ON ADAPTING TO ANOTHER COUNTRY
“To survive well in any foreign country, eat what the locals eat.”
– Mr Chew, my former physics tutor
When you are young and impressionable, you take your teachers’ advice to heart.
Mr Chew, my former physics teacher had first given me this piece of golden advice when I was still in University, just before heading to Mannheim, Germany for my student exchange. I followed his advice to the letter, ate lots of Sauerkraut, Weisswurst, pork knuckles, and a couple of beers and I had a good time in Germany.
Naturally, when I re-located to Argentina, I was set on following the same advice.
Thankfully it was easy to do so, and my taste buds adapted to Argentine cuisine, and also adopted a liking for salads, both as side dishes and as a main meal.
Aside from developing a keen love for beef, especially asado, and sweet foods like their favorite sauce, dulce de leche, I also fell in love with salads of almost every kind, particularly the ones with leafy vegetables. I was never a big fan of salads when I was still living in Singapore – eating salads just seemed so cold, unsatisfying and too healthy to be considered delicious. But living in Argentina changed that for me.
In Argentina, most people use a very simple dressing mix for their salads – a pinch of salt, together with some vinegar and olive oil. I’ll admit that it’s one of the best ways I love to dress my salads these days, but sometimes it’s nice to change things up a bit.
One of the things I love best about going to cooking classes with Pelusa Molina is that I always find myself in a constant state of surprise.
Surprise at the fact that simple ingredients, which are cheaply and easily available, can be used to produce a variety of incredibly interesting and uncommon dishes or sauces when mixed together in varying amounts and methods.
Things like making a vinaigrette from scratch, instead of buying pre-bottled ones from the supermarkets. (Wikipedia defines vinaigrette as a mixture (emulsion) of oils, such as soybean oil, canola oil, olive oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, peanut oil, grape seed oil, and vinegar, sometimes flavored with herbs, spices, and other ingredients. It is used most commonly as a salad dressing, but also as a cold sauce or marinade.)
It’s actually pretty cool because you can choose which ingredients go into your vinaigrette, and mix and match according to your tastes.
This time, Pelusa introduced us to a richly-flavored vinaigrette made with a base of dried tomatoes, garlic, vinegar, dehydrated onions, brown sugar and olive oil. It didn’t take long to prepare and it sure it a lovely way to jazz up your salads!
TOMATO VINAIGRETTE & A MIX OF GREENS
(Serves 6 as an appetizer, 2 as a meal)
Adapted from Pelusa Molina‘s recipe
1) 1 cup of re-hydrated dried tomatoes
2) 2 tablespoons of dehydrated onions (can be store-bought)
3) 2 medium size garlic cloves (or 1 large clove)
4) 1/2 cup of wine vinegar
5) 1 tablespoon of brown sugar
6) 4 tablespoons of olive oil (or slightly more if too dry)
7) Salt & pepper to taste
Mix of greens:
1) 12 cups of fresh spinach leaves
2) 4 cups of fresh arugula (rocket) leaves
3) Whatever other type of leafy vegetables you have – you could use white cabbage, red cabbage, shredded carrots, etc
1) Let the dried tomatoes soak in warm water for at least 10 minutes until they are re-hydrated again
2) Once tomatoes are re-hydrated, cut them into small pieces
3) Mix all the ingredients for the tomato vinaigrette in a processor and pulse until they become a paste
4) Add a little bit more oil or water as required to make it more liquid if the paste is too thick
5) Once paste is ready, allow it to rest for 20 minutes
6) Meanwhile, remove the stalks from the spinach and arugula (rocket) leaves with your hands
7) Cut carrots or other vegetables like cabbage into small shreds
8) Combine mix of greens with 1 tablespoon of tomato vinaigrette, adding a bit of olive oil if necessary, and mix well
Re-hydrated dried tomatoes, brown sugar, garlic cloves, dehydrated onions, wine vinegar:
Mix all the ingredients for the tomato vinaigrette in a processor and pulse:
Until they become a paste:
Combine mix of greens with tomato vinaigrette: