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As the global coronavirus pandemic keeps many still at home, you might be finding yourself cooking more than ever. Maybe you’re venturing into new recipes and ingredients or maybe you attempted the popular effort of baking bread that ultimately resulted in shortages of flour and yeast. As Hispanic Heritage Month is upon us, running from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, you may want to try cooking more Dominican, Mexican or Latin American fusion dishes, too — there are certain tools that could make your culinary journey easier and delicious.
We consulted three Latino cookbook authors on what equipment you should add to your shelves if you’re looking to make more traditional Latino dishes regularly. Sandra Gutierrez wrote the cookbook “Empanadas: The Hand-Held Pies of Latin America,” which dives into one of the biggest staples of Latino cooking around the world: the empanada. To Gutierrez, the most important kitchen appliance is the blender. “A blender is the answer to making silky sauces with dried or fresh chiles, buttery chimichurri, lump-free batter for the perfect canelones, creamy sopas, and velvety flanes,” she said.
Laura Fuentes, author of “The Taco Tuesday Cookbook : 52 Tasty Taco Recipes to Make Every Week the Best Ever,” knows most Latino families grew up watching Abuela spend hours in the kitchen preparing traditional recipes. Although Fuentes appreciates this process, she also acknowledged that modern home cooks in the U.S. may not have the same time to dedicate to these dishes. “We all love our Abuela’s cooking but what we don’t have is the time to make our beloved carnitas and barbacoa meats, por ejemplo,” she explained.
Clara Gonzalez, author of “Aunt Clara’s Dominican Christmas Cookbook,” has made a name for herself in the food blogging world as Aunt Clara, a helpful online guide to Dominican cooking. Her ecookbook leads readers through Dominican holiday dishes like picaderas, pasteles en hoja and desserts like empanaditas dulces. Gonzalez stresses that cooking an elaborate meal does not have to be as cumbersome as it appears if home cooks have the right tools.
Best products for making Latin food
To help guide your shopping, we compiled kitchen products and cookware products alongside theseLatino cookbook authors’ recommendations. Hopefully, these help get you started on your Latin American cooking journey.
To Gutierrez, the most important kitchen appliance is the blender. “A blender is the answer to making silky sauces with dried or fresh chiles, buttery chimichurri, lump-free batter for the perfect canelones, creamy sopas, and velvety flanes,” she said. Gutierrez has owned an Oster blender for nearly 30 years and stresses that you can’t underestimate the importance of a good blender. The Oster Pro 1200 Watt Blender features seven speeds and uses Dual Direction Blade technology, with a three-and-a-half-inch-wide blade. This blade system is meant to chop and grind with precision, as well as allow ingredients to flow down easier for faster and smoother results. It runs on 1,200 watts of power and 900 watts for crushing ice, and can hold up to 24 ounces of liquid.
Another (pricier) alternative Gutierrez recommends is a Vitamix blender. “Vitamix blenders are a dream to use,” she said. “They have fast motors that can turn cooked beans to a smooth paste in no time, or purée an entire bunch of cilantro into a creamy sauce without leaving a single leaf intact." Vitamix E310 Explorian Blender comes with ten variable speeds, including a pulse feature ideal for pureés and heartier recipes. The blender is powered by a high-performance motor to handle tough ingredients. It has a 48-ounce container and can clean itself in 30 to 60 seconds.
Fuentes has set out to help families create simple Mexican meals that are quick enough to be served on weeknights. That is why she recommends adding a slow cooker to your kitchen. Crock-Pot’s 8 Quart Digital Slow Cooker can prepare food for up to ten people and is ideal for large families or entertaining guests. It has a digital timer that counts cooking time, up to 20 hours, and automatically shifts to a keep-warm feature when cooking is complete. The stoneware pot and lid are dishwasher-safe for easy clean-up.
Gonzalez’s biggest recommendation for home cooks is an air fryer. “I don't mind fried food at all, but I hate the mess, and I have been adapting recipes for the air fryer ever since I got mine,” Gonzalez explained. She finds an air fryer eases cooking the various fried foods that are a part of Latin cuisine. “Air frying makes cleaning so much easier. I also don't have to stay stove-side babysitting my frituras,” Gonzalez said. Ninja’s Digital Air Fryer allows you to fry food with up to 75 percent less fat than traditional frying methods. It runs on 1,550 watts of power for efficient performance and has a wide temperature range from 105 degrees to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. The air fryer also includes a dehydrate function so you can create chip-like homemade snacks. The basket, crisper plate and multi-layer rack are all dishwasher safe.
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