Stupendous Chile

Chile, aka “the Switzerland of South America”, is in the southwest corner of South America bordering Argentina to the east, and Peru and Bolivia to the north. With about 15 million inhabitants, Chile is the most economically stable and advanced country in South America, with a high literacy rate and a high percentage of university-educated people. Chileans are orderly and etiquette minded. I visited Santiago, the capital; Valparaiso; a historic port and Columbus first entry point into South America; and Viña del Mar, a beautiful coastal city and the base of many important international music festivals.

Chilean cuisine is mostly European in nature, with heavy influences from Spain, France and Germany. Because of her large coast, the cuisine is seafood-based. As other European cultures continued to settle in the area, the local cuisine evolved into a fusion of new techniques, textures and flavors. Today the cuisine is mild and varied. Common ingredients are, in addition to seafood, corn, beans, eggs, squash, palta (avocadoes), tomatoes, different varieties of peppers, palmitos (hearts of palm), fruits and cochayuyo (native meaty seaweed). Unlike their Argentinean neighbors, Chileans rarely eat beef.

Donde Augusto (Augusto’s Place) is a culinary landmark at the central market in Santiago, where one can sample a wide variety of traditional Chilean dishes. Favorites are Caldillo de Congrio, Neruda’s favorite seafood stew; Centolla, southern king crab; Paila Marina, seafood in its own juices; Pebre and Pipil, mildly spicy sauces used on grilled seafood; and Color Chileno, paprika oil commonly used to add color, finish and flavor to dishes.

Chile is a world-class wine producer. On my way northwest to Valparaiso and Viña, I visited the newer wine country (the original and the oldest one is in the south.) I toured the only official organic winery, Emiliana, touched sauvignon blanc and carménère grapes, tasted wines, and talked to Pepa over the fence, the cutest baby Alpaca. Although wine is widely popular, Pisco, a grape brandy, is the national drink. As I entered a fancy jewelry store in Santiago, I was welcomed at the door with a Pisco Sour, a delicious drink made with Pisco, lime juice, egg whites, sugar and angostura bitters. Besides, seafood and wine, fruits and vegetables are important products of good quality that Chile exports to other countries, including the U.S. (we are their number one trading partner).

I have many more stories to tell you about this land of many contrasts; although the country is skinny and very long, the distance one drives to most popular places is relatively short; they have their summer when we have our winter; they have snow in the south, temperate climate in the central plains, and dessert at the north; the stunning Andes Mountains (one of the largest mountain chains in the world) act as a barrier wall and climatic regulator and lays between Chile and Argentina, which one can appreciate flying from west to east; and they have two Nobel Prize Winners (literature), Pablo Neruda and Gabriela Mistral……. I’d like to leave you with this. I liked Chile as much as I liked Argentina. They are both wonderful countries with very distinctive cultures and cuisines, to say the least, you must visit and see for yourselves!

Pictured above left: Ostiones a la Parmesana (Parmesan Bay Scallops); Centolla meat (southern king crab meat); Gamba Rosada (pink shrimp); and Machas (Razor clams) from a restaurant in Viña. Above right, wine tasting at a popular Santiago bar.

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Serves 4-6

2 cups finely sliced yellow onion, 2 cups finely sliced peeled tomatoes, 1/2 cup chopped coriander leaves

Dressing: 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice, 3 tbsp. EV olive oil, Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine the onions and tomatoes in a bowl, add the dressing, toss, and garnish with cilantro leaves. Add more freshly ground pepper right before serving.

Amalia’s Special Tips: To make this recipe even more delicious, add paltas (avocado slices), and Palmito (hearts of palm pieces), and crunchy greens of your choice.


MAY 2008

Monday, May 5, 2008, 6-9 p.m.
¡Viva Frida !
Savor this culinary tribute to Frida Kahlo, the painter whose art was heavily influenced by the indigenous cultures of her native Mexico. You’ll celebrate Cinco de Mayo in style as you enjoy traditional dishes as vibrant and colorful as Kahlo’s works. Pico de Gallo Salad (Jicama, prickly pears, orange and piquin chile powder); Manchamanteles (pork stew with vegetables, fruits and dried chile peppers); Arroz con Limón (Lime rice); and Merenguitos (puffed egg whites with vanilla bean).
Register at: Cooks of Crocus Hill, St. Paul
877 Grand Avenue St. Paul MN: (651) 228-1333

Thursday, May 22, 2008, 12-1 p.m.
Spring Gathering Latin Style
A time to network and to enjoy sassy Latin cuisine prepared by Private Chef Amalia Damgaard for this very special group.
Target Corp. St. Louis Park
Private Event

Friday, May 30, 2008, 6:30-9:30 p.m.
¡Fiesta Caliente !
The fiesta takes place at the home of a very special host in Eden Prairie. During the hot cooking demonstration, guests watch how each dish is prepared right in front of their eyes. The especially designed caliente menu balances textures and flavors from various regions of Latin America and Spain.
Private Event

JUNE 2008
Monday, June 30, 2008, 6-9 p.m.
Gauchos and Malbec
If you like steak, you’ll love it Argentinean style. Grilled flavors, paired with dense and rich aromas and textures make for a fantastic evening of relaxing and delicious fun.
Mate (tea); Oregano and onion empanadas (stuffed pastries); Pan-grilled steak with Chimichurri (parsley-garlic sauce); Papas al Horno (roasted potatoes); Ají Asado (roasted marinated peppers); Sopa de Manzanas (Apple soup); paired with Argentinean Malbec (optional).
Register after May 5th at: Cooks of Crocus Hill, Edina
3925 West 50th Street Edina, MN: (952) 285-1903