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Patagonia

It’s been a whirlwind few months with work, the holidays, birthdays and vacation.  I’ve only just started to sort through my pictures from Chile and Argentina.  We spent the last month traveling around the Southern Hemisphere – mostly in Patagonia, hiking parts of the Paine Circuit.

We did this wonderful hike through Mountain Travel Sobek – an adventure travel company we’ve used before and will continue to use again and again.  Now that we’ve been home for about a week, I’ve had some time to reflect on the pictures, some of which are shown here.  The hikes were epic and more technical than I anticipated.  Altitude was not an issue during this trip – length/duration was on a daily basis.  We averaged about 11 miles a day; and our group had very experienced hikers – those that have the time to hike difficult terrain on an almost daily basis.  Had I to do this again, I would beef up my mileage for the 2 months prior to leaving – train as I would for a half marathon.

Punta Arenas, Chile was our first stop.  The city is the largest city south of the 46th parallel.  It is basically a pit stop before continuing on for treks or going further south to Antarctica.  This was the town square at 10:30 pm:

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Punta Arenas is on the Straits of Magellen and along the coast, there were many places to stop and sit and view Terra del Fuego.  For summer it was cool, about 50 F, but windy.

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Our trek started in Chile, heading out to Puerto Natales and then to Torres del Paine.

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The vastness of this glacial lake and the Torres above took my breath away.  The area  is a climbers paradise and I’m sure that my love will head back to climb again.

Los Cuernos – or the horns – our next main point was equally breathtaking:

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For me, the glaciers along Lago Grey were my favorite – I had never seen glaciers before and they are stunning:

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And finally, as a history buff, we made a stop in the little town of La Leona, Argentina – known for a couple things: a hideout of Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid before they went to Bolivia and the restaurant’s lemon pie.

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I’m sure that this will not be our last hike – I’m hoping the next one will be as epic as this.

Tea Marinated Sea Bass

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Oolong, jasmine or any flavorful black tea leaves will work for this copy-cat recipe.  It’s best to marinate the sea bass overnight, or at least 12 hours.  I’ve had better luck with longer hours in the marinade, similar to making miso black cod.

Ingredients:
2 cups water
2/3 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons minced ginger
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon or 1 teabag of oolong tea
Two 4 to 6 ounce each sea bass fillets

1 Tablespoon oil
6 oz baby spinach
1 teaspoon minced garlic

Directions:
Combine the first 6 ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a boil and then simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the tea leaves, garlic and ginger.

Place the sea bass and 2 cups of the marinade in a ziplock bag or a covered bowl.  Marinate the fish for 12 hours or overnight.

When ready, preheat the oven to 425-degree F.   Place the fillets on a baking fish and bake for 8-10 minutes – until the edges begin to brown.  Turn up the heat to a high broil and broil the fish for 2 or 3 more minutes.  There will be some dark spots around the edges of each fillet.

As the fish is baking in the oven, prepare the spinach:  In a heavy skillet, heat the oil in medium heat.  Once the oil starts to shimmer, add the garlic and sauté until fragrant.  Add the spinach and season to taste with salt and pepper. Sauté until just wilted.  Split the spinach between 2 plates.

Once the fillets are done, plate the dish by adding the sea bass on top of the spinach.  Serve with rice.

 

Basil Chicken

At a dinner party last week, the question was asked, “After a long trip away from home, what is the first thing you eat?” For me it’s either something with rice or pesto linguine.  Basil chicken is that ‘something’ that goes with rice after a long trip away from my kitchen.  Don’t get me wrong, I love to travel and try different foods, but in the end and after eating non-stop at restaurants, nothing beats a good home cooked meal.

The sauce recipe is from Simply Thai Cooking – a mainstay on my recipe shelf

Ingredients
1 small onion slice thin
2 carrots cut crosswise 1/8″ thickness
1 small red pepper sliced into thin strips
2 cups broccoli florets
12 oz chicken breast, sliced crosswise into 1/4″ thickness
2 garlic cloves minced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup shredded Thai basil
Oil for stir fry

In separate bowls, prepare the following sauces:
Sauce 1:
2 Tablespoons fish sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
2 Tablespoons soy sauce

Sauce 2:
2 Tablespoons oyster sauce
4 Tablespoons water
1 teaspoon Thai chili paste

Sauce 3:
1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 Tablespoons water

Directions:
In a large fry pan or a wok, heat oil in medium-high heat.  Stir fry the onions until softened.  Add the carrots and red pepper and stir fry for 1 minute, then add the broccoli.  Stir fry all vegetables until crisp tender. Remove the vegetables from the pan and keep warm in a bowl.  Add more oil if needed to the pan/wok.  Add the garlic and pepper flakes and stir-fry until the garlic is fragrant – about 1 minute.  Add the chicken and stir fry until cooked.  Then add the vegetables back to the pan.

Add the sauces to the pan in order, making sure that each sauce is thoroughly mixed before adding the next.

Once all the sauces are added, add the basil to the pan and stir until the leaves are just wilted.  Serve over rice immediately.

Notes:

  1. Rather than using a wok, I prefer a large non-stick fry pan.  I don’t like using a lot of oil in my cooking.
  2. Original Thai cooking uses bok choy rather than broccoli.  I just prefer broccoli to bok choy.
  3. If Thai basil is hard to find, I use a mixture of regular basil and cilantro leaves.

Blueberry Pancakes

Blueberry pancakes when blueberries are in season!  We freeze blueberries so that we can enjoy fresh pancakes in the winter or an occasional blueberry buckle or crumb cake.  These pancakes are a great reward for an early morning run or ride.  The recipe makes about 16-18 dollar size pancakes – about 3 to 4 inches in diameter.

Ingredients
1 cup flour
1-1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup half-and-half
6 Tablespoons milk
3 Tablespoons packed light brown sugar
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
3/4 cup fresh blueberries
Maple syrup

Directions
In a medium mixing bowl, toss the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. In another bowl, stir the half-and-half, milk, brown sugar, butter, egg, vanilla, and lemon zest until smooth.

Stir the liquids into the dry ingredients until smooth, keeping mind that there may be some lumps.  Fold the blueberries into the mixture.  Loosely cover the bowl and let the batter stand for 15-20 minutes.

Heat the griddle over medium-high heat, spread a little butter over the griddle.  Gently drop the batter by heaping tablespoons and cook until the bottoms are golden and bubbles are popping on the surface – approximately 1 minute.  Turn the pancake over and cook for an additional minute on the other side.  Repeat until all the batter is used up.  Serve with maple syrup.

Bibimbap – my way

IMG_6714 I hate to say this – but airplane food inspired this recipe.  I’ve been traveling for work the last 2 weeks, pretty much cross-country – and on my flight from San Francisco to Chicago, the flight had a Korean rice bowl entrée.  It wasn’t bad for being airplane food.  It was bulgogi – Korean barbecue beef and bibimbap – Korean rice bowl.  Here is my version of the dish.
Serves 4.

Ingredients

Pickled Vegetables
4 ounces radishes, cut into matchstick sizes
3 carrots, cut into matchstick sizes
1 cup seasoned rice vinegar

Rice
4 cups prepared short grain rice

Beef
12 ounces rib eye steak, cut crosswise in 1/4″ thickness (slant the knife at 45°)
4 Tablespoons dark brown sugar, plus a little more for sprinkling on the steak
4 Tablespoons soy sauce
4 teaspoons sesame oil
2 Tablespoons sake
2 teaspoons minced garlic

Spinach
10 ounces baby spinach
3 garlic cloves minced

Directions
Place the radishes, carrots and seasoned rice vinegar in a bowl.  Allow the vegetables to marinate for at least 30 minutes, but less than 4 hours.  I like my vegetables crunchy, so I let it sit for just under an hour.

Preheat the oven to 200° F.  Place the steak in a large baking dish and sprinkle brown sugar on both sides.  In a medium size bowl, combine the brown sugar, soy sauce, sesame oil, sake, and garlic.  Pour the marinade on the steak, mix thoroughly and let sit for 20-30 minutes.  The steak pieces are cut thin so it won’t take long for the flavors to meld.

Prepare the rice – granted, I only know how to make rice in a rice cooker and it’s relatively easy to use.  I wouldn’t know how to make rice any other way.

In a large non-stick pan, heat oil in medium-high heat.  As the oil starts to shimmer and just before it starts to smoke, cook all the steak thoroughly.  I always add the marinade as well. Once cooked, place all the content of the pan on a baking sheet and place in the oven.

In the same (and now empty and wiped) pan, heat oil in medium-high heat until it starts to shimmer.  Add the garlic and stir until fragrant.  Add the spinach and cook until wilted.

Drain the vegetables.  Remove the steak from the oven

Assembly
Place a cup of rice in each bowl.  Add the spinach.  Add the beef.  Add the vegetables.

Options

  1. Classic bibimbap has bean sprouts and cucumber in the pickled vegetables.  I opted for radishes instead as my hubby doesn’t like sprouts; and cucumbers – if marinated too long – lose their crunchiness.
  2. Add shiitake mushrooms to the recipe, cook them along with the steak.
  3. Add a friend egg on top of the vegetables.
  4. Add Gochujang to spice this dish up (Highly recommended)

Peru – Part 2

Now the adventure part…

I previously wrote about the people we met on our trek on the Salkantay Trail in Peru.  Peru is truly an amazing country where the terrain and the people are so varied.  From the Pacific Coast to the mountains and north to south, Peru is not only a series of micro-climates which can yield over 400 different types of potatoes, but is also the culinary capital of south america.  My favorite dishes and recipes will be posted eventually in the food section.

For the trip itself, we went through Mountain Travel Sobek and organized by Mountain Lodges of Peru.  It is a lodge-to-lodge hike, designated as strenuous due to altitude and some exposure.  How did I prepare for it?  I am a runner so I included longer runs during the weekends up to a half marathon distance.  Essentially, I trained as though I was training for a half marathon.  Altitude hikes were done on weekend trips to the Rocky Mountains.  I did take Diamox as a precaution as altitude sickness can strike me anytime while at altitude.