Tag Archives: Puerto Rican food

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.

 

Pedro’s Better-Than-Perfect White Rice

3 Jan

Sometimes perfect isn’t good enough. Sometimes, perfect is boring. Sometimes you think you’ve got something down perfectly pat, only to discover that someone else can actually do it better.

Allow to boil, uncovered, until water goes below the surface

Allow to boil, uncovered, until water goes below the surface

Such is the story of this recipe. I have posted my Perfect White Rice in accompaniment with a variety of bean recipes a number of times on this blog. It comes out perfect every time: grains moist but separate, texture cooked through but not mealy.

Light and fluffy white rice

Light and fluffy white rice

But my dad’s rice (which uses exactly the same ingredients, as it happens) is just better. Mine is a great accompaniment. But his? You can eat it right out of the pot with nothing else and find bliss. It’s just white rice, but it has the slightest sheen of oil, a satisfying plumpness, just the right saltiness.

And now, here it is. ¡Buen provecho!

Perfection!

Perfection!

Pedro’s Better-Than-Perfect White Latin Rice

2 Cups water

1 generous Tbs extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp coarse salt

1 Cup medium grain rice (not parboiled), rinsed in a strainer

Bring water, oil, and salt to a boil at high. Add rice. Stir. Return to boil, lower heat to medium high and allow water to boil away until the top is no longer under water and the bubbles come up through holes in the surface. Turn rice over with a spoon bringing the bottom to the top. Cover and cook on low heat for 20 minutes. Serve. Or stand next to the stove and just eat it out of the pot. I’m telling you.

You may also like:

Authentic Puerto Rican Rice and Beans (and shortcuts for effective faking)

Rice and Beans: A Love Story

Chili Con Carne

Five-Minute Black Beans

Kendra’s Grilled Lamb Chops and Sauteed Calabaza Pumpkin, and other tasty stuff from Puerto Rico

7 Aug

(This recipe has been corrected to reflect Kendra’s input!)

I have mentioned that I was recently in Puerto Rico at the venerable Caribe Hilton to speak on a panel (for the Triennial Convention of the American Federation of School Administrators). It was a pleasure and an honor to speak with such dedicated professionals! And everything went very well; I learned a great deal and made many interesting acquaintances.

The view from Kendra and Raúl’s in Isla Verde

I was not able to take my son and it was the strangest, and not very pleasant sensation to be so far away. In the annals of never-happy, it is an awful irony that I complain and complain that I never have a moment to myself, and then when I finally do, I am bereft. I can’t stand myself sometimes.

El Jibarito…there was quite a line at 2 p.m., but it moved FAST

But, I recovered my senses. And of course, I ate.

Pernil with mofongo de yuca and the sad, sad, salad that is a Puerto Rican criollo restaurant inevitability…

In Old San Juan, El Jibarito on Calle Sol can be counted on for good old-fashioned comida criollo. I had pernil (roast pork) and mofongo de yuca (yuca with garlic and oil, mashed and fried). I had drinks with José Luis, my beloved Colombian friend whose got the loveliest clothing boutique in Condado (Ambar) . I visited with Emilio, of Oof Restaurants for a long overdue catch-up. Had a leaisurely coffee and tea with the inimitable Chef Norma Llop, who runs much of the gastronomy end of PR Tourism. And had a long visit with my godmother, Carmen Palacios de Ramírez, with a glimpse of godfather Efrén deep in writing a book…yes, I got around a lot in just a few days!

Ceviche

With dear friends David and Sean, I had very good ceviche at Perurrican over most stimulating conversation.

Location, location, location – Perurrican in Condado

And then Kendra, who was for years my partner in mischief all over the Caribbean, my soccer buddy on the Puerto Rico National Team, and is still an all around lioness of a friend, not only made a delicious meal for me in the home she shares with her fabulous partner, Raúl, but showed me how it was done. Before we’d had too much wine to get the recipe down in writing! (Are you listening Adri? It can be done!)

The view from Kendra and Raúl’s at 5 p.m.

It was a wonderful trip!

CHOPS!

The monster mash: adobo

The grill

The results!

Kendra’s Grilled Lamb Chops

2 lbs lamb chops, rinsed and patted dry

Adobo

4 cloves garlic

1-2 sprigs rosemary – just the leaves

¾ tsp salt per pound

Grating of pepper

PLUS extra virgin olive oil, to be added teaspoon by teaspoon

After prepping the lamb chops, place all adobo ingredients except oil in a mortar and pestle and grind down to a rough paste, adding oil a half teaspoon at a time until you reach a spreadable, but non-greasy texture.

Paint both sides of the chops and refrigerate until about ready to use. Give the chops enough time to return to room temperature before grilling.

Heat your grill until just under its high temperature, then scrape grill clean if necessary. Allow to heat up for a couple of minutes, then start.

Place chops on grill. After 1.5 minutes, turn them over. Cook for another 1.5 minutes, then repeat. Stand them up on their sides on the grill for another minute, checking for the density of the chops to firm up. Remove from grill, place on a platter and tent them with aluminum foil for another five minutes. You may check for doneness with a meat thermometer (140°F will be rare, although many chefs stop at 120°-130°). The chops can rest until you are ready to serve.

Continue Scrolling Down for Calabaza Recipe

Cutting the calabaza

Yum

Sauteed Calabaza (Caribbean Pumpkin)

2lbs calabaza (acorn squash is the nearest substitute)

1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp butter

1 tsp honey

Wash calabaza rind thoroughly. Do not peel. Chop calabaza into 1.5” chunks. Sprinkle sparingly with salt.

Heat oil and butter in a pan at medium high until foaming subsides. Add calabaza, stir to coat and turn down to medium low so you hear a slightly sizzle. Drizzle with honey and cook for a few minutes until beginning to soften, but still resistant to a fork. Turn off burner, cover and leave for at least 5-10 minutes, until a fork passes easily through, and you are ready to serve.

Serenata (a Lenten favorite that is a hot weather favorite too)

2 Jul

Bacalao — if you are not a fan — is an insulting thing to call someone; to the bacalao-averse it is a smelly, salty, fibrous fish; it is yucky and you can’t stomach it or even smell it cooking in the house.

Bacalao — if you are a fan — is the magical, durable, sustaining food of seafarers and coastal folks from far flung places; a protein source that won’t go off without refrigeration; a salty treat that tastes great with rice, in fritters, in any number of ways, the flavor of Lenten Fridays and Christmas buffets.

Bacalao is dried salt cod (called saltfish on many of the Caribbean Islands) and if you don’t like it, you may want to stop reading now.

If you do like it, I hope you will try it as serenata, a dish very popular in Puerto Rico, that I am told doesn’t come from Spain, but was developed in the Caribbean. It may have been the dish traditionally served to a successful suitor after he serenaded his intended under the window on a warm, tropical palm-swaying kind of evening.

Then again, maybe not. Since salt cod must be desalinated ahead of time, the intended must have known when her suitor was coming and what her answer would be, well in advance of the event. Hardly a romantic surprise. But I love me an apocryphal story as much as the next person!

If I were waiting for a suitor to turn up in order to eat serenata, it would be a long time before I had it again. But me being me, I don’t wait.

We eat serenata during Lent on Fridays, but I like it any time. It combines a strong salty fish with bland tubers (which we in Puerto Rico call viandas); I like to mush it up all together on my plate with abundant oil for a a dense and salty mashed potato-type of experience.

My dad found a breadfruit somewhere the other day (I suspect he shook someone down for it, but whatever you have to do in New York to get a tropical breadfruit seems justifiable to me. I asked no questions). Breadfruit is one of my absolute favorite things to eat in this whole blessed world. Set the dense creaminess of breadfruit against the power of bacalao and I am in heaven. So I started soaking my fish immediately. Chowing down was like mainlining the memories of so many amazing days and adventures…I felt almost drunk on the event!

Notes: Atlantic cod is on the naughty list of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch (for more info, click here) but I got Alaskan Pollock, which seems to be okay for the moment, although wild-caught Alaskan is the most recommended. I try.

For a delightful read on the fascinating history of cod, get Cod: A biography of the fish that changed the world, by one of my favorite food researchers and writers, Mark Kurlansky!

Full disclosure: My son will not touch bacalao, hates the smell and — every time he smells a funky smell somewhere, he calls it bacalao. He’ll grow into it.

For a variation on Bacalao a la vizcaina (with tomato sauce), click here

Serenata (desalination begins the night before or morning before cooking. The rest of the prep is only 15 minutes)

  1. Bacalao: 1lb. dried salt cod, desalinated and rehydrated according to the following directions: To desalinate: Place cod in abundant cold water in the evening or in the morning. Before going to bed or to work, change the water. Upon waking or returning from work, change the water again. When ready to cook, place bacalao in a pot with abundant water. Bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium, simmer for 3-5 minutes, drain and allow to cool.
  2.  Stodge: 1-2 lbs potatoes/yautía/yuca/breadfruit/malanga (taro) or other tuberous root vegetable. Peeled and boiled until fully cooked through (from 15-30 minutes, depending on density of tuber) and kept warm
  3. Dressing — 4 Tbs olive oil;1 tsp capers; 10 pimiento-stuffed olives, sliced; ½ cup red onion, chopped; 10 grape tomatoes, quartered (Plus additional olive oil for drizzling and salt to taste).

4. Optional: avocado slices, hard-boiled eggs, peeled and sliced

Flake cooled bacalao in to a bowl. Add all the ingredients in C. Mix well and serve with tubers, additional oil and optional avocado and eggs.

Eat Your Way Through Puerto Rico: A Culinary Dictionary – BUY IT, SHARE IT!

29 Apr

And finally, almost 13 years after I started working on it, my culinary dictionary is available!! I am so excited (Thanks Carlos Matos of Forsa Editores for getting on board with me and guiding me through this new adventure!) to finally, after years of writing for newspapers and magazines to actually have my own book out, with my name on it (the cover you see here is not quite the actual image, but you get the idea). It feels really, really, great.

Eat Your Way Through Puerto Rico: A Culinary Dictionary is my contribution to the foodie word world.

(Update: Eat Your Way is now available on iTunes too!)

What is does is take the words and phrases we use in Puerto Rico for produce, local dishes, meats, fish and seafood, as well as how we get a table at a restaurant or get our steak cooked to order, and translates them into English and back again. The fruits, vegetables and herbs have the botanical names included for easier identification. One day I’ll get the fish and other meat animals labeled too.

Who it is for is folks traveling in Puerto Rico who would like to understand and taste the local foods, but would like to know what it is they are trying.  It is also for people like me who are of Puerto Rican background but were born in the States (or elsewhere) and need some help learning about, making or describing our heritage foods. You will notice that in addition to straight word to word translation, some of the more interesting or unusual or typical dishes and ingredients get a little story to go with: find out about yuca and poison; where okra got its name; why sweet potato and yams are not actually the same thing; how breadfruit caused the Mutiny on the Bounty.

It is also for linguistic and food geeks (and I say that with all the pride and affection of a dedicated linguistic and food geek, because that is what I am) who just want to know. That’s where many of you come in. This is not a project that is finished, but one that I have laid the groundwork of. I hope, as we move forward, to get a lot of feedback from users and readers who agree, disagree or have other words and phrases to add to the lexicon. So feel free to comment here about what you think. I will be setting up a Facebook page in the near future to open the channels for more feedback!

So far Eat Your Way Through Puerto Rico is available on Amazon (for just $4.99 – How could you not!?!) as a Kindle book and will be coming soon to the iTunes store and print.

Soon Hot, Cheap & Easy will be back to my regularly scheduled programming – recipes from the front lines of parenting – but for now, please check out the book and let me know what you think!

Natalia

Mayo-Ketchup Gets a Much-Needed Makeover (with Chipotle!)

4 Mar

“We totally just licked the bowl!”

I had promised my friend Ashley and my son a “tostones-for-dinner” Friday night and, since I had the plaintains I was ready to go. Ashley had decided to learn to make them, so I set her up with the assembly line of garlic and salt water, hot oil, plates covered in paper towel and tostonera (See Tostones! for the how-to of this Caribbean riff on French fries) and got ready to relax with a bit of the fizzy stuff.

Then I mentioned that Puerto Ricans usually dip tostones in mayo-ketchup – mayonnaise and ketchup stirred together. Without hesitation Ashley said “That sounds like it would be great with chipotle and lime,” and since I had it all in (plus garlic) a new creamy, spicy, lick-the-bowl delicious dip was born. And it was so quick that I still got to drink that glass of fizzy in relative peace….

You. Are. Gonna. Love. This.

Mayo-Chipo-Ketchup

(play around with the proportions to suit your taste)

1 Tbs prepared mayonnaise

1 Tbs plain yogurt (nonfat or lowfat are fine)

1 Tbs ketchup

1 tsp chipotle in adobo (minced)

1 tsp lime juice

1 clove garlic, minced fine

Pinch salt, if desired

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and serve with tostones or other fried, crispy tidbits.

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