Friday, July 25, 2014


Had I been in Puerto Rico today, July 25th, I’d be celebrating the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. I probably wouldn’t be at the massive political rallies, but like many, I’d be enjoying a sunny day at a gorgeous beach, and I’d be getting browner and browner by the minute. But I’m not in PR so I’ll celebrate this day from Cleveland by having a nice drink, and I’ll share the recipe with you. This is not your ordinary drink. Mazagrán is a drink named after a city in Algeria, originally made from Brandy, coffee and lemon and brought to the Island by the Spaniards. In Puerto Rico, the plantation workers ditched the brandy and used the local rum instead. Mazagrán was a favorite thirst-quencher back in the day, but as the economy shifted away from agriculture, it was lost to the point most people today don’t even know this drink even existed. I used my ancestral knowledge (and only God knows how) to resurrect the recipe and give it a modern twist. It took me about 12 hours and a half to make this drink (FANCY!) because I brewed my own cold brew coffee, but if you buy the coffee instead it can be done in a few minutes. Of course, one may be tempted to use cold regular coffee instead, but I’m afraid that it would add bitterness and staleness to it. I’ll show you how I made the coffee first and then the drink, step by step.

First I made the cold brew coffee. It’s easy. I used a ratio of 1:8 water to coffee as suggested in this interview I read. The ratio is based on weight, so you need a scale, or you can estimate and use twice as much coffee as you’d use if you were making regular coffee. I adjusted the coffee grinder so the coffee would have the thickness (or coarseness) of sea salt.

I added the coffee to the water. The coffee oils prevented the two from mixing and formed two layers (kind of cool). I used a spoon to stir and mix them. At first there was some resistance of the spoon to actually go through the interface (super cool) but it did.

I used a mason jar, so to cover the coffee I used its lid. Then I covered the jar with a kitchen towel, and I left it brewing at room temperature for 12 hours.

Then I just used coffee filters to filter the coffee. I did it twice just to make sure I didn’t have any coffee grinds.

There you have it: cold brew coffee. It tastes like cold coffee, except it was a touch sweeter, and it didn’t have the bitter notes that regular coffee has. It can be covered, and stored in the fridge for up to a couple of weeks. Keep I mind that this is a concentrate, so most people dilute it in half (half coffee half water) when they serve it.

To make Mazagrán I used my favorite white rum, Don Q Cristal, but you can use your favorite rum. I filled a tumbler with ice and added 2 parts rum, 2 parts cold brew coffee (still concentrated), 3 parts simple syrup, and 4 parts carbonated water. I added splash or two of lemon juice, and stirred. It was really, really good and refreshing. No wonder why my ancestors would drink this while working their butts off in the tropical heat.

On the road shortcut

Nutritional info per serving (yields 1 serving):
291 calories, 43 g carbs, 0 g fat, 0 g protein

2 ounces white rum
2 ounces cold brew coffee (still concentrated)
3 ounces simple syrup
4 ounces carbonated water
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Fill a tumbler with ice. Add all the ingredients, and stir.  

Monday, July 21, 2014

Cold latte

I went on 27-mile bike ride this weekend through different neighborhoods of Cleveland. My ride took me through Shaker Square, Buckeye/Woodhill, Slavic Village, Newburgh Heights, Brooklyn and the Cleveland Zoo. As I was heading towards Ohio City, I was surprised to be in this place that seemed so familiar, yet so foreign at the same time. The streets were nicely paved, the houses and buildings were cute, but there was something distinguishing this particular neighborhood from all the other ones I’ve seen so far. As I rode my bike through those streets, I had this very strange feeling of being somewhat “unnoticed”. I was at the heart of the Puerto Rican community in Cleveland, riding through one of the nicest part of the Clark/Fulton area, and I felt I was blending with the rest of the landscape, just another brown face enjoying the Cleveland summer.

I’ve been to plenty of Puerto Rican restaurants, bars and business in Cleveland throughout the years; most of them are sprinkled through the near West Side. I’ve also been to other Puerto Rican neighborhoods, but I have only been to this particular area at night (and during the winter, and drunk) so I had not seen all the people walking, and interacting with each other, and making those blocks really feel alive. As I rode by, I was overwhelmed by the strong smell of pernil (roasted pig butt) coming out of one of the houses, and I was seriously tempted to head in and beg for some. 

As I was riding, I realized that a few days from now Puerto Rico will be celebrating one of its biggest holidays, the day we celebrate our current constitution – July 25th.  Different people of different political ideologies celebrate different events on the same day by going to massive political gatherings. Most people though, go and enjoy a day at the beach. I thought that it would be cool for me to share a couple of recipes inspired by Puerto Rico this week, to join in the celebrations through food. I’ll share the first one today, and the next one later this week. 

A day cannot start in Puerto Rico without a cup of strong coffee, and naturally, we go for a second (or third) one throughout the day. For today, I have a cold coffee drink that’s perfect for taming the summer temperatures. This cold latte brings the coffee flavor I like, with the freshness I need to deal with the summer temps. There’s two secrets to this recipe. First, there’s a touch of chocolate powder in it, to deepen the flavor without making it chocolaty. The second, is that I don’t serve it over ice; I don’t want my drink to become more and more watery as time goes on. I use a shaker or a blender bottle with as much ice as possible (otherwise your drink may get overly diluted) so I can chill my drink, and then I strain it and loose the ice. As a bonus, you’ll get the light foam that forms in the process.


On the road shortcut

Nutritional info per serving (1 serving):
164 calories, 22 g carbs, 5 g fat, 8 g protein

1 cup 2% milk
2 shots (2 oz.) espresso, freshly brewed
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon chocolate powder (not plain cacao powder)

  1. Pour the espresso over the milk. Add the sugar, and the chocolate powder. Mix gently.
  2. Fill a shaker with ice (I use a blender bottle). Add your drink and let it sit (undisturbed) for 90 seconds. Swirl your drink for 5 seconds and pour.  

Friday, July 18, 2014

Bacon wrapped goat cheese omelet

When I was a little kid we would do everything locally. We would go to our town’s supermarket, we would eat at the local dives, and if one wanted to be fancy, the fishermen’s village was right on our shore, so a quick trip could get you some of the best seafood the Caribbean had to offer. Our “downtown” area had hundreds of stores that lined up our streets, and had everything, and I mean everything, you could possibly need. Then the 90’s and early 2000’s happened. Although they’re still beautiful, those streets are mostly empty, and people relay on the region as a whole to meet their demands.

Although I have been complaining for years that I hated having to drive more than 10 minutes to get anywhere, now that I live in Cleveland I drive (and ride) all over North East Ohio to run errands, to work, and play. I’ve been to so many places for so many reasons, that I dare to say that I know the Greater Cleveland Area better than many locals do. This summer though, I’ve been spending tons of time within the actual city I live in, Cleveland Heights. Between finding a new “favorite barber” and a finding a new “favorite coffee house”, to actually spending time in our parks and eating at our restaurants I’ve stayed in the city quite often. 

In honor of staying local, I present to you my locally sourced breakfast. Now, there is no way I’m claiming that it was made from ingredients farmed in the city, but they come from within a reasonable distance. I made a baked goat cheese omelet made from local eggs, wrapped in Amish (local - I guess) bacon and topped with homegrown thyme.  Finally, I served it with a slice of rye bread from one of our local bakeries. I loved it. It’s relatively effortless to make too. It bakes in 30 minutes, and it stays hot for longer than stove-top made omelets do. I did not pre-cook the bacon because I wanted to keep the eggs wrapped, and because I like bacon this way too. I calculated the calories for this omelet (just 301 calories!!!) eating the whole slice of bacon, but I only ate the meaty parts and left the fatty parts behind. Hopefully you’ll like it.

On the road shortcut

Bacon wrapped goat cheese omelet
301 calories, 1 g carbs, 22 g fat, 24 g protein

4 jumbo eggs
2 ounces goat cheese (soft)
1 tablespoon non-fat plain Greek yogurt
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
2 slices bacon
Fresh thyme

Preheat the oven to 350F.
Mix the eggs, goat cheese, Greek yogurt, salt, pepper and dried thyme using an electric mixer until combined. You can also mix by hand if you want to.
Use a slice of bacon to grease a ramekin, then use the bacon slice to line it. Repeat the process with the second ramekin. Pour the egg mixture into the ramekin, and bake the omelet for 20- 30 minutes, until it settles.  Garnish with fresh thyme.