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Posts Tagged ‘latin american cuisine’

A Fried Christmastime Treat: Bunuelos

I love the look of Bunuelos — the treat is so enticing with their perfectly round shape. They are a Christmastime favorite in Columbia, where the fried yeast balls are stuffed with a white salty cheese and are more savory than sweet. The dish is traditionally served with natilla, a custard-like dessert that is very similar to flan, and with ‘manjar blanco’ for a Christmas trifecta.

Columbian Natilla (the ‘s’ gets dropped in Columbia) differs from the natilla in other countries since they don’t use eggs. This dish gets served chilled and is the perfect accompaniment to a crunchy, salty bunuelo.

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Raise a Glass of Atole de Calabaza for Day of the Dead

Atole de Calabaza Recipe

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.

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Alfajores Get Reinvented as a Dulce de Leche Tart

Alfajor Recipe

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.

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Meatless Monday: Arepas With Cheese and Corn

arepas

Mark Bittman's Arepas: the batter's made with cheese and whole corn kernels.

Meatless Monday is a global movement, a way of life. It’s not a campaign to turn everyone in the world vegetarian or vegan; in fact, many involved are meat-lovers. Eating less meat has been proven to reduce the risk of disease, curb obesity and has important environmental impacts, too. Will you join us in giving up meat, just for one day a week?

If you haven’t tried arepas, get or make yourself some as soon as possible. They’re popular in Columbia, Venezuela and other Latin American countries but widely available in the US at Latin American restaurants, and they’re ubiquitous at New York City summer street fairs. They’re thick, round corn cakes that are either baked, grilled or fried. They can be split in half, like an English muffin, and stuffed with just about anything — cheese, meat, eggs, seafood, beans, roasted vegetables — or they can be left whole and eaten on their own. I like mine stuffed with mozzarella cheese; it gets all stringy when you bite into or break the arepa in half.

If you’re not near Venezuela or a NYC street fair right now, arepas are easy enough to make at home. Mark Bittman’s arepas are made with a thick cornmeal batter that’s studded with whole corn kernels. Once they’re cooked, you can slice and stuff them with beans, grilled vegetables, cheese (queso, Monterrey jack, cheddar or mozzarella all work), or you can top them with any of the aforementioned fixin’s and eat them with a fork.

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HungrySofia Nominated for Saveur Food Blog Award

Hungry Sofia by Ana Sofia Pelaez

Congratulations to Devour contributor Ana Sofia Peláez, whose personal blog hungrysofia.com has been nominated for one of Saveur.com‘s Best Food Blog Award 2012.

Ana Sofia covers the spectrum of Spanish and Latin American cuisine for Cooking Channel’s blog, Devour, and in her own blog. From the rich smells and flavors of the Cuban food she grew up with to modern Peruvian causas, hearty Brazilian feijodas and delicate Mexican flor de calabaza soup, she’s always looking for her next great meal.

Her blog is nominated in the category of Best Regional Cuisine Blog. Voting ends on April 26th, so hurry over to here to vote for hungrysofia.com.

And bring a bit of Latin America into your kitchen with her best recipes from Devour:

Torrejas with Lavender Honey Syrup

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How To Make Fresh Corn Tamales

Tamales Recipe

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.

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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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Explore Latin American Cuisine

Latin America is an expansive and diverse region, but one thing is standard across countries: robust and flavorful foods rich in tradition.  Whether you are enjoying Venezuelan arepas, matambre from Argentina, or the Cuban classic Ropa Vieja , you’ll be indulging in deliciousness.

Cooking Channel’s adding some spice to your spring and exploring Latin American cuisine. Tune in and get cooking.

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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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