Island Ratatouille Pie

Spring is here and nothing quite puts the season on the plate like a batch of ratatouille.  If you've never had it, it's a vegetable dish usually made with onions, zucchini, tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers. The veggies are sauteed or roasted with a little oil until they've softened and released their juices. Ratatouille can be served hot or cold or in a Disney movie prepped by the cutest team of rodents ever. Traditionally, ratatouille is accompanied by a few slices of crusty bread to sop up its savory sauce. I wrapped my ratatouille with a pie crust and dressed it with an herbaceous lemon ricotta to create a one-pot dish [...]

#IslandFlavor: Pastelón, Puerto Rican Shepherd’s Pie

  What I love the most about social media is that it allows me to connect with people that I would never have met otherwise and my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE is getting a message from another Boricua who feels as strongly about Puerto Rican flavors as I do. I recently received this note from Hilarie Santiago: Dearest Monti, I've been a huge fan of yours since your appearance in Master Chef 3. I truly identified from the beginning, being a Puerto Rican mom, hustling to make a better life for her  baby. Let me just say, you are a fantastic mom and Danger is a lucky little guy, to have [...]

By | 2017-12-19T00:37:22+00:00 November 8th, 2016|#IslandFlavor, Recipes, Uncategorized|2 Comments

#IslandFlavor: The Freakin’ Rican Burger

Everyone has a favorite burger recipe and the Freakin' Rican is mine. I developed the recipe when I competed on Gordon Ramsay's MasterChef because it’s Puerto Rico in one juicy bite. The patty is made from 50% short rib, 25% sirloin and %25 pork shoulder, all coarsely ground. I season the patty with sazón, a Puerto Rican spice blend and then layer it with a chunky sofrito (flavorful tomato based sauce) and slices of creamy meunster cheese. Then come the smashed ripe plantains and strips of crispy thick cut bacon. I top those with tomato, onion, and arugula and sandwich all of it on a potato bun toasted with garlic [...]

By | 2017-12-19T00:37:22+00:00 July 29th, 2016|#IslandFlavor, Proteins, Recipes, Uncategorized|2 Comments

#IslandFlavor: Abuela’s Rice and Beans

There's nothing I love more than getting messages like this one: My name is Jamie and I watched you on MasterChef and I just saw you on The Kitchen. My mom is from Puerto Rico and her mom used to make "the best" rice and beans. She doesn't know how to make it, she's not a good cook and she's been in America for a very long time. Do you happen to have a good traditional recipe for rice and beans? It seems simple but I wouldn't know where to start with seasonings. Thank you!!! Jaime, one of the biggest reasons I focus on Puerto Rican flavors is that they [...]

By | 2017-12-19T00:37:22+00:00 July 26th, 2016|#IslandFlavor, Fruits & Veggies, Recipes, Uncategorized|0 Comments

#IslandFlavor: Sazón

Sazón is a type of seasoned salt used heavily in Puerto Rican recipes. In its simplest form, it is a blend of salt, garlic and onion powders, cumin, coriander, oregano and usually features annatto, which gives it its orange color. You can also find versions with the additions of cilantro, black pepper, saffron or tomato. The most popular brand of sazón on the island without question is Goya. While I'm a huge fan of most Goya products, they use MSG in their sazón so I prefer to make my own. It only takes a few minutes to have one of the most distinct flavors of Puerto Rico at your fingertips. [...]

By | 2017-12-19T00:37:22+00:00 July 25th, 2016|#IslandFlavor, Spices, Uncategorized|0 Comments

#IslandFlavor: Simple Sofrito

When it comes to building flavor, the french have mirepoix (onions, celery, carrots) and creoles have the holy trinity (onions, celery, bell peppers).  Puerto Ricans have sofrito.  While it is the base of hundreds of Puerto Rican dishes, sofrito is derivative. You see Puerto Rican cuisine is the original fusion cuisine, with influences from Africa, Europe, and Asia. Much of our food is adapted from different cultures and sofrito is no different. This powerhouse of flavor was brought to the island by Italian immigrants that relocated in the 1800's during the Second Industrial Revolution. The Italians (along with other Catholic immigrants from Ireland and Corsica) were granted land after swearing loyalty [...]

#IslandFlavor: Limbers (Frozen Fruit Pops)

It doesn't matter where you are in Puerto Rico- your block, your school, or in a downtown plaza- someone will always be selling frozen fruit juice pops called limbers. My Abuela Alicia lived in a tenement building in Rio Piedras and had a neighbor that would sell them out of her apartment. My brother and I would hand her fifty cents through a gap in her wrought iron door and in return we would get two little dixie cups filled to the top with frozen sweetened coconut milk. It was the tastiest way to stay cool in a world with no air conditioning. These frosty, refreshing treats are named after [...]

#IslandFlavor: Piña Colada

The Piña Colada is Puerto Rico's National drink and today is national Piña Colada day! It's also my fave frozen drink so, of course, I have to give you my recipe and a little bit of history. As the legend goes, back in the way back, when the seas were ruled by pirates, there was a Puerto Rican buccaneer who had a ship full of super-depressed, thieving sailors. This pirate decided that the best way to perk up his shipmates' spirits was to get them a 401k plan. I kid. He got them drunk on a blend of coconut, pineapple and white rum and PERFECTION was born. Traditionally a Piña Colada [...]

By | 2018-07-10T17:25:51+00:00 July 10th, 2016|#IslandFlavor, Drinks, Uncategorized|0 Comments

#IslandFlavor: Tropical Coconut Mug Cake

I developed this microwave coconut mug cake for Food Network's The Kitchen. If you're anything like me  (impatient, with a sweet tooth so big it rides shotgun) this is an awesome recipe to keep in your back pocket. This cake is ready so fast you can make it during a commercial break. Plus you can substitute the tropical fruit with almost anything your heart desires. (And yes, for me, that will almost always mean chocolate.) A big thanks to Katie Lee, Jeff Mauro, Geoffrey Zacharian, Marcela Valladolid and Sunny Anderson for having me on their Stove Free Summer episode! Ingredients 1/3 cup  angel flake coconut sweetened 1  egg, [...]

By | 2017-12-19T00:37:23+00:00 July 8th, 2016|#IslandFlavor, Desserts, Fruits & Veggies, Uncategorized|2 Comments

#IslandFlavor: Tropical Shrimp Salad

I think Glenn Frey put it best when he said, "The heat is on." When the fever of summer hits,  the last thing I want to do is spend an extended period of time in front of my stove. Which is why this fourth of July weekend I'm bringing a tropical shrimp salad to the BBQ. Not only does it make for a cool and refreshing side, shrimp cook quickly.  If you work it right you can leave the kitchen without breaking into a full sweat. Of course, quick cook times can be a double-edged sword. Just 30 seconds over can leave you chewing on a rubbery mess.  But I’m [...]