Special Series: Estancia Monte Dinero, Part 3

© Christophile Konstas 2009

© Christophile Konstas 2009

Farm Tour

By Elizabeth Ellen

Sharon introduced us to her older sister Caroline, who also lived in one of the houses on the farm property. We found out she was the resident dog trainer as she introduced us to her “crew.” The dogs were so excited to have visitors; they couldn’t get enough of all the attention that we were gushing on them.  After introductions, Caroline explained how she had learned the techniques of dog training in Australia, and had brought dogs back for breeding; pure bred Australian border collies that now called Patagonia home. As part of her job, she now travels around to different farms to train other dogs the tricks of the trade of sheepherding.

The star of the days show was Chocó, named for her color. After a few commands and whistles, she set off and showed us her skills. She quickly transitioned and became extremely focused and serious about the task at hand, never making one false move and always bringing back the herd. We couldn’t believe it when Caroline explained that she only needed a few sheep dogs to manage their whole property.

After the sheep herding show, Sharon walked us to the barns where the sheep were corralled in for shearing. Her husband was already in the shed ready to explain how it was done. He explained that they use old school techniques (literally a pair of shears) to shear the sheep because it is more humane. The bonus is that they get better quality wool and the sheep weren’t sick as often because they were left with a layer of wool as opposed to electric shears, which cut right to the skin, often burning the sheep. Apparently there are a handful of farms that still use these practices, while most use electric shearers that are faster and more efficient.

It was amazing to see the before/after transformation. After a sheep was sheared and rejoined the pen full of sheep with full, fluffy coats of grey, the newly sheared sheep seemed so naked and sparking white by comparison! Apparently, the proper way to shear a sheep is to cut so that the pelt remains in one full piece.  Showing us they had accomplished this delicate task, they then laid it out on the racks for us to see and feel. The wool was silky smooth and oily to the touch. Sharon and her husband then continued showing us the rest of the process the wool went through; cleaning and packaging it for shipping.

Sharon then finished the tour around the rest of the farm showing us all the various sheds and buildings explaining all the various purposes they served. Our final stop brought us to the vegetable garden, which was magical. Potatoes, carrots, rhubarb, and other various fresh vegetables were sprouting up at every turn. With the several greenhouses and gardens, chickens, and abundance of lamb, the farm was almost fully sustainable. Little did we know, we were about to taste this firsthand, as Sharon insisted we stay on for lunch before heading out.

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Special Series: Estancia Monte Dinero, Part 2

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© Christophile Konstas 2009

Breakfast

by Elizabeth Ellen

The room we stayed in that night reminded us of what we envisioned summer vacations at grandmas house to be, 3 single beds lined up in a row in the attic part of the house. The numerous blankets and down comforters adorning each bed made it an extremely cozy night. As we all lay in our beds beckoning sleep, we heard the wildest winds howling outside. Having never heard such powerful winds before, we were convinced the roof would fly right off! It definitely enhanced the allure of how remote and off the beaten path we were.

The next morning, we padded down to the dining room sure not to disturb the quietness of the house. The place settings were laid out as they were for dinner the night before. Wasting no time, we dove into the fresh juice and coffee to get us energized for the day. Already set out for us were cereals, toast with various jams and dulce de leche toppings, and alfajores.

Sharon soon came out to greet us good morning, and asked us how our night was. We all agreed that we slept heartily, but that we had never heard such wild winds before. She smiled and said coolly that the winds we experienced were calm by comparison to what they normally experience. She casually commented, “the winds last night were maybe 50mph winds, we are used to 75 mph winds!” That sure put us in our place.

She then asked us if we were interested to see the behind-the-scenes workings of the estancia, how it was run and operated daily. Of course we were more than delighted to participate! She replied simply, “bueno,” but said that first she had a surprise coming out for us. She left and came back quickly with a piping hot rhubarb cake! Fresh and hot right from the oven; made with rhubarb grown right outside in her garden. What a treat! However, the real surprise came when she shared with us a notebook with all of her family recipes including of course, the one for rhubarb cake! Looking over the recipe, we noted how few and simple the ingredients were, must be the secret!

After filling up with breakfast treats, we bundled up to head out for a farm tour, first stop, sheepdogs!

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Special Series: Estancia Monte Dinero, Part I

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© Christophile Konstas 2009

*I’m sorry it has been forever (a month) since I last posted, but there is good reason for it!  I promise to let you in on it soon.  Until my appetite comes back and I start cooking again I will be posting a special series written by my friend and travel companion Elizabeth Ellen that chronicles our visit to Estancia Monte Dinero in eastern Patagonia back in February.  Elizabeth, Grace and I were lucky enough to visit this “off the beaten track” working Estancia during our trip to Argentina and we all agreed it was one of our most favorite memories.  Hope you enjoy!

Arrival

After negotiating a rather worrisome car rental contract in our best broken Spanish/broken English that made us liable for everything, (apparently that’s how its done down there) we stocked up on empanadas at the local supermarket in El Calafate and head out on a 3 hour journey to the eastern side of Patagonia. Once in Rio Gallegos, we stopped at the local bus station to ask for directions, noticing the sun was creeping lower in the sky. We filled up on gas and set off down a rocky dusty road that promised a gratifying dinner upon our arrival. Since we were all new to Patagonia, it was hard not to stop and take pictures at every turn. There were countless sheep families running around together asking to have their pictures taken as they paused in the middle of the road before scurrying off. The landscape was so flat, as the sun set it seemed you could see forever; the steppes off in the distance magically lit by the sunsets’ brilliant hues. Finally, as the last bit of daylight was setting, we saw the sign for Monte Dinero!

Sharon, one of the daughters who lived on/helped to run the farm, greeted us warmly. She showed us our room and asked us to come down for dinner when we were settled.  We were too excited to see what treats were on the menu for the evening so we washed our hands and ran back downstairs.  For appetizers we had a selection of five pickled offal’s served tapas style. Sharon came over and offered us a bottle of Malbec to go with our meal, which tasted even better after such a long car ride. As she explained some of the details of a working sheep farm, she admitted she had never seen a group of girls come for a visit to the farm. We got the biggest kick out of that! We also happened to be the only tourists staying on for lodging for the evening, just to give you an idea of how remote the Estancia was! Next, for the main course, the chef brought out crab enchiladas! Who knew crab would be on the menu at a farm!  They were absolutely delicious and the crab so fresh, we had to stop ourselves from going back for seconds (though we did indulge in a second bottle of wine!) After dinner there were 3 choices for desert, and we decided to get one of each so we could try them all. The desert menu consisted of tiramisu, cheesecake, and crème caramel. Decadent, yet simple.

After the meal, we talked to Sharon about plans for the following day and mentioned that we had discovered the Estancia in the Lonely Planet book (and snuck in a mention that we read she had a great recipe for rhubarb cake!) Late into the evening we said our goodnights and head off to bed, little did we know what would be waiting for us the following morning….

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lemon-glazed butter cake!

lemon-glazed-butter-cake

Go visit Dessert of the Month Club to read about this cake!

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Greensgrow Inspired Breakfast

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Since our pick-up this week included a bunch of breakfast staples (bacon, eggs and bagels) we had some bagel sandwiches for breakfast this morning (as you know by now, breakfast sandwiches are my fave!)    The egg-jalapeno-habanero cheddar omelet turned into a messy scramble, but the flavors were still there!  I even used some amish butter (from a previous pick-up) for the bagels.  Crispy bacon added a nice crunch.  In R’s own words: “Breakfast was SO good!”

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Spinach Pesto in a Pinch

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Saturday night I had little motivation and really had to talk myself (and R) down from ordering out.  I’m so glad I did.  I had a bunch of spinach sitting in my fridge (roots attached, which I’m sure helped its longevity) and decided to make a pesto with it using the spring garlic I picked up earlier in the share, along with some of the parsley too.  The super GREEN color instantly energized me and dinner was saved and homemade! yay!  I added a handful of olives for a bit of a vinegary bite, mmm.

Welcome Spring!

Spinach Pesto

  • 4 cups spinach leaves (stems removed)
  • 2 tbsp chopped spring garlic or 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsely
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 grated parm
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a food processor combine the garlic and nuts first until coarsely ground.  Add spinach and parsley in handfuls.  Pour in olive oil and scrape down sides to get it all in there.  Add cheese and puree.  Adjust ingredients to taste.  Enjoy on anything!

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Pick-up: March 28th

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In the Share

  • Butterball Potatoes – Elm Tree Organics, Lancaster, PA
  • Mushrooms – Bo-Ka Specialties, Kennett Square, PA
  • Spring Garlic – Tuscarora Organic Growers, PA
  • Italian Parsley – Spring Thyme Herb Farm, Hockessin, DE
  • Coffee – Blue Water Coffee, Philadelphia, PA
  • Maple Syrup – Patterson Farms, Sabinsville, PA
  • Bagels – Di Bruno Bros., South Philadelphia, PA
  • Muenster Cheese – Hometown Provisions, Philadelphia, PA
  • Dozen Eggs – Hometown Provisions, Lancaster County, PA
  • Pequea Valley Yogurts – Pequea Valley Farm, Ronks, PA
  • Bacon – Country Time Farm, Hamburg, PA

The theme was breakfast if you can’t tell and we are very happy for it since we love Country Time Farm Bacon!  Yay!

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Roasted Soy-Ginger Poussin with Carrots and Bulgur

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We picked up this butterflied poussin (young chicken) in last week’s share and when I opened up the April issue of Everyday Food and saw the recipe for “orange-glazed chicken with carrots and bulgur” I knew what to prepare for dinner this week.  The chicken was packed in a soy-ginger marinade and did not need anything further from me than to throw it in the oven to roast.  The marinade was quite delicious, with orange juice, ginger, soy sauce, honey, garlic, scallions, sesame oil and seeds.  Perfect.  The carrots and bulgur (one of my most favorite grains!!!) were also rather nice, except my carrots never browned and next time I think I will throw in some shallots to give it a more buttery flavor.  But at least I found a way to use a load of the carrots from last week’s share pick-up!  😉  This meal was so quick n easy throw it into the rotation!

*Don’t you just love the packaging for the Bulgur?!

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Alton Brown’s Meatloaf

meatloaf1

Last week I decided I wanted to make meatloaf.  I’ve never made it before and to be honest I don’t think I have ever tried it!  I know, bizarre! Meatloaf is definitely one of those All-American recipes that never caught my Greek parents’ fancy.  And I’m sure if they were to make it the recipe would be modified into using lots of oregano and lemon juice vs. ketchup and Worcestershire sauce. I found it to be quite a great variation on meatballs/hamburgers and the best part??? LEFTOVERS!  I almost can’t wait for dinner tomorrow!  I think the thought of not having to prepare anything tomorrow (except maybe fresh mashed potatoes) is really the best part!  The recipe is Alton Brown’s from The Food Network and the reviews were abundant and stellar, so I had to try it.  I made some adjustments: used my own breadcrumbs that I mixed with some garlic salt, also combined a half pound of ground pork in with the ground beef.  The sauce was great too!  AND I discovered “Hot & Spicy” Heinz Ketchup which covered the ketchup and Tabasco elements perfectly!  I paired the meatloaf with some mashed potatoes and a red cabbage-orange salad.

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*I like how my cutting board is all purple from the cabbage!  I might have to try to dye some eggs this year for Greek Easter using red cabbage or beets? hmmm.

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Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs!!!

I am so stoked to see this!

It reminds me of this song, haha!

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