The other day in Serious Eats there was a Talk thread started asking about who were your inspiration in the kitchen, besides any celebrity chef from TV.
My mind immediately went to the Yoga Center where I was introduced to vegetarianism and vegetarian cooking all-together. I still remember, way before I became vegetarian, eating for the first time a ver specific “pincho” and being afraid for other vegetarians there because these people were serving a pincho made from “fried pork”. Little did I know I was actually eating a fried gluten pincho…
That was the beginning for me… vegetarian cooking is indeed DELICIOUS, if you know how to make delicious food. I have learned through the years that vegetarian cooking is just as simple as any other type of cuisine. If you flavor your food well… food, vegeterian or not, will taste delicious too.
And five people have been instrumental in guiding me and inspiring me most in the vegetarian cooking world – Carmen, Angie, Mili, Rosani and Tania. These five YOGUIS have been my mentors in the kitchen. They have taught me recipes, techniques, ingredients and most of all being confident when you cook. Knowing your food will turn out as good as it will, guided by the sacred hand of the Supreme Being.
Angie was my first cooking teacher. I entered a cooking workshop at the insistence of my mom. She was vegetarian already and wanted me to learn how to make vegetarian food as well. Angie taught me about tofu, veggie dogs, making BBQ sauce from scratch, about reading labels to avoid unwanted ingredients. She taught me that carmine comes from an insect and that animal rennet comes from baby calves. I love she allows people to cook as they feel more comfortable in the kitchen.
Carmen has taught me to make many of the very Puerto Rican dishes I know… Arroz con Gandules, Arroz con Dulce, Pasteles, and the sancocho we eat every time after a spiritual retreat, etc. Her Bread Pudding is the same recipe I baked and sold to many, many people when I was baking and cooking my way around San Juan while building my own marketing consulting business.
I cooked on Mili’s Saturday cooking team for many, many years. For some reason, I am no longer in that team… but she taught me you can make fritters out of any “vianda” possible. She loves making her Eggplant Sandwich Stacks… even thouvgh she just calls them sandwicitos. We have made cabagge rolls filled with a “pasteles” filling countless, countless times. I wish I had paid more attention whenever she made “dulce de papaya” because I would love to share that with you guys. She taught me how to make gomasio… and I’ll put that on my TO BLOG list to make it soon for you. It’s delicious over salads…
Rosani is the resident BEST BAKER at the Yoga Center… I’m sorry for any other baker at the center who reads this, but its true!!! She rocks cakes… and her apprentice Manolo is on a great path too. I would not eat a cake at the Center if it’s not made by Rosani or her protégé Manolo. Rosani has taught me to make Sopa Paraguaya, about making pizzas, her carrot burfi recipe, making gluten-free onion rings, about using xanthan gum in salad dressings, about using carob… she’s my gluten-free girl and constantly recommends me the best gluten-free products at the market.
And last but definitely never least Tania… Tania is a food lover just like me. She’s dominican and she makes THE BEST mangú you have ever tasted. Tania and I share recipes constantly. She’s the author of the Tostón Sandwich, she brought with her from Paraguay the Eggplant Milanese recipe, she told us about The Pulguero and how to purchase the best produce for less. She’s a fan of my risottos, my minestrone soup and my pasta dishes… and also loves our Stuffed Mushrooms – all of them. And she can pick out the dish I made in any Vegetarian Cooking Festival… always!!!
I just wanted to give them a round of appaluse and a great public GRACIAS from the bottom of my heart. May we continue to inspire, teach, educate and delight each other with our vegetarian creations in the kitchen!!!