Cuts of Beef
Go to your butcher shop and stand in front of the beef case and your head might start to spin from the number of different cuts available. From short ribs to sirloin tip, from filet to flank steak, it's hard to believe they all come from the same place!
Just as in the U.S., Spanish and Latin cooks use every cut of beef in their cooking, but you'll find some differences in which ones are most popular. And here's a bonus: Many of these cuts will be less expensive than the ones you might be used to using.
The skirt steak is a great example. For a long time, it was called "butcher's steak," because no one would buy it so the butcher ended up eating it. In Mexico and elsewhere, skirt steak has been made into fajitas and carne asada for ages, and if you treat it right, you can do the same!
Beef roasts, like the tri-tip and the chuck roast, are also popular for stews and for roasting whole, letting you work your delicioso magic with adobo, peppers and other spices.
Just remember that most of the cuts you'll use are "muscle" cuts, which means they will turn tough if you don't cook them and slice them right. For your fajitas, you want to cut across the grain. It won't be as pretty, but the meat will melt in your mouth and that's what counts, right?
Whatever cut you pick, just be sure you enjoy it with plenty of family, friends and good times!
All in the Pepper Family
Did you know that peppers have been grown in South America for over 6,000 years? It's true! And if you want to make your cooking truly delicioso, you're going to want to make friends with these marvels of flavor.
In the United States, the three most popular peppers are the bell, the jalapeno and the habanero. Make friends with them, and you'll wake up almost every dish on your menu.
Peppers get a lot of their flavor and all of their spicy heat from something called capsaicin, which is used in everything from pepper spray to pain relievers. The more of it a pepper has, the wider your eyes will get when you take a bite and, some say, you?ll crave it more often. Chileheads will tell you that once you get the "pepper rush," you'll want it again and again.
Besides spicing up your life, peppers are good for you. The bell pepper, the mildest of the bunch, has twice as much vitamin C as a citrus fruit, and hotter peppers have even more. Capsaicin even helps thin the blood, which can protect against heart attacks and strokes. Maybe it's the heat?
How do you use them? Peppers are the perfect combination of flavor and versatility. Throw them on the grill, chop them into salad, simmer them in sauces, stuff them with meat or cheese and fry them. You can even smoke or dry them to bring out an entire new world of flavors.
Don't forget to wash your hands thoroughly after working with peppers. Rubbing your eyes with pepper juice on your fingers can ruin your day, believe me!
There's a fruit out there that is one of the most versatile, nutritious, abundant and just flat yummylicious things on the planet, and I'll bet you've never eaten one fresh. It's the guava! Throughout Central and South America and the Caribbean, the guava is very much like the apple is the U.S.: a fruit that's everywhere and that everyone seems to have a favorite recipe for.
Walk into any Mexican or Latin food market, and you'll find shelves full of guava goodies: guava paste, shells, jellies, candy and juices as well as all sorts of products that use guava for their sweet flavor. If you're lucky, you'll even find some fresh ones in the produce section!
The whole fruit is edible, from peel to seeds, although most people remove the skin since it can be a little bitter. They are absolutely packed with vitamin C, and are also good sources of iron and even calcium. I told you they were super foods!
Guava wood is even becoming popular on the barbecue circuit for the slightly sweet flavor it gives to meats cooked with its smoke. Try and find some and imagine the reaction when you tell your guests you've prepared Guava-Glazed Caribbean Salmon for dinner one night.
Use guava paste in pastries and other baked goods, use the jelly as a glaze on roasted meats and try all sorts of different stuffings for guava shells. You'll run out of tummy room before you run out of ideas.
Give your menu a delicioso shot of sweet Latin flavor with some guava. You'll be happy you did!