First, isn’t the new backsplash beautiful? I love the glass tiles…they brighten up the kitchen and tie the cabinets and granite counters together quite nicely.
In addition to doing this while I was in Colombia, Joel also made himself dinner (blue cheese stuffed chicken) and documented it! Not bad for a man who used to be terrified of the kitchen and subsisted primarily on cereal, salsa and hummus. Teach a man to fish…
Anyway, we haven’t gone grocery shopping since I got back and my challenge has been to cook with what we have in the house. The new loaf pans I got from eBay reminded me of the baked pastas my mom and aunt used to make for us as kids. Their version incorporated white elbow macaroni, ground beef, tomato sauce, black olives and government cheese (large blocks of American cheese that I miss dearly).
We always have whole wheat pasta in the pantry and batches of frozen pasta sauce for those days when you just don’t have time to cook. My frozen pasta sauce always includes sauteed garlic, shallots, onions & mushrooms, several cans of tomato sauce from Trader Joe’s, ground turkey & sausage, sliced turkey or chicken sausage, and other random stuff. I freeze it flat in ziploc bags and defrost as needed.
For this batch, I boiled whole wheat rotini pasta (measured by filling a little over half of each dish I planned to bake the pasta in) until it was al dente. While that was boiling, I defrosted the pasta sauce and threw in some kalamata olives I found in the fridge. Once those were both ready, I tossed the pasta and tomato sauce with some random cheese we had. I baked two separate dishes and each had their own mix of cheese.
The dish above had mozzarella and blue cheese inside and was topped with white American cheese. The dish below had Italian and blue cheese inside and was topped with the remaining Italian. I covered both dishes with tin foil and baked them for about 30-40 minutes (didn’t really time it…just took it out when it smelled really good and I was hungry) at 400F (last 5-10 minutes without the tin foil).
Although I worked for a company involved in fitness and health, I only made it to the gym twice while in Colombia. I definitely gained weight from the consistent diet of delicious meat, starch and cheese. I didn’t document everything I ate since I was in Bogota for business, but did my best.
One of the things that surprised me most was the fact that urban Colombians have such an international diet (and lifestyle). Many have lived, studied or worked abroad (obviously I was only exposed to the upper classes/strata) and there is plenty of non-Colombian food available (unlike countries such as Thailand where it seems the non-Thai food is more for travelers and ex-pats). There are lot of non-Colombian restaurants that Colombians frequent. Beyond the typical Colombian fare, we had Asian/Greek, Asian, Italian, typical bar food, burgers and Peruvian…but we really tried to eat what the locals ate.
Bogota Beer Company is a ubiquitous micro-brew chain in Bogota. There is seriously one around every corner…but they brew their own beer! Below is a porter (yum!) I had with four mini burgers (which weren’t very good):
I was also curious about Colombian interpretations of Asian food. While we didn’t go into the hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant called “Fung Wha” around the corner from our office, we did go to Wok, another ubiquitous chain in Bogota. There’s an overwhelming mix of all types of Asian food: Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Cambodian, etc. We ordered banh xeo (a Vietnamese crepe) and khao soy (Northern Thai coconut noodles). The banh xeo had the familiar yellow pancake exterior but tasted more like pad thai in the middle…still tasty, though.
The khao soy (below) did not taste very much like the khao soy I had in Chiang Mai back in December, but everyone else seemed to like it. This meal was followed by a 35-block walk home (Colombians generally don’t walk, but we wanted to see more than just the office) marked by intestinal distress. Nobody else got sick afterward and so I blame it on the tap water I ordered (tap water is generally fine in Colombia, btw).
On our final day in the office, we had a paisa lunch. Grilled skirt steak, roasted potato, scoop of rice, and plaintain with cheese. It was the lightest thing we could find on the menu:
On our last day in Colombia, our hosts took us out to the countryside, where local urbanites go to escape the city. Ten of us stopped for plates of grilled chicken & steak, 2 kinds of sausages (blood & rice was my favorite), potatoes, plaintains, 2 types of arepas (cheese-stuffed corn cakes), and corn which we ate with our hands. It is no wonder I gained so much weight, but our last lunch in Colombia was a delicious mix of gorgeous scenery, warm sun and delightful company.
Our final stop of the day was for pan de yuca, which had a similar texture to Brazilian pao de queijo. The Colombian version is made with yuca while Brazil’s is made with tapioca…which, based on some quick internet research, is the same thing. So good, fresh and cheesy. This place is famous for their pan de yuca but they also had empanadas and almojabanas, another Colombian cheesebread.
I think yuca is the same as tapioca…so maybe it is the same thing but different shape?
We flew up to Cartagena for the weekend to relax and enjoy some delicious seafood. Above is sancocho de robela, a typical stew made with any kind of meat (in this case, sea bass), plantain, potato and yuca. This stew, which I had at La Casa de Socorro, was delicious, light and flavorful. This might be something I’ll try to make when I get home…who doesn’t like a sopa de pescado? As an aside, despite taking French in high school I grew up in a Mexican neighborhood, so my Spanish vocabulary is fairly extensive. Unfortunately, I can’t string together a coherent sentence, but at least I can be understood…eventually.
Arepas con huevos y carne: Basically a fried corn cake stuffed with an egg and meat. They served this for breakfast at the hotel and it was really difficult to resist. For some reason, the egg yolks here are gigantic. We also had a version of this in Bogota, but it was pan fried rather than deep fried (so I felt a little less gross). Regardless, I am a sucker for cornmeal…
We also had lunch at La Vitrola, a restaurant that locals and tourists all say is a can’t miss for “foodies” (I hate that word). I can understand why people love this place–it offers a modern interpretation of traditional Colombian dishes. Unfortunately, we were still kind of full from our giant breakfast, so didn’t get to try everything on the menu. My favorite was a friend’s grilled grouper with tamarind & chili sauce. My dish (above) was also good: grilled grouper with coconut risotto. The risotto reminded me of Vietnamese desserts, which sometimes have coconut and sticky rice.
This fruit, which the fruit monger (can I use “monger” in this context?) told me is called mamey, is bright orange inside. It kind of looks like butternut squash but tastes like a cross between a mango and a loquat (though not as juicy). I really liked this one…much tastier than the sapote I tried in Thailand back in December.
Not sure what these are called, but the fruit monger told me they were similar to apples. The green ones are tart like apples, but the reddish ones are juicier, with a tomato-like consistency but much sweeter taste.
We had our best meal at La Cevicheria, which Anthony Bourdain also visited on his trip to Cartagena. I was a bit worried that it would be all hype, but was pleasantly surprised–bright flavors and super fresh seafood served with a side of patacones (mashed & fried plantain chips)! We had intended to order two ceviches and a paella but, due to a misunderstanding with the waiter, called off the paella. The ceviche portions were huge!! I could easily have eaten here for multiple meals…
I haven’t taken many pictures of food here since I have mostly been in a business setting and that would just be weird. We had some amazing ceviches our first day here that I wish I had taken pictures of. However, here’s what I can show you. Above is ajiaco–a typical Colombian stew generally eaten for lunch and made with chicken, three types of potato, and a cob of corn. It is served with a side of white rice, a slice of avocado, capers, and some sort of cream…really good (but incredibly filling)!
Yes, this was an incredibly heavy lunch. We also shared arepas con chorizo (corn cakes with sausages), patacones (mashed/fried plantains covered in cheese…kinda nacho-ish), and empanadas (cheese and meat ones, below).
Finally, we have also been eating a lot of tropical fruits. The one below is a yellow dragon fruit (thanks, Tammy!). However, this one is smaller and much sweeter than the reddish dragon fruits I’ve had in Asia.
The main reason I wanted a KitchenAid mixer was so that we could make our own pizza dough. The first time I tried to make it myself, I fried my $10 hand mixer. I also don’t enjoy kneading dough by hand. So, for a very long time, we bought our dough from Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods, which always annoyed me because pizza dough is so basic: flour, water, yeast, salt, and olive oil. So, I finally sucked it up and got myself a KitchenAid and as you all know, I couldn’t be more in love.
I used Jeffrey Steingarten’s pizza dough recipe from the NY Times and followed it exactly. For some reason, my dough never rose but it didn’t seem to matter. The crust was even better than what we’d been buying at Trader Joe’s! Also, if you don’t have a pizza stone, I highly recommend you get one–its inexpensive and you won’t regret it! The first one we rolled was a bit too thin:
Topped with leftovers from shrimp & grits plus olive oil, gardiniera & quattro formaggio cheese
We were almost full so the next pizza was fairly small, but I wanted to see what happened if we left a slightly thicker crust. The results were awesome and we’ll roll our crusts a little thicker moving forward.
We’ll definitely be using this pizza dough recipe again, but I’m going to try it with whole wheat flour next time. We washed it all down with a Cabernet Sauvignon from our most recent shipment from Joseph Phelps to celebrate the end of my second to last quarter of business school and my impending departure for Colombia (where I am now)!
Yet another use for leftover roast chicken…tacos! He works from home and I’m a student, so we’re together for lunch (usually some version of leftovers or a spinach salad) fairly often.
Here’s one we had in early March: warm corn tortillas, sharp cheddar cheese (which I’d skip next time but Joel wouldn’t), shredded roast chicken, sauteed zucchini & carrots, and Frank’s Red Hot.
I leave for Bogota, Colombia tomorrow, but stay tuned for oatmeal peanut butter cookies and yet another pizza (with homemade dough this time, finally!).