Rice and beans, pork, pupusas, fried plantains, cheese and tortillas. These might be the core of most of the Latin food you're familiar with, at least in many of the Mexican, Central and South American joints in this town. Ingrid Hoffman takes the rustic cooking styles of these hearty Latin staples that she grew up on and redefines them, giving them slightly lighter makeovers that are easily reproduced with everyday ingredients.
Hoffman, the Latina chef of Univision's Delicioso and Food Network fame, wants you to know exactly that. The popular Colombiana just published Latin d'Lite: Delicious Latin Recipes with a Healthy Twist (complete with 150+ recipes), the health-conscious prequel to her first book, 2008's Simply Delicioso, and is out on a mission to change the often waist-unfriendly perception of her beloved cuisine. Squid Ink caught up with her while she was in Los Angeles for a brief interview. Turn the page as she talks about her own food struggles and reveals a day in her personal diet -- plus a recipe for her rendition of Pescado Veracruzano.
Squid Ink: What specifically inspired you to write this book?
Ingrid Hoffman: I'm a binge-er and I'm a food addict. My whole struggle with food is that I touch it all day long. At work and at home, my life revolves around food. I was always struggling with every single bite, feeling guilty sometimes. I would fall off the wagon and go on binges. I realized that I simply could not keep eating or drinking as I was. I eventually came up with a little system for myself and this book shows that. That being said, the book doesn't talk about calories; it's not a diet book. It's really about cutting corners on calories everywhere I can, without sacrificing flavor. Cutting our quantities of things that are totally not needed.
SI: What's your personal approach to eating healthfully? Any general rules of thumb that you follow?
IH: Our bodies weren't designed to eat processed food. I've taught myself to really think about where the food comes from. I ask myself questions like: Did it come out of the ground or out of a can or a package? Did it have a mother? I eat closer to nature. I do things like always keeping hard boiled eggs in my fridge; when I come home ravaged, I can have that while my thawed meat finishes cooking. Though, l do have my "binge meal" days when I'll have some pizza, with a shake and M&M's -- no guilt about it.
SI: What's a typical day's diet for you?
IH: I start the day with black coffee and stevia. I used to put three tablespoons of sugar in every cup of coffee I drank, but kept cutting back until I just drank it black, without milk or sweetener. I'll then head to the gym and come back to eat some oatmeal with fresh fruits or cup of scrambled egg whites. I do that about four times a week. I'll pack avocado slivers on the side and snack on that to keep me full, then take an apple with almonds or pistachios inside a Ziploc bag for snacking later. Lunch is a baked plantain, beans, grilled chicken with a roasted salsa that I make. Another snack later on would be a Greek yogurt with chocolate in it, unsweetened cocoa powder with vanilla extract, so it's like chocolate pudding. Dinner is a salad, I make a bunch of sauces at a time and freeze them, then take them out to cook with whatever chicken or fish I have.
SI: A lot of people often assume humble Latino staple foods such as tortillas or rice are responsible for weight-gain. What would you say to that?
IH: There is some truth to that, but it depends on how you're balancing the meal. But if you're adding greens and cutting down on the quantities of things like rice and tortillas, it's fine. I have a recipe for baked tostones, the green plantains that are usually fried.
SI: L.A. is taco land; we eat them a lot, often by default because they're usually extremely affordable and delicious, and because taco trucks are the only places open when a lot of restaurants are closed at night. Do you have any tips for people who are trying to keep it light when taco-ing out?
IH: Try to stick to leaner cuts, as much chicken and fish as possible. If there is an option of non-fried fish, get it. Pass on the cream and do more of the pico de gallo salsa and more of the salsas that are not as fattening.
SI: Do you have a favorite recipe in the book? And if so, would you mind sharing it?
IH: One specifically that I've been into recently is the Pescado Veracruzano. I twist it up a little bit and add some raisins to the tomato sauce to give it more depth. You can use that sauce on anything; it's good on chicken cutlets too.
SI: Is there anything that you'd like to say to people who think that all Latin food is fattening?
IH: Yes. That actually, it's quite the opposite -- and it lends itself beautifully to a very healthful diet. And anyone who has any questions is welcomed to tweet me anything at @simplyIngrid, or post on my Facebook page. I am really good at responding to everyone.
Turn the page for Hoffman's recipe...
Veracruz-style Red Snapper
From: Ingrid Hoffman
Makes: 4 servings
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ white onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 28-ounce can diced San Marzano tomatoes
1∕³ cup green olives, pitted and chopped
3 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
2 tablespoons golden raisins
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, finely chopped
1 tablespoon capers
3 bay leaves
1 jalapeño pepper, unseeded and finely chopped
½ teaspoon salt
4 6-ounce red snapper fillets
1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Spray a 9 × 13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
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2. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is tender, about 8 minutes. Add the tomatoes, olives, parsley, raisins, oregano, capers, bay leaves, jalapeño, and salt; bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring frequently, until the flavors are blended and the sauce begins to bubble and thicken slightly, about 10 minutes.
3. Spread half of the sauce evenly on the bottom of the baking dish. Place the fillets on top of the sauce. Spoon the remaining sauce evenly over the fillets. Bake, uncovered, until the sauce is bubbly and the fish is opaque in the center, 12 to 15 minutes.
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