The New York City Marathon may be 26.2 miles, but runners rack up many, many more during training. Carbo-loading, the guilt-free consumption of rice, pasta and bread in the days leading up to it, can seem like a reward for months of dedication and hard work. Done properly, you’ll have enough stored energy to see you through to the finish line. Overindulge, though, and you’ll get to race day feeling like someone’s handed you a sack of potatoes and asked you to run it through the five boroughs.
Continue Reading Fuel Your Marathon (Or Your Day): Amaranth Pancakes
Few holidays capture the imagination like El Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. From November 1 (All Saints’ Day) through November 2 (All Souls’ Day), families throughout Mexico and Central America build elaborate altars to lay out the favorite foods of their dearly departed. Platters of rice and beans, moles, tortillas, tamales, calaveras (candy skulls) and brioche-like pan de muertos dusted with sugar welcome the spirits home — albeit for a brief time — before the food is shared by family and friends.
Atole, a hot beverage thickened with fresh corn masa, corn flour or cornstarch, is a holiday staple, though it’s enjoyed for breakfast year-round. Traditionally sweetened with unrefined cane sugar, or piloncillo, and flavored with fruit, a chocolate version called champurrado is served at Christmastime. This atole de calabaza is made with fresh pumpkin slowly cooked with aromatic spices like anise, allspice and clove. While the Day of the Dead is a time to reflect on the past, this richly textured drink will keep you looking forward to the crisp fall days ahead.
Continue Reading Raise a Glass of Atole de Calabaza for Day of the Dead
Dulce de leche has become such an established cross-over success – easily made at home or store-bought, found in big brand ice cream and even all-American girl scout cookies - that it’s hard to remember the excitement when it first hit markets. Until the early nineties, it was the once-in-a-while treat my uncle might bring from business trips to Chile or Peru (where it was introduced to us as manjar blanco) or that a Colombian friend shared from home (where it went by arequipe).
Alfajores – small sandwich cookies traditionally filled with dulce de leche then rolled in coconut or powdered sugar – came later. Popular throughout South America, they’re also shaped into large, multi-layered tarts topped with meringue or crushed almonds. A rustic version of the mille-feuille, these sky-high tarts alternately known as alfajor de mil capas or torta de mil hojas can be made from large crumbly crackers or delicate puff pastry.
Using a simple shortbread recipe, this alfajor tart sprinkled with toasted coconut falls somewhere in between. The dough is rolled out into thin, flat discs that, when baked, easily break apart against the dense, caramel filling. Prepared the day ahead, the layers melding together while maintaining crispy edges, it’s no less delicious for being perfectly familiar.
Continue Reading Alfajores Get Reinvented as a Dulce de Leche Tart
No visit to a Cuban bakery is complete without sampling the croquetas – freshly made and sprinkled with lime juice if possible. A deep fried blend of béchamel sauce and ham, chicken or salt cod, these savory treats hold their own among the teeming trays of glazed guava pastries, sugary cakes, and airy meringues that fill the glass cases. Tucked into a pressed Cubano for lunch, the added crunch transforms the classic sandwich into an unforgettable croqueta preparada.
Made at home, all kinds of leftovers and stewed dishes can be added to the blank-slate of white sauce before it’s scooped, rolled and breaded. A little cumbersome at first, they can be prepped well ahead of time then fried just before serving. There are no limits to what goes into a good croqueta but here are a few guidelines to get started.
Continue Reading How to Make Croquetas
Trying to stick to fish every Friday during Lent comes easy at first, but my resolve wears thin with each passing week. Forgoing the usual salmon or seared tuna, I decided to make pescado en salsa verde — buttery white fish fillets drenched in parsley sauce then baked with slices of potatoes. A staple in our Cuban house growing up, I asked my mother for her recipe.
I found that using half as much olive oil and vino seco as her recipe was more than enough, but cooking the potatoes without overdoing the fish was tricky. Starting them in the oven earlier, I used that time to pull the sauce together. Smothered in sweet onions, there was just enough garlicky salsa verde to warrant a second dip of crusty bread.
March is about looking forward to spring, but sometimes a quick look back lets you see something you may have missed.
Continue Reading Pescado en Salsa Verde
Whether your party is made up of die-hard face painters or people more interested in determining the top commercial, pretty much everyone is a fan of Super Bowl Sunday. Finding new ways to satisfy a diverse group of friends expecting the traditional more-is-more spread of wings, dips and chips can be a challenge.
Chewy dates wrapped in thick slices of uncured bacon are easy to put together assembly-line style to feed a crowd. For variety, stuff them with an array of fillings like crunchy almonds, spicy chorizo, or sharp Manchego to balance out the sweetness. If you’re running short on time, they can be quickly pan fried or baked off all at once to candied crisp. Regardless of the game’s outcome, these pig skins are sure to please everyone.
Continue Reading Bacon-Wrapped Dates, Three Ways
While there are countless ways to celebrate the season, there seems to be a general consensus that sweetened milk, enriched by egg yolks, and spiked with spirit, preferably bottled, is a good idea.
Eggnog may have originated in England, but Mexican convents have perfected it as rompope, Cubans have their own sugary version called crema de vie, and Puerto Ricans took the usual blend and infused it with coconut to make coquitos. Though simple enough to make with canned or creamed coconut, there’s a unique satisfaction to cracking open your own coconut, grating the meat, blending in the rum and extracting the flavor directly from the source. Creamy and sweet, the coconut adds a smoothness that sets it apart from heavier custard-in-a-glass alternatives and brings a taste of island life to the holidays. In Puerto Rico, where the parties and observances start early and can continue well into January, there’s always an excuse for just one more.
Continue Reading Coquitos, or Puerto Rican Eggnog
With the Chicago marathon just past, New York City coming up and Philadelphia around the corner, you might have noticed weekend runners – on their own or roving in packs – heading out with singular determination. Friends or family who’ve spent the last few months training for these events may have dropped out of your life altogether only to reappear weeks later – sporting odd glove-shaped shoes that give them monkey feet and raving about pacing, hill repeats, cadence and hydration. Not surprisingly, nutrition is also a major pre-occupation for runners because the more you ask of your body the more you expect from your food.
Continue Reading Power Food: Quinoa With Roasted Butternut Squash
Though it’s still possible to find corn, zucchini and tomatoes in the markets, it’s hard to ignore the diminishing returns in quantity, quality and most importantly, enthusiasm. As the summer season closes out, there’s more reason to try something new that you may have overlooked: Okra, hearty, versatile and available through early October, may be that thing.
Continue Reading Quimbombo: Okra Stew With Pork and Plantain Dumplings
I was determined to make tamales this summer but kept hearing that the corn piling up at the markets wasn’t the “right” kind. Sweet and bursting maybe, but not the starchy field corn needed to make traditional tamales. Though they can be made year round using cornmeal, masa harina or tamal flour specially made for the purpose, it seemed a shame to make the same tamales in July that I could have in December.
I was about to go the all-maseca route when I tried a Guatemalan tamal from a street vendor. Sweet, airy and topped only with crema and fresh cheese, it had the delicate flavor of the white summer corn crowding the farm stands. Known as tamales de elote in Mexico and Central America, humitas in the Andes, and green corn tamales in the States, these fresh corn tamales could be made with domestic corn and just a small amount of masa harina to approximate the taste and texture of starchier varieties. Though savory fillings can be added like shredded pork or chicken, they’re wonderful just on their own blended with fast melting cheese like Oaxaca or Monterey Jack and green onions. With every part of the corn, from the husks to the kernels to the cobs, imparting their own shades of flavor, you can savor everything the season has to offer while it lasts.
Continue Reading How To Make Fresh Corn Tamales