In The Kitchen: Tania and Foods from Chile

This is the first in a series of posts  about folks who cook in the kitchen with me.  This month, I’ll talk about Tania, my favorite friend from Chile, and share photos plus some recipes that we have made together.  Next month, I’ll tell you all about my friend Meher from Pakistan.  

My friend Tania is Valparaiso, Chile.  We met while teaching at the same Elementary school.  She taught Spanish and I taught English but our students were convinced we were sisters.  Of course, we didn’t tell them any different because we realized how much “What if I told your teacher, mi hermana, that you weren’t behaving in class?” worked to keep all those little kids in line.

Tania introduced me to the world of Chilean food and I’m certain I gained about 10 pounds eating all the delicious things she cooked for us.  I can’t help but smile when I think about all the fun we had cooking in our kitchens.  We’d laugh, dance and sing to our favorite songs (Shakira was her favorite) and yell at the tv when Chile was behind during fútbol matches.  One Christmas Eve, she taught me how to make egg and olive empanadas from an old family recipe.  Another time, we stumbled upon something out of a culinary chemistry book when we made sugar cookies flavored with yerba maté.

Tania Empanada Collage Words

Tania’s Easy Egg and Olive Empanadas are a riff on empanadas de pino.  They don’t have raisins but they do have amazing flavor, especially when eaten a day after they are made!

What You Need:
1 package ground beef
1 large onion
9 eggs, 8 boiled and 1 uncooked
1 can of black olives
4-6 cloves of fresh garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt, black pepper, paprika and oregano
1 package of small tortillas (corn for gluten-free and flour for all you other people!)

What You Do:
1.  Prepare your filling ingredients:  Boil, peel and slice eggs.  Drain and slice the olives.  Dice and sauté the onion.  Brown beef with garlic and spices.   Set everything aside in bowls for your empanada assembly line!

2.  Warm up your corn tortillas to make them pliable for filling.  Put them between damp paper towels and heat in the microwave for rounds of 30 seconds until soft.  Keep in between towels while working.

3.  Fill tortillas with your ingredients.  Dip your finger into warm water or egg (from that lone uncooked egg!) and press the edges closed.

4. Set finished empanadas on a cookie sheet, about a dozen will fit.  Brush tops with remaining egg yolk.  Cook for 30 – 45 min at 350° F.  Let cool a few minutes and enjoy!

Yerba Mate Cookie Collage Words

Tania taught me about yerba maté, a traditional tea drink in southern Chile that offers many health benefits.  We would drink it every day at the school in her “Maté ONLY!” labeled coffee maker.  It soon started to sneak into my cooking.  I’d make hazelnut maté lattes for breakfast, added teaspoons of it to flavor bottles of olive oil and even sprinkled it in stir fry and onto handmade chocolate truffles.  Our co-workers really liked that we loved this tea so much!

One day while tinkering around with the idea of tea-infused sugar cookies, I decided to boil down some French pressed yerba maté.  It turned into about a tablespoon of a thick evergreen-colored liquid.  I added it to a basic, store-bought sugar cookie mix (this was before my gluten-free days) and was perplexed when it didn’t turn the mix a color.  The real Alton Brown moment came after I pulled the cookies out of the oven:  the outsides were blonde but the insides were green!  It was Tania’s idea to add chocolate to the tops during baking.

Gluten-Free Yerba Mate Sugar Cookies

What You Need:
3 cups of King Arthur Gluten Free flour
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 stick butter
¼ cup milk
1 tsp gluten-free baking soda
2 tsp gluten-free baking powder
1 tsp vanilla
2 Hershey chocolate bars
1 cup yerba maté
2 cups water

What You Do:
1.  Use a French press to make your yerba maté.  Boil down in a pan, stirring constantly, until thick and dark green.  This will take about a half hour.

2.  Combine eggs, milk, sugar, and vanilla in mixer and beat until smooth.  Add dry ingredients together in a separate bowl and add small amounts to make sure it mixes well.  Add yerba maté last.  Section the dough into three and store in the refrigerator for at least two hours.

3.  Prepare your work surface before taking the bowl out of the refrigerator.  Sprinkle a small amount of the flour and roll out your dough into 1” balls.  You may have to repeat this a few times.  Place on cookie sheet and press a block of Hershey’s chocolate into the cookie.

4.  Bake 10-12 minutes at 350 degrees.  Remove cookies and cool before eating.

(Note: The mix may turn slightly green because of gluten-free flour.  It has different properties than regular wheat flour.  The insides might be a lighter green too.  Fret not, you’ll still have that strong mate taste!)