Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Porky Paraguay

As I mentioned in my last post, I discovered an excellent source of pork and other wonderful small-farmer produce. It is ecoagro, a marketing firm for small farmers involved in the agroecology development project of Altervida, a Paraguayan environmental NGO. If you sign up, they send you a weekly product list and you can place your order by email or by phone. They have all sorts of vegetables and herbs, citrus fruits and papaya, and even some dried goods like cornmeal sugar, brown sugar, yerba mate, beans, and animal products like Paraguayan cheese, pork, and I suspect/hope they sometimes have chicken and eggs. The quality is very high and the quantity very generous (the cilantro bunches were huge), and it is not any more expensive than the supermarket. It's all organic and from small farmers, and if you order more than 50.000, they have free delivery. I really recommend this service for anyone in Asuncion. There is virtually no draw back, except perhaps that you will still need to go to the supermarket once in a while. Here is some of the stuff I made from this produce:

1. Hummus, avocado, radish, and pita. This actually was made with stuff from the agrofair. After fussing so much about how bad the avocados are in Paraguay, we actually had a run of pretty decent ones. Still less buttery and nutty than good old Hass, but much better than the weird watery ones we had been getting. The food processor my parents got me (in addition to the wok) has also made a terrific addition to my kitchen. Making hummus from garbanzos and sesame seeds is pretty quick work now
2. Olive flat bread with caprese salad. Nearly a year after planting the smuggled seeds, our nasturtiums finally bloomed. Expect to see them garnishing everything I eat for a while.
3. Fried tofu with miso sauce, and a salad of watercress, avocado, heart of palm and radish. We had tofu like this at a Japanese restaurant in Asuncion and after finding firm Japanese-style tofu at a Korean store near the municipal market, I wanted to try to recreate it. It turned out pretty good, and even better the second time (below).
4. Arugula salad with pecan dressing. At the agroshopping they had whole (shell-on) pecans, grown in paraguay, and sold pretty cheap. While I never realized what a pain in the ass it is to shell pecans, I had never enjoyed them so much either. Generally, I feel that pecans are inferior to most nuts--the walnut, almond, cashew, hazelnut, maybe even the peanut--but these were really delicious and sweet. I bought them because David always talks about his grandfather's pecan tree in Alabama, but I think I ended up enjoying them more than he did (maybe because I made him do the shelling). This arugula salad, which I dressed with pecans that I smashed in the mortar with raw garlic, olive oil, and lemon juice and topped with shaved sardo cheese was really delicious. 5. Angel hair pasta with shimeji mushrooms, roasted red pepper, and bacon. I sauteed these mushrooms from the agroshopping (I guess this post was actually mostly about an earlier trip to the agroshopping not ecoagro's delivery service) with some bacon, onion, and garlic, deglazed with some sherry, and added a container of frozen duck stock that I had. I reduced this down added some roasted red pepper and finished the sauce off with a good quantity of butter, grated cheese and chopped parsley. This was awesome.
6. Here began three meals with the ecoagro pork: Pork with dduk, kimchee and tofu. As mentioned, we found a Korean store near the market where we bought tofu, and also kimchee and little 'coins' made of glutinous rice. We had eaten something very similar to this near our apartment in somerville, and I had always wanted to reproduce it. It turned out pretty well.
7. Fried tofu with miso and beet greens; Pork with cilantro. The beet greens were also from the tops of the beets we got from ecoagro. They were excellent with the tofu and miso, very sweet and flavorful. The pork with cilantro was actually also an attempt to reproduce a dish we'd sometimes get from a chinese takeout place in somerville. You wouldn't think that stir frying cilantro like greens would work very well, but it is delicious. It was hard to get good light on this picture, but I wanted to include it because the meal turned out so good.
8. Penne and Pork with fennel, beet greens, and pecan olive pesto. This was probably the best of the meals here. The olives, ricotta cheese, and pecans made a rich and meaty pesto that stood up well to the pork, and the sweetness of the beat greens and fennel contrasted well with the saltiness of the pesto.

1 comment:

DL said...

RE:shelling pecans - when I was in college in Austin in the 80's I had a pecan tree in my yard, and I'd take buckets of pecans home for my mom to use in her holiday baklava (we prefer pecans to walnuts). Back in the day, the inertia nut cracker did the trick, albeit quite loudly. I did a google search and it's still available - this is just one option, but appears to be "the original"