Thursday, October 11, 2007

In the Kitchen with Chef Daisy Martinez

Last month I was happily flipping through my copy of Everyday With Rachael Ray magazine when I happened upon a new column by Chef Daisy Martinez. My first thought was: that recipe sounds good! My second: I have to have her on the blog!

Seven years ago, Daisy's husband told her over dinner that he was sending her to the French Culinary Institute as a birthday gift. Litte did they know that she would transform from a full-time wife and mother to host her popular PBS show, Daisy Cooks!, publish a best-selling cookbook and this year pen "Mucho Gusto," a regular column in Rachael Ray's hugely successful magazine.

After Daisy agreed to a Chica Lit interview and I sent off my questions, I decided to try her recipe for cazuela baked apples; a rich dessert made of butternut squash, sweet potato and apple served in the shells of red Rome apples.

However for me, it was a harrowing lesson in proper prior preperation prevents piss-poor results. I had forgotten to buy heavy cream and then realized that I had run out of cinnamon. But I'm a Capricorn and true to my nature, I presevered. I used Chinese Five Spice and then added just a touch of cream cheese with some low fat milk. Triumph!

But then my baked Rome apples fell apart because in my zeal, I forgot to let them cool down. In the end, when I served it on a graham cracker crust, my husband pointed to it and said, "I can get seconds because this has vegetables in it, right?"

¡Que rico! We each had seconds and then the rest for lunch!

First, read the interview with Daisy and then check out the recipe!
Chica Lit: You've had a really interesting path to becoming a chef. What inspired your husband to sign you up for the French Culinary Institute (which is one of the most romantic stories I've read!)?

Daisy: My husband knew the pleasure that I gained from entertaining friends and family, and he would often see me, wistfully looking through the ads in the back of the cooking magazines. In appreciation for all the energy that I had devoted to raising my family, he wanted to reciprocate, and offered me the opportunity to be totally selfish and immerse myself in an intense culinary program at the French Culinary Institute.

Chica Lit: Were you intimidated? I ask because I've considered culinary school and with my humble cooking background, it's a bit scary!
Daisy: Intimidated? I don't think so. I was SO eager to learn the classic technique that I never gave thought to my ineptness...I was there to learn, and the faculty at the FCI always rose to that challenge, so I felt very supported.

Chica Lit: Are your kids cooking, too?

Daisy: All of my children cook. I am the very proud mother of four incredibly fantastic kids, which range in age from 25-12 years old. They can all carry their weight in the kitchen, which has made the boys very popular on campus!

Chica Lit: How did you meet Rachael Ray and what is it like to work with her?

Daisy: I met Rachael at a New York Times event which was hosted by Amander Hesser, and which featured Rachael, Dave Leiberman and myself, on a panel discussing food and the direction it's going. One would think that all that energy would be too much for one room, but Rachael and I share a very similar sense of humor, so it worked really well together. We stayed in close touch and became fast friends very quickly. It is always fun to work with Rachael because of her thirst to learn about Latino ingredients and cooking.

Chica Lit: What misconceptions about Latin cooking do you want to dispell?

Daisy: Latin food is NOT Tex-Mex, as great as Tex- Mex is! There is incredible diversity within the cuisine of any Latin country (think Spain, Mexico, Chile, Peru, etc), not to mention the diversity with the Caribbean, Atlantic South America, Pacific South America, Andean South America, Incan South America, Spain, etc. We are an exercise in diversity, passion, flavor, heat, and spice!

Chica Lit: My great grandma was the cook in my family and unfortunately, many of her recipes were lost to us because she refused to share her secrets! Do you share all of your family recipes or are there some that you keep for sentimental reasons?

Daisy: YES!! I share my secrets, because this is the inheritance and legacy I leave to my children. I am a firm believer in the "you don't know where you're going if you don't know where you came from school". When I teach my recipe, you can be sure that they are completely and genuinely reproducible...what kind of a teacher would I be, if they weren't?

To read Daisy's column, check out Mucho Gusto.
To learn more about Daisy, her show and her book, please visit her website.

Or heck, order Daisy Cooks!

Thanks Daisy!


sonia said...

Mary, I've been fantasizing about going to cooking school too!! I mean, if athletes can become journalits and actors can become presidents...why can't I be an author and chef? Bam!

Mary Castillo said...

Sonia, you would be a great chef. Hey wait a second, we could be like the hot tamales! But better and probably crazier.


LizScorpio31 said...

Hi Mary,

I have been missing Daisy! I'm so happy she's back on the scene. I trooped to 3 bookstores looking for her book when it came out. She's so worth it.

Mary Castillo said...

Hi Liz:

You reminded me to put some links up so folks can get her book! I know I'll be out to get a copy for my kitchen.


sonia said...

Mary, we could be the hot tamales with a side of curry. We'd definitely be better and crazier! Ooh, don't forget better-looking! And wittier! And really much better-looking!

Mary Castillo said...

And don't forget, Sonia, we're more ethnic! Think of the fun marketing and advertisers would have ... Bend It Like La Vida Loca! Bride and Jalapeno! Tequila and Curry!

ANd then we could make stuff like mac and cheese.


sonia said...

Bride and Jalapeno, Bend it like La Vida Loca! Love it!!! We'll bring in the mariachis and the sitar players and then roll up our sleeves to whip up mac & cheese, meatloaf, and apple pie. You're brilliant, Mary! I'm sensing a high-concept here...