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
Posts from the ‘Queens’ Category
I collect links and articles for my monthly catching up posts every day so it’s not until I sit down to go through them all that a theme emerges. The New York Times City Room covered the struggles of two neighborhood restaurants. Due in part to the efforts of community leaders and a last minute fundraiser, Coqui Mexicano was able to temporarily stave off eviction from their South Bronx location but Manhattanville’s La Floridita, one of the last Cuban restaurants left in the area, was forced to close for repairs and faces an uncertain future. The Village Voice interview with Fernando Ruiz of the Tortilleria Nixtamal, which is doing well, was about mistakes, misconceptions, and underappreciated ingredients — a more interesting read but still. Even news that Rick Bayless would be preparing the state dinner President Felipe Calderón of Mexico stirred up some controversy both before and after. On a brighter note, Carolina González wrote for the Daily News about the prominence of women chefs and restaurateurs like Zarela Martínez and Sue Torres in high-end Mexican cuisine. I thought May would farmer’s markets and spring blossoms but there were some shadows too.
After years of winding my way through the streets of lower Manhattan, I think I’ve finally figured out Chinatown. A little overwhelming and often confusing, you always know you’re in New York. A few blocks in any direction and you’re in Little Italy, Tribeca or the Lower East Side. I’d always been curious about the “other” Chinatown – the one they keep in Flushing, where Jennifer 8 Lee said the “real” Chinese restaurants were. I had no good reason for not making it out there until now so when my teacher, Steven Shaw planned an excursion for his current food blogging class, I had to sign up. After all, he’d written the book. This weekend we met up at the French Culinary Institute on a gray day to make our way through cast iron Soho to Spring street where a 6 would get us to the 7 to Flushing. When we came up from the station, it was clear we were not in Manhattan anymore.
A few weeks ago, I went on a search for fresh masa through the Mexican owned grocery stores in Sunset Park. I was surprised that despite the growing Mexican population in New York, it wasn’t sold anywhere. Settling instead for masa de harina, the dried corn flour that can be reconstituted to make fresh tortillas at home, I actually thought of taking a closer look at corn grinders instead. If I couldn’t find fresh masa, how hard could it be to have my own corn nixtamalization set up at home? Was it a slippery slope? If I ground my own corn would end up churning my own butter? When I read this article in today’s New York Times about Tortillería Nixtamal which now offers fresh masa, I knew I had been rescued from a bad and expensive idea (for now).
Finding Latin American staples in New York is harder than you’d think. A little spoiled, I expect everything to eventually make it’s way here though the trick is finding where its landed. Divided by a common language, a dominican grocer will give you a noncommittal shrug when asked whether the mountain of batatas he’s standing in front is not actually the cuban boniatos that you’re looking for. Although I’m fluent in Spanish, I have a second-generation-american’s insecurity when faced with a native speaker and assume the miscommunication is on my end. That’s how I ended up lost in Jackson Heights buying a colombian arepa griddle which is actually a mexican comal for making tortillas, or maybe it’s both?