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Archive for April, 2010

Spring Break and Catching Up in April

With the days a blur of pollen and rain showers and my 200th post coming up, I thought it would be a good time to take a break, update my site and catch-up on my reading.  ABC New recently posted a list of recent cookbooks on Latin cuisine and I can’t decide if I want to start with Nirmala’s Edible Diary by Nirmala Narine, Jose Pizarro’s Seasonal Spanish Food – a finalist for this year’s Julia Child IACP award for a first book, or Daisy Martinez’s latest – Daisy: Morning, Noon and Night (click here for her interview with A Chica Bakes).   I’ll probably go with The Brazilian Kitchen by Leticia Moreinos Schwartz because it’s because it’s been leading my wish list since I tried her recipe for coconut brigadeiros last month.  There have also been some interesting one ingredient articles.  Now that the weather is fit for wandering, I plan on seeking out new markets and sources to include here.  Apart from last week’s look at cilantro, which always elicits strong opinions, John Willoughby’s Pimentón: It’s Spanish for ‘Better Than Paprika’ had me triple checking the denominations of my paprika, and I’m still not sure what the Indian spice asafetida does but can’t wait to find out.    That’s my spring break plan – cooking, reading, and shopping.  I’ll be back next week, still hungry and with a lot to talk about, unless I decide to ditch it all for sunbathing, flirting with Ivy Leaguers, and bebop.  Stay tuned.

A Lucky Girl

I don’t typically think of myself as a privileged.  The word brings to mind a rarefied world that’s set apart, and I’m always bustling.  But, even I knew that I was lucky to have known Graciela Perez-Grillo.  A well-known Cuban singer then in her 80s, my sister and I were introduced to her through a mutual friend when we first arrived in New York.  She became our family away from family, and you never knew what you’d find when you stopped by her Upper West Side apartment.  If there was something on the stove, she set you to work and it was there I learned to wrap tamales, watch baseball, and yes love pudín de pan.  Despite her age, her voice never faltered and she continued to perform and record into her nineties.  Having spent her life surrounded by extraordinary musicians, Beny, Billie, Tito, Cachao, Sarah, Dizzy were just colleagues who’s music was always playing.  Read more

Lesson Learned

I never thought of myself as spoiled but since starting this blog, I am constantly coming across ingredients and recipes that I disliked as a child for no good reason.  Pudín de pan is another example.  It’s only crime against me was not being natilla, panetela or another of my grandparent’s desserts that I loved.  I’d come to their house for lunch, excited to see the flan tin brimming with the tell-tale amber glaze, only to be disappointed when a caramel drenched bread pudding filled with dried fruits and nuts would arrive at the table.  The adults were thrilled but the kids were underwhelmed.  Where was the flan?  Did that pruny pudding thing eat it? Read more

Curious About Cilantro

I’ve never had a problem with cilantro but I’m always surprised by how many do.  Harold McGee’s Cilantro Haters, It’s Not Your Fault, from this week’s New York Times Dining & Wine section, seems to have hit a Facebook nerve because I’ve seen it re-posted and commented on all week.  Personally, I actually like the soapy taste that some complain about and enjoy it both on my plate and in my shampoo.

Asopao de Pollo

A few weeks ago, a friend gave me a list of Puerto Rican classics to try that included asopao de pollo.  As she described it, it’s a Puerto Rican risotto that’s not quite soup and not quite stew.  My soups often go to gumbo by mistake so I was curious to know what would happen if I made it that way by design.  At Jennifer’s suggestion, I checked my Puerto Rican Cookery book first.  I realized after additional searches that there were thousands of recipes for asopao, a one-pot, comfort food solution for family dinners and leftovers.  After reading them over, I finally circled back to Carmen Aboy Valldejuli. Read more

Rites of Spring

In the two years since it opened, the Brooklyn Flea has gone from a neighborhood novelty to something that I look forward to each year.  I knew it would be crowded but made a plan to meet a friend there when it re-opened its outdoor location in Fort Greene’s Bishop Laughlin Memorial High School this weekend.  Slowly working our way through the aisles, I always go with the same hope, that the stands will be full of new (to market) retro kitchen gadgets and that the Red Hook Vendors will be  there selling pupusas, tamales, grilled corn sprinkled with chile, and agua fresca. Read more

Manjarblanco de Chirimoya

I’ve had one recurring thought since I tasted my first chirimoya a few months ago – there are parts of this world where flan grows on trees.  Flan on trees.  I’ve been pining for chirimoyas, also known as custard apples, ever since.  In response to my previous post where I used them to fill pavlovas, my aunt described an alternative recipe that’s popular in Peru.  The chirimoyas are folded into manjarblanco  that’s been lightened with whipped cream and chilled, like dulce de leche pots de crème.  I went back for more to but it’s been weeks since I’ve seen them.  Then suddenly, there they were, looking proud but out of place at the Park Slope Food Coop.  I scooped up a pretty heart shaped one and let it ripen on my counter like an avocado.  After the whirl of Easter weekend had passed, I finally got down to using them.  It was as simple as it seemed and the fresh fruit provided the right balance to the manjarblanco.  I don’t know when I’m going to find them again but I’ll always look.  From the moment the last scoop was served, I started to miss them.

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A Panimanian Afternoon

I was talking with someone about cooking the other day, and we both agreed that we did not like having people in the kitchen with us when we cooked.  I realized as I was nodding sympathetically that I had made a plan with my friend Valerie to do exactly that the very next day.  Rather than grab a coffee somewhere, I thought it would be fun if we got together and made something that I could write about here.  I hadn’t included any Panamanian recipes until now so Val was supposed to consult her aunts for suggestions, and I was going to get everything ready so that when she got here we could whip something up quickly.  We decided to make carimañolas, mashed yuca formed into a roll then stuffed with picadillo and deep fried, a popular breakfast and afternoon snack in Panama similar to the croquetas de yuca that I have when I’m home.  An easy afternoon of catching-up, photographing my food, and turning Panamanian street food into an appetizers-for-lunch meal. Read more

Effortless Easter

I had wanted to post an Easter dessert recipe but my over ambitious project for a torticas de mil hojas had to be done over, scaled down, and is now just barely finished (and just barely holding together).  I didn’t want to let the day go by without wishing everyone a Happy Easter and including a clip from one of my favorite movies.  Fred Astaire made everything looks as easy as taking candy from a baby, or in this case, a bunny from a boy.

What’s Left?

I’ve always hated the word leftovers (though it’s invisible to anyone reading this, I’ve written that first sentence three times to avoid using that word to no avail).  I love the feeling of having bought, made and served just enough.  Though I dutifully store away the smallest amount that remains of any dish or ingredient, I resent it.  As someone who often cooks at home with an ongoing game of tupperware jenga going on in her refrigerator, it was time to reconsider how I used the (ugh) leftovers that were piling up.  My attitude started to change last week when I was making papas en salsa verde.  The recipe suggested serving them with refried beans.  With bags of frozen beans periodically jumping at me from the freezer, crashing to the floor, and threatening to knock out one of my yorkies, I decided to defrost some of the black beans I’d already made rather than start from scratch (too late) or open a can (too bland).  Having congratulated myself on completing a second recipe from my initial batch of beans, I decided to use the remaining salsa verde to try a third one for pipián verde, a tomatillo sauce combined with toasted pumpkin seeds.  Perfect for the last Friday before Easter, I decide to make it again tonight to end the Lenten season.  I still don’t like leftovers but I’m starting to like the idea of one dish becoming another and then another and then another… Read more

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