Chapati — Indian Flatbread

chapati-bread
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I admit I call many things 'my favorite' or 'the best thing ever,' but without any facetiousness or exaggeration, I can say that warm dough is my favorite and the best thing ever.

Baguettes, bagels, pizza dough, naan, rolls, loaves, English muffins, challah, sourdough, pita, pretzels, funnel cake, foccacia, ciabatta, empanadas, flour tortillas, arepas or good ol' sandwich bread (Oroweat's whole grain and oat is my sliced bread of choice)… I'm a glutton for gluten.

I have, on multiple occasions, organized my entire day around proofing and baking dough. Making bread from scratch is certainly rewarding, but it requires more time and planning than is often practical. Luckily, there are ways for more instant satisfaction. Pilsbury is a modern marvel — and delicious — but ancient cultures had quick ways to make bread, too.

All it takes is water and flour, people. A little fat and salt, a hot surface…we've got ourselves warm carbs from scratch in 15 minutes.

While I waited for my Goan-style roast chicken to cook last week, I watched the Mumbai episode of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations (the Rajasthan episode was better). Just before the show ended and the poultry reached an internal temperature of 165, I decided I needed some Indian flatbread, or chapati. Since it's an unlevened bread, and I'm all about skipping steps, I had hot bread by the time the bird was done resting. I even made fresh batch for my leftover chicken the next afternoon.

And guess what? It was the best thing ever.

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Banana Milkshakes, or I Can't Believe It's Not Ice Cream

banana-milkshake
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People laughed when they found out I packed an immersion blender for my stay in Buenos Aires. Well, I'm happy to report that it has been getting plenty of use. Pureeing butternut squash and whipping cardamom cream, but most often to make banana milkshakes.

Now, I wouldn't normally consider a banana and half a glass of milk to be dessert. In fact, I would have scoffed at the idea two months ago. But, folks, it's just like ice cream! When you blend a frozen banana with milk, it comes out thick and creamy like any great shake. Many others have probably learned this before me, but in case you haven't tried it, get some bananas in the freezer, stat!

Sometimes I put a spoonful of dulce de leche in it, and it's still the healthiest dessert I love to eat.

The immersion blender, by the way, has been a great thing to have. It makes frozen drinks easily and without the mess of a larger appliance. And if you've ever tried to puree soup in batches using a regular blender, as I did once, you know it's not a fun process. My immersion blender has a whisk attachment and another attachment for chopping. It's pretty snazzy, and doesn't take up much room in your suitcase, you know, should you ever have the need…

(And no, this isn't a paid endorsement. If anything it's an extra thank you to my mom for last year's Christmas gift.)

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Spicy Carrot and Potato Soup with Chimichurri

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An added benefit of roasting a whole chicken is having the bones to make stock afterward. So last week I found myself with a flavorful broth but little else in the kitchen besides carrots and potatoes. Good thing anything can be made into soup.

I found a BBC recipe for Spicy Carrot and Potato Soup with Parsley Pesto. Well, the Argentine equivalent of parsley pesto is chimichurri, and I happened to have some made already.

The soup itself was simple: broth, carrots, potatoes, onions, garlic, two tomatoes for acidity, salt, pepper and a dried cayenne pepper. It’s nice on its own, but as I found with the bean and vegetable soup, a spoonful of pesto or chimichurri really enlivens it.

Soups previously: Vegetable with Chimichurri, Carrot and Cilantro, Sopa de Lima, Butternut Squash with Lime, Chili and Bacon

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Goan-Style Roast Chicken and Gingered Split Peas

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Cilantro, lime, garlic, ginger, jalapenos, cinnamon and cloves…

If that ingredient list doesn't get you excited, then I don't know what you're doing here. Now, imagine all those cooking together on a chicken. Smelling that in the oven for an hour and 20 minutes was the best and worst thing ever — tortuously incredible. It was worth the wait though. This Goan-style chicken came from a recipe from chef Floyd Cardoz of Tabla in New York. I had to make it when I read that ingredient list.

Normally I would resent spending $1.50 on 40 grams of cilantro, but a 5-pound chicken only cost US$3, so I can't possibly complain. I recently calculated that I have spent $200 on two months' worth of groceries in Buenos Aires. That includes several items that will last me the rest of my time here. When I don't cook at home, I mostly get street food, which will fill me up for $3 or $4. I love it here.

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But back to the chicken, it was incredibly tasty. I ate it with gingered split peas and chapati, an Indian flatbread. A very satisfying dinner with plenty of leftovers.

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Chocolate Dulce De Leche Puffs

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Today is my friend Marissa's birthday, and in her honor I created this dessert: chocolate choux pastry filled with dulce de leche custard.

Marissa lives in Kansas now, but our nightly chats on Skype have kept me from feeling lonely while I am on my own in Buenos Aires. She deserves something spectacular, and I think this dessert qualifies. The pastry is light, the custard is thick and creamy, and it's all covered with chocolate and dulce de leche. Totally decadent without being overly sweet.

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I wasn't able to make these look refined, but I think they match our friendship more this way. Marissa and I write silly raps, wear hats while we do Mad-Libs and generally cause a playful ruckus wherever we go

I've already enjoyed a few of these on the birthday girl's behalf, but I've got some in the freezer for when she comes to visit in two weeks. So Marissa, if you weren't looking forward to your trip enough already…here's one more thing to get excited about. I can't wait to share this with you. Happy Birthday!

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