bumpy bus ride in Northern Peru in August 2007.   I’ve been knitting it little by little ever since, and now 7 months later, it’s fiiiinally nearly completed!  all it’s lacking now is the edging, which I’m going to do in the same blue color.   when I first started to sew in the sleeve, I noticed sadly that I had been knitting rather tightly (except for the back piece which was knit on the bumpy bus with much looser tension.. it’s hard to notice the difference if you don’t know to look for it, but it’s quite noticeable to me) and the underarm was going to be uncomfortably small.  So I ripped out the seams, undid the bindoff, and knit in a few extra rows in the shoulders.  Seamed it back up and it fits!   I still can’t put anything remotely bulky underneath, but it’ll be perfect to throw over a dress or tank top.  After years of being drawn mostly to designs with cables, it was a refreshing change of pace to do something lacy.

Knitting’s really become a necessity for me here.   I’m not living in a situation where I can just go out for a walk on my own the way I would at Vassar or in Albany.  I used to take walks to clear my mind, to enjoy the fresh air, to get my blood moving, to think about things, to release tension, and mostly to get to class on time.  Now that I’m not living the academic life, I’m not on a beautiful enclosed campus with acres of green space, and i’m not in a neighborhood that is safe for young women with a gringa face to go walking around on her own for hours, I no longer take long solitary walks.  Now knitting has taken a different role in my life.   it allows me to channel my energy/tension/thoughts into a productive and meditative activity that i can carry with me wherever I go.

In the next few months I’ll move to a more friendly neighborhood where I will be able to walk around comfortably on my own.  Maybe then I’ll take my knitting to a park.

puno spinning lesson 3, originally uploaded by Hannahcha.

Last weekend, David and I took a much-needed last minute trip to La Paz, Bolivia so I could fulfill my visa switcheroo — leaving for 24 hours to come back and get stamped for another 90 day stay, since I’m still here under a tourist visa. The trip was disastrous in several ways: 1) we didn’t bring nearly enough cash to cover our needs AND the surprise $100 visa that is suddenly necessary for all US citizens entering Bolivia, so we were left with $15 for our weekend in Bolivia. 2) I got whammed by el soroche, or altitude sickness, and spent most of my time vomiting, trying not to vomit, battling dehydration, or groaning from my horrible headache. 3) The migrations officers in Bolivia asked us for “propinita” on the way there, to repay the favor of giving me a last-minute visa, and we politely declined to bribe them for any “favor.” They conveniently forgot to stamp David’s passport so that two days later on our way back, they asked him again for money to repay them for correcting the error that was somehow supposedly our fault.
HOWEVER: despite all this, we really enjoyed the trip. Somehow in the midst of all the stress, we let ourselves thoroughly appreciate the beautiful mountains, the deliciously cold rain, the idyllic farmland passing by as we drove several hours through the countryside, snow capped mountains and heavy clouds in the distance, just being the two of us, cozy together against all odds.
On our last day, in Puno, Peru (around the famous Lake Titikaka), we went in search of alpaca fleece for spinning. Around the corner from our hotel, we found a lady selling artesanias who was happy to sell us a very large bag of deep caramel-colored alpaca fleece. Much to my delight, the woman insisted on giving me a spinning lesson. She pulled out her drop-spindle and showed me how she has spun since she was 7 years old. It was amazing to watch her — her hands moved so rapidly, drawing out and spinning a long impossibly thin and even thread of alpaca fur, without any carding at all. This was exactly what I needed to see — how to manage the fiber. She let me take the drop spindle with me, we exchanged contact info, and I left, glowing with happiness from my surprise lesson. At home with my drop spindle and my wheel, I’ve been practicing every day, still feeling clumsy and slow, but enjoying very much the attempts I’m making. I’ve successfully been making a relatively even and thin thread on both tools, and my first attempt at plying lies ahead…

I made these last night: http://coconutlime.blogspot.com/2006/05/lime-buttermilk-cupcakes.html
highly recommended!

Sergio is here today. He and David just roasted a coffee sample we recently got, which is a “monsooned” coffee from India. What is monsooned coffee, you may be wondering? after being harvested, the coffee was left to dry in the monsoon winds, which resulted in it being inflated much larger than most green coffee, and so it roasts in a special way. we just tasted it in espresso, and wow, I have never tasted an espresso (especially single-origin) that was so low in acidity and full in sweet flavor.

Business update: The coffeeshop opens in about two weeks! (we won’t have monsooned coffee, but we will have a variety of Peruvian coffees that are also quite delicious.) The bar will be installed on monday. !!!! Things are moving right along!

hannahspins, originally uploaded by Hannahcha.

Reader’s Digest version: This is going to take some practice.

Yesterday afternoon, David and I picked up my very own bag of baby alpaca fleece, courtesy of our friendly neighborhood Nakayama alpaca knits & crafts store. we were the first people who had ever requested the natural fleece from them, who normally specialize in yarn and knitwear. so I have a bag of the SOFTEST caramel-colored fleece. it smells clean and natural, although there are little bits of vegetable matter stuck in it. I read in my books about carding. realized i have no cards. whoops. but the fleece seemed selected, uniformly soft and fine and very fluffy, it wasn’t at all smelly or gross, so I just pulled out some hanks of it and made my first attempt on the wheel.
It took a while to figure out how the heck you get the wheel to alternately spin the yarn or wind it onto the bobbin. between the two of us (the one who made the spinning wheel and the one who is learning to use it) we eventually figured out how to adjust the brake tension. adjusting that helped enormously, because at first it was twisting the yarn without winding onto the bobbin, and then it was winding straightaway without twisting. gah! and I have no idea if i’m totally mauling the fur by just plucking at it with my fingers so the handfuls of fleece feed up a small amount of fibers at a time… or if that’s the general idea..? either way, it might do me good to invest in some carders so I can control the fiber more smoothly.
but despite my total inexperience with fleece and the wheel, I did manage to make about a foot and a half of something vaguely yarn-like — twisted fibers that didn’t break and only had one or two lumpy parts. alright!!

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