It’s always strange to me when I see flan listed as special on a dessert menu. Far from specialized in Cuban restaurants, it’s not rare to find an all-flan menu – de leche, de queso, de calabaza, de mamey and of course – de coco. Yet somehow I never get tired of it. If it hadn’t been brought to the New World via Spain, Cubans would have had to invent it. Most Latin American countries have their own version of this dessert and, while I can’t pretend to be neutral, in the case of flan I think it has to go to Cuba. For me it’s about the caramel. Made directly in the mold, the sugar cooked long enough to go dark amber without becoming bitter (though personally I like it a little bitter). I love the ritual of holding it just over the flame and watching it go clear then dark. It can get away from you easily but it’s always fun to see how far you can take it. Read more
Posts from the ‘Desserts’ Category
I had planned on a new post but plans were hard to hold onto this weekend – temperatures soared, ovens broke, and friends got married. So in lieu of a new post, I decided to let life be life and repost one of my favorites from last summer.
But Is It Cuban?
Looking back at my summer posts, I noticed a lot of limes on the side or off in the corner – standing by to restore the balance to anything too heavy, too rich, or just too fried. With Labor Day coming up, it’s was only right to bring them front and center in a key lime pie. I thought it would be a departure from my Latin American desserts when I came across a few references to the Cuban pastel de limón. Made with juice from limones criollos – also known as key limes – and condensed milk, the custard is topped with meringue, and poured into a cookie crust made from galleticas Maria. Could the key lime pie be Cuban? According to Maria Josefa Lluria de O’Higgins, a version of the pie was brought to the Florida Keys in the late 1860′s with Cuban settlers during our war for independence. Other alleged sources include self-made Florida millionaires, their cooks and local fisherman. While I can’t pretend to be impartial, I will say this – creole limes, condensed milk, meringue – it certainly sound like us. Read more
I’ve never liked canned fruit and didn’t understand why my grandparents served it with so much ceremony. They loved they’re fruit cocktail but it was never a good dessert day for us. It wasn’t until years later that I realized canned fruit was something of a delicacy where the punishing tropical climate could make fresh fruit hard to hold on to, passing from ripe to way too ripe before your eyes. Away from the central A/C of Florida, I appreciate that now – especially with surface-of-the-sun conditions in my own kitchen during the summer now. Read more
Some days, Chinatown could pass for Miami’s Little Havana. I have better luck finding tropical produce there than some of the smaller bodegas or upscale markets where a few tiny specimens are overpriced and undersold. A couple of weeks ago, I took the long way home, working my way through the East Village going along the Bowery to Canal St. where the fruit carts are piled high with pitayas, sapotes, and fresh guavas. Coming across a stack of carambola, I heard music. Read more
While I may take it back in November, Easter is my favorite eating holiday. With no menu set in stone, the variety of colors and texture from the markets jump on the plate and like landing in Oz, someone, somewhere turns on the technicolor. While spring officially started weeks ago, the end of lent and celebration of Easter marks the time we’re officially allowed to enjoy it – unless that’s just my guilt talking. Read more
I was pretty immune to the award season fever that just passed, rooting for my favorites from the safe distance of the next day’s photo galleries and winner wrap ups on the Huffington Post. I did watch the Oscar’s though (I may be disaffected but I’m not made of wood). I know I’m probably alone in missing the endless montages in this year’s ceremonies but it was this one of great food movies posted by the Amateur Gourmet awhile back that had me thinking of Like Water for Chocolate. Read more
I was very excited to see my post up on the Cooking Channel‘s Devour the Blog yesterday. I’ll be contributing regularly over the next few months and hope you will make the jump with me. It was my first visit, so I gave a lot of thought about what to bring before deciding on a pastelón de platano maduro. It had been awhile since I’d made one and I was dying to update one of my favorites, especially since I’d discovered recao and ajicitos tucked in between the parsley and peppers at the grocery store. Once it was baked, photographed and eaten, my mind went to the plantain recipes I hadn’t tried. I’d made tostones on the fly, mariquitas when I was feeling restless, and tortilla de platanos maduros just because. With a bowl full of plantains that were just past ripe, it was time for dessert. Read more
I’m susceptible to most holidays but if there was a Valentine’s Day Scrooge, I’d completely support his life choices. Moreover, if the Grinch stole hearts instead of toys, I could really get behind him. Forced gaiety I can handle but forced hearts and flowers can be pretty tough to take (plus you might get caught). Maybe it’s that my own birthday falls a week before (a personal new year’s eve with the requisite highs and lows) or the wear down of a freezing winter, but I felt little need to acknowledge the day and was resisting all cheerful attempts to make a plan, make a reservation, make something happen. Read more
I’m not devoutly superstitious so I have no problem picking and choosing which New Year’s traditions to follow. While 12 grapes at midnight are non-negotiable anywhere Spanish is spoken, for the rest of Latin America it’s pretty much an open field. I’ve written wishes for the coming months (Venezuela) then throw them in the fire so no one could steal them. Unfortunately, I forgot what I’d written before the paper had turned to ash, leaving me with unstarted resolutions. If I lived in Honduras, I’d make an “Año Viejo” doll stuffed with fireworks to set off at midnight if I didn’t find effigies and fireworks equally frightening. I’ve never thrown a bucket of water out of my window to rid myself of evil spirits (Puerto Rico), but a water pipe bursting a few years ago started off one of my favorite New Year’s nights and great year. A Peruvian friend suggested I wander around the block with a suitcase if I wanted to travel in 2011, but I’ve had enough of packing bags and getting nowhere in the last few days. Fortunately, everyone seems to be in agreement on an underwear color scheme for the occassion (red=love, green=money, yellow=luck, white=health). I don’t know if it works, but at the very least it forces you to get your priorities straight before midnight. Read more
This weekend marks Hungry Sofia’s second birthday. In that first post, I talked about wanting to eat my Christmas tree (still do) and mentioned a bûche de noël but included no recipes or pictures. Two years later and closing in 300 posts, I thought it was time for the bûche to have its closeup. With friends coming over once again before going there separate ways for the holidays, I had the perfect excuse to make my site a birthday cake. Read more