will work for cheese

- from my senses to your screen -

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Art Basel 101

It has been now 10 years since the Art Basel found a home in our beautiful Miami Beach. If you dare to walk the streets of Design District and South Beach during those four days, you are definitely going to be in for a treat. The city gets flooded with people from all over the world. Artsy people, way too beautiful people, very interesting looking people, very wealthy people and some normal looking people (like myself) that occasionally feel like they almost don't belong because they are not wearing some vintage Versace or look like Katy Perry when she wakes up. It is by far the most incredible catwalk like event I've ever attended. That's is from the "people watching" standpoint, but of course, the most important thing of all it's the art. World renowned galleries bring their best art pieces and displayed them all under one roof. From the most spectacular art you've seen to the raw and unedited, it is so worth every single dollar you pay and more.
The main event takes place at the Miami Convention Center and tickets run as high as $40.00 a day with a substantial discount if you are over 62 or a student. Evening tickets cost $28.00 and you can enter with these after 4pm.
There are hundreds of other exhibitions and installations around the city, but if you miss this one, you miss the main course. Don't settle just for the hors d'oevres.
Last but not least, what can be better than starting or finishing a day like that with a wonderful meal?
South Beach and Design District have the best to offer in that area. 
Check this link for a wonderful list of top restaurants.  Top three in this list, in my opinion, are: 
Senora Martinez (Chef Michelle Bernstein)
Michael's Genuine Food and drink (Chef Michael Schwartz)
Tudor House Miami (Chef Geoffrey Zakarian)

For a more urban experience, you can hit the food trucks on Friday night at the Adrienne Arscht Center.

And finally, a favorite of mine that has great atmosphere, delicious appetizers, amazing mural displays
and serves the best beers in town:http://wynwoodkitchenandbar.com/home.html 

For more information, you can check out the Home page for Art Basel Miami Beach: http://www.artbaselmiamibeach.com/go/id/ss/

Friday, November 18, 2011

tears in the kitchen

Baking is my love language. If you ever get a chocolate cake, muffins or cookies from me, you just got a big fat hug and I just said I love you right  to your face. No pressure, all you have to say back to me it's how good you think my baking was.

Not too long ago, I decided to bake a whole bunch of brownies and take them to my church to say thank you (and I love you)  to all the unbelievable and selfless volunteers that serve there. I put my hair in a ponytail, took my kitchenaid out, played Kings of Leon as loud as I could and forgot to put the timer on the oven. Crap!:@!#@#@%$#%$!!! 30 minutes later, my gooey, extra-chocolaty brownies were as hard as a rock; no melted chocolate drops, no chewiness, no magic. 

Of course I cried. It was 10:30pm and I had just spent a Saturday night messing up my always perfect brownies. I sat down on the kitchen floor and cried like a baby and ask God...Why??? Why??? This was for you! (of course he was taking care of more important things at the time!)
I got up, and defeated I shared my frustrations with my husband, ALL of my life frustrations, starting with "This is the ONE day I'm glad I listened to my father and studied Architecture instead of Culinary Arts! THE ONE DAY!) He was busy watching Sports Center and could not care less about my horrible night.
Since either God or my husband was particularly concerned about my drama, I stood up and went back in to the kitchen. Staring at the trays and with a mixture of sadness, anger and frustration started tearing down the hard brownies in pieces. Slowly, I started feeling better and as a sign from heaven, two magical words appeared in my mind and filled my spirit with so much hope....Bread Pudding. Yes. What do you do when your bread goes stale? Bread pudding. So what do you do when your brownies are hard as a rock? OH God! You were listening!!! Brownie Pudding!!!

I played some Coldplay this time and started baking again. The results? I wish you could see the people's faces the next day! I'm not trying to brag (or maybe just a little) but I have never gotten this many compliments out of a disaster in the kitchen.
I’m going to try to give you a recipe but of course, you need to burn some brownies first! (or you can just use some good old stale bread, or stale chocolate cake -not that there any left, ever- but if you use bread you would need to add an extra cup of sugar)

1 cup granulated sugar
5 large eggs
1 cup of milk
3 cups of overcooked brownies baked into pieces (I cannot believe I’m writing this)
½ cup brown sugar
½  cup of rum (or brandy/cognac)
2 teaspoons of vanilla
¾  cup of dark chocolate broken in pieces
¾ cup of walnuts
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 13 by 9 by 2-inch pan.
Mix together granulated sugar, eggs and milk in a bowl; add vanilla and rum. Pour over brownies and let sit for 10 minutes. Mix in chocolate pieces and walnuts.
Pour brownie mixture into prepared pan. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until set. Remove from oven.

To top it all off, make a sauce and serve warm with your pudding. I’ll give you a quick recipe for a chocolate one or you can make a crème anglaise or brandy-butter based sauce.
The ingredients are:
1 can of condensed milk
1 can of table cream (light) 
3 Tbsp of cream cheese
1 small bag of chocolate chips -semisweet (I buy 60% cocoa from Ghirardelli)

I put all wet ingredients in a pot, slow heat and add the chocolate in after the milks and cream cheese have incorporated and they are warm,  never bubbly. Use a whisk to blend in and avoid clumps.
Bon Appétit!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

oh Lord. Here it comes: Thanksgiving.

Yes, Thanksgiving.
I remember my first one here in the United States. I was at my cousin's home in Orlando and his family had cooked their hearts out for days which resulted on a coma like state after eating for 8 hours straight. Every single dish was delicious and very traditional. I remember that first taste of sweet potato and marshmallows, piping hot, soft, sweet, slightly crunchy, it melted in my mouth and filled my soul, and even though I did not understand how that entered the "side-dish" category (it felt more like dessert to me) I loved it with a passion.
I have a lot of respect for tradition. I believe it should be guarded and loved like the oldest, most precious family member but somehow, Thanksgiving is not always so traditional at our home and I don't know why, I keep running in circles every year trying to reinvent it. I started thinking this year about the menu and about why can't I just buy the turkey, make some nice stuffing, sweet potato casserole, pumpkin pie... You all know the drill-why can't I just go that way? It's delicious!
Maybe it's because I need to build my own tradition. I need to find myself and my family inside that special meal that says: This is who we are. I really don't want my kids to say..."I have no stinkin' clue what my mom is gonna cook this year, maybe sweet potato gnocci, duck a l'orange, hallacas, sweet plantain mash, or maybe filet mignon with cranberry sauce or she'll just make some sushi with tempura turkey and crispy pumpkin over a banana leaf....wanna come? bring a side dish!"
For as long as he remembers, my husband knew exactly what to expect on that date. He, and his whole family, looked forward to the juiciest turkey in the planet made Cuban style. That is what his mom made every single year; consistent, perfect, delicious. I remember showing up there one time with cranberry sauce for the turkey and sweet potato mash. They all looked at me like I was completely out of my freaking mind, and kept eating black beans, yucca and mojo. Yes, I was crazy, I know it now but took me a while to realize it and say it out loud. That was their tradition and I was there to sabotage it.
But now it’s my turn, I have my own family and I desperately need to find my niche in the Thanksgiving table. I’m on a quest and I know it may take several years and I may have to send my kids to therapy but I must, must know how to bring it all together; for my family’s sake and my own inner peace. No more plan “B”, no more what if’s: there comes Thanksgiving and we know what to eat!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Mangia tutti!

Last Saturday morning, I woke up extra early with my toddler’s scream for breakfast and decided that I was going to be a very nice person and wake up everyone in the house so they would not miss the most beautiful morning of the year. Sixty degrees and sunny, we got dressed and ventured out to our local Farmer’s market in a quest for fresh croissants and some coffee. Unfortunately, the French bakery that operates there did not have any that morning so we decided to check everything else and get a taste of what was being offered that morning. In the middle of  our walk, I was pulled in one direction as a magnet in the “artisanal pasta” direction. The Italian man that was attending the station transported me into my first visit to Italy in seconds. (I could hear my sister's mother in law: "Mangia tutti! tutti!!!). Olive oil, Balsamic so sweet it tasted like figs, truffles, Parmigianno, Mozzarella, I could see it all working into a delicious dinner where the pureness and simplicity of basic ingredients shines and takes center stage. Who does not think that a good slice of a vine ripe tomato, topped with fresh mozzarella, basil, plenty of good olive oil, sea salt and pepper is one of the most delicious yet simple things in the world? Cook some fettuccine, slice some mushrooms, sauté them with olive oil, white wine, sea salt, your favorite fresh herb and toss those beautiful noodles into the hot pan, see magic happen. Yes, Italian food is by far my favorite, there is absolutely no doubt about it.
I spent about half an hour listening to the proud salesman and being seduced by the smell, taste and beauty of the ingredients he had on display. I took a deep breath and starting selecting what I was NOT going to take with me. I just wanted it ALL! One of my most precious selections was a bag of artisanal spaghettini with squid ink. I love cooking with them. To tell you all the truth, the taste of it is usually not as strong as I would wanted it to be (I just absolutely adore the taste of squid ink) but it has that hint that definitely makes a difference and acts as a gorgeous canvas for a seafood dish. As usual, I go very simplistic with what I use and let the ingredients speak for themselves. This is what I made the last time I got the “inked” pasta, I cannot wait to improvise something this weekend.

Inked Spaghettini with Shrimp and Cognac

1 pound inked spaghettini
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
½ teaspoon brown sugar
1 large shallot, finely diced
5 cloves garlic, sliced
Pinch red pepper flakes, optional
20 large shrimp, about 1 pound, peeled and deveined
oarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup cognac
1/4 cup finely chopped basil leaves
A couple of whole uncooked basil leaves for decoration (they look pretty and taste delicious)
For the pasta, put a large pot of water on the stove to boil. When it has come to the boil, add a couple of tablespoons of salt and the spaghettini. Stir to make sure the pasta separates; cover. When the water returns to a boil, cook for about 6 to 8 minutes or until the pasta is not quite done. Drain the pasta reserving 1 cup of water.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter in 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Saute the shallots, garlic, and red pepper flakes until the shallots are translucent, about 3 to 4 minutes. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper; add them to the pan and cook until they have turned pink, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the shrimp from the pan; set aside and keep warm. Add cognac and sugar and bring to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons oil. When the butter has melted, return the shrimp to the pan along with the parsley and cooked pasta and reserved pasta water. Stir well and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle over a bit more olive oil, top with whole basil leaves and serve immediately.
(This recipe was based on a Tyler Florence recipe for Shrimp Scampi. I gave myself the freedom to add, delete, remodel the original recipe. Tyler, please don’t sue me ;) )

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

#Fail (floating islands)

One of the trickiest desserts I have ever made is called Floating Islands. I absolutely adore it, it is actually top three in my list and I have not had it for so long. When I was little I used to rush into my grandparents kitchen to see if Abuela Tirsa had made some and a lot of times it was there. Soft and creamy custard with crispy caramel and fluffy as clouds so called "islands" made of meringue, there they were. I used to have three or four servings of it sitting by myself in the kitchen while my cousins played in the backyard.

Yesterday I woke up with those memories in my mind and decided to go on the journey of making them. So, while my baby was taking nap number one,  I started by making the custard. It turned out real well I must say. Added a little sweet rum and extra vanilla to cover the eggy taste that my husband sometimes dislikes.  I knew Santi's nap was not gonna last long, so I waited for second round nap, then I started with the meringue. It was just as I remembered it until I put it in the oven. They rose real well, beautiful islands ready to go on that sea of custard, but as soon as I got them out they started deflating like balloons. 
Yes, I remembered. This is one tricky dessert. 
Trying not to get too discouraged. I placed the sad, dessert brown islands on top of the custard and I ventured into making the caramel. Minutes after I set it up, my son wakes up screaming like a wild beast (cute one that he is) - hungry as a lion, he didn't care that my caramel was in the middle of that magic moment. Between slightly gold and amber. I sat down, told him to be quick and fed him after turning down the heat. I knew better, it was gonna get ruined. But did not know how ruined. 
Next thing I know, the fire alarm goes off, I start running into the kitchen with baby still attached to me, turn the fire off, open the door, silence the alarm, get the phone that is ringing, turn on the fan and start the extractor.... outside my window, I can see two fire trucks pulling into my driveway. Five firefighters come down and rush into the porch to only see burnt caramel and a baby in distress. 
They asked me if everything was fine, came into the kitchen, saw the damaged dessert and asked what it was (such a sad moment) made sure we were okay and as they started walking out, baby calmed down looked at them and said, clear as day: "agua, agua!!!".

I promise you all. I will conquer the floating islands. I will!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Gables (part two-dessert)

Who does not love a nice dessert? I have a rule of thumb...when I first meet somebody and they tell me, they don't like dessert, I just act extra careful around them. Really? you don't like dessert? hmmm...

The second part of this nice little visit to the Gables we stopped for dessert at a great place called "Chocolate Fashion". The name automatically worked as a human size magnet for me. I looked at it from afar and saw a couple of small, cramped chairs and tables on the narrow sidewalk, right next to an ugly  and old parking lot. It was full. The food must be good I said to myself. 

Really impressed by the beauty of every dessert, I spend half an hour driving the waiter crazy, asking what every single one of those jewels was. As you could expect, there was a very ample selection of chocolate based desserts and truffles but there was also a huge selection of french pastries that looked incredible. Napoleons, fruit tarts, fraisers, opera, fruit mousses. You name it, it was there. 

I ended up ordering a passion fruit and dark chocolate double mousse that was to die for. The combination of the sour fruit with the earthiness of the mousse was spectacular! My husband ordered a chocolate tart that I was eyeing every second. Soft in texture but full in flavor, it was what a chocolate tart was all created to be. My daughter ordered a chocolate chip cookie that was bigger then her face! It was a great one, but please be more adventurous than a 5-year old! Otherwise, just save yourself some miles and go to the Starbucks close to your home; the cookies are good there too.

I cannot wait to go back and try some other goodies. They also have a good lunch menu and a very decent breakfast. All simple and very good excuses to have dessert right after!

Bon Appetit!


The Gables (part one)

There is something magical about this place. Starting with the astonishing trees that create all kinds of beautiful canopies and shades, to the manicured, historic architecture there is no place in South Florida like Coral Gables. But of course that is not it. And of course I want to talk about the food! Last week, for the first time in many years, I decided that I did not want to throw myself a party for my birthday. I just wanted to rest and marinate in a good conversation, a nice glass of wine and a tasty meal. I told my husband that I felt like eating sushi, but wanted to feel like we actually left home for a little while.

We hit a restaurant called Red Koi that my husband tried a couple of weeks before when having lunch with a friend. it-was-amazing! I know that if somebody from Japan actually went to this place, he wouldn't be very impressed-or if he was, he would not call it sushi...but who cares? It was delicious!

I have always been a huge supporter of adding fruits and nuts to all foods that agree, so I was VERY pleased to see the menu. Knowing that it was my birthday and I was bound to end up having some type of super rich dessert, I cut to the chase, did not order any appetizers and went right for the rolls.

EAT this:
HAVANA: Fish katsu, macadamian nuts, guava paste, cilantro, avocado, rolled in soy paper with spicy mayo.
MONKEY: Eel, sweet plantain, crab, cucumber, asparagus, masago, avocado with ell sauce and spicy mayo.
CARIBBEAN: Coconut shrimp, figs, asparagus, cilantro, japanese chili powder, rolled on soy paper, kimchee sauce.
What I liked the most about these rolls was that every one of those flavors stood alone. I don't know how they achieved that, granted you eat the whole piece of sushi at once, but every "chew" was different and all together was poetic!
I ordered a glass of pinot grigio and my husband the house sake. I ended up stealing my husband's drink. I am not very versed when it comes to sake and don't like fruity drinks but it really surprised me how good this pineapple sake was! and I like to be surprised!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Pizza and hormones

My poor-neglected husband just walked in to see old pictures of the scrumptiously delicious meals I used to cook about eight and a half months away. He's had a sandwich for lunch every other day, delivery pizza almost every weekend, pasta with bolognese sauce once a month (thank God he absolutely loves that one) and a huge dose of hormonal imbalance and challenges coming right from the woman he fell in love with and did not ever have PMS during the first year of dating her. Yeah...that would be me!
By now, my little baby boy is about ready to come! yes! exciting right? I cannot believe how fast time has past and how blessed I have been for a healthy pregnancy even though my mood swings may not feel like they fell from heaven to the people that do life with me.
Hopefully, I will regain my appetite for good meals and my desire to be in the kitchen. Right now, I am no inspiration in this area of my life, therefore, this blog has also been neglected completely.
I hope you all forgive me and bear with me as I come around the corner either with a new direction or with renewed inspiration in what I consider the heart of my precious home: the kitchen.

Monday, February 15, 2010

7 Spice Arroz con Pollo

I love spices.
I love experimenting with them, tasting different combinations, smelling the results, infusing my home with them as I hear curious footsteps approaching the kitchen eagerly.
I have a great respect for Indian cuisine because the dishes are like a surprise party in your mouth. I love trying to figure out what's in it, even though, a lot of times, I am completely off and have no idea what I am talking about. Indian people know their spices and they know how to combine them down to an art form.
I felt like experimenting a bit today with the spices I know and came up with this. Let me tell you, it's pretty freaking good!

Try it at home and let me know what you think.

Here's the recipe.

7 Spice Arroz con Pollo:

1 teaspoon of the following spices:
Chili Powder
Yellow curry

1 vidalia or yellow sweet onion
2 chicken breasts (no bone)
1.5 cups of rice
1.5 cup of whole peeled tomatoes (canned)
1 cup of cooked garbanzo beans
1/2 cup of black raisins
2.5 cups of chicken stock
1/4 cup of capers
Sea Salt to taste ( I use about 3 teaspoons, but it's up to you to change the amount)

Cut the onion in large cubes. Cook them in canola oil until they are golden. Add chicken cut in strips. Cook with the onions until they are tender. Cut the tomatoes in large cubes and add them with their juices. Let this simmer for 8-10 min in low heat. Add spices one by one and add rice. Let it cook as you stir for about 5 minutes.
Add raisins, capers and sea salt. 
Last, add chicken stock and garbanzo beans.
Let it cook in medium heat until 3/4 of liquid has been consumed. Cover it and turn down the heat. Cook until rice has flourished. Let it rest for about 15 minutes before serving.

I recommend to use a flat (paella type) pan to cook this rice, but that is not necessarily a rule.

Serve, decorate, sprinkle with a little chili powder and a little olive oil.

The rest, it's up to you!

Bon Appetit!

Monday, February 1, 2010

small secret revealed.

I am a foodie's nightmare.
At the time.
I have a 4 year old girl's diet. There are only a handful of things I like right now: Pasta, bread, pizza, potatoes, rice and of course, arepas. The good old venezuelan ones. All of that, needs to be topped off with cheese. Any cheese will do. That, I have not lost.
Everything else, makes me feel like my insides are a volcano in eruption. Just opening my refrigerator makes me dizzy. I can smell absolutely everything, even if it's inside of a can, and trust me, being able to smell garlic, whipped cream, yogurt, blue cheese and raw chicken at the same time it's NOT a pleasant experience.
Yes baby, I am PREGNANT! There is an additional little heart beating inside my body. There is a little being developing into a precious little child that will make me cry as soon as I see her/him and will make me look like a helium balloon for many months. He/She will make my breasts acquire gargantuan sizes and will cause people to say hello to me looking down and in awe of this new and undesired proportions. But most importantly I know that there is a God, who is right now very busy, knitting that baby inside my womb.

I guess the fact that I cannot eat, feel miserable for most of the day and that I have to surrender my entire body to this little tenant is just a small part of a huge miracle developing. The miracle of Life.

I will continue posting and maybe cooking, but mostly praying for what's about to happen in my life.

I guess I cannot close this post with Bon Appetit...
Sure, why not?

Bon Appetit!


Saturday, January 16, 2010

Latin Burger and Ingrid Hoffman

Guys, I am so happy...I feel like I am back home! Only a recognized chef drives the truck this time! I had the great opportunity to eat at Latin burger yesterday and was impressed by the concept, the quality of the food, the cleanliness, and the friendliness of the workers. Of course, Ingrid Hoffman was there, so they'd better behave!
The menu is nothing but short and simple. Three different tacos and one burger. No need for more when they are all delicious.
The cause, even better. People that work there, are those that need a second opportunity in life. Their first one, did not go so well. They also hire students that need to do their internship to graduate and part of their funds go to feed the homeless. That's my kind of business!! Cooking, doing it well and doing it for one or many causes.
The prices? A chorizo, sirloin, chuck burger with caramelized onions, oaxaca cheese, jalapenos and a delicious avocado sauce: $5.75! Three tacos for $6.95! Do I need to say more? Go follow that truck right now for lunch!
The truck is at a different place every day. You need to follow them on twitter (@latinburger) or add them in you facebook page.

See you all later and put those taste buds to work!

Bon Appetit,


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Saboreando - In and out

Yes, I am back.
I have been very busy eating and feeding and have had no time to blog!
In the past 2 months I have been laid off, got a new job, moved my whole daily life to different places; I found a new school for my daughter, I got a new role in my church, and I have cooked, and cooked and cooked a little more. I have also eaten and cooked my way thru peace. Cooking for me it’s therapeutic. I know what I am doing, I can control it, If I mess it up, I can start all over again, I can also chase people off the kitchen when they disrupt my found “zone”. (Get outta here before I use this 12” Santoku chef’s knife and turn you into a Hannibal Lecter kind of dinner please!!!!). Yes. I am very territorial when it comes to my kitchen. I especially hate when somebody stands right behind me and asks me what I am doing. (Mmmm…peeling an onion? Slicing a garlic clove?...yes! slicing a garlic! Not killing it with a mortar!!!)
Well. Enough about me. I wanted to write some about this very special place with tons of amazing food. Design District, Miami. My new job is located there and I have been very impressed with the places I have been to. There is a renaissance of good food going on over here. I tought all I was going to find a lot of trendy, expensive places, but I am pleased to report that you could eat very well on a dalily basis around here without having to leave your left eye as part of payment. Yes, I know that when I say Design District, you think Senora Martinez, Michael’s Genuine, but that is not what I want to talk about.
I want to talk about options for the business people, the strolling moms and the hungry middle class traveler. Creative, delicious, fast and affordable.

Here are three of them. This is just part one of a very tasty journey.

Salsa Fiesta:
Mexican. $
I love this place. Is it authentic Mexican food? Not really. You are not going to find mole or tacos al pastor; there is no Valentina sauce and for the first month they did not have soft corn tortillas. So you ask-why is it even on my list? Because the ingredients are fresh, the tacos make your mouth water, they do use crema Mexicana and fresh queso blanco instead of sour cream and Monterrey jack. The menu has great options, the guacamole is very well done, the mango salsa is addictive! They also have tostones (which I die for) and really good, well seasoned carnitas. Some of my favorites there are the guerrero taco with grilled fish (that features that mango salsa I’m talking about) and the Acapulco Mio Salad with carnitas. The best part of this salad? It comes with crunchy tostones so you can dip on the good stuff. The service is excellent, the place is very nice – modern and clean, and the prices are awesome. Sorry Lime Fresh, there is not even a contest here.

Pizza Volante.
Italian. $$

Mozzarella and Burrata Bar. Hand written daily specials. Brick oven Pizza. Welcome!
From the Pacific Time owners, comes a more affordable, simple menu, very fresh ingredients, all organic, lovely Italian eatery.
I’ve had many things here and I have not been disappointed yet. I love the concept of the mozzarella bar and the accompaniments are delicious. From roasted eggplant to fresh tomatoes, red peppers, they are all fresh and perfectly served. The only thing I would add for the bar is that the burrata I ordered was very cold. I like my burrata al natural. The pizzas are amazing, beautiful crust; less is more with the ingredients. The daily specials are usually very simple, more towards home made Italian cooking, and that is exactly what I like about them. The service could improve substantially, the music is too loud and they charged me for the bread I asked to go with my burrata (fail!). Not perfect, but close.

The Cheese Course.
Cheese! $

I absolutely adore this place! Why? Simple. They have AMAZING cheese. I am not exaggerating. World class, all international, best quality ever cheese. The sandwiches and salads are delicious. The quiches are excellent. The products they sell to go with the cheese are high quality. You can taste before you buy and they usually have an array of produce for you to explore with your taste buds before your food is ready. I go often and by now I’ve tried at least ¾ of the menu. Is has all been worth it. But, again, it’s me, cheese adicta Andie. But even if you’re a not a cheese connoisseur, you can delight on the great cold cuts they offer, they are all world class as well. The prosciutto and jamon Serrano are my favorite, and you can order a side of them to go with your salad and a piece of freshly baked baguette.

If you made thru here, Congratulations! You are officially my fan number one! I’ll be back soon with more stories and more eateries. In the meantime, make sure you cook, eat out, taste something different and enjoy life.
In the words of one of my favorite people in the whole world, Tony Bourdain “Your body is not a temple, it’s an amusement ride!” so go out and taste the world!

Bon Appétit!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Chocolate (Volume I)

Is there a more loved and craved ingredient than chocolate? It's delicious, it's a spirit healer, it makes you feel loved (literally, because it contains phenylephylamine - the same hormone the brain triggers when you fall in love) and it is also believed to be an aphrodisiac (I'll leave that up to you).

I love it with almost everything-with fruit, melted over bread, powdered on top of my coffee, dark, light, pure and unadulterated. I've had gourmet chocolate confections with chile, wasabi, curry, sea salt, pomegranate, it's amazing how it blends with all these exotic tastes without losing its essence.

Chocolate it's by far one of the most amazing foods on the planet, and that is why I feel the need of experimenting a little more with it. I know I am not totally original by doing this, after all, my latest experiments have been really inspired by the fantastic mexican mole, which is one of my favorite concoctions in the planet. But since mole is so difficult to make and does not really count as an everyday meal (unless you are Rick Bayless), I am trying to use some of this background to amuse my family's palette and see where that leads in my future of my stardomship as a famous Home-cook.

This weekend I surprised my husband with a treat and I would love to share the recipe. There are really a couple of stars in this one. Bitterweet Dark Chocolate, Fleur de Sel, Mexican Tarragon, and dark beer.

The Tarragon may be a little difficult to find, so I highly encourage you to buy the plant . I got the grown plant at Target (go figure) and it is a staple herb on my kitchen. It has anise, sweet undertones. The Aztecs used it on their chocolate drinks and they served it as a nutricious meal. It grows all year round in warm climates.

About the Fleur de Sel, I am going to give one piece of advice. Do yourself a favor, go to your kitchen and throw away the regular salt from your pantry. That stuff is bad for you. I am not saying that you should use this expensive salt for everything. For everyday cooking, you could use sea salt or kosher salt, and then, for special days or to salt your tomatoes, eggs, or anything that requires a pinch of salt on top after it's cooked, use Fleur de Sel. You will not regret it. It's good for you (it has over 20 minerals that your systems needs to function properly) and its taste it's amazing.

Bon Appetit!

Pork Loin in Bittersweet Chocolate and mexican tarragon sauce.
4 Thick cut pieces of Pork Loin.

4 Tbsp of Olive Oil

5 oz of Dark beer.

2 Large stems of fresh mexican tarragon.

4 Pieces of Fresh Garlic

Peppercorn blend

1 tsp of Powdered Chile

4 squares of bittersweet chocolate.

Sea salt

1 Tbsp of Flour (if neccesary to thicken the sauce)

Fleur de Sel to finish.

Peel the garlic and cut it in thick slices. In a pressure cooker, add the olive oil, garlic. Cook in medium heat until garlic starts to look tender then add the pork. Let the pork get golden brown on both sides and then add the tarragon leaves, some pepper, Chile, sea salt and last the beer. Let it cook until it's about to boil and put the cover on your pressure cooker. Turn the heat up, wait until you hear the whirring of your cooker, that means is boiling and cooking at the speed of light, bring the heat down and leave it for about 15 minutes. Then turn the heat off, let your cooker decompress either by waiting or putting it under running cold water until you don't see vapor escaping. Only then, you can uncover the pot. Bring the pork back to the heat again. Let the juices simmer until they are no longer watery. Add the chocolate. It'll melt and thicken your sauce a some more. Taste and add the desired amount of Fleur de Seul. The sauce should not be too sweet, but you should taste the chocolate.

Take the sauce out and blend it so it's all one creamy consistency.

Only in the case of your sauce being too watery, I' d recommend to thicken it before you blend it. Take some of the liquid out, let it cool, add the flour, mix it and then incorporate this mixture, very slowly, back into the sauce. You'll see it getting thicker almost inmediately.

Serve the pork, pour over the sauce and decorate with a stem of Tarragon.

In this case, I served it with pearl potatoes in a spicy peppers sauce (Peruvian huancaina sauce) and some sweet corn on the cob.

If you don't have a pressure cooker you can still do this dish in a regular pot but it will take a lot longer for the pork to be tender. I highly recommend the use of pressure cookers. Once you use it, you'll be totally addicted to it. They are extremely fast and they can turn a piece of stone like meat into a beautiful tender, juicy roast in less than 20 minutes.

Have fun in the kitchen and see you all soon!


Monday, August 24, 2009

Dinner and Tango

Husband gets home from work after a long day. Wife is wearing red. Gotan Project is playing in the background. She gives him a kiss on the lips and takes off his tie.
They walk to the dining room table. Candlelight. White table cloth down. A bottle of Saint Emilion has been opened and decanted. There are steamed mussels on the table. The air smells like sweet butter and parsley. Husband breaths deeply - he realizes is going to be a good night.
The dinner table keeps evolving as the clock turns. Rack of Lamb. Roasted crispy potatoes. The Rosemary scent floats in the air as the woman in red cuts a piece of the juicy meat. She feeds him the first bite as he closes his eyes and smiles in delight.
Shoes off, toes start playing. One more sip of wine. There are strawberries on the table. Chocolate is in the melting process, they dip, they bite, they giggle.
The party of two move to their living room, glasses in hand. She lays close to him as he plays with her hair. They laugh away the stress of the day. They talk about the past. They talk about their future. The candles slowly burn themselves out, casting a glow over them while the shadows dance on the walls.

The dirty dishes can wait.

I do not recommend to test this same scenario with a meal brought from Chili's takeout.

Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


So what is a foodie? And, am I one?
I am not sure yet, but for some reason I don't like the term and I definitely don't like to be categorized as such.
Is it somebody that follows new restaurants around and is obsessed with Chefs? Just like a rock star groupie but with food? So, instead of trying to get up on stage to sing with Bono, are they jumping on top of the table holding a lamb chop in one hand and the new Giada De Laurentis book on the other to get it signed and take a peak at her cleavage?
Is it someone that only eats at fancy restaurants and would never get caught having a hot dog from a cart in the middle of the street? Would that be considered derogatory for a "Foodie"?
Is it a new breed of people that would use words as abstract, ephemeral, ethereal to describe a 55 dollar entree when they don't really know if they actually like what they are eating?
Is a foodie someone that could confuse food with fashion? Somebody that has never chopped more than 2 onions at a time, that has never cooked for over 30 people, that does not have battle scars from the kitchen but they can recite the entire top 20 new restaurants from Food and Wine Magazine and give you a quick bio of their chefs at your wine tasting party?
Do they believe that eating at El Bulli is definitely much, much better than eating paella directly from the pan while drinking Rioja out of a cup? Do they think that a dollop of mango foam is better than biting into the sweet, juicy, messy fruit as you sit under the tree you got it from?

Don't get me wrong. I have been there. I have been thru phases in my life where I just loved to eat at fancy restaurants and skipped all the "hole in the wall" local eateries. I once bought a very expensive VIP ticket and waited in line in a big sweaty crowd (duck confit in hand) to get a picture with Tony Bourdain (and I will do it again). I have paid absurd money to be sitting at the most fashionable restaurant in SoBe at the time- I was very impressed at the level of theatrical performance and had the best drink of my life (would never go back unless somebody else pays and the food improves substantially). I think I could sacrifice an entire year of cheese (what?!) to have the opportunity of eating at Ferran Adria genious food lab.

All I have to say is that because I have done all that, I can testify that these elements do not give you any kind of guarantee of better food or experience.
Don't call me a foodie. I have gotten my hands dirty, have cried rivers cutting onions to make hallacas (Venezuelan's tamale-like food) for Christmas, I have battle scars from hot ovens and sharp knives.
I love eating mangoes with my hands, love eating food from a street vendor. I have stepped into a little fisherman's home with my family and asked him if he could share some baby shark (cazon) empanadas with us. I have eaten arepas and fried pig on the side of the road (dirt road) on my way to the beach. Nothing compares to those big, bold, fantastic flavors.

Food should not be compared to fashion. Creativity should be felt in your taste buds and not so much looked at in your plate. Food is good when it tastes good, not only when it looks nicely arranged or when it comes from a familiar part of the animal. Food is great when it's tied to history, when the culture of your town is reflected in that one bite, when memories hit you as you smell the burning fat and garlic -you can hear your mother calling you to the table when you were 5 years old. Food represents our family and our love, our hard work. Food brings stories to our dinner table. It makes everything more meaningful, our successes and our failures, our welcomes and our losses.

So, Foodie? I am not sure what it actually means. If anybody can better explain to me what a foodie does or what it is, it would be greatly appreciated.

Buen Provecho!