Monday, June 29, 2009

Pollo Chilindrón

Pollo al Chilindrón

Whenever I don't know what to make for dinner, rest assured I usually end up cooking with some sort of peppers. Like a good Spanish girl, I'm a huge pepper fan. I make variations of Pollo al Chilindrón pretty frequently, since its not all that difficult. Expect it to take around 2 hours (it is a stew after all) because it requires one hour of simmering. But trust me it is very yummy once it's time to eat it.

Pollo al Chilindrón is from the Aragón region in Spain, which is comprised of the provinces Zaragoza, Huesca, and Teruel in the northeast section of Spain, but it is eaten throughout the country.

4 chicken breasts (legs, thigh depending on preference)
Sea salt freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium onion (chopped)
1 large red bell pepper (sliced into thin strips or chopped)
1 large green bell pepper (sliced into thin strips or chopped)
4 medium sized tomatoes (peeled, seeded, and chopped) or 1 1/2 cup tomato sauce
1 cup jamón Serrano (Spanish cured ham)
1 cup of white wine
Minced garlic
1 teaspoon sweet pimentón (Spanish smoked paprika (pimentón)
1 bay leaf
1 cup of water

Cut chicken breasts into smaller pieces and season with salt, black pepper, and rosemary. Heat a spoonful of olive oil in a large frying pan and cook chicken, working in batches, until the chicken is brown on both sides. Remove the chicken and set aside. Add 1/4 cup of olive oil to the pan and after heating, add the onions and peppers. Cook on a low heat for about 25 minutes until the vegetables start to brown.

If the vegetables are getting dry make sure to add a tablespoon of water so they do not burn. Once they are finished cooking add the garlic and cook for another 5 minutes. Now add the white wine and cook until it evaporates which should be another 5 minutes.

Add the jamón Serrano and chicken pieces and stir. Make sure to keep any juices that have collected from the chicken and add to the mix as well. Cook for 5 minutes before adding the tomatoes (or tomato sauce), pimentón, 1 cup of water, and the bay leaf. Cook for 1 hour until the chicken is nice and tender or coming off the bone (for the legs and thighs). Season with salt and pepper to your taste.

Buen provecho!


Sunday, June 28, 2009

Bright Pink Sky

Friday night there was a weird light coming through the windows of my house. My brother and I went outside and saw that the sky was bright pink. Not just the sky in fact, but everything. The light was reflecting off of the street, cars, houses and yards. It was a little bizarre just how bright it was, looking somewhat like a sci-fi movie, I half expected to see aliens buzzing around. There had been several thunderstorms throughout the day which left the sky looking pretty damn cool.


The Fog In Lima

The typical tourist route in Peru is to head to Cusco after visiting Lima. Since we only had a little over a week in Peru we decided to do just that. We would spend a few days adjusting to the altitude, as well as enjoying the city. Every guidebook suggests staying a few days in Cusco before doing the trails to Machu Picchu. Please take there warnings seriously. I had an interesting bout of altitude sickness on the trail (more about that later).

Our flight to Cusco was delayed because of a dense fog that descended upon Lima. From what I know about Lima, and what I experienced on most days, is that it is common in the winter for Lima to be covered in fog, especially the closer you get to the water. As usual I'm not exactly looking forward to the flight and a delay just makes the anxiety of waiting that much worse. One of my friends caught me taking a quick nap at the airport.

The flight into Cusco was beautiful. Since Cusco is in the midst of a bunch of mountain ranges, on our descent we passed a few snow capped mountain.

We saw a bunch of advertisements in the airport for oxishot, basically oxygen in a bottle. There was also an oxishot vendor on premises. We decided against buying the oxygen, thinking it was unnecessary, probably a little presumptuous of us. Actually in Cusco it pretty much was unnecessary, since we all didn't feel too many symptoms from the altitude, however on the Lares Trail I would have been a lot happier if I had one of these bad boys.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

I Am In Love With An Assassin

Before I get any phone calls from worried relatives, I want to state that I am not personally in love with an assassin, but rather I read an article about a British Journalist who fell in love with one. Phew, now that that's settled.

In this month's July issue of Marie Claire, journalist Jason P. Howe describes his pretty 'normal' relationship with a woman who was involved in a completely atypical situation. Below are Howe and his girlfriend Marylin.

I love Marie Claire, precisely because the magazine offers so much more than the typical women's magazine articles, you know the type, 'how to please your guy with just your pinky finger,' or 'the one day secret diet to loosing 10 pounds.' Marie Claire, along with the fluff pieces, offers stories about issues that concern people, especially women, from across the globe. One of the stories that really intrigued me a couple months ago, was regarding a group of women in India who were fed up with rapists, abusers, and corrupt officials getting away with their crimes, so naturally they took justice in their own hands and formed the Gulabi Gang, a group of crime fighting women. Talk about Batman with a twist.

Jason P. Howe's story is also pretty incredible. He was on assignment in Colombia and met Marylin. She invited him over to her house, where she lived with her parents and daughter. Soon they feel in love, not unlike many of us have experienced before. We have all kept secrets from our significant others at some point or another for fear of them judging us, however Marylin had a secret that would be hard for anyone to guess. She was an assassin for the paramilitary groups of her country. She killed on a regular basis, often brutally and with the intention to strike fear in others, which means that the bodies are often grotesquely displayed. Talk about a shocker for poor Jason. The article is intriguing however as Jason tries to grasp how the person he loves could kill with such disinterest and nonchalance. Click here to read the whole article.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Baaaaahh.... Playing With Animals In Cusco

Cusco, Peru

Yup that's me with a lamb!
My doctor told me to stay away from animals on my trip, you know the usual precautions, rabies, infection etc... But he was just so cute.


Saturday, June 20, 2009

Taxi and Huayno Peruano

Finally it was time to leave Lima and frankly I was a little sad. There is never enough time to see a whole city, however only a few days seemed like bad planning.

But alas we had to depart, so we hailed a cab and made our way to the airport, in order to catch our flight to Cusco. This taxi was the most high tech taxi we had seen in all of Lima. Whereas most cabs were old and shabby looking, this driver looked like he was trying out for MTV's Pimp My Taxi.

This innovative driver had a television screen with a connecting dvd player in his car. Don't overestimate however, it was nothing like the touchscreens now seen in NYC cabs, where you can play around in the back seat, although it did make for some interesting entertainment. The best part of the car was the telephone the driver pulled out from somewhere in the front seat. It wasn't a car phone no no, (that would be too obvious), it wasn't a cell phone (again obvious), but rather a land line telephone that he somehow got to work inside the cab. He explained it to us but I'm not one for technology chats.

He had DVDs for us to choose from, most of them music DVDs. He suggested we choose traditional Peruvian music, music he called huayno. Little did we know that this would be our first taste of the music we would soon be hearing all over. Huayno is very distinguishable and especially for those hearing it for the first time, it is most definitely an acquired taste. The vocals are extremely high pitched and accompanied by flute, harp, panpipe, guitar, charango, and mandolin. Below is a song by Stalim Manrique.

Huayno Dancers
Photo by: Otra vez me hice Mujer

Huayno is very popular in Andean culture. You can hear it in the mountains of Peru, often transmitted by radio, since many of the people living there do not have televisions. The music may seem a little strange to travelers when they hear it, since the sound is very unique. After all the singing is high pitched and can seem a little off key, but the tradition has lasted for a very long time, since pre-Hispanic Peru. No doubt there is lots of emotion, often about love, love lost, unrequited love, you get the idea. One of the songs I heard in the cab was about a man whose lover drove him so crazy he resorted to alcohol. The lyrics were funny and although I don't remember them exactly they were something like "I love you so much that I must drink." I understand the sentiment but for me it usually involves Ben & Jerry's rather than Johnnie Walker.

In huayno, often times you will hear people in the background, children speaking, or people cheering the singer on.
"Que sigue bailando" Keep dancing.
"Ay mi corazoncito" Oh my heart.
I admit I don't listen to huayno much in the privacy of my own home, but take a look for yourself and experience the music from a very rich culture.


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Inka Lounge Hostel Lima

For my first night in Lima I stayed at Inka Lounge Hostel in Miraflores. The hostel arranged for someone to pick me up at the airport for $15, which is a very reasonable price for the 30 minute cab ride from the airport to Miraflores. In Lima it is customary to negotiate the price of the cab ride before you enter, since there are no meters in the cabs. Do not forget to handle that beforehand if you want to avoid headaches later on. My driver was holding up a sign with my name on it amongst what seemed like hundreds of people waiting in the crowd for their prospective customers. He was very friendly and chatty, especially with all his swine flu questions. Suddenly I was an authority on the matter because of my American passport (note to self - start using the Spanish one).

When we arrived, I was tired and frankly a bit delirious from the flight. I didn't have any soles to give the cab driver a tip, but later I felt less guilty when I found out that taxi drivers in Peru don't expect tips. Although my cab driver seemed a bit hesitant to say goodbye, so I'm assuming many Americans give tips anyhow. When I arrived there was a group of people sitting in the common area of the hostel watching a movie. If I wasn't so very much looking forward to the feeling of my face hitting something resembling a mattress I would have tried to meet some new people, but I decided to check in as quick as possible and make my way to my room. Clearly sleep trumps socializing when fighting the effects of a sleeping pill.

The guy at the front desk Edgar was extremely helpful, and if I do say so myself, rather good looking. Still the sleeping pill won over the urge to keep talking to a handsome stranger. When I got to my room it was clean and had two beds. Finally the moment I've been waiting for.

The Inka Lounge Hostel is located in Miraflores. As hostels are concerned it is pretty standard although I would recommend it to anyone. I stayed in the single room and it was quiet and comfortable and cheap, a perfect combination after a long flight.

The Inka Lounge Hostel Website
Shared Rooms $7 US
Single Room $12 US
Double Room $10.50 US

All rooms share bathrooms
All rooms are per person