Making Spanakopita by Heart

Christos Floros is 89, has a vegetable garden, a foul mouth, and makes great Greek food. He’s a man after my own heart. He lives down the street from me in an old house with a gated front yard, where, for the past few years, I’ve seen him tend to his vegetables, grapevines, apple tree, and flowers. The other day I asked him if he liked to cook, and he said, “are you kidding, I’ve owned four restaurants.”

“Will you teach me to make something Greek?” I asked.

“Yes. What do you like?”

“Spanakopita,” I said, resolutely.

“Come in then.”

“Now?”

“Yes, now.” He then paused and added, “but there’s one rule. You cannot write anything down. You must just use your brain to remember.”

I was a little taken aback by this rule; it seemed so random. But as our conversation over the next couple of hours would reveal, learning by watching and trusting yourself to be capable of excelling at anything has been the secret to Christos’s success. Continue reading

Peruvian Quinoa Soup

You should have seen my face a couple of months ago when my boss told me I had to travel to Peru for work. It was a happy face – too happy, perhaps. It was the face of someone who won the lottery. Why? Because I love Peruvian food. And because I’m a food hedonist. And that’s what Peruvian food is to me: pleasure, joy, and excitement. So I added a few personal days to the trip.

I started out at a hostel in Cusco. On the first morning at breakfast, I waited until every guest had left and approached the chef. Her name is Doris, and she taught me how to make quinoa soup. Continue reading

More Dominican than Mangu

Until very recently, when the Dominican Republic came up, I thought of beautiful beaches, baseball, and bachata. Now I think of Mangu. Popular in most Caribbean cuisines, this mashed plantain side is a staple of the island’s diet. And it makes a great meal – especially breakfast – when served with eggs, onions, cheese, and sausage.

Here’s how Dominican émigré and Allston business owner Gloria Rivera makes it, and why. Reader, be warned: if by the time you finish reading this you think I’ve glorified Gloria, you’re right – and you will also understand why. Continue reading