Monthly Archives: May 2009

Artisanal Empanadas

Empanadas galore from the Emporium

Empanadas galore at the Emporium

Today, the artisanal food movement is alive and thriving, gaining momentum as our country’s palate is consciously moving away from the mass-produced  to carefully, lovingly developed foods created by real people with a passion. 
Now it’s made its way into Latin cooking. The Empanada Emporium brings us artisanal empanadas, golden scalloped pockets of delicate dough filled with simple fresh ingredients.  Its owner is Paul Delbo, a Latin American foodie from Miami who’s recently launched the site, offering a convenient way to savor these delicious creations at home.
Delbo, originally from Argentina, decided to depart from the traditional Argentinian recipes which are typically found at restaurants(ei.beef, chicken, ham & cheese) and spice things up with more eclectic, international flavors in his empanadas. Favorites include the Austin, packed with marinated ground beef, roasted red peppers, onions and jalapeños, and the Havana, the latest flavor to be added to the menu, which is inspired by the Cuban Ropa Vieja shredded beef dish which is comfort food to so many. 
Delbo perfected his empanada-making skills at a culinary school in Argentina and has recently been experimenting with flavored doughs such as whole wheat, roasted red pepper, spinach and chipotle. These he’s hoping to incorporated into the menu along with sweet and miniature varieties. In creating their empanadas, he has chosen to stick with “clean ‘pronounceable’ ingredients,” says his wife Natalia Obregón, “basically, back to basics with an emphasis on quality and flavor.” 

Light in Miami

A few days in Miami fill me with delight. I look out the window and what do I see? Everything alive with color, the sky and the sea two jewels of blue, refreshing and soothing. The palms, with green and yellow fingers waving in the breeze, and hot pink bougainvillea bursting with their fruity shade. So many memories this city holds. Today, it hosts yet another afternoon to treasure far into the future.

At the Eden Roc Hotel and Spa in Miami Beach, I sit on their boardwalk cafe and see the people breezing by, heads bobbing arms swinging, and on the sand in the distance, enormous umbrellas mingle with tanned happy bodies. It’s a brilliant Sunday afternoon and everyone is at the beach, including Mom and us kids. I order a burger and frozen mojito to kick start the celebration. It’s icy and minty and rushes to my head after the first few sips, making me giggly and my shoulders lose. I dig into the burger; it’s juicy and hot off the grill, and sits on a bun that’s soft and chewy, the ideal ratio of bread to beef. In the meantime, the fries are thin and delicate, and beautifully golden.

These are the moments that are worth remembering. When life, in its simplicity, opens itself up and we must take it all in, every taste, every sight, every fragment of the conversation which is full of light, like the day, even the man in a hawaiian shirt who sings Bob Marley out of tune. 

Mestizo cuisine

Dunia and Espartaco Borga have one mission: to bring a “mestizo” experience to the table. Mestizo, a Spanish word which describes a mixture of European, African and American Indian races comprise much of the population of Latin America.  For the past 8 years, Colombian-Yugoslavian Dunia Borga and Mexican-Venezuelan Espartaco Borga have joined forces in life and in the kitchen to make dishes that exemplify their mixed heritage. From their Cuban-styled chicken with sour orange mojo prepared with champagne to their own version of Mexican chilaquiles with gruyere cheese, this husband and wife team invaded Dallas with delicious traditional Latin American fare that preserves the integrity of classical dishes, yet is continuously refreshed with European elements.

In their restaurants, they have shied away from the Nuevo Latino wave of the 1990’s that sometimes got overly experimental with typical Latin ingredients like mango and plantains. Here, they have applied their philosophy, respecting traditional Latin flavors like the achiote-spiked shredded beef they use in their rendition of Venezuelan pabellón criollo and creating an environment that’s warm, cozy and familiar.

At their table, as in all of Latin America, family is the foundation of life. “We don’t just consider family our blood relatives, but anyone who sits at our table and shares our meal. Whether waiter, neighbor, friend or stranger, during those precious moments, they all become family.”

We meet again


Watercress and warm potato salad

Watercress and warm potato salad

At home, we call it berro. I remember my Mom snacking on it happily, trying to convince me to try it by raving about how nutritious it was. I would nibble on a stem and spit it out, my 10-year old palate tortured by its bitter bite.

Fast forward 20 years and inspired by this memory of youth, I find myself ordering it at Libertador, an Argentinian parrillada restaurant in the neighborhood that opened its doors a few weeks ago, bravely emerging in the midst of it all. It is a warm airy space with an open kitchen where  the chef skillfully grills classic cuts of Argentinian beef like lomo, entraña and bife.

During my visit, before indulging in a tender yet beautifully charred skirt steak, I dug into a watercress salad dressed with garlic. The sweetness of the garlic was a successful balance to the pungency of the green; however, its quantity weighed down the leaves, turning the dish into an edible guard against vampires.

Coming home a bit discouraged but bitten by the watercress bug, I rummaged through my cookbooks and found a delicious way to incorporate this ingredient into a simple dish that takes me back, yet settles me into the present with its refreshing yet comforting flavors. 

Watercress and warm potato salad (adapted from Martha Stewart Living Cookbook)

12 small creamer potatoes scrubbed

3 tablespoons olive oil




1/2 lemon with zest grated

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 bunch watercress with hard parts trimmed off

Season potatoes with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast until golden at 375C(about 45 min.) In a bowl, combine lemon juice, zest, olive oil, vinegar, sprinkles of salt and sugar. Let rest until potatoes are done. Add potatoes to watercress and season with dressing.

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