El show era parte entrevista, parte hechando cuentos y, parte demostración culinaria. Daisy e Ingrid (porque después de oír sobre las luchas de Ingrid con Lupus y el amor de Daisy para los martinis rápidamente expedimos a base de primer nombre) habló de sus propias familias multiculturales y viajes del raices humildes latinas a estrellas en el Food Network. Había mucha rememoración sobre las abuelitas y el papel influyente que tenían en cada uno de estas mujeres. Aunque yo no conoci mis abuelitas, yo tenía a mi querida nana colombiana, Yolanda, cuyo humor, sabiduria y secretos culinarios me formaron tanto como sus abuelas a ellas. La atmósfera en el Centro de Arscht era tan acogedor que Daisy casi empezo a reprender aquellos quien informaron no saber lo que es aceite de annatto. Ella tomó pausa y con cuidado explicó este secreto de la cocina latina: las semillas de annatto son filtradas en el aceite y usadas como un colorante y técnica de condimento para muchos platos latinos, como el camarón que ella preparaba esa noche.
Ingrid cocinó para nosotros primero, abrazando su mantra de la comida sana, utilizando un tallo de cilantro (un ingrediente favorito suyo) como su arreglo floral y exposición de su estilo rápido y simple con la preparación de camarón en un Chile poblano y salsa tomatillo, arroz de coco, y una ensalada de palmitos. Reflejando el mismo orgullo multicultural que compromete Miami, ella explicó este para ser un plato diversamente latino que usa ingredientes de México, Colombia y Argentina. Ella terminó de deslumbrar al auditorio con un martini de guayaba apetitoso hecho con vodka de jalapeño-infundido. ¡Perdone el cliché, pero, caliente! Y ella hizo todos este en diez minutos.
Daisiy cocinó camarón también, pero tomó una ruta más tradicional con una interpretación sofrito clásica que añadio una sorpresa sirviendo este plato picante sabroso encima de una cachapa venezolana, una tortita de harina de maíz tradicionalmente comida con queso blanco fresco.
Había un par de problemitas para ella a lo largo del camino: ¡necesidad de maniobrar la estufa electrica (“cocino con gas, que les puedo decir!” ella admitió) y una espátula el tamaño del juego de cocina de un niño en vez del verdadero trato de tirar su cachapas. Pero, estos obstáculos sólo sirvieron para realzar su estilo gracioso cuando ella descaradamente aró por ellos dando al auditorio muchas risas (sus ayudantes los nombro Ninja #1 y Ninja #2) a lo largo del camino e igualmente importante, produciendo un plato delicioso por vista y olor, por lo menos, al final. Otra vez, como un mero miembro de auditorio, yo no era el retrete a la prueba, pero, estando en la fila #7 golpe al medio, consigui realmente el aroma y era embriagadoramente rico.
¿Más tarde, durante una sesión de preguntas, dos niñas con sombreros de chef se acercaron al micrófono para confesar que ellas no tenían una pregunta pero podrían recibir un abrazo en cambio? Tanto Daisy como Ingrid de buena gana obedecieron, dejando más que unos miembros de auditorio celosos sin duda.
Lorena Garcia, la chef venezolana y anfitrióna del show de cocina de Despierta América en Univisión, era la única alma afortunada capaz de probar la comida exquisita preparado por estas dos señoras talentosas. Lorena aparecería por instinto en la etapa final cuando tanto Ingrid como Daisy terminaban y su entusiasmo probando la comida da testimonio de lo que mi sentido del olor dijo: ¡excelente!
Este no era sólo una tarde llena de risas, conversación agradable, y aromas intoxicantes. Era lo que hace Miami mi casa y por qué: la conversión de culturas que se enmohecen tan fácilmente que un auditorio entero es capaz de incluir español e inglés en un momento culinario y no darse cuenta que lo han hecho así. Supongo que la manera en que me crie me hace asi: nacida en Venezuela por una madre americana y un padre israelita, todo el rato meticulosamente nutrido por mi nana colombiana, me dio los sabores a muchos mundos. Éstos son sabores que me han formado, me han alimentado, y me han propulsado por mi vida. La vista de estas mujeres que comparten gustos similares a un auditorio lleno de gente impaciente con saborear y vivir y aprender lo que es la comida multicultural latina me hizo sentir una parte de algo más grande y más sabroso.
She promised us she doesn’t normally cook this way, but believe me, a tall, attractive woman in a tight black dress, stiletto heels and a chef’s jacket is quite a turn on, even if you’re heterosexual. This is how the culinary goddess Daisy Martinez, from The Food Network’s Daisy Cooks! arrived to cook on stage last Friday night at Miami’s Adrienne Arscht Center. She was joined by the well-loved and charismatic local Miami celebrity Food Network star of Simply Delicioso, Ingrid Hoffman (whose warmth and approachable nature reminded me of a Latin Rachael Ray) Together they kicked off the center’s Celebrity Chef Series (which includes other greats, Jacques Pepin, Emeril Lagasse and Anthony Bourdain) beginning with a spice of Latin fun.
And what fun it was! Part interview, part storytelling, part cooking demo (with a house filled with salivating audience members), Daisy and Ingrid (because after hearing about Ingrid’s struggles with Lupus and Daisy’s affection for martinis we fast forwarded to a first-name basis) talked about their own multi-cultural families and journeys from humble Latin roots to successful Food Network mega stars. There was much reminiscing about abuelitas (grandmothers) and the influential role they had on each one of these women. This was something I could relate to because even though I didn’t have an abuelita, I had my Colombian nanny, Yolanda, whose jokes, wise cracks, and culinary secrets (such as the tastiest cabbage salad from Tia Beatriz) shaped me as much as their abuelas had shaped them.
The atmosphere at the Arscht Center was so casual, Daisy nearly stepped off the stage to reprimand those who admitted not knowing what annatto oil was. Silent gasps amongst Latin peers were heard as she took pause and carefully explained this secret of Latin cooking: annatto seeds are seeped in oil and used as a coloring and flavoring technique for many Latin dishes, such as the shrimp she was preparing that night.
Ingrid cooked for us first, embracing her mantra of healthy, wholesome eating, using a stalk of cilantro (a favorite ingredient of hers) as her floral arrangement and showing her fast and simple style with the preparation of shrimp in a poblano chile and tomatillo salsa, coconut rice, and a heart of palm salad. Reflecting the same multi-cultural pride that compromises Miami, she explained this to be a diversely Latin dish drawing ingredients from Mexico, Colombia and Argentina. She finished dazzling the audience with a mouthwatering guava martini made with jalapeño-infused vodka. Pardon the cliché but, caliente! And she did this all in ten minutes.
Daisy cooked shrimp as well but took a more traditional route with a classic sofrito rendition adding a surprise twist by serving this savory piquant dish on top of a Venezuelan sweet corn cachapa, or cornmeal pancake, traditionally eaten with fresh white cheese. As the cachapa sizzled Daisy promised us it would be crunchy on the outside but tender on the inside serving as the perfect companion to her shrimp. There’s something about Daisy that makes you just believe.
There were a couple of hiccups for her along the way: having to maneuver an electric stovetop (“I do gas, what can I say!” she confessed) and being given a spatula the size of a toddler’s cooking set instead of the real deal to flip her cachapas. But, these obstacles only served to enhance her funk and funny style as she brazenly plowed through them giving the audience plenty of laughs (her assistants became Cooking Ninja #1 and Cooking Ninja #2 and enjoyed basking in her fun limelight) along the way and equally important, producing a delicious smelling dish at the end. Again, as a mere audience member, I was not privy to tasting, but, being on row #7 smack in the middle, I sure as hell did get the aroma and it was intoxicatingly rich and sweet and spicy all at once.
Later on, during a Q&A session, two little girls donning chef hats and mucho moxie approached the microphone to admit they didn’t have a question but could they get a hug instead? Both Daisy and Ingrid gladly complied, leaving more than a few audience members jealous no doubt.
Lorena Garcia, a Venezuelan native chef and host of Univision’s Despierta AmericaCocinando Con Nestle, was the moderator of this jovial event and the only lucky soul able to sample the exquisite food prepared by these two talented ladies. Lorena would instinctively pop up on the stage as both Ingrid and Daisy were barely done stirring their final stir and eagerly give us all a hands-on preview of the food being prepared. Her enthusiasm wolfing down the food (piping hot and knifeless) served to attest what my sense of smell said:excelente!
This was not only an evening filled with good laughs, pleasurable conversation, and enticing aromas. It was what makes Miami my home and why: the conversion of cultures, languages and backgrounds that mold so easily that an entire audience is able to slip in and out of Spanish and English and not even notice they’ve done so. I suppose growing up the way I did, food obsessed and raised in Venezuela by an American mother and Israeli father, all the while meticulously nurtured by my Colombian nanny, gave me the flavors of many worlds. These are flavors that have formed me, nourished me, and propelled me through my life. Seeing these women sharing similar patchworks of tastes to a house filled with an eager and anticipating audience made me feel a part of a bigger and more flavorful culinary whole.
I have a confession to make.I’m not sure it’s the right one to do, this being an upscale [insert giggle] food blog with upscale food followers (right?) but nonetheless, if anything, I strive to be true to myself and my readers and so here it goes:I go to Costco to shop.
Sometimes.Rarely.But sometimes.On occasions maybe more than I should.But I go.Now, to my defense let me remind you all that I live in South Florida: Plantation to be exact, which is not necessarily your haven of food markets and such.Lightly put, this ain’t Santa Monica or Paris, both hosting amazing food markets. When I went to the Symposium for Professional Food Writers at the Greenbrier last April, I met Amelia Saltsman, author of The Santa Monica Farmer’s Market Cookbook and I was ready to hop in her suitcase and head home with her. Unfortunately, the closest thing to a food market for me would be Florida City (a 1 1/2 hour trek), and, most definitely on my way down to the Keys I’d make a wonderfully delicious stop there, but, on a day-to-day basis, driving such a distance for my produce wouldn’t make much ecological sense anyway, considering I am hauling around in a minivan (at least it’s not a huge truck or something). But with words such as organic, sustainable, and slow foods bubbling up to the awareness of the American eater, my Costco confession is not a good thing.
Some culinary folks would be okay with it, even helpful. Rachael Ray has tips on how to make shopping in warehouse stores less daunting. Other’s, like Oprah, try and encourage us to shop at our local greenmarket. But seriously, there is something about the size of the place that mesmerizes me (there I going being politically incorrect again).Now, I didn’t grow up in this country.As most of you know, I grew up in Venezuela, where, if you wanted bread, you went to the panaderia (bread shop), meat:carniceria (yep, butcher) and fruit, you’d head on to the fruteria (you got this one).Now all of these where situated in the cozy neighborhood of Chacao, a bustling maze of streets in Caracas filled with pedestrians, businesses and cars.It was a five minute walk from my house, and I would usually make the trip with my nanny, Yoli, and our steady rolling iron basket with dune buggy wheels imported from Spain.It was an afternoon of schmoozing with the neighbors, tasting samples of papaya, and picking up some unplanned sweet rolls merely because the had just left the oven and their aroma demanded purchasing.
So flash forward to Plantation, Florida and take pity on me please. It’s a lovely place. Serene and green. But nobody walks here.Nobody.In fact, I do believe South Florida, specifically Ft. Lauderdale (which is ten minutes from me) ranked as one of the most dangerous cities for pedestrians.It’s car zone here, whether you like it or not.First of all, it’s just so damn hot most of the time (I mean, we are in mid October and its 96 degrees outside).People like to be sealed in their cars, a/c blasting, music blaring, shut out from the world, entering and exiting their hermetically sealed universe via garage. So, step out of your suburban home and it would be no surprise to find no one but maybe an occasional aggravated dog walker obligated to be outdoors.
That being said, you can imagine the food situation isn’t optimal.Supermarkets abound, and I visit them regularly, so much so that everyone knows me there quite well.And then there is gleamingly large Costco.Now I am not a fan a warehouses in general, but when they are filled with food, I can’t help myself.And even as I walk in and am greeted by mountains of empty boxes (which shoppers use to pile on their bought goods (hey, at least no plastic bags, that’s good, right?)) I feel a pang of guilt reading what these empty boxes once stored:grapes from Brazil, avocados from Mexico, asparagus from Peru.Once viewed proudly as the United Nations of food, this stuff is deemed bad, bad, bad in the age of locavore, and I should know and do better as a food muse. I should. Except that some of the stuff is lovely.Big and plump and beautifully lovely and it’s not just the lighting of the place, I promise, it’s the actual stuff.
I am a good person, I am.And if I lived somewhere where I could get a plethora of local grown foods, I’d be the first in line (on my bicycle).But I am geographically challenged you see, and so I slip in here on occasion and go mad buying.Of course, why one person needs a box of 25 croissants is beyond me, but I grab it anyhow. This isn’t easy for me you know, and I’m not just talking about pushing the jumbo sized shopping cart and maneuvering through the waves of regulars.The whole experience is filled with conflict as I recall my shopping days in Venezuela and compare them to what I’ve ended up doing now. It’s a sense of failure of sorts, a resigned “this is what happens when you end up in the suburbs” pity bit, until I see the nice granny in the corner giving out samples of lobster spread and I jump with a big “ooh” and rush over to grab five crackers.She gives me a dirty look (proper etiquette assumes you are only supposed to take one) but I figure it’s all about excessiveness here, so why the hell not.
I find myself honing in on the tomatoes.I’ve spotted them from a distance and they look lovely- round and plump and just perfect.It’s still October, so, maybe I can convince myself it isa late, late summer crop and thus I can get away with eating them with a clear consience.I know this not to be true but I love tomatoes so.I check the label to see where they’ve come from:Canada.Close enough, right?We’re likebrothers, no?I make a mental note to move to California with Amelia and grab the package.As I maneuver around the cheeses I can’t resist the gigantic tub of mozzarella, imported straight from Italy.Ah, Italian mozarrrella. Me piace! How can one say no? I’ve already got the perfect meal in mind:insalata caprese. I’ll use my Portuguese olive oil, some of Mark Bitterman’s fabulous Kauai Guava Smoked Salt from his lovely store, The Meadow and then I’ll top it off with my own home grown basil, born in the USA.Yes, it would be a United Nation’s meal at my house (with our own representative present), and somehow the guilt began to ease as I viewed it more of a celebration of flavors meeting from all corners of the world, ending up in my home for one big, happy and tasty ending.
Sometimes the weekend rolls around and I want to break all dietary rules. I know, I know, I am adult, female, American and it is practically illegal to eat carbohydrates, sugar, salt, and most definitely fresh, whole milk mozzarella cheese. But Saturday and Sunday are my days off from the gym regimen, and so, the gut craves a break too. Thankfully, I am the parent of young, thin, energy-crazed children and I can conveniently hide behind the maternal guise of feeding them and indulge in deliciously goopy pasta dishes. Luckily, no kid will turn down mountains of melted cheese plus mine are well trained to know they get chocolate at the end of their meal if they eat, no questions asked. Either way, I get carte blanche to indulge in my carb cravings without getting lynched.For these quick “kid” moments, I turn to Rachael Ray. I know Rachael has gotten her share of mixed reviews, and, perhaps I too was guilty of some unresolved issues regarding her extreme perkiness (I’ll blame that boundless energy on her not having kids). Still, I met Rachael several times during my brief writing stint on her magazine, and I can thankfully report to all you skeptics out there that she is a genuinely nice, cheerful person (without the need of caffeine). She certainly gets things done, and can whip up a fast and tasty meal, even if (and especially because) she does it in a non-conventional way. Her dishes aren’t complicated nor pretend to be. They are just easy and they work. And that is part of her perky charm. Baked Ziti is just the ticket to carb comfort. It has several steps to it, but they are all manageable and worth the gooey outcome. When you are done, simply draw the curtains so the carb police doesn’t see. If you have a couple of kids, add them to the formula to make the whole process more believable. Then, sit down with a nice class of red wine and a crisp green salad (for guilt’s sake) and enjoy! You’ll jog it off later.