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Pan de Medianoche

Recently, when I was asking friends and family how they felt about the sandwich Cubano, I was surprised at how many said they preferred medianoches.  Similar to the Cubano but smaller and sweeter, the medianoche or “midnight” sandwich was sold in Havana nightclubs to tired dancers at late night cafes.  Also tired from my last miss at making a pan de agua loaf, I decided to medianoche bread instead.  If you live in South Florida, making Cuban bread at home makes as much sense as churning your own butter.  It’s as easy to find there as it’s impossible everywhere else, so I was excited to see this recipe for the challah-like bread on the Three Guys From Miami site.  I spent all day fussing over the rolls like a nervous mother – will the yeast bubble, do I knead more, will they rise? Read more

Palacio de los Jugos

I’ve wanted to write about El Palacio de los Jugos, Miami’s landmark-fruit stand, take out, pork corner-but didn’t now where to begin.  The last time I visited I was a little surprised at just how out of place I felt there among the steady chaos.  I hadn’t been home for awhile and felt shy of asking too many questions, showing myself for the tourist I had become.  Luckily, Fernando, a regular who the woman at the counter tolerated with a grudging smile, was next to us.  Unprompted, he pointed out the things we couldn’t leave without and in a few minutes we had fresh tamales, chicharrones de puerco, homemade guava paste and queso blanco the owners bring in from their farm.  My friend Lydia Martin’s recent article for the Miami Herald, “Palacio de los Jugos: Where Miami Goes for a Taste of Cuba,” makes sense of the bustling market and tells the story of the family at its heart.

What’s In A Name?

I had resolved to take a dessert break last week but made an exception for this batch of Mexican Chocolate Crackle Cookies from The Art & Soul of Baking by Cindy Mushet.  They were made on request to take as a gift so I wasn’t tempted for long, though the box did go out 1 or 2 or 3 light.  Similar to nutty Mexican polvorones known as wedding cookies here, the recipe calls for added chocolate, coffee, and optional ancho chile powder.  Though the recipes in the book are pretty foolproof, I didn’t think the chile could only be optional if they were to give an authentically Mexican kick to the crackles.  Read more

Disappearing Gauchos

I have to admit that like most people, I’ve always had a romantic view of the gaucho’s life in the Argentinian plains.  Naturally, I was very interested in this article by Juan Forero, “Day of the Gaucho Waning in Argentina”, for the Washington Post, about how traditional grass fed beef was giving way to U.S.-style feedlots.  I was surprised at how pragmatic the people interviewed were about the changes: Read more

Future Plans

I noticed that I’ve been dessert heavy lately when even my WiiFit avatar plumped up a little.  I wanted to make something light to get through a heavy week and found this recipe for quinoa pilaf on Yanuq, my favorite Peruvian food site.  Each time I go to it, I find something familiar and healthy but with a twist that I can’t wait to try.  The Read more

Sound Break

I went to the Times Square simulcast of the Metropolitan Opera’s Opening Night Gala performance of Puccini’s Tosca this week.  Open air events in New York are a mixed bag.  They seem like a good idea but usually mean hours of discomfort and crowds fighting over patches of damp grass.  The Met’s broadcasts are the exception.  Before the city stopped traffic on 42nd Street, the Met was creating an island of sound in the middle of Times Square every September.  Last night, Karita Mattila’s Tosca threw jealous fits, betrayed a friend to the police, and killed a man – and she was the heroine.  Pure passion rarely leading to pure actions,  the quiet girl secondary roles Read more

Once Upon A Fig

There was a fig tree in the backyard of the house where my grandfather was born in Yaguajay, Cuba. I know this because he told me the story-often. Having moved with his family to Havana, he found himself in the province years later and decided to knock on the door of his old house. He asked the family living there if they had a fig tree, and they brought him through the house and showed it to him.  Only then did he tell them who he was and how he knew it was there.  I always wondered why they’d let him go through the house in the first place and pictured their polite confusion while they waited to see where all this was going. Read more

Estrellitas

If you’ve ever been to a Cuban bakery, you know that the only question is how you’d like you’re guava.  In puff pastry, shortbread, masa real, with crackers or as flan, I never get tired of it.  Cupcakes were inevitable.  I’ve been making guava cupcakes with cream cheese frosting for friends but hadn’t come across just the right combination till last week.  I tried small pieces of guava paste that sank to the bottom and  guava jelly that was undetectable.  Preserves piped in just after baking worked the best, but I haven’t found them outside of Florida.  Tired of hoarding the tiny jars I’d bring back from Miami, I found a recipe for an easy filling made of guava paste, orange and rum.  A Cuban solution for a Cuban cupcake. Read more

Punk Piscoratti

I love finding articles that take you to improbable places.  In A Peruvian Cocktail in The Washington Post, John Briley introduces the Peruvian Woody Allen before crossing paths with the Godfather on his way to La Reyna Bodega in Catapalla, a small town south of Lima, to meet piscoratti Godofredo Gonzales: Read more

Autumn Stewing

Buried in a cookbook from the 1960s, I first read about the Argentinian carbonada earlier this summer.  Made to celebrate Argentinian Independence Day on July 9, during their winter season, stew weather seemed a long way off then.  A mixture of beef, corn, peaches and pears, it seemed perfect for early fall, when the heartier fruits and vegetables come in just as the sweeter fruits of summer are fading out.  Wishing I’d taken pictures of the market’s golds, purples, and reds, I felt like bit of a witch at her cauldron when they reappeared in the pot.  Traditionally, the carbonada is served in a large pumpkin-like gourd called a zapallo.  Hollowed out, baked, then filled with the stew, each serving includes a spoonful of pumpkin.  With no fairy godmother to turn my northeastern squash into an Andean zapallo, I turned the small acorn and colorful delicata squashes into soup bowls instead. Read more

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