Alfajores: The King of Cookies

Alfajores with Raspberry Glaze

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 »

Latin Thanksgiving Dessert

If you’re looking to serve something special this Thanksgiving, try your hand at the “Cuatro Leches” dessert. It’s a lovely interpretation of the classic “Tres Leches” treat renowned throughout South America. In this version, the fourth milk comes from “dulce de leche”, a milk caramel spread popular in Argentina (I buy mine at Eli’s Vinegar Factory, but think you can also find it at Zabar’s or other gourmet food shops). I’ve made this recipe over and over again and always get rave reviews. I plan to make it in a few days for the holiday. Try it out too!

Pastel de Cuatro Leches

2 tsp. butter
1 tbsp. plus 2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 1⁄2 tsp. fine salt
6 eggs, at room temperature, separated
1 1⁄4 cups sugar
1 1⁄2 cup whole milk
1 1⁄2 tbsp. dark rum
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 12-oz. can evaporated milk
1 16-oz. jar dulce de leche (milk caramel)

1. Heat the oven to 350°. Grease a 9″ × 13″ baking pan with the butter and dust with 1 tbsp. of the flour. Invert the dish, tap out the excess flour, and set aside.

2. Sift the remaining flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl and set aside. Put the egg whites into a large bowl and beat with a hand-held electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form, about 2 minutes. While the mixer is still running, add the sugar in a gradual stream and continue beating again to soft peaks. Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition. Alternately add the reserved flour mixture and 1/2 cup of whole milk in 3 parts, beating until smooth after each addition. Add the rum and vanilla and beat again briefly until smooth.

3. Pour batter into reserved baking pan and bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Set the cake aside and let cool slightly for 30 minutes.

4. Whisk together the sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and remaining milk in a bowl. Using a knife, poke the cake with holes all over, penetrating to the bottom of the pan. Pour the milk mixture over the warm cake and set aside to let cool completely.

5. Cover the cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate until well chilled and liquid is absorbed, at least 4 hours. Spread the dulce de leche across the top of the cake and serve.

This article has been adapted from Saveur magazine’s Issue #108, find the original recipe here

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.” 

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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