Now on Bookshelves: Charcutería: The Soul of Spain

Text: Julie Schwietert Collazo
Photo: Courtesy of Artisan Books

I read cookbooks the way most people read novels.

The problem with this is that most cookbooks are too big and bulky to toss in my backpack for casual subway reading or in my carry-on to get me through a long flight.

Too meaty for a carry-on.

Too meaty for a carry-on.

I received Jeffrey Weiss’ Charcutería: The Soul of Spain the day before our recent Utah trip and I was so bummed I couldn’t haul it along with me.

When I got home, though, the shiny, meaty book was waiting for me and I jumped right in; it was an invaluable resource to consult as I worked on an article about Spanish hams for The Latin Kitchen.

That article was published earlier this week in English on TLK and in Spanish on Francisco’s blog, LatinListUSA. Even if you don’t read Spanish, I hope you’ll check that one out, too, as it has some delectable photos from the US and Spain.

And I hope you’ll check out Weiss’ book as well. It’s excellent, not only because of what you’ll learn about hams and chorizos and other types of charcuterie, but because of all you’ll learn about Spanish culture. Weiss’ enthusiasm for both subjects is unrestrained, and the book is an excellent addition to a cook’s, food lover’s, or traveler’s library.

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From the Kitchen: Homemade Coconut Walnut Affogato

Text: Julie Schwietert Collazo
Photo: Breville USA (via Flickr Creative Commons)
If there’s an after-dinner treat better than affogato, that wonderful Italian creation that blends two of life’s greatest pleasures–coffee and ice cream–I don’t really know what it is. It’s a simple concoction: you place a scoop of ice cream or gelato (usually vanilla) in an espresso cup and pour hot espresso over the top. At my favorite place for affogato, L’Arte del Gelato, the lily is gilded with a dollop of fresh whipped cream and dark chocolate shavings.

Simple, delicious affogato. (Photo by Breville USA).

Simple, delicious affogato. (Photo by Breville USA).

As easy as it is to make and as satisfying as it is, I rarely think, “Oh, let’s make an affogato.” For some reason, it never occurs to me. But over the weekend, I made an ice cream that was a little too sweet for my taste, and while I was waiting for the espresso to brew after dinner, I stood with my head in the freezer, wondering what to do with the ice cream when it occurred to me: affogato.

If you want to make the whole sweet treat from scratch (it’s not hard!), here are the directions. I took a basic vanilla ice cream recipe and adapted it for the fresh coconut and preserved walnuts. You can trade those ingredients out for nearly any other combination that suits you. As for the ice cream machine, we have a Cuisinart Ice-25, an automatic machine. I don’t think Cuisinart makes this model anymore, but it has a comparable line of automatic ice cream and gelato machines and this recipe will work just fine for them, too. Be sure, if your machine requires it, to freeze the bowl of the ice cream maker for at least 24 hours (48 or longer are even better) before churning.

Coconut and Preserved Walnut Ice Cream
Two quarts

-2 cups of milk
-2 cups of heavy cream
-3/4 cup of sugar (The original recipe calls for 1 cup, but I find it’s too sweet, especially if you’re adding in sweet ingredients, so adjust your measurements according to the other ingredients and your own taste).
-1/2 teaspoon of salt
-1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
-1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon extract
-1/2 cup of fresh, shredded coconut
-1/4 to 1/2 cup of grated preserved walnuts (Note: We happened to find a jar of preserved walnuts for sale at a winery on Long Island last fall. We’ve experimented with them in all sorts of recipes, from banana bread to cocktails, and haven’t been disappointed yet. You can order them online directly from Harvest Song, the producer.)

-Put the milk, cream, sugar, salt, and extracts in a mixing bowl and stir well until the sugar has dissolved.

-Pour the mixture into your ice cream maker and churn for about 25 minutes. During the last five minutes of churning, add the shredded coconut and the preserved walnuts.

-Remove the ice cream from the churn and put in a freezer-safe container; give it an hour or so to harden a bit.

-Take an espresso cup and place a scoop of the ice cream inside it.
-Pour freshly made espresso over the ice cream.
-Top, if desired, with whipped cream and freshly shaved chocolate or nutmeg.
-Serve right away.

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Now in Hilton Head, SC: Amiri Geuka Farris’ “Heart of the Lowcountry”

Text & Photo:
Julie Schwietert Collazo
Last week, Francisco and I were on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina on an assignment that I am dying to tell you about… but I can’t.

Not until December, at least.

We needed time–much more time–than we had to see all the places we wanted to see and talk to all the people we wanted to talk to… not to mention make it out to the beach (which did not happen). Fortunately, though, we were lucky enough to catch Amiri Geuka Farris’ exhibit “Heart of the Lowcountry,” which opened on the day of our visit to the island’s Coastal Discovery Museum.

A few of the works in Amiri Geuka Farris' exhibit, "Heart of the Lowcountry," currently on show at Hilton Head's Coastal

A few of the works in Amiri Geuka Farris’ exhibit, “Heart of the Lowcountry,” currently on show at Hilton Head’s Coastal Discovery Museum.

Farris is a native of Florida, but since moving to nearby Bluffton, South Carolina, his work has been exploring and conveying aspects of Gullah-Geechee culture in colorful, large-format paintings, exemplified by the pieces in this show. Far from being depressing images of slaves toiling in cotton fields, these paintings celebrate the character and confidence of the Gullah-Geechee people, the coastal south’s residents who trace their lineage back to West Africa.

The exhibit, which runs through August, is well-worth a visit if you’re in the area.

And stay tuned… perhaps you’ll see Farris in a certain high profile magazine this winter!

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Now in New York: “Under the Same Sun: Art from Latin America Today” at Guggenheim

Text & Photo:
Julie Schwietert Collazo
It had been ages–probably more than a decade–since I’d been to the Guggenheim for a show, and once I left the museum after seeing “Under the Same Sun: Art from Latin America Today” yesterday, I remembered why: I have never experienced art in a place that is less suited for it than the Guggenheim.

But first, let’s talk about the propósito of “Under the Same Sun,” which opened last week and runs through October 1 before it moves on to Brazil and Mexico.

The show, curated by Pablo León de la Barra, is important to the extent that it attempts to introduce viewers to contemporary Latin American art. On its face, that effort seems absurd: Latin America is so vast, both territorially and culturally, that its art is similarly diverse; efforts to gather it together thematically may be fruitless. Holland Cotter, writing about the show for The New York Times is a bit more pointed in this review, which is not off the mark one jot.

And yet… the problem here is not so much the work the curator has selected for “Under the Same Sun,” nor the admittedly predictable categories into which he has organized the pieces– “The Tropical,” “Conceptualism,” “Political Activism,” “Abstraction,” Emancipation/Participation,” and “Modernities”– but the setting in which they are presented. Spread out over two floors and one film room, the show sounds ambitious in size, but there are only 50 works total. The installation of the pieces over such a seemingly large portion of the museum is misleading, then; the exhibit itself is not large. The space is small. It is also, for the most part, cramped and uncomfortable, with little, if any, intuitive sense of where the viewer should be going if he or she wants to see the entire show.

Having seen several of these works in other settings, it’s not the art that disappoints, but the context in which it’s being seen. Tania Bruguera’s video “Tatlin’s Whisper #6″ needs more sound (or a set of headphones), especially since it’s in the same room as a mobile made of cymbals, which viewers are invited to strike at their leisure. And Regina Jose Galindo’s powerful, provocative work, which I first saw at the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo at UNAM in Mexico City several years ago, can really only achieve its maximum impact in a space that is larger.

Still shot from one of Regina José Galindo's works, which I first saw in Mexico City.

Still shot from one of Regina José Galindo’s works, which I first saw in Mexico City.

The argument can be made, of course, that seeing these works in this setting compared to the spacious halls of, say, the MUAC, is neither better nor worse, but simply different. That argument can be extended by saying that the experience gives those of us already familiar with these works a better sense of how they can incite a broader register of emotions. Neither argument would be false. That being said, it’s a shame that an idea so grand in scope fails to deliver simply because the works selected for this space don’t seem to fit comfortably within it. The goal of introducing viewers to contemporary Latin American art isn’t fully met in this show, which is too bad, since so many seminal pieces are included in it.

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How to Do Arches National Park with Young Kids in the Summer

Text & Instagram Photos:
Julie Schwietert Collazo
A very pregnant mom, a dad carrying three cameras and a tripod, a 4.5 year old who has a love (“Oooh! I see a monarch butterfly near the cottonwood tree!”)-hate (“Heeelllppp! I see ants! Aaahhh! They’re going to bite me!”) relationship with nature, and a very heavy 10-month old, plus two grandparents (probably the fittest among us) and their 10-year old grandson who is in that phase where he is embarrassed by everyone and everything, get together to hike in Utah’s Arches National Park… in June.

The trailhead for Landscape Arches.

The trailhead for Landscape Arch.

It all sounds like the makings of a good joke or a disastrous vacation, but fortunately, it was neither. In fact, we had a perfectly pleasant visit, one that struck that rare family travel note of satisfying everyone simultaneously.

Here are a few tips for visiting Arches National Park with kids during the summer:

1. Start early, leave early, and come back late.
Everyone tells you this, but when the alarm goes off at 5:30 or 6:00, it’s understandably tempting to hit “Snooze,” especially since you’re on vacation. But trust me when I tell you that you will avoid literal and metaphorical meltdowns by getting an early start; even 20 minutes can make a big difference with respect to temperature in the southwest. Groan your way through the wake-up call if you must, but roll out early.

We were at the park by 7:00 AM and it was cool and overcast– perfect for hiking, especially for families, who are inevitably carrying more than they need. The other benefit of hitting the trails early was avoiding the crowds. By the time we had reached our destination and taken all the photos we wanted, we were on our way back down the trail and headed to lunch just as other families and hikers were starting out under a sky that had cleared and was now blazing with the noon-day sun.

While they sweated their way up the trail and back, we headed back to our hotel for lunch, a nap, and a swim in the pool. When our batteries were recharged, we headed back up to the park to enjoy the light and colors of what photographers refer to as “golden hour,” which is particularly spectacular in red rock desert.

2. Pack light, but pack smart.
Since temperatures on the days preceding our visit had been in the high-90s, I dressed the kids and myself in what I often refer to as “aspirational” clothing (as in: I’m aspiring to comfortable weather that doesn’t involve me wearing or carrying multiple layers of clothes for multiple people). It was cool as we set off on the trail, too cool for 10-month old Orion, really, especially when we were caught in a brief rain shower.

Fortunately, the more experienced hikers and outdoorsfolk among us (the grandparents) were prepared with a lightweight space blanket, which my dad wrapped around Orion as we waited out the drizzle under a tree. We had apples, a granola bar, and water, and charged up what remained of the trail.

Pack canteens of water, of course, and those snacks, but otherwise, travel light. If you take one of the trails recommended below, you won’t even really need to take sunscreen or bug repellent (as long as you apply both before you set off on your hike).

3. Take a kid-friendly trail.
Though the 10-year old would have appreciated something more challenging (he was in Utah, in part, to take a rock climbing class, which he aced), a hike categorized as “easy” was more reasonable for myself and the younger kids. Too many families make the mistake of pushing themselves to achieve something they’re not physically prepared for, and national parks are rarely the best place to do a test run of physical endurance or familial patience.

Mariel at the base of Landscape Arch.

Mariel at the base of Landscape Arch.

In Arches, the trail to Landscape Arch is family-friendly, and what waits at the end is no less impressive than the rewards of more strenuous hikes; in fact, the park believes that this arch is the longest natural sandstone arch in the world. The Landscape Arch trail is gravel most of the way, with a shorter section consisting of red sand. You’ll need to leave strollers in the car and don a baby backpack or do as we did and press a grandparent into shoulder-carrying service.

Grandpa takes a much-deserved break after carrying 20+ lb. Orion.

Grandpa takes a much-deserved break after carrying 20+ lb. Orion.

If this trail hike proves too much, take to the car and enjoy some of the scenic overlooks. One of the best is Balanced Rock, which is impressive from the car or looking up at it from the parking lot (it also has a loop trail around the base). If your kids are interested in pioneer history, then stop by the extremely humble cabin of settler John Wesley Wolfe, which is accessible by a very short trail. You can read more about the history of the Wolfe family and the cabin on the NPS

Balanced Rock.

Balanced Rock.

4. Apply bug repellent and sunscreen before heading out.
Most summer days at Arches would be unbearable without bug repellent; there are mosquitoes and pesky no-see-ums. I swear by Badger Balm’s Anti-Bug Balm to ward off both pests. The same company also makes baby and kid-friendly sunscreen. Whatever brand you choose, bug repellent and sunscreen are musts if you’re in Arches during the summer.

5. Process what you’ve seen.
We always talk about what we’ve seen, compare it to other places we’ve been, and make a list of questions that we each have about the animals, geology, and other features we’ve seen. We get those questions answered by talking with rangers or other locals, checking our field guides, or getting online in our hotel room and searching for the answers. What was that flower we saw at the trailhead? What kinds of animals live in Arches? Did dinosaurs live in the area?

One of our questions from the Landscape Arch hike: "What is this flower?" (Photo by Francisco Collazo).

One of our questions from the Landscape Arch hike: “What is this flower?” (Photo by Francisco Collazo).

We also encourage our oldest to record her experiences by drawing in her journal. It’s interesting for us to see how she interprets what she has seen and her explanations give us a chance to ask her questions about her experience of our visit.

Have you been to Arches? Do you have any advice? Feel free to share it in the comments.

Categories: Travel & Travel Tips, United States | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments