I’ve always hated the word leftovers (though it’s invisible to anyone reading this, I’ve written that first sentence three times to avoid using that word to no avail). I love the feeling of having bought, made and served just enough. Though I dutifully store away the smallest amount that remains of any dish or ingredient, I resent it. As someone who often cooks at home with an ongoing game of tupperware jenga going on in her refrigerator, it was time to reconsider how I used the (ugh) leftovers that were piling up. My attitude started to change last week when I was making papas en salsa verde. The recipe suggested serving them with refried beans. With bags of frozen beans periodically jumping at me from the freezer, crashing to the floor, and threatening to knock out one of my yorkies, I decided to defrost some of the black beans I’d already made rather than start from scratch (too late) or open a can (too bland). Having congratulated myself on completing a second recipe from my initial batch of beans, I decided to use the remaining salsa verde to try a third one for pipián verde, a tomatillo sauce combined with toasted pumpkin seeds. Perfect for the last Friday before Easter, I decide to make it again tonight to end the Lenten season. I still don’t like leftovers but I’m starting to like the idea of one dish becoming another and then another and then another… Read more
Like most people, I’ve been overwhelmed by the perfect storm of holidays we’ve had this weekend. Being stared down by Cupid, I could barely make out the Metal Tiger and Abe Lincoln standing behind him. Throw my birthday into the mix and I barely have enough time to get my guilt in order before Ash Wednesday. Nevertheless, I wanted to commemorate the Chinese New Year in some small way. When I first came to New York for school, Chinese-Cuban restaurants were my link to authentic Cuban food. Chinese staff speaking hyper-speed Caribbean Spanish serving roast pork with bean curd or fried rice with maduros over Cuban map placemats. I realized this winter that the reverse was also true. When I was considering buying some heavy tropical fruit to bring back with me from Miami, I realized I’d be better off looking for the same items closer to home in Chinatown. Read more
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
I may have waited until the very last weekend of the summer to have my first lobster roll, but now that I had, I wasn’t letting it scuttle away just yet. I decided to try a recipe from the 1930s for Lobster Havanaise, a cross between a Thermidor and Newburg but with rum instead of brandy. The rum is added off heat just before serving so the flavor is very pronounced. I started at Fish Tales in Brooklyn since they’re always helpful and let me take complimentary limes, even on a 1/4 pound of salmon. I almost left empty handed when I realized I would need at least two Maine lobsters to make up for the 2 pounder called for in the recipe. They pointed me instead to the Brazilian rock lobsters right for Caribbean cooking. With no claws, rock lobsters carry all their meat in the tail (no kidding, and I thought the only Cuban element was the rum). Though they’re not as sweet as the Maine variety, they’re in season from the end of the summer through winter, so they’re is plenty of time to play with. Read more
I love camarones enchilados or creole-style shrimp. Growing up, it was the perfect every day dish thrown together at the last minute. On a good day, we had it with fluffy white race and maduros. On a rushed day, frozen shrimp and Cuban crackers. It was one of the first things I’d tried to make on my own, but there was always something missing. I looked at a few different versions pulling different elements from each. What really made the difference though was Alex Garcia’s recommendation from In a Cuban Kitchen to add the shrimp at the very end, allowing the flavors in the sauce to develop without over cooking the shrimp. Spicy but sweet and well worth the time.