Years ago in Jerusalem, some Jewish friends from Argentina made me something delicious from their homeland: carbonada criolla, sort of an Argentinian tsimmes—a rich beef stew with lots of vegetables and fruit, usually peaches, served in a large pumpkin or squash. Criolla may refer to the social class of the same name, established by Spain as part of Argentina’s colonial caste system. It could also refer to a varietal of grape that grows in Argentina; after all, wine is an important component in the stew.
When I went to Argentina—home to Latin America’s largest Jewish community—to visit my husband’s relatives, we ate a lot of steaks when we dined out. (After all, Argentina is a land of cattle and gauchos—cowboys, some of whom were Jewish!) But when we ate at their home, they served us their rendition of carbonada criolla.
This fall, I revisited the stew at my own home. Since I lean toward fresh ingredients, not canned, I replaced the summery peaches and corn in the original recipe with more seasonal fall fruit such as fresh grapes or dried plums, and I added more wine in the sauce. Still, over all I stuck to the traditional aspects of the dish.
What I like best about carbonada criolla (recipe here) is the ease of putting all the ingredients together inside the pumpkin or squash, making it simple to reheat, and the “wow” effect you get when you serve it with style in one of those new, yet deliciously nostalgic heritage varieties. When I presented it to friends for a Friday night dinner, they loved it.
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