Cooking un-science

Anamaris 1 Comment

Puente de las Americas in Panama City


I have no formal cooking training. I just stood next to my mom while she worked her magic and emulated her. I also watch lots of TV. You know, the cooking shows. I love to imitate great cooks or chefs. I love the challenge of attempting to recreate a dish that may cost me upwards of $30 at a restaurant IF I were in that city. This means I’m both cheap and lazy; otherwise, I’d have to get dressed up and spend big bucks for some of those meals, lets not forget the wine that MUST accompany.  

I’m also quite comfortable in the kitchen and have been at it long enough to be able to pull it off about 90% of the times. But that’s just it, I tried and tried. I learned not to fret over spilt milk and non-rising doughs, and sauces that separate. I took it on the chin and went at it again.  

Cooking relaxes me. In a weird way I just zone out when I’m in my little kitchen. It’s my own Private Idaho. I am Queen of my Domain. I’m the boss of me and that rocks! eh. OK. So about cooking, here are a few habits of mine. Take them for what they are, just part of my cooking identity. You can copy, borrow and ignore at will.  

Food Prep: I rinse almost every meat before cooking it. Sometimes a quick rinse under running water, or a dip in a water & white vinegar solution. I do the water/vinegar rinse particularly when it comes to chicken and pork. This is common practice in Panama, not sure why, its just the way it is.  I do it because I find that sometimes these meats can feel like they have a film when I pull them off their packaging. It also cuts the odor that chicken has when you boil it.  

I do this by putting the meat in a bowl, adding about 1 tbsp white vinegar, swirl it around. Then top it off with cool water, another swirl, then dump the water and rinse with cool water again. Done. You have to make sure you get the vinegar out, otherwise it’ll change the texture and taste of the meat. For fish and seafood, I use lime or lemon juice instead of water. Same process. Pat dry and get ready to cook.  

Seasoning/marinating: I season/marinate every meat I cook, except for sausage and ground meats. This doesn’t have to be an involved process, but I find that it kicks the flavor of your meats to the next level. Simply add salt, pepper, a bit of garlic and any other seasonings you like or may be adding to the meal you’re preparing. This doesn’t need to be done far in advance, a few minutes before you begin your dish is all it needs. Of course, if you have the time, allowing your meats to actually marinate would make them even better. Check out my favorite seasonings/spices here.  

Browning meats rocks! If you brown ground beef or chicken or whatever you’re making before cooking, you add color, a depth of flavor, and the drippings are the beginning of any magical pot sauce.  

I love ketchup and tend to use it often instead of tomato sauce or paste. My mom did it, so I do too. Ketchup seems less acidic than tomato paste and kinda disappears in the flavor profile.  

Sugar: I add a pinch to any tomato-based sauce I make.  

Salt: I prefer sea salt, it’s gentler somehow. I also add a pinch of it to any sweets I make. It really wakes up those flavors.  

Nutmeg is always on hand in my pantry. I love it in the usual stuff, like cakes and pies. Say you’re making a Duncan-Hines cake mix, add a couple of shakes of nutmeg and taste the difference. Your boxed cake suddenly tastes homemade. I also like adding a dash to my Alfredo and Bechamel sauces.  

Beer – I don’t drink as much of it as I use for cooking. I use in sauces and all sorts of other things.  

Taste your food while cooking. Even when following a recipe, taste it before serving. Everyone’s taste buds are different, adjust the meal to yours.  

I can’t think of any other quirks or habits, but as I identify them, I’ll post them. Welcome to my weirdness.  

Cookingly yours,

Why I cook

Anamaris 0 Comments

Panama's skyline from the Pacific

I’ve sorta stumbled my way through this entire process, I hope you’ll bear with me as I figure it all out. I’m blogging to document my hobbies: photography and cooking. These are 2 things I love and get lost in whenever I do them. But I also love sharing both of them with people in my life. Of course, the cooking part is easy, there’s never a shortage of willing taste-testers, photography…, is a different story. How many times can you ask your friends and family to go to your Flickr account and check out your photostream?

Anyway, most of the meals/recipes I will show you here are for Lindsay, my sweet hubby, and myself. We also love having friends over and feed them for putting up with us. I am a ‘ bit of this and a dash of that’ kinda cook, but promise to do my best to quantify recipes and provide you with measurements.

Being from Latin America and of black descent, my cooking thumbprint has a  Latin/Caribbean flair. Following on my mom’s footsteps, I too love the challenge of other cuisine styles, flavors and techniques. This means my cooking range is all over the map, you will not be bored. But the most important thing I want you to take away from visiting my blog, is that delicious food doesn’t have to be complicated and isn’t exclusive to Cordon Bleu graduates.

WE can do it. YOU can have fun doing it. LET’S do it together.

Cookingly yours,

Living like the Joneses. Ha!

Anamaris 0 Comments

In NoLa for our honeymoon

We’re everyday people, just another couple next door. We aren’t necessarily traditional. To be honest, we both have our own way of not blending in. Linz dons a crazy goatee and I like mixing and mis-matching my attire. Conventional we are not. Like most people we know, we are lucky enough to have steady jobs and steady bills. We often sacrifice what we want for what we need. We would love to vacation 6 months out of the year rather than squeeze our vacations into 4 weeks. We are, I guess, living the American dream.

We’re newlyweds still. We e-met in March 2008 and got married this last June. We are an eHarmony couple, even though we both doubted we would find someone we’d want to marry. Somehow we did and we know how lucky we are to have navigated to that website when did. We are a testament for all the cynics and naysayers out there, particularly ourselves.

home sweet homeThat’s just a little segue into this: we are not living lavishly. Our 2 bedroom condo is about 1,100 sf, which is a bit of a squeeze without being crammed. Our kitchen is a 10-foot long by 3-foot wide galley, not an awesome restaurant style kitchen, though we dream of one. But our little kitchen serves us just fine.

We both love food, preparing and eating it. Finding someone who enjoys cooking was a really big plus for both of us. When we planned our first date, we both agreed that cooking together sounded like an excellent plan. It would give us something to concentrate on other than the initial awkwardness of meeting for the first time. And so we did and have done ever since.

More often than not I will come up with a  menu of sorts and Linz will busy himself with all sous chef responsibilities. He dices and chops everything, he swears I’m not as adept at this task as he is-WHATEVA! And we both try to clean as we go. But there have been times when our little kitchen looks as if a search warrant had been served on the premises.

What I’m trying to say is that you don’t need a fancy setup to do some mad cooking in your kitchen. You don’t need a whole lot of appliances or equipment. The thing you DO need is a desire to try your hand at it and to see what magic you can whip up. So drop the excuses and get those pots out!

Veni, vidi, blogged!

Anamaris 2 Comments

I believe this is the portion of the game show where I introduce myself, tell you about my plans for this blog, set boundaries (ha!), impress you with my prose. That’s a really tall order, but I will tell you about me and the nervous beginnings of this humble blog.

I’m originally from Panama City, Panama. Way South from my current residence in Houston, Texas. I had the Panamanian version of Martha Stewart for a mother, except for the insider trading conviction. My mami, Patricia, was always the designated EventCoordinatorMenuPlannerExecutiveAndPastryChef for most every celebration or get-together we attended.

She loved learning new things, then experimenting with them, making them her own, and dazzling family and friends with her magic. But she wasn’t happy keeping these gifts to herself; she shared them with my Sis Magali and I, as well as anyone else who asked. Eventually she started her own cake decorating business, she’s a real pro still working an icing bag like nobody’s business.

In a way, this blog exists because of my mom. Because she introduced me to the kitchen at age 8, making me fall in love with everything that happens in that special room. It’s not a coincidence that people always gravitate to it. I hope you will come along with me as I learn new tricks and try new dishes and share some of my own.

Cookingly yours,