We celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month by digging into wonderful cuisine and the positive influences towards an enriched society.
We all live on the same planet and are more alike than different. And few things bind us together more than food. We may have cultural differences, but cuisine makes for easy bridges. When we share our love on a plate, we have conversations and open up to each other a little more. Cuisine makes us appreciate diversity and celebrate yumminess.
To honor the rich culture and heritage of people from Spain, Mexico, Caribbean, Central and South America, Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 is celebrated as National Hispanic Heritage Month. In our world, we appreciate the innumerable contributions from amazing folks from these countries working in the software industry. And we dig into what fills our bellies—sampling the enormous richness of Hispanic/Latino cuisine and pointers to some inspirational recipes. We're living through a global pandemic—a local restaurant business would love to serve or you could try making them at home. Bottom line, share the love!
Empanadas are simply pastry shells that can be filled with variety of fillings, such as meat, cheese or vegetables. The stuffing can be anything of choice and essentially, the dough is folded over the stuffing while closing the edges in traditional style. Empanadas are usually deep fried for the classic crispy flaky exterior with soft inside. Empanadas had their origins from countries like Argentina, Chile and Spain, and are now popular appetizers worldwide.
Arepas are essentially round little corn pockets, made of precooked corn meal/flour and fried, baked, or grilled. Arepas are versatile vehicles that can be paired with different toppings or fillings, like meats, beans or avocados. Arepas originated from Venezuela and Columbia, and now find themselves all over northern South America.
Ceviche is a seafood appetizer, most made with fresh raw fish, citrus, chopped onions and cilantro. Ceviches are popularly served in cocktail glasses and often feature shrimp, while other available seafood also makes frequent appearances. Not surprisingly, ceviches started in Peru, Ecuador and Mexico, and is now popular across other Pacific coastal regions of Latin America.
Arguably the greatest Hispanic food influence on the world scene is the tiny but mighty taco. Tacos are essentially tortillas folded around variety of fillings and make for extremely versatile customizable vehicle for different cuisines. Not much needs to be said about tacos—they're universally wonderful.
Bell peppers are beautiful vegetables and their colors/shapes almost call out to being filled with yummy fillings. While all liberties are encouraged with stuffings, the popular ones remain meats, rice and cheese. Mexican stuffed peppers often feature roasted poblano peppers stuffed with melted cheese and various meats with spices. Starting in countries like Spain and Mexico, stuffed peppers in various forms are popular all around the world now.
Translating directly as “Spanish tortilla,” the tortilla Espanola is the average omelet, just elevated several notches. The popular omelet is cooked with eggs, potatoes, onions and peppers in a heavy skillet with olive oil. Frequently eaten for breakfast, variations of the tortilla Espanola cater to other meals throughout the day and is popular worldwide.
Tajadas are fried ripe plantains, and served as a side to variety of dishes. They can be sweet or spicy, and highlight fresh produce. Tajadas are simple and satisfying, and they're enjoyed in many countries like Columbia, Honduras, Venezuela, Nicaragua and other parts of coastal South America.
Mole is a popular Mexican dark chili sauce, that is served as an accompaniment to meats, seafood and other dishes. While mole takes various forms, the traditional recipes call for chili peppers, fruits, herbs and spices, with chocolate making an occasional decadent appearance.
A staple of Latin cuisine, gallo pinto translates to “spotted rooster,” likely referring to the speckled contrast of black beans and white rice. This simple mix of rice and beans can elevate meals throughout the day, and come provide lots of customizations. What started in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, is now a staple compliment to many dishes around the world.
Flan is essentially a baked custard, usually made with eggs, sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk and vanilla extract. Flan is a very popular dessert around the world, and is often served with berries on the side. Mexican flan is often covered in “dulce de leche,” a sweet caramel syrup, while a Spanish flan may have a layer of caramelized sugar on the bottom.
Tres Leches is another popular dessert - a light sponge cake that is soaked in three different types of milk: evaporated milk, condensed milk, and heavy cream, yielding a sweet and moist cake. Tres leches cake is popular throughout Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Cuba, Puerco Rico, Guatemala, Costa Rica and many other Latin American countries.
Who doesn't like churros? Churros are essentially long sweet fried-dough pastries that are tender inside and crispy outside, often coated in cinnamon sugar. Churros are usually served warm with a side dipping sauce of chocolate or melted caramel. While churros have origins as popular street food, lot of restaurants elevate churros as high quality dessert through customizations. Churros are enjoyed throughout Spanish/Portuguese speaking countries like Spain, Portugal, Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Argentina and across many regions around the world.
Arguably, no other drink has influenced the cocktail world quite like margaritas. And margaritas were started in Mexico. The classic margarita is made with tequila, orange liqueur, lime juice and often served in a glass with salted rim. Margaritas offer limitless customizations and are extremely popular all over the world.
Sam Basu is a technologist, author, speaker, Microsoft MVP, gadget-lover and Progress Developer Advocate for Telerik products. With a long developer background, he now spends much of his time advocating modern web/mobile/cloud development platforms on Microsoft/Telerik technology stacks. His spare times call for travel, fast cars, cricket and culinary adventures with the family. You can find him on the internet.
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