Q&A: Spanish/Mexican/Cuban Food with "Nathan's Cocina"
We are really excited to have a chat with Nathan Gutierrez from “La Cocina de Nathan: Cuban, Spanish, Mexican Cooking & More”. We love this blog! Nathan has GREAT recipes that our moms used to make growing up, and he talks about how the food fits into his own family in his blog, as well as walking readers through his recipes. Nathan shares some cooking tips with us here in our interview. Check out Nathan's blog for more! That's his caldo here in the pic to the right.
Q. Nathan tell us about your food writing and why you started your blog.
Well I started getting interested in cooking when I was about 16. It happened right around when my grandma moved away - she's from the Cuban side of the family. I missed her cooking so my mom who is Mexican, started teaching me about the food that my grandma used to make. After that, I started learning about food from family and friends. Then it became a hobby for me. Back when MySpace was really popular, I started joining food groups and just talking about cooking and food online. From there - somebody encouraged me to start a blog!
I started NathansComida.blogspot.com in 2008, and it became a way for me to share my culture from a culinary perspective and also just share with other Mexican Americans who share my heritage. I notice many times recipes get lost with mothers and grandmothers, and my blog is here to document these recipes and share them with everybody! I’ve always blogged for myself, blogging and talking about food was always just for me – for archive purposes…then I started getting traffic.
So that’s the main purpose of my blog. I talk about my home and what I’ve learned about life and food from my family.
Q. What types of food does your blog focus on?
My blog specializes on food that usually relates to my mixed Hispanic heritage of Cuban/Mexican/Spanish, but every now and then my blog will include foods of other cultures such as Salvadoran or Filipino food for example. The focus of my blog is always family and friends, and how these relationships relate to food from their cultures. So the recipes I share are really inspired by my friends and family and what they cook. So for example, if I do something Asian – it would be inspired by my Asian friends. My friends love my cooking – they come over – and I always ask if they’re hungry.
Q. What kinds of foods do you prefer to cook? Desserts? Appetizers? Main dishes?
I’m more into cooking savory main dishes, to tell you the truth…I’m not the best baker. I do cook the normal Hispanic style desserts like flan etc. But the more sophisticated desserts? Yeah, I’ll buy those for dessert!
Q. How have you collected your recipes? I mean – how do you know what to cook?
Well, almost all my Mexican recipes have come from my mother and my mother and her church friends. Yes, really! My mom will have her girlfriends over – they gossip – I snoop around in the kitchen, and then just ask “what are you going to do in here?”…and before long we’re cooking something! My mom loves to cook – she’s a total foodie. She watches the Food Network all the time. My mom’s always like – “Hey Nathan, let’s cook this!”, she's very food oriented.
The Cuban recipes on my blog come from my grandma. My grandmother taught my mother a lot about cooking. My mom came to the U.S. when she was 17 from Zacapu, Michoacan Mexico and so she kept a lot of her culture. Also, her family is originally from Guadalajara, Jalisco Mexico.
Q. What are some of the comments you get on your blog?
When people comment, they usually say things like “thanks for sharing this recipes cause my mom used to make it and I didn’t know how to make it”. Or “my grandma passed away – and she used to make this dish and I didn’t know how to make it”. Or sometimes I’ll hear from someone who married into a Mexican family and they say “hey I want to impress my in-laws”.
Q. Great, so please give us some cooking tips!
Ok, I love to talk about food! So when it comes to Cuban/Spanish food – it’s really important to be patient when you are cooking the aromatics. So for the sofrito, use medium high heat – let the base be really well cooked. The sofrito is the holy trinity of Cuban cooking: the garlic, onions, bell peppers. Don’t rush it, and cook fast.
Also, would say when you are browning meat – say for a stew. It’s very important not just to brown the meat – but also to let it caramelize a little bit. These are the building blocks for when you start putting your dish together .
Improperly salting food – that’s a big one – don’t add too much salt! So how do you know how much salt to add? Well I think you start by adding a teaspoon of salt, then see how your dish tastes. Then after that you should slowly add just pinches of salt after that. It’s really about the taste – how much do you want in it? You know by tasting, if a food is too salty, or if it’s too bland. So always sample as you cook!
Lastly – with cooking – the most important thing is to be patient, don’t be afraid to experiment.
Hispanic.com: Thanks Nathan!
Nathan Gutierrez’s Food blog can be found at NathansComida.blogspot.com