Tag Archives: comida criolla

Bacalaitos: Light and Luscious Puerto Rican Cod Fritters

27 Dec

One of the pleasures of visiting San Juan, Puerto Rico is heading straight from Luis Munoz Marin International Airport to a beach area about five minutes to the east. Piñones, a long stretch of relatively undeveloped coastline is where beach shacks under the shade of coconut palms serve up ice cold beer, whiskey con coco, and all manner of snacks or frituras, flour or banana dough shaped in seagrape leaves and dropped into hot fat in blackened cauldrons over coal fires by ladies in hair rollers. Oh my God, I am so glad to be back, you say, toes in the crystal water and tearing into a delicious and greasy and tropical hunk of something.

Break up the de-salted cod as much as you can

Break up the de-salted cod as much as you can

One of the iconic frituras is bacalaitos: fried cod fritters. Salt cod is well-known to Atlantic coastal areas and the Caribbean…the New England cod fisheries have for centuries supplied coastal people with an abundance of this oily fish that preserves really well (if you are interested in the history of cod, you must read Mark Kurlansky’s Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World).

Sawtooth coriander or recao or culantro adds authentic flavor to this dish, but cilantro is a worthy substitute

Sawtooth coriander or recao or culantro adds authentic flavor to this dish, but cilantro is a worthy substitute

Its popularity has led to overstressed fisheries. While they are being managed, they are not recovering well or quickly enough for me to have them as anything but an occasional treat.

skewered fritters draining, even as the next batch goes in!

skewered fritters draining, even as the next batch goes in!

In Puerto Rico we use salt cod in rice dishes, vinaigrette-style with local tubers, with tomatoes like the Basque people…in any number of ways. Bacalaitos are a good entry-level bacalao dish if you are afraid salt cod is too fishy for your family’s taste. Here it is not overwhelming, but more of a condiment and I daresay that salt cod lends umami (that fifth sensation of rich meaty mouth-feel) to what would be just a fish fritter…like many salted fish it is high in glutamates.

Letting the batter rest gives time for the baking powder to activate. that will give you nice airiness in the fritters.

Letting the batter rest gives time for the baking powder to activate. that will give you nice airiness in the fritters.

Most of the credit for this recipe is shared between Carmen Aboy Valldejuli’s classic recipe in Cocina Criolla* and my dad’s adaptations and execution. It makes a perfect light dinner or appetizer…I like it with cold, dry sparkling wine, but of course a cold beer (on the lighter side) is a classic match-up. Kids and adults alike love them; we’ll be doing them up for our New Year’s guests when they arrive. Read on for recipe! Continue reading

Coquito: Puerto Rican Egg Nog (this one without eggs!)

22 Dec

2015-12-26 17.16.25In Puerto Rico, as soon as the Thanksgiving turkey is scraped off the plates, our collective thoughts turn to what we are going to eat for Christmas. But we are not just talking about Christmas Eve or Christmas day, oh no.We’re talking about every day for the next two months.

Recipes written by by late, great-aunt Titi Amida for my mother.

Recipes written by by late, great-aunt Titi Amida for my mother.

Christmas lasts from the day after Thanksgiving well into January, with the Feast of the Epiphany or Three Kings Day on January 6th, followed by octavas (the eight days after Three Kings Day) which are then followed by octavitas, which last for another eight days. And since we’re practically into February by then, you might as well keep celebrating until Valentine’s Day on the 14th….We have to do it this way, to give everyone who wants to have a Christmas party the opportunity. Twelve days of Christmas are just not enough to give everyone a turn at hosting.

Tasting in progress

Tasting in progress

That’s a lot of menu planning. We are helped by our Christmas songs, which are sometimes paeans to the birth of Jesus, but more often they are odes to the pig…that is.. lechón or spit-roasted suckling pig.

In small servings this homey cocktail can look quite elegant

In small servings this homey cocktail can look quite elegant

Some folks serve it on the rocks. I do like it a bit diluted. You could also top off with a bit more rum.

Some folks serve it on the rocks. I do like it a bit diluted. You could also top off with a bit more rum.

When it comes to beverages, the Queen of Christmas Toddies is coquito, a sweet and sometimes lethal combination of rum, cream of coconut, and condensed and evaporated milk in its more basic form, but which can also include egg yolks, different types of alcohol, more or less cinnamon, vanilla, and much more.

These bottles from IKEA look great for hostess gifts

These bottles from IKEA look great for hostess gifts

Today’s recipe (thank you to my former San Juan Star colleague Todd Michael Jamison for sending me the original that this is based on several years ago) is quite basic and contains no egg (in the recipes from my great-aunt Titi Amida in the images, she used loads of egg yolks, but she used to get farm-fresh eggs. Now most of us don’t have that kind of access). I like to make a big batch and portion out some into decorative bottles for gifts. When I actually serve, I add a bit more cinnamon and froth individual servings up with some ice in a cocktail shaker – coquito should be served really cold and the ice thins it a bit too, which I like. Continue reading

Puerto Rican Food Translated: My eBook, Just $5, and a perfect gift!

16 Dec

Just a reminder that you can gift my e-dictionary book to friends and family who love food. Called Eat Your Way Through Puerto Rico, it is a digital guide to Puerto Rican food, basically what to eat and how to ask for it.

It’s fun to flip through. In addition to straightforward translation of common food items, it also includes useful phrases for getting reservations, talking about food allergies, and finding out where the bathroom is. The biggest plus is the background, origins and ingredients of some of our most beloved and iconic dishes. And you can load it onto your iPhone.

If you want to gift it to someone else, you can also get it on Amazon – Kindle for iTunes is a free app.

So, buy it or gift it this holiday season and buen provecho!

Click Here to order through Amazon.

Click Here to order through Amazon.

 

Chick Pea, Sausage and Winter Squash/Calabaza Stew

9 Nov

Soup and stew season is upon us!

Funnily enough, I was working on a story on Indian food for Edible Long Island when I spotted my kind of calabaza in the pumpkin section of Patel Brothers (a nationwide chain of Indian/South Asian groceries stores) in Hicksville, and made sure to buy a big hunk on the way out after my interview with the manager.

Calabaza

Calabaza

I say “funnily”, not just because I found Caribbean calabaza in an Indian shop — which in and of itself has some sort of sardonic Christopher Columbus karma about it — but that because of immigration patterns, i can no longer find the Puerto Rican variety in Latin groceries where it belongs. All the Puerto Ricans have married out or moved out and been replaced by Central Americans who use kabochas or some other varieties which are not quite right for me!

(For more on calabaza and a classic Puerto Rican rice and beans recipe, click here!)

This smells ever so good bubbling up on the stove....

This smells ever so good bubbling up on the stove….

So, the calabaza inspired me to soak some garbanzos, dig out some chicken andouille from Aidell’s that was in my freezer and get busy making stew. I brought some to my colleague Jainy, who is from India and was my guide through the research for the article, and she loved this different treatment of pumpkin. So did her mom, apparently, which is high praise indeed. They had them with parathas…I love New York and our jumble of cultures!

Thick and delicious and packed with interesting textures!

Thick and delicious and packed with interesting textures!

Chick Pea, Andouille and Winter Squash Stew

1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

1 Cup onion, chopped

1 Cup green pepper, chopped

1-2 Tbs garlic, chopped

1 small tomato, chopped

1 Cup andouille or other spicy heat and serve sausage

4 Cups cooked squash or pumpkin in the cooking liquid

2 Bay leaves

1 tsp oregano

2 Cups garbanzos, drained

Salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pot until fragrant. Saute the onion for a minute at medium, then add the green pepper, cook another minute, then the garlic, cook another minute, then add the tomato and allow it all to cook at low for another five minutes, adding a bit of oil if you need more moisture.

Stir in the sausage and raise the temperature to medium high. Add the sausage and sauté for 2 minutes or until it stats to brown. Then add remaining ingredients, bring to a boil then lower heat and simmer for ten minutes. Serve with rice or couscous.

 

Grilled Pineapple Chipotle Black Bean Salsa

2 Sep

Grilled pineapple is one of the joys of summer grilling. Searing thick slices of juicy pineapple brings out their sweetness and gives them a more rounded flavor.And when you have leftovers, you can dice them and add them to salsa for a sweet-tart surprise that marries so well with smoky, spicy chipotle and bright red onion,(you can use fresh raw pineapple too).

This is what pineapple looks like off the grill.

This is what pineapple looks like off the grill.

I also like to add black beans and corn kernels — both of which tend to be around in our summer kitchen.

I made this a few weeks ago and forgot to take a picture until it was too late.

I made this a few weeks ago and forgot to take a picture until it was too late.

You can mix and match as you please and play with the proportions…this is basically a good way to use up an extra scoop of this and teaspoon of that. I will be experimenting with grilled peach salsa soon and will let you know!

This finished product. Delish!

This finished product. Delish!

Pineapple Chipotle Black Bean Salsa

¾ Cup diced fresh pineapple (grilled, if possible)

¼ Cup black beans, cook, and preferably seasoned

2 Tbs minced red onion

½ tsp sauce from chipotle in adobo

¼ Cup diced green pepper

salt

Mix all ingredients except salt in a bowl. Salt to taste. Serve with tortilla chips or as a topping for Southwest style cooked meats.

Make Your Party Puerto Rican: Ten Recipes for Great Island Food

24 May

Whether it’s Memorial Day, Fourth of July, or Christmas, the following dishes – most of them quite easy to prepare and using ingredients available in regular supermarkets (especially those that carry Goya products) — are a medley of the best of Puerto Rican food. This is not a complete list, of course, but mix and match them up and you will have a big table of big, bold food that will introduce everyone to new flavor combinations without scaring them off!

Have a terrific weekend everyone! Buen provecho…..

1. Tostones – Our version of french fries…made with plantains. This is the authentic method with some secret steps!

Serve these as an appetizer, topped with sour cream and caviar (Thanks Patricia Wilson!), a garlic mojo, or in mayo-ketchup, as follows

Serve these as an appetizer, topped with sour cream and caviar (Thanks Patricia Wilson!), a garlic mojo, or in mayo-ketchup, as follows

Continue reading

Top Ten Easy Latin Bean Recipes (Fiesta de Frijoles y Habichuelas)

3 Apr

Some of you have reported hunting down my bean recipes. Well here are some of my faves, all gathered in one place! Just click on the image to get to the recipe.

Make it yourself and enjoy whichever texture you prefer!

Home-made refried beans! (Vegan, but you’d never know)

Five Minute Black beans - I KID YOU NOT - FIVE MINUTE PREP

Five Minute Black beans – I KID YOU NOT – FIVE MINUTE PREP

Garbanzos con chorizo (chick peas and hot dry Spanish sausage)

Garbanzos con chorizo (chick peas and hot dry Spanish sausage)

Continue reading

Easy Curried Butternut Squash Soup! (vegan)

26 Feb

I had a butternut squash from way back in the fall and a desire for real arroz con habichuelas (Puerto Rican pink beans and rice), which may seem not to have anything to do with butternut squash soup, but after I boiled the squash, I realized I had about twice as much as I needed!

This recipe uses just about a half a typical butternut squash

This recipe uses just about a half a typical butternut squash

Waste not want not is my motto (as much by necessity as by design), so I thought it would be nice to simmer up a warm soup.

A bit of home-made sofrito (substitutes included in recipe!)

A bit of home-made sofrito (substitutes included in recipe!)

Thus, this ever so simple butternut squash soup, vegan (unless you swirl in some yogurt or sour cream at the end), and rich without being fatty. I used some sofrito I made the other day, but give instructions for store-bought or home-made substitutes.

squash and seasonings simmering

squash and seasonings simmering

Easy Butternut Squash Soup

2 Cups butternut squash, peeled and boiled until soft in vegetable broth. RESERVE broth

1 tsp olive oil

2 Tbs sofrito (homemade or Goya. May be substituted with a tablespoon of finely minced onion and a tablespoon of finely minced green cooking pepper like cubanelle, in which case you need to saute a bit longer until tender)

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ tsp mild curry powder

½ tsp cumin

½ tsp salt

Fresh cracked black pepper

(dab of pesto, hot sauce or –if you aren’t vegan – yogurt or sour cream to finish, optional)

In a medium soup pot, heat oil at high until fragrant. Lower to medium, add sofrito and garlic and sauté until fragrant and getting dry. Add curry powder and cumin and toast until slightly fragrant. Add broth and squash, bring to a boil, then simmer for 15-20 minutes until very, very soft. Use an immersion blender or food processor or blender to liquefy. Season to taste and serve with optional toppings.

Arroz con habichuelas (click for basic recipe!)

Arroz con habichuelas (click for basic recipe!)

Or click for another MORE basic recipe!

Frankenbeans! (Hot Dogs and Pink Beans in a Skillet)

18 Feb

It’s a sad irony that I finally have perfected Latin white rice (thanks to my dad’s technique) and the doctor tells me that I have to reduce carbs for my triglycerides or somesuch! Terrible.

But Leandro received no such warning, so he gets to enjoy my now fantastic rice with any number of dishes.

Here’s franks and beans with an ever-so-slightly Latin flavor. Goya’s Latin-style tomato sauce and cilantro and culantro put a little spring in the step of this easy, kid-friendly dish. My parents used to make us something similar when we were kids, so it was fun to try and recreate them. They have very little in common with the sweet gooey canned Franks and Beans you find. This are actually grown-up worthy too!

Beans and Franks

Beans and Franks

I use Applegate Farms Organic Beef Hotdogs. I prefer organic meats as a rule. These also don’t use synthetic nitrites, but it isn’t clear from what I have read that natural nitrites are any better than synthetic. They are more expensive than your standard supermarket dogs, but I feel that they are worth it.

Leandro loves these, and they reheat very well for his lunch thermos the next day. (In the morning, when I am boiling water for tea, I boil extra to pour in the Thermos to warm it up. Then I dump the water, put in the hot food, and it is still warm a few hours later for his lunch ).

 

Frankenbeanie!

Frankenbeanie!

Frankenbeans

1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

½ Cup onion, minced

1 tsp garlic, chopped

3 hot dogs, sliced into ½ inch rounds

1 Tbs fresh cilantro chopped

1 tsp fresh culantro (recao; sawtooth coriander) or other green herb of your choice, chopped, optional

8 oz can Goya Latin Style Tomato Sauce

2 pinches salt

2 pinches hot red pepper flakes

½ tsp ketchup

1 Cup pink beans (soaked or from a can)

In a large skillet, heat oil on medium high and add onions, Stir to coat, lower heat, and cook for 2-3 minutes, then add garlic and cook an additional minute or two, until the house smells good and the vegetables are wilted. Add hot dogs and stir, then add cilantro and culantro or other herbs. Cook for another 2-3 minutes, then add tomato sauce, salt, red pepper, and ketchup to taste. Add beans. You will probably want to add about ¼ Cup water to thin. Simmer for 10 minutes r more and serve with Latin-style white rice.

Sweet and Savory Churrasco (Skirt Steak, Grilled)

13 Jan

You may ask whether I am cooking at all lately, seeing as I have been posting more of my dad, Pedro’s recipes than my own.

Truth is, I have been cooking as much as usual, but sticking to my go-to recipes like Spinach Pasta, Pollo Guisado (Stewed Chicken), and the like. I am prepping  for when my semester begins, taking my Leandro-free vacation time to catch up on many things and stocking the freezer!

Churrasco

Churrasco

But during the holidays we were on family vacation in Puerto Rico and between the holiday dishes like Perníl (Roast Pork Shoulder) and Better Than Perfect Latin White Rice and the rare opportunity for me to have the time to really watch him go…well I did  a lot of looming over his shoulder thrusting measuring implements at him and observing and taking notes (which is what we should all be doing around our favorite family cooks). And now I am catching you up on some of my favorite Padushi recipes. (and scroll down for one of my favorite images from our trip!) Continue reading

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