Sunday, March 28, 2010

Wife of new Argentina representative in Taipei shares her recipes for home entertainment

By Nancy T. Lu

No country consumes more beef per capita than Argentina. But when Carmen Pena, wife of the new director of the Argentina Trade and Cultural Office (ATCO), showed up to introduce a few of her favorite recipes at the Eslite Bookstore Xinyi’s Cooking Studio, she pushed aside talk about the parrillada, the asado or the beef cooked con cuero.

Home cooking, Argentine style, .was what she seemed to be prepared to share with the small crowd, who showed eagerness to learn about Argentine culture, notably cuisine. She enlisted the help of chef Daniel Negreira to demonstrate her simple recipes for home entertaining.

Sopa de remolacha or beetroot soup preparation began with the washing of the beetroot, potatoes and green apples. Actually the green apples were not available in the market. Red replacements were found. Then the cooking of the ingredients went on for 20 minutes before everything was put into a blender. The thick soup called for a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Olive oil was added to emulsify it. A drop of yogurt of original flavor contributed to a nice presentation. Cumin or semillas de comino went in for that final touch.

The arollado or roll recipe came up next. Tuna fish right out of a tin can went into the salty version. Ingredients also included mayonnaise, mustard, salt, pepper and finely chopped American celery.

Dulce de leche or condensed milk made the sweet difference in the filling of another roll. Crushed walnut and sweet wine were also introduced. The affection for sweet milk is said to be the influence of Spanish cooking.

Juan Pena, ATCO director, watched the entire session with approval on the sideline. Pallas Chen, who coordinated the monthly culinary event, warmly welcomed the presentation of a slice of Argentina this month.

Mate, a drink made from the dried leaves of yerba, inevitably had to find its place in this Argentine activity in Taipei. Samples of the small gourds from which the Argentinian men and women drink mate were prominently displayed on this occasion. The bombillas or the tubes with which to sip mate were there, too.

Tango music, quite identified with Argentine passion, did not play out in the background on March 26. But the dance of seduction in Tango Land did merit some mention.

A slide presentation took the audience on a quick tour through beautiful Argentina. Iguazu’s waterfalls and Perito Moreno’s glacier were some of the pictures which stood out.

Quiz time drew quick response from the audience. Carmen Pena threw out one about Argentina’s national sport: “Who is at present the hottest Argentine soccer player?”

“Lionel Messi,” replied a Taiwanese fan. Messi is a potential successor to the legendary Diego Maradona.

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