#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: Coconut Hot Fudge Sundae

July 25th is National #HotFudgeSundaeDay. It also happens to be Danger's birthday (he's turning seven) which makes this day one of The. Biggest. Days. of the year for me. What better way to celebrate than with a tropical, coconut hot fudge sundae! My little man Danger loves sweet fried plantains (he may not have been born on the island but that kid is Puerto Rican I tell you!) and he loves chocolate, so I combined those flavors with one of our favorite things in the world: vanilla ice cream. This is a really easy quick sundae but if you don't have sweet plantain, you can substitute a ripe banana or [...]

By | 2017-12-19T00:37:22+00:00 July 23rd, 2016|Desserts, Fruits & Veggies, Recipes, Sauces, 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: 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 [...]

#StopFoodWaste: Leftover Coffee Mug Cake

If you aren't a coffee drinker props to you for being OK with going through life without one of THE BEST THINGS IN THE WORLD. If you're anything like me though, you enjoy a few cups every single day of your existence. There may be crazy times when you just can't drink it all and where you find yourself with a bit of leftover go-go juice. Don't you throw that cold java away! At the very least fill an ice cube tray with it and freeze it for amazing iced coffee. I prefer to put in a few more minutes of work and make myself a little leftover coffee mug [...]

By | 2017-12-19T00:37:23+00:00 April 7th, 2016|#StopFoodWaste, Desserts, Recipes, Uncategorized|0 Comments

#IslandFlavor: Puerto Rican Spam Musubi

Spam makes some people shudder. I mean, it's pressed meat out of a can. I get it. But if you were raised on an island, like I was, you grew up on it. And if we're keeping it 100% real, Spam is much better for you than a hot dog. It's only got 6 ingredients! Spam is so legit  Monty Python dedicated a sketch to it! Am I the only that's wondered what "Lobster Thermidor aux crevettes with a Mornay sauce, garnished with truffle pâté, brandy and a fried egg on top, and Spam" would taste like? Don't answer that. Sometimes you just need a little Spam in your life. [...]

By | 2017-12-19T00:37:24+00:00 April 3rd, 2016|#IslandFlavor, Appetizers, Proteins, Recipes, Uncategorized|2 Comments

#StopFoodWaste: Overripe Tomatoes

Perhaps you're a lot like me. Last week I decided I was going to make a ton of salads, turn my nose up at anything processed and work out 30 minutes a day because DANG IT those last ten pounds are coming off! Instead I ended up binge watching Daredevil Season 2 (HOLY ISH AMAZING), getting pizza delivered, and eating Nutella right out of the jar. Meh. You win some. You lose some. Unfortunately now the tomatoes I bought for salad are just a touch past their prime: their flesh softened, their skin wrinkled and bruised. It's a good thing old tomatoes do an amazing job of kicking up boring [...]

By | 2017-12-19T00:37:24+00:00 March 29th, 2016|#StopFoodWaste, Recipes, Sauces, Uncategorized|0 Comments