Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘cooking’

If you have been following this blog, you already know we are “boat people”.  I grew up spending many weekends and vacations on my father’s boat. The freedom and liberty you feel while navigating the ocean is exhilarating as well as therapeutic. There is something about being in contact with nature, on the open water and a weird mix of vulnerability and control that is hard to describe.  If you haven’t had a boat ride up to now, I encourage you to do so and add it to your bucket list, because it is an experience you shouldn’t miss.

With my dad (I am with lifejacket) and my cousins Anibal, Priscilla and Gretchen. Circa 1978

My brothers Joaco and Manolo taking "boat showers". Circa 1992

"Fancy dinner" at Bitter End Marina 1994 with Lupe and Felo

Making guacamole with my brothers on the boat. 1994

As we were growing up, my brothers and I, enjoyed going to the boat a lot mostly because we like water sports and love the beach, but my parents liked it mostly because it was a chance to sequester us and have us all to themselves on the boat with nowhere to go for the whole weekend. Je, je!   Believe it or not, living in a small space with a group of people for many days in a remote bay or beach, help you acquire skills that will be useful in everyday life. You learn to share limited space with others, to be considerate and tolerant, to pick-up after yourself, about engineering and mechanics, improvising, assume roles, be responsible, respect authority (only one captain!), be safe, look after each other, encourage conversation, live in harmony with your surroundings, negotiate, meet new people, be self-sufficient, and help strangers in need.  All of these qualities are strengthened in “boat life”.

Canito, our mate, with my son 2002

2002

2004

2007

2007

Summer 2010

My parents summer 2010

Among the many great memories I have of that period in my childhood and adolescence, I remember we would get up very early while on the boat and, in order to let my parents sleep a bit more, Canito, our beloved mate for over 15 years, would always make these delicious Eggs on a Nest (Huevo al Nido) for breakfast.  Time passed, we grew up and started families of our own. Eventually, and not surprisingly, I married a “boat person” and I have my own “boat family “.  We still go on boat trips with my parents and my brothers, although now we each have our own. I proudly admit we also sequester our kids on boat trips for quality family time and feed them Eggs on a Nest for breakfast.  I guess some things never change…

Enjoy!

Eggs on a Nest (Huevo al Nido)

Ingredients

club sandwich bread (your choice of whole wheat or white)

butter (about 1/2 tsp for each serving)

egg

salt and pepper to taste

Procedure


1.  Cut out hole in center of bread with a 2 1/2 inch in diameter round cookie or biscuit cutter (for a fun twist, use a heart shaped cookie cutter on Valentine’s day). Save cut-out.

2.  Heat butter in non stick skillet over med-low heat.

3.  Meanwhile, crack egg and pour in a measuring cup or rameking. Set aside.

4.  Once butter is melted and evenly distributed on skillet place bread on skillet and let toast for about a minute.  Pour egg in the center and cover for just 2 minutes.  Flip with a spatula. Cover and let cook for a little under 2 more minutes).

5.  Meanwhile, toast cut-out bread in toaster oven or toaster.

6.  Once ready, season to taste and serve. Dip toasted cut out in middle of egg to eat. Then cut and eat remaining egg and toast as you wish.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

My grandmother Ita always says an “arroz guisado” (stewed rice) is as good as the “sofrito” you make.  In Puerto Rico, sofrito refers to a blend of oil, onions, garlic, aji dulce (sweet peppers), bay leaf, tomato sauce, “alcaparrado” (a blend of manzanilla olives and capers), cubanel and bell peppers, culantro (recao) and sometimes, ham, cilantro, oregano, annatto oil and cumin that is sauteed for a prolonged time to create a base for rice, legumes, soup or stews.  Sofrito has its origins in Mediterranean cuisine and is also popular in Greece, Portugal and Spain.  As a result of colonization and the discovery of the new world, many latin american countries have their own variation of sofrito for each specific region.

Arroz con Salchichas is a popular Puertorrican one pot meal that is inexpensive, simple and savory.  It is sometimes called “the hurricane season diet” because it is easy to prepare over a gas stove, feeds a crowd and its ingredients don’t need refrigeration. It is loved by young and old and is a staple dish in traditional Puertorrican families, comfort food for many and an “antojito” (craving) for expatriates.

Enjoy!

Arroz con Salchichas

Ingredients

2 tbsp canola oil (annatto oil can also be used for a deeper red color)

1/4 cup cubanel (pimiento de cocinar) or green pepper finely chopped

1/3 cup yellow onion finely chopped

1 fresh garlic clove minced

1 tbsp red bell pepper finely chopped

2 tsp fine sea salt

2 laurel leaves

1 “recaito ice cube” (about 1 1/2 tbsp store bought recaito)

2 cans vienna sausage coarsely sliced (save brine)

1/4 cup canned sweet corn

2 tbsp alcaparrado (mix of manzanilla spanish olives and capers)

1/2 cup tomato sauce

3 cups medium white rice

3 cups chicken stock

Procedure

1.  Heat oil (med-low) then add green cubanel pepper, onions, garlic and red pepper. Saute for about 3 minutes.

2.  Add rest of ingredients, except chicken broth and rice, and saute in med low for about 7-8 minutes.

3.  Add rice to sofrito and quickly saute to cover all rice with color.  Then add chicken stock and sausage brine and bring heat to medium.  Let cook uncovered until almost all liquid has evaporated and you see bubbles on top of rice.

4.  Bring heat to low.  Stir with a slotted spoon and continue to cook covered, until rice is done (about 10-12 more minutes).

Read Full Post »

A couple of weeks ago, my good friend Claudia told me she joined a delivery service for organic/local/ecological/artisanal foods.  She sent me the website information and I decided to give it a try. To my surprise, one of the partners of the company is Olga “Bebe” Casellas, a friend from adolescence whom I haven’t seen in a while.  We got in touch and I placed my first order. Like a small child in the wait list of a new toy, I showed up right on time (I was informed in an order-confirmation email, what was my date, place and pick up time, which conveniently is about 3 blocks away from my house!). This was really exciting, because in Puerto Rico organic/natural farmer markets are just starting to become a bit more popular. Local farmers that practice organic/natural/artisanal farming display and sell their goods at designated locations for a few hours a few times a month. Sometimes the time is inconvenient since it is only on weekends or coincides when we have other family or work commitments. In addition to such efforts, I feel little by little we are getting back to our roots by cooking with natural products with iniciatives and services like El Departamento de la Comida (The department of food) (click name to go to site), which acts as an on-line intermediary between small scale sustainable organic local farmers and food artisans and the people that want to get to consume their products in an easy, convenient and affordable way.  It is truly a vehicle to incorporate variety and creativity into our diet and into our lives.

During colonial times and the first half of the 19th century in Puerto Rico, it was the custom for people to go to each town’s “plaza de mercado” to buy fresh ingredients from local farmers, like many places in the world still do. As technology and progress took over our lives, the workday became longer and two income households began to flourish. Convenience, speed and practicality became the priority when it came to our food choices.  Supermarket chains substituted fresh markets to accommodate to the new generation’s wants and needs. Engineered and processed foods found their way into every household.  As a result, disease and obesity became rampant in the United States due to a high fat diet and lack of nutritional value in the foods we chose to eat most of the time. Lately, we have seen a constant shift towards wellness and a growing commitment to buying organic, natural and/or local looking to find a convergence between contributing with the environment and to obtain better quality foods. I must admit that puertorricans have been resilient to frugal life and consuming locally grown foods for a variety of reasons and I, like everyone else, struggle everyday with the choices I have available for me and my family and the time I have to get to them. It is a complex web of criteria, whether to choose local or organic, or to buy or not fruits and vegetables that are imported and not in season, what is the difference between natural and organic, what does artisanal means, etc, etc. Everything so confusing and overwhelming! Evidently,  I don’t always make the best choices!  In a nutshell, for me, the answer is to keep our food choices and cooking techniques as simple and natural as possible for everyday meals and to elaborate, include processed foods and/or a “tasty prohibitive treat” only in special occasions, as a complement to a meal or when there is no other choice. I realize it is sometimes more convenient for us to buy processed foods (between work, school, social and family activities), than to go through the “hassle” of finding good quality local ingredients and cooking them at home . Oh! How I wished we could find a way to meet somewhere in the middle of convenience and quality… until now!

Delicious artisanal local cheese made with raw cow's milk without antibiotics

As we grow more concerned about the quality of the food that we put into our bodies and on our family table, we become more demanding and more curious about by whom/where and how our  food is grown.  The connections from farm to table become part of our daily lives once we include in our lifestyle the elements of nutritional values and harmony with nature.  Local farming also builds a better sense of community by giving us a chance to cook fresh homemade meals to share with others.  From a family point of view, it brings together young and old by gathering around the kitchen to talk about the day and provide a fertile ground for little ones to ask questions, join in and help. Buying what is grown locally connects us with the earth and gives us an opportunity to be what I call “foodieventurous” and to try new recipes with the ingredients that are in season.  To my knowledge, it is a proven fact that consumers are willing to pay more for organic and good quality ingredients from a place they can point to on a map.  Knowing more about the product, its origins and who farmed it becomes a delightful story to tell your children or guests at the dinner table. This trend is not limited to the urban and the young, it covers a wide range of ages, professions and ethnicities.  From college students to Baby Boomers, everyone is becoming focused in a healthier, greener lifestyle and this group is growing by the minute. This culture includes not only the elements of recycling, excersise and meditation, but also nutrition. Home cooked dishes, (yes! even cakes, pommes frites and cookies made from scratch with fresh ingredients), are always a better alternative to take-out and fast food. Of course, they can be time consuming, but the results are definitely better!  (Note: Please, as I have mentioned before in other post, lets include the words moderation and balance in this equation, you can have the occasional Oreo cookie or favorite decadent splurge, but make it the exception and not the rule.) In addition, old fashioned recipes are becoming popular again and regional food is celebrated as you can see in many restaurants, food and lifestyle magazines.  This trend is here to stay and is not going anywhere!

As I picked up my assorted box of natural, organic and artisanal products from El Departamento de la Comida at my assigned pick-up station, I orchestrated this week’s menu in my head.  When I got home, I started to pull out from my box fresh focaccia bread, okra (guingambó, kimbombó), sweet potato, arugula, aji dulce, curry leaves, lemon grass, jicama, papaya, artisanal local cow’s milk cheese (absolutely delicious!) and eggplant which were included in this week’s harvest.  So exciting to create a dish with what is available as opposed to going to the supermarket to buy the ingredients for a recipe…a rare challenge and a gift for a foodie like me!  So this week, I will probably have arugula salad with homemade vinaigrette and papaya slices and cucumber with focaccia croutons, roasted okra, pasta with arugula and butter sauce, jicama oven fries, sauteed eggplant with mashed sweet potato, lemon grass tea (to relieve stress and sleep better)… yummy, recipes coming in the near future, I promise! I still have to figure out what to do with the curry leaves, maybe you can give me some ideas.  Definitely, for breakfast, I will make a papaya smoothie for the kids and some more warm focaccia bread.  I was also pleased to find in my box an information sheet which includes a detailed list of the week’s harvest and what is available in season, of the pick up locations, time and days (covers most of the island), cooking suggestions, general information about the products (fresh artisanal breads and cheeses as well as for the fruits, herbs and vegetables), and a friendly reminder to return your box to your pick up place in order to help the environment and waive a $5.00 charge.  I am looking forward to seeing what next week’s box has to offer to my dinner table and will continue to support what is good and local.  We are all connected in the circle of life, lets each of us do our part in promoting a better and healthier community.

DISCLAIMER: I AM NOT AN EXPERT IN AGRICULTURE, ORGANIC FOODS,  NUTRITION, MEDICINE, HISTORY OR ECONOMY. I HAVE NOT BEEN PAID TO WRITE THIS POST. THE CONTENT OF THIS POST IS JUST MY OPINION AND IDEAS THAT ARE IN MY HEAD, INFLUENCED BY WHAT I HAVE READ ABOUT THE SUBJECT IN THE PAST. I AM IN NO WAY OPPOSED TO LARGE SUPERMARKET CHAINS OR TECHNOLOGY, ON THE CONTRARY,  I SUPPORT PROGRESS. I BELIEVE BALANCE IS THE KEY TO HAPPINESS AND WELL-BEING.  PLEASE ACCEPT MY APOLOGIES IF THERE ARE ANY HISTORICAL FACTS THAT MIGHT NOT BE COMPLETELY ACCURATE ( FEEL FREE TO SEND ME A MESSAGE WITH CORRECTIONS) AND I HOPE THAT YOU WILL BE TOLERANT TOWARDS EXPRESSIONS THAT YOU MIGHT NOT AGREE WITH AND CONTINUE TO VISIT ME.  THIS BLOG INCLUDES A BROAD SPECTRUM OF INFORMATION ABOUT FOOD AND COOKING AND I CONSIDERED THIS AND IMPORTANT TOPIC TO DISCUSS.  ALL THE INGREDIENTS I USE IN MY RECIPES ARE NOT ORGANIC/ARTISANAL/LOCAL OR NATURAL,  SOME ARE PROCESSED, IMPORTED OR CANNED FOODS.  HOWEVER, I TRY TO PROMOTE HOMEMADE MEALS WITH INGREDIENTS THAT ARE AS FRESH AS POSSIBLE. THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT AND UNDERSTANDING.

Read Full Post »

Barrigas de Vieja means “the belly of an old lady”, because they are flabby, soft and without a consistent shape. I know its a funny name, but these sweet pumpkin fritters are truly delicious. They are also called “tortitas de calabaza”.  I grew up having these fritters sometimes as a snack or appetizer before dinner.  My mother and grandmother are experts making them.  You can make the batter the day before and refrigerate until ready to use.  Most recipes call for the pumpkin to be boiled, but I prefer to steam it in order to keep most of its nutrients and to avoid the pumpkin pieces to absorb too much liquid.  I find this method yields a better consistency. Wether  you call this fruit (has seeds inside and is the fruit of a flower) pumpkin, squash, calabaza, zapallo or auyama, you will find it is very versatile and can be used for sweet or savory recipes.  Here is my version of Barrigas de Vieja (Sweet Pumpkin Fritters).

Enjoy!

Barrigas de Vieja (Pumpkin Fritters)

Ingredients

4 cups cubed pumpkin (approx. 1×2 inch pieces which end up being about 2 cups once cooked and mashed)

1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup brown sugar

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp fine sea salt

1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 egg (beaten)

about 1 cup of canola oil (to cover at least half of fritter)

Procedure


1.  Steam pumpkin until soft.  Puree with a potato masher or with fork. In a small bowl sift flour, cinnamon and salt, set aside.

2.  Add sugar and stir with a spoon. Add dry ingredients from bowl and vanilla. Continue to stir with spoon.

3.  At this point pumpkin mixture should no be too hot. Beat egg and add to mixture.  Stir until fully incorporated.

4.  Heat oil (med or med-hi depending on stove) in large frying pan.  Spoon pumpkin mixture (I use soup spoon) and turn once golden on each side (about 2 minutes each). Set aside in plate with paper towel to drain excess oil. Yields about 2 dozen units. Serve immediately as an appetizer or as a side dish.

Read Full Post »

As I have mentioned before, lasagnas are great alternatives for boat and fishing trips.  Last week, it was Club Nautico de San Juan‘s International Billfish Tournament, the longest consecutive fishing tournament in the world (57 years).  Anglers from all over the world come to Puerto Rico to this tag-and-release tournament and its a week full of action, fun and camaraderie. My husband Emilio has been involved in this tournament for over 20 years and is currently a board member.  Actually, I met him during the week of a tournament in August 1997 and we were married by June 1998.  So, I have been a “fishing widow” ever since…Ja!, although I join him fishing once in I while, like I did for Club Deportivo de Mayaguez’s Blue Marlin Tournament in the western part of the island, where I witnessed the most beautiful sunsets in my life and placed 1st in the women’s division and 3rd overall (among 500 fishermen, not bad!!)

This is me fishing at Club Deportivo de Mayaguez Blue Marlin Tournament October 2009

The week of the tournament is filled with fun events like the flag ceremony, excursions for the wives of the anglers, fashion shows, the Billfish Foundation’s Auction and of course the themed party.  This year the theme was Disco Night and I must tell you it has been the best party at the tournament yet!  Some members of the board along with other volunteers did a choreography to Dancing Queen and Fever Night mix which turned out to be spectacular and got everyone in dancing mode! There were also Donna Summer and Boy George impersonators.

The Marlin Dancers (I am the 6th one from the left)

Fishing goes on for 4 days with a rest day in between.  Emilio was assigned to bring lunch for two of the four days of fishing, so for one day I sent my Meat Lasagna with green salad and Amarillos en Almíbar (sweet plantains sauted in butter, brown sugar and cinnamon).  The boys (Frankie, Joe, Emilio and Ricky) loved it and left nothing on the plate!  To comply to their requests, I am posting this recipe today.  Here is my version of Meat Lasagna.

Enjoy!

Meat Lasagna

Ingredients

Picadillo Recipe

Basic Tomato Sauce Recipe (yields 3 cups)

8 ounces ricotta cheese or mascarpone

about 15 pieces of lasagna strips

12 fresh basil leaves coarsely chopped

4 cups of shredded mozzarella

Procedure


top layer has tomato sauce, cheese and basil only


1.  In a 13×9 baking dish, place one layer of lasagna strips. (I use the oven ready strips which do not need to be boiled but you may also use the traditional boiled ones.)  Spread 4 ounces of cheese, half of the picadillo-ground beef recipe (remove excess fat and liquid), 1 cup of basic tomato sauce and 1 cup of shredded mozzarella.  Cover again with lasagna strips and repeat procedure.  Place third layer of lasagna strips and cover with remaining cup of tomato sauce, chopped fresh basil and remaining mozzarella. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 35 minutes at 390ºF. Uncover and broil until cheese on top is golden (about 7-10 minutes).  Serve with garlic bread, amarillos en almíbar, white rice or salad.

Read Full Post »

I use this basic tomato sauce for many dishes including as a dipping sauce for mozzarella sticks, fried calamari, for meat or eggplant lasagna, spaghetti with meatballs, penne all’arrabiatta, vodka sauce, pizza sauce, soups and Mom’s one-pot-spaghetti among others.  It is very simple and versatile, just use your imagination.

Enjoy!

Basic Tomato Sauce

(yields 3 cups)

Ingredients

2  14 1/2 ounce cans of diced tomatoes

1 tsp dried oregano or italian seasoning herb mix

1 1/2 tsp fine sea salt (up to 2 tsp if you want)

Procedure

1.  Puree tomatoes in blender or with hand blender. Add to a small saucepan and simmer for about 15 minutes in med-low heat with herbs and salt. for a spicy sauce add a generous pinch of peperoncini or red pepper flakes.

Read Full Post »

The word “orzo” in italian means “barley”. Orzo pasta (pasta shaped like rice or grain) is very versatile. It can be boiled, baked, used as a filler in casseroles or when making stuffed peppers.  Also, great in soups. The best orzo is made of durum semolina flour and is very popular in Italy, Greece and other Mediterranean and Middle Eastern Countries.  I like this version of orzo pasta because it is very savory and not very heavy. Add as much spinach as you can and by all means… it has to be fresh!  Serve alone or as a side dish.  Orzo with Spinach is also great as a cold salad.  If you are going to serve it as a salad, drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil before serving so that it looks shiny and fresh.

Enjoy!

Orzo with Spinach

Ingredients

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oi

3 ounces of thinly sliced pancetta chopped

1/2 cup of yellow or white onions cubed

1/3 cup red bell pepper finely cubed

2 fresh garlic cloves minced

6 cups of fresh spinach (lightly packed)

2 tbsp cold butter

2 tbsp dry white wine

2 tsp fine sea salt

pepper to taste

drizzle of white truffle oil

1 pound of orzo

fresh parmesan cheese

Procedure


1.  In a deep large skillet, heat extra virgin olive oil in medium.  Add pancetta and saute for about 5 minutes until pieces begin to cook. You don’t want pancetta to be crispy or burned. Stir occasionally.

2.  Add onions and red peppers and saute for about 2 minutes.  Add garlic and butter and continue to saute for about 1 minute.  Add white wine to deglaze pan. Immediately add spinach and stir until it has wilted.

3.  Meanwhile, in a med sauce pan, bring about 6 cups of water to a boil.  Add a generous pinch of salt and cook orzo according to package instructions.  Once cooked, drain and add to spinach mixture and saute for a few minutes.  Add drizzle of white truffle oil, salt and pepper to taste.  Add freshly grated parmesan cheese once you serve.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »