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Kitchen Witch Cookbook Shop Book Signing

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It was a rainy day in the French Quarter this past Sunday. The Krewe of Barkus was scheduled to parade their costumed dogs throughout the French Quarter. At Kitchen Witch Cookbook Shop on Toulouse Street, an eclectic bookstore that sells cookbooks, vinyl and homeade spices. I, the author of New Orleans con Sabor Latino: The History and Passion of Latino Cooking was scheduled to sign cookbooks and serve some of the dishes from my cookbook. I went earlier that morning to ‘make groceries’ at a Mid-City Latin grocery store on Broad Street called Ideal Market. A grocery store where many Hondurans, Haitians and day laborers frequent for a hot lunch or to shop for the family. I made my selections for my Cuban Chicken Soup and Garbanzos with Crawfish and Louisiana Smoked Sausage (Purchased the crawfish tails and Louisiana Smoked Sausage at Rouses) recipe and off to my kitchen to make two big pots of food. 

When I arrived at Kitchen Witch Cookbook Shop with my food wrapped, hot and ready for Philipe’s (the owner’s) crockpots, I was in heaven! I am a super nerd and I love antiques and anything vintage. Which is probably why I love New Orleans so much. It gets me and I get this city. The rain came tumbling down yet the Mardi Gras paraders kept on parading with their dogs while clutching their ‘to go’ cups. I was nervous. We reached out to everyone but its tough to host an event with no parking, in the middle of the parades and when its raining. However, thanks to the only Latina (Cuban) tour guide who was at my cookbook signing, she pulled people in from the streets and enticed them with the smell of my food, beer and wine. 

I met some really awesome people and I am so grateful that we sold most of my cookbooks. Everyone left with a full belly, a memorable experience of New Orleans that they will take back to the city they reside in and my cookbook – a new addition to their kitchen library. Sunday was a good day! Thanks Kitchen Witch Cookbook Shop. Support local bookstores!

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Sweet Plantain Lasagna/Pastelon de Platano Maduro

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I remember watching an episode of one of my favorite shows on the Food Network, Chopped and one of the contestants was completely clueless on what to do with one of the mystery ingredients-plantains. I remember him saying, “What can you do with a plantain? It is nothing but starch!” I chuckled as I’m sure anyone who grew up eating plantains would. Plantains are so versatile! You just have to know the three types of plantains and it will help you decide what recipe to make. Plantains range from starch to sugar. The less ripe they are you can fry like a potato and the riper they are, the sweeter. There is the green plantain and that is used to make fried crispy tostones, then the yellow plantain that is semi-ripe that is used in soups, mashed plantains (mofongo) and other dishes and then the ripe sweet blackjack plantain that is used as a side with most meat and rice dishes or for deserts. There is so much you can do with plantains! You just have to be creative and not be afraid to experiment.

I’m sure when the potato came to the New World most people were unsure on how to prepare the potato but eventually they found 1,000 or more ways to create delicious dishes using the potato. Just like in New Orleans, the famous dish Bananas Foster was created because New Orleans was a major port for bananas from Honduras. Tons of bananas were flowing into New Orleans ports daily and one day in 1951, Chef Paul Blange at Brennan’s restaurant in the famous French Quarter created the mouth watering desert and the rest is history. Now of course, Latin Americans were making sweet banana and plantain dishes and deserts for years but Chef Paul Blange helped to make Bananas Foster a favorite in the history of American cuisine. It just goes to show you that Chefs and cooks who have an imagination can take a staple ingredient and give it some amor and creativity and voila! A dish that is passed down forever.

Sweet Plantain Lasagna or Pastelon de Platano Maduro is a contemporary dish. I assume the dish was made when Italians and Latin Americans crossed paths at some point. Perhaps in New York where Puerto Ricans and Italians would mingle. I’m curious to find out the history on the pastelon. Nevertheless, Pastelon de Platano Maduro is typically made in Puerto Rican or Dominican households. The sweetness of the plantain and the savory meat plus the melted cheese makes this dish a favorite in any household. My secret ingredient is sour cream. The sour cream makes the pastelon creamier.

Ingredients:

6 yellow plantains (buy 2 extra plantains)

1 cinnamon stick

3 cracked eggs

2 cups of grated cheese

¼ cup of butter

½ cup of sour cream

1 tsp of sea salt

1 lb. of ground beef

3 8oz. cans of Spanish Style Tomato Sauce (Goya)

2 sprigs of chopped cilantro

1 small red onion

1 minced garlic clove

1 squeezed lime

1 tsp. of cumin powder

1 tsp. of Adobo seasoning

2-inch tall baking dish

Preparation:

Filling:

  1. Season ground beef with salt, pepper, Adobo seasoning and cumin powder in a mixing bowl.
  2. Finely chop the onion, mince 1 garlic clove and chop cilantro. Set aside.
  3. In a shallow pan cook meat with onions until the meat is cooked.
  4. Drain the meat mixture. Add the meat mixture back to the pan and add the tomato sauce, minced garlic, 1 cup of water and chopped cilantro
  5. Re-season if necessary. Squeeze a lime over the meat mixture and simmer for ten more minutes.
  6. Remove from the heat and reserve.

Plantains:

  1. Peel the plantains and cut in large chunks about a ¼ diameter. The plantains should not be too mushy. If they are too mushy your pastelon will be watery which is why you should buy extra plantains. Take your thumb and press against the peeled plantain. If it is too ripe and you can sink your thumb into the plantain easily you will need to replace it with another one.
  2.  Boil in water for ten minutes with 1 tsp. of salt and 1 cinnamon stick. Make sure that the plantains are tender.
  3. Drain, discard the cinnamon stick and set the plantains aside in a bowl to cool for ten minutes. After the plantains have cooled add butter and 3 eggs. Mash with a fork or potato masher.

 Assemble:

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees

  1. With a large spoon or spatula spread a light layer of the plantain mixture at the bottom of the baking dish.

2.   Add the next layer with meat.

3.   Take a spoonful of sour cream and spread it over the meat  mixture lightly.

4.   Add a layer of grated cheese.

5.   Repeat layers steps and cover the rest with cheese.

6.   Bake until golden brown and let the pastelon cool for at least ten  minutes.

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News

Mardi Gras Book Signing this Sunday!!!

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Sorry friends for not blogging. I promise I will post some awesome recipes next week. If you are in New Orleans this Sunday 2/23/14 come to my book signing at the Kitchen Witch Cookbook Shop 631 Toulouse Street in the French Quarter. We are serving mojitos, beer, wine and recipes from the cookbook. New Orleans con Sabor Latino: The History and Passion of Latino Cooking will also be for sale.

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Valentine’s Day

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Make something special for your loved one or give them the gift that keeps on giving! New Orleans con Sabor Latino: The History and Passion of Latino Cooking

http://www.amazon.com/Zella-Palmer-Cuadra/e/B00E7KSGVO

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Entree

Cuban Oxtails with Okra and Rice

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Give me a plate of oxtails and my face will light up like new year fireworks! It’s something about the tender flavored meat that gets me every time.

This is one of those dishes where you need a pressure cooker or a lazy Sunday to take time out to put some amor in your food. Here is my recipe for Cuban oxtails with okra and rice.

4lbs of disjointed oxtails (Hint: Purchase at your local butcher or Latin/Caribbean grocery store)
1/2 cup of dry red wine
1/4 cup of olive oil
2 tbs. of dried oregano
1 tsp. of sea salt
1 tsp. of ground cumin
1 tsp. of fresh black ground pepper
1 packet of Goya sazon with achiote
3 8oz. cans of Spanish Tomato Sauce (Goya)
1 minced large yellow onion
8 minced garlic cloves
1 minced roasted red bell pepper
2 bay leaves
2 cups of beef broth
1 lb. of fresh okra cut into bite sizes
Cooked white rice

Preparation:

You will need to marinate your oxtails overnight with wine and olive oil. Make sure you season your oxtails with oregano and sea salt. In a Dutch oven or pressure cooker brown your oxtails. Remove and set aside. Sauté onions, garlic and red bell peppers. Season with cumin, bay leaves, sazon packet and fresh black ground pepper. Add tomato sauce and beef broth. Bring to a boil on medium low heat and add oxtails.

If you have a pressure cooker add okra and cook for 45 minutes. If you have a Dutch oven pot you will cook the oxtails until fork tender for 2 1/2 to 3 hours and then add okra for another 30 minutes. Make sure you stir the meat occasionally so it won’t stick to the bottom of the pot. Serve with cooked white rice.

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Entree

Chicago Puerto Rican Jibarito (Plantain) Sandwich with Grillades

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Growing up in Chicago I ate jibarito sandwiches in the Humboldt Park neighborhood almost every weekend when visiting family and friends. The crispy fried plantain steak sandwich served with Puerto Rican arroz con gandules and a side of mojo sauce (garlic, lime and olive oil marinade) stayed in my memory after I officially became a New Orleanian.

For my cookbook, New Orleans con Sabor Latino: The History and Passion of Latino Cooking I made a jibarito sandwich with New Orleans Creole grillades. I wanted to combine my love for my two favorite cuisines; Latino and New Orleans cuisine. It is delicioso!!! If you have never tried a jibarito sandwich you need to!

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Entree

Isleños Paella

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I love paella! Every year the Isleños of Louisiana celebrate their culture and food in St. Bernard Parish. I try to attend every year to eat fresh charbroiled oysters, empanadas, Isleños plantains with wrapped bacon and of course paella. My friends, Mike and Donna Martin who are in my cookbook invite me every year. They have the most amazing story of triumph, love and family. Their recipes, stories, history of the Isleños and how they came to Louisiana are shared in my cookbook New Orleans con Sabor Latino: The History and Passion of Latino Cooking.

Update: I added two sneak peak pictures of Mike and Donna Martin’s Isleños gulf fish served with roasted potatoes and the most amazing arroz con leche I have tried!

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