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Soursop Juice

10 May

Growing up I did not like any of the tropical fruit flavors… tamarind, mango, papaya or soursop. I would only like cherry, grape or orange. You know… the artificially-flavored stuff.  Buying piraguas in Old San Juan, I remember they had syrups made from our Puerto Rican fruits flavors, but I always chose the deep dark red one; the one I would stay farthest away from nowadays.

Then your tastes change… and they evolve and those flavors that you once thought were not that appealing are the ones you crave and appreciate the most.

Soursop is one of those flavors to me… I remember my grandma offering us guanábana at our casa de campo and we refusing profusely. Now, it’s one of my favorite flavors. But soursops are very hard to come by sometimes.  Soursops have a newfound rep of having cancer-fighting properties and when those types of reports start crawling around the internet, things get scarce. Whenever you see soursops at the grocery store, they’re expensive. So if you have a fruit-bearing tree… take very good care of it.

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I found some soursops at the grocery store the other day and I decided to treat myself to some juice… it’s so easy to make yourself.

Look for soursops that are starting to give a little bit.  If they’re hard, they’re not fully ripe yet.  Allow them to fully ripen on your kitchen counter. And if they are beginning to soften and you can’t get to it, place it in the fridge to stop the ripening process.

 

Jugo de Guanabana Collage

SOURSOP JUICE for one…

1/3 cup of soursop pulp
About 1 cup of filtered water
2 tbs brown sugar

 

I like to remove the seeds from the pulp. I read from someone on Facebook that you could leave the seeds in… I guess you could, but it will become a mess when you strain it. I prefer to remove the seeds and try to grow some new soursop trees from them.

Semillas Guanabana 2

 

  1. In a blender or your Magic Bullet, add the fruit pulp, water and sugar. Add an ice cube if the water is not cold. Blend well together. The mixture will become white and creamy.
  2. I like to strain it… It’s not necessary, but I think the texture is better if you strain the juice before drinking it. Besides, if you miss a seed, you’ll be sure to take it out before drinking.

 

This is the measurement I use to make juice just for me in my Magic Bullet. I prefer to keep the pulp in the fridge and make the juice fresh right before I am about to drink it. All you need to do to make a larger batch for your family is to increase the quantities. Basically you’ll need 1 part pulp to 3 parts water and sweeten to taste.

Add sugar as you see fit. I like my soursop juice sweet. Sometimes the pulp is not as sweet as you would like. So feel free to adjust the sugar amount to your taste.

 

Indian Edible Sweet Souvenirs

29 Apr

Over the years, I have tried to never accustom anyone in my family to expect a gift whenever I travel. It may sound kinda harsh, but with the amount of travel I do, if I accustom people to expect a gift from me, it would be a burden to my schedule and my budget. I do try to bring things to share with people so they can enjoy a little bit of my travels too… Say for example, it’s kind of awkward to travel in India for 3 weeks and arrive at my sister’s home empty-handed.

As soon as we arrived in India, we were gifted a backpack filled with Indian goodies: a sari for the girls and a dhoti for the guys, a towel that looks like a very nice kitchen towel and these… Gajjak Til Papad. The best way I can describe it is this is the Indian version of a sesame seed brittle. Super duper thin sheet of sugar with sesame seeds, pistachios and flavored with cardamom. We ate one box along the trip… this was our in-room snack, we brought one box for my sister and I have an extra one with me in Puerto Rico. It’s in the fridge for the sugar to be hard and crispy like we ate them in India and not softy and chewy.

Gajjak Til  Papad

For years, my mom and I have enjoyed 2 of India’s most popular desserts – galub jamun and rasgulla. We lovingly call them “the Indian balls”. Galub Jamun is a ball made of wheat flour and Rasgulla is a ball made from an Indian cheese similar to paneer called chhena. Both are served warm in syrup and they’re delicious!!!! For years, we’ve seen these desserts packed for travel in cans and this was the first time we brought some home. You can find them in any sweet shop and especially at gift shops at the airports.

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Rasgulla Collage

In Allahabad we were treated to Dry Petha… which is a dry, sugared pumpkin. I am guessing it’s some sort of zucchini or squash because it’s white in color. I have not been able to identify the “pumpkin” this sweet is made of. They’re a nice ending to a meal… sweet and light and perfect to bring a few to your room for a snack!! 😉 You can also find these packed in boxes ready to travel home with you.

Dry Petha Collage

And in Delhi we were taken to a sweet shop called Bikanervala… here we bought our to-go cans of rasgullas and galub jamun. But we also discovered something else that was completely new to me – Mawas. I am not even sure if this is their correct name. I believe it’s a halva made from dried fruits or nuts. Or as we would say in the west, like a turrón or dry nougat. We just saw the little packages in the store, asked to try one and ended up buying 3 kinds – Mango, Badam which is Almond and Pista which is pistachio. Now I know 3 more words in hindi, yay!!!!

Turrones Collage

Over the last few weeks, these sweets have been a terrific way to remember thru our taste buds some of the wonderful experiences we had in India. I can’t wait to make some Indian sweets of my own!!!!

Do you bring back edible souvenirs from your travels?? Tell me all about them…

Piña Colada Smoothie

28 Nov

Piña Coladas are the quintessential Caribbean drink… Wanna make them even more nutritious??? Let’s take the flavors and make it into a smoothie, perfectly suitable for a breakfast drink.

PIÑA COLADA SMOOTHIE

1 banana
½ cup pineapple, cut into cubes
½ cup vanilla yogurt
2 tbs cream of coconut – I use Coco López
1 tsp ground flaxseeds
2 -3 ice cubes
About ½ cup Water or pineapple juice – enough to make the mixture blend well in the blender.

 

This is a recipe for one smoothie… I blend it all in my Magic Bullet.

  1. Mix all the ingredients well in a blender.
  2. Serve immediately.
  3. Garnish with a piece of fresh pineapple, but this is completely optional.

 

Yuca Alcapurrias

6 Aug

When I traveled recently to Paraguay, we wanted to thank all the hospitality our Paraguayan friends showed towards us with a Puerto Rican dinner.  Well… almost Puerto Rican, because we had representation from every member of our group… a little from the Dominican Republic, a little from Brazil, a little that came from inspiration from the Coronel Oviedo market…  But amongst the dishes that were typical to Puerto Rico were our alcapurrias.

With the copious amounts of yucca we had at our disposal in Paraguay, we had to make some sort of fritter with yucca and what’s a better example of a Puerto Rican fritter than an alcapurria. I have tried to share with all of you an alcapurria recipe for a long time now. But, I do not make alcapurrias all by myself at home. Usually, this is a group project and even though they’re not super difficult to make, it goes easier if the tasks are shared.

Alcapurrias are traditionally made with a masa made from ground plantain and yautía. Yuca is also very traditional, so we are not deviating too much from a very traditional recipe here. But instead of filling them with ground meat, we will be using mixed vegetables. You could also use a combination of mixed vegetables and textured vegetable protein to resemble more the ground meat filling. These are amongst the most iconic fritters you can find here in Puerto Rico… present in almost every celebration, especially in patron saint festivities and even at the Luquillo Beach kisokos and Loíza.

This recipe comes from Yazmín and Joel, who were the master alcapurria fryers. My title is more master alcapurria eater. The best thing is to make a bunch of these at one sitting… fry some to eat immediately and any left over, freeze them for later frying. As with any fritter, they’re best eaten immediately after frying or else, they get soggy. They’re so laborious that is not something that you can whip up whenever you get the craving. This takes time… you’re all under advisement.

Joel frying some mean alcapurrias in Paraguay

In Paraguay, we were lucky we had a whole team helping with making these alcapurrias, especially to grind the yuca manually. In Puerto Rico, we have the help of a Champion machine where we grind the yuca and the moisture is separated from the dry masa.  But if the task of grinding yuca blows your mind, at the stores they sell frozen masa for alcapurrias or pasteles, ready to go. I’ve never used them, but I believe the only thing you need to do is thaw it completely and squeeze it as dry as possible and season it, just like I teach you here…

YUCA ALCAPURRIAS

Ground raw yuca, about 5 lbs of yuca, pealed and washed well
10 cloves of garlic, mashed in a mortar/pestle or in the food processor
2 ½ tbs salt
¼ cup of annatto oil
 
Mixed Vegetables Filling
1 bag of frozen mixed vegetables, thawed
1 large onion, diced
½ cup of tomato sauce
1 tsp Garlic and Herbs seasoning
Salt and Pepper to taste
Olive Oil
 
Canola Oil for frying
  1.  If you have a manual grinder use that to grind the raw yuca. If you have a Kitchen Aid with the grinder attachment, use that. If you have a Champion machine, use that. If you prefer to purchase the masa frozen from the supermarket, that’s perfect too.

2. After the yuca is ground, you should wring out as much liquid from it as possible with a cotton cloth or towel. The idea is that the masa is as dry as possible. If you skip this step, the alcapurria might fall apart when frying and that’s no fun after you’ve worked so hard to make these.

3. Season the masa with the mashed garlic, salt and annatto oil. Set aside.

4.  To prepare the filling… in a large skillet, add a bit of olive oil and sauté the onions for a while under medium heat until they soften. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

5.  Add the mixed vegetables and the tomato sauce. Mix everything well. Season with salt, pepper, garlic and herbs. Mix once again. Cover the skillet to allow all the veggies to cook well and the flavor meld. Turn the stove off and allow the mixture to cool off a bit before we start assembling the alcapurrias.

6.  In another large skillet, add about 1 ½” of canola oil fro frying the alcapurrias in medium high heat. When the oil is ready, you can check it using the wooden spoon method, we start to prepare and fry the alcapurrias.

7.  With a large kitchen spoon, pour a spoonful of masa onto our other hand that’s covered with either wax paper, aluminium foil or even the traditional banana leaf. Spread the masa with the back of the spoon leaving some thicker borders. Add about 2 tbs of filling in the center of the masa and using the back of the larger spoon again work the thicker masa you left on the edges to cover over the filling. The idea is to surround the filling completely in masa. You might need to practice this a bit, and that’s perfectly OK.

8.  My friend Mai, places the waxpaper on top of a cutting board and folds the paper over so the masa envelops the filling. You almost always finish giving the alcapurria its form with the larger spoon.

9.  Helping yourself with the paper you have the alcapurria in, drop it carefully into the hot oil. Don’t touch it much as the masa is still soft and it can break open. With a spoon you can drizzle some of the hot oil over the alcapurria so the tp part that is not submerged in the hot oil can create a bit of a crust and make it less susceptible to the inadvertent touch of a spoon, etc. It’ll also make it easier to turn over later on.

10.  When the alcapurria is golden on the bottom side, turn it over so it can cook/fry on the other side. The oil should be hot, but not too hot to allow the masa to cook through. If the oil is too hot, it will get hard on the outside but the masa will remain raw. Not good… This is especially important if you’re cooking an alcapurria that has been frozen.

11.  When its golden brown all over, take it out of the oil with a slotted spoon and place it to drain the excess oil on top of paper towels.

12.  You can fry as many alcapurrias you can fit comfortably in your skillet. Don’t try to overcrowd the skillet so they do not fall apart when they’re just put into the oil. Two to three per skillet is the perfect amount. When you get the swing of it, you’ll become like an alcapurria-making machine. Keep on making alcapurrias until you ran out of masa and/or filling.

My mom organizing alcapurrias on some paper towels…

13.  Allow the alcapurrias to cool off for about 15 minutes before digging into them. This is a fried food after all and the insides get very hot and steamy. If you want, you could cut them open in half to allow them to cool off a bit faster.

To freeze the alcapurrias, all you need to do is to cut pieces of waxed paper to separate each alcapurria and place them one next to the other in a resalable zipped plastic bag. This way, when you get the alcapurria craving, you take one out and fry them or bake them in the oven, which turn out pretty good indeed. It’s the same principle as when we make tostones or soy meatballs ahead of time and freeze them.

Frozen alcapurrias stored in a freezer zipper bag

This is how a frozen alcapurria will look like… you can bake in an oven or fry.

I hope you like alcapurrias as much as Puerto Ricans love them. These alcapurrias as vegetarian, but taste just as traditional as any alcapurria made in Luquillo, Loíza, any patron saint festivity or school verbena fair.

Dulce de Leche

25 Jun

Argentineans, Paraguayans, even Brazilians love their dulce de leche… I know because I just came from a trip in which I almost ate dulce de leche on a daily basis. And the dulce de leche I am talking about is the dulce de leche known in México as cajeta, made from cooked and reduced sweetened milk. Sometimes it’s made from cow’s milk, sometimes from goat’s milk, but every time it’s exquisitely delicious.

There are aisles full of different brands of dulce de leche at every store we visited in Argentina, Paraguay or Brazil. The most popular brands in Paraguay, which is where we stayed the longest, are Trebol and Lactolanda. With their factory very close to Coronel Oviedo, Lactolanda was certainly the most popular brand we ate throughout our trip.

We ate dulce de leche with everything…. On its own, over crackers, with passion fruit mousse… even with queso paraguay. When I am on a trip, I forget about watching my weight and I ate dulce de leche to my heart’s content.

But when I am at home, it’s a different story… My mom once bought a tub of Lactolanda from one of her earlier trips that sat on my kitchen counter for almost 2 years. I am a dulce de leche lover, but I can see the dulce de leche on my kitchen counter and not be hypnotized by it until I finish it all.

But once I a while I do like my sweet fix… Once in a while I crave dulce de leche with a passion. And what do you do when you get a craving and you don’t have a tub of Lactolanda’s dulce de leche waiting in your counter??? You make it yourself…

DULCE DE LECHE

1 can of sweetened condensed milk

Yep… one ingredient.

  1. All you need to do is fill a pot with water and place the can of condensed milk inside. Make sure the water covers the can completely. Cover the pot and bring the water to a rolling boil.

2.  Once the water boils aggressively, you can lower the heat to medium-low with cover still on to keep it boiling but to avoid the water from evaporating all away. Let it boil for 1 hour.

3.  After one hour of boiling, carefully flip the can upside down to allow the other side to milk inside to cook evenly. If the water has evaporated that the top of the can is not submerged, add some additional water to the pot. Leave it covered so it starts boiling again fast. Let it boil for another hour.

4.  After the second hour has passed. Turn the heat off the stove and leave the can in the water with the pot uncovered.

5.  Allow the water to cool off a bit for about 1 extra hour. Carefully, take the can out of the hot water and allow it to cool off some more for about an extra hour or so.

I advise you not to open the can immediately because the condensed milk inside that now is converted to dulce de leche is EXTREMELY HOT and you can certainly burn yourself when the pressure and steam created inside the can shoots out the moment you open the can. It oozes super hot like lava and you don’t want a sugar burn…

After you feel the can is cool enough to handle… open it with a can opener and serve as you please. Some ideas are:

As a dipping sauce for crispas…

Inside a crepe…

Over toast or cookies…

Over ice cream…

Or just take a spoon and eat away… and to be honest, who needs a spoon when you have hands, right???

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