A Sassy Latin-Themed Meal

If you're looking to spice up your family dinner, this Chef on a Shoestring is for you. Daisy Martinez, host of "Daisy Cooks!" on public television and author of a cookbook with the same name, visited The Saturday Early Show to prepare a three-course meal for four on a budget of $40.

Martinez, who describes her Latin-inspired food as "a party on a plate," was born to Puerto Rican parents in Brooklyn, N.Y. She grew up learning to cook from her mother and grandmother. But before she embarked on a culinary career, she was a model and actress. She appeared in American commercials for Ford cars and Newport cigarettes, and Spanish-language commercials for McDonalds and AT&T. She also appeared in such movies as "Carlito's Way" and "Scent of a Woman."

As a gift for her 40th birthday, her husband gave her cooking lessons at the French Culinary Institute. After graduation, she began work as a prep-kitchen chef on "Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen" TV series. Lidia's producer soon decided that Daisy would be a fabulous TV personality herself.

It wasn't long before she launched her own TV show on PBS and published her first cookbook.

She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and four kids, and also runs a catering company called The Passionate Palate.

Here is her menu for Chef on a Shoestring:

Cuban Black Bean Soup
Garlic-Rubbed Roast Chicken with Yellow Rice
Mexican Flan

FOOD FACTS

Sofrito: This is a condiment composed of a variety of peppers, onions, tomatoes and herbs. Daisy adds this to many, many dishes that she prepares, and she swears that once you prepare it, you'll do the same! Sofrito can be kept in the fridge for three days, and can also be frozen.

Cubanelle Peppers: An ingredient in the sofrito, cubanelles are a thin-fleshed, sweet pepper. They are longer and narrower than bell peppers and similar in shape to Italian frying peppers. They have a sweet, herbal flavor and come in shades of light green and yellow.

Ajices Dulces: Also known as cachuha or ajicitos, these tiny sweet peppers have just a hint of heat. If you can't find these in your market, you can simply add more cilantro and a pinch of cayenne pepper to your sofrito.

Culantro: This is an option ingredient in the Sofrito. Daisy says it's like cilantro times ten.

Alcaparrado: A mixture of olives, pimientos and capers, used in the black bean soup and the yellow rice. If you can't find it, substitute coarsely chopped olives stuffed with pimientos.

Flan: A baked custard coated with caramel.

RECIPES

CUBAN BLACK BEAN SOUP

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Ingredients:
1 recipe black beans (below)
Two 14-1/2-ounce cans chicken broth
1/2 cup Sofrito (recipe below)
1/2 cup canned Spanish-style tomato sauce
3 tablespoons alcaparrado or chopped pimiento-stuffed olives
1 tablespoon fine sea or kosher salt
Healthy dose freshly ground black pepper

Any or all of the following "toppings" to serve with the soup:
Cooked white rice
Chopped red or white onion
Chopped cilantro
One-quarter of a Scotch bonnet or jalapeno pepper, optional
Sour cream
Olive oil
Spicy Pineapple Vinegar, optional
Make the black beans.

Method:
  1. Stir the chicken broth, sofrito, tomato sauce, alcaparrado or olives, salt, pepper, and chili pepper into the black beans. Bring everything to a boil over medium-high heat.
  2. Skim off any foam that rises to the surface. Continue boiling until the soup is nice and thick, with just enough liquid to cover the beans. Pull the pot off the heat and let it sit 5 to 10 minutes so the beans soak up a little more of the liquid.
  3. Serve hot, ladled into warm bowls.
BLACK BEANS
Makes about 4 cups

Ingredients:
1 pound black beans
1 smoked ham hock
2 bay leaves

Method:
  1. Place the beans and ham hock in a medium saucepan and pour in enough water to cover them by 2 inches. Toss in the bay leaves and bring the water to a boil, then adjust the heat so the water is boiling gently. Cook the beans, skimming off any foam that rises to the top, until tender, about 2 hours. Keep an eye on the beans; they should always be covered by liquid. When the liquid meets the level of the beans, add 1/2 inch or so of cold water.
  2. Toward the end of cooking, ease up on the liquid you add. The goal is to have the beans barely covered with liquid by the time they are tender.
SOFRITO
Makes about 4 cups

Ingredients:
2 medium Spanish onions, cut into large chunks
3 to 4 Italian frying peppers or cubanelle peppers
16 to 20 cloves garlic, peeled
1 large bunch cilantro, washed
7 to 10 ajices dulces (see note below), optional
4 leaves of culantro (see note below), or another handful cilantro
3 to 4 ripe plum tomatoes, cored and cut into chunks
1 large red bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into large chunks

Method:
  1. Chop the onion and cubanelle or Italian peppers in the work bowl of a food processor until coarsely chopped. With the motor running, add the remaining ingredients one at a time and process until smooth.
  2. The sofrito will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. It also freezes beautifully.
ROAST CHICKEN WITH GARLIC RUB

Ingredients:

One 5-pound chicken, washed and patted dry inside and out
Wet Adobo (recipe follows)

Method:
  1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.
  2. Loosen the skin covering the chicken breast by working your fingers gently in between the meat and the skin that covers the breasts. Do the same to as much of the legs and thighs as you can without breaking the skin. Flip the chicken over and repeat on the chicken's back. Using a teaspoon, rub the adobo under the skin all over the chicken, and inside the chicken cavity.
  3. Truss the chicken with kitchen twine (see below) and set on a rack in a roasting pan. Roast 30 minutes. Lower the heat to 400 degrees F, and continue to roast until the juices from the thickest part of the thigh near the bone run clear, about 45 minutes. Alternately, roast until an instant reading thermometer registers 165 degrees F when inserted into the joint where the thigh meets the backbone. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.
TO TRUSS A CHICKEN

Daisy trusses chickens to make them nice and plump-looking when they come from the oven. It doesn't really affect the way they cook. Keep the twine taut throughout the trussing process.
  1. Cut a five-foot length of kitchen twine.
  2. Set the chicken on the work surface breast side up.
  3. Drape the center of the piece of twine over the end of the neck that protrudes from the cavity, then bring it underneath the joint that connects the wing to the breast.
  4. Run each end of the twine into the creases of the legs, then cross the chicken's ankles and loop the twine around them.
  5. Pull gently to secure the legs in place. Tie a single knot, then bring the twine back through the leg creases toward the breast.
  6. Wrap the twine around the wing tip joint and flip the chicken over.
  7. Tie a knot over the backbone and snip off any excess twine.
WET RUB FOR MEATS AND POULTRY

ADOBO MOJADO

Ingredients:

12 cloves garlic, peeled
1 1/2 tablespoons fine sea or kosher salt
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Method:
Pound the garlic cloves and salt to a paste using a mortar and pestle. Add the peppercorns and oregano, pounding well after each to incorporate them into the paste. Stir in the olive oil and vinegar.

Note: Wet adobo will keep 5 to 6 days in the refrigerator, which gives you a chance to try it on anything you like from fish fillets and pork chops to turkey cutlets and steaks.

YELLOW RICE

Ingredients:

1/2 cup Achiote Oil (recipe follows)
1/2 cup Sofrito
1/2 cup alcaparrado or coarsely chopped pimiento-stuffed olives
2 to 3 tablespoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
3 cups long grain white rice
Chicken broth, homemade or canned as needed (about 4 cups)

Method:
  1. Heat the achiote oil in a heavy 4- to 5-quart pot with a tight-fitting lid over medium heat. Stir in the sofrito and cook until most of the water is evaporated. Add the alcaparrado or olives, salt, cumin, pepper, and bay leaves, stirring to combine. When the mixture is bubbling, add the rice, stirring to coat and to fix the color to the rice. Pour in enough chicken broth to cover the rice by the width of two fingers. Bring to a boil and boil until the broth reaches the level of the rice.
  2. Stir the rice once, reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for 20 minutes, without opening the pot or stirring.
  3. Gently fluff the rice up by scooping the rice from the bottom to the top. Serve hot.
ACHIOTE OIL
Makes about 1 cup

Ingredients:
1 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons achiote (annatto) seeds

Method:
  1. Heat the oil and annatto seeds in a small skillet over medium heat just until the seeds give off a lively, steady sizzle. Don't overheat the mixture or the seeds will turn black and the oil a nasty green.
  2. Once they're sizzling away, pull the pan from the heat and let stand until the sizzling stops.
  3. Strain as much of the oil as you are going to use right away into the pan; store the rest for up to 4 days at room temperature in a jar with a tight-fitting lid.
MEXICAN FLAN
Makes 8 "Daisy servings" or 12 regular servings

Ingredients:
1 cup sugar
One 12-ounce can evaporated milk
One 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
3/4 cup milk
3 large eggs
3 yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup Nestle's Media Crema or sour cream

Method:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Make the caramel: Have ready a 9.5-inch-deep dish pie plate and a pair of potholders or oven mitts. Pour the sugar into a small, heavy saucepan. Set it over medium-low heat until the sugar starts to liquefy and form clumps. Stir slowly and constantly; the sugar will eventually liquefy completely, then begin to color. Pay careful attention to the caramel at this point; once it starts to color it will darken quickly. Pull the pan from the heat when the caramel is the color of a bright, shiny penny. Scrape all the caramel into the pan, put on the mitts and grab the pie plate firmly. Carefully but quickly rotate the pan so the bottom and halfway up the sides of the plate are coated with caramel. Set the prepared pan into a shallow roasting pan.
  3. Bring a tea kettle of water to a boil. Meanwhile, combine the evaporated milk, condensed milk, milk, eggs, yolks, and vanilla in a blender jar. Blend on very low speed just until the eggs are blended, a few seconds. Add the crema Mexicana or sour cream and blend a few seconds until smooth. Let stand for a minute then scoop off any foam that rises to the surface.
  4. Pull out the oven rack and set the roasting pan with the caramel-lined pie plate on the shelf. Pour the custard mix into the plate. Pour enough water from the tea kettle into the roasting pan to come halfway up the side of the plate. Bake until the center of the flan is set, about 35 minutes.
  5. Remove from the oven and cool to room temperature in the water bath. Refrigerate until completely chilled, at least 2 hours or up to 1 day.
  6. To serve, center a large plate over the flan and, with one quick flip invert the flan over the plate. Give it a few seconds; the flan will slip right out of the mold and onto the plate. Scrape any caramel left in the mold over the flan. Serve chilled.
  • Ellen Crean

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