August seemed to come out of nowhere then in a flash it was gone, taking summer with it. You’d think I would have learned last year. Still, there’s plenty of great things to read, try, and eat over the long weekend. The Miami Herald did a great story about Jorge Bravo’s Hispanic Kitchen, a site I’ve enjoyed being a part of that’s definitely worth checking out. Venezuelan chef Terry Hope Romero talks to the Daily News about making Latin American food animal and dairy free in Viva Vegan! A book I’ll have to buy just find out how she managed the tres leches cake. The heat may be giving way to fall but there’s still time for late summer gazpacho, chicken marinated in mojo, and smoked chocolate and tequila ice cream. Read more
Looking back at my summer posts, I noticed a lot of limes on the side or off in the corner – standing by to restore the balance to anything too heavy, too rich, or just too fried. With Labor Day coming up, it’s was only right to bring them front and center in a key lime pie. I thought it would be a departure from my Latin American desserts when I came across a few references to the Cuban pastel de limón. Made with juice from limones criollos – also known as key limes – and condensed milk, the custard is topped with meringue, and poured into a cookie crust made from galleticas Maria. Could the key lime pie be Cuban? According to Maria Josefa Lluria de O’Higgins, a version of the pie was brought to the Florida Keys in the late 1860’s with Cuban settlers during our war for independence. Other alleged sources include self-made Florida millionaires, their cooks and local fisherman. While I can’t pretend to be impartial, I will say this – creole limes, condensed milk, meringue – it certainly sound like us. Read more
I’ve gotten into the terrible habit of buying and not using pizza dough. Every time, I tell myself it’ll be different but end up tossing away a once perfectly good round of dough a few weeks later. Instead of making my own, I head over to South Brooklyn Pizza where they know more about what you want than you do, Grimaldi’s when family is in town and there’s time for the line, Layla Jones for a fast slice, or Sam’s Restaurant for the mildly terrifying son of Sam jokes the waiter drops with your pizza. With so many great options just a few minutes in any direction, the fun of spinning and topping my own gets left for another day. The pizza stone that lives in my oven is looking angrier and spottier than usual. Read more
It’s hard to know what to get someone for their wedding, so I was thrilled when my friend Achy invited me to guest blog on her site, CityLife: Adventures, Large and Small, In Urban Living, while she enjoyed her honeymoon offline. A journalist and writer based in Chicago, I took advantage of the city crawler theme to finally visit Red Hook’s Mercado. Click here for the complete post. Read more
My sister Carmen has been asking me to make bistec empanizado for this blog for awhile. When I wrote about masitas de puerco, my favorite thing to order from Cuban menus, it seemed only fair to write about hers. Mine came with black beans and hers didn’t, so I’d always pass her my frijoles negros. This week we made a different deal – I’d finally make the bistec empanizado if she’d write the post. Here it is and I’m sure you’ll agree it was well worth the beans.
When I was little, the center of the universe seemed to exist at Casablanca. A bustling Cuban café on 8th street in the then sleepy little town of Miami. When my grandfather took me for lunch, I loved sitting at the counter where the vinyl covered, revolving stools gave me a 360 degree view of the action. When my parents took me at night, the same café was usually empty which gave my sister and I the odd run of the place. We’d feed quarters into the jukebox and play Donna Summer songs as my father talked about what life would have been like/could be like for us in Cuba. I don’t know exactly why I chose Donna Summer. I wasn’t crazy about disco (I didn’t want to dress like a that when I grew up) but there was something about her voice that kept me coming back. It was lonely and defiant. It spoke of another world I couldn’t possibly understand at that age. The boldness of it drew me in and it was endless. Very much like the breaded steak on my plate that I always ordered for dinner. Read more
I don’t usually let myself buy flowers. Frivolous in a million other ways, I become oddly practical when it comes to that. I’ll consider the enormous sunflowers bursting out of their buckets but head straight to the potted basil, lavender, and rosemary plants instead, preferring the kind of pretty you can eat. That’s why I get so excited when squash blossoms arrive at the markets. Since July, I’ve had them stuffed, fried, chopped and sauteed with tomatoes. Now that the summer is melting away and every day feels like Sunday night, each bag of blossoms has become that much more precious – shriveled and golden, bugs and all. Read more
I realized today that it was August, not that it was much of a secret. I had a hint of it last week when I went to the farmer’s market to stock up on fruit and there were no peaches anywhere. I’m sure there will be plenty in the weeks to come, but it was the first sign that end of summer was in sight. Summer Streets, the three days in August where the city closes Park Avenue to cars and opens it to just about everything else has become my end of summer consolation. Read more