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Ana Sofia Pelaez

Anise Shortbread Cookies (Mantecados de Anis)
Anise Shortbread Cookies (Mantecados de Ánis)

Nostalgia in the form of homemade cookies may be an occasional treat most of the year, but it’s a way of life come December. And these cookies, mantecados, always take me back to my childhood.  Originally from Spain, they are now a Christmas favorite throughout Latin America.  Similar to polvorones, or wedding cookies, they can be made with finely ground almonds or pecans, infused with just a few drops of vanilla, and then served up plain or dusted with a fine sprinkling of


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Anise Shortbread Cookies (Mantecados de Ánis) Recipe
Anise Shortbread Cookies (Mantecados de Ánis)

Nothing says Christmas like cookies straight from the oven. These holiday favorites, mantecados, get an update with the addition of crushed anise seeds and a brightening burst of lemon. Perfect for giving, getting, and eating.


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Wines of Southern Hemisphere Cookbook Cover
Cookbook Shelf: Wines of the Southern Hemisphere

The world is big but can feel considerably smaller when the subject turns to wine.  While California has made significant inroads, focus rarely shifts from France, Italy, and Spain.  Nevertheless, wine lovers have been buying, drinking, and enjoying the delicious wines produced in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and South America for years.  And Mike Desimone and Jeff Jenssen, better known as the World Wine Guys and


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Five Essential Peppers for the Latin Kitchen
Five Essential Chiles for the Latin Kitchen: Fresh

Whether chopped and whirred into a fresh salsa, slowly sautéed with onions and garlic, stuffed with well-seasoned picadillo, or charred to the point of collapse, fresh peppers stand apart in any dish.  From sweet and fleshy bell peppers to fiery habaneros, the range of colors and flavors can be overwhelming - and that’s before they are smoked and dried for days.  With wildly varying degrees of heat, nothing matches them for versatility and brightness.  Who can resist playing with fire?  Here are just a few favorites to get started:

 


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Pumpkin Turnovers (Empanaditas de Calabaza)
Pumpkin Turnovers (Empanaditas de Calabaza)

The day after Halloween can be anti-climatic; intricately carved pumpkins are carelessly kicked over, discarded candy wrappers line the streets, and elaborate costumes are rolled-up into a ball to be forgotten. Yet for families who honor El Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, a deeper and more sincere celebration is only beginning. 


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Pumpkin Turnover Recipe
Pumpkin Turnovers (Empanaditas de Calabaza)

Since discovering Day of the Dead several years ago, I’ve made my own small offerings like these empanaditas de calabaza. According to tradition, a spirits' sense of smell can be their last connection to the human world, so the pumpkin used in this recipe is slowly simmered with aromatic spices to lure them back. Tucked into an anise-flavored pastry crust, they can also be easily carried away, just in case the visiting spirits really can take any of the day's offerings with them.


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Grilled Corn on the Cob Recipe
Grilled Corn on the Cob with Crema, Queso Fresco, Chili and Lime

Wonderful on its own, boiled or steamed, with butter, fresh herbs, and salt, you can always keep your market haul simple. On the other hand, elotes - grilled corn covered in crema or mayonnaise and crumbly cheese then sprinkled with hot chili and a squirt of lime - make a good case for complicating it. 


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Frittering the Summer Away
Frittering the Summer Away

The closing days of summer - when kids are getting back to school but there is still a long holiday weekend to look forward to - can also be the best time. Reality is close enough to make you appreciate every second left in the season in ways that you couldn’t when there were endless barbecues, picnics, and weekend trips ahead of you. If you’re back from vacation, but not ready to jump into autumn just yet, tropical fritters can prolong the sun and salt of the beach days you’ll soon be missing.


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Grilled Corn on the Cob with Crema, Queso Fresco, Chili and Lime
Grilled Corn on the Cob with Crema, Queso Fresco, Chili and Lime

One of the consolations of the season’s slow fade-out is the arrival of midsummer corn. Piled high at farmer’s markets and roadside stands, it instantly banishes memories of January’s shrunken frozen kernels and the light-weight, plastic-wrapped cobs found in the supermarket. Quick to draw a crowd, people leisurely pick through the piles, looking for corn that is bright green and heavy for its size before sneaking a peak to be sure the kernels are tightly packed and fit to burst.


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5 Essential Single Use Tools for the Latin Kitchen

Most people pride themselves on their ability to multi-task, and we expect nothing less from the tools taking up precious space in the kitchen. Unappreciated and undervalued, single use gadgets can’t catch a break.  Whether it’s an impulse buy from a late night offer or last minute item tossed in the shopping bin, they often end up forgotten in a drawer.


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