Last week, I was tasked with searching for stocking stuffer ideas for The Latin Kitchen. One caveat: all the gifts had to be under $25! I searched tirelessly and ended up with an armful of funky finds that I think you’re going to love. Some that were a bit over budget didn’t make it to the guide, like these cool Himalayan pink salt shot glasses and sleekly flexible lunch boxes. But the rest did – so take a look and enjoy a fabulous roundup:
It’s hard to believe that a week ago I was flying home from one of the most exhilarating food journeys of my life. I was at Mistura, the largest culinary festival in Latin America held in the culturally rich and historically fascinating country that is Peru.
This year the festival took place beneath a flurry of white tents in Costa Verde, a stretch of land bordering the Pacific Ocean and the dusty side of a hill that leads to the Magdalena district of Lima. Weaving through the countless stands, markets, and fascinating talks hosted by some of the world’s most celebrated chefs, I was (almost) able to grasp the dizzying diversity of Peru’s cuisine. Of the country’s 700 native dishes, I dove into luscious ceviches and light-as-air tamales from the capital of Lima, but also studied more obscure plates from other regions of the country, like seco de cabrito or stewed goat served with rice and beans and champús, a warming dessert made with soursoup and pineapple.
There was the vibrant and welcoming Gran Mercado, or grand market, with its endless varieties of potatoes (over three thousand in Peru), quinoa grains of every shade and size, olives as plump and briny as Greek kalamatas, Amazonian fruit whose twisty names tripped up my tongue, medicinal herbs, and more keepsakes to tuck away in my trunk of sensory treasures. more »
Last Saturday night, top bloggers from all over Latin America gathered together at La Mar Cebichería in Lima, Peru to celebrate Chowzter’s annual Latin American 50 Tastiest Fast Feasts. I had my first Pisco Sour in Lima that night (which was much stronger and sweeter than I had anticipated) and met international food personalities and bloggers from Venezuela, Chile, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Argentina, and London. The night was chilly and drizzly, but inside the restaurant was as warm as the pisco in my belly. Imagine being in the company of a room full of kindred spirits – everywhere I turned to, people spoke in the universal language of food. We washed down classic Peruvian dishes like ceviche, tiradito, and papa a la huancaína with pisco sours and white wine. I thought to myself, it can’t get any better than this, until my name was called to speak about a Dominican dish that was chosen as a runner up.
Hispanic Heritage Month kicks off on September 15, and this year we want to celebrate it right. We talked to Mexican Chef Roberto Santibañez of Fonda Restaurant about some of the ways he’ll be bringing the festivities to the kitchen.
For all of you who eagerly await the arrival of the seasonal Chiles en Nogada, Santibañez will be preparing the classic dish in his Park Slope and East Village restaurants during the first week in September. The eponymous dish which precedes independence day celebrations in Mexico fills poblano peppers with a picadillo stuffing and tops them with walnut sauce and pomegranate seeds — the Mexican flag on a plate! Santibañez prepares his picadillo by adding apples and peaches to shredded beef and creates the walnut sauce with nuts and goat cheese. more »
The Ever Versatile Aubergine08.12.13
Mom prepared a plate of pickled eggplant or berenjena a la vinagreta with her signature enthusiasm. She simmered the aubergine with a laurel leaf, a pinch of allspice, onion, garlic, and a bouillon cube. After it cooled, she dressed it in a vinaigrette spiked with Worcestershire sauce and oregano, storing it in the refrigerator in a round clear pyrex. My sister loved piling on the silky tangy stuff over crispy saltines, which she snacked on with pure abandon at any time of the day. I, on the other hand, had quite a different relationship to the pickled spread and was far from being a fan.
It’s been surprising to see how all of a sudden this summer, it’s the one vegetable I can’t live without. I’ve sliced and roasted it, layering it with tomatoes and sharp cheese like the Italians do with their melanzane. I’ve diced and tossed it over a high flame with snap peas and ginger to create a hearty and flavorful stir-fry.
Alfajores: The King of Cookies08.03.13
I still remember the first time I tried a Havanna Alfajor. I was a newly minted college graduate who moved down to Miami to be closer to home. In this sunny strip of paradise, I landed my first job as a fund trader at a Spanish bank. I worked with a ton of private bankers from all over South America and Spain, a group of movers and shakers with monogrammed shirts continuously nostalgic about the worlds they had left behind.
Those who were lucky enough to fly home for work always returned with a box of Havanna Alfajores stocked with gold and silver pucks of dulce de leche treasures. The golden wrappers indicated a dark chocolate covered Alfajor, while the silver wrapper meant a cookie dressed in a thin veil of white chocolate. I loved the golden wrappers and the dense and crumbly cookies they protected, which had been dipped in milk chocolate and filled with a tangy dulce de leche. They were the most beautiful way to sweeten an afternoon cup of tea. For me and all my friends who worked with me, they meant sustained sugar-fueled giddiness for hours. more »
On a spur of the moment trip last week, we flew west. We spent a couple of days in Hermosa Beach, an endless stretch of beach in the South Bay of Los Angeles flanked by swanky Manhattan Beach on one side and chilled out Redondo Beach on the other. By 7 a.m., this beach town paradise would greet me wide-eyed and bushy-tailed with friendly beach volleyball games already underway. A continuous parade of runners, bikers, and skaters rocked the sandy trail known as The Strand, with miles of pristine sand and a dark blue ocean to urge them on.
What started out as a girls’ trip to the Caribbean ended up being an excellent opportunity to check out the food scene in the eastern coastal town of Fajardo, Puerto Rico. We sailed a catamaran and snorkeled in clear blue water, spotted a baby lemon shark swimming on the shore, and fell asleep to the lullaby of the native coqui frog. However, we also tasted Puerto Rican mofongo and alcapurrias, and talked to Brooklyn transplants Chef Kevin Roth and his wife Idalia about their five-year-old Nuyorican restaurant La Estacion. Stay tuned for my upcoming story in The Latin Kitchen about how this couple is turning Puerto Rican food on its head. In the meantime, these are some outtakes from the trip.
I had high hopes for NYC’s new bike-sharing program from the first day I laid eyes on that silver rack by my house. Thrilled by the possibility that NYC was becoming a little bit like Paris, instead of riding through the dreamy Jardin de Tuileries, I imagined getting lost in glorious Central Park. Who needed to bike to the Louvre when one could bike to The Met? Gone would be the days of standing in a crowded bus with an armpit on my face. Or sitting in the back of a cab fearing for my life. My vibrant, passionate, and at times brutal NYC life would be made just a teeny bit easier with this new mode of transport. Plus, $95 per year for unlimited use of bikes without having to worry about someone snatching it or where to park it? Sounded good to me!
This past weekend, we rode downtown from Hell’s Kitchen with the wind on our backs, via Hudson River Park to Greenwich Village, Tribeca, and eventually one of our favorite Vietnamese spots in Chinatown. We stopped for Earl Grey ice-cream, discovered Garson Yu’s T.I.N.Y. installation on Pier 57, and walked through Lispenard Street. During our four-hour bike tour, we only had one setback. We had to return the bikes every 30 minutes, which made it a bit of a race against time.