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Food for a Milonga

June 23, 2012

So many things go into making a successful milonga, a dance event of Argentine tango, or, as one of my dance partners says, “Tango Argentino!”

I won’t go into the customs that make Salon Tango, the social dance, so welcoming, nor the reminders to attendees. This milonga calls for a finger-food potluck. An appetiser array. So here is some of my research, with a hint of experience from my medieval events… Of course, this post started because I never know what to bring!

Thanks to Lynne for many ideas and a reminder of “lots of toothpicks.”

Project Tango has a “Food Volunteer”. The part that is relevant to us is:

“vegetarian items only
“mix of fresh fruit, veg, sweet, salty, chocolate and non”

The parameters us are: food that is non-smelly (dancing is close embrace); finger food that is not messy (dancing could happen at any moment); safe to eat at room temperature (no cooking facilities); easy to grab and go (the dancing thing again); prepped before the dance, ready to eat; easy to serve and clean up. Skip the garlic and onions; add the mint and rosemary and cinnamon and other herbs and spices to make your shared breath pleasant.


  • apples (cored, sliced, dipped in lemon juice), grapes, berries, cubed melon, orange wedges
  • carrots (sticks or baby), bell pepper strips, cherry tomatoes, sliced jicama
  • crackers (or bread cut relatively small, or small buns)
  • cheese (brie and camembert styles and triple crèmes are good with fruits; harder cheese, not too strong, are Cheddar or Gouda cheese, dry jack, Swiss (Emmenthaler) styles, Gruyere styles, many “tomme” styles and Parmesan styles)
  • cookies (chocolate and a non-chocolate; mini cookies are especially nice)
  • chocolate covered pretzels (sweet *and* salty)
  • Hot Chocolates’ ginger pieces in dark chocolate (hint, hint)

Chips or other savory snack like popcorn are kind of a “maybe” because greasy fingers on nice dresses and suits are impolite.

Dips are only a little messy. Hummous (recipe below), soft cream cheese and laban (quality yoghurt, drained for a creamy cheese-like consistency; see below) all take well to crackers and veggies.

Meats, even cured meats, have issues with temperature, especially if the day is hot; it’s easier to just avoid them altogether.

A Little Bit More

(this section mostly from the New York Times)

  • Top rye flatbread with thin slices of crisp apple and shaved country ham, prosciutto or regular deli ham and bread-and-butter pickles.
  • Tapenade: Combine about 1 pound pitted black olives in food processor with 1/4 cup drained capers, at least 5 anchovies, 2 garlic cloves, black pepper and olive oil as necessary to make a coarse paste. Can also be a dip. Use sparingly; it’s strong.
  • Portable Caprese: Skewer a small ball of mozzarella, a grape tomato and a bit of basil leaf. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and drizzle with oil.
  • Marinated mushrooms: Cut button mushrooms into chunks and toss with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Let rest five minutes. Spear two chunks with a piece of Parmesan about the same size.
  • Stuff Medjool dates with a piece of Parmesan or Manchego or an almond. Or fresh goat cheese. Or mozzarella, and bake until the cheese begins to melt.
  • Gently cook raw nuts in oil or butter (or a mixture) with salt and spices — pimentón, chili powder, curry powder, ginger, sugar — whatever combination you like. When they’re fragrant, bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees. Let cool.
  • Coat good olives in olive oil mixed with rosemary, thyme, and/or lemon or orange peel; spices, like chilies, are O.K. Let sit overnight if time allows.
  • Fill endive leaves with crème fraîche or sour cream and drained ricotta mixed with chopped parsley, thyme, and a little olive oil.
  • A dip of puréed white or other beans (if canned, drain them) with garlic and olive oil in food processor, adding olive oil as needed. Stir in lemon juice to taste. You can add cumin or chopped rosemary with lemon zest.
  • Hummus: Truly one of the great culinary inventions. Mix four parts well-cooked or canned chickpeas with one part tahini, along with some of its oil, in a food processor. Add cumin or pimentón and purée, adding as much olive oil as needed. Stir in lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste; garnish with olive oil and pimentón.
  • Drain good whole-fat yogurt in cheesecloth for 15 minutes; squeeze to remove remaining liquid. Add salt, pimentón and olive oil. Thin with a little more yogurt to use as a dip, or serve on crackers or bread.
  • Mix four parts drained yogurt (as above), farmer cheese or cream cheese with one part sour cream, until creamy. Add thyme and chopped parsley (or any fresh herbs), salt and pepper.
  • Start by draining yogurt as above but do not squeeze; or use sour cream. Stir in chopped seeded cucumber, bell pepper, scallion, dill, then add salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste. Or use chopped arugula and/or cress, with some herbs. Or use horseradish and/or Dijon mustard, with or without vegetables. Or chopped fresh parsley. Always taste for salt.
  • Mash four parts goat cheese with one part fig jam for a spread.

Actual Recipes

(I’m sorry to’ve lost the source; tell me where they come from and I’ll add the info)

Strawberries and Balsamic Vinegar

Yields: serves many
Prep time: 10 min
Fresh strawberries, washed, hulled or unhulled, and dried
1/2 cup good-quality aged Balsamic Vinegar
1 cup powdered (confectioners) sugar
Place strawberries, balsamic vinegar, and powdered sugar in separate bowls.
To serve, let each guest dip a strawberry into the balsamic vinegar and then into the powdered sugar.
Serves many.

Watermelon Cubes with Aged Balsamic Vinegar

Yields: 6 servings
Prep time: 15 min
About 1/2 pound seedless red or yellow watermelon flesh
1/2 freshly-squeezed lime juice
Traditional Aceto Balsamico (aged Balsamic Vinegar)
Cut the watermelon flesh into 6 (1 1/2-inch) cubes.
Use the small end of a melon-baller to remove a scoop of flesh from one side of the watermelon cubes, creating a small cavity for the juice.
To serve, place a watermelon cube, cavity-side up, on each of 6 small plates and squeeze a little lime juice over them. Fill each cavity with balsamic vinegar. NOTE: I use a dropper to add the balsamic vinegar.
Makes 6 servings.

Pão de Queijo
Pao de Queijo is a Brazilian cheese bread made with tapioca flour. They’re puffy and chewy, like Japanese mocha, and perfect finger food, great for dipping! This Brazil recipe is really simple and will not take you long at all. This recipe is also great for coeliacs as tapioca flour is gluten-free.

Ready in 20 mins
Makes: 16 Pão de Queijo
1 egg
175g tapioca flour
80ml olive oil
160ml milk
65g grated cheese
1tsp salt to taste
Preparation method
Prep: 5 mins | Cook: 15 mins
1.Pre-heat the oven to 200 C / Gas 6 and grease a cupcake tray.
2.Put all the ingredients in a blender and pulse until smooth to create your batter. This recipe is quite simple so feel free to experiment by adding herbs and spices to the mix.
3.Pour the batter evenly into the cupcake tray and then bake in the oven for 15-20 mins until the batter has puffed up and they are slightly brown on top. Leave them to cool.

Strawberries dipped in chocolate…

Your food should be ready to eat, so dancers don’t need to fuss with it. It should not need knives, forks or spoons; it should be “clean” enough to eat with your fingers, or toothpick-ready. Label your serving plate so you can get it back, or remember to take it with you at the end of the milonga.

Say… You know all this already, don’t you…?

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