Recipe Corner : ROASTED VEGGIES

Roasted vegies, served with pasta and grilled chicken breast fillet. photo © Lorraine Caputo

Every week in the home where I was staying, we’d get together to have Sunday dinner together. To the songs on the radio, the señora and I would begin cooking about 6 p.m., creating a fine repast for all present.

When consulting with a young Venezuelan, he said he didn’t care what we prepared – as long as my vegetales a la paila was on the menu. This young man who had  never liked eating vegetables before – shocked his mom with the photos of him sitting down to a heaping helping of my dish. She wanted the recipe.

I love oven-roasted vegies – but two things bother me about the recipe: the amount of time (and therefore fuel) it takes to make them, and the amount of fats used. Atop all that, I often don’t have an oven.

So, how can I get the same delicious flavor without an oven, without all the fat – while all the while saving a lot of energy?

Three sizes of pailas. These deep metal skillets are used for all manner of cooking, from fried eggs to dishes like the one we are preparing today. photo © Lorraine Caputo

The trick is in a heavy skillet. In Latin America, the paila is a perfect pan to use. It is a deep skillet, somewhat like a wok. If you’re in the northern world, a wok or a cast iron skillet will work just as well. Any of these will reach a temperature high enough to sear the vegetables to a toasty brown on the outside, yet perfectly cooked inside.

(Yes, you could use a regular skillet – but the results will be different.)

 

A Dish with a Million Variations

This recipe is one where you can allow your imagine to run wild, and adjust to whatever you might find in the local market. The day I prepared this version, I cleaned out the fridge of whatever needed to be used up: carrots, green beans, sweet peppers and mushrooms.

Some other great combos for Roasted Vegies are:

  • Broccoli, cauliflower and carrot
  • Green beans (cut on the bias or julienned / French cut), carrots and mushrooms
  • Brussel sprouts (the smaller, the less bitter), carrots

What I scrounged from the fridge: carrots, green beans, sweet peppers and mushrooms, plus onion. photo © Lorraine Caputo

Another great combination is broccoli, cauliflower and carrot. photo © Lorraine Caputo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As for what herbs to use – well, I like to let the vegetables “speak” for themselves. The combination of butter and onion in this manner of preparation brings out the natural sweetness in each vegetable. Though sometimes, I’ll toss in a bit of thyme and / or rosemary to complement the flavors of the vegetables.

But no matter what combination of vegies or herbs and spices you use, the basic recipe is the same: butter and olive (or other) oil and onions, plus salt and perhaps garlic.

 

ROASTED VEGIES

Estimated cooking time: 15-20 minutes

For: Vegans, Vegetarians, Carnivores (as a side dish)

 

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon olive or other oil

1 large carrot, cut into chunks

1 handful of green beans, cut into 1-inch (2.5-centimeter) pieces

1 large onion, cut into chunks

1 green pepper, cut into chunks

1 cup sliced mushrooms

salt  (to taste)

Leaves of 1 short sprig of fresh rosemary, or a large pinch of dried leaves – optional

 

Cut all the vegetables and place on a large plate or other dish.

Heat a large paila or skillet until hot. Add the butter and oil; melt.

Add the carrots and stir. Cover the paila with a large enough lid. Uncover and stir occasionally.

When the carrots are just beginning to be tender, add the green beans. Cover and cook. After about five minutes, add the onion and green pepper. When these are tender, Add the mushrooms amd salt. Keep the paila covered, occasionally stirring, until vegetables are tender.

Serve hot.

Carrots take the longest to cook. photo © Lorraine Caputo

Continuing with the next vegetables. photo © Lorraine Caputo

The rest of the vegetables go in, as well as the herbs like rosemary (optional) and salt to taste. photo © Lorraine Caputo

And we are almost there! photo © Lorraine Caputo

 

Tips

  • Have all the vegetables cut before beginning to cook. You can add each ingredient at just the right time, and not accidently burn the food.
  • Butter can be difficult to find in tropical climates. In my opinion, margarine just doesn’t have the same flavor. I would rather use all oil than a margarine-oil combination.
  • Covering the paila or skillet with a lid helps to cook the vegetables faster, and preserve flavors and nutrients.
  • Add the vegetables according to how long each will take to cook: Carrots take the longest, then green beans, onions, green peppers, etc. Mushrooms take little time to cook.
  • Green beans have a brighter flavor and cook quicker if they are julienned (French cut), as opposed to being cut on the bias (slant-cut).
  • Use smashed garlic as opposed to minced garlic, as the flavor preserves better. You can keep the husk (skin) on, if you like.
  • You may need to add a little bit of water from time to time to keep the vegetables from sticking and burning. Add just a little though, so the vegetables do not turn mushy!
Recipe Corner : POTATOES AND CHEESE

Recipe Corner : POTATOES AND CHEESE

Nothing like a plate of potatoes and cheese (papas con queso) with fresh avocado and tomatoes! photo © Lorraine Caputo

Nothing like a plate of potatoes and cheese (papas con queso) with fresh avocado and tomatoes! photo © Lorraine Caputo

There’s really no other name I could give this recipe that came to be when I tried to replicate a comfort food — creamy scalloped potatoes — without the oven.

I’ve experimented — and haven’t quite succeeded. Though, I have created a rather tasty potato and cheese dish that have won rave reviews from travelers and hostel workers alike. (Tía, ¿cuándo vas a preparar papa con queso de nuevo? – Auntie, when are you going to make potatoes and cheese again? – one young worker in a Quito residencial would often ask me when I was in town.)

Over the years, I have come up with this simple recipe that includes only four ingredients: potatoes, onion, milk and cheese. From there, a variety of variations con be played on this theme.  Feel free to experiment yourself. A clove or two of minced garlic adds another dimension – as do herbs like rosemary or thyme.

Potatoes and Cheese makes a good one-pot meal or a side dish. Serve it with a tossed salad, or simply with sliced tomato. Accompanied with a nice Argentine or Chilean wine makes for a perfect end to a day of sightseeing or hiking. ¡Buen provecho!

Let’s start with the basics and create versions to satisfy any mood.

 

Onion sliced into plumillas – “little feathers.” photo © Lorraine Caputo

Onion sliced into plumillas – “little feathers.” photo © Lorraine Caputo

 

Estimated cooking time: 30 minutes

        For: vegetarians

 

BASIC POTATOES AND CHEESE

2 tablespoons of oil

6 large potatoes, peeled

1 large onion, peeled

salt to taste

1 cup of milk

1 cup of shredded or crumbled cheese

 

Cut the potatoes in half length-wise, then cut into thin slices crosswise.

Cut the onion in half length-wise, then cut into thin slices lengthwise. (This cut in Spanish is called plumilla.)

In a large skillet, heat the oil. Toss the potatoes into the oil, coating them. Cover the skillet to allow the potatoes to brown and to steam about five minutes. When the potatoes are beginning to become tender, toss in the onions. Cover and cook for about three minutes.

Add a cup of water and salt. Cover the skillet and turn the fire down to a medium flame. Cook until the potatoes are tender and the water is almost totally evaporated, about 15 – 20 minutes.

Stir in the milk and cheese. Cover and allow the cheese to melt. Serve.

 

Preparing the ingredients for Spicy Potatoes and Cheese. photo © Lorraine Caputo

Preparing the ingredients for Spicy Potatoes and Cheese. photo © Lorraine Caputo

Variation 1

SPICY POTATOES AND CHEESE

2 tablespoons of oil

6 large potatoes, peeled

1 large onion, peeled

1 large green pepper, thinly sliced

1 hot (chili) pepper, finely chopped

salt to taste

1 cup of milk

1 cup of shredded cheese

 

Prepare the potatoes and onion as described in the Basic recipe.

In a large skillet, heat the oil. Toss the potatoes into the oil, covering them. Cover the skillet to allow the potatoes to brown and to steam about five minutes. When the potatoes are beginning to become tender, toss in the onions, green pepper and hot pepper. Cover and cook for about three minutes.

Add a cup of water and salt. Cover the skillet and turn the fire down to a medium flame. Cook until the potatoes are tender and the water is almost totally evaporated, about 15 – 20 minutes.

Stir in the milk and cheese. Cover and allow the cheese to melt. Serve.

 

Variation 2

VEGIE POTATOES AND CHEESE

2 tablespoons of oil

4 large potatoes, peeled

1 large onion, peeled

1 carrot, cut into matchsticks (optional)

1+ cup of broccoli and / or cauliflower florets

salt to taste

1 cup of milk

1 cup of shredded cheese

 

Prepare the potatoes and onion as described in the Basic recipe.

In a large skillet, heat the oil. Toss the potatoes, carrot and broccoli (cauliflower) into the oil, coating them. Cover the skillet to allow the potatoes to brown and to steam about five minutes. When the potatoes are beginning to become tender, toss in the onions. Cover and cook for about three minutes.

Add a cup of water and salt. Cover the skillet and turn the fire down to a medium flame. Cook until the potatoes and vegetables are tender and the water is almost totally evaporated, about 15 – 20 minutes.

Stir in the milk and cheese. Cover and allow the cheese to melt. Serve.

 

VARIATIONS ON THE MILK THEME

  • If you are camping, use 1 cup of water and 4 heaping tablespoons of instant milk in place of the milk.
  • Natural (plain) yoghurt or – for a much richer dish – cream cheese may be used in place of the milk.
  • I have never tried it – but soy milk and cheese could probably work okay, too.
  • You’ll want to choose a cheese that will melt well (not all Latin American cheeses do!) Ask your local vendor what would work well in making a cheese sauce (una salsa de queso).
  • No grater on hand to shred the cheese? All is not lost!

Cut the block of cheese into thin slices. Lay the slices atop one another, and cut into thin ribbons. Voilà! You have shredded cheese!

Recipe Corner : PANCAKES – Sweet & Savory

Whole wheat pancakes topped with fresh fruits (banana, papaya, kiwi, blackberries), soured cream and honey. photo © Lorraine Caputo

Whole wheat pancakes topped with fresh fruits (banana, papaya, kiwi, blackberries), soured cream and honey. photo © Lorraine Caputo

Every continent has their version of pancakes or some sort of flat bread made on a griddle. Russia has blini and blintzes. They may be called injera in the Horn of Africa or cheela in India; okonomiyaki in Japan or bánh xèo in Vietnam. Guaranda (Ecuador) serves up tortillas and Venezuela cachapas. And of course, France has its crêpes and the U.S. its pancakes.

 

The Great Battle : Pancakes v. Crêpes

A great debate arises on either side of the Atlantic. Europeans – especially the French and English – prefer their pan-cakes thin. In Britain’s rebellious former American colonies, a thicker version is preferred. And a great gulf exists between crêpes (the thinner version) and pancakes (the thicker).

Crêpes are paper-thin, soft breads that usually are rolled around fillings. They can be used for sweet dishes – such as Crêpes Suzette – or savory dishes – filled with the likes of sautéed spinach and mushrooms. The recipe is very basic: flour, milk, eggs, butter, and perhaps a touch of sugar for sweet presentations.

North Americans – especially United Statiens – are quite staunch on what a pancake is. After all, they are precisely what the name implies: cakes made in a pan (a skillet or griddle). They are thicker, fluffy and have a cake-like consistency. The essential ingredient is a leavening, baking powder. Regional names are hotcakes, griddlecakes flapjacks and johnnycakes. Traditionally, they are served at breakfast, slathered with butter and topped with maple syrup, powdered sugar, jam or chocolate syrup.

Fluffy, North American pancakes are a popular treat in many countries around the world – even in Mexico and other parts of Latin America. Many Sundays in a Quito hostel, I would whip up a triple batch to share. Other guests would donate fruits for the topping. Recently arrived Japanese guests waited on the sidelines with the hopes of being invited to this treat. The more the merrier!

In an alojamiento in La Paz (Bolivia) one day, several of us from several continents were reminiscing about pancakes. I pulled out my pocket recipe for hotcakes, each of us bought ingredients and I set down to preparing a seven-time batch. Gosh, after the last flapjack hit the plate, many still wanted more. After a run to a neighborhood tienda for more royal, I whipped up another double batch. But by then, everyone was full. We began selling them to other guests to help pay for the gas we had used. (An Argentine said he had no money, but he could trade two glasses of red wine for one. Sure!)

Recently, though, I have been wondering how the traditional North American recipe could be adapted to a savory type of pancake. I pared down my pocket recipe to the essentials (see Basic Savory Pancake Mix below) and began researching variations on the theme. None of them, though, seemed to follow a base recipe.

Thinking of my basic recipe, I let my imagine run wild. What ingredients did I have on hand? What if … and what if … combining my years of knowledge of the sweet version of pancakes. The result is Savory Cornmeal Cakes (see below), which I exclusively present to you today. (I am definitely looking forward to more kitchen experiments!)

 

It’s Pancake Day!

In many places in the U.S., churches and community groups have a pancake day as a fundraiser. Traditional Pancake Day in some Northern European cultures, however, is Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. This Tuesday (called Mardi Gras in French – or Fat Tuesday) is the last day to chow down on delights like flapjacks before the 40 days of Lenten fast begins.

How did pancakes come to be associated with Shrove Tuesday? Like many Christian traditions, it has its origin in indigenous customs. Some food historians believe Pancake Day is based in the Slav festival Maslenitsa of the coming spring, during which a fight between Jarilo (the god of Spring) and evil spirits of Winter’s dark and cold ensued. The most important food was the round, golden, hot pancakes, symbolizing the sun. The first pancake was set out for ancestral spirits. At the end of the week-long festivity, pancakes were tossed on a bonfire as an offering to the gods.

 

Tips

No matter if you are whipping up a batch of pancakes in the kitchen or (as the westward pioneers did) over a campfire, you’ll find the recipe for traditional North American pancakes is very versatile. Any type of flour may be used: wheat, oats, steel-cut oats, cornmeal, buckwheat, rye. Fruits like blueberries or thinly sliced bananas may be tossed into the batter. Spices may also be added.

For savory pancakes, you may add grated or crumbled cheese to the batter. Carnivores might prefer bacon crisps, thin slices of ham or cooked and shredded meats. Thinly sliced or grated vegetables, as well as garlic, chili and herbs can be tossed in.

To help you in your culinary experiments, here are a few tips:

  • If you would like to make cornmeal (polenta), oat or other non-wheat pancake, use ½ cup of wheat flour and half of the other flour. Non-wheat flours are low in gluten, which is necessary in binding the ingredients and resulting in fluffy pancakes.
  • If using dried milk, add 3 – 4 tablespoons in with the dry ingredients. Add water in place of milk.
    • If you are going camping, pack the dry ingredients in an air-tight baggie or container. At your site, just add the egg, oil and water. Voilà! You have fresh pancakes to enjoy in the wilderness!
  • Do not throw out sour milk! You can use it (or even yoghurt) in place of regular milk. Decrease the baking powder to 2 teaspoons and add one teaspoon of baking soda. This helps to set off the acidity of the aged dairy product.
  • If adding banana to the batter, decrease the baking powder to 2 teaspoons and add one teaspoon of baking soda.
  • In many parts of Latin America, baking powder (polvo para hornear) is called Royal.
  • If preparing at high altitude (1,067+ meters / 3,500+ feet a.s.l.), you may need to decrease the amount of baking powder.
  • Add the liquid according to how you want your pancakes: a thicker batter will make thicker ones, and a thinner batter will make thinner, crêpe-like cakes.
  • To check to see if the skillet is hot, sprinkle a drop into it. If it skittles across, you are ready to go! But be sure to turn the fire down, else you’ll end up with burnt cakes.
  • If you would like sour cream atop, but cannot find nata or plain yoghurt, then you can make your own. Add a teaspoon of fresh lemon juice to cream and let stand for 1 hour.

¡Buen provecho!

 

SWEET PANCAKES

1 cup flour (white, whole wheat)

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 egg

2 tablespoons oil

½ – ¾ cup milk

Mix the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, sugar, salt) together. Make a well (depression in the center. Add the egg and beat a little. Add oil and milk and mix all ingredients together.

Heat a skillet until hot. Add a teaspoon or two of oil.

When the oil is hot, spoon the batter into the hot skillet to the size you want the pancake to be. When bubbles begin to form around the outer edge, turn the pancake over and cook on the other side until golden brown.

Serve with butter and honey. Fresh fruits atop is another delicious (and healthy!) way to enjoy them.

Savory cornmeal cakes with ricotta cheese crumbles. Served with a papaya-avocado-sweet red pepper salad (dressed simply with limón juice). photo © Lorraine Caputo

Savory cornmeal cakes with ricotta cheese crumbles. Served with a papaya-avocado-sweet red pepper salad (dressed simply with limón juice). photo © Lorraine Caputo

BASIC SAVORY PANCAKE MIX

1 cup flour (white, whole wheat)

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 egg

2 tablespoons oil

½ – ¾ cup milk

Mix the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, sugar, salt) together. Make a well (depression in the center. Add the egg and beat a little. Add oil and milk and mix all ingredients together.

Heat a skillet until hot. Add a teaspoon or two of oil.

When the oil is hot, spoon the batter into the hot skillet to the size you want the pancake to be. When bubbles begin to form around the outer edge, turn the pancake over and cook on the other side until golden brown.

 

SAVORY CORNMEAL CAKES

½ cup wheat flour (white or whole wheat)

½ cup corn meal or polenta

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 egg

2 tablespoons oil

½ – ¾ cup milk

1 chili pepper, finely minced

1 large clove of garlic, finely minced

1 small onion, cut in half and finely sliced

½ cup shredded zucchini

Mix the dry ingredients (flour, corn meal / polenta, baking powder, sugar, salt) together. Make a well (depression in the center). Add the egg and beat a little. Add oil and milk and mix all ingredients together. Stir in the chili, garlic and vegetables.

Heat a skillet until hot. Add a teaspoon or two of oil.

When the oil is hot, spoon the batter into the hot skillet to the size you want the pancake to be. When bubbles begin to form around the outer edge, turn the pancake over and cook on the other side until golden brown.

Serve with grated or crumpled cheese sprinkled over top, if you desire, and a salad.

Recipe Corner : HOW TO DRESS A SALAD

Chilean navel orange, Mexican jicama, red sweet pepper, arugula on bib lettuce – an elegant salad simply dressed with a bit of salt. Served with white tuna fillet, stuffed with spinach, mushroom and shrimp, seasoned with leek and garlic, in a white wine and garlic sauce; and Mediterranean brown and wild rice. photo © Lorraine Caputo

Chilean navel orange, Mexican jicama, red sweet pepper, arugula on bib lettuce – an elegant salad simply dressed with a bit of salt. Served with white tuna fillet, stuffed with spinach, mushroom and shrimp, seasoned with leek and garlic, in a white wine and garlic sauce; and Mediterranean brown and wild rice. photo © Lorraine Caputo

Sara, quick. Can you lend me the phone please? I have a recipe emergency!

I had received a facebook chat from a friend:

 

I’m going to my aunt’s for lunch today. … I told her I would prepare the salad we had on Sunday: spinach with mango, white onion and sweet pepper.

The dressing is soy sauce, vinegar, honey and a little mustard?

The phone number at auntie’s is xxx-xxxx. I think we’ll be eating about 1.

But at any rate, that’s the dressing I’m going to make.

 

I looked at the computer’s clock. It was going on 11 a.m. I should be able to catch her before she begins to prepare the dressing. My taste buds can’t even begin imagining that combination! Oh, gosh, what a ….

I try the aunt’s number. No answer. I try my friend’s phone at home. No answer. Bloody heck. Her cell number. And I reach her before the culinary crime could be committed ….

The small, round limón (Citrus aurantifolia) commonly used in Latin American cuisine is the prized Key lime. To confuse matters even more, the fruit known as lemon in English is called lima in much of Latin America. photo © Lorraine Caputo

The small, round limón (Citrus aurantifolia) commonly used in Latin American cuisine is the prized Key lime. To confuse matters even more, the fruit known as lemon in English is called lima in much of Latin America. photo © Lorraine Caputo

In Latin America, tossed salads are frequently dressed simply with limón (key lime) and salt. In the tropics, this is a refreshing way to top off fresh vegetables – and gives an added boost of Vitamin C.

Occasionally, though, a more elegant dressing may be called for. Go to the supermarket and you’ll go into economic shock: A bottle of commercial dressing costs around $3 US. That’s a hefty blow to a budget traveler’s wallet.

Homemade dressings are simple to make though. Whisk the ingredients with a fork in a cup, or use an empty jar. Your dinner will soon have a touch of finesse.

It all begins with the basic vinaigrette. The age-old rule of thumb is 3 tablespoons of oil to 1 tablespoon of vinegar. To this are added herbs, spices and other accoutrements.

However, the gastronomic magazine Bon Appetit disputes the classic ratio, stating that additional ingredients like mustard or anchovies shift the balance between the taste of oil and vinegar. It promotes the ultimate guide: your taste buds.

I prefer my dressings to be a bit less oily, and more acidic – a cleanness to allow the flavors of the fixings to spring from the plate. But let your tongue be YOUR guide!

¡Buen Provecho!


 

ORIENTAL DRESSING

This is the dressing my friend wanted to prepare for her aunt’s luncheon engagement. It’s my preferred dressing for a spinach-fruit salad.

 

Salad Fixings

2 handfuls of spinach

1 small onion, thinly sliced

1 small red sweet pepper, thinly sliced

1 large mango, cut into chunks

¼ cup fresh beet root, peeled and grated (optional)

Wash the spinach well. Trim off the stem. Tear the leaves into bite-sized pieces. Toss in the other ingredients.

Note: Instead of mango, you may use strawberries (well washed!), kiwi fruit, pear, mandarina (tangerine) or other fruit.

 

Dressing

3 tablespoons oil

2 tablespoons white vinegar

1 tablespoon soy sauce

pinch of red pepper flakes

½ inch of fresh ginger root, peeled and finely minced

scant teaspoon of sugar

pinch of salt

Mix the ingredients together. Adjust to taste.

Note: Ground ginger may be used in place of the fresh ginger.

 

 

HONEY-MUSTARD DRESSING

This is another of my friend’s favorite dressings – and undoubtedly confused this recipe with the other, creating what undoubtedly would have been a very interesting gastronomic adventure!

This dressing is perfect for any type of tossed salad – or as a dip for fried chicken fingers.

 

3 tablespoons oil

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

      —or— 2 tablespoons white vinegar + juice of 1 limón (or of half a large lemon)

1 tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon prepared mustard

Mix the ingredients together. Adjust to taste.

Spinach, onion, green pepper and tomato salad, with Italian Dressing. Served with homemade chopped chicken liver sandwiches. photo © Lorraine Caputo

Spinach, onion, green pepper and tomato salad, with Italian Dressing. Served with homemade chopped chicken liver sandwiches. photo © Lorraine Caputo

ITALIAN DRESSING

The classic Italian-style vinaigrette is the best way to dress a salad to accompany pastas.

 

3 tablespoons oil

2 tablespoons white vinegar

1 clove garlic, finely minced

½ teaspoon basil

½ teaspoon oregano

pinch of red pepper flakes

scant ½ teaspoon sugar

pinch of salt

Mix the ingredients together. Adjust to taste.

 

Water purification drops can also be used to make your vegies and fruits safe to eat raw. Follow the instructions given on the bottle. photo © Lorraine Caputo

Water purification drops can also be used to make your vegies and fruits safe to eat raw. Follow the instructions given on the bottle. photo © Lorraine Caputo

Tips

  • Lettuce and spinach as well as vegetables / fruits that cannot be peeled can be made safe for eating by soaking them in a chlorine or silver iodine solution. Bottles of such preparations (like Microdyn in Mexico, or Star-Bac in Ecuador) can be bought in supermarkets or pharmacies. Follow the directions on the bottle. Plain (unperfumed) chlorine bleach may also be used.
  • Tear the lettuce and other greens, instead of cutting them with a knife. This allows them to capture the dressing better.
  • Feel free to experiment with the basic vinaigrette. Want a French flair? Add fines herbes (parsley, thyme, tarragon and chervil) to the oil and vinegar. For an avocado salad, add limón juice, cilantro and a touch of ground cumin to the vinaigrette.
  • Make your salad attractive. Include a variety of colors. Cut the vegetables into different shapes: matchsticks, circles, etc. Mix textures and flavors, like creamy, mild avocado with crunchy, piquant radishes.
  • Worried about having to buy the ingredients? Take a look at the stuff other travelers have left behind in the hostel’s kitchen – you might be mightily surprised at what you’ll find! (Of course, be sure to ask the hostel staff before you use any foodstuffs from the kitchen – it might, after all, be their stash!)

Recipe Corner : (CHICKEN) VEGETABLE SOUP

This Miracle Soup will knock a winter’s cold out of you in a flash! photo © Lorraine Caputo

This Miracle Soup will knock a winter’s cold out of you in a flash! photo © Lorraine Caputo

 

It is so tempting to call this a “Miracle Soup” or a “Curative Soup” – because that is precisely what it is.

When the winter snows or rains come and the inevitable stuffed-sinuses-running-nose-achy-body symptoms arise, this soup will shake the cold right out of you. Even if you’ve been suffering for a couple of days already – as I recently was – a bowl or two of this will give it a one-two, and the next morning you’ll be breathing much easier.

Vegetarians can fix this without the poultry and have fantastic results as well. However, several scientific studies have shown that chicken soup has a better effect on clearing your upper respiratory tract than other hot liquids.

Once an Ecuadorian friend asked me, “But isn’t it spicy,” when I told her how much garlic and ginger is in it. No, it isn’t. Even the delicate Ecuadorian palate will find the blend of spices to be pleasantly understated. And it is precisely those spices, I am convinced, that packs a bowl of this soup with such curative properties.

 

Estimated cooking time: 30 – 40 minutes

For: Vegetarians or Carnivores

 

1 pound of chicken – optional

3 tablespoons of butter or oil

2 medium carrots, thinly sliced

4 potatoes, cut into small chunks

1 large onion, cut into chunks

3 – 4 large cloves of garlic, finely minced

1-inch (2.5 cm) length of fresh ginger root, finely minced

3 stalks of Swiss chard (acelgas), cut into ribbons

2 or 3 tomatoes, cut into chunks

2 teaspoons of salt

 

In a hot, 4-liter pot, melt the butter (or heat the oil).

Optional:

Add the chicken and lightly brown on each side. Take out and reserve.

Add the carrots and sauté until they are becoming soft. Add the potatoes and continue sautéing until slightly soft, then add the onion. Continue sautéing. Add the garlic and ginger, then the Swiss chard, tomatoes, chicken (if using) and salt. Add enough water to fill the pot to within an inch (2.5 cm) of the top.

Turn the fire low and let the soup simmer until the vegetables are fork-soft.

Serve hot with bread.

¡Buen provecho!

 

Tips

  • Chicken back with wings (espaldilla con alitas), cut into pieces, works quite fine. If you are on a tight budget, go for menudencias (a mixed bag of liver, heart, gizzards, neck … and chicken feet).
  • The carrots may be replaced with a winter squash (calabaza, zapallo, uyama).
  • The Swiss chard may be replaced with another green vegetable, like peas (chícharo, guisantes, arvejas), green beans (ejotes, vainitas, chauchas) kale (col rizada) or bok choy (col china).
  • Instead of potatoes, you may use one cup another starch like rice or pasta. (Add the rice with the last ingredients. Add the pasta in the last 10 minutes of cooking)
  • Remember: The smaller the carrots and potatoes are cut, the faster the soup will cook!

Recipe Corner : VEGGIE PATTIES

A rich meal that is quick, easy and cheap. What more can a budget traveler ask for? photo © Lorraine Caputo

A rich meal that is quick, easy and cheap. What more can a budget traveler ask for? photo © Lorraine Caputo

After a day of hiking or city sightseeing, this quick and easy dish will renew your spirit. It is rich in vitamins, minerals and proteins. These Veggie Patties are similar to small omelets – only with just enough egg to bind the vegetables together.

 

Estimated cooking time: 10 minutes

For: Vegetarians

Makes: 6 patties

 

VEGGIE PATTIES

1 small onion, halved and thinly sliced

1 small carrot, grated

1 large handful of spinach, washed well and cut into ribbons

1 glove of garlic, finely minced

2 eggs

½ teaspoon of salt

2 tablespoons of oil

 

Beat the eggs in a bowl. Add the vegetables, garlic and salt. Stir until the vegetables are coated with the egg.

In a skillet, heat the oil. Spoon the egg mixture into the skillet to make small patties. When browned on one side, turn the patties over and brown the other side.

Serve over rice and with sliced tomatoes or a simple salad. For an extra zing, drizzle the patties with soy sauce.

 

Tips :

The leftover patties make a great sandwich the next morning.