Venezuelan-born chef and restaurateur Lorena Garcia said she is pleased to look back at 2013 and see her success with her cookbook, her kitchen products collection and the ripple effect of parting with Taco Bell to create the special Cantina Bell menu.
“Food is something that unites us all. But it’s been a combination of a lot of work and a lot of dedication, I work a lot and focus a lot in trying to do my very best,” said Garcia, who resides in Miami. “I always say that as long as you keep the best version of yourself, everything will fall down and success comes with it.”
And although Garcia said she had trouble defining her style in the beginning of her career, she has established herself as one of the most recognized Latina chefs, who focuses on traditional Latin American plates with a more modern twist.
“I think that as a Latina we are in a very special moment in the United States. I have been here for a few years and I have seen the movement and the importance of our culture coming to life,” said Garcia, who is planning a second book focused on Latin American cuisine.
“I always try to be that translator of classical, going back to basics Latin cuisine but bringing it in with the new age of different cooking styles, keeping it a bit more healthy,” Garcia said. “It’s just keeping the culture alive but also understanding that we are in the United States and we need to make changes in order to continue with our lifestyle.”
Garcia said her holidays will be spent with family and friends as she tries to have “less time in the kitchen and more time with the family.”
In her Miami home, Garcia created a kitchen that is in the living room, allowing her to cook and also be with her family.
Her holiday guests include her nieces, nephews, brother, mom and friends totaling to more than 20 people, she said.
“I’ll be in the kitchen probably with a bottle of wine as well. My grapes, my nuts and a little bit of cheese,” Garcia said. “And even though I like to keep it classical and have our hallacas, our pernil, the turkey, I like to do little twists.”
Her “little twists” include various recipes with Grapes from California, one of Garcia’s recent partners. Among them, a baked Brie with herbed grapes.
“I love this recipe of the baked Brie, it’s one of my favorites. I love the contrast, I love the flavor, I love that you have a little bit of the sweetness from the grapes and then you bake it with the Brie that is sharp and then the crustiness of the puffed pastry,” she said.
In 2014 Garcia is expected to appear in various TV shows and continue work with her kitchen products and her second book, which she said will include recipes from Argentina to Venezuela, Brazil, Peru and many other Latin American Influences. Her recipes will be healthier, with a more simplistic approach and affordable, she said.
“Fresh, modern, Latin: three worlds that say a lot about me, “Garcia said. “It’s a combination of my life, experiences, studies and my upbringing and all the travels.”
Baked Brie with Herbed Grapes from California
1 mini brie wheel (8 oz. wt)
1 cup California seedless grapes
1 teaspoon thyme, fresh minced
1/2 teaspoon rosemary, fresh minced
1 sheet (10 square) puff pastry, thawed
1 egg, beaten
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Slice Brie wheel in half horizontally. Press grapes onto cut side of lower half of cheese. Sprinkle grapes with herbs. Press top of Brie onto grapes, sandwiching them in between the two halves of Brie. Set aside.
On lightly floured surface, roll puff pastry into a 16x10 rectangle. Cut a 6 round and an 8 round from puff pastry. Brush smaller round of puff pastry with egg. Set brie/grape sandwich onto puff pastry. Brush larger round of puff pastry with egg and place egg side down over Brie. Press out any excess air and crimp edges to seal. You can decorate top with puff pastry scraps if desired. Brush outside of Brie with beaten egg. Place on cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Tent loosely with foil and return to oven for 10-15 more minutes. Brie should be golden brown and puffy looking. Remove from oven and let cool for one hour before cutting into Brie.
Recipe courtesy of Grapes from California and Chef Lorena Garcia.