If you've been reading my entries for the last six months or so, by now you should be aware that I usually link my articles with a recipe. It is very much like the book "Like Water for Chocolate" without the sex parts, since this is a very PG blog! Well, just the other day I came across with Emily Hoffman's website. Emily is trying to put together a cookbook that links bittersweet memories with recipes. I thought Wow! This woman has a great idea! This is very similar to what I do, except for the book part! Since it is easier and definitely cheaper to blog than to publish a book, right? As I was reading about her mission, I realized that it is called "bittersweet" because it links touching stories about people we've lost with recipes. It broke my heart and I decided that I, too, wanted to share a bittersweet memory with a fantastic recipe to help her promote her cooking book.
Here's my story...
A couple of months ago, I got the very sad news that my beloved Grandfather had passed away while we were on vacation. My sister, Lisa, called me the night I got back from our Mediterranean Cruise to give me the heartbreaking news. As I hung up the phone with her, I just sat on my bed. I couldn't think clearly or move, I was just thinking about my Mother and my Grandmother in Puerto Rico. I was sad, emotional and couldn't stop crying. That night, I remember having a very vivid dream about my Grandfather. In my dream I was a kid and we were in Luquillo, at their beach house in Puerto Rico. It was a beautiful day, the ocean was crystal clear and I was just having a blast with my Grandparents. That was all I could remember from my dream but it got me thinking about all the memories of him that I will forever treasure.
My grandparents house was always packed with goodies. In the freezer they usually had Neapolitan ice cream (strawberry, chocolate and vanilla flavor). Hershey's kisses? You got it. Home made lasagna, lemon bars or mantecaditos? Always available. My Grandparents house was a 24 hour food haven. Going out for lunch to our Grandparents house was the culinary experience of the month. My Grandmother always had enough food to feed an army of people; from the most exquisite appetizers to at least four different entrees every time. Dessert? She had absolutely everything that a kid could possibly imagine and more. We would all sit on the big table to hear them talk about the "good old times" while listening to flamenco and sevillanas. After lunch, we would flip through the pages of their old picture albums while sipping coffee, Cointreau or Anis del Mono. It was always the same routine and I loved going to their house, listening to their stories, and just being around them.
When we left Puerto Rico to move to the city of Chicago, I missed all of my Grandparents terribly. Growing up around them was a true blessing, to say the least. As soon as my daughter Lucia was born, we took her to meet her Great Grandparents in Ponce; the only ones on my side of the family that were still alive. My Grandfather couldn't get enough of my daughter. He wanted to hold her at all times and although everybody knows Lucia is my husband's little clone, he kept on saying Oh, Nina, she looks just like you! So beautiful!
Last December we took both Lucia and Joaquin to see them. This time my Grandfather was all about Joaquin. He is going to be a movie star, Nina. What a beautiful little boy! He was so happy to see us and I was having the best of times. Although this time there wasn't any home made cooking, we spent an unforgettable day with them. We hugged and kissed them goodbye and took a lot of pictures with the kids. That was the last time I saw him.
Thanks for the memories, Abuelo. You will forever live in our hearts.
My Abuela cooked like a true culinary goddess and today I will share with you her shortbread cookie recipe, or as we call them in Puerto Rico mantecaditos.
-2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
-1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
-3/4 cup butter
-1/4 cup vegetable shortening
-1 1/4 tsp. almond extract
-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
-1/2 cup granulated sugar
-1/4 cup confectioners sugar (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Combine flour and nutmeg in a bowl and set aside. In a large bowl and with an electric mixer, beat butter, vegetable shortening, vanilla extract and almond extract until very smooth. Cream the sugar with the butter mixture until smooth. Gradually, blend in the flour mixture. It should be light and not sticky.
Spoon dough with a teaspoon and make little balls. Place them in an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 18 minutes until golden. Cool them down in a wire rack and sprinkle with powder sugar. Buen provecho!