Okra Gumbo with Sausage and Fish

My friend Mike offers us his classic gumbo recipe with okra, andouille and seafood. I wish I had gotten a chance to taste it, but the color of that roux is evidence enough that it must have been great.

This recipe was adapted from several in Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen. This gumbo is a family favorite. It isn’t too spicy, has a delicious toasty, nutty complexity from the roux, and the okra keeps it from being too thin (the darker you make a roux, the less thickening power it has). It is, however, a definite time commitment. This is a recipe where you should have everything completely prepped and lain out before you start heating the oil for the roux.

Gumbo previously: Gumbo with Chicken, Andouille and Shrimp
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Buenos Aires Street Food Part Dos

parilla-buenos-aires

My three months in Buenos Aires are up, sadly. I loved getting to know the city by walking everywhere and sitting in parks peoplewatching. The weekends were my favorite because everyone spent the day outside. I would walk to Puerto Madero's Costanera Sur, where I'd be surrounded by local people and food.

No, Buenos Aires doesn't have as strong of a street food culture as some countries you see Anthony Bourdain travel to, but I found the area along the ecological reserve to be the best place to fill up for a buck or two. Although I've written some about this before, I have a few more street treats to add.

bondiolaBondiola — This grilled pork shoulder can be a little tough, so it wasn't typically my first choice, but it's a common order for others. Porteños tend to keep their food simple. Bondiola al limon (with lemon) is standard. I liked to load up on the vegetables. My sandwiches always looked like a salad bar compared to those of locals. In fact, that's how I decided which parilla to visit, by the topping options.

choripans

The stand where I got these choripans (chorizo sandwiches) had great salads and marinated vegetables to add. Oh yeah, and it still costs a dollar no matter how much you load on top.

morcilla-blood-sausage

I also loved the caramelized onions and spicy salsa at the stand where I got this morcilla (blood sausage).

grilled-bread

And if you read my ode to dough, you know how hard it

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was for me to ever pass up the grilled bread. Some stands only offer plain, but others will slice it and add cheese, ham or other filling in the middle. My favorite stand was a mother-daughter operation in the Puerto Madero park. They would mix spiced ground meat into the dough before cooking. Fantastic results.

churros-donuts

And then, there's dessert. People would make cakes and other sweets to sell in the parks on weekends. I usually went with a churro or an alfajor, which involves two soft cookies surrounding dulce de leche, then rolled in shredded coconut or dipped in chocolate.

alfajoresYep, I'll miss this.

More about Buenos Aires street food here.

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Buenos Aires Street Food… or Reasons Why I Cook Less Lately

I believe that if you want to know a city, you have to embrace the streets. In Buenos Aires, I walk between three and 12 miles each day, venturing to different corners of the city

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and using new routes all the time. And if Anthony Bourdain has taught me anything, it's that street food is often some of the best a city has to offer. I've been taking advantage of BA's cheap and delicious options, so I thought I'd share.

Argentina is well known for the parilla, the grill. There are many stands serving up asado, whether it's grilled flank steak, blood sausage, burgers or chorizo. The photo above is choripan, a chorizo sausage on bread. Chorizo here is a pretty plain sausage, not the spicy stuff from Spain or Mexico. But it's got smoke from the grill, classic chimichurri sauce and is enveloped in a perfect baguette. This 4-peso meal (just over $1 US) from Palermo is still one of the best I've had here.

Also at the portable parillas are hamburger patties that are otherwise unextraodinary until you realize how many topping options you have waiting for you. I dressed my burger with two varieties of chimichurri, mayo, a pepper and onion salsa of sorts, tomato, pickled cabbage, lettuce and fried shoestring potatoes. Six pesos in Puerto Madero.

When you're less in the mood for grilled meat, pans rellenos are a great option. People walk around craft markets selling these stuffed breads out large baskets. If you're lucky, yours will still be warm when you get it. Common fillings are ham and cheese or mozzarella, tomato and basil. I got this massive one filled with pumpkin, corn and cheese in San Telmo for 8 pesos yesterday, and I just finished the other half for lunch today.

There are many possibilities for dessert, too. The majority involve dulce de leche. These churros are filled with the heavenly stuff and are 1 peso each (about equal to a quarter) in Recoleta.

There's much more, but consider this an introduction.

Read Part Two here.

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Homemade Merguez and Harissa Couscous Salad

Merguez is a spicy African sausage usually made with lamb. It’s one of my favorites, and I wanted to suggest our school meat market start making it, but then I found a New York Times recipe that could be recreated at home without sausage casings. I didn’t think the recipe called for enough spice, so I added more paprika and cayenne.

Kat found a recipe for an herbed couscous salad with harissa and cherry tomatoes. It was the perfect side with the sausage, plus it used the harvest off my cherry tomato plant, my box of couscous and the can of harissa I bought at the eastern market a while ago. I am moving very soon and so every day is an effort to use up the goods that I have and not buy anything extra. The salad is supposed to have a lot more fresh herbs, but we weren’t about to go to the store, so we used the mint and cinnamon basil we could get off Kat’s plants.

I served the whole thing with a little plain yogurt since the sausage and couscous both had a lot of heat.

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Spicy Sloppy Joes

Posts have been slow for the past few weeks, I know. Michael is hiking in the Adirondacks and I recently returned from a trip with my dad to Finland and Sweden. I got back last week and started working as a mentor at a journalism workshop for high schoolers. Helping out at the workshop also meant I got free meals for the week, so I went about three weeks without really cooking anything.

I finally found a few minutes the other night to put together a quick homemade meal. I had a little bit of ground chorizo in the freezer, so I made spicy sloppy joes by adding onion, celery, ketchup and a splash of apple cider vinegar. (A little vinegar or citrus does something to a dish so that each bite leaves your mouth watering for the next.) I toasted a whole wheat bun and topped the chorizo mixture with some sour cream to tame the spice.

It was sweet, spicy, saucy…and definitely sloppy. Even better, it only took 15 minutes to make.

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Risotto Three Ways

Risotto had been on our list of things to make for some time, and a few months ago the slow-motion shots of a Venetian chef flipping risotto on Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations finally compelled us to buy arborio rice.

Since then, we've had three very successful risotto endeavors.

Our first effort was a knockout taste-wise, but too ugly to stand alone in a blog post. (The internet can be cruel.) Then Sycamore chef Mike Odette let me borrow his risotto cookbook, which had great information and fun stories, along with delicious sounding recipes. A few notes:

  • “Risotto is a simple dish, with relatively few ingredients. Consequently, each element gets its share of the limelight and sparkles individually on your palate.” — ie. Use butter, homemade stock and real Italian cheese
  • Risotto doesn't like shortcuts. The stock must be added a cup at a time so it is slowly absorbed by each grain. “Continue the game of add, stir, and wait, until the rice is just slightly resistant to the bite.”
  • “Good raw materials. Simple cooking procedures. No unnecessary frills. That's what Italian cooking is all about.”

Before Michael left, we finished off the arborio rice with our highest quality risotto yet. Homemade stock, a whole stick of butter, saffron, shrimp and scallops, and real Parmesan Reggiano.

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