4th of July Celebration Time

Dear Subscribers:

I sincerely wish that you had a great and restful 4th of July weekend! The weather is hot and the time is ripe for a great story and a delicious recipe. In this issue I want to share with you an article that I wrote for a group called La Semana. For the past three years I have volunteered my time and effort to this group by designing an appropriate menu and by writing an article that conforms to the theme. La Semana (The Week) is a weeklong culture camp for children adopted from Latin America (grades 1-7) and their families, held from July 28 to August 1, 2008, at All Saints Church in Lakeville (www.LaSemana.org). This year the theme is Africa’s influence on Latin America and the article follows below.

Enjoy it and have lots of fun the rest of the summer and please let us know if you have topics of interest related to Latin food and culture that you would like covered in future issues. You may write to us through our website www.cookparty.com, go to the Contact Us page and use the inquiry section. Thank you for your continued support. Saludos, Amalia. P.S. Please visit our website, we have recently updated our gallery and upcoming calendar of events.


By Private Chef Amalia Damgaard

The influence of African cooking is evident in many Caribbean and coastal Latin American countries where inhabitants of Western African-descent live. Latin Creole Cuisine is the native cuisine of the land mixed with Spanish or Portuguese and other influences, and has its own identity. The term Creole (criollo in Spanish) has a vast meaning, and in general, it is used to describe a fusion of cultures and cuisines, namely European, Amerindian and others. In contrast, Garifuna is the African-influenced cuisine of the Caribbean coast of Central America (namely Guatemala and Honduras); and Louisiana Creole, the African-influenced cuisine of the southern region of the United States.

West African peoples came to the Americas with European traders and colonizers in the 16th -19h centuries to key areas of Latin America (Latin Caribbean, Brazil, and others) to work in the sugar and banana plantations and from there migrated to other neighboring countries to work in various other industries where hard labor was scarce and very much needed. Once in Latin America, their descendants contributed their culture and cuisine, and when mixed with the native culture, it developed into its own cultural heritage of customs and flavors.

In much of Latin America, except El Salvador, Bolivia, Paraguay, Chile and Argentina, the African influence can be felt quite vividly as in Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela and the Latin Caribbean, (Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic) where they are major contributors and influencers of the native culinary scene.

Many foods and staples, which are traditionally a part of the African diet, are also key ingredients in the Latin diet, and were introduced to Africa by European and Asian influences. Conversely, many foods entered Latin America from Africa. As with many other regions of the world, original ideas, techniques and new ingredients entered the lands (and were exchanged), and in each country they took their own shape and form and were adapted to conform to the culture and ingredient availability.

Culinary African and Latin techniques and staples that are key ingredients in many dishes, such as cassava (yucca), okra or gumbo, melons, rice, bananas, plantains, beans, yams, lentils, nuts, coconut, and exotic spice mixtures, became traditional culinary creations that vary from region to region and from country to country. Some examples are Colombian Arroz con Coco (coconut rice); Brazilian okra stew; Caribbean Tostones or Patacones (twice-fried green plantain chips); dried fish dishes and legumes.

To say the least, there are many other great cultural areas to explore regarding the African influence in Latin America (arts, music, etc.) on this article we focus our efforts on the cultural culinary aspect mostly.

About the Author
Amalia Damgaard is a native of Guatemala and a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu who owns a private chef business specializing in Latin and Spanish gourmet cuisine, history and culture, for private or business gatherings www.cookparty.com. She teaches at Cooks of Crocus Hill and has a Masters in International Business (with an emphasis on culture) from St. Louis University.

Sources: Cultugrams, Geographica, The Oxford Food Companion.


Dulce de Leche-Coconut Balls

1- 14 oz. can condensed milk
1 Mexican cinnamon stick
2 cups shredded coconut, roasted

Roast coconut in baking sheet in a 400 degree F oven for 5 minutes (watch carefully as it burns easily).

In a medium saucepan, over low heat, reduce the condensed milk (stirring from time to time) with the cinnamon stick until thick (about the consistency of soft play dough). Form balls with a half-inch diameter ice cream scoop and form balls. Roll balls on roasted coconut.

Note: reducing means to evaporate liquids slowly to thicken a substance or sauce.


JULY 2008
PLEASE NOTE: This event was originally scheduled for July 10 and is now rescheduled for August 14th, 6-9 p.m.
Summer Entertaining: Tapas y Flores ( Bachman’s on Lyndale, Greenhouse)
Join Private Chef, Amalia Damgaard, and Bachman’s Floral Specialist and Macy’s Floranova Flower Show Designer, Dan Kotecki, for festive tips on home entertaining in our fun and casual setting. Imagine the aromas and flavors of the Mediterranean invading your senses while sampling fabulous Spanish cuisine. Menu: Ensalada Sevillana (Oranges, capers, Manzanilla olives stuffed with anchovies, and butter lettuce with sherry-tarragon vinaigrette); Paella de Pollo y Mariscos (Rice, chicken and seafood with peppers, fresh herbs, garlic and olive oil, saffron, rosemary and wine); and for dessert, Coctel de Sangría (fresh fruit in sangria sauce). Cost $45. Limit 20. (Register soon, this one of a kind event will sell fast!)
Register at: this website. Go to the Contact Us page and click on the PayPal button (pay by credit card).
Bachman’s Flagship Store and Corporate Office
6010 Lyndale Ave. South, Minneapolis, MN 55419 (612) 861-7600. For map/directions, visit Bachman’s Floral, Home and Garden Center.

Monday, July 14, 2008, 6-9 p.m.
Gauchos and Malbec
If you like steak, you’ll love it Argentinean style. Grilled flavors, paired with dense and rich aromas and textures, make for a fantastic evening of relaxing and delicious fun.
Mate (tea); Oregano and onion empanadas (stuffed pastries); Pan-grilled steak with Chimichurri (parsley-garlic sauce); Papas al Horno (roasted potatoes); Ají Asado (roasted marinated peppers); Sopa de Manzanas (Apple soup). Paired with Argentinean wines (tasting flight of two wines included).
Register at: Cooks of Crocus Hill, Edina
3925 West 50th Street Edina, MN: (952) 285-1903

Wednesday, July 16, 2008, 5:30-7:30 p.m.
Summer Gathering Event/NSHMBA
The summer breeze, a hot menu, and South American live music set the stage for this NSHMBA summer event. Menu: Escabeche de Camaron; Ensalada Rusa; Arroz con Pollo; Merengue de Mango; and Refresco de frutas.
Private event at the Landmark Center, St. Paul

Sunday, August 10, 2008, 11-2 p.m.
Baptism & Celebración Al Estilo Guatemalteco
The proud parents of a beautiful baby boy celebrate the baptism of their first child in the company of friends and relatives —Guatemalan style! The menu promises a wide array of traditional dishes, sure to delight everyone.
Private Event in St. Louis Park

Thursday, August 21, 2008, 5:30-7:30 p.m.
NSHMBA at Target Networking Event
An evening to network/learn and enjoy fine Latin cuisine.
Private Event at Target Stores downtown

Sunday, August 24, 2008, 2:30 p.m.
Secrets of Guatemalan Cooking
During the annual Guatemalan Potluck Picnic (1-6 p.m.), private chef Amalia shares her culinary and cultural insights while growing up in Guatemala and demonstrates a traditional recipe.
Guatemalan Picnic at Rosedale Park Pavilion (more details to follow soon)

Monday, August 25, 2008, 6-9 p.m.
Pintxos – Tapas for a Summer’s Evening
Around 9 p.m. every evening in San Sebastian, an old town at the heart of Basque Country in northern Spain, just 20 km from the French border, locals begin the txikiteo. They stroll from bar to bar in small groups – cuadrillas – to sample tapas and drinks. Join Amalia for our take on this time-honored celebration of traditional Basque cuisine. Menu: Bacalao a la Vizcaína (salt-cod, red peppers, tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, capers and olives); Pipérade Basquaise (tomatoes, bell peppers, herbs and scrambled eggs and ham); Poulet Basque (chicken stew with tomatoes, onions, peppers and white wine); Crêpes flambées aux pommes (Calvados-flamed crepes with apples). Paired with Spanish and French wines (tasting flights of two wines included).
Register at: Cooks of Crocus Hill, Edina
3925 West 50th Street Edina, MN: (952) 285-1903