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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Homemade Garlic Plaintain Chips--Mariquitas!!

Mariquitas are a Cuban snack commonly enjoyed throughout Latin America.  In Miami, fresh mariquitas can be found at many Cuban restaurants, bakeries, and sandwich shops.  They're crispy, salty, and absolutely delicious whether eaten alone or with some tangy and flavorful mojo sauce.  Enjoy my version of mariquitas with a tasty garlicky twist :).

Mariquitas (plaintain chips)
1small  pot of oil 
1 plantain, sliced thinly, either on a bias or in rounds
1 clove of garlic cut into three pieces

Heat oil with garlic slices over medium high heat.  Meanwhile, soak plantain slices in salt water to remove sticky residue and flavor the chips.  Once the oil is ready, pat the plantain slices dry and add the one-by-one into the oil, stirring constantly.  Let the chips fry until golden brown and crispy.  Be sure to stir constantly as they can and will stick if you don't.  After the first minute or so of frying, remove the garlic, as it has already released it's flavor and you don't want it to begin to become bitter.

Remove the chips from the oil and let drain on a paper-towel-lined plate.  Enjoy their crispy, garlicky goodness!!  No need to add salt since they were soaked in salt water and are already perfectly seasoned ;).  

If you so desire, serve with Cuban mojo sauce.  Here is a recipe  Just be sure that you're using mariquita mojo (not the one with all of the herbs that you use to marinade).

Authentic Spaghetti Alla Carbonara Take II

Rich, creamy, a little salty, and slightly smokey--traditional spaghetti alla carbonara is simple.  It's made with only 6 ingredients--pork jowl bacon, egg yolk, pecorino cheese, olive oil, salt, pepper.  Although you may not be familiar with it right off, it is super cheap and easy to find.  It is exactly what's used in the traditional carbonara sauce in Italy, where it is called guanciale (wahn CHA Leh).  Pork jowl is the cheek meat of the pig.  It is very flavorful and is similar to regular bacon in the way that it cooks and tastes.  

Spaghetti alla carbonara falls into the category of primi piatti in Italy.  Primi piatti are things like rice, pasta, and other starches that are eaten alongside a meat dish.  Although we are accustomed to having the chicken mixed into our spaghetti  alla carbonara here in the U.S., it is traditionally served alongside a chicken main course.

Traditional spaghetti alla carbonara contains absolutely no cream, nor does it contain pancetta.  The pancetta piece is changing and some people have become more flexible on that aspect.  For those who are lactose intolerant, the technique used for this recipe is a great way to get creamy sauces without the use of milk or cream.  The creaminess comes from the combination of egg yolks and Parmesan cheese.  Since Parmesan is a much drier cheese it generally does not cause a negative reaction in those who have a lactose intolerance.  Even for those who are not lactose intolerant, you get the benefits of a nice, rich, and creamy sauce without the gross feeling that cream-based sauces often leave you with.  


Ingredients: 350 grams of pasta, 150g (~1cup) of pork jowl bacon, 2TB of olive oil, 1 egg, 4 egg yolks, 100 grams  (~1cup) of pecorino cheese*, cracked black pepper to taste + salt, and 1 garlic clove, sliced 

*I use grated parmesan in the can because that's what I have around, and it's more economical

Cook pasta until al dente in salted water with the sliced garlic clove.  The pasta soaks up all of that yummy garlickiness, mmm!  You can leave the garlic pieces behind once you strain the pasta.

Fry pork jowl  over medium heat in a TB or two of olive oil.  Yes, this is necessary because otherwise it will stick to the pan.

Continue frying until crisp

Whisk the 1 egg and four yolks.  Once eggs are broken, whisk in parmesan until evenly blended.  Add in cracked black pepper to taste.

Once jowl bacon is crispy, immediately whisk it, along with all of the fat from the frying pan, into egg and parmesan mixture until homogeneous.  

Once the pasta is al dente, strain it lightly, leaving in some of the pasta water.  Immediately toss into into the egg mixture until the sauce has time to thicken and cook.  You must add the pasta immediately after cooking to fully cook the sauce.  Add more pasta water for a thinner sauce.  

Don't worry raw egg police, there is not an egg in the world that won't cook once you pour boiling hot oil, pasta and water over it.  Since the sauce is mostly yolk, and since it's mixed with Parmesan, no curdling! 
 Enjoy :)!

Before you comment on my unconventional method of cooking pasta, let me explain.  When I first moved to my new apartment, all of my things were still in storage because I waited until the last minute to schedule the delivery of my storage cube.  During that time, of course I was itching to cook, so I purchased a couple of cheap pans to hold me over.  I wanted to make pasta one day but I had not pots, so I improvised and made my pasta in a large pan.  The water reaches a boil much more quickly, thus it saves energy, and it holds the perfect amount of water to cover the pasta if you're only cooking for one or two people.  I've been cooking my pasta in a pan ever since.

References: (in Italian).  I learned this wonderful recipe thanks to my favorite Italian chef, Sonia Peronaci of :).

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Mommy's Southern Style Greens

Sauteed the pork jowl and onions after adding seasoning. I later found out that no one sautees the onions.  They just cook with the greens. 

Stuff, stuff, stuff the greens into the pot!

Just after compressing the greens down and turning on the heat

After 15 minutes of cooking 

All done :).

Everyone who knows me always says that I'm a great cook, but that I never make American food. The thing is, I know the American food like the back of my hand.  I could make it in my sleep. Although it's fun to get creative and put new twists on the traditional dishes, it's more challenging to venture out into new culinary realms.  Just the same, soul food is very dear to my heart.  Growing up, my mom and I would cook together while swapping tips and talking some good old fashioned trash over the stove.  When I was in my early teenage years and going through that stage of distancing myself from my parents, my mom would make me come downstairs to watch her make certain dishes so that I wouldn't lose our family traditions. 

Although I like to make foods from all over the world, the smell of candied yams in the oven and greens or cabbage on the stove still brings back memories of my childhood.  So for those who are always asking my why I don't make more American food, and for all of the wonderful mothers out there who so lovingly pass their recipes down to their children, keeping strong the ties to our past, this recipe is for you.

1 2lb bag of greens (collards are the most common or kale, but turnip greens are also very good)

1 onion, roughly chopped

1 clove of garlic, minced (traditionally ~ 1/4 tsp garlic powder)

2-4 slices of jowl bacon, chopped coarsely ( I ran out of ham hocks.  Traditionally you use 1 smoked pork neck bone or ham hock or even a smoked turkey leg--for these large cuts of meat, score the meat with a knife. )

1/2-1 tsp (or to taste) of hot pepper flakes

1-2 TB of sugar (likely 2)

salt to taste (may 1 TB or two)

water in a large stock pot (about 2" of water)

Wash the greens well.  Drain them and set aside.

Fry the jowl bacon over medium low to medium heat in a large stock pot.  If you are using smoked turkey or ham hock or neck bones, you do not need to do this step.  *Just be sure to score those larger cuts of meat.

Once the meat is browned, fill the pot with 2" of water. Add the seasoning and the greens.

You will likely have to compress the greens to stuff them into the pot.  Don't worry, they will cook down in 15 minutes.  If all of your greens do not fit in the pot, just add in more after the greens cook down to make enough room.

Cook for about an hour and a half until tender.  Depending on the time of year, it may take up to as much as two hours or so.

*This process can also be done the crock pot.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Homemade Houska (Challah) Bread

Loaf I

Loaf II

Hi everyone!

A few weeks ago I made the most delicious bread!  It was a modified version of a houska that more closely resembled challah bread.  A number of cultures have sweet egg breads in the culinary repertoire, many of which are consumed as holiday treats.  Among these breads is houska, a czech Christmas bread.   Traditionally, houska is made with sliced almonds and golden raisins, but as I am still recovering a GI issue, I've left the nuts and raisins out.  The result was still an incredibly rich and flavorful bread!  If you've never heard of houska, it is pretty much the same as challah bread, but with nuts and golden raisins.

 I've never actually had houska before, and I've only had challah as french toast in a restaurant, but I can assure you that you will absolutely love this bread!  I happened to have a a few guests over the weekend that I made my houska and they all absolutely loved it!  I served it with this wonderful raspberry rhubarb preserves from World Market that I highly recommend that you try.  I've never had rhubarb before either and neither had my guests, but we all fell in love with the stuff!  It had just the right sweetness with a slight pop of tartness to balance out the sweetness, and the raspberry flavor was very fresh and not a bit artificial, yum!

As for the houska, it's a rich, flavorful bread that you will fully enjoy, even on its own.  And let me just tell you, this bread makes the absolute BEST french toast I've ever had.  Try it with the technique recommended by Chef John of (  I added lemon zest, a little lemon juice, vanilla, allspice, cinnamon, and a couple tablespoons of sugar to my batter.

Two eggs are for the batter and 1 is for the egg wash.  

I highly recommend getting toothpicks before baking this bread so that it keeps its shape.  

Also, be sure to braid tightly to get a nice shape.  This was my first attempt at doing a braided bread, and I braided a bit loosely, so the loaf turned out a little different from the intended shape, although I still find it appealing.

I needed significantly more flour than the recipe called for to get the dough to the non-sticky point that is recommended, so don't be afraid if you find yourself needed to add a significant amount of extra flour.

Before Baking

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Hamentaschen (Jewish Purim Holiday Cookies)--Flavorful Shortbread Cookies with Delicious Poppy Seed Filling--

Hi everyone!

Miami is a total dessert when it comes to American bakeries.  Finding good American pastries period was virtually impossible, unless you went to a super duper high end restaurant to get them there.  Sometimes you just want some good, simple, homestyle yummies.  Luckily, I discovered a total goldmine for good ol' homestyle American pastries after they catered my work orientation.  That place was Joanna's Marketplace, which happened to be within a mile of my house!  When I lived in Miami, Joanna's was my go-to when I was craving a taste of home.  They had things like cookies, whoopie pies, fruit tarts, tiramisu, and many other beloved pastries that weren't exactly American, but were standard fare at American bakeries ;).  

One not-so-standard pastry just happens to be what I fell in love with--hamentaschen (HAH men tah shin)!!! I had neither seen nor heard of these delectable treats before moving to Miami.  In fact, I didn't even have a clue how to pronounce them.  I'd just go in and ask for a poppy seed pastry.  "Which one?"  "The one that starts with "h."  I craved them that badly!!  Well, what on EARTH is hamentaschen for goodness sake, DF?!  They are amazing shortbread cookies filled with a variety of fillings from poppy seed to apricot to date walnut.  Poppy seed was my treat of choice.  

They were so darn simple but so amazingly, craveably delicious!  They weren't overly sweet, but were still very flavorful.  And, no, the poppy seed flavor in this dish is nothing at all like poppy seed bagels.  I even remember being almost certain that they somehow managed to get coconut into that filling because they were so rich in flavor, but it turns out that that wasn't the case at all.  It's just poppy seed, honey, citrus zest, a splash of citrus juice, and that's it.  The flavor is like nothing you've ever had before, but it is oh so good!  They may not look as amazing as I say, but trust me, they are!  Soon just the sight of them will make your mouth water, just like it does for me :)!

Just as proof.  Here's a quote of what went down this morning when I gave one to my neighbor at work to try.  This is what she said as she was eating her hamentaschen.

"Hm, this is different...It's kinda weird but good. Hey, this is REALLY good.  I never knew poppy seed could taste like this.  It tastes nothing like a poppy seed bagel.  Hm, I really like this!  What's in it?!"



Yum, yum, yum, all done :)!!

*Makes about 20 cookies

1/2 cup of blue poppy seeds, ground into a food processor (found at Target or a European market)
1/4 cup of milk
1/4 cup of honey
1/3 c sugar
1.5 TB of butter
2 egg yolks
zest of 1 lemon or equiv. amount lime and orange zest combined
2 TB lemon juice or orange juice
dash of salt

2.5 cups of flour
1 stick of cold butter, cut into small pieces
2 eggs, beaten + 1 for egg wash (mix with 1 TB of water)
Zest of 1 lemon
Zest of half an orange
1 TB of yogurt or sour cream 
1 tsp of orange juice
1/2 cup of sugar
1 pinch of salt


1. Mix all ingredients and boil over medium heat until thick
2. Refrigerate and cool before filling

1. Preheat oven to 350 
2. Cut butter into flour
3. Beat in all ingredients, *except zest*, until homogeneous
4. Add in citrus zest 
5. Form a ball, cover with plastic and refrigerate for an hour
6. Roll out the dough on a floured surface, leaving it somewhat thick (~ 1/4")
7. Use a glass to cut the dough into 3" circles
8. Fill each circle with 1 tsp of filling (do NOT overfill) and place on a greased baking sheet
9. Fold the corners into a triangle, using water to seal the edges
10. Brush with egg wash
11. Bake at 350 for about 12 minutes to 15 minutes or until golden brown on the bottom (the dough will still be fairly white on top)

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Filipino Chicken Adobo (Adobong Manok)

Hi everyone!

So during the long hiatus, while I was moving, moving, moving again, and finally unpacking and settling in, I picked up a few new tricks.  I've been looking at Filipino recipes on YouTube and studying the science of good, homestyle Filipino cooking for the past year.  Though I hadn't yet mentioned these dishes or took the steps to make them, they've been on my list for quite a while.  Well, last month I finally went ahead and tried my hand at it.  Let me just say first that Filipino food has to be one of the easiest foods to make and the reward is definitely greater than the required. investment of time and effort.

Typical Filipino food is tangy with a slight sweetness and generally involves some sort of stew.  The base flavors of the most common dishes are tomato and some sort of acid, be it a type of white vinegar or lime juice. Among the most commonly used seasonings are onions, garlic, and soy sauce.  It's amazing what flavor you can get out of such very simple ingredients!

Although the first dish that I made was chicken asado, unfortunately, I did not record that recipe so the recipe I will share today is, very appropriately, the Filipino national dish, adobo.  In the case of this particular recipe, we will be doing chicken adobo.  As I mentioned, this is very easy to make.  Filipino food has become one of my go-tos for quick dinners after a long day at work and running some evening errands.

Enjoy!  If you try it, let me know what you think!  And as always, if you have any questions feel free to ask away :).  I'd love to hear from you!

6 drumsticks
3-4 cloves of garlic
6 TB soy sauce *remember to check that soybeans are actually on the list of ingredients*
half a stick of butter, melted
about half a small onion, diced
3 bay leaves
4 TB cane vinegar (found in most SE Asian markets)
salt and black pepper to taste

References: Pinoy Recipes -, Panlasang Pinoy -

And just as a disclaimer, I only tasted with my finger because no one was going to eat it but me.  It was for MY lunch :).

Thursday, September 1, 2011

My Absolute Favorite Rich and Fudgey Brownies!!! *revised*

Hi Everyone!

So, I've been on a huge baking streak lately.  I've been baking cakes galore to practice my decorating skills and to work on my Dominican cake recipe.  Beyond the cakes, I've also been practicing dessert sauces and cake fillings--rum caramel sauce, chocolate sauce, pineapple filling, strawberry filling, etc.  Well, the other day I made brownies.  I am very particular about brownies.  For one, I'm really funny about chocolate in general.  I don't eat Hershey's because it's gross.  In fact, most American chocolate grosses me out.  So it almost goes without saying that I highly recommend using quality chocolate for this recipe.  Going with the cheap stuff really does crock the taste.  I recommend Godiva or Ghirardelli.  Although Lindt could work, I find it to be excessively creamy and, thus, excessively fattening.

Well, beyond my pickiness with chocolate, I also strongly prefer a certain type of brownie--fudgey, but not too fudgey; chewy, but not too chewy; and nice and chocolately.  This brownie gets a definite A+ from me on all fronts.  It has a nice, rich chocolate flavor and just the right amount of chewiness, while being super moist without being outright wet and raw-feeling in texture.  Bake these super easy-to-make brownies and you'll be sure to please any crowd!  They are slightly more work than the typical pour and mix brownie, but I promise you they're well worth it!

The original recipe is from The Modern Baker by Malgieri, but I substitute pecans in place of the cocoa nibs.


What you will need:
1 9 x 13 x 2
1 electric mixer
1 medium sauce pan

8 oz unsalted butter cut into 12 pieces
9 0z bittersweet chocolate, cut in 1/4” pieces
1-1/4 cup dark brown sugar firmly packed
4 large eggs
¾ cup granulated sugar
½ tsp salt
1 TB vanilla
1 – ¼ cups flour (leveled)
½ cup pecans
1 TB cocoa
Pan lined with buttered foil

Preheat oven to 350
Put butter in saucepan over medium heat, stir 2-3 times, let bubble 10 seconds and add chocolate off heat. 

Gently shake pan to submerge chocolate. Set aside so chocolate melts and use whisk to smooth

Beat brown sugar w/ 1 egg with electric mixer. Add rest of eggs one at a time. 

Add chocolate and butter mixture and beat in.

Add salt, sugar, vanilla, and beat until smooth. 

Fold in flour and cocoa.

Fold in 3/4 of the total amount of pecans.

Sprinkle remaining 1/4 of the pecans on top of batter.

Bake until firm, but still moist in center, typically about 35-40 minutes. The center should spring up when touched.

From The Modern Baker – Nick Malgieri