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Tuesday, February 2

Isla del Encanto (Hector Lavoe)

Growing up, we listened to Fania All-Stars, carried on wildly at family functions, and ate Puerto Rican food.  As Bill Santiago once said, "we weren't dysfunctional...we were tropical!!!"   Living so far away from the family, though, means that my children don't experience the same level of 'fun' that we did.  (After all, we had so much fun that it wasn't Christmas until someone ended up in the emergency room!)

We stopped over for an impropmtu trip at my aunt's house for a couple of nights en route to the east coast this autumn.  It was a nice family weekend!  My aunt was largely responsible for this wonderful feast, and she gave the boys a Caribbean cooking lesson as well!  We made picadillo, arroz (that's rice, for you mono-linguists), maduros, and empanadas.  Mmmm!
You can pick up most of the ingredients on the fringes of your store...produce and meat.  You'll find the extras, like Adobo and empanada discs in the foreign foods section.  Goya is a good brand to use.

PICADILLO
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • ½ green bell pepper, diced
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, pressed
  • 1 ½ lbs. ground beef or turkey
  • 1 packet Sazon
  • 1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 4 Tbsp. pimiento-stuffed green olives, sliced
  • 1 small box of dark raisins
  • ½ tsp. cumin
  • ½ tsp. Adobo
1) Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute the onion, green pepper and garlic until the onion is transluscent.
2) Add the ground beef and brown over medium heat.
3) Add the rest of the ingredients and continue cooking until meat is tender and completely cooked through. About 25 minutes.
4) Serve over white rice.
 EMPANADAS
1) Take an empanada disc and fill it with meat.  Fold it over and press shut with a fork.
2) Spray with olive oil spray (to give it that 'fried' look...since they are usually fried.)  Bake at 375 for 10 minutes.
3)  These can be frozen once cooled, and easily reheated in the microwave!
TOSTONES / MADUROS
Tostones are made with green plantains, but we use ripe ones for Maduros.
  • very ripe plantains (skin should be brown-black)
  • 1/4" oil (in skillet)
  • salt (optional)
1) Heat oil on medium.  Peel plantain, cut at an angle (about 1/2 to 3/4" thick).
2) Brown plantain in oil, about two minutes on each side.  Remove from skillet and put on paper towel-covered plate to drain off oil.
3)  Serve hot!  (You may sprinkle with salt to taste.)

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