Tamara

|Tamara Lukens

About Tamara Lukens

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Pan de Yuca – Ecuadorian Yuca Bites

By |May 11th, 2011|

One of my favorite treats when I was a little girl was pan de yuca.  And the reason it was one of my favorites was because every time my Abuelita came to visit (bonus #1), she would bring me a baggie with 5-6 pancitos and a frozen yogurt from this local snack place in Guayaquil called Yogurt Persa (bonus #2).  Ay Dios Mio!  It was the most delicious treat EVER!

Pan de Yuca are little breads made with tapioca starch and cheese – like little yuca bites.  The cheesier the better. My abuelita would ensure to stop by Yogurt Persa at 4 o’clock in the afternoon, when a freshly baked batch of pan de yuca came out of the oven.  Pan de yuca are best when eaten warm/hot.  They are somewhat crispy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside…  In the words of Rachel Zöe if she spoke Spanish:  Me muero.  And yes, that is how much my abuelita loved me – only a piping-hot, fresh batch of pan de yuca for su nieta! Now, how did my grandma accomplished such successful feat, you may ask.  Well, at the time, Yogurt Persa was only a few blocks away from our apartment in El Centro, or downtown Guayaquil, and I think it was the only location in the city.  Fast forward to today, and I came to find out that Yogurt Persa offers franchising opportunities.  If you are living in Ecuador and sounds something it would be of interest to you, you might want to check them out.

**  Please note, I am not affiliated to Yogurt Persa whatsoever.  As a matter of fact, Yogurt Persa doesn’t even know I exist.  Furthermore, if I were to drop dead right now, they would not shed a tear, nor would they send El Señor Hubs their condolences.  Or flowers.   Having said that, Yogurt Persa can rest assure their frozen yogurt and pan de yuca have a very special place in my heart forever…  Amen.

On to the pan de yuca.  I don’t claim to have the specific recipe for their pan de yuca, but this recipe that my aunt (Hello again Tia Lorena!) gave me is perfect.  I also tested the recipe that is on the back of Goya’s tapioca starch bag, and it is pretty rad as well.  Upon further investigation, I realized the recipes were exactly the same.  The conclusion is: pan the yuca is pretty straightforward, and it is not a ground-breaking culinary creation.  Delicious – THAT, it is.

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Estofado de Carne Molida – Ecuadorian Ground Beef Stew

By |May 2nd, 2011|

Last week, I had a hankering for some estofado de carne.  Why did I think about it?  I don’t know.  I guess it must have been the lonesome potatoes I had laying on my kitchen counter and I just couldn’t decide what to make with them.  It was just one of those random thoughts one has on Wednesday evenings…

Estofado is nothing more than a type of stew.  In this case, beef stew.  Normally to make estofado you will use beef stew meat.  Did I have stew meat around?  Of course not.   I did have ground beef.  Alright, that’ll do.  Estofado is saucy, but not soupy.  You eat it with white rice.  And maybe some aguacate.  I remember estofado would welcome me home from school.  I remember eating this stew made me happy.

When I served the estofado to El Señor Hubs, his first reaction was, “Is this Hamburger Helper?”   He looked at me as I rolled my eyes, and he smiled.  “You know I’m kidding!”  Trust me, this is so much better than Hamburger Helper.  You won’t feel like crap after you eat it.

My estofado is pretty freakin’ easy to make.  AND delicious!  No slaving over this one!  As usual, the preparation of an estofado de carne can vary; each family and each region in Ecuador may have their own way of making it.  These type of stews can also have peas and carrots.  If you make the estofado with stew meat, it may take a bit longer to cook.  This is my version, and I like it because it is relatively quick, since we’re using ground meat.  Let me show you how I did it.

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La Lasaña de mi Casa – Tamara’s Lasagna

By |March 30th, 2011|

When we got married, I was determined that my husband would always have delicious, filling, homemade meals that welcomed him home after a long day of work.  Fast forward 10-plus years later, and the meal that normally awaits us both is either a bowl of cereal or tacos from the taquería across the street.  By the way, those are delicious.

So when we have time to cook, which is normally on Sunday nights, we make something that would lasts us for most of the week.  In that way, we don’t fill ourselves with unnecessary fats…  And leave those for the weekend.

We both are suckers for pasta, and more often than not, we ALWAYS crave lasagna.  The beautiful thing about lasagna in my opinion, is that you can make it anyway you want.  You can use meat or vegetables; use a tomato-based sauce or maybe just a white sauce, or both.  No-boil noodles is a no-brainer.  And c’mon.   Anything that has cheese – I’m sold!

While lasagna is not a native Ecuadorean meal, my mom used to make lasaña at least once a month.  After all, Ecuador has a large European influence, thanks to Cristóbal Colón.  I don’t necessarily know that he brought over the lasgana, but someone did.  So back to my mom and her lasaña.  Carne molida, a.k.a. ground beef, wasn’t too expensive, so we got to indulge in it.  My mom used to make her lasaña with Salsa Blanca, a white sauce made with a flour-butter roux.  For all of you my foodies, you know what this sauce is, no?  But of course, c’est Béchamel.  She would layer some Queso de Hoja, which is basically mozzarella cheese, and layer jamón – Virginia ham – in between the sauce and the meat.  That was her way of making it, and I will make that version in the future.  THIS is how we make it – la lasaña de MI casa.   I’ve always felt that as a family of husband + wife + tuna-eating cat, in addition to cherishing and maintaining traditions we both had growing up, we create our own.  Lasagna is a dish we love to make together, and it is a great way to bond and forget about the rat race our lives have become.  Do you have a special dish you love cooking with your loved one?

By the way, I have a few secrets I will share with you that will make a world of difference in YOUR lasagna.

Alright.  Let’s leave the cheese for the lasaña and get started.

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Los Alfajores de la Tia Lorena – Cornstarch and Dulce de Leche Cookies

By |March 23rd, 2011|

Among our circle of close friends and family in Ecuador, it was Tia Lorena whom you called when you needed Christmas decorations, wedding decorations, birthday party decorations…  You get my drift.  The woman does wonders with her hands, a glue gun and ribbons.  Tia Lorena is an expert in manualidades.  Rounding her creativity was her knack for baking.  For as long as I can remember, my aunt was not a very good cook (and she’ll admit to this), but MY GOSH can she bake!  She can whip up desserts that will knock your socks off!  Alfajores is one of them.

Alfajores are white, cake-like cookies filled with dulce de leche.  And in case you didn’t know, dulce de leche is the most awesome thing ever. Between dulce de leche and Nutella, I find it tough to chose which one I want to be buried with when I die.  See my previous post for the Dulce de Leche recipe.

In South America, everyone and their mother claims alfajores as their own.  And hereby I declare that alfajores are  a typical Ecuadorean cookie.  THERE!  YOU HEARD ME!  Now, I believe in Argentina (and someone please correct me if I’m wrong), the alfajores’ edges are covered in dried coconut.  I don’t remember eating them this way, but then again, there are many things I don’t remember.  I’ve eaten other versions that have almond meal in them, which makes them more like sandtarts.  This version I am sharing with you is what I remember eating growing up: delicate, cake-like, soft, scrumptious, heaven…

My aunt’s alfajores recipe is in grams, but I also offered the conversion in cups.  If you have a kitchen scale (I don’t but I am considering one), I recommend sticking with grams.  Let me know which method you used, and email me if you are stuck or have any questions.

Another thing you will need when making alfajores: cognac.  I know.  I had you at cognac.  Every time I think of cognac, I think of Curvoisier.  And every time I think of Courvoisier, I think of this guy:

He likes cognac, thus he probably likes alfajores

In order to keep recalling scenes from The Ladies Man and giggling uncontrollably while spilling cornstarch everywhere, I asked El Señor Hubs to buy me some Hennessy instead.  It doesn’t matter what you get.  The point is: you need cognac.  You might as well pour yourself a glass while you’re at it.

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Dulce de Leche

By |February 9th, 2011|

Dulce de leche is nothing more than boiled down condensed milk, and my GAWD it’s the most heavenly thing ever!  You can use it to top just about anything imaginable: spread it on a piece of bread, top a scoop of ice cream with it, top your pancakes with it.  You could probably take a day off work to come up with multiple uses for dulce de leche.

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