You will find a wonderful selection of summer recipes in Fiesta Forever, a 26-page article on Maricel Presilla’s cooking in the June 09 issue of Gourmet magazine. You can also pre-order Maricel Presilla’s new cookbook Gran Cocina Latina (WW. Norton, October 2012) in the Amazon.com Store
Tropical Tubers – Warming up with sunny starches
by Carol Kotkin, The Wine News Magazine – 2006
Maricel Presilla, chef-owner of Zafra and Cucharamama restaurants in Hoboken, New Jersey, has also helped these inherently Latin American ingredients [tubers] become more visible in the fine-dining arena.
“I love all these roots and tubers. They are the mainstay of my cooking because I can prepare them myriad ways,” she says. “Because of their extremely high starch content, they cook up to crisp perfection when deep-fried. But they can [also] be boiled, sautéed, baked or roasted. They can be mashed or puréed, or added to soup as a thickener.”
Although they are often compared to potatoes, tropical tubers “have much more flavor, more starchy sweetness than potatoes, and they also have a bit of bitterness. The nuances of earthy, nutty flavors and the mouth-feel are also different,” notes Presilla, a Cuba native who has traveled from Mexico to Argentina collecting recipes from contemporary chefs and historical archives. One of her signature preparations is a pancake made with grated tropical roots, sofrito (a basic seasoning mixture comprising tomato, green pepper and onion cooked in oil and flavored with annatto and cilantro), bits of truffle and bacon, which she pairs with “a lush Catena Alta Chardonnay.”
She continues, “My favorite is the true yam, probably because my father grew them in his backyard in Cuba. He and Aunt Juanita would compete with each other to see who could grow the largest. Grown on compost, some were as huge as a man’s leg. We would peel and boil them and serve them with a simple mojo sauce,” she recalls.