When my mother told me to grab a spoon I was confused. I looked around the kitchen and only saw her opening a can of something without a label. “Traeme una cuchara,” she insisted. I walked over to the drawer and brought her back two spoons. She quickly took them from my hand and scooped something brown and gooey out of the mystery can. ‘Try it!’ She said confidently and then she started enjoying her own spoonful. I carefully took a lick and proceeded to light up the only way a fat kid could. I couldn’t believe my mom had made something so delicious. “How did you make this?” I was 8 years old and amazed. “Carefully!”, she answered looking over at the pressure cooker. Read more
When talking about regional Latin American food, the subject of heat is polarizing, especially for those countries who don’t really use it. Viewed as a generality that paints us all with the same brush and overlooks an incredible diversity of ingredients and flavors, most people, myself included, are quick to point out that Cuban food is spicy but not hot – though that’s not entirely true either. While it’s kept out of many traditional recipes, peppers pop up in the food of eastern Cuba and a few drops of hot sauce always work their way into camarones enchilados. I may balk at adding chipotle mayo to my Cuban sandwiches, but a small red bottle of Tabasco sauce stands guard at most Miami lunch counters. Still, when I was asked to develop a few recipes for McIlhenny Company’s Tabasco, I was hesitant at first. Deep into an intense recipe testing period, I didn’t see a way of working it in until I made pulled chicken cooked down with guava barbecue sauce. Spiked with a good dose of heat, it stood up to the guava paste, cut through the sweetness, and sharpened the flavors. It’s was a good enough reason to draw outside the lines. Happy Fourth! Read more
Usually, I get so caught up during holidays that my celebratory posts don’t appear until around midnight. While it’s been hard to post while I’ve been away, I didn’t want to let the day go by without putting my roundabout father’s day post.
Of course, my father had every reason to expect a boy – they already had a girl after all. Though I rarely met him even halfway (tee-ball, soccer and tennis were disasters), I did prefer Star Wars to Barbie (there was a princess in it), wasn’t squeamish about what went in the frituras de sesos he love to make, and stayed awake during The Right Stuff – so I don’t think he minded too much. A foodie before the word, he gave me sugar cane to cut my teeth on, took me to the docks to buy fish as the boats came in, presented me with meltingly tender Italian prosciutto like it was a visiting dignitary, and charmed a fast melting cooler of Mexican guanabana ice cream through customs. Read more
Beginning next week, I’ll be taking a pretty extensive cookbook research break that will keep me away from this site well into June, so I didn’t want to miss the chance to post one more time. In what might be the most boring premise for a reality television show ever – leading up to any trip, I stop buying food and try to only use what I have on hand. That left me with a few links of chorizo bought for garbanzos, an extra 2 pounds of malanga that never became fritters, and a half bunch of parsley because – well there’s just always parsley.
A couple of springs ago, I went behind the Solber Pupusa stand at Ft. Geene’s Brooklyn Flea to learn how to palmear or shape their famous corn flour cakes. I loved the process of mixing up the dough with my hands, tucking in the filling until it looks like an overstuffed dumpling, then passing it back and forth until it was a smooth disc again. They were like the play-dough cakes I would have made as a kid except they turned into something you’d actually want to eat. The first one weren’t very pretty but they improved with practice. Read more
I just missed the last year’s Brooklyn’s Food Book Fair, so it was loooong wait for it to come around again. This makes it that much more exciting to not only attend but participate at FBF’s Food + Conflict panel with Joan Nathan of the New York Times on Saturday, May 5. I’ve tried to single out a few talks or demos to recommend, but there’s such an incredible diversity of opinion and approach that I don’t know where to start – except to say they all deserve a close read. It’s going to be a great weekend full of not to be missed events – mostly taking place at the Wythe Hotel or Williamsburg mother ship – and nearby venues. If you need extra motivation or are still trying to figure out what to see, here are a few discounts to help you make up your mind. Hope to see you there! Read more
The weather is defrosting, but I spent Sunday half inside my freezer where I found the nearly forgotten bag of moras. Also called Andean blackberries, moras are a little more tart, firmer, and brighter than the blackberries commonly found in the US. I’d picked them up in an amazing Latin American market in Jackson Heights. Well-stocked with incredible variety but hard to get to, I brought back as much as I could carry. A few months later, I’ve barely made a dent in the frozen guavas, jarred loroco, or guasca leaves I stockpiled. I was looking to change this and remembered a dessert my friend’s mother, Mari Ines, made when she was teaching me how to make ajiaco Bogotano. In the time it took her to finish the ajiaco, she simmered the berries in syrup and served them with queso fresco. After calling Mari Ines for the recipes and ratios, I quickly made it for friends that night. There are so many things I’m looking forward to this summer, but in these in between days, it felt good to take advantage of what I already had. Read more