Archive for April, 2012

Our apartment has a flat screen television with about 200 cable channels.  We rarely even turn it on, but every once in a while I like to peruse the many Argentinian cooking shows.  I love to watch professionals cook.  Even if they are not preparing anything I think I might want to make, I find that it often inspires me to get into the kitchen and start creating.  It is a great example of why attending cooking classes is such a great idea.  And, sometimes you find something new, or a new version of something old that is worth trying.  Such was the case the other night when I caught the tail end of a demonstration of an intriguing version of what I call chicken pot pie.

I remember the Swanson’s chicken pot pies of the 70’s.  I LOVED them.  Not only were they warm and comforting, with a flaky crust, creamy sauce and just the right mixture of potatoes, peas, carrots and chicken, I also felt like I was actually cooking something!  It was a start….

This recipe is sort of a grown up version of the pot pies of yore. It is a great use for leftover chicken, and almost any vegetables you happen to have on hand.  I used mostly green cabbage, which in this recipe worked great. The Asian curry seasonings and coconut milk give it a really unique flavor and the nuts are a surprising and flavorful addition.  The version I saw on television uses phyllo dough, which is a great idea.  I happened to have a puff pastry dough that is commonly used here for tarts, and it worked great.  You can also use your favorite pie crust recipe.  Whatever you use, have fun, get creative and enjoy this grown up comfort food!


Oil or butter a 9 inch pie pan and place half your dough over the pan. Dough should be big enough to drape over the sides of the pan.  If using phyllo, use about 5 sheets and butter or oil each sheet before adding the next.  Reserve the rest of the dough for the top.

3-4  cups cooked chicken, chopped or shredded

1 T toasted sesame oil

1 T olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 inch ginger, peeled and minced

3 cups chopped vegetables of your choice (if using potatoes or other tubers, par boil first)

1 T ground cumin

1 T ground turmeric

1 tsp ground chilis or red pepper

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp salt

1/2 cup orange juice

1 cup coconut milk

1/2 cup toasted nuts, roughly chopped

Heat olive and sesame oil and saute onions for 3 minutes until tender and translucent.  Add garlic, ginger, vegetables, spices and make sure vegetables are well coated.  Add orange juice and simmer for 2-3 minutes before adding coconut milk.  Mix in chicken and nuts and cook until heated through, about 2-3 more minutes.

When mixture is ready, place in prepared pie pan and top with remaining dough.  Again, if using phyllo, butter or oil each layer.  Seal as desired-a ‘rustic’ look is perfectly acceptable with this pie.  place slits in the top and bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes until crust is nicely browned.  Enjoy


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Teaching Food

For many years I have been teaching cooking.  However, this does not really describe what I have been teaching.  Really, I teach people about incorporating traditional, culturally, family-oriented and health-promoting skills into their lives in a way that sustains them and their community physically, spiritually  and environmentally.  I teach people about how food is a connection to their communities and to the land, and try to convey the message that knowing how food is raised, distributed and prepared matters as much as how good it tastes. I promote the political part of cooking, and most importantly, the joyful part of cooking- the process of procuring, preparing and providing beautiful, fresh, clean and whole food for the people you love

A lot has changed in our food system since I began trying to pass these messages along.  Awareness has grown significantly around the issues of food access, equity, literacy and sustainability and the connection they each have to our health.  I am proud to have been a small part of the growth of this awareness, it has certainly been a tasty process, and I am even more excited to see that these concerns are now beginning to receive the validity and attention that they deserve from some of our more respected and powerful institutions, like our universities!  The New York Times had a great article the other day highlighting the development of these programs:


This is what I am talking (and teaching) about.  Programs are being developed in many places because we now know that, while important, nutrition knowledge, or food science alone are not enough to promote and sustain a healthy food system.  And without a healthy food system, what difference does it make if you know what the food guide pyramid says??

I am thrilled to be joining this movement and embarking on an exciting new project with the Healthy Foods, Healthy Lives institute at the University of Minnesota, where I will be the chef/instructor for an undergraduate cooking class: A food systems approach to cooking.  Please spread the word.  This will be a fascinating, practical and fun class, and will help to move the University toward creating and building sustainability and health through real life skills.

You can find out more about this class here:


See you in the kitchen!

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I had planned to do this post during Passover, because of this delicious flourless chocolate torte that we made…needless to say Passover has ended but the joys of yummy chocolatey nutty goodness are endless!  The joys of preparing such goodness with you kids makes it even better!

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FLOURLESS CHOCOLATE TORTE  from my cookbook (with adaptations in bold)

This torte is rich and light at the same time. It is moist in the middle and slightly crispy around the edges.  This is perfect for people who can’t have wheat or gluten. It is truly a decadent and satisfying dessert. Try it with fresh whipped cream or Cedar Summit Vanilla Ice Cream and you will find yourself in dessert heaven.

8 ounces unsweetened chocolate (we found ourselves with only cocoa powder, so adapted it by using 1 cup cocoa powder with an additional 1/4 cup of oil)

¼  cup butter

1-1/3 cup sugar (this can be 2/3 cup sugar and 2/3 cup  fruit preserves or maple syrup) We used 1/2 raspberry jam here

3 eggs, beaten

4 cups finely ground nuts (almonds, hazelnuts or pecans are favorites) We used toasted walnuts, and they were delicious!!

Grated zest of 1 orange

1 Tbsp vanilla or almond extract


Preheat the overn to 375 degrees.  Grease an 8 inch springform pan.  In a large saucepan or double boiler, melt together the chocolate and butter. Add the sugar, eggs, nuts, orange zest, and vanilla or extract and mix well. Oil an 8-inch spring form pan. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan and bake for about 30 minutes. The cake should be firm to the touch and be pulling slightly away from the edges of the pan.

To make the glaze, melt the chocolate chips and butter over low heat in a saucepan or a double boiler.  Whisk until well blended.  Pour the glaze over the torte while it is still in the pan.  Place the cake in the freezer to firm up.  This cake is best when served chilled.

For an added twist, add 1 cup fresh raspberries or strawberries to the glaze, or the cake batter.

Serves 10 to 12

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Passover. Fall. Desert.

No, that’s not dessert.  It’s desert.  Like the kind the Jews crossed as they fled from the Egyptian Pharoah.  Desert that was so hot and dry their bread dough baked into big, flat crackers.  We were traveling this week for the holiday ‘Semana Santa’, the holy week including Good Friday that culminates in Easter.  Easter always occurs around the same time as Passover. For Jews, Passover is both a remembrance of an escape to freedom and a celebration of Springtime (clearly intersecting with the Pagan observance of equinox) while for Christians, Easter is a commemoration of the death and resurrection of Jesus.  Many say that Jesus’ last supper was in fact, a Passover Seder.

In any case, Friday evening, the first night of Passover found us camping at Parque Provincial Ischigualasto otherwise known as “Valle de la Luna” or Valley of the Moon.  It was a stunning, clear and windy evening amidst the red rocks and lunar landscapes highlighted by a glowing full moon.  (Jews follow a lunar calendar, so the holidays generally fall on either the full or the new moon).  I couldn’t help but consider the story of this holiday in a slightly different way given our surroundings.  What must it have been like to be wandering across such a rugged, dry and difficult landscape?  How does one prepare (in this case, with little time) and organize things like food and other vitals?  I knew we were leaving, and still didn’t have everything we needed. And how different it feels to observe this holiday in the Fall, when temperatures are cooling, and plants are dying.  It makes one wonder what meaning the symbols of spring and rebirth have to those in this hemisphere at this time of year.

One of my favorite things about Judaism is the fact that food always holds an important and symbolic place in the holiday rituals.  In the fall, we eat apples and honey for a sweet new year, on Chanukah, we fry everything in oil to remember the miracle of the oil lasting for 8 instead of one day, and on Yom Kippur, we fast to allow our minds and bodies to focus on contemplating our past sins.  In the case of Passover, there are many symbols including a lamb bone representing the lambs blood which prevented the Angel of Death from entering Jewish homes, green herbs to represent springtime, dipped in salt water which represents the tears of slavery, charoset-an apple and nut concoction to represent bricks and mortar, the work of slaves, and an egg, also representing spring and rebirth and an obvious link between the Pagan, the Christian and the Jewish traditions, and of course Matzah-the flat and dry cracker that represents the unrisen bread the Jews were forced to eat due to lack of time-a luxury often associated with freedom.  We didn’t exactly have a seder-the ritual meal which involves reading the Passover story and going through many prayers, glasses of wine, and tastes, but I did manage to create a quasi seder plate to display some of these symbolic foods in this extraordinary setting.  We discussed the idea of slavery and freedom, and why the bread didn’t rise, and why we put ourselves through the challenge of going without leavened foods for the week of Passover.

Upon returning to Mendoza, I found myself equally unprepared for a week of leaven-free foods (referred to in hebrew as “Chometz”), and decided that in these extenuating circumstances, some adaptations were allowed. After all, I’m a Reform Jew, I can bend the rules right?  There are some fascinating rules associated with Chometz, and eating grains during Passover.  Jews love interpretations, so here is my attempt:  Chometz is defined as any grain product  (specifically, from one of the “five grains” mentioned in rabbinic literature: wheat, spelt, barley, oats, and rye) which ferment when mixed with water. Rice, corn, millet, and beans undergo a process similar to fermentation but it is considered rotting (“Sirchon”) instead of fermenting.  While these grains are not explicitly forbidden in the Talmud, they are not eaten by any Ashkenazic Jews (those of Eastern European descent). Fermentation is presumed to take place within 18 minutes after the exposure of the cut grain to moisture, so the matzah, once prepared and rolled out must be completely baked within 18 minutes.

It gets more complicated than this, but living in the modern world, in this time and place, I felt that I had found a happy medium. While I am an Ashkenazic Jew,  I learned in Israel many years ago, Sephardic Jews (those of Mediterranean descent) tend to have more liberal interpretations of many of the Jewish laws and customs. I decided to settle somewhere in the middle.

Working without yeast simplifies the process of dough making substantially.  Basically it is flour and water.  I mixed about 3 parts flour (a combination of unbleached and whole wheat) with 1 part water until I had a pliable, kneadable dough.  This was quickly rolled into thin, flat sheets and placed on a baking sheet.  I pricked them with a fork in dotted lines to resemble the matzah I am familiar with, and baked them in a hot oven-about 400 degrees.  After about 8 minutes, they were flipped for another 5 or 6 minutes to achieve maximum crispness without burning.  All in all, I thought it was a great success, and we have now enjoyed several days of Chometz free meals!  The ritual of eating only matzah is an attempt to empathize and put ourselves in the place of the fleeing slaves.  It is certainly a discomfort in many ways, but as always, it is also an opportunity to reflect on the things we take for granted in our modern lives.  As for the corn, beans, rice question, I am going with the Sephardic ruling on those.

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