My love for food and cooking began when I was a child in Texas more than 40 years ago. Maria, an amazing lady who now has four grown children of her own (and grandchildren, too!) cooked for us every morning. Egg and potato taquitos were my favorite. But if I close my eyes, I can also feel the homemade sugar-raised donuts on my lips. Sugar, sugar, sugar. Thank you, Maria, for taking good care of us when we were children. You are always in my thoughts.
Sweets are my weakness and not just for the taste. I like to bake sweets because afterwards I can toss aside the apron and walk out the door…without smelling like onions or garlic. But don’t be fooled, I come from a long line of good cooks and can hold my own whether it’s a dinner party for twenty or an appetizer soiree.
These are the Top Chefs who have inspired me and taught me their secrets…They may not even know it…but they deserve all the credit:
MOM–Top, Top, Top Chef
Vó Nita, my grandmother–She left our world on December 12, 2012 and we miss her dearly. She loved sweets. And I loved to watch her make Pé de Moleque and Doce de Banana.
Tia Neide, mom’s sister who is also with the angels in heaven, used to make the best fried fish…straight from o Rio São Francisco. “Curimbinha frita”
Tia Leila–dad’s sister…Every time we’re in Brazil she invites us over for lunch…and every time we leave with a new recipe. Everything she makes is delicious.
My neighbor Juancho–He’s from Spain, that automatically means he’s a good cook. From Juancho I learned to make Gambas a la plancha, perfectly…and Paella, of course. We compete with each other in the garden. Especially when it comes to tomatoes. He says everything I plant grows green. We share our harvests. Juancho and his wife, Ely gave Rasta Bunny to me. Rasta Bunny was my beautiful Giant Flemish rabbit. Miss you, my Rasta. Juancho used to make paellas for large parties…of 200 – 400 people. Now retired, he’s living the life and enjoying a bunch of grand-kids.
My cousin Ivano–Ivano was a chef and lived in Italy for many years…he taught me how to make homemade pizza dough when I was in college. He cooked with such ease. Taken from this earth too soon. RIP Ivano.
My mom’s friend Tania–Tania is from Brasil and spent some time visiting with us. She taught me how to make the best quiches ever. She also patiently taught me how to make chocolate truffles (trufas).
My friend Renata–From Rena I learned my first recipe for brigadeiro…Let’s see…that was about 32 years ago. Rena also introduced me to Pedro, a professional dancer who taught me the Lambada. From there I learned Samba.
My cousin Carla–Esfiha specialist-thanks for teaching me. Carla is also a master at improvisation in the kitchen.
Noris e Rafael–A Cuban and a Spaniard…The best combination in the kitchen. From this lovely couple I learned and fell in love with the Spanish Tortilla.
Rosinha e Neto (da Rua Brumadinho)–Rosinha, thank you for the recipe books that I used until this day–Araxa Poe a Mesa. And also for the recipe for Pavê.
Pedro–A friend from Portugal who I met while studying at the University of Miami. During one of my visits to Portugal Pedro gave me a gift that I cherish to this day. A copy of his Masters Thesis with a dedication…and a Portuguese recipe book: Cozinha Tradicional Portuguesa de Maria de Lourdes Modesto. I remember your friendship, good times in Miami, at the Rat on campus, and in Mallorca and Lisbon. Boquerones, gambas a la plancha, sardinhas na chapa, torta de bacalhau com cebola, filet com roquefort, tudo era bom.
Juju e Tia Preta–Everything Sweet. Two Brazilian sweets lovers who lived in Miami then returned to their native Natal, in the state of Rio Grande do Norte. These lovely ladies know their sweets and taught me the Rocambole, that awesome chocolate cake with condensed milk filling.
I also need to give credit to Food & Wine Magazine. Many of the recipes in this blog come from you and your magazine’s contributors. I subscribe to the print edition and look forward to receiving each month’s issue.
The photos were taken by me (priscillakittycat). Thank you to my brother, Alex, for the nice camera and now there’s the iphone!!
To all visitors: I hope you find the photos, recipes and tips delightful and informative. Please feel free to contact me with questions!