Monthly Archives: October 2011

The Last Supper

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A Taste of France with Raúl Zavaleta, Aide Abroad Intern

The saying goes “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” but in certain cases I would rather do as myself. I am fairly open-minded when it comes to trying new things since I like a good adventure but every now and then I have my reservations. I recall my last supper in France, two summers ago when I tried frog legs for the first time (ribbit ribbit).

Food in France is absolutely delicious as the French take great pride in their cuisine. The first time I met my French host mother she was direct with me, “I will cook good, healthy food.” She wasn’t kidding and I was more excited about her cooking than I was about sight-seeing the Lyonnais monuments. I knew she was a food connoisseur and as such she took her food seriously, we never ate a meal with less than three courses and bread and wine were must-haves at the dinner table.

For six weeks, I enjoyed pastas, stuffed tomatoes, homemade pizzas, and chicken fondues and never did I imagine she had a surprise up her sleeve for my last meal. I remember sitting outside in the patio sipping my rosé, a pink-colored wine, when my French mom came out of the kitchen with a platter of fried goodies. At first glance, one would have imagined it to be fried chicken strips as even the shape of frog legs resembles chicken strips.

She placed the platter on the patio table, looked at me and smiled, and said, serve-toi, serve yourself.

I grabbed my plate and helped myself to a good serving. I tasted one leg. “Hmmmm delicious,” I thought and continued on with my dinner. After a while I had to ask what new treat she had prepared. “Ça c’était délicieux Malou. Qu’est-ce que vous faites? Du poulet, bien sûr?” (It was delicious Malou. What did you make ? It must have chicken.) She grinned and answered, “Non, c’est les cuisses de grenouille ! ” (No, it’s frog legs.)

In any other circumstance I would had probably passed the opportunity to try the tasty delicacy but in hindsight it was a delicious experience. In all fairness, my French mom had told me about previous students she had hosted eating frog legs but it never occurred to me that she was responsible for the experience. She explained that most students are hesitant to eat frog legs since it’s not a popular dish in the States but that after trying her recipe, most students are in love. It may not have been love at first sight but frog legs were the perfect ending to my adventures in France.

Thank you Malou for giving me a taste of France I will never forget!

 

A Tiny Delicacy in the Philippines

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AAG Philippines with Erin Wingerter, Office Manager

Naturally after thoroughly enjoying a giant stuffed squid at a restaurant I wanted to try and cook my own. To celebrate the completion of my first two weeks in Manila I decided to go for it. At the grocery store I could not find any squid so I asked the fish guy if they had any squid. He smiled a smile that said, “Really? YOU are going to be cooking squid?” He directed me toward the below squid. I was disappointed at the size. I plopped a few of them in a bag and started to walk away.

I paused, spun around and asked, Do you have anything, ummm, bigger?

He laughed out loud and motioned for me to follow him. I won’t tell you where I got it (that’s between me and fish guy).

As you can see he obviously understood my go big or go home mentality.

I picked up the remaining ingredients I would need for the meat stuffing and rushed home, excited about the prospect of cooking my first ever squid. I had previously found a recipe for cooking octopus. I assumed that squid and octopus are pretty similar so I could cook them the same way (keep in mind that my cooking experience in Austin has been putting cereal in a bowl and adding milk).

I only had one fairly small pot so Tiny (yes, I named my giant squid) had a bit of a cozy fit during his final moments.

I know you are on the edge of your seat now wanting to know just how wonderful my squid turned out. Life isn’t a fairy tale kids. After 20 minutes (according to the octopus recipe) of boiling in it’s own “juices” I wasn’t sure how to check and see if it was done so similar to meat I stabbed it. To my surprise and dismay “Tiny” began to leak black as night ink. Hoping this was just a little that didn’t get washed out I decided to cut “Tiny” open. Not great. I about fell on the floor laughing. Apparently I should have taken the time to get a recipe for an actual squid.

Final product? A lovely meat, garlic, onion and eggplant stuffing with sweet chili sauce. Delicious! Granted not what I had in mind when I first started out but a highly entertaining experience and now I can say that I have cooked a giant squid (I don’t have to include that “Tiny” was not actually edible when all was said and done).

So get out there, take a risk and try cooking an international dish!

Tasty Traditional Treats in Buenos Aires

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Volunteer Argentina with Stephanie Schneidau

Before I came I anticipated beef, dulce de leche, empanadas, and more beef. However you can really see the fusion of different cultures and the immigration influence in Buenos Aires through their food. 

When I was taking Spanish classes my first two weeks, I picked up on the trend to head to to the bakery, panaderia, during our 20 minute break. Medialunas were my usual choice, which are crossiants with a sugar glaze on top and can be found at any bakery in Buenos Aires and even at Burger King here. They can be eaten at any meal and are usually enjoyed with coffee. In addition medialunas are sometimes filled with dulce de leche, a carmel-like cream, or with a jelly. The variety at the bakeries are amazing, every time I go I am still able to try something new. Here dessert is a given and it is assumed you will always order one after your meal.

This is bife de lomo, which is a tenderloin steak that was BY FAR the best steak (and cheapest filet) I have ever eaten. It was topped with a mushroom glaze and came with a side of fried potato balls.

In Buenos Aires, you will often come across restaurants that include a parrilla, which is a huge grill with all meet is cooked including ribs, tenderloin, chorizo sausage, and much more. The smell alone will attract you inside.

Also there are street trailers all over, especially along the river selling choripan. This is chorizo sausage on a white bun and then you top it with any veggies and sauces of your preferance.After a late night out, this was the perfect meal the following day.

Empanadas can also be found all over the city and for a very reasonable price of 4 pesos…so not even 1 US dollar! They are typically filled with beef, chicken, vegetables, ham, or cheese. I had no idea that ham was so evident in Buenos Aires. Before I came I preferred a turkey sandwich but have taken a strong like to ham now.
 
Last is the strong Italian influence in Buenos Aires. From pizza to pasta, there is an Italian restaurant on every corner. My favorite is pizza with ham and pineapple. Mozzarella cheese is hugely popular here and is so fresh! As an appetizer you will often see people eating a plate of salami, ham, mozzarella, and olives…along with a glass of Argentina’s local wine, Malbec.

Beans meet Rice in Costa Rica

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Volunteer Costa Rica with Inga Hajdarowicz

No one who has ever visited Costa Rica is likely to forget gallo pinto, and those who have not visited rarely understand how people can be so enamored of rice and beans. Needless to say, the picture of this traditional dish comes first to AIDE Abroad’s desk from Inga Hajdarowicz who is happy to share her culinary experience while doing her Volunteer Costa Rica program with AIDE Abroad.

Gallo-pinto Costa Rica

Traditional Costa Rican meal, Gallo Pinto. Though many variations exist, the dish at its most basic is composed of pre-cooked rice and beans fried together.

When the beans and rice are combined, the rice gets colored by the beans, and the mix results in a multi-colored, or speckled appearance. Gallo pinto means “spotted rooster”, thus the name fits with the colored rice. The host serves it hoping that those eating it will be fooled into believing it contains chicken, the lack of which is disguised by the texture and speckled appearance of the bean and rice mixture.

Casem team Costa Rica

Inga and her team in Costa Rica!

Interested in going to Costa Rica during your Winter Break – read more.