Northside SF  

October '09

Dishing with...
Daisy Martinez
By Susan Dyer Reynolds

Daisy Martinez
Talking to Daisy Martinez, it’s obvious she loves everything about food – from the recipes rooted in her Puerto Rican heritage to her childhood in Brooklyn, where she cooked beside her mother and grandmothers. After raising her own children, Daisy’s husband surprised her with a wonderful gift: attending the French Culinary Institute, where her idol, Jacques Pepin, welcomed her personally.

She worked as a private chef briefly, but her bubbly personality, good looks and easy-going charm were the perfect blend for television. She hosted Daisy Cooks! on PBS before teaming up with Rachael Ray’s production company to enhance the Latin flavors of the Food Network with Viva Daisy!
Like her show, Daisy’s new cookbook, Daisy: Morning, Noon and Night (Atria Books, $30), encourages families to prepare and eat meals together, and provides the tools they’ll need – simple, delicious recipes with a dash of Daisy’s witty enthusiasm and a sprinkle of her effortless charm – to feel comfortable adding authentic Latin cuisine to their repertoire.

Sections move seamlessly through Latin America with recipes for an array of occasions, from sweet and savory morning fare (Peruvian breakfast tamales filled with raisins and olives) to noontime meals and snacks (braised eggplant with coconut milk from the Dominican Republic) to family dinners, barbecues, cocktail parties, and festive dishes (pernil, a Puerto Rican roast pork shoulder perfect for the holidays). While you will find classics like soft tacos and chicken enchiladas, most of the recipes will be less familiar, and everything I’ve made so far has been a hit. Tips on ingredients and easy-to-follow photos of techniques make the book great for all skill levels, from beginners to seasoned chefs. With Cinco de Mayo just days away, I encourage anyone who loves Latin cuisine to pick up a copy of Daisy: Morning, Noon and Night, gather friends and family around the kitchen, and get cooking.

Fun Fact:
Thanks to her kids, Daisy likes to play video games. She considers herself a role-playing game geek and is especially fond of Lord of the Rings. (“My husband walks into my office and says, ‘Are you killing cows again?’”)

How would you describe your food?

What is the last thing you cooked for yourself?
I made corned beef and cabbage and colcannon [a traditional Irish dish made with mashed potatoes and kale]. Girl, I don’t only make Latin food! My husband is Italian and Irish. When it comes to cooking, my family is West Side Story!

What’s your favorite childhood food memory?
Without a doubt, Saturday mornings … I lived in a two-family, three-story townhouse, and my grandma had the first two levels. I would sneak down to her big four-poster bed – I can still picture the cabbage rose wallpaper – and she would take me to the kitchen and fry eggs in olive oil so the edges got really golden. We’d have them with caramelized plantains, bacon and fresh-squeezed orange juice.

Something in your fridge or freezer that would surprise people?
A bottle of vodka!

An ingredient you couldn’t live without?
Salt; I’m having a ball with all the fancy salts. I used to go to this butcher as a kid, Los Paisanos on Smith Street in Brooklyn, and the same family still owns it. I get all of them there – salt with morels, rosemary salt, Himalayan pink ... The neighborhood was very Latino when I was a kid. It went from being really rough to very gentrified, and now all the foodies are on Smith Street.

What was your worst kitchen experience?
I was catering a wedding for 100 people and I had 100 pounds of pork shoulders in the oven. I get a call from my daughter: “Mommy, the oven’s on fire!” I was screaming, “Save the pernils!” They were charred on the outside, but the inside was raw. I put them in roasting pans with water and finished them on the grill. It was the best I ever made, so my worst kitchen experience turned into one of my best!

What’s the biggest misconception about Latin food?
That it’s all spicy. Even from region to region, the food can be super-spicy, a little spicy, or not spicy at all.

For more information about Daisy Martinez, visit

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