At the end of my yoga class today I saw two yoginis exchanging a book with the word “flexitarian” in it. Well, that’s what I guess I am. I’m a vegetarian who can’t live without cheese or eggs, and occasionally will eat fish and meat. I’ve lived as a vegetarian before and even tried being a vegan for a bit (I physically felt terrible and couldn’t continue). It was effortless to be a vegetarian in India but as I travel around the world there are many new things I want to try and experience. And since I love learning about a culture through food and languages I find it inevitable that I end up eating whatever is local and seasonal. When I decided to come to Argentina and live here for a while many asked me how I was going to fare with this meat-dominant culture. Well, my answer to that is home cooking. It’s not to say I won’t dine out or not try the famous steaks while I’m living here. In fact, I had a great steak when I first arrived in Buenos Aires at Cabaña Las Lilas in Puerto Madero– some say it’s the best parrilla in Buenos Aires but since it’s the only one I’ve had so far, I’ll wait to have a few more before forming an opinion on it.
Since the delicious skirt steak at Las Lilas, I’ve been meat free for almost two weeks in Buenos Aires. Because I have a kitchen and there is fresh produce readily available to me, I find it relatively easy to keep my mostly vegetarian diet.
When I was traveling in Patagonia we had lunch at a historical roadside rest stop called La Leona between El Calafate and El Chalten. Built in 1894 by Danish immigrants, this place has a long and interesting story of robbers, bandits, climbers, and explorers who have stayed there. It’s said that in 1905 Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid stopped in at La Leona after they robbed the Bank of London in Río Gallegos. The place may be famous but I have to say, their omelette con acelga was one of the worst things I ever ate. So yesterday I tried to erase the terrible memory of that dish and made a version of tortilla Española that my roommate from India Elizabeth taught me. Her version, which she learned from her Spanish boyfriend, had spinach and garbanzo beans. So for mine, I channeled Elizabeth’s tortilla and combined it with that of La Leona to make it my own.
I sauteed some garlic in olive oil and added acelga (Swiss chard) first. I did it in batches so that the leaves sauteed rather than steam, and because the frying pan in my apartment is small there really was no other choice. I beat 5 eggs, added a can of garbanzo beans (rinsed & drained), and mixed it with the sauteed Swiss chard. I sprinkled in salt, pepper, a lot of hot pepper flakes (that’s all me wanting a little more spice), and to make it extra tasty, I put it some shredded cheese.
A bit more olive oil in the pan, back in goes the egg mixture, and it’s low and slow until the egg sets. Thanks to my non stick pan and a large plate, the flip-over was as easy as it could be.
And here is the end product. I had it as lunch yesterday and ate another slice for breakfast this morning.
I’m calling it Tortilla Argentina since it’s far from being the authentic Tortilla Española made with potatoes. It was quite good and I felt great about getting some leafy green vegetables in my system. I find that the quality of the produce is good here but definitely more expensive than I thought. But what I’m really thrilled about is that I’m not allergic to apples, peaches, and nectarines here so I’m eating them endlessly. Oh! And the tomatoes here taste like tomatoes. I used to complain that the tomatoes in NY tasted like water and I refused to buy them at all. Except for my Grandma’s tomatoes from her garden or those organic heirloom tomatoes that were $5 per pound they didn’t even smell like tomatoes. I’m eating heaps of tomatoes in Buenos Aires.
Vegetarian at home, having an occasional steak when dining out- not that there is a need to label myself but I think that makes me a happy and balanced flexitarian.