Even if you don't know what masa harina is, you've almost certainly eaten it. This is the flour used to make corn tortillas and the filling for tamales. Pupusas, arepas, and sopes are all made with it, along with plenty of other favorite dishes. Masa harina is as central to the Mexican and South American pantry as chiles and dried beans. Do you ever cook with it?
Having spent almost 20 years living in or near San Francisco's Mission District, I've never bothered making tortillas at home since there was ample opportunity to buy delicious fresh tortillas made by people who obviously really know what they are doing (La Palma on 24th and Florida, if you're curious). Now I live a little father away and the closest tortillas are Trader Joe's Truly Handmade, which aren't bad but not quite the same either. So I've been curious about trying my hand at making my own from scratch. Do you have any advice?
In case you haven't noticed yet, we're focusing on cooking inspired by Latin America this week. From the common (burritos!) to the less well-known (Brazilian cheese puffs!) Mexico, Central America, and South America offer a huge range of rich cuisine. We've co-opted some of this into everyday American cooking (see: tacos) but we're interested in learning more, too. What's your favorite Latin American recipe or cuisine?
It's easy to get in a rut when it comes to Latin cooking. The spices are often the same, but the variety is ridiculous. Check out some of our favorite Latin recipes from around the web to see if there's a new one to add to your weeknight arsenal.
I had my first pão de queijo at a Brazilian restaurant in Atlanta over five years ago, and I still dream about it. It was crispy outside but amazingly soft and chewy inside, and its cheese flavor was so ephemeral and haunting that I had to eat several more just to fix it in my mind. Well, I'm in trouble now because I just discovered that these little cheese puffs? With their addictive cheesiness? They are super easy to make at home.
A condiment, a sauce, a basis for beans, rice, and stews – sofrito is all this and more. There are as many recipes for sofrito as there are cooks in Latin-Caribbean countries like Puerto Rico, Colombia, and the Dominican Republic, but just about everyone would agree it's an essential building block in the kitchen.
When it comes to quick weeknight meals, or a meal for a mixed crowd of people, tacos and burritos reign supreme. Fold a tortilla (corn or flour) around a scoop of fresh summer tomatoes and soft black beans, or pulled pork simmered in the slow cooker with peppers, and you have a meal that pleases nearly anyone. Tacos, burritos, and enchiladas may have originated in Mexico and Latin America, but they have been welcomed and adapted by cooks all over the world.
This South American soup holds many good and tasty things, from the tender pieces of potato to sweet nibbles of fresh corn. But let's be real: the best part is the cheese. Queso fresco to be exact, which doesn't fully melt but rather softens into chewy morsels in the warmth of the milky broth. So good.
Cassava, manioc, and yuca are all names for the same starchy tuber grown throughout South America, Africa, and Asia. You might be more familiar with it in its dried and powdered form: tapioca. This root is a dietary mainstay in many parts of the world and forms the carbohydrate base for many excellent meals. Do you ever cook with cassava?
While on a recent trip to South America, I was served an incredible variety of fresh produce assembled into platters of lightly dressed salads. As a vegetarian, my hosts were concerned I wasn't getting enough food; "Look at these salads I'm making!" I said every day at lunch. I was so into these Chilean small salads, I've been making a composed version of the fare offered to me almost every evening since I've returned. Think of this as a vegetarian twist on the much–adored Salad Nicoise.