Posts Tagged ‘Latin/Caribbean cooking’

Arepas – Latin Cornmeal Pockets

January 5, 2012

Arepas are a gift from Venezuela and Columbia.  However, they are found throughout the Latin countries and the Caribbean.  They are made of  precooked cornmeal, either white or yellow with very fine granules, sometimes called Harina de Maiz, not to be confused with Masa Harina which is used for tortillas.  Arepa flour, Instant Precooked Cornmeal,  is available in Latin and Caribbean markets.  P.A.N. and Goya are two common brands.  If you can’t find Instant Cornmeal, look for Instant Polenta in the Italian isle of major supermarkets.

The traditional recipe is instant cornmeal, salt and boiling water, fried on a dry griddle and baked in a hot oven until they sound hollow when tapped.  IMUSA has an electric arepa maker that browns and bakes them in about 10 minutes depending upon their thickness.  The Imusa Arepa Maker can be found at Target stores and  They’re also available direct from Imusa.   read more

Stewed Tomatoes and Okra with Bacon Over Rice

August 31, 2011

This recipe was inspired by The Neeleys at Foodnetwork.  I’ve tweaked the recipe with celery and green bell pepper since both go so well with tomatoes.  By all means, add chile or red pepper flakes for a kick and herbs such as fresh oregano or dill.  Serve it as a side dish or on its own over rice.  This is simple, quick and easy cooking when you don’t want a heavy meal or don’t feel like spending a lot of time in the kitchen.

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Potato Salad Latin Style

July 20, 2011

Causa Rellena

Potatoes are common fair throughout the Latin countries.  This recipe is inspired by the Peruvian causa relleña, filled layers of seasoned mashed potatoes.  I’ve added a Puerto Rican sofrito with lots of cilantro to the potatoes, sauteed in a little annato oil, plus some crumbled crispy bacon. This is similar to a Puerto Rican mofongo which is usually made with yucca (cassava) and chicharones (crispy fried pork rinds).  The mofongo lines a bowl and is filled with savory sauteed shrimp, chicken or other meat. Causa layers are more often filled with chicken, octopus or crab salad.  Here I’ve used avocado slices dressed with a citrus vinaigrette.  The topping is a salad of roasted red peppers with fresh oregano, capers and citrus vinaigrette plus a 4-minute boiled egg.

Minus the egg and bacon, this is a tasty vegetarian dish and certainly an alternative to those mayonnaise laden potato salads.  Serve this as a side dish with grilled snapper or your favorite steak.  Its a great salad-main served with a cold crab gazpacho or a lobster bisque.  Mini sized causas made with purple or blue potatoes make elegant appetizers.  Rather than individual causas you can make this family-sized and cut it into serving wedges.

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Pickled Green Banana Salad – Guineos Verde Ensalada

June 1, 2011


Bananas are not just for monkeys or desserts.  Since they take a good amount of time to ripen on the stalk from a starchy green to the more commonly recognized yellow fruit, its not too surprising that a lot of tropical cultures enjoy them in the green stage as a potato substitute.  Green bananas boil to fork-tender in about 15 to 20 minutes and they are a great canvas for infusing piquant and savory flavors.

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Black Bean and Chorizo Empanadas

April 6, 2011

Next time you need a make-ahead appetizer for a crowd, try these empanadas.  With just 5 ingredients you can buy ready-made or make them from scratch yourself, these are a snap to prepare. Fill the empanada sheets the night before your party, then fry them off 20 minutes  before the party starts.  They only take half a minute on each side.  Keep them warm in a 200° F. oven or serve them at room temperature.  Offer a picante salsa for dipping…hot, medium or mild. 

The wrappers are called Plantillas and they are made of masa harina, the same dough used for tamales and corn tortillas.  Corn tortillas are not a substitute.  The other option is wonton wrappers,West Indian Meat Patties dough or pie dough.  Plantillas are available in most supermarkets and Latin/Caribbean markets.  The 4-inch rounds (18 per package) make 2  empanadas each.  The 8-inch or 10-inch rounds can be quartered.

Frying empanadas is quick and they won’t taste greasy if the oil is hot enough before frying.  I use an olive oil/sunflower oil product made in Spain. Heat just enough oil to cover the bottom of a non-stick skillet 1/4-inch deep.  The oil should not be smoking hot but rather wavy on the surface.  You’ll have to watch closely once the frying begins.  These empanadas crisp up very fast, less than a minute per side.

Chorizo is a Spanish or Mexican sausage full of spices and Spanish paprika or achiote (annato powder) which gives it the reddish color. Choose the chile content you prefer.  Some like it HOT!  Its essential to render the fat from the meat to mix with the sofrito, black beans and tomato paste. 

I know your guests will rave about these little pillows of flavor from the Caribbean.


  • 1 pound chorizo of choice, casings removed, and chopped
  • 1 can black beans, drained and mashed
  • 1/4 cup sofrito (click here for authentic recipe)
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste mixed with 1/4 cup water
  • 1 package Plantillas 4-inch size
  • oil for frying


  1. Saute chorizo until caramelized and oil has been rendered.
  2. Add mashed black beans, sofrito and tomato paste mixed with water.  Stir until combined.  Set aside to cool.
  3. Cut each Plantillas in half if making hors d’oeuvres or leave whole for larger size.
  4. Place a spoonful of filling in center of wrapper leaving 1/4-inch space around edges.  Fold edges over to make a triangle (or moon for the larger size) and crimp edges together with the tines of a fork.
  5. Heat oil in a non-stick skillet until surface is wavy.  Place empanadas in hot oil taking care not to crowd them.  Fry until crisp, about 30 seconds on each side.  Remove to paper towels.

Check out this recipe video from Harvesting Eating

Marinated Turkey with Caribbean Flavors

November 14, 2010

Marinating a turkey was unheard of in my growing-up years but thankfully times have changed and our culinary methods are far more eclectic these days.  There’s a plethora of marinade recipes available from every region of the world so you only need find one that suits your stuffing and your tastes.  This particular recipe is a tweaked version of a Cuban marinade I’ve used on roasted chicken.  It’s packed with flavor and compliments my bread stuffing with chorizo and pine nuts.   more