Before I continue with my regular recipe sharing, I want to fill you in on some highlights of Argentine cuisine.
Most meals I ate in Argentina or received from my host family were loaded with carbohydrates. A standard day of meals would consist of a medialuna for breakfast (pictured above), empanadas for lunch, and a plate of polenta for dinner. There were so many carbs, in fact, that one was left wondering how everyone in this country was skinny. Because of the winter season, you would be hard-pressed to find an appealing variety of produce in the city, let alone one decent tomato. Since empanadas (pies filled with meat and cheese) were the cheapest option, they became a lunchtime staple amongst my fellow students.
Argentine beef is certainly something to brag about. The grass fed cows produce a richer, more tender cut of meat. One of my best meals in Argentina was a fat cut of beef I had at a traditional tango show that almost put me in a red meat-induced coma for the rest of my stay. My only beef (no pun intended) was when I tried to order a hamberguesa, wanting to eat something reminiscent of home, only to get a filet cut of steak on funny tasting bread. Still delicious but deceiving. This creation came from Uruguay, topped with ham and a fried egg... Not for the health-conscious.
Mate is a type of tea specific to South America, particularly popular in Argentina and Uruguay. Dry leaves of mate are loosely steeped in hot water, and it requires a unique calabash gourd and a bombilla (silver straw) to drink it. The bombilla blocks the loose mate while letting in the delicious, grassy tea. These are some calabash gourds at Recoleta, a popular open-air market for artisans. Almost every person working a stand at Recoleta would be drinking mate, passing the gourd amongst their peers. The ubiquity of mate can be compared to that of Starbucks in the US, except mate is much cheaper.
It was cheap. It was delicious. It was enjoyed by all.