will work for cheese

- from my senses to your screen -

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!


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Food and Family

I grew up in a home where everything revolved around the kitchen table. My grandmother used to setup a table that looked like a Christmas dinner setting every day of her life . My grandfather would get home from work and then everybody would sit around him and wait for him to take the first bite. After that, the feast started. Flavors and smells traveling around the table, juices spilling, finger licking, second helpings, and the occasional picky eater being given the dirty look by the parents. I got to live all of that since I come from a Hispanic background and all the "children" lived at home until they got married -that included my two uncles who stayed until their late thirties and then found women that took care of them.

My mother followed her steps. Being more of a modern woman, who eventually left the 24 hour 7 days a week nest to go to work, she still took the time to run her show at the kitchen table. Nowadays, she never stops impressing her friends and family with her creativity and well executed dishes. She never cooks the same thing twice in a month, always improving, always reinventing.

I remember getting home from school to find a three course meal on the table- all fresh ingredients, table cloth down, three rows of silverwear and a big smile on the proud cook's face.

On the weekends, even though we did not have much money, my father used to take us touring the great restaurants in Caracas. By the time I was 11, I was ordering my filet mignon medium with a side of Bernaise sauce and would be very annoyed if they gave me some sort of bechamel sauce in its place.

I was a cheese addict by the time I was two. Queso (cheese in spanish) was the third word I learned after Mom and Dad. I used to follow my mom around and ask for "queso" repeatedly. I have failed every diet I've ever tried because cheese is never on the menu and I once tried desperately to substitute it for fat free versions. I do not even want to go there. I refuse to talk about that terrible and depressing stage of my life.

Ten years ago, after I graduated from Architecture School, I left my country to begin a new adventure. I left my home, my comfort zone, home cooked meals by my mother, family parties, mortgage and debt free life and moved to Florida. I left to find my new self and let go of my old one. Little did I know that in the process of reinventing who I was, by joining the Rat Race and Career frenzie, I found myself back in my grandmother's kitchen, the heart of my family and the core of my Home. But, this time it has been spiced up with my own journey and what I have learned from this beautiful nation and the people that make it unique.

This is who I am. I will write about food, family, friends and places.

I will write about my life. And who knows, maybe I'll write about yours too.

See you around.  Bon appetit!