Ten Years

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the hands of time
have spun out of control
rotating swiftly
fast-forward button
3,650 days
and still, this void
left dangling in the world
detached from her breast
augmentation severed
her scent is faded
her voice now a whisper
but the spirit is strong
I feel her often
especially in the kitchen
she’s the gut of sofrito
resonating in the air
her hand on mine
as I stir boiling rice
just enough water
to make the grains fluffy
she’s the perfect amount
of hispanic seasonings
a culmination
of abuela’s teachings
now I repeat the cycle
let her live through me
my children still taste her
oh, how they miss her
how could we not
the Queen of our family
the giver of love
the unconditional kind
sometimes,
I wish she were still here
my flesh is selfish
wanting her physical presence
but then spirit reminds me
I live her endlessness
I rest well tonight.
© 2018 Liza Morales
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Pastelillos – my way

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“Liza, you wanna pastelillo?” was music to my ears growing up. It was and still is one of my favorite cultural foods. Some people call them empanadas but my family called them pastelillos (meat turnover). With grandparents from Puerto Rico, who eventually migrated to New York, I’ve been privileged to indulge in delicious Puerto Rican cuisine all of my life. Dad was born in Aibonito, Puerto Rico and mom was born here in NYC, but she too, was well endowed with her cooking skills.  I remember when she died in 2008, mostly everyone who attended her funeral, mentioned how grateful they were for her cooking. She fed everyone, just as my grandmothers did. It’s traditional in our culture to show our love through food and we believe, there’s always enough for everyone – “¡ Dios da pa todo mundo” .. is what I always heard them say. 

I may not cook as authentically as my ancestors but I definitely cook with love and from what I understand,  that’s one of the most potent ingredients. 

Here, I share my version of pastelillos:

I start off with a package of dough (discos) and a pound of ground turkey. Traditionally, they use ground beef but you can substitute with ground turkey or chicken for a healthier version, as I do. 

I sauté sofrito, fresh garlic,  adobo, onion powder, black pepper and 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a pan. Then I mix in the ground turkey with the sofrito over medium flames until fully cooked.

Now, I sprinkle some flour on the counter top , lay and roll out the dough atop of flour, then place some ground meat in the center. 

Cheese is optional. 

Now,  I scramble an egg and dab the edges of the entire circumference, fold over the dough and begin to pinch the edges with a fork. 

Pile them up, until complete and begin to fry. (Baking is also optional)

As they’re frying, I grab a large utensil and begin to repeatedly scoop oil over the pastelillo. The dough will begin to bubble up and turn golden. After a few minutes, flip it over and do the same on the opposite side.

*Remove from oil and wait a few minutes to cool off before eating. The internal steam can burn your skin.

Then…voilà

Enjoy! 

©2016 Liza Morales