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Gifts to Inspire South American Cooking

A List of Kitchen Equipment and Supplies for the South American Cook

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South American cuisine has its roots in simple home cooking. Good South American cooks can adapt to any circumstance, and know how to cook a stew underground in a homemade clay pot when necessary, or make a homemade baster out of corn husks. That said, there are certain things that are useful when you are preparing traditional South American dishes, like a great blender, the aforementioned clay pot (olla), and a deep fryer. There are some great "nice to have" items too, unusual things that make wonderful gifts, like panettone molds, tostiarepas, and wonderful cookbooks.

1. Clay Pot, or Olla

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People swear by the flavor of food cooked in unglazed clay pots. The ideal method is to dedicate one pot to beans, another to rice, and another to stews or whatever you prepare most often, and allow those pots to acquire their flavors over time. Clay pots are valued for their cooking and baking abilities as well, keep food warm, and look beautiful.

Basic Clay Pot Beans - Frijoles a la Olla
More About Ollas, from Chelsie Kenyon, About.com's guide to Mexican Cooking.
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2. Cookbooks About Clay Pot Cooking

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There are many cookbooks about the art of clay pot cooking. Some clay pots require special care, and there are many recipes that have been specially adapted to this type of cooking, so these cookbooks are excellent resources.

More About Cooking with Clay Pots
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3. A Deep Fryer

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A good feep fryer makes fried food easier and safer to prepare, with a lot less mess to clean up afterwards. Many of my favorite South American foods are fried (coxihnas, empanadas fritas, papa rellena, fried plantain), and when food is fried at the correct temperature, it does not absorb as much of the grease. A deep fryer maintains the proper temperature and reduces splattering, so that deep frying is not such a big production.

More About Deep Fat Frying from Danilo Alfaro, About.com's Guide to Culinary Arts
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4. A Good Blender

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Blenders are indispensable for making sauces like salsa a la huancaína, pureeing fresh corn kernels for humitas or pastel de choclo, and of course for making tropical fruit smoothies (licuados). If you do not have a good quality blender, it's worth the investment.

More About Blenders and Blender Reviews from Colleen Graham, About.com's Guide to Cocktails.

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5. An Arepa Maker

Arepa makers, sometimes called tostiarepas, or areperas, are easy to find online and are sometimes available at large Latin food markets. An arepa maker is similar to a waffle maker, but makes quick and perfect arepas instead of waffles. Arepas are a delicious type of corncake that are very popular in Colombia and Venezuela.

6. A Gaucho Knife

Marian Blazes

Gauchos, the South American cowboys of Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil, carry these traditional knives on their belt. Gaucho knives are used for cowboy work (cutting rope, killing and skinning cattle), as well as for cooking meat on the grill.

Gaucho knives (cuchillas criollas) have a special leather sheath with a clip (like a cell phone case), so that they can be worn under the belt, behind the back. There are many different kinds of gaucho knifes, including beautiful antique ones made of gold and silver.They make an interesting and unusual gift for hard-to-shop-for types, like dads and grandfathers.

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7. A Lime Squeezer

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This little tool should be in everyone's kitchen drawer. It's inexpensive and does a great job of extracting every last drop of juice from a key lime. You can get through a large pile of key limes in no time flat. Great for making limonada frozens, pisco sours, and ceviche.

8. A Tostonera (Plantain Press for making Tostones)

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This handy little tool lets you flatten plantains - an important step when making patacones/tostones, or twice-fried plantain "chips".

Recipe for Patacones - Twice Fried Green Plantain with Aji Dipping Sauce
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9. A Tube Pan

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This baking pan is slightly different than the more common bundt pan, and great for making all kinds of Brazilian cakes (bolos).

Bolo de Fuba - Brazilian Cornmeal Cake
Brazilian Anthill Cake - Bolo Formigueiro
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10. A Steamer Pot for Making Tamales

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Steamer pots are great for making a big batch of tamales.

Tamale Recipes and Information
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