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Good News, Updates and Red Beans & Rice

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So much has happened in the past few months and today I am finally getting the chance to sit down and blog about it. I don’t even know where to start. First and foremost, I am so grateful to God, my family and all of my mentors who have supported me and pushed me to excel. I followed my passion and my passion followed me. When I look back, I think my love for food began at my parents house. Growing up, our house was the place to stay and eat for any artist, intellectual, political activist or anyone eccentric. Our house was always full of people. I remember Uncle Guido from Grenada who could cure anything with nutmeg and some herbs, Aunt Fannie who was always in and out of Cuba and smelled of gardenias, Uncle Mobe from Germany who loved to come into town and build things in our house and so many more who played chess, cooked their native food and slept on our couch. This is where my passion was born with the many flavors of my family and extended family.

Sorry, everything is coming full scale like a movie and I am having flashbacks to where it all began. Sometimes you don’t realize where you have been until that moment happens when everything falls into place and you step back and say damn…..now it all makes sense. So to get to the good news. Suzanne Pferfele, author and filmmaker of Vietnamese Cuisine in New Orleans found me on twitter and asked me to co-produce a PBS documentary for WYES New Orleans called Latin American Cuisine in New Orleans along with videographer and co-producer Lenny Delbert. I was thrilled at the opportunity and honored by the invitation. For the past few months we have filmed, interviewed, ate until we passed out, traveled all around the city and sat down to film some of the most inspiring stories that we believe will capture the history and passion of Latin American Cuisine in New Orleans. Our documentary is scheduled to air in November 2014. We are more than thrilled!!!

Next exciting news, I have been invited to participate in the Latin Food Festival in San Diego, California this September. 7,000 will be in attendance and I am to prepare food for 2,000 people. Yikes!!! Thank God my sisters are flying in to help me. Chef Adolfo Garcia, my mentor thinks I’m nuts but hey it’s a good networking opportunity. Then in November, I am scheduled to participate at the Louisiana Book Festival in Baton Rouge and a book signing at the local Barnes & Noble. There will be at least 10,000 people in attendance. I am going to be a busy busy bee.

My final exciting news……drumroll…….I am saving that one for my next post….but ohhhh my babbbyyyy in my New Orleans accent. It’s huge! All I have to say is Ray Charles blessed me from his grave and I will make you and my mama proud!

Red Beans & Ricely Yours

Zella

(I included some images of behind the scenes photos of our PBS Documentary and some recipes that Kid Chef Eliana came up with for the film)

Zella’s Red Beans & Rice Recipe

– 1lb of New Orleans Camellia Dry Red Kidney Beans

– 3 chopped links of andouille sausage

– 2 chopped links of smoked sausage

– 1 finely chopped Spanish large yellow onion

– 2 celery stalks chopped finely

– 1 green bell pepper finely chopped

– 1 clove of garlic

– 3 cups of water

– 1 half stick of salted butter

– 1 tbs. of Paul Prudhomme Seasoning Salt and Zatarain’s Creole Seasoning

– 1 tbs. of Zatarain’s dried parsley flakes

– 2 bay leaves

– 3 cups of cooked long grain rice

Preparation:

Finely chop your onion, bell pepper and celery stalks. Set aside. Chop your sausages into bite size pieces. In a saute pan on medium low heat, saute your chopped onion, bell pepper and celery in butter. Season with Creole seasoning. Saute until the onions are translucent. Add your sausages and saute until the sausages are caramelized. Reduce your heat if need be. Cook for about 5 minutes and turn off the heat.

In a large stock pot. Add your dry red kidney beans and cover with water. Add your bay leaves and bring the beans to a boil at medium heat. Add your sausage and onion mixture. Cover your beans and let them boil for at least 40 minutes. Checking periodically and stirring to make sure the beans don’t stick to the pan. Re-season the beans as need be. Chop 1 clove of garlic and add to the pot. When the red beans are completely soft take a large wooden spoon and begin to press the red beans in the pot. This will give the red beans it’s thick and creamy consistency. I would press the wooden spoon on the beans maybe six times. Continue to boil for another hour on medium-low heat. I cook my red beans for at least 2 1/2 hours at a low-medium heat. When I don’t eat all of my red beans, I freeze them for another day. I could eat red beans and rice everyday. The velvety, buttery, smoked flavor makes me so happy 🙂 Serve your red beans with cooked long grain white rice or your favorite rice.

Le Bon Temps Rouler!

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day in New Orleans! Carne con Papas con Salsa Verde

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I’m not Irish but I grew up in Chicago. If you know anything about Chicago then you know that the South Side Irish is as legendary as our deep dish pizza. Go to Chicago during St. Patty’s day and you will see the Chicago River dyed green, the entire city joined in the festivities and a corned beef special with an Irish beer on every menu from the North Side to the South Side. Here is a song that captures the South Side Irish and Irish history in Chicago:

South Side Irish Song

Written by, Tom Black and Terry McEldowney, A.K.A. The Irish Choir

We’re the Windy City Irish-where the craic is always best
Where every day is Paddy’s Day and everyone’s a guest
If you’re Irish on the North Side or Irish on the West
Welcome to the South Side come join our Irish Fest!

(Chorus) We’re the South Side Irish as our fathers were before
We come from the Windy City and we’re Irish to the core
From Bridgeport to Beverly from Midway to South Shore
We’re the South Side Irish-Let’s sing it out once more!

Our parents came from Mayo, from Cork and Donegal.
We come from Sabina, St. Kilian’s and St. Gall
St. Leo, Visitation, Little Flower and the rest.
The South Side parishes are mighty-they’re the best!

Chorus

We live on the South Side-Mayor Daley lived here too
The Greatest Irish Leader that Chicago ever knew
he was always proud of his South Side Irish roots!
So here’s to his honor to his memory we’ll be true.

Chorus

We sing the songs our fathers sang when they were growing up
Rebel songs of Erin’s Isle in South Side Irish Pubs
and when it comes to baseball-we have two favorite clubs
The Go-Go White Sox… and whoever plays the Cubs!

When I moved to New Orleans, of course I would want to celebrate St. Patrick Day’s as any true Chicagoan would! Like Chicago, New Orleans has a rich Irish history. Irish immigrants came to New Orleans penniless and looking for work. Many settled in shotgun houses in the historic Irish Channel neighbourhood of Uptown, New Orleans. (One of my favorite neighbourhoods!) Irish immigrants to New Orleans worked as stevedores, built canals and bridges, opened breweries and went to Catholic mass every Sunday. The Irish, along with so many ethnic groups have contributed blood, sweat and tears for this great city we call New Orleans.

Here is a link to the Irish Channel Neighbourhood Association and a great article about the history of the Irish in New Orleans.

http://irishchannel.org/

http://www.gonola.com/2013/03/04/nola-history-the-irish-in-new-orleans.html

Okay let’s get to the meat and potatoes folks. In celebration of St. Patrick Day’s, I went around the Irish Channel and met up with some of the locals. I met an awesome group of friends who were prepping to roast a pig in their front yard, a sweet group of gals with the Daughters of Lyra, the only Irish women’s marching group and a soldier who recently returned from Afghanistan who was at the parade with his parents. His dad had the coolest costume! Crawfish hat and Zydeco washboard vest. I walked through the parade with a big smile on my face and an Irish beer. 🙂 

Later today, I went home to make one of my favorite Cuban dishes Carne con Papas- Meat with Potatoes. Like any ethnic group that had to struggle, meat and potatoes kept generations alive with the faith that it would get better for their children and their children’s children. My version of Carne con Papas is based on a recipe I made in 2009 during grad school at the University of Toronto. A group of us went to Montreal for a research trip and stayed with one of our classmate’s parents. I already introduced my classmates to gumbo, which they loved, so they asked me to prepare something that evening. I was up for the challenge, even though I was in Montreal, Quebec! The culinary capital of Canada and at my classmates Quebecois parents house! Dios Mio! Yet I was inspired by Montreal, the museums, the culture, the people…..and the FOOD! That night I made a vegetarian and meat version of Carne con Papas con Salsa Verde a lo House of Zella…translation: Meat and Potatoes with Green Sauce a lo House of Zella. They loved it! Even my classmate’s parents…I received so many Quebecois kisses that my cheeks stayed blushed for many days even though it was one of the coldest winters in Canada. We drank wine, dined on my food and talked about art, politics, life, travel..you name it. C’est supercool! So to make a long journey short, here is my recipe in honor of St. Patrick’s Day in New Orleans via Chicago via Montreal. I always said I wanted to be Auntie Mame when I grow up ;-).

Carne con Papas con Salsa Verde a lo House of Zella

* You will need a food processor or blender.

Ingredients:

–       3 large peeled cubed potatoes

–       1 ½ pounds of cubed pork loin (optional)

–       1 stick of salted butter

–       1/3 cup of a finely diced yellow onion

–       1 small bunch of fresh cilantro

–       2 garlic cloves

–       2 stalks of green onions

–       2 limes

–       1 small bunch of fresh parsley

–       1 tsp. of cumin

–       Sea salt and fresh black ground pepper

 

Preparation:

1)    Peel and cut your potatoes in medium sized cubes.

2)    Cut your pork loin into cubes and season with cumin, a pinch of salt and pepper and a squeezed lime. Set aside.

3)   Dice your onion.

4)    In a medium size stockpot on low medium heat add potatoes and a stick of butter. Add about 1/3 cup of water. Cover and simmer.

5)    Meanwhile, in a pan on medium heat, sauté the pork with the yellow onion until the meat is no longer pink.

6)   With a large spoon gently stir the potatoes to make sure they are not sticking to the bottom of the pot.

7)    Add the pork to the potatoes and cover. Cook for another 15 minutes. Add a little olive oil and water if the potatoes stick again.

8)    In a food processor or blender, add cilantro, parsley, green onions, a minced garlic clove, a squeeze of the lime and a little olive oil to pulse. Blend until it becomes a thick sauce like consistency.

9)    When the meat and potatoes are done transfer them to a ceramic dish. Ladle in the green sauce and serve with your favorite salad or for St. Patrick’s Day steamed cabbage. Buen Provecho!

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It’s Lenten Season in New Orleans and here are some Latin recipes for Meatless Friday!

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My sister lives in Brooklyn and has been a vegetarian for years. I spend every Thanksgiving at her house and I really enjoy eating at some of the local New York vegetarian restaurants and eating some of her food. She is an awesome cook and never compromises flavor for her dietary beliefs. I was amazed by some of the meatless food I tried that taste just like chicken and beef while in New York. I remember eating meatless substitutes in the past that taste like cardboard. And if you live in New Orleans, it’s all about the flavor and we won’t compromise flavor for anyone! So I was amazed to taste meatless meat that I actually liked with my sister.

So like Thanksgiving in New York, I appreciate Lenten Season in New Orleans where I can cut back on all of the rich foods we eat. Recently, a friend of mine introduced me to Beyond Meat’s beef free crumble, a plant protein that taste like meat. I know there are so many meatless meats, however, I really like Beyond Meat.  So here are a few Latin recipes from my kitchen for Meatless Fridays and for any vegetarians out there. Buen Provecho!

Fully Loaded Avocado

(Use Florida ripe avocados. Available in any Latin grocery store. They are much larger but if you don’t have a Latin grocery store near you just buy the largest regular ripe avocado you can find. See image below)

Ingredients:

–     1 Florida ripe avocado

–       ½ cup of cooked meatless beef (Beyond meat preferably)

–       1/3 cup of minced Spanish yellow onion

–       1/3 cup of black beans

–       Goya Sazón Achiote packet (Now sold in the Latin section of most every grocery store in the U.S. if not available use a little Spanish paprika)

–       Sea salt and fresh black ground pepper

–       1 dollop of light sour cream or tofutti sour cream

–       Grated packaged Mexican cheese or alternative shredded cheese

–       1 sprig of chopped cilantro

 

Preparation:

Mince the onion. Saute the onion with the meat on low medium heat. Add the Sazón Goya packet for color and flavoring. Season with sea salt and fresh black ground pepper to taste. Add 1/3 cup of rinsed organic canned black beans. Cook for 8-10 minutes. Cut ripe Florida avocado in half and remove the pit. Scoop the bean and meat mixture on top of the avocado. Garnish with sour cream, cheese and chopped cilantro.

 

Sweet Plantain Canoes/ Canoas de Platanos Maduros

 

Ingredients:

 

–       3 ripe almost black plantains

–       1/3 cup of cooked meatless beef

–       1 minced small garlic clove

–       1/3 cup of Mexican shredded cheese or alternative shredded cheese

–        1 finely minced Roma tomato

–       1 sprig of chopped cilantro

–       Olive oil

–       Goya Sazón Achiote packet

–       Sea salt and fresh black ground pepper

 

Preparation:

 

Preheat oven to 400 F. Peel the ripe plantains and place them on a baking sheet and rub them with olive oil. Bake the plantains for 20 minutes and turn them and cook for another 15 minutes. The plantains should be golden brown. While the plantains are cooking, mince the garlic clove, tomato and cilantro. Sauté the garlic clove with the meat on low medium heat in a little bit of olive oil. Season with sea salt and fresh black ground pepper to taste. Remove the plantains from the oven and stuff with them with the meat mixture and cheese. Bake the stuffed plantains for 3-5 more minutes until the cheese is melted. Garnish with chopped tomato and cilantro. Serve while the plantains are still hot.

 

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Fried Shrimp and Crawfish Creamy Alfredo with Patton’s Hot Sausage Crumble

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I promise I will post more healthy recipes for Lenten Season in the coming weeks! I wanted to post this comfort food recipe that I made a couple of weeks ago before Lenten began. It was my last date with sin lol. Here is another pasta recipe to add to your collection that combines all of my favorite ingredients. It’s a little labor intensive but it is so worth it! Buen Provecho!

Ingredients: 

– 1 package of frozen crawfish (or lobster if crawfish is unavailable but if you can order crawfish online order it from www.cajungrocer.com)

– 1 box of good thin spaghetti

– 1 stick of salted butter

– 1 clove of minced garlic

– 1 cup of heavy cream

– 1 ½ cup of shredded Parmesan cheese

– ¼ cup of chopped parsley

– 1 pound of deveined fresh medium sized shrimp

– 1 cup of buttermilk

– Cajun seasoning

– 1 cup of flour

– Peanut oil or vegetable oil

– 1 Patton’s hot sausage patty or ½ link of chorizo

– Garlic Bread

 

Preparation:

Remove crawfish from package and rinse with cold water. Season with Cajun seasoning. Set aside. In a medium sized pot boil water and add spaghetti. Cook until al dente. Do not drain pasta. Meanwhile, sauté garlic and butter in a medium size stockpot on low medium heat. Add crawfish. Cook for two minutes. Add heavy cream. Season with a sprinkle of Cajun seasoning. Add the spaghetti to the pot with tongs. Make sure that you shake the excess water over the spaghetti pot as you grab a heaping of spaghetti with the tongs. Mix spaghetti with Alfredo sauce. Add Parmesan cheese and set aside. Chop parsley and set aside.

In one bowl add buttermilk and another add flour with 1 tbs. of Cajun seasoning. Heat pan with oil for frying. Dip shrimp in buttermilk. Remove excess and dip into flour. Fry shrimp until golden brown. Remove cooked shrimp from the pan and lay on a paper towel. In another pan, cook your hot sausage patty or chorizo link. Drain on a paper towel. Serve spaghetti with fried shrimp and hot sausage crumble over warm garlic bread.

 

 

 

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Garbanzos Fritos con Langostina

Check out Hungry Sofia’s review of my cookbook!

hungry sofia

IMG_0006 Last year I took what felt like a slightly selfish trip to New Orleans.  My excuse was book research, so I decided beforehand not to post or take too many pictures.  It felt like if I stopped to post or take a picture every time I saw something beautifully strange or strangely familiar in New Orleans, I’d do little else.  Strange because it’s a city so completely itself that it makes you come all the way there to experience it and familiar because I’d always heard stories from my family about New Orleans when it was a short jump from Havana.  There were so many parallels that it wasn’t surprising that so many of my relatives settled there when they left Cuba in the 1960s.

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Soup

Mrs. Saundra’s Mardi Gras Gumbo

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It’s Mardi Gras in New Orleans. People from all over are flying, driving and catching trains to this magical city. Locals are finalizing their costumes for each of their favorite parades and marking their spots to camp out for Fat Tuesday. It is so unfortunate that many tourists don’t get to see the variety of the parades. Many tourists think that Mardi Gras is getting plastered, flashing your ta ta’s and maneuvering your way down Bourbon street with the massive crowd. Mardi Gras is so much more! It is for families. It is a torchbearer of traditions for the Mardi Gras Indians. It is a time where we all come together to see our friends and family parade in a krewe or in a school band. It is one of my favorite times of the year.

Even if you can’t be here for Mardi Gras or if you have never been, you can have your own Mardi Gras parade at home with friends. In some cities, they actually do try to re-create the look and feel of Mardi Gras which I think is awesome. New Orleans is contagious and spreads good karma throughout the world!

So you can’t be here, but you can make a pot of gumbo for Fat Tuesday and listen to music from Rebirth Brass Band, Kermit Ruffin or oldies like Fats Domino’s. Dress up! Wear your tu tu with pride and laugh until it hurts. It will give the neighbors something to talk about. 🙂 As my favorite movie character said, “Life is a banquet and too many poor sucka’s are starving to death! Live. Live. Live.”- Auntie Mame

I am sharing with you a recipe that was passed down to me by the sweetest Creole woman named Mrs. Saundra. Mrs. Saundra was a cooking teacher at the New Orleans Cooking School in the French Quarter. Every day she would come to work and teach tourists and some locals about the culinary history of New Orleans. She would present live cooking demos and include some of New Orleans most famous dishes- Jambalaya, Bananas Foster, New Orleans BBQ Shrimp, Bread Pudding and of course Gumbo! Mrs. Saundra would greet everyone with a sweet smile and a “Hey my babbby”. She was a doll. Miss Saundra was a mentor to me. She wasn’t a trained chef but she was a Creole grandmother and that deserves huge respect! Mrs. Saundra gave me her gumbo recipe and I want to share it with you. I kept up with Mrs. Saundra for quite some time. Even after her bout with breast cancer. I lost contact with her. I pray she is fully recovered, with her grandbabies, cooking a pot of gumbo and sharing New Orleans culinary tales. So as Mrs. Saundra would say, “Enjoy my babyy!” Happy Mardi Gras 2014 y’all!

Makes 10 servings

Ingredients:

2 pound cooked chicken (Thighs if available, bite size)

2 tsp. of Cajun/ Creole Seasoning

1 cup of oil (I prefer peanut oil)                                                     

1/4 cup of salted butter

½ teaspoon of fresh thyme

1 cup of flour (all purpose)

1 bay leaf (optional)

2 cups of finely chopped yellow onions

1 cup of finely chopped celery

1 cup of finely chopped seeded green bell pepper,

1 ½ pounds of sliced smoked sausage (Andouille if possible)

2 pounds of medium sized raw peeled (head removed) shrimp (Gulf Coast Shrimp preferably. It is sweeter and local)

8 cups chicken stock, hot

5 green onion stalks, chopped finely

3 minced garlic cloves

3 tablespoons of chopped parsley

Gumbo Filé powder, add at table

Cooked rice

*Now, if you are a meat lover and can get access to other types of Louisiana sausages. Add Creole Chaurice, a spicy hot sausage. (1 lb. cooked and sliced) and 1 smoked turkey neck.

Preparation:

Season chicken pieces with Cajun-Creole seasoning. Add ¼ cup water in pan. Bake in 350 degree oven until cooked. About 40 to 45 minutes. Save juice in bottom of pan. Heat oil in a heavy cast iron skillet until hot. Stir in flour to make roux.  Continue to cook, stirring constantly over medium heat until roux is dark brown. Add onions, celery, bell pepper and butter. Cook until the onions are translucent or clear. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Transfer to a large pot (Dutch Oven).

Add stock, thyme, and bay leaves.  Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer. Slice sausage and brown in a pan with a little oil. Add a little stock or water to deglaze the pan. That means to stir the brown bites in the bottom with liquid. Add chicken and sausage to the large pot. Add the liquid in the bottom of pan that you cooked the chicken in. Simmer for 1 ½ hours.

Turn the heat off, add shrimp and cover. This will prevent you from overcooking the shrimp. Let it sit covered for about ten minutes. The shrimp should turn a nice pink. Adjust seasonings to taste and skim fat before serving. Serve over hot rice. Garnish with green onion and parsley.  Add filé powder and your favorite hot sauce at the table. (Crystal is my favorite)

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Cajun Food, Louisiana History, and a Little Lagniappe

Mardi Gras Indian Mardi Gras is a week away! One of the not-so-secret secret Mardi Gras traditions to be found in New Orleans is that of the Mardi Gras Indians. And no one captures the Mardi Gras Indian culture better than Oliphant Images . Dressed in brilliant, extravagant Indian regalia, the Mardi Gras Indians parade through the predominantly African American neighborhoods on Mardi Gras day, putting on an elaborate routine, especially when coming in contact with another tribe.

Mardi Gras Indians are African-American Carnival revelers in New Orleans, Louisiana, who dress up for Mardi Gras in suits influenced by Native American ceremonial apparel. Collectively, their organizations are called “gangs” or “tribes”. There are about 38 tribes. They range in size from a half dozen to several dozen members. Mardi Gras Indians have been parading in New Orleans at least since the mid-19th century, possibly before. African Americans and Native Americans have a long history…

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Oliphant Images Captures Mardi Gras Indian Culture

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