Celebrating Latin Heritage: Amalia’s Kitchen
Sept. 15 marked the beginning of a month-long celebration of Latin culture in the United States – and what a great way to commemorate it with healthy, delicious cuisine. In this article we are celebrating Latin heritage with a recipe for Spicy Seafood Pasta.
The weeklong observation began in 1968 by mandate of President Lyndon Johnson, and President Ronald Reagan extended it in 1988 to one month to recognize the contributions of Hispanic Americans and their ancestors to the U.S.
The festivity, from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, coincides with the independence day of five Latin American countries—Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, which declared their independence from Spain in 1821. Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence on Sept. 16 and 18, respectively.
It comes natural to me to talk about my heritage and fresh food in connection with Latin cuisine because I grew up in an environment conducive to eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and learned about healthy cooking with my grandmother. In return, I pass my good eating habits to my husband and son.
I am an advocate for teaching parents to eat home-cooked meals as often as possible and to involve their children in the kitchen, especially when they are in their formative years (birth to 5 years). This is the key time to instill good habits and to establish a good foundation for life. I grew up in a home where you eat what is at the table. I learned quickly that complying is easier than defying.
So how does one begin to adopt good eating habits? In many ways. For starters, being patient and doing it in small steps. Change takes time and practice makes it easier. Cooking classes, food blogs and farmer’s markets are some ways to gain access to recipes and to learn what is in season.
Much of Latin cuisine is naturally vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free, making it a good ally for those looking to expand their eating repertoire while maintaining their own dietary routine. Staples such as corn, beans, tomatoes, chilies and squash are readily available at a relatively low price when compared to other diets.
These staple foods form the foundation of Latin cuisine. They contain nutrients and fiber essential for human and digestive health. And when combined with low-fat proteins and healthy fats such as canola and olive oil, we can control the number of calories we consume. Fatty and fried foods contain three times the calories of regular foods, so grilling, roasting, baking, broiling, pan simmering and pan sautéing are healthier cooking techniques with equally delicious results.
In celebration of Latin heritage, I invite you to adopt a healthier eating style beginning with this scrumptious and easy recipe.
Linguini Con Mariscos
Spicy Seafood Pasta
Recipe by Chef Amalia Moreno-Damgaard
Pasta is popular throughout Latin America and this is my special rendition of a pasta dish that I had in Argentina the last time I visited. Argentina has some of the best pasta in the world – after all, the country has a strong Italian influence.
Linguini or spaghetti enough for 4, cooked in salted water, drained and drizzled with olive oil to keep it from sticking.
Fresh clams, shrimp and calamari rings
¾-1 cup olive oil
½ cup minced garlic
2 tbsp. red pepper flakes
3 tbsp. minced basil
2 tbsp. Spanish pimentón
½ cup clam (or seafood) juice
3 tbsp. lemon juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
¾ cup roasted red bell pepper strips, chopped parsley, Parmesan cheese to taste
Make the sauce: Heat the oil and add the garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté 1 minute. Gradually add the rest of the ingredients and sauté for no more than 5 minutes’ total.
Add the clams, cover and cook until shells open, about 2 minutes.
Add the shrimp and calamari rings, cover and cook for 2 minutes.
Add the pasta and coat well with the sauce and seafood.
Taste and adjust seasonings, if needed.
Amalia Moreno-Damgaard is an award-winning bestselling chef author born and raised in Guatemala City currently living in the Twin Cities. She provides individuals and companies with a taste and understanding of Latin cultures through healthy gourmet cuisine education, consulting, bilingual speaking and writing and fun culinary experiences.
Her cookbook “Amalia’s Guatemalan Kitchen-Gourmet Cuisine With A Cultural Flair” has won 9 international awards. AmaliaLLC.com