Fugazzeta

Day two of Argentina week and I think James was really excited about this meal because it involved a pizza. We love pizza (who doesn’t????) so when we’ve had opportunities to eat different versions of pizza, like during Turkish week with the pide, we jump at it. This meal involved me coming into contact with my frenemy, yeast, so I not super excited it about it. I was looking forward to trying something new but knowing my frenemy would be there did dampen my enthusiasm. I did some yoga that day and tried to get centered and peaceful before dealing with it. It was like drinking a beer before going to happy hour with your frenemy because you know you’re going to need some additional help in getting through it but you don’t want them to see you need the help.

This was another Italian inspired dish. It’s a stuffed pizza that is most popular in Buenos Aires. Quick little history lesson: the word fugazzeta is derived from “fugassa” which means “focaccia” in the Genoese dialect. An immigrant baker by the name of Agustin Banchero created a fugazza, a onion focaccia with grated cheese on top, and then his son, Juan, created the fugazzeta by stuffing it with mozarella cheese.

I will admit, I did fail in my first attempt to get my yeast bubbly. The recipe said to warm up the milk to 100-105 degrees but it was only a fourth of a cup so mine got very hot, very quick. Very hot liquid kills yeast so I chunked that mess and started over. The second time worked and I’m glad it did because I could already feel the yoga wearing off. After that it was just a matter of waiting an hour or so for the dough to rise and I think I spent that time doingmore yoga.

Yoga saves, y’all.

I thought I would have a harder time with rolling out the dough because I had to wait ten minutes in between each roll for it to relax but it went by pretty quickly. I did pour a little too much olive oil in my skillet so the dough got a little slick after a bit but I was still able to work with it. The hardest part was laying the top over the bottom because dough moves. Yeah, don’t know if you knew that but it’s not a solid object.

Aside from those minor irritations, the result was still fantastic. We were both surprised by how light the pizza was because, hello, it’s a stuffed pizza. Stuffed pizza is never light! But I guess most stuffed pizzas are, you know, stuffed with all sorts of meats and cheeses so that probably contributes to the lead like feeling after eating them. This fugazzeta didn’t have that because it was just stuffed with mozarella and provolone and the topping was very thinly sliced onions. Even with it being baked with lots of olive oil and being topped with onions, there was no heartburn afterwards so that was an added bonus.

We all ate multiple slices and I think there was maybe only one slice leftover. The girls even liked the onions and didn’t pick them off like I expected them. That was a win!

Recipe

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Kik Alicha, Timatim Firfir, Beet-Potato Salad, and Injera

I know, it’s been a WHILE since I last posted, four weeks to be exact. Sorry! We had a lot of social obligations, then Halloween, my birthday, the election… Life has been hectic and I have not had the time nor energy to sit and talk about food. There has been a lot of good, actually a ton of good, and bad in the past month and this project took a backseat to more pressing issues. It’s really hard to get excited about food when there are bigger things to focus on. I’m not going to get into it because I think there has been enough talk in the past week. I will say this, I feel like we need to accept where we are and focus our energy on making the best out of it. We can’t change what has happened but we still have the ability to change the future. Focus on that. Focus on what you can do. Get out there and do it. We’ve all heard the wake up call so now it’s time to sit up, put your feet on the ground, and make the Devil say “Oh shit, she’s up!”

So we ate Ethiopian food four weeks ago! Ethiopia was one of the weeks both James and I were really excited about. We were introduced to it a few years ago when we had dinner with some vegan friends. What we both remember from that first meal was the injera, which is a sourdough flatbread. Our friends warned us beforehand that we might not like it because a lot of people are put off by the bitter flavor but luckily James and I are both bitter people (I’m kidding, sort of). The injera was our favorite part of the entire meal and it has remained one of our favorite things to eat. Making injera isn’t fast. The batter has to ferment for at least three days but you can technically start using it after one day. Making my injera was delayed a day because I’m an idiot. When doing my grocery shopping, I grabbed a bag of teff seeds; teff flour is what is used to make injera. It is a a grain that is similar to millet and quinoa and is high in fiber and iron. The problem was I needed teff flour, not seeds. And even though I read “teff seed” on the package, it didn’t register. It registered after I poured the entire package of seeds in a bowl and mixed it with water. Finally the light bulb went off and I literally said to myself “Dummy. You need flour, not seeds!” and I smacked my forehead. So I had to go back the next day and buy flour. Watching it sit on my counter top was painful because I just wanted to cook with it right away and I am not a patient person. When it finally hit the 24 hour mark, I was so excited! The cooking technique was very similar to making the dosas and we all know how I aced that (brushes off shoulders) so I knew I had this!

I did not have this. I mean, it was fine but the flavor was not the same as what I’ve eaten. My injera wasn’t as spongy and it was kind of grainy. I was sad but I figured it wasn’t as great because it needed more time to ferment. So it goes. I moved on and prepared the rest of the meal.

Yeah the rest of the meal wasn’t much better. The kik alicha was good, even though I substituted white urad dal for the split peas. It was very creamy and buttery and it was similar to another dal we had during Nepal week. The timatim firfir was just onion, pepper, and tomato in olive oil and lemon juice. It really didn’t absorb any of the berbere seasoning and it was pretty acidic. And then the beet-potato salad…ugh. Like the timatim, it was just a sum of ingredients. There was nothing special about it, we just ate boiled potatoes and beets.

So obviously this meal was a fail but I had hopes for the next day’s meal. I can’t remember if the girls ate it or not but I want to say no. Because we didn’t even like it. So it goes.

Recipe, Recipe, Recipe

Onion Soup

This will be a short post because this meal was neither amazing nor terrible. It was right smack in the middle: good. I think there was a few factors contributing to it’s mediocrity but the biggest was the heat. I made this last Wednesday and even though we were experiencing a “cool” front of 85, it still made me feel very warm. This is precisely why I have issues eating hot soup during the summer. It’s too dang hot! It’s the same reason why I won’t eat tamales during the summer. it’s too hot!

Have I mentioned it’s too hot?

There’s a meme floating around on Hispanic websites that pairs “When your mom makes caldo on a 100 degree weather” with a picture of a celebrity crying (the most popular is Michael Jordan) and that basically sums up my feelings of eating soup during the summer. You’re already sweating because the Sun has decided to lay down on your part of the Earth and then you pour almost boiling liquid into your body so your insides can be just as hot as your outsides? Que pendejada.

I clearly have strong feelings about this.

So after I got over boiling my insides, I was able to focus on the flavor of the soup. It was okay. The truth is, I don’t like French Onion Soup and this was basically the same thing but with veggie broth instead of animal stock. This wasn’t as rich or tart as its French version but I actually liked that. A lot of the reviews complained about its sweetness but that’s what I liked about this soup. I think I put in more sourdough than I should have but I feel that helped with the saltiness.

I didn’t even bother giving this to the kids because 1. onions and 2. toddlers eating soup is messy as hell. No thank you.

I have one more Belgian meal to post about and then I need to figure out what I’m making this week. I want something with lots of veggies and that doesn’t require me turning on the oven. Any suggestions are much appreciated!

Recipe

Carbonnade Flamande

This dish was one that was recommended to me by various people who have visited Belgium. There was a lot of praise and many said it was their favorite thing to eat in Belgium. So I obviously had to try it.

There are many variations of this dish and it was hard to find a true “Belgian” version and I think that has to do with Belgian cuisine being so heavily influenced by neighboring France, Germany, and the Netherlands. After looking at many, I just chose one that was the easiest. Don’t know if that’s being true to the dish but it made my Wednesday night a lot easier.

It’s very similar to beef bourguignon and the Nourished Kitchen‘s Braised Short Ribs with Sun Dried Tomatoes and Herbs*, both of which I’ve made before. The biggest difference is that both those dishes are made with red wine while carbonnade is made with beer. Actually, that’s the only difference. Well, beef bourguignon doesn’t use any pork and also includes onions and mushrooms but you get the point. Seeing as how I’ve made these before, I felt pretty confident with making this meal as well because I have, just with wine. Confidence is very important in the kitchen.

My confidence paid off because this was an extremely satisfying dinner! I did forget to make frites but this was more than enough food for us. I feel like it could have used a bit more tomato puree and I don’t say that because it affected the flavor but because all the pictures I saw of this dish were significantly redder than mine. I couldn’t find anything that told me whether I should marinate in the fridge or at room temperature so I did overnight in the fridge and then let it sit out in a covered dish in the kitchen for about six hours. I don’t know if that made a difference but just want to throw that out there.

The oldest was not interested in it at all. I can’t remember her reasoning but I’m pretty sure it was not logical. The baby, my beautiful, healthy, somewhat gluttonous baby, had two servings. That’s right, she ate hers and her sister’s. And it wasn’t that she was hungry, she had already eaten a lot that day, she just really liked the meal. I’m telling you, this kid and I are going to take a food tour of Europe someday and the oldest will be at home, eating McDonald’s.

So I now have three versions of this dish that I can make and that’s good. It’s nice to be able to change things up every once in a while. And it’s also nice to have options when you’re missing certain ingredients for one meal. Which, of course, never happens to me because I always have a fully stocked pantry and refrigerator and never forget to buy anything at the store. Never.

*If you are not familiar with Nourished Kitchen, I cannot stress enough how much you are missing out! She focuses on using real food and preparing them using traditional methods like fermentation and soaking and souring grains. The Beef Braised Ribs can be found in her cookbook and before starting this project, I used it all.the.time. I have yet to have a bad meal from her recipes and I cannot recommend it enough!

Recipe

Chicken Waterzooi

About ten years ago I bought a book titled 501 Must Read Books. Reading all 501 books is on my bucket list; I’ve read about 30 so I have a ways to go. Anyway, at some point I was browsing for books at Goodwill. This was before the bedbug epidemic and before all the transplants from bedbug infested cities moved to Austin and brought their creepy crawlies with them and you could buy secondhand books without worrying about bringing them into your home. Ruining secondhand book purchases for Austinites is something that is often forgotten when we complain about how transplants have ruined this city but honestly, I think it’s far more important than what they’ve done to traffic. Think of the books!

Back to my story. I was at Goodwill. One book I came across was Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald. I remember feeling it looked familiar and the story on the jacket was interesting (“the story of a man’s search for the answer to his life’s central riddle”) so I bought it for a whopping $1. I got home and put it with all the other books I hadn’t yet gotten around to reading and forgot about it. A bit later, when updating my reading list in the 501 book, I saw that Austerlitz was on the list. The “Woah!” and “Wow!” feelings were full blown kismet. I was meant to read this book!

I started reading the book last week and I’m on page thirteen. What does this have to do with this blog? Well, the first thirteen pages are set in Belgium and reading those thirteen pages inspired me to do Belgian food this week. So here we are. It’s all connected.

Also, before I move on, those first two paragraphs would not have been possible had I been reading an ebook. Physical books have more stories than just what’s written on the pages and let’s try to remember that. No doubt, there’s a place for ebooks, but they will never replace the real thing.

Last night I made Chicken Waterzooi. Traditionally it’s made with fish but I wasn’t in a fish mode so I chose the chicken option. Also, it’s traditionally eaten during the winter because it’s a hot, creamy soup. Hot, creamy soup and I made it in Texas summer. All glorious 95 degree Texas summer with 1000% humidity. It was not the smartest decision but it was a DELICIOUS one. It was very rich, probably due to the large amount of chicken broth and egg yolk, but the veggies made it lighter. The use of leeks, celery, and onions (some of the lightest vegetables you can eat) really helped offset the creaminess. I think it would have been a different story had I used a starch like potatoes so I’m grateful for the lightness.

The oldest didn’t eat it. Her exact words were “Mommy’s soup is yucky!” but oh well, more for us! The baby loved it because she’s an amazing child who appreciates what her mother does for her. And also she likes to eat but in order to shame the oldest one into submission, I’m focusing on the love the baby has for me.

I really am the best mother around.

Recipe