A couple of months ago, I was asked to do a small write up on Felipe Rojas-Lombardi for the launch of the Celebrity Chef stamps series. I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t know very much about him when I started. Though he was famous for his work with James Beard, was the founding chef of Dean & Deluca, and introduced countless Spanish and Latin American food traditions to New York’s culinary scene at his Chelsea restaurant The Ballroom (tapas for a start and quinoa no less), his career predated the chef as celebrity phenomenon and it was sometimes hard to pull up information. Still when I did find articles, some scanned into pre-Google archives, I found some answers to things I’d always wondered about. For one, it explained why gourmet prepared food counters (like the one he developed for Dean & Deluca) are essentially Peruvian though they would never fall into the “ethnic” food category (he predated those facile distinctions as well). Read more
Every January 6th, on El Día de los Reyes, Santa Claus and reindeers are traded in for wise men and camels. Celebrated throughout Spain and Latin America, kids leave shoes out along with grass and water for the camels in exchange for presents the Reyes Magos will leave behind. Growing up, it was one of my favorite holidays because it meant having at least one more gift to open. This year I forgot to leave my shoes out last night and if the camels came looking for straw they were disappointed but I still wanted to post my favorite recipe for Rosca de Reyes. Read more
I’m known in my family for withholding information. More absentminded than secretive, I’d forget to tell my parents about field trips, birthday parties, science projects, and even award ceremonies (never for science) until the last possible moment. On the upside, friends can attest that I’m all vault. Where it’s not so great is how slow I’ve been to post the good things that have been happening since the release of the The Cuban Table…and there has been a lot of good to share. Read more
It’s Christmas Eve and I have a bag of sour oranges waiting for me on the counter of my mother’s home in Miami to make the mojo. My family of 50+ and counting takes turns hosting Nochebuena and this year it fell on us (collectively known as las Peláez) to plan and my cousin Cecilia to host. Ceci and I used to spend the weeks before Christmas looking for hidden presents after school and now we’re texting each other centerpieces and searching for the least plastic-looking plastic plates at Party City. It’s been a lot of work but grudging fun. With each run to find the best turrones or tub of manteca, I can appreciate how much easier it is to plan Cuban Christmas in an essentially Cuban city. Still, living between New York and Miami, I always have the sense of missing home while being home. This year I got to write about “Bringing a Cuban Christmas -Mojo and All – to Brooklyn“ for Edible’s joint holiday issue (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Long Island, and East End) so in some way I got to experience both at the same time. Wishing everyone and peaceful and happy Nochebuena! On a side note, the planning committee nixed my idea for a snow making machine but that will just give me something to look forward to next time around.
I am beyond thrilled to announce that The Cuban Table: A Celebration of Food, Flavors, and History is hitting both real and virtual shelves today. Since our wonderful editor BJ Berti let us know that the finished copies were in the warehouse and on their way a few weeks ago, I imagined receiving them – usually in over-saturated, Doris Day technicolor. The books would run straight off an assembly line, into a box, and onto a truck that would drop them at my door. I’d coolly but swiftly rip it open, hand out the books, and and it would be champagne all around. So many wonderful things have come from this book in the past few weeks that I just needed the one thing that would make it real. The anticipation was maddening and when the books didn’t come, I took to sad-eying the UPS man when he failed to deliver. Finally, just a few hours shy of today’s release date, the books arrived and…I wasn’t there. I came home from a (very un-Doris Day-like) cardio kickboxing class and found the box on my coffee table with a lime green NEW TITLES sticker splashed across the top and my yorkies yapping furiously around it. It was later than I’d expected but exactly on time. Most importantly, it was very, very real. Read more
The Cuban Table will be here next week but I couldn’t wait until then to share a recipe from the book. I’d been planning on this post for awhile but it was hard to choose just one. Not only are they all attached to a memory or favorite moment during this long process, they’re also attached to some of my favorite people. They were great company as I wrote and I’m so excited to introduce them to you. Even now, I feel like when I open the cover they all start talking once – a familiar feeling if you’ve ever walked into a Cuban gathering. It’s also at those parties where you’ll most often find … Arroz Con Pollo. And that’s how I finally decided. Read more