Variety of cheeses on serving platter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Being a part of the Chilean social life it’s almost impossible to not expand your Spanish (or Chilean??) vocabulary with the word “picoteo”. Picoteo is what you might call finger food in English or simply snacks, but it’s more than just chips and dip. It’s a whole world of different small dishes that are served before lunch or dinner or during a party and it’s a central part of hosting in Chile.
One of the dishes you meet in almost every picoteo these days is cream cheese. The most traditional version (at least for me as I’ve known this one since the first time I visited Chile in 2007) is an entire cream cheese placed in a small plate with soy sauce and covered in roasted sesame seeds served with little crackers. It’s a delicious combination! My mother-in-law introduced me to it and I always have to control myself when it is served, to not seem too impolite as I dig into my favorite part of the picoteo. Luckily my brother-in-law is also a big fan so I’m never completely alone:).
What has changed since my first visit to Chile to now, is the frequency with which I face the cream cheese picoteo. Almost every party has some version of the dish and there are so many combinations: cream cheese with chopped chives drizzled over it, with marinated peppers, with soy sauce and roasted walnuts, with spring onions and green and red peppers chopped up and mixed in or…. and this is my latest discovery… a role of cream cheese filled with tuna mousse and drizzled with a bit of soy and roasted sesame seeds. Serve this dish with some crackers and your guests will not stop eating until you run out (or maybe that’s just me because I really can’t stop when this is put in front of me… It’s like it’s starring at me…).
The cream cheese is not just popular for the picoteo but is also a very popular ingredient in what I would like to refer to as the “Chilean sushi”. Sushi has become hugely popular in Chile and most of the food deliveries you’ll find online (at least in Santiago) are sushi places. But it’s worth it to note that it is not sushi as you’ll find it in a traditional Japanese restaurant. The “Chilean sushi” has been revised and modified so that it fits with the taste of the Chileans, which means lots of cream cheese and avocado (“palta” in Chilean). And I must say…. it’s quite delicious though the cheese and palta makes it extra heavy. Talking about sushi I would actually like to recommend the best sushi place I’ve tried in Santiago, for those of you who are here or who might be planning to visit. It’s called Too Much Japanese and they have several restaurants and home delivery – always a treat on a week night when arriving tired from work.
I’m sure I’ll bring in more ideas for picoteo with time ’cause I just love finger food, tapas, savories, antipasto, hors d’oeuvre or whatever you want to call it and it’s a great way of socializing around food.
Just want to let you all now, that finally I uploaded a recipe for a couscous salad anyway. I made it yesterday and I think couscous is one of the best discoveries I’ve made for years. Love it! Find the recipe for marinated chicken with couscous salad here.
2 months have pasted since I posted anything the last time and many things have happened in the meantime. This blog was started as a result of having the time to throw myself into a new project sharing thoughts on food and culture, experiences from my move to Chile and recipes with friends, family and whoever should be interested. But my time and energy was suddenly transferred into something else when I found a fulltime job and moved to Santiago.
It is great to be here. Since we arrived in Chile the goal was to find jobs in Santiago and settle – at least for a while. Now we’re here and the everyday life is slowly creeping into our lives followed by the inevitable rutine, thoughts about new adventures and most of all the challenge to keep doing what we love to do on the side of the job. In my case writing and anthropology.
The life we’re having now is so much different from how we were living in Copenhagen also when it comes to the way we eat and cook. The biggest change I believe is that the amount of time we have to ourselves during the week has been cut down drastically. We both leave our home in Providencia around 7.30-8 in the morning and we’re not home until 8 in the night. This means 3 hours each night to relax, maintain a social life and spend time on whatever interest or project we would like to do. Furthermore, the lunch is traditionally the main meal of the day in Chile, which means that the need for a big meal by night is almost non existing. So we don’t cook. And I miss it! It had become my main spare time interest to (almost) daily experiment with tastes and presentation and combinations of different ingredients. But first of all there is not much time with the lifestyle of Santiago, second we have a tiny kitchen which sometimes turns the otherwise so relaxing and inspiring process of cooking into full frustration and third… well there’s always supposed to be a third right? I suppose the third reason for my cooking not being prioritized as before is the challenge of cooking with other products than I’m used to. I see it as a great opportunity to have new ingredients to play with but at the same time it is very time consuming. And I don’t have a lot of time. So my challenge when I come home at 8pm and I don’t want to eat another sandwich is to focus on cooking light, easy and fast dishes with ingredients that are easy to get.
This is why I in this post have decided to recommend couscous. It’s not available in every supermarket, but it is super easy to cook (takes 5 minutes!) and you can basically mix it up with whatever you have at hand. In Denmark I loved to add tomatoes, rucola, red onion and most importantly a good creamy feta chesse. The dairy culture of Chile is not very well developed though and I still haven’t found a good feta (please let me know if you have any information on where to find this in Santiago…) but as I said just add whatever you have in the fridge. I won’t leave a recipe for this as it is basicallly up to your own taste and imagination what to mix in and the box of the couscous always has a guide on how to cook it. The other day I mixed in little pieces of sausage, steamed broccoli with chili and chopped up advocado. Might sound weird at first but hey… that’s what I had in the fridge and turned out to work quite alright:).