Thursday, October 31, 2013

#FridayReads: Guillermo del Toro's Cabinet of Curiosities

If you want to see me squeak and squeal, geek out and get flustered and/or start hyperventilating, talk to me about the Guillermo del Toro Cabinet of Curiosities: My Notebooks, Collections, and Other Obsessions
by Guillermo Del Toro, Marc Zicree. It's funny back in early 2012, I wrote about how awesome it would be to be able to take a peek at what inspired Del Toro and apparently the internet gods answered.

I think this would make an excellent gift and if you're really fancy, there's a limited edition that retails for half a grand, no joke:

Over the last two decades, writer-director Guillermo del Toro has mapped out a territory in the popular imagination that is uniquely his own, astonishing audiences with Cronos, Hellboy, Pan's Labyrinth, and a host of other films and creative endeavors. Now, for the first time, del Toro reveals the inspirations behind his signature artistic motifs, sharing the contents of his personal notebooks, collections, and other obsessions. 

An intimate look into one of the most imaginative minds of this century, Guillermo del Toro's Cabinet of Curiosities reproduces the notes, the drawings, the untold creatures, and ideas of things to come that fill del Toro's fabled illustrated notebooks


This book will be a visual treasure trove for del Toro fans, as readers get a look at reproductions of his actual journal pages, filled with his handwriting, illustrations, notes in Spanish and English, as well as new annotations that add context and clarity.

The result is a startling, intimate glimpse into the life and mind of one of the world's most creative visionaries. Complete with running commentary, interview text, and annotations that contextualize the ample visual material, this deluxe compendium is every bit as inspired as del Toro is himself.

Contains a foreword by James Cameron, an afterword by Tom Cruise, and contributions from other luminaries, including Neil Gaiman and John Landis, among others.

This book includes diary entries and illustrations for the following del Toro movies, both green lit and not: 
  • Cronos
  • At the Mountains of Madness (as yet unmade)
  • The Count of Monte Cristo
  • Mephisto’s Bridge
  • Mimic
  • The Devil’s Backbone
  • Don’t be Afraid of the Dark
  • Blade 2
  • Hellboy
  • Pan’s Labryrinth
  • Hellboy 2
  • Pacific Rim

Born in Guadalajara, Mexico, Guillermo del Toro is the director of the films Cronos, Mimic, The Devil's Backbone, Blade II, Hellboy I, Hellboy II, and Pan's Labyrinth, which garnered enormous critical praise worldwide and won three Academy Awards.

Marc Scott Zicree has created classic episodes of "Star Trek-The Next Generation," "Deep Space Nine," "Babylon Five," "Sliders" and many more. He has appeared as a media expert on hundreds of radio and TV shows and is the author of the bestselling Twilight Zone Companion. He lives in West Hollywood with his wonderful wife, vile little dog, and affable big dog.

Friday, October 25, 2013

#FridayReads: Pig's Foot By Carlos Acosta

Cuba
(Photo: @Doug88888)
Pig's Foot: Oscar Mandinga, great-grandchild of the founders of a small hamlet of wooden shacks and red earth deep in the Cuban hinterland, is a sardonic teller of tales - some taller than others - of slavery, revolution, family secrets, love and identity, spanning four generations. One day Oscar Mandinga wakes to find himself utterly alone in the world. 

As the sole descendant of his family line he is not sure what to do or where he should go, but in the midst of this uncertainty, he holds fast to what his grandfather always told him: 'No man knows who he is until he knows his past, the history of his country.' 

As Oscar sets out to find his ancestral village of Pata de Puerco and the meaning of the magical pig's-foot amulet he has inherited, the search for his country's hidden history becomes entangled with his search for the truth about himself. 

Ambitious in scope, yet intimate in tone, rippling with vitality and driven by passion, full of dark comedy, magical history and startling revelations, Pig's Foot is a dazzling evocation of Cuba's tumultuous history. It is a spellbinding accomplishment.

Carlos Acosta was born in Havana in 1973 and trained at the National Ballet School of Cuba. He has been a principal at the English National Ballet, the Houston Ballet, the American Ballet Theater and the Royal Ballet, and has danced as a guest artist all over the world, winning numerous international awards. He is the author of the autobiography No Way Home. Visit www.carlosacosta.com

Saturday, October 19, 2013

How to Make your own Flavored Achiote Oil

Recently, I received a bottle of Olive Oil from Iberia. Iberia, is a manufacturer of packaged foods, specializing in Latin cuisine. Iberia offers a wide variety of food & beverage products (EVOO, olives, rice, beans) to specialty ‘foodie’ products (aioli, blended oils, paella packets) … the list goes on.

It is a such a pretty bottle design and packaging that I didn't want to just put it away in a cabinet. I instantly thought of the achiote oil that both my mom and my sister, although my sister more so always uses to make her food look and taste amazing. Achiote oil is commonly used in Puerto Rican cuisine and gives food a sweet but nutty peppery taste.

Historically it has been valued for its coloring properties and used for body paint and even a predecessor to lipstick. It's been also been used as traditional folk medicine and in addition to being high in antioxidants and  tocotrienols (belied to prevent cancer), it has antimicrobial properties. Of course, we all know that comsuming good quality olive oil on a daily basis, more commonly known as the Mediterranean diet has been shown to cut the risk of heart attacks and strokes by 30 percent.

DIY Achiote Oil

Chef Daisy Martinez has a pretty simple recipe here. You just heat up some achiote seeds (also referred to as annatto seeds) in the olive oil, watch carefully until the start to fizzle and then remove, cool and store. Your oil will turn an amazing reddish color and you can use it to make your rice yellow and your empanadas a golden brown.

Credit: Girliechef.com
My mom always uses a bit in her pasteles and her food is amazing. Rub a little of this on any meat you roast and it will come out looking Martha Stewart-worthy. Let me know what you think of it or if you use it.

Here's a fun video from Chef Don Davis walking you through Iberia products.


Friday, October 18, 2013

#FridayReads: At Night We Walk in Circles: A Novel by Daniel Alarcon

Out at the end of the month:


At Night We Walk in Circles: A Novel by Daniel Alarcon  is described as a breakout book from a prizewinning young writer: a breathtaking, suspenseful story of one man’s obsessive search to find the truth of another man’s downfall:

Nelson’s life is not turning out the way he hoped. His girlfriend is sleeping with another man, his brother has left their South American country, leaving Nelson to care for their widowed mother, and his acting career can’t seem to get off the ground. That is, until he lands a starring role in a touring revival of The Idiot President, a legendary play by Nelson’s hero, Henry Nunez, leader of the storied guerrilla theater troupe Diciembre. And that’s when the real trouble begins.

The tour takes Nelson out of the shelter of the city and across a landscape he’s never seen, which still bears the scars of the civil war. With each performance, Nelson grows closer to his fellow actors, becoming hopelessly entangled in their complicated lives, until, during one memorable performance, a long-buried betrayal surfaces to force the troupe into chaos.


Nelson’s fate is slowly revealed through the investigation of the narrator, a young man obsessed with Nelson’s story—and perhaps closer to it than he lets on. In sharp, vivid, and beautiful prose, Alarcón delivers a compulsively readable narrative and a provocative meditation on fate, identity, and the large consequences that can result from even our smallest choices.


English: Writer Daniel Alarcón at the Mercanti...
 (Photo: Wikipedia)
Daniel Alarcón is author of the critically-acclaimed story collection War by Candlelight, and the novel Lost City Radio, winner of the 2009 International Literature Prize. His writing has appeared in Granta, n+1, and Harper’s, and he has been named one of The New Yorker’s “20 Under 40.” Alarcón is Executive Producer of Radio Ambulante, a Spanish-language storytelling podcast, and he lives in San Francisco

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Mami's Beef Stew (A Tale of Puerto Rican Carne Guisada & Yearning)

I've been working on restoring my blogroll, an index of all my favorite sites and blogs, happily rejoicing at the tenacity of some which I've been following for years and others whom I had thought had stopped.

Lately, I am uncertain if it's the autumnal change or what, but I've been feeling melancholic and craving time with my mother and siblings. Longing for simpler times when life was less hectic and perhaps, I am romancing the stone a bit but I've been missing times when I worried less and enjoyed more freely.

Sometimes I yearn for dishes that I can only taste in my memories, made by my Mother's hand and therefore, unreplicable. Dishes like Gazpacho de Bacalao with a loaf of fresh Italian baked bread, or Patitas de Cerdo con Garbanzos, or Gandinga, that cannot be ordered from a restaurant or entrusted to just anyone.

The other day, searching for a Carne Guisada (Puerto Rican Beef Stew) recipe that seemed similar to my Mom's, I came across an old blog favorite, Platanos, Mangoes and Me. Norma dedicates the post to her mom and you can clearly feel the love and loss in this post. It's interesting how a food or an olfactory sensation can trigger such powerful memories and feelings.

I started making the recipe and from the instant I started seasoning the cubed meat to let it marinate, I was taken back to my mom's kitchen, sights and sounds.

Instantly, I was sitting on the counter in our old tenement, East Harlem apartment kitchen, legs so short, they dangled off the counter, watching my mom, carefully adding, tasting and stirring - Every once in a while, giving me a taste or having me help with a small task. That's how I learned to cook, watching my mom, make ordinary things into spectacular dishes that often spellbound even our neighbors. My mom's cooking was and still is legendary.

I called her up to ask if it was okay to substitute sweet potato instead of potatoes or yautia and had a good chuckle when she told me, "no way." I happily trekked off to the supermarket wound the corner and came back to work on my stew. Once I browned the meat, I threw the rest of the ingredients in and just left the frozen peas and carrots out till the end. I simmered it for 3 hours all the time, captivated by the smell wafting through the house. It was like I had conjured, literally conjured my mom's spirit and brought her to me.

When my boyfriend came home, he was elated the minute he walked through the door and exclaimed how good it smelled. I felt my heart swell because I, too, remember vividly, coming in from the cold walk back from school and being engulfed by the lovely, decadent smell of my Mami's cooking.

The stew which I served with steamed multi-grain rice was delicious, according to my boyfriend and official taste tester, who went back for seconds. I thought so too.

Here's the recipe I used and a photo below.


Friday, October 11, 2013

#FridayReads: Hunting Season: Immigration and Murder in an All-American Town By Mirta Ojito

Library Reads describes Hunting Season: Immigration and Murder in an All-American Town By Mirta Ojito, as a book which, "chronicles the events leading up to the 2008 murder of an undocumented Ecuadorian immigrant on Long Island, detailing the reactions of family and community members, government officials, civic leaders and public library staff. A nuanced and in-depth look at hate crimes, and a powerful story that deserves to be told.”

The true story of an immigrant's murder that turned a quaint village on the Long Island shore into ground zero in the war on immigration 

In November 2008, Marcelo Lucero, a thirty-seven-year-old undocumented Ecuadorean immigrant, was attacked and murdered by a group of teenagers as he walked the streets of the Long Island village of Patchogue accompanied by a childhood friend. The attackers were out “hunting for beaners.” Chasing, harassing, and assaulting defenseless “beaners”—their slur for Latinos—was part of their weekly entertainment, some of the teenagers later confessed. Latinos—primarily men and not all of them immigrants—have become the target of hate crimes in recent years as the nation wrestles with swelling numbers of undocumented immigrants, the suburbs become the newcomers’ first destination, and public figures advance their careers by spewing anti-immigration rhetoric. 

Lucero, an unassuming worker at a dry cleaner’s, became yet another victim of anti-immigration fever. In the wake of his death, Patchogue was catapulted into the national limelight as this formerly unremarkable suburb of New York became ground zero in the war on immigration. In death, Lucero became a symbol of everything that was wrong with our broken immigration system: fewer opportunities to obtain visas to travel to the United States, porous borders, a growing dependency on cheap labor, and the rise of bigotry. 

Drawing on firsthand interviews and on-the-ground reporting, journalist Mirta Ojito has crafted an unflinching portrait of one community struggling to reconcile the hate and fear underlying the idyllic veneer of their all-American town. With a strong commitment to telling all sides of the story, Ojito unravels the engrossing narrative with objectivity and insight, providing an invaluable look at one of America’s most pressing issues. 

Mirta "Ojito has received several awards, including the American Society of Newspaper Editor's writing award for best foreign reporting in 1999 for her stories about life in Cuba, and a shared Pulitzer for national reporting in 2001 for a New York Times series about race in America. She is a graduate of Florida Atlantic University and of the mid-career master's degree program at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, where she now works as a full time assistant professor. You can tweet her @MirtaOjito

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