Daisy Cooks!

Latin Flavors That Will Rock Your World


By Daisy Martinez

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Daisy Martinez is America’s most exciting and beloved new television cook. Here, at last, is her first cookbook, with all the recipes from her acclaimed show–and most can be made in under thirty minutes!

In Daisy Martinez’s kitchen, salsa music is always playing. Laughter fills the air, along with delicious aromas of the amazing meal to come. Friends, neighbors, and family members are ever-present, sneaking tastes from every pot. And in the center of it all, Daisy is laughing, singing, tasting, and appreciating everything that her kitchen–and life!–has to offer.

Does this sound like your kitchen? If not, don’t despair. In this book and on her acclaimed national public television series, Daisy Cooks!, Daisy teaches you how to bring excitement back to the table with Latin-inspired food that your friends and family will love!

Some of these recipes will remind you of meals you’ve enjoyed in restaurants. Some are great variations on dishes you already cook. Some are totally new. All of them will rock your world. Daisy’s flavorful, satisfying interpretation of the best dishes from Puerto Rico, Mexico, Spain, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Central and South America all taste like the results of a day in the kitchen–but in reality, most take only thirty minutes to prepare. Here, you’ll find the techniques that Daisy learned at the French Culinary Institute, along with her mother’s and grandmother’s time-tested tricks! This winning combination results in dishes that range from elegant Chicken Braised with Figs to soul-satisfying Cuban Black Bean Soup to to-die-for homemade Dulce de Leche.

And then, of course, there are Daisy’s “Top Ten Hits”–the recipes that, once you try them, are guaranteed to change the way you cook forever. In this first chapter, Daisy shows how simple flavor boosters, in addition to a few easy techniques, can make every meal mouthwateringly special. In Daisy’s words, “If you can season, cook, and dress pork chops and serve them alongside fragrant yellow rice in less than thirty minutes, I can’t imagine why you’d eat anything from a cardboard carton!”

With ingredients that are found in almost every supermarket, equipment that every kitchen contains, and a little bit of adventurousness on your part, the recipes in this book will transform your mealtimes for good. So jump right in–it’s time to get Daisy-fied!


Also by Daisy Martinez

Daisy's Holiday Cooking

Daisy Morning, Noon, and Night

I admit it: I am obsessed with food. I think nothing of driving clear across Brooklyn for the best bagels in a twenty-mile radius, and I've walked from one side of a foreign city to the other in the middle of winter because I heard about a restaurant that serves fantabulous garlic soup. I have never met a dumpling—Chinese, Japanese, American, or other—that I didn't love. When a friend celebrates a birthday or marks a special occasion, I don't spend hours in the mall, I spend days in the kitchen, happily hoppin', poppin', and choppin'!

Of all the food I dream about, cook, sample, order in, or read about, none makes me as passionate as the food I grew up with. My mother and father were both born in Puerto Rico, and the food of that island is closest to my heart because it speaks to me in the same language my mother first taught me to say "I love you." But I have become friends with (and that means cooked with) people from all over Latin America. There are common threads that run through the area's regional cooking and things that make each country's food somewhat different. It is all good.

The palette of Latino food is as varied as the color of its people. We come in every color but share a common past. For most Latino Americans that past is made up of a beautiful blend of Spanish, African, and indigenous peoples. From my grandfather (with white-blond hair and blue eyes) to my grandmother's Tia Leo (who had coppery dark skin with hair as black as ink), the diversity within the same family paints a beautiful mosaic that only today is the world starting to recognize.

Our food has the same common roots and the same diversity. Latino Americans are the fastest growing minority group in the United States, and our numbers are predicted to increase by 35 percent within the next few years. Still, the rest of America has only scratched the surface of our regional cuisines. (Much the same thing has happened with other cuisines in this country. "French cooking" once meant coq au vin or pâté before Americans began traveling to France and French chefs started arriving on our shores in droves.) Today, almost anyone can tell you what paella or chorizo is, but words such as yautia, malanga, and morcilla are still bound to draw blank expressions. But the days when "Spanish" food meant tacos and refried beans are numbered.

I wrote this book largely to share these wonderful dishes with you but also in part to clear up any confusion that some of you, such as my childhood friend Rosanne, may have. After running into Roe recently, I invited her to my home for dinner so we could catch up on each other's lives. When I asked what she would like to eat, she was quick to reply, "Spanish food!" I made a beautiful meal of Spanish dishes for her that I was sure would knock her socks off: stuffed mussels (mejillones rellenos), chicken braised with figs (pollo con higos), and saffron rice. She looked at me, puzzled, and said, "I thought we were having Spanish food. You know, rice and beans and pork chops, like your mom used to make!"

Much of the allure for people discovering Latin cuisine is in what Latinos consider "soul food"—the simple, satisfying dishes that my friend remembered my mother cooking all those years ago. This book is loaded with those treasures—and not just from Puerto Rico and Spain but from Cuba, Santo Domingo, and Central and South America. Every country has its beloved family dishes, and it is my distinct pleasure to bring some of them to you and to show you the diversity in the cuisines of all these countries.

I see evidence of a growing fascination with Latin cuisine everywhere. It's no longer necessary for me to travel to the Essex Street Market on the Lower East Side of Manhattan or the larger market on 125th Street in el Barrio, as I did when I was a young girl. Like Latino culture and music, Latin food has exploded into the mainstream. You can walk into any modern supermarket and find many of the foods of my childhood. I believe you will have no problem locating the ingredients you need to cook the recipes in this book, but I offer substitutions whenever possible, just in case. Shopping via the Internet is also a possibility (see Sources).

I have spent my adult life sharing the happiness that food brings me with my friends, one barbecue, dinner party, picnic, or buffet at a time. Having an opportunity to share that excitement with many people through this book and the television show that accompanies it is beyond my wildest dreams.

There is everyday food here, and plenty of it. And I mean that literally—food you can prepare and enjoy every day. Take a look at the first few recipes in this book. They include a sofrito—a vegetable puree that brings life to much of my cooking—olive oil seasoned with annatto seeds, and the best damn yellow rice you will ever have. The first two take less than ten minutes (that includes washing out the food processor after you make the sofrito), and the rice takes thirty minutes, for twenty of which you can be reading or buffing your nails. I will tell you in all honesty that the simple act of making sofrito will change the way you cook forever: it will rock your world. With the exception of a few recipes, such as Root Vegetable and Meat Tamales (here), most of the dishes are ready in under an hour, and usually much less. If you can season, cook, and dress pork chops and serve them alongside fragrant yellow rice in less than thirty minutes, I can't imagine why you'd eat anything from a cardboard carton. Once you realize that you can master—and I mean master—making rice, chicken simmered with plump figs, empanadas stuffed with savory pork filling, and juicy roast pork with crackling-crisp skin will not be far behind.

There are also some recipes for special occasions or for those who are as passionate about good food as I am. These may require a little more time or an extra trip to the market for an unusual ingredient or two, but they are worth the effort.

A word of warning: To this day I have to differentiate between a Daisy serving and a regular serving. My Mami and Abuela would always say the same thing: You should always cook enough so that if someone rings the doorbell while you are eating, you won't have to hide your plates under the table. Instead, pull up a chair for them and make them feel at home. I guess that's the reason I'll never know how to cook for two!

I have organized this book to be as user-friendly as possible. Spend a little time in the kitchen with Daisy's Top Ten Hits (the first chapter). These are the dishes I turn people on to first. I believe you'll find the food so intriguing, delicious, and easy to make that you'll be working your way through the rest of the book in no time—whether it's chicken, seafood, or tamales. I've designed the recipes with busy people in mind; most of them end up on the table in less than thirty minutes. But your friends and family will think that you've been slaving over a stove for days.

Of all the words I can think of to describe myself, "shy" is not one of them. The very same can be said of my food. It's bold, it's sassy, it's colorful, it's full of spice and fun. My favorite way to describe it is that it's a party on your plate. Is it different? Very much so, but not because it relies on exotic or expensive ingredients. Just the opposite is true: I get full flavor out of spices, seasonings, and ingredients that you can find just about anywhere. A little kick here and there from hot chili peppers doesn't hurt, either. Recently my nine-year-old-daughter, Angela, said to me, "Mommy, I have to start building my 'spicy' tolerance!" The child is wise beyond her years! You can develop (or expand) a taste for heat and spice or not. The choice in each recipe is left to you.

Not counting the dance floor, there is no place where I feel as comfortable, as totally in my element, as the kitchen. Very often people ask me, "Daisy, where did you learn how to cook?" My answer is always the same: I went to the French Culinary Institute to learn classical technique, but I am primarily an alumna of the Conchita and Valentina Martinez Cooking Academy. In other words, I learned at my mother's and grandmother's sides. I was a very avid pupil, and my husband, Jerry, can attest to that. If his word isn't good enough, you can always ask any of my four children or any one of their numerous friends and cousins who pretty much camp out in my house every weekend partly, I think, for the food!

When I cook with Mami, I still defer to her expertise in the kitchen, although every once in a while she'll call and ask me a question about a certain dish or a recipe. I always answer her the same way: "Ma? Why are you asking me? You were the one who taught me to make it!" Be that as it may, it tickles me no end to have Mami ask me to make something for her. It's the greatest compliment a teacher can give her pupil.

It's a totally different story when I get into the kitchen with my brother, Peter, who is also a chef. When we go at it in the kitchen, there is salsa blaring on the radio, pots and pans clanging, no shortage of laughter and noise, and the results are glorious. We've both taken what our teachers have taught us and given it a very personal interpretation. We both have a blast when I visit Mami's house in Florida, because she invites all her friends and tons of family over and sets Peter and me loose in the kitchen. Papi mans the cleanup detail, and it always translates into a hell of a party! And that's what every trip to the kitchen should be—a big, colorful, and, above all else, flat-out fun party.

If you look at nothing else in this book, take a careful look at these ten dishes. They are simple, they don't taste like anything you've ever made before, and, most important, they are good enough for company and quick enough to make after you schlep home from work.

These are the recipes my girlfriends ask for and I happily give them. Whenever this happens, the response invariably is something along the lines of "I can't believe it's that simple."

I had a spare moment the other day (we can all agree on what a rare occurrence that is), and I marveled at how complicated life becomes when you're an adult woman. We all wear so many hats—on my hat rack are those of mother, wife, daughter, sister, and friend—it's no wonder I am always looking to simplify my life in any way I can. That being said, and given my love of good food, it shouldn't surprise anyone that while I don't have a lot of time to spend in the kitchen, I certainly do not want to sacrifice delicious meals. This leads me to Daisy's Top Ten Hits, a countdown of the dishes most requested by my family and friends.

These ten recipes are not all for finished dishes. A few of them are little "secrets" (well, not so secret anymore) that will help you get the most out of your time in the kitchen. Take a look at the first two recipes, Sofrito and Achiote Oil. They alone will do nothing short of change your life. Each takes less than ten minutes to make. In these two recipes you will most likely spot a few ingredients that are unfamiliar to you. Take another look and you will see that I have given substitutes here and throughout the book. In the case of the annatto seeds used to make the achiote oil, there really is no substitute, but I bet you will find them, labeled either "annatto seed" or "achiote seed," in the spice aisle of your supermarket.

Something as simple as a roast chicken can be made different in minutes by "daisifying" it—rubbing it with a mixture of spices made in minutes with ingredients you can find in any supermarket. As busy as I get, I am not ready to give up good food. If you try at least one of these recipes, I truly believe you will be inspired to move on to others.



There is no other recipe I could have chosen to open this chapter, let alone this book. This is the one indispensable, universal, un-live-withoutable recipe. Having said that, it is incredibly easy to make and uses ingredients you can find at the supermarket. If you can't find all the ingredients listed below, see Daisy's Pantry for a simple fix. What sofrito does is add freshness, herbal notes, and zing to dishes. You can do that with the onion, garlic, bell pepper, cilantro, and tomato alone.

In my house sofrito makes its way into everything from yellow rice to black bean soup, sauce for spaghetti and meatballs to braised chicken and sautéed shrimp. Not only that, it freezes beautifully, so in about In ten minutes you can make enough sofrito to flavor a dozen dishes. I'm telling you, this stuff does everything but make the beds. Try out your first batch of sofrito in the recipes you'll find throughout this book or add it to some of your own favorite dishes that could use a little boost. You will change the way you cook. I guarantee it.


Chop the onion and 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. The sofrito will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days and can be frozen (see Notes).

DAISY'S PANTRY Ajices dulces, also known as cachucha or ajicitos, are tiny sweet peppers with a hint of heat. They range in color from light to medium green and yellow to red and orange. They add freshness and an herby note to the sofrito and anything you cook. Do not mistake them for Scotch bonnet or habanero chilies (which they look like); those two pack a wallop when it comes to heat. If you can find ajicitos in your market, add them to the sofrito. If not, increase the cilantro to 1½ bunches and add a pinch of cayenne pepper.

Culantro is not cilantro. It has long leaves with tapered tips and serrated edges. When it comes to flavor, culantro is like cilantro times ten. It is a nice but not essential addition to sofrito.

Cubanelles are thin-fleshed sweet peppers. They are longer and narrower than bell peppers and similar in shape to Italian frying peppers. Cubanelles have a sweet, herby flavor and are found in shades of light green and yellow, with touches of light red.

See Sources for the ajices dulces and culantro.

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 Daisy's Pantry; optional)

4 leaves of culantro (see Daisy's Pantry), or another handful of cilantro

3 to 4 ripe plum tomatoes, cored and cut into chunks

1 large red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into large chunks



Annatto seeds, known as achiote in Spanish, are small, irregularly shaped, deep-reddish-colored seeds about the size of a lentil. They grow in pods but are sold loose in jars in the spice aisle (or see Sources). Steeping annatto seeds in hot olive oil for a few minutes will do more than give the oil a brilliant orange-gold color: It will infuse it with a nutty, delicate aroma and add a quick kick to whatever you use it in. This incredibly simple technique will become part of your repertoire, not just for the many dishes that call for it in this book but anytime you want a splash of color and a hint of annatto flavor.


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. Once they're sizzling away, remove the pan from the heat and let it stand until the sizzling stops. 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.

1 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons annatto (achiote) seeds




Garlic soup is to a Spanish restaurant what apple pie is to an American diner—every menu has one. It is a poor man's soup and may not sound exciting, but it is wonderful. On a cold day it's like a hug from home. On the night I first had this soup in Spain, my boys were off exploring Barcelona. That left just my daughter, Angela, husband, Jerry, and me to fend for ourselves. It was the week of Christmas and was chilly, to say the least. Jerry had spotted the perfect mom-and-pop place earlier in the day and was hell-bent on taking me there for dinner. After much wandering we found Jerry's elusive dream restaurant, only to discover it was closed. We eyed a sweet little restaurant, De Tapa Madre, across the street. It turned out to be a happy accident.

Our waiter, Jose, saw that we were cold and a little stressed, and suggested garlic soup as a way to start our meal. After our first taste we decided Jose could order us whatever else he liked for the rest of the meal.

De Tapa Madre became our favorite restaurant in Barcelona. The restaurant is owned by two women who take turns cooking on alternate days. Both are off on Sundays and the kitchen is run by the sister of one of the waiters. Whenever you go, whoever is behind the stove, the food is fabulous.

Whenever I make this soup at my house for family or friends, it's like getting a delicious, fragrant postcard from my friends in Barcelona.


1. Heat the oil in a 4- to 5-quart pot over medium heat. Add the chorizo and cook, stirring, until the oil takes on a bright red color, 2 to 3 minutes. Scoop the chorizo into a bowl with a slotted spoon. Stir the garlic into the seasoned oil, reduce the heat to low, and cook until the garlic is very soft and fragrant, without coloring, about 4 minutes. Scoop out the garlic and add it to the chorizo.

2. Increase the heat to medium, lay the bread slices in the oil, and cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Flip and cook the other side. Set the fried bread aside on a plate.

3. Return the garlic and chorizo to the pot and pour in the chicken broth. Add the bay leaf, bring to a boil over medium heat, and adjust the heat to simmering.

4. In the meantime, poach the eggs. Fill a deep skillet two-thirds full of water. Toss in a small handful of salt and add the vinegar. Bring to a boil over high heat, then adjust the heat so the water is at a lively simmer. Crack the eggs 1 at a time into a teacup, then slide them into the water. Cook until the whites are firm but the yolks are still runny, about 5 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, taste the soup and add salt and pepper if you like.

6. Place a slice of bread in the bottom of each of 6 soup bowls. Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon, letting the water drain back into the skillet. Set one egg on top of each slice of bread. Pour in the soup and serve immediately.

DAISY'S PANTRY De Tapa Madre was also my introduction to jamón Iberico, one of Spain's contributions to the great foods of the world. In my life I had never tasted a ham with such a wonderful flavor and silky texture. I would pass up foie gras, tenderloin of beef, and even Chinese ribs with hot mustard for a taste of jamón Iberico. It is not yet available in the States but will be shortly.

¼ cup olive oil

2 links (about 6 ounces) chorizo, andouille, or any smoked garlicky sausage, cut in half lengthwise and then into ¼-inch slices

12 cloves garlic, sliced

6 slices (about ½ inch thick) Italian bread

6 cups homemade Chicken Broth (here; see Note)

1 bay leaf

Fine sea or kosher salt

1 to 2 teaspoons white vinegar

6 eggs

Freshly ground pepper to taste



You know those packaged rice mixes you can buy with the foil bag of mystery spice? When you taste this rice, you'll forget all about them. This is remarkably easy to make once you have achiote oil and sofrito on hand. Even if you're starting from scratch without those two staples, you can still get this on the stove in fifteen minutes. I have never served this at a party without rave reviews. Guests have often said that they could eat just the rice and nothing else. I'm always delighted to tell them how easy it is, but encourage them not to pass on the beans or other accompaniments!


1. Heat the 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 has evaporated. Add the alcaparrado, salt, cumin, pepper, and bay leaves, and stir to combine.

2. 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.

3. Stir the rice once, reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for 20 minutes without opening the cover or stirring.

4. Gently fluff the rice by scooping it from the bottom to the top. Serve hot.

DAISY'S PANTRY Alcaparrado, a mixture of olives, pimientos, and capers sold in bottles, is widely available. There are versions made with pitted and unpitted olives. Go for the pitted version. If you can't find it, substitute an equal amount of coarsely chopped olives stuffed with pimientos. Throw in a teaspoon of capers if you like.

See Making Rice here for more pointers on cooking rice.

½ cup Achiote Oil (here)

½ cup Sofrito (here)

½ cup coarsely chopped alcaparrado (see Daisy's Pantry) or pimientostuffed olives

2 to 3 tablespoons salt

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 bay leaves

3 cups long-grain white rice (see Notes)

Chicken Broth, homemade (here) or canned, as needed (about 4 cups)





On Sale
Jul 23, 2013
Page Count
304 pages
Hachette Books

Daisy Martinez

About the Author

Daisy Maria Martinez was born to mainland Puerto Rican parents in Brooklyn, New York, where she lived at her grandmother’s house until she was almost five years old. Her extended family includes relatives from Central America, Spain, and other parts of the Spanish-speaking world. She has modeled and acted in commercials and in numerous films including Carlito’s Way and Scent of a Woman. She attended Long Island University and the French Culinary Institute before establishing her catering business, The Passionate Palate. Daisy lives with her husband and children in Brooklyn.

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