Sobremesa: A Memoir of Food and Love in Thirteen Courses, written by Josephine Caminos Oría, brings together food, family, and memories in a captivating story set in Argentina and the United States. Each chapter is paired with a notable recipe such as Sopa Pastina (Pastina Soup), Milanesas (Beef Milanese), Tarta Pascualina (Spinach and Egg Easter Pie), Empanadas al Cuchillo (Knife-Cut Beef Handheld Turnovers), and Ensalada de Palmitos con Salsa Golf (Hearts of Palm Salad). I will also be sharing her recipe for Berenjenas al Escabeche (Pickled Eggplant) following the review. Sobremesa is set to be released on May 4, 2021.
Disclosure: I received this book from Scribe Publishing in exchange for my honest review. All comments and opinions are my own. This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase something through the link, I may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Josephine Caminos Oría
Josephine Caminos Oría was born in La Plata, Buenos Aires in Argentina. She moved to the United States with her family and now lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and five children. She was influenced in the kitchen by her grandmother Dorita and left a C-level career to create La Dorita, a small-batch all-natural line of Dulce de Leche products, in 2009 with her husband, Gastón.
Josephine is also the author of Dulce de Leche: Recipes, Stories, and Sweet Traditions.
I reviewed Josephine’s first cookbook, Dulce de Leche (along with a recipe for Buñuelos with Brown Velvet Glaze), in 2017 and was so excited when I heard about the release of the memoir. Her dulce de leche recipe continues to be a favorite four years later and it was wonderful to learn the history behind her family and company.
Josephine begins with a short introduction and the background on how she chose the name Sobremesa for the book. Sobremesa doesn’t translate fully to English, but loosely means “time spent being present at the table, lingering over a meal in conversation well after the food is gone.” This time at the table can last for hours and holds many of Josephine’s memories and ties to Argentine culture.
Born Josefina Ursula Caminos, her parents moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1974 with her siblings when Josephine was only six months old. She states, “like Sobremesa, part of my bicultural heritage simply didn’t translate. I was fully neither, nor fully both. At home in Pittsburgh, I was considered Spanish or Argentine, but in Argentina, I was branded “la Yanqui,” whose Levi jeans hung a little too loose for their own liking.”
Throughout the pages of the memoir, she navigates between the pull from both countries and takes the reader on a journey that leads through love, life-changing loss, and finally following her dreams and running a business in Pittsburgh with her husband and five children.
At the end of each chapter, Josephine shares a recipe with ties to her history and memories. There were no recipe images in the book, but you can find a few on the Sobremesa page. Measurements are listed in US Customary. The table of contents at the beginning of the book features a list of the included chapters and accompanying recipes with page numbers for easy reference.
Berenjenas al Escabeche (Pickled Eggplant)
Every single recipe I tried was wonderful, but I am especially excited for the Berenjenas al Escabeche (Pickled Eggplant) for the upcoming grilling season. Slices of eggplant are briefly cooked in a vinegar mixture, then flavored with oil, garlic, and dried spices. It comes together with minimal effort and is perfect for pairing with grilled meats (Asado) or simply with bread.
The eggplant slices should be cut between 1/4-1/2 inch. Too thin and they will fall apart while cooking. The required cooking time will depend on the size of the eggplant. Thicker slices will require longer than thinner slices.
Before cooking the eggplant, arrange the slices in layers with salt and allow to sit at room temperature for an hour. This will help remove excess moisture and bitterness. Rinse and drain well.
This Berenjenas al Escabeche gets even better after a couple of days in the refrigerator and is best if used within a week. It is not recommended for canning.
More from Sobremesa
I also made Josephine’s Champiñones a la Provenzal (Mom’s Mushroom Sandwich), Ham and Cheese Sorrentinos (Bowler Hat Ravioli), Ñoqui de Ricota (Ricotta Gnocchi), and Dulce de Leche Gelatin.
The Champiñones a la Provenzal is the ultimate comfort food from Josephine’s mom. She mentions “this sandwich is best eaten in pajamas or old sweats, in bed or in a comfy chair in front of the TV while watching a Hallmark or Lifetime movie or two, back to back.” It also comes together in just a few minutes. Sliced mushrooms are sautéed with butter and herbs, then served between two slices of white sandwich bread.
I made the Ham and Cheese Sorrentinos (Bowler Hat Ravioli) as a way to use up leftover ham from Easter. Traditionally made with fresh pasta and formed into a bowler hat shape, Josephine made these with a shortcut using wonton wrappers. The Sorrentinos are filled with a mixture of mozzarella, ricotta, ham, and shallots, then paired with both a walnut cream sauce and salsa rosa (tomato garlic sauce). It was such a wonderful, flavor-packed meal.
The Ñoqui de Ricota (Ricotta Gnocchi) were another personal favorite. For Josephine, they are tied with memories in the kitchen with her grandmother, Dorita, and the family eats them almost every 29th of the month (el día de los ñoquis). This version uses ricotta cheese to create a light and pillowy texture with less difficulty than the potato variety. They even freeze well! The Ñoqui can be prepared with a variety of sauces, but Josephine paired them with a simple and delicious coating of brown butter and crispy sage.
The Dulce de Leche Gelatin was a favorite with my daughter. This Argentine-inspired gelatin comes together easily and just requires a little extra planning as it requires a refrigeration time of at least 6 hours to set. The delicate mold is packed with a decadent dulce de leche (I used Josephine’s recipe for homemade dulce de leche from her first book) in every bite and perfect alongside a dollop of whipped cream.
Sobremesa is a wonderful choice for those interested in culinary memoirs, particular with a focus on bicultural and Argentine culture. I especially love the variety of the mostly Argentinian recipes (14 in all) paired with the personal memories.
Most of the recipes come together relatively easily with ingredients available in the average American grocery store. A few items that may require further searching include semolina pastina #70 noodle, hearts of palm, Spanish paprika, Pâté de Foie, dulce de leche, and shishito peppers.
Berenjenas al Escabeche (Pickled Eggplant) Recipe
Excerpt from Sobremesa
Berenjenas al Escabeche (Pickled Eggplant)
- 2 medium sized eggplants washed
- Coarse salt
- 1 cup white vinegar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil or canola oil
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 cloves crushed garlic
- Crushed red pepper to taste
- Salt to taste
- Trim the ends off the eggplant. Cut in half lengthwise, and then lay it flat side down and cut into 1/4 to 1/2-inch slices. You can also slice the eggplant into rounds.
- Put the slices, layer upon layer, in a roasting pan. Sprinkle each layer with coarse salt and let sit for about an hour. (The salt draws out the bitterness and moisture from the eggplant.) Drain and rinse the eggplant.
- Put the eggplant, vinegar and water in a stock pot and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and blanch the eggplant until it takes on a translucent look, about 10 to 15 minutes. Thicker eggplant slices will require more time; thin slices slightly less. The eggplant should be flexible and chewy but not falling apart.
- Meanwhile, combine the remaining ingredients in a bowl.
- When the eggplant has cooked through, drain off half of the vinegar/water mixture and put the rest, along with the eggplant, in the bowl with the oil mixture. Mix well. Refrigerate until cold.
- Eat within a week. This dish is not recommended for canning.