What’s Cooking: Paella Valenciana

Yesterday, we went to a cookout at my friend Josefina’s home.  She and her husband cooked up the usual Fourth of July fare – hot dogs, hamburgers and barbecue ribs and chicken.  All the guests were asked to bring an international themed dish.  I was SO EXCITED about this!

Anytime I can get to make my Paella Valenciana is always a good time for me and those eating it!!!

I have traveled to Spain many times, including a time where I tried to follow the same route my favorite writer, Richard Wright, did in Pagan Spain.  The country, its people, and culture are both so beautiful and mysterious.  I was in Valencia once and took a cooking class at a restaurant on how to cook proper paella.  This dish has different variations depending on what region you are in Spain; however, paella was created in Valencia.

There are also different types of paella – seafood, chicken, vegetarian, chorizo (which is pretty controversial with Valencians), duck and snails.  I have even eaten a version with rabbit!  So for the cookout yesterday.  I made both a seafood paella and a vegetarian paella, which I have to say went over very well with party attendees.

The picture above is the seafood version, which includes shrimp, scallops, squid, and calamari.

Vegetarian Paella Recipe – serves 4 people

Use whatever vegetables you have, but I use:

1 green and 1 red bell pepper
5 carrots
1 eggplant
3 portabello mushrooms
1/2 cup of frozen peas
1 onion
2 garlic cloves or scapes
2 cups of saffron or Bomba rice
3 cups of vegetable broth
4 diced tomatoes
1 tsp of smoked paprika
A pinch of salt and pepper (you can even add crushed red peppers if you like it a little spicy.)

Chop up the vegetables and saute it with onion and garlic in a wide cooking pan for five minutes. Add the tomatoes and saute for two minutes. Add paprika, salt, and pepper and stir for two minutes, making sure it doesn’t burn. Add broth and bring to a boil. Then add rice and peas and stir everything to make sure it is evenly layered. Reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer with a cover for about 20 minutes. Remove pan and let sit for five minutes.

Seafood Paella Recipe

Do everything above. You can keep as many vegetables from above as you want, but traditional Valencian paella generally has only peas and maybe red peppers. But that is up to you. I like using the frozen seafood mix from Trader Joe’s, which I would simply add after bringing the broth to boil.

Enjoy and please let me know if you try the recipes!

What’s Cooking: Jamaican Corned Beef and Cabbage

Last Saturday my friends Brian and Mariah came to visit us for dinner.  They are originally from Dublin, Ireland and have lived in New York City for the last nine years.  Since it was St. Patrick’s Day weekend, I thought I would make them a special Irish meal.  I asked them if they would like corned beef and cabbage.  Brian said he always hated this traditional Irish meal because it was so bland.

“I have never tasted an Irish corned beef and cabbage I liked,” he said.

“Then you have never tasted the Caribbean version of the recipe,” I replied.

I offered to cook Jamaican corned beef and cabbage since it is spicier, as well as baked chicken just in case they didn’t like.  When I was growing up, my mother made me make this for dinner every Saturday.  It is a pretty simple recipe using corned beef from a can, cabbage, onions, olive oil, salt, black pepper, and your choice of hot pepper (I use pimiento pepper). Pair it with white rice and you have a meal.  Although I don’t eat red meat anymore, I still know how to make this flavorful dish to satisfy.  When Brian and Mariah tasted my recipe, they almost flipped out of my dinner table.    Mariah loved my version so much that she asked me for the recipe.

Below are two slightly different variations on the recipe. Enjoy!

“No need to cook and kill the corned beef again.” Truth…

What’s Cooking: Jamaican Rum Cake

rum-cakeIt is a tradition in my house and other Caribbean homes to eat rum cake during Christmas.  Rum cake or black cake or fruit cake (different terms on various islands) is a rich mixture of raisins, butter, dates, prunes, vanilla, eggs, cinnamon, brown sugar, nutmeg, and, of course, rum.  Every island has their version of making the cake.

The cake is eaten during other special occasions like Easter, weddings, and childbirths.  When I was growing up, rum cake was something my family eat after Easter dinner.  My mother usually bought it from a friend of hers who made it and then shipped it to us in Boston from Miami.  It is also eaten on special occasions (in my opinion) because it takes so long to make.  But the great thing about it is that it lasts a long time.  You can keep it in the fridge nicely wrapped up in tinfoil for months, and it will still taste fresh.  I also like it with either vanilla or cream cheese frosting.


I am making it this week for my loved ones.  Again, I am hoping if it turns out okay, I will have enough to keep in the fridge until next Easter.

Here is a video that is close to how I make rum cakes.  Some of you have asked me if I would be making cooking videos anytime soon.  If I have time in the new year, I will see what I can do.  Stay tuned!

A Taste of Senegalese Cuisine

ceen jenWe had another dinner party last night, this time to celebrate Eid-al-Fitr, which marks the end of the Islamic month of Ramadan.  About 20 of my friends visiting from Senegal and Benin came over to enjoy a traditional Senegalese fest of Ceebu Jën (literally rice and fish in Wolof), or Thiéboudiène.  This is the second time I have ever cooked this meal, and it came out way better than I thought it would.  My guests enjoyed and all was good for the celebration!

I originally learned how to cook this dish during a trip to Senegal many years ago.  Of course, I perfected my cooking technique by watching YouTube videos.  I used red snapper, brown rice, vegetables and potatoes substitute for cassava.  Here’s how to make it.

I also made Poulet Yassa (Senegalese chicken) and it came out fantastically!