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Posts from the ‘Basic Techniques’ Category

Mast Brothers Mole

IMG_0369The recent signs of spring are so small that, if I wasn’t desperate, I might not have noticed them at all. A little more light, a little later in the day, and I’m a completely different person. Once a layer comes off, I find it impossible to put it back on.  Even with the frequent temperature drops, I stubbornly leave my gloves at home and my puffy coat is not coming out again until next year.  All of which leaves me cold but determined.  I’m also taking advantage of the break in the weather to enjoy my neighborhood in a way that I haven’t for a very, very long time. I reference Brooklyn in my posts often but the changes in the last few years can sometimes feel like a cautionary tale about getting everything you wish for.

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Arroz Blanco

Brought to the table in perfectly rounded mounds with an order of black beans, served in heavy chafing dishes on buffet tables, or ladled out of giant cookers from the kitchen counter, white rice hides in plain sight.  Though a staple throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, white rice specifically anchors every Cuban meal.  Its primacy partly due to large waves of Chinese immigration,  I can’t imagine a better blank slate for beans, shredded beef stews, picadillos and plantains.  I probably end almost every post with the words “serve over fluffy white rice” but had yet to include a recipe.  When my sister texted me to find out how to make it.  Rushed and reluctant to text back, I wondered why she didn’t just look it up here, then I checked and realized it wasn’t on my site.  Oops. Read more

Humitas Ecuatorianas


I’m a little late in posting this recipe for humitas.  Though I read about them weeks ago and made my first batch a couple of days ago, a lot of have-tos (and a few want-tos) have gotten in the the way.  Initially, I didn’t recognize them as the tamales I’d grown up with.  They were of course and they weren’t.  Depending on whether you’re in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Venezuela or the Caribbean, they’re known as humitas, humintas, tamales, tamalli, tamalitos verdes, chapanas, bollos, choclotanda, chumales, cachapas, chapanas, chiguiles, envueltos de mazorca, ayacas, hallacas, juanes, pamonhas.  The filling can be sweet or savory, made with fresh or dried corn, plantains or potatoes, wrapped corn husks, banana leaves or parchment paper,  steamed or baked, served as a snack, side dish, casserole or heavy stew. Read more

Panqueques Celestinos

It’s hard not to be drawn to a recipe by a beautiful photograph.  Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home, Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid’s Mangoes & Curry Leaves: Culinary Travels Through the Great Subcontinent, and Francis Mallman’s Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way have all escaped from my kitchen shelves to my coffee table (where both the books and I feel they belong).  Not surprisingly, Santiago Soto Monllor won this year’s James Beard award for Best Photography for Seven Fires. Read more

Chilaquiles

I’ve wanted to make chilaquiles for awhile but was a little overwhelmed by the choices.  I love the precision of cooking and there was no set way to go about making these. The tortillas can be fried or baked, topped with chicken, chorizo or eggs, sprinkled queso fresco or Cotija, sauteed or covered on Oaxacan cheese then baked, the sauces can be red or green or mole, the peppers fresh or dried.  Elbow deep in books and online recipes, I saw a an opportunity to throw in some staples that I overbuy but under use testing the tips and side notes that the cookbook obsessed pick up and file away.  They can be a breakfast or brunch dish, a perfect way to use leftover tortillas, and a sometimes cure for hangovers.  A generous dish.  With no set path, there was no way to fail. 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

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

Frida’s Fiestas

A few months ago a friend recommended Frida’s Fiestas: Recipes and Reminiscences of Life with Frida Kahlo.  Written by her step-daughter Guadalupe Rivera and Marie-Pierre Colle, it’s part cookbook and part food memoir.  Organized by month, each chapter centers on the holidays and seasons as they were celebrated in the Blue House in Coyoacán.  Describing a trip with Frida to the pyramids of San Juan Teotihuacán, the author writes:

After offering us the traditional refreshment of agua de chía, doña Rosa invited us to eat.  She had prepared a number of Lenten dishes typically served throughout the central Mexican plain, where the gods that Frida invoked in her paintings had once upon a time resided.  As it turned out, doña Rosa and don Tomas extended their hospitality to us for three more days, days in which reality was inseparable from magic. Read more

Tostones on the Fly

Until recently, I rarely fried anything at home.  I hated the smell, the splatter, the guilt.  When I started writing about Latin American food, I knew I couldn’t avoid it much longer and finally bought a deep fryer.  While it produces perfect batches of churros, empanadas and buñuelos, it’s the SUV of fryers requiring such a massive amount of oil that I keep it parked most of the time.  It wasn’t practical for smaller, any-night batches of plantains.  Maduros I can handle.  Overly ripe, they caramelize Read more

The Imperfect Present

A little beginner’s luck is a dangerous thing.  I made truffles for the first and only time a couple of years ago for a dinner party.  They came out well and everyone raved.  I was outwardly modest but secretly thrilled.  Hoping I’d discovered a secret talent for handling chocolate, I could see the Brooklyn storefront in my future -warm chocolate shop, pretty apron, tiny smudge on my cheek.  Though I hadn’t made them since then, a mixed bag of failures and moderate successes have shown me just how difficult it is to work with chocolate.  It has a temper and when it turns on you, it is not cute. Read more

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