Tag Archives: beef

The G20 Series: Mexico

13 Jun

by Stephanie Dickison

Funny, I was just thinking along the same lines as Chris – how the hell do you sum up an entire country’s food in a mere 3-4 paragraphs?!

You can’t.  I can’t, anyway, so I thought long and hard about what sets Mexican food apart for me from the rest of the crowd (I had to fight getting up in the middle of the night to make tacos).

Here’s what I came up with:

Mexican food is perhaps one of the most fun, messy foods to eat.

Tacos and tacitos drip hot sauce and juices from pork and chicken,  enchilada sauce bursts forth from your entree, and ceviches blot your napkin with lemon or lime juice.

Salsas are perhaps one of the messiest condiments, with the water from the tomato or tomatillo and citrus juices making it sometimes difficult to get on your tortilla chip or breadstick.  And when your  fajitas, quesadillas and tacos have salsa on them, just  know that it might take a few tries to get the hang of it and not have it end up on your shirt front.

The good thing about salsa is it is simple to make an outstanding one as long as you have fresh ingredients on hand, and because you don’t have to cook it, it can be made quickly.  The base ingredients include tomatoes or tomatillos, cilantro, onion, garlic, citrus juice and hot peppers.  Some pros say salt and pepper too, but I’ve never done that.  (Hmm, I’m going to try that next time….) I like to chop and mix it all by hand, but many people use their food processor.

One thing I’ve learned over the years is the making it fresh always trumps a store-bought one. And this way, you can make it as hot or mild as you like.  The best way to add heat to your salsa is to remember that:

1.  the smaller the chili, the hotter it is

2. add a little at a time and taste as you go

The other thing I’ve learned is, salsas vary in Mexico, depending on the region.   Northern Mexico is known for its hearty grilled beef dishes, so you want something vibrant to stand up against the heaviness.

In The Cuisine of Puebla by Karen Hursh Graber, Northern Mexican “Drunken” Salsa is the perfect accompaniment.  And she says if you don’t have tequila, an extra 1/4 cup of beer will do just fine.


  • 1 mulato chile, seeded and deveined, soaked in hot water until soft, drained
  • 3 pasilla chiles, seeded and deveined, soaked in hot water until soft, drained
  • 3 large garlic cloves, roasted on a comal or griddle, then peeled
  • 1 tablespoon chopped onion
  • 3 tomatoes, roasted on a comal or griddle
  • ½ cup beer
  • 2 tablespoons tequila
  • 1/3 cup pineapple juice
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar or piloncillo
  • salt to taste


Grind the chiles, garlic, onion and tomato in a molcajete or blender. Add the beer, tequila, pineapple juice and sugar and blend to combine ingredients. Add salt to taste.

Made a few hours ahead of serving, this salsa develops a deeper flavor. Makes 2 cups

If you want to make something from the South, use a smoked jalapeño called Chipotle.  The Aztecs who lived in central and southern Mexico from the 14th to 16th Centuries, came up with the idea.

The only other thing I would suggest is a lot of napkins.

You’re going to need ’em.

The G20 Series: Brazil

12 Jun

Let’s face it, trying to come up with a summary of the cuisines of entire countries in a few short paragraphs is a bit of a Sysiphean task. Nations are complicated places, with regional cuisines that are sometimes foreign even to other parts of the country.

Which brings me to Brazil. The largest country in South America – and future host of both the World Cup and the Olympics – Brazil is diverse both in its geography and its people, and therefore its cuisines. Like Argentina, Brazil produces and eats a lot of beef. Unfortunately, cattle are responsible for the majority of deforestation in the country. Still, there’s more to Brazil than beef.

(And, for that matter, coffee.)

Considered the national dish of the country, feijoada is a stew of black beans and meats. You can make it the old fashioned way by including pork ears, tails and/or feet, but if your tastes are less adventurous, you can stick to sausages, pork tenderloin and bacon. I confess I have not tried this, but if anyone wants a volunteer for tasting their feijoada, you can reach me through this blog!

My own experience with Brazilian food is limited, a fact that I promise to address soon by visiting one of our city’s many Brazilian restaurants. A friend of mine who grew up in Brazil, and who has taught cooking classes for university students with me, once showed me how a bean salad can be made more delicious by adding hearts of palm. She also said she very often cooked with a pressure cooker when she was in Brazil, but when she moved to Canada, she had trouble even finding one to buy.

While cheering Brazil all the way to the World Cup final (my prediction, at least according to my office pool), try some moequeca capixaba (a fish stew); some fried plantain soup; farofa (a toasted manioc meal); or even pan de queijo, a Brazilian cheese bread. And save some for me.

The G20 Series: Argentina

6 Jun

Interview by Chris Garbutt

The first stop in our G20 tour is Argentina. We’ve discussed Argentine food before, on the topic of an Argentine-American tradition called Magic Gnocchi Night. But since my own sister-in-law Sophie was in Buenos Aires only a month ago, I thought I would grill her on what she ate on her trip. Here is our brief conversation.

Had you ever eaten an Argentine dish before?

No, but I kept hearing about beef so I was interested in comparing their beef to the Texan beef. It’s all about the beef in Argentina and they enjoy telling you any chance they get. The annual consumption of beef in Argentina is 220lbs per capita.

Did you have any expectations before you left?

I had no expectations, except that I was interested to compare – you guessed it – the beef. And to see what our Texan friends thought.

What did you eat there?

A lot of beef… Aside from what seemed like a typical dish: beef with a side of pumpkin and eggplant that were sauteed or roasted (delicious). On some occasions, the beef or pork or lamb was cooked on an open BBQ pit.

What stood out?

I realize that I speak of beef quite a bit, but the quality really was outstanding. They take a lot of pride in their cattle. Not sure how true this is, but we heard many times that the first settlers arrived with seven cows and one bull and that was the beginning of cattle farming in Argentina. That and Argentines realize that feedlot cattle do not taste nearly as good as the naturally fed ones.

The other thing that stood out was the excellent Malbec wine. There really wasn’t one red that we didn’t like. The whites were very okay. I wish I knew more about wine to elaborate, but the wine tasted great on its own and wonderful with a meal.

The cocktail of Argentina is the Pisco Sour. Pisco is Argentina’s tequila. The drink is made with pisco, egg whites, lemon or lime, regional bitters and simple syrup. Very light, fresh cocktail  that reminded me of a margarita.

So how did the beef compare with Texas? What did your Texan friends think?

The Texans were mighty impressed! Everyone agreed that the Argentines know what they are doing with beef and wine. We all agreed that we’d love to return and make a side trip (a 2 1/2 hour flight) to Mendosa – wine country. And also try the regional cuisine.

Is there anything you didn’t get to try?

I didn’t try enough of the Argentine BBQ. Very famous, open pit with a multitude of meats grilling. Often, you would see the pit at the front of the restaurant, next to the entry, I guess to entice you.

Are you going to try (or have you already tried) any Argentine recipes now that you’re back?

I actually couldn’t wait to take a break from all the beef I consumed, but that isn’t to say I wouldn’t be interested in trying more Argentine cuisine. Our tour guide was asked about fish given that Buenos Aires is situated on a delta that flows into the Atlantic. She said that most Argentines love their beef and she recalls being forced to eat fish once a week growing up. We started wondering if she was working for the beef industry or something, because she went on about it!