EL AMOR POR LA COCINA: diciembre 2005


Edna's Tropical Fruit Panettone

Edna Cochez, my business partner and friend, is an avid baker and loves to play with recipes to create delicious new products. This is the recipe for Tropical Fruit Panettone she presented during our Christmas Brunch party.

Panettone is a traditional Italian sweet bread prepared for the Holidays. It is left to rise and later baked inside a tall can to give it's distinctive shape.

Hope you enjoy this recipe!

Tropical Fruit Panettone

Ingredients for 2 Breads
1/2 cup milk
4 oz unsalted butter
1 1/2 tsps. dry yeast
3/4 cup slightly warm water
5 1/2 cups to 6 cups bread flour, or all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. grated lemon rind
1/2 tsp. salt
5 eggs
2 tsps. vanilla
1/2 cup dehydrated, candied mango
1/2 cup dehydrated, candied pineapple
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup rum
1/2 cup chopped almonds
1 1/2 Tbsp. flour

1 egg white
2 Tbsp. sugar


1. Heat the milk with the butter in a small saucepan until the latter melts, remove from heat and set aside. In a small bowl, dissolve dry yeast in the warm water and leave to rest for 5 minutes to activate the yeast.

2. In a large bowl, combine 1/3 of the bread flour with the sugar, grated lemon rind, and salt. Add the milk/butter mixture, eggs, yeast, and vanilla. Blend well with a wooden spoon for about 2 minutes. Add the rest of the flour one cup at a time, mixing well after each addition, until all the flour has been added and you get a smooth ball of dough that is not dry, but just the right consistency to handle.

3. Knead the dough for 5 minutes by hand or 2 minutes in an electric mixed with the dough hook. Place the dough in a lightly oiled mixing bowl, cover with plastic film paper and put in fridge until the next day. The dough will slowly rise in the fridge.

4. Place the dried fruit, raisins, and rum in a small bowl, cover and let rest at room temperature until the next day.

5. The next day, roll out the dough into a rectangle, spread the fruits, raisins and almonds over the dough. Roll, knead well to combine, and divide into 2 balls. Place each ball inside an oiled #10 can or 8" round pan with tall sides. Cover top of dough lightly with oil, cover with plastic and let rise at room temperature for 45 to 60 minutes.

6. Preheat oven at 350F for 30 minutes before baking breads. Beat egg white and brush lightly the top of each bread. Sprinkle with the 2 Tbsp. sugar. Bake for 45 minutes until lightly brown. Let cool for at least one hour inside the pans before serving.

Buon Natale!


Oh What Fun it is to cook!

These two salad recipes are perfect for your Christmas brunch meal or dinner. The first one is a variation of the classic Potato Salad which you can make ahead and keep well covered in the fridge. The second salad recipe has a Mediterranean flair and I promise you it is absolutely stunning and delicious. You need time to grill all the veggies but it is well worth it.

Creole Potato Salad with Spanish style Chorizo and Country Dressing

Ingredients for 10
Country Dressing
1 cup sour cream
2 Tbps Creole mustard
2 Tbps Dijon mustard
2 tsp lemon juice
2 Tbps chopped parsley
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
Salt and pepper to taste

To make dressing, mix all ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

2 lbs. creole potatoes
2 Tbps. lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
4 Spanish-style chorizos (or any sausage), grilled or sauteed and sliced

Fill a large pan with water and add salt, add potatoes and cook for 15 minutes. Drain potatoes, cut in half.

In a large bowl make a vinaigrette with the lemon juice, olive oil and chopped garlic. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add potatoes to vinaigrette and toss to cover well. Add sliced chorizo and country dressing. Adjust seasoning if necessary, and serve.

Grilled Vegetable Salad with Fresh Mozzarella "Fior de Latte"

Ingredients for 10
2 eggplants, thinly sliced
4 zucchini, thinly sliced
2 Green Bell peppers, sliced
2 Red Bell peppers, sliced
2 Portabella mushrooms, sliced
2 red onions, sliced
1 cup thin sliced sun dried tomatoes
1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
2 garlic cloves, chopped
3 Tbps. chopped fresh rosemary
3 Tbps. chopped fresh oregano leaves
1 1/2 cups olive oil
1 cup balsamic vinegar
2 cups fresh mozzarella cheese, drained and sliced
Salt and pepper to taste

Grill all sliced vegetables, toss with herbs, cheese, sun dried tomatoes, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and pepper and serve in large platter.


A Christmas Brunch by Panamanian Chefs

Last month, La Prensa newspaper here in Panama asked me for the second year to organize a group of chefs to do a story about a non-traditional Christmas meal that could be served for the whole family. We all decided to do a Brunch menu. I want to share a few of the recipes and photos taken during the day that we worked the recipes for the paper.

Early in the morning of November 10th, 4 Panamanian chefs (Jorge Jurado, Alonso Williams, Edna Cochez and myself) went to Pachi Mc Causland's beautiful home to cook our meal. Pachi is a Colombian cookbook author so she decided to share with us some of the recipes from her first book, Secrets of Colombian Cooking. Chef Edna's specialty is Artisan breads, and she came up with a delicious Panettone with Tropical Fruit. Other breads she made were Orange glazed Breakfast Buns and an Italian bread stuffed with Tasajo or Panamanian style smoked, dried meat; Chef Alonso and Chef Jorge had all the intentions of cooking all the meats in the grill outside but it started to rain, as is usual in our tropical weather, so they had to move everything to the ovens inside. They prepared a "Peking" style duck with Orange Glaze, a Cashew Crusted Rack of Pork, Jumbo Shrimp with Creole Sauce, served with Pachi's Brown Coconut Rice.

My assignment was to prepare the salads and a beverage. For the beverage what could be more refreshing for a warm and tropical afternoon than Sangria!! So here is the recipe for Passion Fruit Sangria. More recipes to follow. Hope you all have a wonderful Christmas meal, whether it be a dinner, brunch or lunch. Happy Holidays!

Passion Fruit Sangria
serves 10

2 liters white wine
3/4 cup Brandy
1/2 cup Triple Sec or any orange liqueur
3/4 cup simple syrup*
2 cups club soda
3/4 cup passion fruit concentrate
1 cup orange juice
3 oranges, thiny sliced
2 Myer lemons, thinly sliced
2 Granny Smith apples, cubed or sliced

Combine all the ingredients in a glass pitcher and mix well. Chill for 2 hours. Served with plenty of ice!

*To make simple syrup, mix 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water in a small saucepan and heat until the sugar dissolves. Let cool completely.

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How to Roast a Pig the Cuban Way

Hace mucho tiempo atrás, cuando empezó la fiebre por las páginas personales en Internet, participé en un concurso donde el tema era el Día del Padre en Geocities, y gané un premio. Quiero compartir con ustedes esta página que escribí sobre una tradición muy de mi familia especial en esta época de Fin de Año. Aquí les va, espero la disfruten!


(or How to roast a pig the Cuban way)

Manuel, my Dad, is an authentic Cuban. Even though he left Cuba more than 35 years ago, he still speaks, acts, cooks and eats Cuban. If you've met any Cubans you know what I am talking about. They will never forget their roots, their customs, their food… And that is the case with my Father. He starts early in the morning, with his Cuban style coffee, filling the house with the strong aroma, fried fish eggs or "huevos de lisa", casabe or yucca bread, and sometimes when possible, turtle eggs. He was born in Santa Cruz del Sur, in Camaguey. Next to the sea.

After 35 years, our kitchen is still always full of guava paste, guava jelly, cuban style crackers or "galletas cubanas", ham & cheese spread or "pasta de bocadito", sometimes imported from one of our trips to Miami. Cubans, and specially my Father, say that guava or "guayaba" was invented in Cuba. So was coffee, rum, sugar, tobbacco, etc. etc. etc. According to him, Cubans invented everything and Cuba was the greatest country in the World. Of course, the largest mangoes in the World could also be found only in Camaguey. I always laugh when he says this.

I have to admit though, that Cubans do know how to roast pork . And this is no joke. When Americans (and the rest of the World) are having Ham or Turkey for Christmas and New Year's , Cubans dig a pit in their backyard and bury a whole pig, cover it with banana tree leaves, one or two metal sheets, and then build a wood fire over it. The pig will slowly cook during 9 to 10 hours and be ready just in time for New Year's Eve Dinner.

Many years ago, when we were all younger and lived in a house with a backyard, Manuel would prepare this Cuban specialty, Lechón Asado a la Cubana. He would marinate the pork one or two days before, and start digging the hole and cooking the pork at 6 in the morning on New Year's Eve. Of course, this was a kind of ritual. He would make a party out of it. His friends would come over early and help him take care of the fire. They would hang out all day in the backyard listening to Cuban music and sipping Daiquiris and mojitos cubanos. Eventually, he would check the animal once in a while, because after 8 or 9 hours the skin would start getting very crispy and with a knife he would cut out pieces and eat it with his friends and anyone around. Chicharrón, or crispy pork cracklings, is one of the best things in the world, of course, very fattening, but delicious. The pork would always show up at the dinner table with half of it's skin missing. I dedicate this page to the funniest and greatest guy in the World. I can say that I am very proud of being half Cuban; that is where I got my sense of humor, my love for food and the good things in life.

My father (with the hat) and his friend Toño cooking the Rice and Yuca over the BBQ

Lechón Asado a la Cubana
(Roast Pork, Cuban Style)

1 whole pig, 20 lbs., emptied and clean
Sour oranges (naranjas agrias)
salt & pepper
(A backyard, banana leaves, metal sheets, large roasting pan, wood)
The day before, you have to marinate the pig. If you have extra space in your refrigerator, it is best to do it 2 days before. The pig should be clean, and opened in half through the belly. Place the pig in a large roasting pan. Rub the insides with a lot of chopped garlic, oregano, and salt to taste. Squeeze enough sour oranges and "bathe" the pig with the juice. Cover with foil paper and keep in the refrigerator.
The morning you want to roast the pig, dig a hole in the ground large enough to fit the pork. Cover the ground well with banana leaves (to avoid getting the pig dirty) and place the pig inside. Cover with more banana leaves, one or two metal sheets (hojas de zinc) large enough to cover the hole completely. Build your fire on top of the metal sheets with wood. Depending on the size of the pig and the heat, it should take around 9 to 10 hours to cook. Test for doneness by pricking the thigh with the point of a knife, if the liquid runs clear, the meat is done.

Cuban Style Roast Pork is traditionally served with Arroz Congri (Red Beans with Rice) and Yuca con Mojo (Boiled Yucca with Garlic Sauce).

Arroz Congrí
(Red Beans with Rice)
12 ounces red beans
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 lb. salt pork
2 quarts water
1/2 lb. lean pork or ham
1/4 cup Spanish olive oil
4 garlic cloves, peeled
2 medium onions, chopped
2 teaspoons salt
1 small green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 1/4 cups long-grain rice
Soak the beans in a large pot with water for at least 8 hours or overnight. Bring the beans to a boil, reduce the heat and let cook for 1 hour and a half to forty five minutes or until tender, adding water if necessary.

Cut the salt pork into medium chunks and cook in a large casserole. Remove from casserole and drain in paper towel. Cook the ham chunks in the rendered fat for 5 minutes. Remove the ham and wipe out the casserole with more paper towel.

Add the oil and cook the onion, garlic, and bell pepper over medium heat until tender, about 5 minutes. Return the salt pork and ham to the casserole.

Add the beans and 5 cups of the cooking liquid (add water if necessary) to the onions and bell pepper. Raise the heat to high, add the oregano, cumin, sugar, salt, pepper, and rice, and cook, uncovered, until most of the liquid has been absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir the rice with a fork, reduce the heat to low, and cook 10 to 15 minutes more until done.

Yuca con Mojo
(Boiled Yucca with Garlic Sauce)
6 medium-size yuccas, peeled and cut 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick
1 cup sour orange juice
10 garlic cloves, peeled
1 cup Spanish Olive Oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley, optional
In a large pot over medium heat, simmer the yucca, covered in salted water, until very tender, 25 to 30 minutes, and drain.
Meanwhile, prepare the Garlic Sauce, or Mojo Criollo: Mash the garlic and salt into a paste. Stir in the orange juice. In a saucepan, heat the oil just to a boiling point and remove it from the heat. Whisk in the orange juice mixture until well blended.

Transfer the yucca to a serving bowl or platter, and toss with the garlic sauce. Sprinkle with the parsley, if desired. Serve immediately.

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Tamales Panameños, Paso a Paso

Los tamales son tradicionales en nuestra mesa Navideña. Generalmente nos sentimos intimidados a preparar nuestros propios tamales por la dificultad en su preparación o porque simplemente no sabemos cómo hacerlos. En esta ocasión les presentamos una receta del auténtico tamal de maíz nuevo que cualquier persona puede preparar siempre y cuando elija los ingredientes adecuados y siga las indicaciones paso a paso.

Para asegurarnos de obtener un tamal de excelente sabor debemos empezar por escoger los productos más frescos y de mejor calidad.

Comenzamos por el grano de maíz, que puede ser nuevo, o viejo. Los tamales preparados a base de maíz nuevo, que son los granos provientes de aquella mazorca recién cosechada y la cual debemos preferiblemente comprar en el mercado o fruterías especializadas para asegurarnos de que el grano esté jugoso. Su preparación es más sencilla ya que la mazorca se ralla y los granos se licúan para hacer la “masa” del tamal.

El maíz viejo es el grano seco el cuál se cocina hasta que esté tierno. Este procedimiento conlleva más tiempo. La diferencia entre un tamal de maíz nuevo y uno hecho a base de maíz viejo es el sabor y la textura. En el interior del país el tamal se suele preparar el de maíz nuevo mientras que en la capital es más común el tamal de maíz viejo.

Otro componente importante es el relleno y los tamales más típicos en nuestra mesa son hechos a base de gallina o de cerdo. La gallina de patio requiere de una cocción larga a baja temperatura para lograr una carne suave ya que por naturaleza la misma es muy dura. El sabor que imparte una gallina de patio al guiso de un tamal es mucho más acentuada que la del pollo normal. El guiso preparado a base de cebollas, ají criollo, tomates y culantro y cocido lentamente, es lo que distingue nuestros tamales panameños de los tamales preparados en el resto de América.

Por último, es importante tener en cuenta que una vez cocidos los tamales se deben conservar en el frío. Si no los vamos a consumir en los próximos tres días de preparados, es recomendado congelarlos ya que el maíz se comienza a descomponer y producir un sabor agrio que es tanto desagradable al paladar como dañino para nuestra salud.

Por Elena Hernandez, especial para la revista Al Estilo Cuquita, diciembre 2005

Primero, desgranamos las mazorcas.

Luego, preparamos nuestro guiso.

Preparamos las hojas de tallo y de bijao.

Armamos los tamales.

Los cocemos.

Y servirlos. Ricos!

24 mazorcas de maíz
½ tz de grasa cerdo fundida
2 cebollas finamente picadas
8 hojas de culantros
12 ají criollos sin semilla y finamente picados
1 cda de pasta de achiote (opcional para el color)
2 cda azúcar (opcional, realza el dulzor del maíz)
Sal y pimienta al gusto
Relleno de cerdo
2 libras de carne de cerdo
1 taza de cebolla picada
1 taza de ají criollo picado
2 tazas de tomate picado
1 Taza de pasta de tomate
5 -6 hojas de culantro
Sal y ají chombo al gusto

Relleno de gallina
1 gallina de patio de 3 a 4 libras
1 taza de cebolla picada
1 taza de ají criollo picado
2 tazas de tomate picado
1 Taza de pasta de tomate
5 -6 hojas de culantro
Sal y ají chombo al gusto

Para el Tamal:
Limpie las mazorcas, páselas por un rallador por la parte más gruesa. Muela los granos en una licuadora con el resto de los ingredientes.
Sazonar con sal cubrir un molde con hojas de bijao, coloque la mezcla de maíz dentro, cubra con otra hoja y cocine al vapor 50 minutos a una hora. Estarán cocidas cuando la masa se desprenda de la hoja. Reserve a un lado caliente.

Para tamales rellenos con cerdo: sofreír 2 libras de carne de cerdo con manteca, cuando este dorada agregar cebolla al gusto (nunca esta demás un poco mas, aproximadamente 1 tz) ají criollo picado (8 aproximadamente) 2 tz de tomate picado, 4 a5 hojas de culantro picado ,1 tz de pasta de tomate, 6 tz de agua cocinar hasta que este muy tierno y se cocine con abundante salsa.
Para tamales rellenos con gallina: sofreír la gallina con manteca, cuando este dorada agregar cebolla al gusto (nunca esta demás un poco mas, aproximadamente 1 tz) ají criollo picado (8 aproximadamente) 2 tz de tomate picado, 4 a5 hojas de culantro picado ,1 tz de pasta de tomate, 6 tz de agua cocinar hasta que este muy tierno, cocine con abundante salsa para agregar a los tamales.

Para formar los tamales se utilizan hojas de bijao y hojas de tallo. Y se guarnecen con aceitunas, alcaparras, ciruela pasa y algunas cucharadas del refrito, primero se colocan
las hojas de bijao (quedaran afuera) encima se colocan las hojas de tallo (quedaran dentro)
Se amarran los tamales y se cocinan de 45 a 60 minutos.
Se puede sustituir gallina por el cerdo.

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