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Food for Thought: Chayote and Hearts of Palm Salad

July 28, 2010 Leave a comment

Hearts of Palm: mysterious and delicious.

If you work at a trendy wine shop in the East Village, you are bound to brush shoulders with some of the movers and shakers of the city and beyond. Matt Dillon once graced the store and proceeded to lick cheese off my coworker’s knife while his girlfriend strolled around the store looking for something “with a lot of fruit and some kick to it.” One of the more interesting and fulfilling encounters I’ve had at the shop has been with Food Network chef Aaron Sanchez. Restaurant owner, author, consultant and co-star of Food Network’s popular, Chefs vs. City, Chef Sanchez is one of the leading contemporary Latin Chefs in NYC and a regular shopper at Alphabet City Wine Company. We began talking about food and I eventually asked him to give me some simple, yet refined, recipes to impress and make one’s heart happy. He got back to me last week with three recipes. All of them, fittingly, use ingredients indigenous to Latin America.

Chayote

The first one I will share is Chayote and Hearts of Palm Salad. You might be asking yourself (as I did), “what the heck is a chayote?” Chayote is a tropical trailing vine which produces fruits. Although, it is treated more like a vegetable than a fruit; think of it as the summer squash from Latin America. Also known as Mexican Squash, vegetable pears, and Christophine – among other names – chayote can be enjoyed both cooked and raw. When lightly cooked it retains a nice crispiness; while raw chayote is usually added to salads or salsas. For this particular recipe the chayote is lightly cooked and then added into a salad. Enjoy!

Chayote and Hearts of Palm Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 garlic clove
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped white onion
  • 2 pound chayotes (also called mirlitons; 4 medium)
  • 2 (14 to 15 – ounce cans hearts of palm, not salad-cut), rinsed well and drained
  • 2 large celery ribs, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves

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Preparation:

Mince garlic and mash to a paste with 1/2 teaspoon salt using side of a large heavy knife. Whisk together lime juice, oil, and garlic paste in a large bowl, then add onion, tossing to coat.

Halve chayotes lengthwise, then peel with a vegetable peeler and scoop out pits with a spoon. Cut chayotes crosswise into 1/3-inch-thick slices then halve slices lengthwise to make 1/3-inch-thick sticks (sticks will not be uniform). Cook chayotes in a 4 to 6-quart pot of boiling salted water until crisp/tender. It should be about 6 minutes. Drain well in a colander, then, while still hot, toss with dressing. Cool to room temperature.

Cut hearts of palm diagonally into 1/4-inch-thick slices, then add to chayote mixture along with celery, parsley, cilantro and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Gently toss.

Enjoy!

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Reflections on the 2010 World Cup thus far

June 24, 2010 2 comments

Close to three weeks have passed since the opening ceremonies of the 2010 FIFA World Cup Finals in South Africa. While it started off slow, the plot lines have thickened and the play has gradually improved. From the plucky Kiwis of New Zealand earning a well deserved draw from the cup-holding Italians, to the unfolding soap opera of the French team refusing to practice due to what they deemed to be the unfair expulsion of their teammate, Nicolas Anelka, this World Cup is as much for the soccer enthusiast as it is for the gossip queen.  Today I will blog about the good, the bad, and the ugly of the tournament so far.

The good: Latin America (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Chile, Uruguay, Mexico)

With only two losses between all six countries through this Wednesday, Latin America has been the class of this World Cup. Argentina is thriving, Brazil is their usual solid self and Mexico has been steady. More unexpectedly, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Chile are all making noise in the tournament and are marching confidently into the round of 16. We will see if they can continue the trend and truly make this World Cup theirs.

The bad: Africa (Cameroon, Ivory Coast, South Africa, Nigeria, Algeria)

African teams failed to impress due to a lack of team management, unity, and the development of competing cliques within the teams. Cameroon and the Ivory Coast serve as perfect examples. The Indomitable Lions and Les Elephants supposedly had the major perquisites for a strong World Cup campaign: solid European-based squads and a good balance between youth and experience. What they lacked, in spades, were competent coaches and a solid foundation of team unity and purpose. South Africa, on the other hand, had the requisite team unity bolstered by the fact they were the hosts of the tournament. Unfortunately, what they made up for in unity, they lacked in talent and experience to advance. No matter though, the Bafana Bafana can walk away with their heads held high while the two aforementioned teams will walk away with the albatross of embarrassment and underperformance around their necks. Not all is lost though. Ghana is still in the competition and they are not only playing well but have some of the most colorful fans and best goal celebrations. The United States vs. Ghana fixture this Saturday afternoon will be a rematch of the 2006 World Cup meeting in Germany that saw the Black Stars down the U.S. 2-1 and advance to the round of 16.

The ugly: France, Italy, and England.

Where do I begin? Let’s start with the French or Les Bleus as they are known. They leave South Africa in abject failure after losing all contests, staging a practice coup d’état, having a player dismissed from the team, and to top it all off, having the coach refuse to shake the hand of South Africa’s coach after their last fixture. Quel horreur! The team and country are suffering with a crisis of self-identity and purpose. Across the pond from the Continent, England, the gatekeepers on the game, continue in their dogged pursuit to win the Cup for the first time since 1966. They meet their historical rivals in Germany this Sunday which promises to be an entertaining affair. The English looked remarkably better in their last game but I don’t see them overcoming the Germans. Nonetheless, expect the odd World War 2 songs to be chanted. Lastly, the Italians are officially out of the World Cup. They never seemed fit to wear the crown as Cup holders (they won in 2006) and relied too much on their Machiavellian cynicism and theatrics to get through. Amidst all this European disarray, look for Germany, the Netherlands, and Spain to seize the opportunity and go far.

Here are some international links to visit to get your soccer fix:

1) www.guardian.co.uk/football : World Cup Football Daily (English). One-liners and puns galore make this my favorite podcast to listen to each night to get my soccer fodder.

2) http://www.rtl.fr : Mondial 2010: En Route Pour L’Afrique du Sud (French). These guys know their stuff and it’s cool to listen to the game analysis in a foreign language even if you don’t understand everything.

3) http://www.marca.com/futbol/mundial_2010.html : Check out the Calendario : Los 64 partidos in the top right corner. Send it to your friends and wait for the props to roll in.

4) http://www.gazzetta.it/ : Gazetta dello Sport (Italy). The paper version is the color pink—how awkwardly cool is that? The English version is worth checking out online.

5) http://oglobo.globo.com/esportes/copa2010/ O Globo Esportes (Brazil).You might as well check out the sports section from the soccer crazed nation.