July 3, 2008

July 4th Recipes With A Latin Twist

By Deborah S. Hartz-Seeley, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Jul. 3--Tres Leches Cake with Berries, Fourth of July recipes inspired by Latin chef Ingrid Hoffman. (Susan Stocker, Sun-Sentinel / July 2, 2008)

Ingrid Hoffmann straddles two worlds, both in her life and her cooking.

Raised in Colombia by a mother who is a Cordon Bleu-trained chef, a restaurant owner and caterer, Hoffmann learned to love the food of her homeland at an early age. But she moved to Miami where she was introduced to a different culture. Here, she opened La Capricieuse, a fashion boutique in Coconut Grove. Then in 1993 she opened Rocca, which featured tabletop cooking on heated lava rocks.

"The way I cook is like a love affair between these two cultures, often spiked with a dash of homey Latin America and a pinch of haute America," she writes in her newest cookbook Simply Delicioso (Clarkson Potter, 2008, $32.50). The book is named for her television show on the Food Network (it airs at 1:30 p.m. Saturdays). She also stars in Galavision/Univision's Delicioso (it airs 10:30 a.m. Saturdays).

We asked her to take time out of her busy filming schedule to look through her cookbook and share some recipes appropriate for a "Spanglish" Fourth of July.

She suggests you begin your meal with Mango-Veggie Salsa served with tortilla chips. It's a colorful way to feed a crowd while you put the finishing touches on the rest of the meal. At other times you can use this salsa as a bed for grilled seafood. It's that versatile.

For a main dish, try her Tamarind Glazed Baby Back Ribs that she dubs "yummylicious, a great excuse to get messy and eat with your hands." She bakes them in the oven, but they can just as easily be prepared on the grill.

It doesn't take much to make these ribs succulent, and the slightly sour sauce has real Latin flare.

"I promise to introduce you to some really 'wow!' flavors," she writes. And sour tamarind, which can be bought in brick form, in a concentrated paste or as frozen pulp, is one of them. She suggests tucking away a few for a midnight snack because they taste even better served cold late at night.

All-America corn on the cob gets Latin flavor when it's grilled and rubbed with Chimichurri Butter that she describes as a "feisty butter mixture."

It's a combination of butter, sherry vinegar, lemon juice, chopped parsley, fresh oregano, garlic and dried red pepper flakes that melts deliciously over corn hot off the grill. To make it even better, she crumbles on grated cotija cheese that you can find in supermarkets. If you haven't tried this cheese, it will remind you of feta, she says.

She rounds out the main course with Mango and Red Cabbage Slaw dressed with lime juice, apple cider vinegar and sugar that's a healthful and flavorful alternative to mayonnaise. And with mango season here, this and the salsa are great ways to use your backyard harvest.

For dessert, don't miss the Shortcut Tres Leches Cake based on a store-bought pound cake. It's amazingly simple. Just leave enough time for the cake to soak up the evaporated milk, heavy whipping cream and sweetened condensed milk you pour over it.

Then you coat it all with great clouds of whipped topping and decorate it in Fourth of July grandeur. Hoffmann recommends using red and blue candies for decoration. We prefer strawberries, blueberries and raspberries. Either way this is a very sweet treat.

"Being around a table, breaking bread, sharing food and laughter -- to me, this is what life is all about," she writes. But don't forget the fireworks.


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