To the light, our hearts and minds turn
Sunday, December 11, 2005
While I wish the holidays were not so clumped together, what can you do. If you live in the north, where your days wane and the great eye of the sun graces your days for a very short time in the winter, you will understand this post perhaps better than those who have a pretty constant day-night light cycle.
Our diminishing days really torque our diurnal clocks. I feel it, I cant possibly ignore it. To quell some of the sadness that comes in February when its -20F for weeks at a time, I am strongly compelled to celebrate and wholly process the winter solstice, when the pendulum of day begins to swing back in our favor.
We monkeys are pretty frail, and my particular weakness is a need for photostimulation to keep the cheer up.
For some, this time of year is about rigidly held and specific traditions. Always eat the same meal, same place at the table, same plates, same old christmas tree out of the closet, same lights out front on the bushes, go to the same midnight mass, same christmas morning wake up ritual. Many people LIKE it that way because it is a groove into which they put their mental record player needle, checking out.
We dont do that and now with our homeschooling, we can blow it all away with even more abandon.
This year we will celebrate the Winter Solstice
, as we do every year, with candles and some sort of sun cake, but I am hoping to make it an intergenerational exploration into Saturnalia
(food, revelry, consideration of older customs, times, cultures, religions), Mithra's birthday
(the precursor to the Christ birthday meme/myth) and how that was celebrated.
With each of these celebrations, we will touch on the old but also use our own context to bring some familiarity to it (for example, as we are descended on my side from Colombia, we will do a huge Fritanga
, and fry up chicharrones
, yuca fritas
, empanadas, arepas
, bunuelos, rice, beans, and we will also do the traditional midnight tamal (am gonna squish christmas with new years because my mom will not be here for the latter holiday)).
We do not celebrate the fact that we GET gifts. We celebrate that we have each other. For this reason, gifts are a relatively small part of our tradition.
I hope that you fellow homeschoolers are able to maximize the teachable moments in your holidays and find the light that can be hard to keep in the cold winter months.
Like most of colombian food, empanadas are a labor of love. You HAVE to make pique with this and spoon it into a piping hot empanada that you have bitten the end off of. -sighs- heaven on earth!
I found the following recipe here
.Recipe for Colombian EMPANADAS
• One pound of ground beef
• Two bunches of green onions finely chopped including ¾ of green part
• Half white onion finely chopped
• Half red bell pepper finely chopped
• Three large garlic cloves smashed
• Two large potatoes or three average size
• Large bottle of canola oil
• Spices (Mainly soy sauce, basil, oregano and black pepper)
To prepare the masa:
• One package of yellow corn flour “La Venezolana” or “La Colombiana” brand available at Liborio Market
• Goya seasoning with culantro & achiote
• Salt and warm mixture of water/milk (80%-20%) milk is optional
Preparing the primal ingredient: LA MASA:
After being psychologically prepared to be in the kitchen for a couple of hours, pour the flour on a wide clean hard surface (counter) and form a volcano-shape crater in the middle, pour some of the warm water and one pocket of Goya seasoning, to give the masa flavor and an orange color to it. Mix carefully by pouring the flour around the crater inside it with a spoon, until it soaks the water. Open a new crater with the moist flour and pour more warm water, pouring the dry flour around with the spoon. Repeat until all the flour is moist. Knead constantly with your hands and fingertips for around ten minutes, adding salt along the process. The key to a perfect masa is to reach a point where it is neither too dry, because the empanada might crack open while frying, nor too moist with water, because the empanada could “explote” once getting in touch with the hot oil, endangering the safety of the cook.
The trick is to add small amounts of oil while kneading, until reaching the ideal consistency, which is not cracking, neither getting sticky. It might take longer to reach such point when it’s the first time, but patience is the virtue of the best cooks.
Set aside, covering the masa with moist paper towels or kitchen rag to avoid cracking on the surface.
In the meantime, cook the potatoes in boiling water until soft.
EL RELLENO (stuffing):
Cook the carne asada (preferably on the grill for better taste). Set aside to let it cool off. On a cutting board chop the cooked meat finely. Separately, on a wide pan, sauté the garlic with 3 spoonfuls of oil, adding little by little ¾ of the total of the green onions, the white onion, the bell pepper and the seasonings at your own taste, constantly stirring with a wooden spoon, for about 10 minutes. Add the finely chopped meat. Keep on stirring for another couple of minutes to blend the ingredients very well. If the mixture is getting dry, add some oil. Take note of the fact that this relleno will be mixed later on with the smashed potatoes, and is the one carrying the flavor, so don’t be shy seasoning it. The stuffing must have a rich and tasty flavor. An empanada with no flavor is as sad as rice with no salt…
Set the mixture aside. Once the potatoes are soft enough, let them cool off and peel them off. With a large fork smash them, although it doesn’t have to be smashed all the way through. Tiny lumps are OK.
Add the potatoes into the stuffing mixture. Mix well. Double check for flavor and salt. You never know…
Prepare a frying pan with oil up to the middle. Heat well.
Take the masa and start making balls larger than a golf ball. Find a hard round surface to flatten the ball against. It could be a flat dish. You will also need a rectangular piece of thick plastic (like a large zip-lock bag open on both sides) to avoid the ball sticking to the surface of the dish. Have a cup of water at hand to constantly moist your fingertips while flattening the masa balls.
Put the plastic moist with water on the flat dish. Wet your fingertips, take one ball and put it on the dish covered with one end of the plastic then cover the ball with the other end of the plastic. Take a second smaller flat bottom dish and smash the ball against the larger dish underneath. The result should be a round-like masa “CD” of aprox. 5 inches wide and aprox. 1/16 thick. Put the masa on one of your hands still with the plastic, bending it like a hard taco, and with the other hand take some stuffing and put it in the center of the masa. Seal the ends with your moist fingertips making sure to leave some flat in order to make a decorative waving form along the sealed seam, as of an eel’s fin.
Put no more than two empanadas at the same time in the oil, since they might break open. Leave in oil for a few minutes, turn around and wait until golden. Put them on a tray with paper towels to soak the oil.
EL “PIQUE” (Colombian style salsa for empanadas):
Put the remaining chopped green onions in a bowl, adding chopped fresh cilantro, some water, vinegar, lemon juice and some hot sauce, depending on your taste. Pour this pique in every bite you make.