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Elena Ruz

The Elena Ruz sandwich always seemed a little out of place on the menu.  A combination of roasted turkey, cream cheese and strawberry preserves, it floats alongside the heavier ham, lechon asado and cheese melds of Cuban lunch menus – lighter and prettier with a first and last name.  Named for Elena Ruz, a Havana socialite who had the unusual combination made to order for her at El Carmelo.  Then a fashionable cafe in the 1930s, it landed on the menu becoming a popular item.  According to later interviews, her parents were scandalized to see a sign for “Sandwich Elena Ruz 25 centavos” on display, though as she pointed out the other sandwiches only went for 10 cents at the time. Read more


Anticipation, Apples, Almódovar

I’ve always loved the day before Thanksgiving.  Even as my crepe paper pilgrim hat was melting in Miami’s November heat (started out as a Pilgrim lady ended up as the Wicked Witch) in school or a last minute deadline turned my half day into overtime as an adult, I could buzz along on anticipation alone, excited for the days ahead.  For a few years I’ve had my own pre-Thansgiving rituals – early day (a day off with a dash of reprieve), quick stop by the Union Square greenmarket for northern spy apples (they go top secret on me when I need them for pie), and an early afternoon movie, ideally the newest Pedro Almódovar which seems to arrive just in time.

Holiday Nesting

Its bothered me for awhile that I haven’t included more Puerto Rican recipes.  There are so many similarities with Cuban food, that I dip towards the more familiar Cuban side when in doubt, like a bird flying with one wing.  Recently, I found a copy of Carmen Aboy Valldejuli’s classic, Puerto Rican Cookery, which I hope will restore the balance.  There are many reasons to love this book.  To name a few, words like carefully and thoroughly are in bold making the recipes more emotional while delicioso and sabroso are translated to”Caribbean” when no other word will do; Rafael Tufiño contributed illustrations; and there’s a sweet black and white picture of her husband, Luis Valldjuli serving her a rum drink from the chapter he contributed on the back cover. Read more

Snow Days

Though it’s typically full, it’s rare to see a line outside of Versailles restaurant in Miami.  It’s only on the rare cold night that it actually reaches capacity, especially when there’s a run on churros.  Any day that dips below 65 becomes an impromptu holiday in a summer town, a Miami snow day of sprinkled sugar and fried dough.  The lines form and the usual late night orders for medianoches and mariquitas become churros and hot chocolate.

I think it’s the special occasion quality I associate with churros that keeps me from buying them in New York (though I’d never pass them up in Madrid – I’m not crazy).  Yesterday, deciding I needed a little Christmas now, I brought out the churrera, that my mother who hates to cook but loves kitchen gadgets sent, and my Read more

Practical Packages

With the holidays coming fast and furious, I had the uncharacteristically practical thought that it was time to make empanadas, an easy way to use leftovers.  So sensible, but after a poor initial batch involving sirloin tips and too-buttery dough, I had to start from scratch.  I was looking for something in a chicken, baked not fried, and maybe a little sweet.  That’s when I found Anya Von Bremzen’s recipe for pastela moruna, Moorish chicken with dried fruits and Read more

Sunday Mornings

I thought I left behind my Saturday cartoon habit in elementary school but realized it’d just morphed into my early Sunday morning movie ritual.  I do try to sleep in like everyone else but it’s impossible to explain to my two yorkies why they should let me on this one day of the week (either they don’t want to learn or they can’t learn).  Not that I mind too much since it’s the only day I don’t feel obligated to check the weather, headlines or facebook first thing.  Cafe con leche  and TCM is like cake for breakfast.  It doesn’t even have to be particularly good, as long as it’s black and white and has that low crackle soundtrack of sizzling bacon.  Maybe I never got Dorothy opening the the sepia door to Oz, but its become my own way to test the waters for the week ahead.  A Thin Man movie, it’s going to be a good week.  Destry Rides Again, could be trouble.  Fred and Ginger, might be s’marvelous.

Soup Day

I’ve wanted to try this recipe for shrimp soup since the summer and decided it was the perfect cold, rainy day for it.  The sky even look liked soup.  Finding recipes in old cookbooks is always a mixed bag.  I wish they had a little more detail, but at the same time, they’re liberating.  I pay more attention to finding egg shaped potatoes and watching for what supposed to happen as opposed to the timer.  A good way to pass a dreary fall day. Read more