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Granizado de Mango y Maracuyá, or Mango Shaved Ice

Mango Shaved Ice Recipe

Though increasingly rare, it’s always exciting during the summer to come across an old-fashioned push cart making granizados, the shaved ice cones drenched in an array of bottled syrups in supernatural colors. It’s hard to match the evenly textured, disappearing flakes that street vendors can pull from a single block of ice in a rickety cart on a sweltering corner. But granizados can be made at home, with any combination of pureed fruits and juices: spiced, spiked and sweetened to taste just like an Italian granita.

Instead of breaking up chunks of ice or burning out a blender, the flavored liquid is set to chill in a shallow baking pan then broken up as the ice crystals form; it is redistributed until the mixture is uniformly slushy and all around refreshing. This weekend I tried a few variations but my favorite was a combination of mango and passion fruit, sweet and sour with a brush of mint for a last bite of cold. If you’d rather leave the serious shaving to professionals, American snow cones, Mexican raspados, Puerto Rican piraguas, and even Korean patbingsu can be sought out, but you’ll miss the fun of coming up with your own favorite flavors and textures.

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Serve a Peruvian Take on Potato Salad at Your Next Party

Peruvian Causa

If you ever have a hard time deciding between potato, chicken or egg salad for a summer cookout then a Peruvian causa, from the Quechen, might be your best bet. Bright yellow potatoes are blended with oil, lime juice and, most importantly, Peru’s ají amarillo, and then layered with a variety of fillings like tuna or trout, shredded chicken or shellfish, tomatoes, avocado, hard boiled eggs, beets, and corn in countless combinations. Basically, a causa offers anything you could want of summer rolled into a peppery potato mash.

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Sweet Summer Drink: Mote con Huesillos Recipe

Mote con Huesillos

On a recent vacation, I had a waiter tell me about an exciting new dessert they had on the menu. He then tick off the ingredients to a perfectly ordinary key lime pie (I opted for the chocolate tamales instead).

It always strikes me how everyday comfort foods take on an exotic glow when they cross borders. I thought of this when I was looking for variations on mote con huesillos, a refreshing summer dessert beverage that’s sold all over Chile: from street carts, prepackaged and bottled in stores, or mixed up at home. Dried peaches (huesillos) are soaked overnight then poached in a light syrup with caramelized sugar. Once chilled, the meltingly sweet peaches are poured over tender wheat grain (mote de trigo) then scooped out a little at a time.

Stateside you may be as American as apple pie but in Chile you can be más chileno que el mote con huesillos. They couldn’t be more different, but whether it’s new or familiar, they’d both be welcome at a barbecue, whatever part of the world you’re in.

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How to Make Salvadorian Pupusas

Pupusa Salvadorian Pupusas

In an ever changing landscape of artisanal pickles, homemade ricotta and lobster rolls, Salvadorean pupusas rise above the competition to become the most popular item in Brooklyn’s ballfields and summer markets, season after season. The lightly charred and tender corn masa patties just barely contain the hot melted cheese, creamy refried beans, seasoned shredded pork or woody loroco that oozes from its center with every bite.

This weekend, I headed to Fort Greene’s Brooklyn Flea to learn directly from Cesar Fuentes of Solber Pupusas how to reproduce their corn masa patties at home. Simple to do, but hard to do well, it takes some practice to get these snacks just right.

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Torrejas with Lavender Honey Syrup

Torrejas with Lavendar Honey Syrup Torrejas with Lavender Honey Syrup

Though many people give up their favorite vices for Lent – chocolate, alcohol, Facebook – the season has its consolations, too, mostly in the form of custard-soaked bread fried in olive oil and drenched with wine, honey or spiced syrup.

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Camarones al Chipotle, or Shrimp in Chipotle Sauce

Shrimp in Chopotle Sauce

A couple of weeks ago, I arrived in Mexico City to visit family and was immediately put to work helping my aunt make camarones al chipotle for lunch. I practically exited the cab and went straight to the kitchen, my rolling suitcase still trailing behind me, to melt butter and sauté the onions and garlic. I could have excused myself but I was at least partly there to discover new recipes so there was no reason to wait. In an hour or so we were out on the terrace over-looking the northwestern hills of the city having zucchini blossom soup with fresh cheese and avocado, tinga de pollo, black beans, warm corn tortillas and plump shrimp drenched in a creamy chipotle sauce to finish – hot from the chiles but soothing at the same time.

Crowded airports, jet lag and altitude changes forgotten, I felt restored not just by the food but by my time at the stove. Back in New York, I recreated the recipe on my own, happy to be home but missing the easygoing chaos of a crowded kitchen.

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How to Stock a Latin Pantry

Chile’s merquén is a key spice in Latin American cooking.

When I decided to delve into Latin American cooking as a young adult, I realized I would have to build my pantry from scratch. Reaching back to my memories of cooking Cuban food with my grandparents, I began to stock it with the things I used to reach for instinctively. Going further, I added a few items I have found along the way that weren’t strictly part my grandparents Cuban pantry but seemed to fit right in.

Still, I didn’t realize how difficult it would be to come up with a list of only the essential items for a Latin pantry. I worried what I might be leaving out but didn’t want to include specialty items that may find themselves neglected after one use (like the adzuki beans, pistachio oil, and purple yam powder now taking up precious cupboard space) . I tried to include the items that lend themselves to the largest array of recipes and dishes.  Mostly, I wanted to pull together a list of ingredients that make me feel at home no matter where I find myself.

A glimpse inside my crowded pantry.

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Beyond Shepherd’s Pie: Puerto Rican Pastelón de Plátano Maduro

We’re down to the last few weeks of winter. Rather than pine for the warmer weather that’s around the corner, why not take advantage of cooler temperatures to indulge in all that’s soothing and filling? Of all the Caribbean comfort foods, plantains are the most versatile.  Even if you bring home too many, you’ll always find a use for them.  Bought green to make tostones, they can easily become mofongo.  Let them turn completely yellow, they can be steamed for a quick side dish of plátano sancochado.  Forget them altogether until they’re almost completely black, they can still be fried up to make maduros.

 

With a few yellow plantains on hand at the perfect mid-point — sweetly ripe but still firm enough to be boiled — I decided to make a Puerto Rican pastelón de plátano maduro.  Similar to a shepherd’s pie, the plantains are mashed together and layered with picadillo flavored with oregano, olives and capers, tomatoes and raisins then topped with cheese and baked.  The lower layer absorbs the juices from picadillo while the cheese crust balances out the sweetness from the plantains.

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