Trini-PR Plate

This is my plate at Jean’s family gathering in Miami, at his uncle’s house. He is Puerto Rican and his wife is Tranidadian so it is REAL!!

Yellow rice, grilled fish with pepper sauce, yuca, fried plantain, green mango,and salad!

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Apples and Oranges

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I have been buying lots more fruits and veggies lately, and even though they require more prep work than the “health food” I ate through the winter i.e. frozen vegan pizza, chickenless nuggets and oatmeal cookies…my produce keeps me, and my fridge, feeling prettier inside.

Getting food ready the minute you get home from the store–before you even know what’s for dinner–makes home cooking so much easier. With a colander, a good knife, a cutting board, and 20 minutes, you’ll have ready to use produce for all kinds of recipes, and instant snacking…all week long.

Here are some examples:

  1. This bunch of thyme is sitting in a glass filled with 1/2″ of water, and covered by a plastic bag that is fastened around the glass with a rubber band. Small bunches of herbs will keep like this for over a week.
  2. These grapes were removed from their flimsy bag, rinsed, and transfered to an airtight container that used to hold cookies. SNACK READY.
  3. Celery sticks. Someone once told me you burn more calories chewing them than you do consuming them. Notice they are strategically placed next to the tofu cream cheese. Just slice the bottom off a bunch of celery, rinse the stalks, cut into sticks. Save the leaves for making soup.
  4. These strawberries and tomatoes are just rinsed and put back into their containers, because I eat them whole. I know, BORING.
  5. Eggs are stored inside the fridge, never in the door. According to Harold McGee, the constant agitation of opening and closing thins out the egg whites. In my house, that egg would spread from here to the Mississippi.
  6. Tofu. To drown or not to drown? Some say cover it in water to store.
  7. I am so against gadgetry. But this “salad globe” is awesome! You just chop the base off a head of lettuce, any kind, rinse the leaves, and transfer to the globe. There are ridges in the bottom that drain water away from the leaves so they don’t get soggy, but the water’s still there, providing moisture. Leafy greens stay crisp for a week! And it looks like Saturn!
  8. A trick I learned from the Thais: to keep basil fresh for days, rinse thoroughly, strip leaves off their stems, shake off excess moisture, and store in a folded-over paper bag. It is so much fun to watch my boyfriend open the bag, thinking there is a burrito or something inside.
  9. Keep some things un-prepped so that you don’t eat everything right away. I will cut up the mango and the melon later in the week.

This Is Adorable

Seared Tuna with Salsa and Kabu + Grapefruit Salad,

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In the past week, I have realized, through conversations with two people, that I need to post more of my everyday meals. This is why: For me, most often what I make to eat is a product of whatever happens to be sitting in my fridge…or whatever looked fresh, was cheap, and/or I was craving at the market. Therefore, I didn’t see it as “worth it” to talk about it on my blog because a bunch of random stuff thrown together was no big deal.

But what I learned in those two conversations is that not everyone can do what I do, as I’d assumed before. Some people believe you need:

a. a recipe

b. a set list of ingredients

c. a whole day’s preparation

d. food expertise

in order to cook. It’s just not true! Continue reading

Fish Head Curry

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The best curry I ever had was made of fish heads. It was with Jean, two years ago, at the Banana Leaf in the Little India section of Singapore. I liked this place a lot. For one thing, we ate off of banana leaves instead of plates. And instead of utensils, we followed local custom and used our hands to eat.

We started off messy, but then copied a group of businessmen seated nearby, using our fingers to roll compact balls of curry-sopped rice. I felt like a child learning to use a fork for the first time, and that was big fun.

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Notice, in the above picture, the small pile of bones on the corner of Jean’s leaf. In the USA, fish heads are what we throw away. But they are so meaty! I heard somewhere that the most tender flesh in the fish is at the back of the “scull,” and it is true. Like soup cooked with bone-in, skin-on, fatty chicken vs. soup cooked with cubes of white breast meat, fish head curry is ten times more flavorful than any other fish I’ve ever tried.

I lived around cities my whole life, where food came from the supermarket, from restaurants, or machines. We had an aversion to the whole animal approach to food. Gizzards, eyeballs, bones and blood were considered “dirty” food. We only used the breast of the chicken, the filet of the fish, and the ‘mignon’ of beef: the cutest cuts for the most proper presentation.

But now, with the whole “snout to tail” (or is it tail to snout?) philosophy gaining popularity, we are reaching back into the theoretical garbage can to reclaim lost treasures. Marrow bones have become a menu must. A new cookbook features bacon fat cookies. Headcheese is on the rise. On my first day at a new job, the chef made summer rolls with leftover crispy duck skin…they were to die for.

So, city or country; trend or tradition; Stateside or Singapore; have your fish– and eat it, too.

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The Cake That Ate ’92

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My first ever genre/era (hip hop/1992)-specific birthday cake was a huge success. This had a lot to do with the help of Katie Robinson, my friend and local cake guru… and non-toxic gold dust, my new favorite ingredient.

Guava Pie

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Kristen provided the inspiration for this tropical winter dessert, which I made at her dinner party on Sunday. She wanted something that featured guava and cashews. All the other ingredients were just things she and Billy had laying around the kitchen…like Meyer lemon syrup!

This pie was so good that I wanted to share the recipe.

Basically, it is a cheesecake. But when I picture cheesecake, I picture something twice this size. So, I just called it a pie. But if you want to make an 8″ cheesecake, just double the filling ingredients.

Kristen and Anita’s Guava Cheese Pie with Cashew Crust

for the crust:
1 c. unsalted cashews
1 sleeve plain graham crackers, broken up
½ c. light brown sugar
1 tbp. ground cinnamon, plus one more if you really like it
1 tsp. each ground ginger, nutmeg, and cloves
1 ½ sticks of unsalted butter

for the filling:
½ c. canned guava paste, cut into small chunks
1 package cream cheese (we used Neufchâtel) at room temperature
¾ c. greek yogurt
2 eggs
1 c. Meyer lemon syrup, or ½ c. sugar simmered with juice of 2 lemons until syrupy
¼ c. flour
¼ tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a food processor, pulse together all crust ingredients, except butter, until fine crumbs form. Transfer to a small bowl. Melt the butter and add ¾ of it to the bowl. Use your hands or a spoon to get it fully incorporated. Add more butter as necessary until the mixture holds a shape when squeezed in your hand.

Pour half of the crumbs into a pie plate and smash evenly on the bottom of the pan and up the sides to form a ¼” thick crust. Add extra crumbs as necessary to fill spaces.

Place in the oven and bake for about 8 minutes, until edges begin to color. Remove and allow to cool. Extra crumbs can be kept in a sealed container in the freezer for another use.

In a medium bowl, whip together the cream cheese, yogurt, eggs, lemon syrup, flour and salt with a rubber scraper or wooden spoon. Reserve.

In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the guava paste with a splash of water. Keep stirring until smooth, and add another splash of water, if necessary, to keep it from sticking.

Pour half of the cheese mixture into the crust. Drop a few spoonfuls of guava on top, and drag a toothpick through the blobs to spread them out a little, being careful not to puncture the crust below. Repeat with the remaining cream cheese and guava.

Place the pie plate in an oven-safe casserole dish or tray that has enough water to come half way up the sides of the pie plate. Bake 20 minutes, then rotate and bake another 20 minutes. Check to see if the pie is set (it’s okay if it still jiggles slightly just in the center) and if not, return to oven for 10 more minutes.

Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Slice and serve with black Colombian coffee.