Category Archives: Argentina

Rice salad with ham and artichokes

Here’s an Argentinian rice salad recipe that I didn’t get around to making in November. Rice, artichoke hearts, corn, and ham are tossed lightly with a dijon mustard dressing. This would be a great picnic salad, it keeps well for a day in the fridge and can be eaten as a main dish or side. The sweetness of the corn is a nice balance to the tartness from the artichokes and vinegar dressing.

Ensalada de arroz con jamon y alcachofas
2-3 c. cooked rice (add a clove of garlic while cooking)
14 oz. can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
4 oz. canned pimento, drained and chopped
2 c. corn kernels
1 ham steak, cut into strips

Mix together salad ingredients. Whisk together dressing and toss into the salad. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Can also add Parmesan cheese and/or chopped herbs – but wait until just before serving.

1/2 c. olive oil
2 Tbsp. whipping cream, sour cream, or plain yogurt
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
3 Tbsp. vinegar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. sugar


Postre Chajá

The final dish of my November sojourn into Argentinian and Uruguayan cuisine is Postre Chajá, a dessert unique to Uruguay and famous in that country. And what a way to go out with a bang! The dessert involves a layer of sponge cake or pound cake sandwiched between meringue, berries, whipped cream, and covered with a buttercream frosting. My mom remembers it being frozen and individually-wrapped in tin foil – so that’s what I did, though it can also be made as one large dessert and cut into slices to serve.

There appear to be quite a few variations on the theme, different order and repetition of the layers, and many of the pictures make it look like they have crumbled meringue on the top as well. This is my mom’s recipe that she had used to make chaja once previously, and she specifically remembers having it in Uruguay with strawberries (though many other online recipes mention peaches as the main fruit). I’ll have to try it again when we have nice ripe strawberries or peaches available.  But there was no lack of sugar in the other components, so it balanced out ok even with the less ripe November berries. Here’s what the final frosted product looks like;

Postre Chajá
4 egg whites
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. vinegar
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

Beat egg whites and salt until stiff peaks form. Gradually add vinegar and 2/3 c. sugar while still beating. Then, by hand fold in the remaining 1/3 c. sugar and vanilla. Trace two large circles or 12 small ones (about 3.5 inches diameter) on a parchment paper lining a baking sheet. Spread the meringue evenly around to make flat circles within your tracing. Bake at 250 degrees for about 30 minutes. This didn’t make a hard meringue in my oven, but I’m not sure if it’s supposed to actually be a crunchy meringue or not. Tasted good, regardless.

Buttercream frosting:
3/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. water
1/8 tsp. cream of tartar
5 egg yolks
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 Tbsp. brandy

Boil sugar, water and cream of tartar for a couple of minutes until sugar is dissolved and mixture is bubbling well. Beat egg yolks in a mixer, and gradually add the syrup, beating until cool and thickened (about 10 minutes). Add well-softened butter in small portions to the egg yolk mixture while beating. When I got to this point, it wasn’t quite smooth, so I added a bit more powdered sugar to stiffen it up a bit. Then add brandy, and just try not to lick the bowl clean…

Other ingredients:
Pound cake or sponge cake – 6 slices
Strawberries or peaches, sliced
2 c. sweetened whipped cream

To assemble the postre, place 6 of the meringues on a baking sheet and make room in your freezer to place it when you’re finished. Add a cake layer to each meringue. Arrange the fruit over the cake, and top with a large spoonful of whipped cream. Add the top meringue and press down lightly to stabilize the stack, it should stick together pretty well with the whipped cream. Then cover the whole thing with a thin layer of buttercream frosting. Freeze well, then wrap individually in aluminum foil and keep in the freezer.  Remove from the freezer at least 30 minutes before serving so that it can start to thaw and will be easier to slice and serve.

Tarta de Palmitos

We’re nearing the end of November, and there are 2 final dishes that I have heard a lot about and wanted to try.  Tarta de Palmitos (hearts of palm tart) from Argentina, and Postre Chaja – a popular dessert from Uruguay (I’ll post about that one tomorrow).

When I started talking to my Argentinian friends about cooking, we looked through some cookbooks together so that they could point out particularly tasty or traditional recipes. When we came to the page with Tarta de Palmitos recipe, both of my friends exclaimed “Que rico!” with much nostalgia in their voices. I don’t remember ever eating palm hearts, much less cooking with them. So of course, I had to try it!

In this dish, hearts of palm are layered in a creamy leek and onion sauce and baked in a buttery crust, topped with Parmesan cheese. Yes – it’s very rich and creamy, usually served as an appetizer or as an accompaniment to soup or salad, much like quiche is served in the U.S.

Tarta de Palmitos
1 Tbsp. melted butter + 1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 c. thinly sliced leeks
1 1/2 c. thinly sliced Vidalia onion
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 c. whipping cream
2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and diced
14 oz. can hearts of palm, drained
9-inch pie crust
1 egg white, lightly beaten
2 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese

Heat the butter and olive oil in a saucepan on medium-low heat. Add leeks and onions and toss around to coat, then cover and cook on low heat for about 15 minutes. Veggies should be cooked and soft, but not browned. Stir in the paprika, salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, mix together the cream, chopped eggs, and cornstarch. Add this mixture to the saucepan and stir it constantly until it thickens up. Remove from heat and set aside.  Drain the palm hearts very well, and slice each one into 8 pieces.

Prick the pie crust with a fork all over the bottom, and blind-bake the pie crust for about 10 minutes at 425 degrees. Brush the bottom of the crust with the beaten egg white.  Spread half of the cream mixture into the crust, then arrange the hearts of palm over the pie. Top with the rest of the cream mixture and spread evenly. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and bake at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned.  Let cool briefly and slice, serve warm.

Adapted from: The South American Table, by Maria Baez Kijac

Poached Pears in wine

This is definitely a recipe of European descent, but I found it in an Argentinian cookbook, and made it with Argentinian malbec, so it counts!  Pears poached in red wine syrup with a cinnamon stick (this makes 2 servings).

Poached Pears
1/2 c. red wine (white would work too)
1/4 c. sugar
1 cinnamon stick (can also use a clove and/or a pinch of nutmeg)
2 pears, peeled and cut into wedges

Boil the wine, sugar and spices for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, peel and cut up pears into big wedges. Add the pears to the wine syrup and continue simmering until the pears are tender when pierced with a fork.

You can use any fruit, peaches, apples, etc., or add dried fruit too.

Source: Asi cocinan los Argentinos

Empanadas de jamón y queso

Empanadas are a very common appetizer and festival food in Argentina. They can be filled with almost anything, but the two fillings I see most often in the cookbooks are ground beef (often with raisins), or ham and cheese.  I decided to make some ham and cheese empanadas.

Empanadas de jamón y queso
3 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 c. unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
1/4 c. vegetable shortening
1/2 c. warm water

Mix together the dry ingredients, add the butter and shortening to make a coarse meal. Add the water and mix to make a soft dough. This can be done in a food processor. Form the dough into a smooth ball, knead it a few times, and then cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.

Cut the dough into 16 equal pieces, roll into balls and roll out into flat circles about 5 inches in diameter.

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 c. chopped onion
1 c. day-old bread crumbs, soaked in 1/2 c. milk for 30 minutes
8 oz. chopped ham
8 oz. Muenster or other white cheese, shredded
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 recipe empanada dough, above

In a small pan, fry the onion in olive oil until transparent, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool. Squeeze the bread crumbs and place in a bowl. Add the onion, ham, cheese, black pepper and egg and mix well.

Place 2 Tbsp. of the filling in the middle of a dough circle. Lightly moisten half of the circle’s edge with beaten egg. Fold the circle in half and press firmly to seal the edges. Crimp with a fork and pierce the top a few times with a fork to allow for steam to be released. Make up all 16 empanadas. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375, brush the empanadas with beaten egg and bake for about 25 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Note: Empanadas can be made in smaller sizes (empanaditas), and they can also be frozen to bake later, so they make a good party appetizer.

Salpicón de Argentina

Wikipedia defines salpicon as “a term in French cuisine applied to a preparation consisting of one or more ingredients, diced or minced, and bound with a sauce”. From a quick Google search, it is obvious that the word has come to mean a wide variety of dishes in the different cultures of Central and South America and Europe. In Argentina, salpicón is a salad of pickles with diced vegetables, some cooked and some raw.  Meat or fish is added to the vegetables, and the whole is bound together with mayonnaise and mild herbs such as oregano, garlic or parsley. Rice, beans and potatoes can also be added. In other words, it’s a general concept that can be made with whatever mixture of ingredients strikes your fancy. Or in this case, whatever ingredients were leftover in my kitchen!

Chicken Salpicón
1 chicken breast, boiled and cubed
green pepper, diced
cucumber, diced
carrot, thickly sliced and cooked until tender
celery, diced
[I had some leftover cooked green beans too, but forgot to add them until after the picture…]
about 2-3 Tbsp. mayonnaise
finely diced dill pickles
oregano, black pepper, and salt to taste

I mixed up the ingredients and served the salpicón over a bed of romaine lettuce, lightly dressed in a simple vinaigrette. Another suggestion was to use the salpicón as a stuffing for a halved fresh tomato. Simple, quick, and delicious!

Carbonada Criolla

Carbonada Criolla is a meat and fruit stew, popular in Uruguay. This is a beef stew with potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, onions and peppers – sounds pretty normal so far, right? – plus peaches and pears! This tradition of using fruit in savory meat dishes is said to come from the large Basque immigrant population in Uruguay. The fruit adds a nice sweetness, but blends in well so that (especially after reheating) you would be hard-pressed to identify it as fruit.

I made a big pot of this stew and rewarmed it the next day for a group of friends.  Others brought a pear and walnut lettuce salad, crusty wheat bread, pumpkin cheesecake bars, and Argentine Malbec red wine.  Great meal and great company!

The recipe below is an approximation. I was pulling together ideas from two slightly different recipes, and then added a few things of my own at the end to enhance the flavors, and I was not measuring as I went…. sorry!

Carbonada Criolla
2 lbs. beef chunks “beef for stew” as it is labeled at Kroger, bite-sized pieces
1/4 c. olive oil
1/2 c. white wine

Toss the beef pieces with flour to coat and fry on medium heat in a large stockpot until nicely browned. Add 1/2 c. wine to deglaze the pot, scraping the lovely bits from the bottom of the pot. Remove the meat and remaining sauce to a bowl and heat a couple more Tbsp. of oil in the same pot.

2 c. chopped onions
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped

Saute these vegetables until softened and then add the meat back to the pot.

Stir in;
1 – 1/2 small cans tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. salt
2 c. beef broth
1 c. water

Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and simmer until the meat is tender, about 1 hour. Remove the bay leaf.

Then add;
2 c. butternut squash, cubed
1 large potato, cubed
1 large sweet potato, cubed

Simmer for about 20 minutes, until potatoes are tender.

Then add;
2 Bartlett pears, peeled, cored and cubed
2 peaches, peeled, cored and cubed (I used frozen and it worked fine)

Add more beef broth or water as needed, but it should be a thick stew at the end. I added a more of the spices, oregano and basil, as well as a Tbsp of apple cider vinegar and a couple of shakes of worchestershire sauce, and more salt, to taste. Cook about 10 more minutes, and then serve with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. Reheats well.