How would you describe your cuisine?
I think the following best describes my food: unfussy yet flavorful comfort food that inspires friends and family to linger around the table.
What are your favorite culinary weapons in the kitchen?
My chef knife; I use it for everything from peeling, paring, slicing and dicing. And a good “caldero”, a versatile pot that I can make almost anything in.
What is your least favorite food?
What is your beverage of choice?
Diet Ginger Ale.
What are some recent dining and culinary trends you have been observing?
Food trucks are everywhere. I don’t own one, but bringing gourmet treats to the masses at reasonable prices is very 21st century.
What was the most spectacular meal you have ever had?
It’s a tie between Ferran Adria’s El Bulli (think Amarena cherries surrounded by Iberico ham gelee with a Kirsch foam.) Mind-boggling. And the tasting menu at Thomas Keller’s French Laundry in Yountville.
Which foreign country inspires your style most?
Spain has always had an enormous influence on Cuban food. I also love the tapas concept. I am really embracing the small plates thing these days. I am noticing that no one really wants to dine like they are on death row.
What is your best cooking tip for a home enthusiast? Enjoy the process. Don’t be afraid. What’s the worst that can happen? You order pizza! Also, experimenting with food can be fun and satisfying so don’t be afraid to deviate from a recipe and make it your own.
What do you eat when you are home?
I am addicted to my own rich lemony hollandaise sauce atop simply roasted asparagus with sea salt. It is my all time favorite snack.
What were your favorite foods growing up?
My favorite meal was Bacalao a la Vizcaina (salt cod slowly braised in a sofrito laden tomato sauce and served with hard boiled eggs and fried bread.) My mom made it every Good Friday and still does.
Where and when did your career in food begin?
I was at a Food Network interactive luncheon many years ago. I was encouraged by an author/chef named Dave Lieberman (who happened to be sitting next to me) to write my first book. I felt that the book my mother had passed on to me and touted as the bible of Cuban cuisine was outdated and had lost a lot in the translation; so I wrote my own Cuban food bible: “Cuban Chicks Can Cook”.
If you didn’t become a chef, what would you be?
I was a lawyer for 18 years before I segued into the culinary world. I suppose I would still be a lawyer who cooks a lot in her spare time.
Who/what has shaped your cooking the most over the years?
The seasons, simplicity, and the ability to cook and interact with my guests simultaneously. Oh, and my continuous and incessant cravings.
What is your favorite secret ingredient?
Salt and sugar. I know simple, but just a pinch of each can make a world of difference in a recipe.