Who knew you could make stew out of callaloo?!

Darlings, who KNEW you could make STEW out of Cal-la-loo? Now, say it again as if nutty tough guy Christopher Walken was saying it: Who knew? You could MAKE stew? With cal-la-LOO?" Don't know why I thought of him but I love his wacky inflection and love imagining him saying "callaloo!!" He would say it too. He's that kind of guy.

As you know, La Diva has been traipsing around South Beach and not cooking very much at all. My poor farm share was starting to wilt so I decided I had better make a meal out of the less hardier veggies stat! That veggie was the mysterious callaloo. It's only mysterious to me though as this suprisingly mild and tender green is a Caribbean staple, as discovered in a previous post.

On Wednesday night, I thought I'd at least cook the veggie and think about what else to do with it the next day. Vague ideas of mahi mahi and chilies and spices went through my head. However, darlings La Diva had other things on my mind, like the finale of Top Chef! The Big Shamu and Java Junkie over at Top Chef: They cook. We dish. were having a chat about the show at 9pm so I had to get to steppin'.

Calalloo phase one:

Cut away the large stems from the leaves and slice, set aside. Then, chop leaves and keep separate. In a medium saute pan heat olive oil and sweat one onion, two minced garlic cloves, one plum tomato diced, 2 bay leaves, one small minced serrano chile and a few sprigs of thyme. Now add the chopped stalks and cook for about 3-5 minutes, until slightly soft. Then add the leaves, saute for a few minutes and add about a 1/2 cup water or broth. Cook on a medium heat for about 7 minutes, until the leaves and stalks are tender.

Be careful not to over cook the callaloo as all the recipes I've seen for it mention that the vegetable is to stay green and not turn brown or overcook to be tasty. The veggie itself is pretty bland so season with a bit of sea salt to taste. But not too much, more flavor and salt will come later! Time to set it aside, Top Chef was on the telly and fellow bloggers were waiting in the chat room!

As it turned out, our fave contender, Carla Hall didn't win. (boo!) And then later, Season One Top Chef Winner Harold Dieterle joined the gang (yay!) and talked about his travels to Thailand and some pretty wild new dishes he's working on at his restaurant Perilla in Greenwich Village. It was all very spesh and now La Diva is itchin' to get back to NYC just to check the place out! (and Harold too, the big ol' sweetie pie)

(Chef Harold "he's so hot and humble" Dieterle)

Anyway, back to the stew, doo be doo be do and oh, it's Phase Two or

La Diva's Mahi mahi with callaloo over polenta

You know, seeing as I now live in the South, it would only be appropriate if one of these days La Diva would learn to make grits. It's what I was thinking of when I made up this dish but I didn't have any grits and polenta is very similar. Another time!

Set the greens aside and make a enough polenta for two people: Heat about 2 c of chicken or veggie broth and whisk in 1/2 c instant polenta and cook for five minutes over low heat, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon. (Be careful here, darlings, this stuff will spatter no matter how hard you stir and is worse than napalm if you get it on your skin!) Stir in a good handful of cheese. Turn off heat and spoon hot polenta into two bowls.

Finally, mince four garlic cloves and gently cook in olive oil in another saute pan. Now brown two seasoned small mahi mahi filets for about 3 minutes on each side. Hit the pan with a bit of white wine and steam until just cooked. Pour in the callaloo and heat for another minute. Quickly spoon greens and fish over polenta, add a dab of butter, season with sea salt and partake in something that is surprisingly tasty and spicy and satisfyin'!

Honest to God, this dish is good! The greens now take on the flavor of the garlic, wine and fish and had turned into quite a tasty meal. And, La Diva is very happy cuz sidekick DJ Nevah L8 (for dinnah!) was already complaining about what he thought would be a "mushy not-very-satistfying-dinner! Hmpf." (he's a "texture" person, remember?!) As always, La Diva is happy to prove him wrong and watched him clean his plate! (THAT'S why there are no photos, darlings, he ate it too quickly!)

So enjoy da callaloo, my darlins' and eat all ya spicy garlic fish an hey, why dontcha wash it down wid a Red Stripe?! Enjoy!

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'Straya bound: Fish n chip dreaming!

(Click on the photo to see all its crispy tasty delightfulness!)

Darlings! One of the things that La Diva LOVES MOST about Sydney is the food. (naturally!) From farmer's markets, upscale restaurants, take away shops, Chinatown food courts, incredible seafood purveyors, night-time Asian noodle markets and even small beach kiosks, FABULOUS FOOD is available everywhere in Sydney! And because the city is a cornucopia of cultures and is surrounded by the sea, fresh produce, myriad ethnic delights, a huge variety of seafood and of course, fabulous wines and sparkling are plentiful in the Land Down Under. Lucky local gastronomes and gourmets are giddy with choice!

The first thing La Diva wants to partake in when I get back to Ol' Sydney town is to devour a HUGE sack of fish and chips! Hot, crispy, succulent and juicy, there is NOTHING like eating this Sydney staple seaside with plenty of salt and malt vinegar while quaffing down a refreshing local brew like the Tasmanian produced Cascade lager. Ahh....

(Ferry leaving Circular Quay)

(view of Sydney from Jetcat ferry en route to Manly)

When I lived in Sydney, one of my all-time favourite places to eat fish and chips was at Watson's Bay, which is located in the Eastern suburbs and situated on the harbour. As Sydney enjoys an extensive and convenient public transit system and as there are so many beautiful harbour and bay destinations in the city, a very practical way to get around is via the Sydney ferry system, which departs out of Circular Quay and goes to a variety of locales. A VERY PLEASANT way to spend a sunny day is to take the ferry from Circular Quay (or a water taxi!) to Watson's Bay for lunch, a short jaunt from Sydney's central business district.

(Doyle's seafood restaurant in Watson's Bay is situated right on the beach with gorgeous views of the city)

La Diva and her sidekick, DJ Nevah L8, used to love going to Watson's Bay and eating at Doyle's where one can partake in an upscale lunch of Sydney rock oysters and champagne right on the beach or get some take away fish and chips and eat it on the park lawn as a picnic.

Historic Watson's Bay is quaint and beautiful in itself but is also well known for its spectacular view of downtown Sydney. We spent many hours loafing about on the lawns, drinking wine and feeding the seagulls. (yeah, try and do THAT in a public park in the States and the cops will be on you STAT! NO alcohol, no fun! Australia is very civilised that way!)

However, for a truly dramatic and striking vista, take a walk over to the Gap, and take a gander out towards the deep blue sea and watch the crashing waves from the cliff tops. Ahhh...the violent churning of the ocean is mesmerising and invigorating!

(The Gap is a favorite jumping off point for jilted lovers and lost souls with the sandstone cliffs the only witness to their painful secrets)

(Hungry yet, darlings? I just had to add one last food porn photo for you to enjoy!!!!)

La Diva wants to know: What food or meal is it that you crave and gets you drooling just thinking about it from places you've visited? I would LOVE to see your comments!!!

G'day, loves!

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La Diva's Hangover Helper!

Dar-lings. Please, DON'T read so loud! Ugh. La Diva is hungover. Not the dreaded "sick-to-my-stomach-puking-my-guts-out-hugging-the-porcelain-princess-with-the-throbbing-cranium-crushing-headache-from-hell-can't-get-out-of-bed-hang-over," but the "I-can't-see-straight-need-something-greasy-to-eat-and-need-it-RIGHT-NOW-and-in-copious-amounts-before-I-can-even-think-of-doing-ANYTHING!" kind of hangover!

Last night La Diva had a lot of fun as my wonderfully generous neighbors aka "the usual suspects," had a lovely bay side birthday bbq with lots and lots of wine and yummy grilled delights! So, of course, today I'm paying the price.

When I feel hungover and like I've not eaten in days and need to eat like a chain gang prisoner, one of my favorite meals is my Hangover Helper! Here's what I do:

1. Take one potato, quarter and nuke until just soft. Yes, a potato. It is vital and La Diva truly believes it helps soak up all that nas-tay al-kee-hol. (when I'm hung over, EVERY second counts until I get grub, so nuke away darlings!) Meanwhile, heat a fry pan with olive oil and cook the potatoes, browning on each side.

2. Stop and try to remember what stupid stuff you said last night and contemplate NEVER, EVER drinking again.

3. Get any kind of greasy (or not) protein from the fridge. Some suggestions: leftover sausage, ham, steak, lunch meat, tofu, chicken, turkey, hamburgers. This morning, I used some left over andouille AND Italian sausage slices. I quartered them and added them to the potatoes and gave a quick sprinkle of hot pepper flakes. Continue browning.

4. Take alka seltzer. Drink it FAST!

5. Now, get any veggies from the fridge you can find: mushrooms, spinach, green onions, broccoli, zucchini, etc. I had some leftover sauteed red chard. Dump it into the mix and saute until cooked or heated through.

5. I mean 6. (Christ, you expect me to COUNT in this condition?!) Put toast in toaster and spread with loads of REAL butter (margarine just WON'T do!)

7. Skull HUGE glass of water.

8. Make coffee. Preferably strong Italian coffee not insipid pre-ground drip coffee.

9. Beat two eggs in a bowl with a bit of water. Add to the pan.

10. Stop, put down spatula and lean on counter with head in hands until you stop shaking. Slowly lift head while you see 'stars', steady yourself, pick up spatula and continue.

11. Now, one last trip to the fridge: Find some kind of cheese. Maybe swiss, cheddar, American, fontina, hell, even Velveeta! Use any kind of cheese that would melt all nice and gooey and add some greasiness and flavor.

12. Look in cupboard for vodka to make a rejuvenating Bloody Mary. Damn. Vodka bottle empty. Sigh and continue cooking.

13. Scramble together until eggs are no longer runny and cheese is melted. Pile high onto a plate with the buttered toast, salt generously and if you like, add ketchup or hot sauce. EAT! (but do it quietly, please!)

(QUIETLY click to see La Diva's Hangover Helper!)

Result: Mmmm.....eggy-starchy-meaty-greasy-gooey-cheese-y-goodness as I eat it like I've just worked in a coal mine for 12 hours. Yum......leave dishes, lay on couch with a pitcher of water and watch daytime soaps you've not seen since you were 14 and on summer school holidays.

Darlings, La Diva would LOVE to know what you eat when you're hung over? DO TELL, La Diva can't wait to hear from you! Buh-bye now!

It's my birfday!

Darlings! It's my birthday today and I'm going to try to enjoy it for all it's worth! Just for the record, La Diva is not one of those narcissistic people that expects everyone to remember her "special" day like a militant brat that extorts gifts and accolades from weary friends who are bullied into celebrating! (I love shoes, flowers, purple and fine gemstones, by the way!) However, I do like to spend my day with good friends doing something pleasant that usually involves drinking some sort of sparkling and eating something naughty, decadent and chocolate-y!

Except this year I feel differently. This birthday is not one I really feel like celebrating. Why? Cuz it's one of those "6" birthdays. And, as we all know, a "6" birthday is a quick and slippery slope down to one of the "0" birthdays! (It seems like only recently I had one of those nasty "0" birthdays!) So, to put that repugnant thought out of my mind, I'm off to shop for some clothes for my upcoming trip to Oz! (and in a masochistic way, I'm not quite sure how pleasant THAT will be either!)

So, darlings, get the champers ready for me, I'm going to need a LOT of it! Ciao for now!

La Diva does South Beach Food & Wine After Party

The gorgeous pool at the Raleigh Hotel, South Beach

Darlings, La Diva is having a busy weekend and since it's her birthday as well as the South Beach Food & Wine festival, is out and about and frankly, not cooking (or blogging!) very much at all! Thursday night I attended the Cruzan Rum After-Party hosted by Tyler Florence and presented by Modern Luxury Media at the fabulous South Beach deco hotel, The Raleigh. (see photos on my Facebook page) What a hoot! Even more so because La Diva went for free!

The event looked lovely, thanks to Media Stage Production company, who did all the production including a giant spandex video screen stretched across the massive pool! On the sand back near the beach, Tyler was working hard mugging for photos with foodie fans while another chef served up his "ultimate" paella from a HUGE paella pan that must have been at least four feet wide. Seafood was the theme of the party and served in variety of styles from a handful of top local restaurants including Joe's Stone Crab, Escopazzo and Trump International Resort.

I also ran into Mario Batali's sous chef and fellow Iron Chef competitor, chef Anne Burrell. She told me she's currently filming more episodes of her Food Network show, Secrets of a Restaurant Chef, and they should be airing shortly. Food Network's Guy Fieri was spotted too but I was having too much fun on the sand to try to track him down.

Also of interest to La Diva was a table of the Italian aperitif Aperol, which is very similar to Campari. La Diva LOVES Campari as it has an herbal bitterness that I enjoy (go figure!) and found the Aperol to be quite similar in taste but slightly sweeter. They were serving it with prosecco and with half of the alcohol content of Campari, La Diva thought it would make a lovely and light drink for brunch.

Besides tasting all the excellent seafood samples from local restaurants, La Diva was having a ball meeting and talking to all the foodies and promoting La Diva Cucina. However, one Broward man in particular was testing La Diva's patience and is truly the reason the word "wanker" was invented! Boorish and uppity, this overbearing creature was exuding all the benefits of "foam" (yes, darlings, the "foam" was all over the festival this year!) and trying to have a culinary "pissing" contest with me!

(Darlings, La Diva hardly thinks this sparkling needs anything to improve its taste and texture but can't think of a better way to utilize "the foam!")

Broward Boor: "The other day, I made a confit of pig cheek with a demi-glace and topped it with fois gras I bought off the Internet"! Looking him sternly in the eye, La Diva said: "Yesterday, I made home made pasta with flour from Publix." He glared at me with superiority! I glared back. La Diva just loves a bit of verbal karate with these snarky snobs! After all, La Diva isn't buying into that silly trend of "molecular gastronomy." La Diva is all about REAL food, REAL portions and REAL satisfaction. (Sorry Ferran Adrià!) Although I think it's highly creative (and silly!) expensive little science projects passing off as food DOES NOT FLY with La Diva!

Well, darlings, I hope you enjoyed my festival report. I must get thee to thy beach now, La Diva has a LOT of people to promote La Diva Cucina to! Ciao!

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Determined, delighted and delicious: La Diva Does Dough 2!!

Darlings! La Diva is not one to back down on a challenge and after my last dough debacle was dying to do it again! Java Junkie from The Karmic Kitchen felt sorry for me after reading my dismal post last week and sent me a new pasta recipe she swears by from the Il Fornaio Pasta Book. I still had a good amount of peppery arugula and gorgeous red tomatoes left from Saturday's farm share, so I thought that a lovely pasta with the farm fresh booty along with toasted pine nuts and lemon zest would make a quick, healthy and tasty dinner.

Let's begin, shall we?

Il Fornaio basic pasta recipe:

1 1/4 c all purpose flour
1/2 t sea salt
2 large eggs at room temperature
1 t olive oil

In a large shallow bowl or on a flat work surface, shape the dry ingredients into a mound. Make a well in the center.

Place the liquid ingredients in the well and beat with a fork, gradually beating in a wider path and incorporating the flour in very small amounts.

Continue mixing with the fork until the dough begins to resemble a dry, crumbly mixture.

Transfer to a flour dusted, flat work surface and beging kneading by hand: roll the dough sideways across the surface, from hand to hand, applying strong pressure (no kidding, darlings, you must put some muscle into this!) while squeezing the dough. Knead until all of the flour is incorporated, no floury white spots remain and the dough begins to soften and is no longer sticky, about 3-5 minutes.

Shape into a ball, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest for 30 minutes. Divide in half before rolling. (I divided into quarters.)

And that's where the instructions end. As many an Italian lady has done this by hand, La Diva sees no reason why she can't continue the tradition. I roll the dough into long strips and then using a clean plastic ruler as guide, I cut the dough into very thin strips using a small paring knife. I lay them out loosely over a bowl and when I get a decent amount, I gently roll them up and weigh into 2 ounce portions and "nest" them on a plate. After about an hour of rolling and cutting, I ended up with six pasta nests.

Whew! That was a lotta work for a little ol' nonna!!! No wonder people were in such great shape back in the day! Well, darlings, we are only half finished with the meal! Now, let's get the rest of the ingredients ready (mise en place!)

This is enough pasta for three filling main meals. First, get water boiling on the stove for the pasta . In a small dry saute pan, gently toast a good handful of pine nuts, when brown, remove and set aside to cool. Meanwhile, take a good 2-3 cups of washed and dried arugula and coarsely chop. Set aside. Seed, dice and salt two egg tomatoes and set aside. Mince six cloves of garlic and heat up olive oil in a large sauce pan. Saute the garlic over medium low heat, taking care not to burn. (I had a small chunk of pancetta that I diced and browned with the garlic. With or without, there is plenty of flavor!)

When the water begins to boil, drop the pasta nests into the water, add a bit of salt and cook until "al dente." I cooked mine for about 4 minutes but this depends greatly on how thick or thin you roll and cut the dough! However, if you have to check every 30 seconds, do, as there is nothing worse than mushy, over-cooked pasta! (Especially since you worked SO HARD on it!)

(Go on and click, darlings!)

Drain the cooked pasta and put straight into the hot oil and garlic. Mix through carefully and then add the tomatoes and arugula. Place equal amounts into pasta bowls, garnish with lemon zest and the toasted pine nuts. Heck, add a dab of butter too! Serve immediately with freshly grated parmigiano cheese and MANGIA, BABY!

(Go on an click on the photo, mi amore!)

Result: Damn good, if I do say so myself. However, making home made pasta is really a labor of love and I was happy to have an unexpected guest to enjoy the extra serving. (He felt pretty "spesh" I shared it with him too!) Kneading the dough and incorporating the flour was not easy and did take my patience. Also, rolling out and cutting the dough into thin strips was very time-consuming. I made sure to cut them finely and they still cooked up quite thick, so keep that in mind. However, the texture of the pasta was rustic, chewy and delightful. I'm glad that I made a simple dish to highlight all the flavor and texture of the fresh ingredients.

So,would La Diva make the fresh pasta again? In a heartbeat, darling, I'm already wondering what the next DIVALICIOUS meal will be! And, dare I say, I'm ready to experiment with different shapes and perhaps fillings? Molti grazie, Java Junkie, for your easy and tasty recipe!


PLEASE DIG DEEP for the Australian bushfire victims

Darlings, La Diva wants to get serious for a minute. I want you to know that I have more than an affinity for Australia or Australians. I've been married to two Aussies, have many friends and family there, I carry an Aussie passport and call Sydney my second home. I lived there for years and have experienced bush fire season, have seen the devastation from fire and felt the fear firsthand. So, the disastrous fires over there have really hit me in the heart and have hit hard. The recent fires in Victoria have been catastrophic and one of the worst things to happen to the good people of Australia for decades. The death toll is now over 200 and rescuers now have the grim task of searching the homes for victims.

As I know many of you are so kind and generous, I'm providing a link to the Red Cross so that you may donate CASH to help those that have lost their homes and everything dear to them. It is the OFFICIAL charity of the Victorian bushfire appeal and every last cent goes to help the victims. There has been plenty of donations of clothing, food and toys and the Red Cross is requesting cash donations now. Please, darlings, DIG DEEP and give to help out those less fortunate. Thank you.


Warm salmon and red potato salad with frisée, cucumbers and home-made lemon dill mayo

Typical day at South Beach thanks to Miami Destination 360

Darlings, La Diva must ask you this important question: Why am I always compelled to make something that's low calorie extra delicious by adding a dollop of decadence? Ah, well, La Diva really just can't help herself, now can she? One doesn't become a Diva by being too practical and prudent, after all! To tell the truth, I'm always looking for tasty ways to improve upon a dish and the "decadent dollop" in question is La Diva's home-made lemon dill mayonnaise, something I've not made in years!

Naturally, La Diva was inspired by her farm share which included a gorgeously compact lime green head of organic frisée and farm-fresh red potatoes. I'd already bought some salmon to use with the dill from last week's share and when I saw the frisée, I just knew I had to do a light supper salad! The temperature had climbed back up to the low 80's on South Beach, so a lovely fresh and green salad was perfect!

I was going to poach the salmon but then realized that to make a court boullion broth would take at least 20 minutes and frankly, was too much work when I could easily steam the fillets much more quickly (DJ Nevah L8 was lickin' his chops and asking about dinner....) The salmon would have a subtle flavor by steaming yet still remain succulent and as the main component was the mayonnaise anyways....and it's Saturday...and La Diva wanted to get her drunk on, so I skipped the court boullion and steamed it instead!

Here we go....

La Diva's lemon dill mayonnaise

Ok, darlings, I have to confess. I hadn't made mayo from scratch for a while (years!) and took a look at several cookbooks to remind myself of the process. Like riding a bike, it all came back to me once I read it but I found all the recipes I looked at to be overly complicated. So, I simplified it, reduced the amount of ingredients and made a portion that two people might attempt to eat in a few days! This recipe makes about a cup and honestly, once you try it, you'll be "hooked" and never buy the store bought stuff again! (I'm wondering why I waited
so long to make this again!)

Crack one room temperature egg into a small deep bowl or long narrow jug or jar. Add a teaspoon of Dijon mustard and whisk quickly with a fork. Add a quick squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Whisk again. Now, pour 1/2 c olive oil and 1/2 c canola oil into a large measuring cup with a spout . (I used a very expensive, green and fruity unfiltered extra virgin olive oil, so the taste of mayonnaise was very much like this stronger flavored olive oil. If you don't want it as strong, use regular olive oil or regular extra virgin olive oil)

With an immersion blender, start to blend the egg while
SLOWLY (I mean a slight CONSTANT dribble, darlings!) adding the oil. Continue blending and adding the oil, you'll start to see the egg go from runny to foamy to creamy and then thicker like the mayo you recognize. As soon as you get the right texture, stop blending and add finely crushed Maldon sea salt to taste.

Put aside in another small bowl what you'll use for the dinner (at least two generous tablespoons per person) Then, another quick squeeze of the lemon, some chopped fresh dill and the zest of half a lemon. Mix thoroughly and set aside. Use the other mayo to flavor another way for another day. (capers and anchovy, mango chutney or wasabi perhaps?)

Dill flower head

Cut two small red potatoes into thick slices and put in a pan with just enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and cook until just fork tender, taking care not to overcook lest they fall apart. Drain, return to the hot pot, add some Maldon sea salt and quick drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a handful of chopped fresh dill. Mix through and set aside. (It's better to even almost under cook the potatoes as they will continue cooking in the hot pan once you return them to it.)

Next, lay some fresh dill on a good old fashioned steamer basket in a fry pan with about an inch of water. Place two seasoned salmon fillets over the dill, put the heat on high and cover. Once it starts to boil, reduce the heat to medium and keep an eye on this, don't let the water boil too vigorously and steam until cooked or when the fish begins to flake. This won't take long, maybe 8 minutes at most, depending on the thickness of your fillet. Once cooked, take fish out of the pan onto a plate, set aside and cover loosely with foil.

Puttin' it together:

On large plates, add a good handful of the cleaned and dry
frisée that has been dressed lightly with fresh lemon juice and a sprinkling of sea salt. Now, add some thinly sliced cucumbers off to one side of the greens. Put the potatoes off to the other side and carefully lay the salmon fillet on the center of the frisée. Dollop a HUGE OL' SPOONFUL of the luscious lemon dill mayo on the fish.

(click to see all it's lusciousness!)

NOW: Sit down, pick up your fork and relish the richness of the home made mayo with the succulence of the moist salmon....the lettuce and cucumbers add crunchiness while cutting through the creaminess of the dressing . The potatoes, salty, flavorful and comforting add substance to the plate. DIVA-LITE-FUL, darlings! Now, I must get off the computer, the beach is calling me!

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Cocktails anyone?!

Darlings! La Diva remembers the days when these sort of drinks were popular! The brighter and more chemical the color, the better! In fact, La Diva remembers taking out a heartbroken girlfriend for a boozy night to help her forget her lost love. We called it "cocktails by color" and naturally, started with BLUE!! (And, by the way, those layered shots really put the staff "in the weeds" and were the bane of a busy bartender!)

Cheers, darlings, and have a LOVELY WEEKEND!!!

Tostones or twice-fried plantains!

Darlings, you know La Diva, like most people, LOVES anything that is fried but what about twice fried? You got it, baby, it's twice as good and that's exactly how you make tostones, the green plantain staple of the Caribbean!

La Diva had her first tostone a few years back at the colorful Haitian cafe on Miami Beach, Tap Tap. Salty, crunchy and crisp, the tostone is like a starchier, thicker version of a potato chip. The tostone is served as a side dish or snack in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and Haiti, of course! However, I've eaten them in a Peruvian restaurant as well. Living in Miami, there is really no way to avoid trying, tasting and craving the tempting tostone!

After imbibing in tostones recently, La Diva just couldn't get rid of her longing for them! Following a few conversations with local Latina friends, La Diva decided to do them at home.

Of course, the first thing is to get the proper plantains! You MUST buy the green plantain, NOT the yellow. If you buy the yellow, it will not work. Tostones require the firmness of an unripe fruit and the yellow plantain is really quite sweet when cooked, a different dish (and taste) entirely!

Let's get started, shall we? Take 2-3 green plantains and cut off the ends. Then, slice the skin lengthwise on both sides and carefully peel off. A plantain is much harder to peel than a banana, so please stick to the method! Cut plantains on an angle about an inch long. Meanwhile, add about an inch of vegetable oil to a fry pan and heat. When the oil is hot, add the plantain slices (being careful not to crowd) and turn once when colored. Cook for a total of about 3-4 minutes. Remove and drain on paper towels and take the oil off the heat. Do not throw out oil and set pan aside.

Traditional tostonera

Once cooled, you must now flatten the plantain to prepare for the next stage. Traditionally, one uses a tostonera (plantain press), however, La Diva uses the bottom of a coffee mug or a mallet to flatten each plantain piece. When you've finished flattening all the pieces, heat up the oil again. Once the oil is hot, fry the plantain in batches for another five minutes until golden. Remove, drain on paper towels and salt and serve immediately.

You can serve the tostones with a simple garlic or "mojo sauce" but La Diva definitely prefers hers with a spicy green hot sauce. I'm still trying to figure out how to make that sauce but I believe it has a large amount of cilantro and fresh chili in it! ( I think I'll have to bribe one of the local chefs to give me the recipe!) So, darlings, give it a whirl and savor the flavor that all the islanders love, the tostone!
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