Feria de Mataderos is a street market cacophony. Women deep-frying empanadas over wood-fired cauldrons. Vendors hawking steak knives. Men bustling to offer treats from trays of skewered candied figs and bowls of budino di pane, a sweet bread pudding. And the soundtrack to it all — from an unremarkable hall in a far-flung corner of the former slaughter yard — the sounds of boldly dressed couples stomping the tango.
It's a scene repeated at markets across Buenos Aires, a delicious and melodic reminder of Spain's lingering influence in Argentina. At the upscale Mercado de San Telmo, another reminder: impeccably good tapas served alongside frost-crusted glasses of sweet vermouth decanted from towering bottles layered with orange slices.
De Lucía Tapas is a tiny wedge of a stall, a white marble counter edging it on two sides. All along it, one dish after another teases — slabs of thick, eggy tortilla; chunks of eggplant, marinated and flecked with fresh herbs; roasted tomatoes doused in olive oil; spicy roasted potatoes; toasted hunks of bread drizzled with olive oil and browned onions.
But the dish that most draws me is a simple carrot salad. A tangle of orange shaved into long, thin strips mounded on a white platter, a glistening sheen the only evidence of a dressing. Tucked into it, whole cloves of garlic and pointed star anise. Covering it all, a generous sprinkle of jet-black poppy seeds and fresh parsley.
It is zanahorias dulces, a lightly sweet-and-tangy carrot salad. And they are the best carrots I've ever eaten. Perfectly al dente. The dressing is bright, sweet and rich, a balance of olive oil, lemon, garlic, and spice with just a hint of sugar. Chef Diego Fernández explains the simplicity of the recipe. The dressing ingredients are heated briefly in a skillet, then the carrot shavings are added and cooked just until barely tender. Cool, garnish, and serve.
Back at Milk Street, we changed little about the recipe except to further simplify the method. We found the carrots cooked more evenly — and in just a few minutes — in the microwave. The dressing was easily heated in a small saucepan, then tossed with the carrot strips. A few minutes to cool and soak up the flavors, then the salad was ready to garnish. A fresh taste of Spain via Buenos Aires, no tango skills needed.
For the recipe and more, head to Christopher Kimball's Milk Street.