Gran Cocina Latina
December 6, 2012

In this city of intrepid foragers, Bergenline Avenue, on the Jersey side of the Lincoln Tunnel, is among our great undiscovered food destinations.  The heart of a large pan-Latino population with roots that go back to the 1960’s, it’s also the place to go for otherwise elusive Latino cooking staples.

For the uninitiated, award-winning restaurateur Maricel Presilla, who will be at the Tenement Museum on December 11, is the ideal guide to Bergenline’s edible riches.  On a recent visit to the Food Bazaar, a supermarket just off Bergenline, she walked me through aisles that are sectioned off by country: Chile, Peru,  El Salvador, and so on.

Yucca

Yuquita Frito con Salsa de Cilantro a la Presilla (Yucca Fingers with Cilantro Sauce Presilla)

In the produce department, she expounded on the virtues of the many tubers and roots central to the Latino kitchen. Her favorite, Caribbean arracacha, is a knobby root stem that combines the best qualities of yuca, sweet potato, parsnip, and coconut.  In the frozen foods section, she pointed out plastic bags of apricot-colored Andean peppers, cashew apples (the “fruit” of the cashew tree), a Latin favorite for juicing and tamarillos or “tree tomatoes” the star ingredient in Ecuadorian salsas.

Elotes

Elotes con Crema y Queso Plaza de San Francisco (Corn on the Cob on a Stick, Mexican Street Vendor Style)

On December 11, Maricel will join me in the next installment of Culinary Conversations, held at 103 Orchard Street. Together, we will explore the Latino culinary flowering underway in our midst. The program will also feature a cooking demo and tasting based on Gran Cocina Latina, Maricel’s new landmark cookbook.  Our event menu includes Ecuadorian Pork Sandwiches with Tamarillo Salsa, Cuban Fresh Corn Polenta with Shrimp in a Vanilla Chipotle Sauce, and Squash Bread Pudding. To purchase tickets to Maricel’s talk and tasting visit our website here.

—Posted by Jane Ziegelman