Spice of Life Episode

Carmel is a big proponent of adding variety into our lives. All around us there are places and people and different cultures, cuisines and experiences waiting to be discovered. Carmel takes advantage of living in South Florida and decides to immerse herself in the Cuban cuisine and culture of Miami. She takes viewers on a trip down Miami’s famed “Calle Ocho,” or 8th Street, and visits a landmark restaurant for a show-and-tell about popular Cuban dishes. She meets up with famous chef and author Norman Van Aken for a fun visit to a classic Cuban market, and takes a lesson in the popular Cuban sport of Jai-alai and proceeds to play a match with fellow Baby Boomers. Additionally, Carmel prepares some Cuban food of her own in her home kitchen.

Carmel walking through a Cuban market in Miami

Calle Ocho

Calle Ocho in Miami is special. Here you’ll find miles of Cuban flare, fashion, festivals and fun all wrapped up in one street. Where else can you find delicious coconut water sliced directly from a coconut, coffee counters offering strong Cuban espresso, hand rolled cigars and charming botanicas filled with candles and statutes used for special prayers and ailments. Here you will come across Cuban nostalgia shops, grocery stores offering fruit you never heard of and bakeries that waft the smell of delicious and crusty Cuban bread. Oh, and did I mention the Cuban food? If you visit Miami, be sure to visit the old Cuban side of town for a spicy slice of life!

http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/city-guides/miami-walking-tour-3/

http://miami.about.com/cs/maps/a/calle_ocho.htm

Benefits of Maple Syrup

Maple syrup goes beyond just great taste. I call it the sweet perks of maple syrup because it contains antioxidants, fights inflammatory diseases, and contains zinc and manganese. Zinc is going to boast your immune system and the manganese will help speed up your metabolism, which is something you can’t say about sugar.

When cooking with maple syrup, I recommend a premium syrup aged in an oak whisky barrel which gives it a delicious taste. My go-to syrup is Mission Maple Syrup which is sustainably tapped from trees from a protected forest in the Berkshires and I love the fact that a portion of the proceeds go to teaching the younger generation about conservation. This is a syrup with a great mission and a delicious taste…a perfect and healthy alternative to sugar.

http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20464527,00.html

https://www.feroniaforests.com/brands.php

Carmel pouring maple syrup over plantains
Different ingredients that make up the Cuban cuisine of sofritas

Sofritas Style

Sofitias means “gently fried.” The ingredients of lightly sautéed seasonings combined with chopped vegetables such as onion, garlic and peppers is the base often used for Latin American cooking especially when preparing stews, meat dishes and rice and beans.

On my series, I created a mussels dish with a sofritas seasonings. Its spicy and delicious. Give it a try!

Mussels Sofritas Style

Mussels with chicken sausage in a white bowl with a silver spoon to the right , garnished with cilantro

View Recipe

Plantains

Plantains on a green plate with sprinkled cinnamon and a cinnamon stick

View Recipe

Mussels Sofrito Style

Mussels with chicken sausage in a white bowl with a silver spoon to the right , garnished with cilantro

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 pounds of mussels, soaked and washed
  • Olive oil
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped (more if you like garlic)
  • Chopped chorizo (1/2 pound fresh, or 2 ounces canned) or spicy chicken sausage
  • 1 16-oz. can of tomatoes (chopped, crushed, or pureed)

    Cuban-style seasonings: 

  • 1-4 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes

DIRECTIONS

Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Sweat the chopped onions, green peppers and garlic. Add in the chopped chorizo. If using fresh chorizo make sure to lightly brown the pieces. When using already cooked or smoked chorizo add in the crushed tomatoes with the sausage. Make sure the tomato sauce is fluid, therefore you may need to add water to the sauce. Add in the seasonings and cook for a couple of minutes. Then add the mussels and cover for 10-15 minutes or until the mussels open. Once all the mussels open, serve with bread as an appetizer or over rices as a main dish.

Plantains

Plantains on a green plate with a cinnamon stick

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 plantains
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • Cinnamon
  • 1-2 Tbs. maple syrup aged in bourbon barrels

DIRECTIONS 

Cut the plantains into thin slices. Heat a large skillet with coconut oil. Once oil is hot add the plantains. NOTE: You will have to cook the plantains in batches. Fry each side until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes. Once golden brown place on paper towels and pat the extra oil off. Place the plantains on a plate and sprinkle with cinnamon and drizzle with maple syrup. Serve with vanilla ice cream or dip in whipped cream.