Tag Archives: Puerto Rico

Cocina Abierta new vegetarian menu in Condado

12 Sep

I’ve told you about Cocina Abierta… a super cool restaurant owned by a former neighbor of mine, Martin Louzao. Martin is an awesome chef, one with a former vegetarian girlfriend. I would like to think that based on her insistence or my insistence on her asking if several of their dishes were truly vegetarian, that he decided to create a Vegetarian Menu in his new location in Condado.

Cocina Abierta is not a vegetarían restaurant… we still have a great opportunity for Vegetarian Fine Dining in Puerto Rico. But Martin has certainly captured my attention developing new dishes and adapting several true and tried favorites to create a vegetarian tasting menu fit for celebrations, to take vegetarian friends when they travel to Puerto Rico and when you want to enjoy truly good cooking overall.

If you ignore the smells of grilled steaks coming from the kitchen… you will find Cocina Abierta has a great ambiance and atmosphere. Their menu is divided into ACTS, like a play, but we only ordered from the Vegetarian side concert. I took my friend Andrew, who was visiting Puerto Rico for work. Aside from the Yoga Center cooking, he had not had the chance to experience fine dining in Puerto Rico.

We ordered:

Baby Arugula Salad with Almond-Stuffed Dates and Caramelized Onions

Cocina Abierta - Vegetarian Menu Salad

Eggplant Mignon over a bed of Curried Couscous

Eggplant Vegetarian Dish

Ricotta Gnocchi with Blue Cheese and Arugula

Cocina Abierta Vegetarian Menu

Gelatos – Salted Caramel and Strawberry Flavors

Cocina Abierta Vegetrian Menu

OMG!!!!   What an awesome experience we had!!! We shared everything because we wanted to taste as many things we could… I would have ordered another salad just for me… not because the serving was small, but because it was so delicious.

The Eggplant Mignon is something I would rarely order in a restaurant, yet I was very surprised to taste the flavors of India in a very refined manner, suitable for the Western taste buds. I am not too fond of Indian cooking and I enjoyed this very much…

The gnocchi are so rich and delicious… it was a good thing we shared. Because if not, I would have eaten the whole thing by myself and would have been counting the amount of calories for days.

The gelatos were spectacular, in particular the salted caramel one… with pieces of caramel inside. It was heaven on a plate. I may just go back and sit at their Dessert Bar just to have the salted caramel ice cream. Move over Mango Sorbet from Hagen Dasz, there’s a new frozen dessert in town!!!

I want to thank Martin and the whole Cocina Abierta team for a wonderful evening… our waitress Mari Carmen was a joy and made our dining experience all the better. When you have someone serving you who’s super excited about the food… it gets you excited too. We were very happy and Andrew even mentioned he might return again when his next business trip takes him back to San Juan.

I am glad I have an alternative to offer friends and people who ask on tour FB page – “Where can I eat in PR if I am vegetarian???” There’s no need to suffer or put your lifestyle aside if you’re traveling to Puerto Rico.

Make My Food Famous – a new culinary competition featuring Puerto Rican hostess, Monti Carlo

29 Aug

Monti from MasterChef Season 3 fame is at it again in the kitchen… this time she’s helping other home cooks, just like herself, to get their signature dishes be part of a Michelin-starred restaurant menu.

Make my Food Famous

In the new show Make my Food Famous, Monti hosts and judges 3 home cooks get their food be part of the menu at David LeFavre restaurant, MB Post… in Manhattan Beach, California.  This is a BIG DEAL…  for Monti herself and the 3 home cooks participating.

MB Post Collage

Photos courtesy of MB Post Restaurant http://www.eatmbpost.com

Monti, a fellow Puerto Rican, a self-proclaimed home cook who made her living as a radio-show host came to fame because of her culinary talent in a TV show and now she gets to provide support and advice to these aspiring home cooks.  “Working in a commercial kitchen is NOT the same as working in your own home space.  I’m there to provide these people some support – because it can be really emotional and tough to be fighting for your dream.” candidly shares Monti.

300px-Monti_Carlo

According to Monti, “This is a very rewarding process for all these home cooks.  Win it or not, all these people will have a much better idea of what they want and how to get there.” And Monti knows a little about how to fight for her dreams because after her participation on MasterChef Season 3, she came home to an eviction notice and little planning on what to do next.  But the Universe works in mysterious ways and now she’s back on TV with a series on the FYI network.

I asked Monti if someone vegetarian competing with a vegetarian dish would have a chance to win in Make my Food Famous and she gave me a resounding YES!!!!  Even though she’s not a vegetarian, she knows and believes a great dish can be vegetable-based.  For the last few months, Monti has also worked at Roy Choi’s new roof-top greenhouse restaurant, Commisary.  “If the work and thoughtfulness is put on a dish, any vegetable or fruit can certainly be the star.” says Monti with pride.  This new vegetable and fruit based restaurant is so popular that recently well-known vegan Natalie Portman and also singer John Mayer have been among its celebrity guests.

Commisary - Roy Choi

Photo courtesy of Commissary Restaurant

Make My Food Famous premieres on the FYI network this Sunday, August 31 @ 10PM.  Stay tuned to see if maybe one day I can try to make some of my signatures dishes into one of these vegetable-based restaurants too.  I am throwing that out into the Universe…

In the meantime, I wish Monti all the success in the world and to celebrate her new show I asked her what was the foods she missed most from our Puerto Rico and she mentioned quenepas, dulces de coco, pan sobao and chicharrones. I am not sure if I support the chicharrones part, but Monti, stay tuned to the mailbox because you may receive a nice little surprise in the mail – a care package courtesy of KarmaFree Cooking.

Sweet Plantain Canoes filled with Creamed Spinach

8 May

It’s incredible when you have the opportunity to live outside your native country, how you turn more patriotic than the flag.

I developed this recipe as part of a special post for my friend Marixsa’s blog, Mamá Boricua en Brooklyn.    She’s sharing a series of articles celebrating the Puerto Rican Parade in NYC under the moniker Abrazos Boricuas.  She was gracious to invite me to share a bit of my experience living and experiencing the Puerto Rican Day Parade for the first time, 20 years ago!!!  Can you believe it?!?!

abrazos-boricuas

If you want to read more about my story and the pride I feel about flaunting my “mancha de plátano”, please visit Mamá Boricua en Brooklyn.  And to her readers who are visiting KarmaFree Cooking for the first time, we welcome you with open arms.  Here I share many vegetarian recipes recipes that express my love for my beautiful Island, Puerto Rico.  This is one of them… enjoy!

 

Canoa de Platano Rellena de Espinacas

SWEET PLANTAIN CANOES FILLED WITH CREAMED SPINACH

4 sweet ripe plantains
1 bag of fresh baby spinach
1 medium onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, smashed
4 oz of cream cheese
A splash of half & half or milk
A pinch of nutmeg
2 tbs of pine nuts
1 cup of grated mozzarella cheese
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

 

  1. Bake the plantains in their own skin…  cut a Little bit of the ends and you make a shallow slit on the inside of the plantain from one end to the other.  Place in a baking sheet covered with parchment paper side to side and bake in a 350F for about 30 minutes.
  2. While the plantains cook, we prepare the filling…  In a large skillet over medium heat, add a drizzle of olive oil, the onions and garlic clove.  Sweat slowly for the onions to cook and the garlic to infuse its flavor, without browning.
  3. When the onions are cooked and translucent, remove the Garlic clove and add the spinach in batches to the skillet.  It might seem like too much, but the spinach will wilt down a lot.  Cover the skillet for a few minutes to help the wilting process.  Mix the spinach and the onions well to help the spinach wilt and for the flavors to meld together.
  4. Add the cream cheese in pieces to make it easier to melt with the spinach.  Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.  You’ll end up with a creamy spinach mixture.  If you feel the mixture is tight, add a splash of milk or half and half.
  5. When the plantains are cooked, take them out of their blackened skins and place in a baking dish all 4 plantains together side by side or in individual lasagna dishes or even shallow ramekins might work well too.
  6. Place the plantains with the natural curve to the top.  If you made the slit to the skin previously, now make the slit slightly deeper to fill the plantain on the inside.  Place ¼ of the spinach mixture over each plantain.  Sprinkle the pine nuts over the plantains evenly and cover them all with the grated mozzarella cheese.
  7. Return the plantains to the oven for a few minutes at 350F to melt and brown the cheese a bit.

 

Enjoy these plantain canoes with a nice salad and rice with corn on the side.

 

Canoa de Plátano Maduro Relleno de Espinacas y Queso

 

 

abrazos-boricuas-SQ

Raw Yuca Casserole

21 Apr

In Spanish there’s a saying that goes…  “lo prometido es deuda…” meaning that what you promise is a debt you need to repay.  And I promised you ever since our first ever KarmaFree Cooking Class I was going to give you the recipe for the Raw Yuca Casserole or Pastelón de Yuca Cruda and I had failed to do so… until now.

This recipe comes from Mai, Angie’s grandma.  And Mai, may she rest in peace, was who taught us all to make this delicious pastelón.  We were going to perform a tribute to her yesterday at the end of our Easter Retreat, but rain prevented us from it.  So instead, I am honoring her by publishing her recipe for posterity and for all to enjoy.

Mai Clemente

Mai Clemente – Angie’s Grandma

We chose this recipe for our 1st ever cooking class for several reasons: 1) it’s different, 2) it includes typical flavors of Puerto Rico and 3) this is very similar to tasting the flavors of a yuca pastel, very typical during Xmas time, but without the effort of making into individual pasteles.

Don’t get discouraged by the name of the dish…  the cool think about this pastelón, different from other pastelones or other yuca recipes I have shared with you in the past is that you do not need to cook the yuca in advance to make this recipe.  The yuca is prepared raw and then cooked after it’s assembled as a casserole.  Check it out…

First Ever KarmaFree Cooking Class Menu

RAW YUCA CASSEROLE

7 lbs raw yuca
Annato Oil
2 tbs canola oil for sautéing
2 tbs salt, divided
1 can of coconut milk
2 cups of textured soy protein
1 jar of green olives and capers, pitted
2 vegetable bouillon cubes
2 packets of tomato sauce
½ cup of sofrito or recaíto
2 tbs Dry scallions
2 Bay leaves
 
  1. First you need to re-hydrate the textured soy protein in about 2 cups of water. For approximately 30 minutes.  After the soy has plumped, drain it and squeeze it dry well. And keep to the side.
  2. While the soy rehydrates, we prepare the yuca…
  3. Peel the yuca and take off the center hard vein that runs thru it.  Cut it into long pieces that are not too skinny.  Wash it well and grind it using either one of these implements – a Champion grinder, a hand grinder or the grinder attachment on a KitchenAid mixer.  Make sure to squeeze out as much liquid as possible using a large colander or even a clean cotton towel, because this yuca liquid makes the masa bitter.
  4. When the yuca is ground and squeezed dry, season it with the annatto oil, 1 ½ tbs of salt and the coconut milk.  Mix it all well so it has a beautiful yellowy color.  Set aside.
Photo provided by Adriana from GreatFood 360

Photo thanks to Adriana from GreatFood 360

Yuca Cruda, Casserole

Photo thanks to Adriana from Great Food 360.

5.  Now we move on to making the filling…  In a large skillet, add the canola oil and cook all together the olives and capers, sofrito, recaíto, the 2 bouillon cubes, the tomato sauce, dried scallions, bay leaves and ½ tbs of salt.  In the end, add the drained soy and mix everything together.  Allow to cook over low heat for about 10 minutes.  Stir every once in a while to avoid the soy mixture to stick to the bottom of the pan.  Turn off the heat and set aside.

6.  Now we put it all together to make it look like a pastelón…  Divide the yuca mixture in 2 halves.  Spread one half on the bottom of a 9”x 13” baking dish.  You won’t need to pre-grease it because the yuca masa has annatto oil in it.  But you can if you prefer.

Pastelon Yuca 2

Photo thanks to Adriana from GreatFood360

7.  Spread the soy mixture over the first layer of ground yuca as evenly as possible.

8.  Cover the soy mixture with the second half of the ground yuca.

Photo thanks to Adriana from GreatFood360.

 

9.  Cover the baking dish using a piece of parchment paper secured on top with a layer of aluminum foil.  Bake in a 350F over for approximately 30-45 minutes, depending on your oven.  Start checking the pastelón at the 30 minute mark and uncover it to make sure the consistency is cooked and the top dries and browns a bit.

10.  Let is rest for a few minutes after you take it out of the oven so that the yuca sets and it’s easier to portion and serve into pieces.

 

This is one of my favorite pastelones.  You can make the filling with anything you would like.  I personally like to substitute part of the soy protein with mixed vegetables.  It’s a way to give variety to the recipe.

I hope you like it as much as Angie and I we like it too… and thanks Mai for leaving us with a little piece of you though your cooking.

KarmaFree Cooking’s 3rd Vegetarian Cooking Class

12 Apr

Celebrate the moms in your life with a delicious breakfast in bed feast, filled with lots of love and great vibes.  This will be KarmaFree Cooking’s 3rd vegetarian class…  we are so excited you keep us asking for more!!!!

Come over to our kitchen and learn some easy-to-make vegetarian recipes that are all delicious.  You’ll learn also some new techniques and ingredients you can integrate into your daily vegetarian lifestyle.

 

KarmaFree Cooking's Vegetarian Class

 

The menu for this cooking class will be:

  • Tofu Scramble with Mixed Vegetables
  • Mustard Roasted Breakfast Potatoes
  • Fruit Salad and some ideas on how to best combine fruits for maximum nutrition
  • Breakfast Smoothie and some information on add-ins you can incorporate to boost the power of that breakfast drink
  • Carrot Muffins with Creamy Cream Cheese Frosting

Class will be held in Spanish, but if you are not fluent, we can certainly accommodate any English-speaking students.  Just let us know in advance to be prepared with recipe handouts, etc.

When:  Saturday, April 26       9AM – 12:30PM

Where: Centro Cultural Yoga Devanand,  824 Calle 13 SO, Caparra Terrace, San Juan, PR

Instructors:  Madelyn Rodríguez and Angie Cruz

Donation: $35

Bring your apron, pen, paper and lots of interest to learn something new… and impress your mom on Mother’s Day or any other day with your new vegetarian cooking skills.

Spaces are limited… so please visit the event in FaceBook and click GOING so we know how many people are interested.

For more information, please call 787-273-0236 or email me at karmafreecooking{at}yahoo{dot}com.

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