Part memoir, part Latino cookbook, To Cook is to Love (Langdon Street Press, $50) is a charming book any mother would appreciate this Mother’s Day.
I was most lured by the stories of Mami Aida, a woman who emigrated to Miami from rural 1950s Cuba.
Mami Aida is full of both cooking and life lessons that she loved to pass along: Her version of the motto “God helps those who help themselves” is a tale of three fishermen who were caught in a tempest at sea.
They prayed to the Virgin Mary to save them. She helped — but she also told them, “Row!”
The author is John Verlinden, Mami Aida’s son-in-law and former chef-owner at Boston’s sadly missed Mucho Gusto Café, which specialized in Cuban recipes made healthier.
Mucho Gusto was an outgrowth of Verlinden’s lessons on Cuban cooking from Mami Aida, and his book includes recipes both traditional and nuevo Latino.
The cookbook not only has very basic Cuban cooking — right down to how to make a café con leche — but also has Verlinden’s lighter take.
If you have a long memory, Mami Aida (Aida Luisa Gonzalez de Mondejar) had a restaurant in mid-1960s Miami, before moving to Boston, called El Paraiso.
The recipe here for stuffed avocados is from the cookbook. The traditional recipe would have called for mayonnaise rather than the yogurt, and for more hard-boiled egg.
Reader responses Top 10
I’m enjoying reading the responses to my list of 10 favorite Cook’s Corner recipes, and revisiting some of the memorable recipes.
Reader Dorothy nominated an easy and delicious chicken salad recipe, snagged from the Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale, Ariz., in 1990.
“I once made it with water chestnuts when I couldn’t find jicama,” she wrote, “but it wasn’t nearly as good. The sweetness of the jicama makes a difference.”
Pimiento cheese soufflé
Lucy Marie Houghton lost a beloved recipe for a “no-fail” soufflé made a day ahead of serving time, and turned to Cook’s Corner sleuths for help. Glenda R. of Coral Gables recognized the dish right away:
“This was my mother’s favorite Friday night supper back in the days when you didn’t eat meat then. I grew to hate it since we had it so often, but now it is one of my own favorite comfort foods. It reminds me of long ago times and of my mom.”
What made it unique was the sauce they served on the side. It was reddish-brownish in color and had the most wonderful flavor. I have tried for years to determine what kind of sauce it was so that I could attempt to duplicate it. It may have been a tangy wine sauce but I don’t know for certain. Any information is much appreciated!
Send questions and responses to LindaCiceroCooks@aol.com or Food, Miami Herald, 3511 NW 91st Ave., Doral, FL 33172. Replies cannot be guaranteed.