Because I am totally off my rocker, I decided early this week that I wouldn’t let a little thing like vacation in a foreign country bar me from the kitchen. I wouldn’t be deterred by small details; like the fact that I am currently 5,000 miles from home, or that I had hardly any cooking supplies, or that I posessed only a rudimentary idea of where to shop in Buenos Aires. No pasa nada!
The Frenchman and I are staying at a hotel, but a friend of ours recently moved to Buenos Aires for work, and so there was a kitchen available. (And by “available” what I mean is that I basically invited myself over, and then invited him to invite his coworkers over too. Charming, I know.)
And so I spent the better part of one day shopping, criss-crossing the city based on internet suggestions for where I might find a decent farmers market, or a great loaf of bread. (I found the farmers market, but alas, I have yet to try tasty bread in Buenos Aires.) Some might consider this a ridiculous way to pass a day in a foreign city, when there are art museums to be seen, and Casas Rosas to be marveled at. But food–tasting it, rooting it out, chatting with people over it–is my preferred method of tourism.
I had no menu at the start of my shopping day, but decided to let the dinner menu form itself a little bit at a time: figs, plump and jammy, were the first thing to fall into my basket. Yellow plums followed, and then chives, mascarpone, fresh eggs. I had to keep in mind that I had none of my fancy tools to rely on; I needed to accomplish every task with little more than a knife, a pan, and a cutting board. (I had to buy the cutting board.)
Isn’t this the most fun way to cook: basically; choosing ingredients that stand up on their own, and then figuring out what to do with them once you get home? Throughout the day, I scribbled notes, added ingredients, mulled cooking methods. By the end of the day, I knew-ish what I wanted to make.
The next afternoon, I made my way to my friend’s apartment in the afternoon. I took off my shoes and started some music. I completed all my prep work at a languid pace. Since his range and oven required turning a massive gas lever and manually lighting each part–if you think the oven had a temperature gage, you’re joking–I waited for him to come home before I actually applied heat to my ingredients.
I finished more or less on time, with a drink in my hand. The food I put forth was uncomplicated, but well-seasoned and tasty. Everyone–an array of nationalities–chatted in some amalgamation of English and Spanish, and we drank wine, and then fernet. The evening disolved, sleepily, happily, sometime around 2am.
A Pair of Tartines to Start:
1. Leek, Mushrooms, and Scrambled Eggs on Toast: First I sauteed chopped leeks in butter, adding salt, pepper, lemon juice, and lemon zest toward the end. I treated sliced mushrooms the same way, making sure not to crowd them, so that they would brown instead of steam. Eggs went into the pan last, with yet more butter, salt, and pepper, scrambled at a glacial pace to keep them silky and soft and not at all rubbery. Just before the eggs finished cooking, I took the pan off the heat and showered them liberally with minced chives. Onto toasted slices of country bread everything went, along with shards of aged cheddar, or rather, some Argentine cheese that tasted similar.
2. Cherry Tomato, Burrata, and Basil Oil Toast: Into the temperature-less oven went a tray of halved cherry tomatoes, drizzled with olive oil and a touch of honey, scattered with salt and pepper, until they were wilty, but not dry. I chopped a bunch of basil into ribbons, and then muddled the basil into more olive oil. In the end, each toast was a mess of warm tomatoes, runny burrata, and basil oil.
Main Courses to Accommodate Meat-Eaters and Vegetarians Alike:
1. Chorizo Braise: I lined the bottom of a casserole/pyrex with chopped: carrot, shallots, onions, and whole garlic cloves. Next, fresh thyme sprigs were added, along with paprika. I added the chorizo next, fat fresh sausages I found at the butcher. I filled the dish with water until the chorizo was halfway submerged, and then added a generous splash of red wine, for good measure. It all went into the oven for about an hour at an unknown temperature. It the end, the sausages were cooked through and glistening, and the vegetables just starting to caramelize. I corrected the sauce with salt and pepper.
2. Ratatouille with Olive Oil-Fried Eggs: I sauteed onion, garlic, red bell pepper, zucchini, eggplant, and tomatoes in olive oil. Salt and pepper were added as I went, along with fresh thyme and whole basil leaves. To finish, I fried up eggs in olive oil: the runny yolks made a winning sauce to tie the whole dish together.
1. New potatoes, boiled in salty water until yielding. I roughed them up in the pan, and stirred in some butter, chives, and sour cream.
2. A salad of butter lettuces, radicchio, and spring onions was dressed with mustard vinaigrette.
Dessert of Fruit and Cream:
I quartered figs and yellow plums, and brushed them with runny peach jam. The fruit went into a low-ish oven, until they were just starting to fall apart. I built each dessert plate thusly: a disarray of fruit topped with mascarpone and thickened cream, scattered with crushed pistachios. (Feel free to sub the fruit and nuts I used for the fruit and nuts you have on hand, and like.)