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Posts from the ‘Basic Techniques’ Category

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

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

Pan de Medianoche

Recently, when I was asking friends and family how they felt about the sandwich Cubano, I was surprised at how many said they preferred medianoches.  Similar to the Cubano but smaller and sweeter, the medianoche or “midnight” sandwich was sold in Havana nightclubs to tired dancers at late night cafes.  Also tired from my last miss at making a pan de agua loaf, I decided to medianoche bread instead.  If you live in South Florida, making Cuban bread at home makes as much sense as churning your own butter.  It’s as easy to find there as it’s impossible everywhere else, so I was excited to see this recipe for the challah-like bread on the Three Guys From Miami site.  I spent all day fussing over the rolls like a nervous mother – will the yeast bubble, do I knead more, will they rise? Read more

Milking a Coconut

I was looking at different dessert recipes when my cousin sent me one for a Venezuelan bienmesabe, a coconut custard cake that required me to crack one open and extract the milk.  Picturing hammers and machetes and emergency room visits, I thought she was crazy if she thought I was going milk my own coconut.  My next thought was where in New York to find them.  In Miami this would not be a problem.  Though Miami Beach has become unrecognizable in many ways, you still see men pushing grocery carts of fresh green coconuts along red hot sidewalks.  With one balletic move, they’ll swing a giant machete to cut a tiny hole just big enough for a slender straw for a coco frio.  Fresh or dry, I knew my best chance was Essex Market in the Lower East Side.  I found them straightaway at Batista Grocery.  The clerk helped me pick out a few by shaking them to make sure they had water inside and offered to crack them open for me to be sure that the meat inside was still fresh.  For a moment, I was tempted.  It would be so much easier, but I was decided and it seemed a shame not to go through with it.  After all, it was a  pretty common kitchen technique before we were all hooked on cans.  So here are some pictures along with a few things I learned by milking my own coconut… Read more

A Brazilian Afternoon

Most weekends, when I’ve been to the  farmer’s markets, had my brunch, and caught a matinee, I find myself at Rapisarda, the Cobble Hill store owned by Brazilian designer Claudia Rapisarda.  I’m not alone.  There’s always someone half-shopping, half-visiting Claudia.  The store itself is hard to describe.  A unique collection of pieces that she both designs and brings from Brazil, it vibrates with color.

IMG_2910It was during one of my visits that she tried to explain how to make farofa, a dish I had been reading about and wanted to try.  Claudia can’t not help someone, so she agreed to come to my apartment and show me herself.  In addition to the farofa, the menu grew to include:  feijoada, a black bean stew with pork (using kielbasa as a substitute for Portuguese linguiça); couve, collard greens sauteed in olive oil and garlic; fluffy white rice cooked with more garlic; sliced oranges; and, of course caipirinhas. Read more

In a Manhattan Kitchen, Part 2

As promised, I’m posting the results of our market run through Chinatown.  When it was all laid out, I have to admit I was intimidated.  I knew absolutely nothing about Filipino foods. A combination of Spanish, Mexican, Malaysian, Chinese and Indian, I had never seen many of the ingredients before and their names wouldn’t stop moving long enough to be written down so I’ve included a lot of pictures.  With Benjie’s help, Annette explained the origins of what we would be making.  Then it all started going at once…

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