Friday, February 3, 2012

The Hass Avocado: From LA to Chile

After numerous visits and 2 months of living in Chile, it's safe to say that Chileans love avocado. You find it included in many dishes, salads, and even some things you wouldn't necessarily expect is you were an outsider...like the lomito, the Chilean national sandwich comprised of mounds of pork, avocado, an mayo.

I've often compared much of the Chilean style of cuisine to that in California, especially when looking at the seafood similarities. But you'll often find many of the same ingredients in Chilean find cooking that you will in California such as tomato, mango, parsley/cilantro, and avocado.

With these similarities, it got me wondering about the avocado here in Chile, so I studied it's roots.

I had noticed something on my last trip to a local veduraria: with all the types of avocados out there, the ones I see all over Santiago seem to look and taste almost exactly like the ones that grew outside my apartment in Santa Monica, CA.

Seemed pretty odd.

With all the fruit exports from Chile to the United States, I would understand if the avocados at the supermarkets that I went to in the US had the same type of avocado that was grown in Chile, imported from the South American country.

But I'm not talking about the ones in US stores...I'm talking about the tree outside my window that I would pick avocados from.

So I dug into this mystery.

Turns out the avocado tree growing at my Santa Monica, CA apartment is the same exact type you find here in Chile. But the history of it was surprising.

The Hass avocado has it's roots in good-ole' Southern California, first grown by a amateur horticulturist named Rudolph Hass in 1926 in La Habra Heights, CA in Los Angeles county. Hass then patented his avocado and began selling clipping of the plant throughout the area. The year-round bounty of the fruit compared to other types of avocados and it's ability to grow in multiple climates made it so popular with other growers.

In 1949, the Hass avocado was introduced to Chile, and started to be grown there. It didn't take off very quickly as consumers preferred the green skinned "Fuerte" avocado, mistakenly calling it a "California" avocado, despite it actually being from Mexico (while the Hass that they disliked actually was from California).

Fast forward to 2011 and the Hass avocado is the largest cultivar in Chile, now comprising almost 70% of the total avocados grown in Chile.

So when you are in Chile, enjoying a tasty lomito or some other dish with avocado, be sure thank California for creating this dandy type of avocado.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Home Cookin': New Years in Santiago, Chile

When deciding on what to do for New Years, this year the plan was to cook at home and go out after dinner. And it proved to be the best decision.

To celebrate the holiday in my new home of Chile, we opted for some dishes with some Chilean flavor combined with some of my California and American styles.

Dinner consisted of a number of different items. And at midnight, I got to engage in the Chilean custom of drinking a Ponche a la Romana, a mixture of pineapple sorbet and champagne (see below)





Home Cookin': New Years 2012 - grilled vegetable skewers of zucchini, onion, yellow pepper and zappallo.


Home Cookin': New Years Dinner 2012: grilled chicken breasts in a mango and pisco marinade, served with a mango, green onion and lime chutney

Home Cookin': New Years Dinner 2012: sweet and spicy shrimp skewers. Grilled shrimp in a Merken and sweet BBQ sauce marinade and sauce

Home Cookin': New Years Dinner 2012: pan seared coconut scallops in a pineapple buerre blanc sauce

Home Cookin': New Years Dinner 2012: shrimp in a coconut and butter sauce

Home Cookin': New Years Dinner 2012: arroz navidad (rice with green onion, roasted pork, toasted almonds, dried apricot)

Home Cookin': New Years Dinner 2012:  Plated meal of coconut scallops in pineapple buerre blanc sauce, pico mango chicken (with mango, green onion, lime chutney), coconut butter shrimp, arroz navidad, grilled zappallo (with cinamon, butter and sugar), grilled vegetable skewers, shrimp skewers (in Merken and sweet BBQ sauce)

Home Cookin' New Years 2012 - raspberry cheesecake

Home Cookin': New Years Dinner 2012:
1: grilled prawns in a sweet and spicy BBQ Merken sauce 

2: pan seared coconut scallops in a pineapple buerre blanc sauce 
3: arroz de navidad ( rice with green onion, almonds, apricots, roasted pork) 
4: grilled chicken breast in a mango, green onion, lime juice chutney 
5: shrimp in a coconut butter sauce 
6: grilled vegetable skewers of zucchini, onion, yellow pepper with zapallo

Home Cookin' New Years 2012 - PONCHE A LA ROMANA (champagne with pineapple sorbet)

Home Cookin' New Years 2012 - PONCHE A LA ROMANA (champagne with pineapple sorbet)

Home Cookin' New Years 2012 - comfort breakfast food for New Years Day, french toast with smoked sausages and good ole. organic candian maple syrup

Monday, January 2, 2012

Home Cookin': Christmas Dinner in Santiago, Chile

Well, the weather outside was frightful (a hot 93 degrees fahrenheit), but the fire is so delightful (if by fire you mean the incredibly strong Christmas alcohol drinks that have a kick like fire water), and since we've no place to go (since everything is closed on Christmas)...

December 25, 2011 marked my 2nd year living in the southern hemisphere during Christmas time. For any European or North American, it's quite a change in culture, regardless of the country. In New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and other English speaking southern hemisphere countries, you'll still find the same Christmas music with all it's snow and winter references, playing in stores. Oddly enough, even in a Latin country like Chile, you'll hear the same music. We can chalk that up to a bit of cultural imperialism.

When you are an expat, living in a Spanish speaking country and having a poor overall comprehension of the language, it's easy to think that will all the culture and climate differences, it could be a tough time. But in great countries like Chile, you don't miss a beat. You still find all the festive cheer, the kind people, and christmas decorations any snowbird would be used to. And like every country, Chile puts it's own twist on the holiday traditions.

So here's a look at some of those with the focus on some of the excellent food Chile has to offer for the holidays.


Unlike many other countries like the United States, Christmas Eve is the more important time for families for the holiday. It's when all the relatives get together for a proper meal.



As I was alone in Santiago on Christmas eve, I used it as an excuse to have  less traditional "Christmas" meal, but still something distinctively Chilean.

So for dinner, it was Pastel de Choclo.

Pastel de Choclo:
Home Cookin': Pastel de Choclo with a corn and chicken salad, topped with candied almonds (Santiago, Chile)

The dish is popular throughout Chile, and is their unique version of an popular dish many know as "Sheppard's Pie". Consisting of a base of sauteed ground beef, onions, chicken and sliced hard boiled egg, the casserole is completed with a tasty corn batter topping that is sweet and silky like the tastiest corn cake or pudding you could ever have. For a quick an easy recipe to try it out, try this one.


Cola de Mono
Pan de Pasqua and Cola de Mono

The literal translation in English is "Monkey Tail". The name might not be as appealing when you factor in what is produced nearby a monkey's tail. But the drink is fantastic. A traditional Christmas drink, Cola de Mono is the equivalent to egg nog in many Anglo cultures as something you'll only find at Christmas time. I had heard much about the drink and was anxious to give it a try. As I didn't have it in me to actually cook and prepare the drink myself, I opted for a pre-made mixture that no self-respecting Chilean would ever subject themselves to. And it was still one of the best holiday drinks I've tasted.

Like any complex drink, each person preparing it can add their own twist. But the basics include milk, water, instant coffee grounds, cinnamon, vanilla, sometimes a fair amount of cloves, combined with a highly alcoholic aguardiente. Variations might include any combination of liquors such as pisco, rum, or brandy.

Served cold and when drank, the end flavor is something like a White Russian. But due to the complexity of the flavors, it tastes more like a combination where the prevalent flavors would be Kahlua and Baileys Irish Cream.

And to eat for dessert with the Cola de Mono, a slice of Pan de Pasqua.


Pan de Pasqua:
Remember in the 1980's, when comics would make jokes about fruit cake and how it's the gift you get for someone at Christmas time you don't really like...since so few people in Anglo cultures actually like fruit cake? Well, if you have a Chilean friend living abroad, you can always re-gift your unwanted fruitcake to him or her...because Chileans devour the stuff. Every supermarket, every bakery is packed to the ceilings with Pan de Pasqua at Christmas time. And make no mistake: this isn't some special recipe that tastes different to what you've had in the UK or the USA. It's virtually the same thing, ranging in texture and consistency from somewhat (and I stress somewhat) fluffy to a hard round brick you could break a car window wish. It was nice to eat this year though, since it is the type of food that would elicit memories of a trip to grandma's house.




Chistmas Dinner: Roasted Turkey
Home Cookin': Christmas dinner - Turkey injected with a rum marinade with apples and prunes roasted into the meat, roasted garlic mashed potatoes and grren bean almondine (Santiago, Chile)

Even with my new found love for Cola de Mono, the headliner of Christmas Dinner came in the form of "pavo". While a portion of Americans pass on Turkey for Christmas due to the late November holiday of Thanksgiving featuring turkey, for many Chileans, Turkey is the main event. This year, I was blessed with having a wonderful girlfriend who changed her holiday travel schedule to return to Santiago early to spend Christmas day with me. And thanks to her loving mother, she arrived with the greatest gift you could give a food writer on Christmas: a roasted turkey, cooked to perfection.

Now I could have bought a turkey and prepared it myself. But the style I would have used would have been more along the lines of what I've done in the past as a more Anglocentric method. You all know the drill: clean the turkey cavity, stuff it with various items such as traditional stuffing, baste every so often, and serve.

But the style this year was such a pleasant surprise.

The uncooked meat was injected with enough rum to take down a college student, adding a richer flavor to the meat upon cooking and producing a much more flavorful au jous. Rather than relying on just the traditional stuffing of the cavity that I'm used to, prunes and apples were placed into the actual meat prior to cooking, infusing with the meat upon cooking. This is something I often do with every pork dish, especially with fruit, fresh rosemary and whole garlic cloves. But for eating turkey, this was a first for me. The result was a near perfect meal of the roasted turkey, served with roasted garlic mashed potatoes and green bean almondine.

And for dessert, homemade pumpkin pie...my American contribution to the Christmas dinner.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Sushi at Yuki in Buenos Aires

Sushi platter from Yuki, Buenos Aires

When it comes to finding good sushi in Buenos Aires, it's a nearly impossible quest. Sure, if you like salmon, cream cheese and the mystery white fish, then you're all set. But if you're looking for the mythical red tuna (Ahi), you're out of luck...because even if you find it on a menu, it's usually inferior quality.  So if you like a more traditional style of Japanese sushi, Buenos Aires has next to no options.

Except for Yuki.

Thanks to a review I read, I made it a priority to make sure I took a visit.I planned for months to goto Yuki but didn't get around to it until tonight. And it was well worth it.

They didn't have any fresh red tuna but were honest in saying that since it wasn't fresh, they wouldn't serve it. But even without it, the meal was superb.

In fact, when we told them "no queso crema" they explained how as a traditional sushi restaurant, they never use it anyways. Yes folks, in BA, most sushi has cream cheese...you have to ask to NOT have it when ordering.









Karaage from Yuki, Buenos Aires

Tamago, pulpo, rabas y tuna from Yuki, Buenos Aires

Green tea ice cream from Yuki, Buenos Aires

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thanksgiving in Buenos Aires

As good a time as any to test out the iPhone Blogger app with some photos from this past Thanksgiving.

This year, Thanksgiving was in Buenos Aires, at an American restaurant, Kansas.

The meal consisted of turkey and stuffing, mashed potatoes, candied carrots, mashed sweet potatoes (with pecans and apples). And for dessert, pecan pie.



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