I have often said that like the army, the Society of American Travel Writers travels on its stomach. The 2006 convention is in Santiago, Chile, with a guarantee of huge meals. As with any conference, many meals are served to everyone (more than 500 of us) in a hotel function room. The Hyatt and Sheraton have made great efforts in serving some local specialties.
Among them have been various disappointing salmon preparations, outstanding fruit salads and a version of Pastel de Choclo. In Chile and elsewhere in southern South America, “choclo” (not mais or similar) is the word for corn. Pastel de Choclo, a casserole, is a summer specialty. Locals tell me that home cooks dice a couple of onions and saute them with chopped chopped garlic and salt. In another pan, they saute diced or ground beef. In yet another, they poach about four pieces of chicken in water. In an ovenproof clay pot, they combine the meat and sauteed vegetables. They top that with olives, raisins, slices of hard-boiled egg and finally the cooked chicken, which may be sliced or shredded. They shuck about 10 ears of corn and blend the kernels in a blender (with a little water “if necessary”). The corn mixture is spread on top and then sprinkled with sugar. They then bake it for about 20 minutes in at an oven setting that I could not discern, but I think must be moderate (350 to 375 degrees) until the sugar caramelizes. The hotel did it in quantity without the caramelized sugar. Other central Chilean specialties include cazuela, a soup of chicken, turkey, beef or pork with potatoes, pumpkin and green beans, also cooked in a clay pot. Empanadas filled with seasoned meat, poultry or seafood are ubiquitous, as is seaood in many forms.
More to come on restaurant meals.
For a while, my posts will be from Chile. So far, since leaving Colorado, I´ve had food placed in front of me on two airlines: cookies from breakfast on American to LAX and one medicore dinner, one lousy snack and one mediocre breakfast on the long haul from LAX to Santiago on LAN Chile. No surprise. I am at a travel writers´convention in Santiago, staying at the Hyatt, which put on a nice buffet breakfast for the morning arrivals. The fresh fruit was fabulous, and the croissants were as brittle and flaky as the ones I love in Paris. More about other food once I´ve had some.
Leaving on a trip soon. Cleaning out refrigerator. Grilled some chicken. Made some rice. Concocted salsa with stuff that needed to be eaten. Here’s what I made (and the recipe is easily adjustable to whatever you might need to use up):
1/2 ripe cantaloupe, seeded, removed from rind and chopped
1/3 red onion, peeled and chopped
1/3 bunch fresh cilantro, stemmed and chopped
1/4 small can of chopped mild chiles
splash of Balsamic vinegar
Combine all chopped ingredients. Add enough Balsamic vinegar to tame the onion taste. Cover and refigerate until ready to use.
…as we were recently, the Boulder Sunday Camera had an interesting feature today called “Travels of the Tofu King” (http://www.dailycamera.com/bdc/county_news/article/0,1713,BDC_2423_5068199,00.html). It is not so much about Steve Demos’s creation of White Wave Tofu (now moved from Boulder to Broomfield as a division of Dean Foods), but about the world travels that he and his wife, Sheryl, have undertaken since he left the company. Among other experiences, they managed to find the cave in India where he got the idea to start a tofu company.
He’s back in town now and will be a speaker at an upcoming natural food industry conference.
IMHO, natural/organic foods and really delicious foods are not mutually exclusive. Fresh and/or “unartificial” ingredients and flavors create just about the best-tasting and best-for-you food there is.
Every once in a while, King Soopers produces a pleasant surprise, like the Antica Pasteria fresh lasagna noodles that I found recently in the refigerator section (next to the fresh tortellini and gnocchi). I’ve become fond of no-boil lasagna noodles, so I was really delighted to find fresh rather than dried ones. With the 8.8-ounce package in my cart, I picked up some fresh mozzarella and reduced-fat ricotta. I had everything else in the house that I’d need for a quick basic lasagna.
And it was quick. It didn’t take me more than 15 minutes to assemble this dish and shove it into oven. Lasagna isn’t fussy, and as long as even a little of the sauce covers each layer of noodles, especially at the edges, it’ll come out fine. While it was resting after I took it out of the oven, I made a simple tossed salad with oil and vinegar dressing. We opened a bottle of red wine and sat down to eat 55 minutes after I started — less time than it would take to wait for a pizza delivery on a Friday evening.
Quick Cheese Lasagna
1 package Antica Pasteria lasagna noodles
1 jar good-quality tomato sauce (Whole Foods, Newman’s Own, Trader Joe’s, etc.)
1 container low-fat ricotta
1 egg, lightly beaten
Fresh herbs if available, chopped (I harvested late-season basil and parsley)
1/2 pound fresh mozzarella, sliced thin
Grated fresh Parmesan, to taste
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Mix ricotta with egg and herbs. Ladle a small amount of sauce on the bottom of an 8 x 12-inch or 9 x 13 lasagna pan. Put down a layer of noodles. With this brand, the long side noodles fit perfectly into the the short side of the pan, with a little space to spare between noodles. With kitchen shears, cut one lasagna noodle into 3 or 4 slices to fill in these gaps. Top noodles with another layer of sauce, the ricotta mixture and mozzeralla torn into small pieces. Repeat the process until you run out of something, but do finish with sauce, mozzarella if you have any left and Parmesan. Cover with foil (the no-stick kind would be good if you have some) and bake for 1/2 hour. Let rest 5 to 10 minutes before cutting.
Servings: How hungry are you? Two of us comfortably ate half of this lasagna.
Thanks to Rocky Mountain News restaurant critic’s “Nibbles” column today, I checked out http://papayapate.blogspot.com/ , a mouth-watering food blog by John Broening and Yasmin Lozada-Hissom. She is a pastry chef and he is an executive chef. They are now partners in life and also in the kitchen at Duo Restaurant, which I haven’t been to yet. But Broening has a great rep in the kitchen but previously cooked in Colorado restaurants that didn’t make it. His food at the late Primitivo in Colorado Springs was a culinary highpoint of that food-blighted city (fine eating at The Broadmoor, The Cliff House and just an ephemeral sprinkling of other worthy places). His offerings at the late Brasserie Rouge in LoDo, just a block from Union Station, were wonderful as well, but the place was huge, and it was just too far from the main traffic flow to make it. In neither case did the fault seem to lie in the kitchen but rather with a business plan and/or financing — not unusual in the restaurant game. I hope the duo’s Duo is wildly successful, and I love their blog. If you enjoy food and recipes, you will too.
In the year-plus after Culinary Colorado was published, I traveled all over the state giving talks, presenting my slide show, appearing on panels and signing books. Over time, those promotional activities tapered off. Yesterday, I was one of the two authors invited to speak at the Rocky Mountain Skyline Bookstore Association luncheon in Fort Collins — the first time in months I’ve done such a presentation for this book.
It was a beautiful day for the drive (though the aggressive sprawl and the “de-ruralization” in the Berthoud-Loveland area was a shocker, but that’s another matter). The attendees were book people are with college and university bookstores, mostly from the Front Range. Questions are always enlightenting, and it was surprising how many were also foodies or married to foodies. “What is your favorite restaurant in Colorado?” is a common one, but I was also asked what my favorite new kitchen gadgets are (microplanes in a couple of sizes and an immersion blender, I answered), whether I shop at a farmers’ market (yes, of course, Boulder’s Saturday market whenever I’m around) and what I think of the Palisade Wine Festival (I haven’t been there since the relocated from the in-town park to a larger space on the outskirts of town, but I love the energy and the growing enthusiasm for and quality of Colorado wines). In my talk, I had mentioned that four Colorado chefs have been named as one of Food & Wine’s 10 best chefs of the year and named Frasca’s Lachlan Patterson, the most recent (2006). Someone asked me who the other three were. Answer: Charles Dale, then of Aspen’s Renaissance; James Mazzio, then of Triana, and Bryan Moscatello, then of Adega. None of those three is still around, but I think Frasca will last for a long, long time.
I drive to Fort Collins “the back way,” west of the towns between here (Boulder) and there, in what a few years ago had been rural (horse country, farm country), and driving through the construction zone that exists west of U.S. was not encouraging. It reminded me that to encourage farmers and ranchers to remain on their land, we all have to help them stay in business. If you want more info on the Boulder County Farmers’ Market, which is ending soon for the season, go to http://www.boulderfarmers.org).