Wednesday, July 18, 2012


I have been wanting to make this pizza ever since I wandered the city streets of Argentina.  It was an idea inspired by my many encounters with another hand-held food beacon, one that is served from street carts all around South America.  The one, the only, Choripan.

My rendezvous with choripan in Argentina were abundant and, more importantly, welcomed.  Your basic choripan is the simple combination of french bread, grilled chorizo (pork sausage), and different toppings of your desire.  Chimichurri sauce is the most native and renowned topping, of which I could eat by the spoonfuls if I knew no one was watching.  I expressed my love for chimichurri when I paired it with fish while living in Buenos Aires working at a wine school.  And then I put it in the guacamole.  And the rice.  And here I am again, finding more ways to incorporate this Green Sauce of the Gods into my life as much as possible.

But first, a few pictures to reflect on choripan in its natural habitat.

Ah, nothing better than a good photo reel of the glories of choripan.

So, the pizza.  It's summer, so the grill was the go-to cooking mechanism.  Within ten minutes, the chimichurri was made and the chorizo grilled and broken into pieces for pizza-topping purposes.  That's when you could find me standing over the food processor, eyes closed, taking deep breaths in of the just-made, herbacious, lemon-and-vinegar-and-olive oil bliss that wafted from below.  It's like a facial you get at a spa....only one million times better.

The other flavor components we wanted to add to the pizza came from crumbled queso fresco, caramelized shallots and garlic, thinly sliced tomato, and a final sprinkle of fresh parsley and cilantro.  Now it was ready for its ultimate creation.

As we sat and ate this pizza, we wondered.  We wondered how something so delicious could be so undiscovered.  Every bite was...awesome.  Satisfying, balanced, packed with flavor.   Chori-pizza...why have you not been discovered yet?  To the point where your existence is shouted over mountain tops and your name is on every trendy pizza menu worldwide?  We wondered.  And kept eating, mostly in silence, with eyes glazed over with satisfaction and accomplishment.

We paired our pizza creation with a 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon from Catena Zapata.  This bold, spicy, and currant/cassis fruit wine was not only an excellent pair to the flavorful pizza, it was a perfect way to celebrate the exciting news that I will be moving down to Mendoza, Argentina next month to work for the Catena Zapata winery!  There was a lot to celebrate, and the meal turned out to be a perfect celebration of the flavors, and future adventures, in Argentina all at once.

Make this pizza, drink this wine, and experience a trip to Argentina.  Then, after you're inspired to go to the real place, know there will be friendly face to greet you there when you arrive.




1 ball of pizza dough, store-bought or homemade
1 batch of chimichurri sauce (recipe below)
1/2 pound bulk chorizo sausage
1 medium sized tomato, thinly sliced
1/2 cup crumbled queso fresco
2 large shallots, thinly sliced
2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
Freshly chopped parsley and cilantro (optional)


Preheat your grill to medium high heat.  Form the chorizo into a patty and grill until cooked through.  When cool, break up into bite sized pieces.  Set aside.

Heat oil in a saute pan over medium heat on the stovetop.  Add sliced shallots and garlic to the pan and cook until softened and golden brown, stirring often to avoid burning.  Season with salt and set aside.

Assemble all toppings on a tray to be ready to top the pizza and bring to grill-side.

Stretch out your pizza to desired size and thickness.  Brush one side with oil and lay that side down first on the hot grill.  Put the top down on the grill and let cook for 1-2 minutes depending on strength of heat, monitoring it to make sure its not burning.  

Brush the second side of dough with oil and flip.  Add toppings to pizza in desired amounts - chimichurri, chorizo, tomatoes, shallot/garlic mixture, queso fresco.  If you can do this quickly you can keep the pizza on the grill.  If you are slower, take the dough off the grill, top it, and then put back on. 

Cook pizza on second side until done, 1-2 more minutes.   

Take off grill and sprinkle with fresh parsley and cilantro.  Slice and serve.

Chimichurri Sauce


3 garlic cloves
1 small shallot (or half of 1 large shallot)
1 cup packed parsley leaves
1/2 cup packed cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Juice of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 cup to 3/4 cup olive oil
Salt to taste


Pulse garlic cloves and shallot in a food processor until finely chopped.  Add parsley, cilantro, oregano, red pepper flakes, lemon juice, and red wine vinegar.  Process to combine and finely chop the herbs.

With the food processor running, slowly pour in the olive oil until the chimichurri reaches your desired consistency.  Season with salt to taste.  

Take a moment to smell the magic wafting from your creation below.  

Monday, July 16, 2012

Chocolate Loaf Cake

I really enjoy baking things in loaf form.  A loaf is compact, sliceable, unpretentious.  It can be given free of any dish or serving platter and does not need anything more than two hands to consume it.  Almost any delicious batter can be put in a loaf pan and baked off.  A humble presentation that can still be full of divine flavor...    It's the perfect package.   

I made this chocolate loaf recipe for the first time this past weekend to give to a dear friend for her birthday.  The preparation of the batter is simple and the end result is a moist, chocolatey bread (...cake) that is fantastically pleasing.  There are no bells and whistles, no frostings or decoration.  You can slice away and enjoy it with a cup of tea, or dress it up with whipped cream or ice cream and take it to the elegant level that it can still stand up to.

It's like that perfect dress (or, I guess suit or shirt if you're a guy?) that you can dress up or down, and that always seems appropriate for any occasion that comes your way.  But in this case you can eat it instead of wear it.  Your taste buds will like that part.  And so will your friends.

Happy Simple Baking!

Chocolate Loaf Cake
from one of my favorites; Smitten Kitchen

An important note from SK: Although I was thrilled with the result when I used Dutch cocoa and 1 teaspoon baking soda (in the original published recipe, 8/4/10), the cake rose and sank slightly in the baking process, a sign that the leavener was off. I retested this the next day with different levels of leavener and two different types of cocoa, in hopes to keep the cake aloft. I’ve updated the recipe below with the suggestion of Dutch cocoa, a reduced amount baking soda and the addition of baking powder. I found that the version with Dutch cocoa was darker with a more appealing chocolate flavor. But fear not: If you only have a natural or non-Dutched cocoa, you can still use it, but you’ll want to use 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and no baking powder. Here’s a photo of both versions side-by-side. Both were gleefully received.


1/2 cup (1 stick or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (6 7/8 ounces) firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup (4 ounces) granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (6 3/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (2 5/8 ounces) Dutch cocoa powder (see above for a natural cocoa adjustment)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt


Preheat the oven to 325°F. Butter and lightly flour a 9×5x3-inch loaf pan, or spray it with a butter-flour spray. In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugars and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and beat well, then the buttermilk and vanilla. Don’t worry if the batter looks a little uneven. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt together right into your wet ingredients. Stir together with a spoon until well-blended but do not overmix. Scrape down the batter in the bowl, making sure the ingredients are well blended.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Cool in pan on a rack for about 10 to 15 minutes, at which point you can cool it the rest of the way out of the pan. Serve with whipped cream and fresh berries, if you’re feeling fancy.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Moroccan Tagine Chicken with Preserved Lemon

I was able to experience two very exciting Firsts this past weekend.  One was cooking in my friend's tagine for the first time, and the other was using my new digital camera for the first time (RIP old Olympus, lord knows how many food photos passed through you over the last three years...)

A tagine is an earthenware cooking vessel that is very widely used in Morocco and northern Africa.  Its unique shape creates the perfect, moist atmosphere for whatever is cooking inside; keeping all juices in a rhythm of evaporating, condensing on the inside of the lid, and then dripping back down into the base to continue to baste the deliciousness that is stewing below.  That evening we decided to go with a very traditional tagine combination of chicken, green olives, and preserved lemon.

Preserved lemon is the ingredient that really makes this dish special.  Like so many other delicious I-never-knew-I-could-make-this-myself foods, making preserved lemons is head-scratchingly simple.   They are as simple as putting lemon halves in a jar with a lot of salt.  That's it.  After some time and patience, the salt will encourage the juice out of the lemons, and a natural curing liquid will appear and envelop the citrusy domes of flavor.  We were lucky enough that day to be able to use my friend's homemade preserved lemons.  Their slightly bitter acidity pairs beautifully with the briny olives, caramelized shallots, and the sweet raisins we put in the couscous.  

We cooked mostly from the hip last night - pulling what we wanted from the shelves as we went and not knowing exact ingredient amounts - but I've included a guided recipe from Simply Recipes below that reads very close to how we made our tagine creation that night.  Below are more pictures from the first round of camera use as well.  Taking on all of these Firsts never looked or tasted so good!

Moroccan Tagine Chicken with Preserved Lemons
from SimplyRecipes

Prep time: 1 hour, 5 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour

This recipe shines with preserved lemons. If you don't have access to any, you can use thin slices of regular or Meyer lemon, and you'll likely need to add quite a bit of salt to the dish at the end. If you use a tagine, you will likely need to soak it in water over-night before subjecting it to the heat of the stove. Doing so will help keep the tagine from cracking.


2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 chicken, 3-4 lbs, cut into 8 pieces (or 3-4 lbs of just chicken thighs and legs, the dark meat is more flavorful)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped
The rind from 1 preserved lemon, rinsed in cold water, pulp discarded, rind cut into thin strips (if you don't have preserved lemon, use whole thin slices of regular lemon)
1 cup green olives, pitted
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley


1 Combine all the spices in a large bowl. Pat dry the chicken pieces and put in the bowl, coat well with the spice mixture. Let the chicken stand for one hour in the spices.

2 If you are using a clay tagine (if you have one, you must soak the bottom in water overnight before using), place it on a heat diffuser on the heating element to prevent the tagine from cracking, and place the olive oil in the tagine and heat it on medium heat. If you do not have a tagine, you can use a thick-bottomed, large skillet with a cover. Heat the oil in the skillet on medium high heat. In either case, sprinkle the chicken pieces very lightly with salt (go easy on the salt, the olives and preserved lemons are salty) and place skin side down in the tagine or skillet for 5 minutes, until lightly browned. Lower the heat to medium-low, add the garlic and onions over the chicken. Cover and let cook for 15 minutes.

3 Turn chicken pieces over. Add the lemon slices, olives, raisins, and 1/2 cup water. Bring to a simmer on medium heat, then lower the heat to low, cover, and cook for an additional 30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and quite tender.

4 Mix in fresh parsley and cilantro right before serving. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Serve with couscous, rice, or rice pilaf.