From her Flatbush kitchen, celebrity chef Daisy Martinez salutes and celebrates the entire world, and particularly the Latino culinary creations that, for her, are literally the meat and drink of her imagination.
In her second cookbook, Daisy: Morning, Noon and Night (Atria Books, $30.00), written with Chris Styler, Martinez takes family-favorite recipes – many recreated from memories of meals eaten during vacations over the past several years – and, as she says, “Daisifies them.”
The goal, the Food Network star stresses, is not only putting her own joyous personal spin on traditional foodstuffs, but also to take the mystery out of Latin cooking, and making it accessible even to people who have never cooked with or even tasted a plantain or a guava.
“It’s about making the recipes accessible and user-friendly,” Martinez noted during a phone interview.
The result is a volume of recipes that competent home cooks will enjoy cooking from, and that even those who rarely dabble with sauté pans, whisks and mandolines can delve into, confident that they will be able to set on the dinner table meals that will both satisfy and tantalize family and friends.
Living in the heart of Brooklyn, in a neighborhood populated by a mini United Nations,Martinez stressed, “I always say, Brooklyn is close enough but far enough.
“I’m living in a neighborhood where I have the benefit of being at the crossroads of different ethnicities,” she went on. “There are a lot of Mexicans here, so I can get dried corn husks. With the West Indian population, I have access to some wonderful hot peppers.”
“It’s certainly a wonderful place to raise my children,” Martinez added. “You know your neighbors. If someone across the street is sick, you run over with a casserole or soup.”
Her neighbors in Prospect Park South are as enthusiastic about good food, and ethnic food, as she is, Martinez noted, “So encouraging them to experiment with yucca or plantain isn’t a stretch.”
The recipes in the book range from comfort food — such as the Sopa de Marqués, a heady melange of noodles, lime, cilantro and avocado in a rich chicken broth which Martinez and her family first tasted on a trip to Chichén Itzá – to dinner party elegant – think Coconut Panna Cotta with Tropical Fruit, or Guava Shells Filled with Cream Cheese Mousse.
Many are ones that Martinez added to her repertoire after tasting them in far-flung locales, at least in part, to entice her four children to spend time at her Flatbush table.
“When we travel, we eat our way from one end of a city to the other, and I’m sitting there with a camera and taking notes,” Martinez recalled. “At home, I try to recreate them as an inspiration for my children to come back home on Sundays or whenever.
“In the beginning, I wanted to call the book ‘Love, Mom,’ because it’s a love letter to my children in the form of recipes,” she added. “They’ll have it forever.”
The nice thing, of course, is that those of us who aren’t related to Martinez can still make her recipes ours.
Even if you’ve never tried Latin food, she said, her book offers plenty of options. “Start easy,” Martinez advised. “Do something like the soup, a weeknight salsa, a grilled skirt steak with chimichurri. I love the sparkle it puts on steak.
“The combination of flavors is unique enough to inspire someone who’s never tried Latin cooking to try a little more,” she added. “From there, can tamales be far away?
“Latin food is ethnic but not alien,” Martinez concluded. “It’s not spicy but sassy. If you’ve waited this long to try Latin food, you’ve waited too long. Get on it!”
Martinez will be discussing and signing copies of her new book at the Barnes & Noble in Park Slope, 267 Seventh Avenue, on March 18th, at 7:30 p.m. She will also be doing a book signing at the Columbus Circle Borders, 10 Columbus Circle, at 7 p.m. on March 15th.
GRILLED SKIRT STEAK WITH CHIMICHURRI SAUCE (Churrasco)
Makes 12 servings
Prep time: 20 minutes (plus 30 minutes to 2 days marinating time)
Cook time: 15 minutes
Kosher or fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper
4 skirt steaks (about 1 pound each), trimmed of fat and cut in half crosswise
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Vegetable oil cooking spray
1. Rub a generous amount of salt and pepper into both sides of the steaks. Rub the onion powder into the steaks, dividing it evenly. Put the steaks into a baking dish or container that holds them comfortably, sprinkle the vinegar over them, and brush them with the olive oil. Marinate the steaks at room temperature for up to 30 minutes, or refrigerate for up to 2 days.
2. Heat a gas grill to medium-high, build a strong charcoal fire, or heat a large grill pan over medium-high heat.
3. Grill the steaks, turning only once, to the desired doneness. Remove from the grill and let rest for 5 minutes.
4. Thinly slice the steaks against the grain before serving. Drizzle some of the chimichurri over the steaks and pass the rest separately.
CHIMICHURRI (Parsley-Garlic Sauce for Steak)
Makes about 1 cup
Prep time: 20 minutes
4 cups fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves (from about 1 large bunch parsley)
6 cloves garlic
1⁄2 to 3⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1⁄4 cup red wine vinegar
Kosher or fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 heaping teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
Pulse the parsley and garlic in the bowl of a food processor until finely chopped. Scrape in to a bowl and stir in 1⁄2 cup olive oil and the vinegar. Stir well and taste: If it is too tart, add as much of the remaining olive oil as you like. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the red pepper flakes, if using, for a spicy chimichurri. The chimichurri can be made up to 5 days in advance and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before serving.