I just got back from the most amazing food conference, in San Antonio. I think I gained five pounds. I’m also a lot smarter than I was the first day. It was the Latin Flavors, American Kitchens conference (Oct 14-16) put on by the Culinary Institute of America at its San Antonio campus. Yes, San Antonio. One of the three branches of the CIA is in the Alamo City, where its mission is to bring Hispanic wannabe chefs up to par, so they can snag the big jobs in the food industry and not stay stuck at the bottom of the ladder, as they too often are today. (Anybody of any ethnicity can attend, of course—if they have the moola—but most of the student body is in fact Hispanic, just like the city of San Antonio.) In any case, back to the seminar. A series of talented and charming chefs from Mexico, Brazil, and Chile, also Puerto Rico and Cuba, all gathered at the Institute’s beautifully equipped demo kitchen auditorium and proceeded to chop, dice, slice, boil, saute, fry, and broil until the sound of salivating from the audience threatened to drown out the commentary. Attendees were professional chefs and food-service pros, plus journalists, from all around the country who were looking to learn how they might incorporate zesty Latin flavors into their menus. This should be a great first step toward doing that. Now, without further beating around the bush, here is a little example of what was presented. This recipe, from the CIA chefs, is for FRESH OYSTERS WITH CILANTRO-LIME CAIPIRINHA GRANITA. (Think oysters on the half shell with the famous Brazilian liquor made into a granita—it was fantastic.) To be honest, I haven’t done it at home but it looked pretty easy. INGREDIENTS 6 ounces cachaca (Brazilian rum-like spirit) 2 limes cut in wedges 2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar, or as needed Freshly cracked black pepper to taste Sea salt to taste Cilantro sprigs as garnish Oysters on the half shell, as many as desired INSTRUCTIONS Place the lime wedges, sugar, and chopped cilantro in a bowl and muddle well, or use a food processor. Add the cachaca, salt, and pepper and mix in well, then pulse a bit. Place the mixture in a shallow metal pan and freeze it, scraping with a fork every few hours until it is completely frozen and fluffy (if you know an easier way, by all means, do it!) To serve, place a spoonful of the granita over the oysters and garnish. Serve cold. (No, the picture is not of the dish—so it goes.)
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