Summer Salads with a Top Chef
GRILLED CHEESE, PLEASE! is a series that explores dinnertime by looking at an eclectic group of families. A home-cooked meal? Great! Take-out? No problem! Pull up a chair and join us as we discuss everything from favorite food memories to never-fail dinner options.
Meet Camille, Paloma and Errickson. Camille is a chef, food stylist and was a contestant on Bravo’s Top Chef. Her daughter Paloma, 12, is an awesome softball player. They live in a loft in TriBeCa with her best friend, Errickson, an actor, who also works in nightlife and their cat Rose Elefante Lola del Mercedes Becerra Rivera.
1. What’s for dinner?
Red beans cooked Puerto Rican style (with garlic, onions, tomato paste, and vinegar) and jade rice along with three salads: (1) avocadoes with cumin and jalapeño (2) yellow tomatoes, green peppers, and mango with chili, lemon, and cilantro and (3) plums, cucumber, and baby celery. Homemade hot sauce (made of dried chili, onion, tomato, garlic, lime, and vinegar) that I make on the regular is on the table, too. Sparkling water with preserved lemon syrup to drink. Peach, dried fig, lime, and almond milk smoothies for dessert.
2. What’s the usual dinner routine?
Errickson: Camille cooks every night during the week and we sit down and eat together around seven. We are very blessed to have Camille as our source of nutrition. We never do takeout, but Paloma and I often go out for dessert, which almost always means Billy’s Bakery for cupcakes.
Camille: When you cook at home all the time, there’s this wonderful flow of food. There’s always something leftover, always something to turn into something else. And I don’t throw anything out.
Errickson: It’s true. If you don’t finish your iced coffee, Camille turns it into ice cream.
3. Paloma, do you like to cook?
Paloma: I don’t hate it, but I don’t love it. If I’m not doing anything I will help my mother. I like to bake.
Errickson: Paloma has a really good palate.
Paloma: I’m not picky.
Errickson: She’s been exposed to all sorts of food for her entire life.
Camille: Also, she was a restaurant baby (Camille’s former restaurant, also called Paloma, was in Greenpoint, Brooklyn). She used to go around eating the customers’ food. She ate everyone’s French fries! It took me a while to figure out how she got them, but then I learned her intro line. She would go up to everyone and ask, “Do you have a dog or do you have a cat?” and then she was in.
4. Where are some of your favorite places to shop for food?
I go to the farmers’ market in Union Square regularly and also buy lots of produce from the fruit stand on Crosby and Grand. She has the cheapest mangoes and avocadoes.
5. Paloma, what’s your favorite thing to have for dinner?
I don’t really have one because there are so many good ones. But I guess lasagna, which my mom makes with fresh pasta and sauce made with slowly braised beef. It’s really good.
6. Did you grow up eating dinner with your families?
Camille: I did. I grew up in New Jersey with my mom, who is from Puerto Rico. This [points to rice and beans] is basically what I ate every night. Sometimes, maybe [there] were garbanzo or black beans, and sometimes it was chicken. But always rice. On special occasions, my favorite dish was pastelone, which is essentially Puerto Rican lasagna and is layers of sweet plantains with heavily seasoned ground beef all held together with beaten egg.
Errickson: Yes, all of the time. When I was growing up in Virginia, we could play and do whatever we wanted after school and had no boundaries, but we always came home for dinner. It’s when we connected as a family. My mother made breakfast, lunch, and dinner everyday. We could request whatever we wanted on our birthday and I always asked for this chicken with lemon, mustard, and honey. It was sweet and tangy and I loved it.
PUERTO RICAN PINK BEANS
¼ cup olive oil
2 tbl Sofrito (recipe below)
3 oz tomato paste
2 tbl Alcaparrado olives, a mixture of olives, pimientos strips and capers
1 can pink beans
1 garlic clove, minced fine
2 tbl olive brine from the Alcaparrados
In a saucepot warm olive oil and add sofrito, saute for a few minutes. When the sofrito begins to sizzle add the tomato paste, incorporated well, allow to come to a sizzle, add the alcaparrado, and beans and simmer on low heat for 15-20 minutes. Five minutes before removing the beans from fire add the finely minced garlic. Right before serving add the olive brine.
This recipe makes a healthy batch that you can keep in the freezer and pull as needed.
1 bunch cilantro
1 bunch culantro
4 cloves of garlic
1 medium onion
1 bell pepper or 7 sweet aji peppers
Pulse all in a food processor in batches till it resembles a chunky pesto. Add small amounts of water to mixture when ingredients refuse to process.