SABOR: Angie Martinez & Chef Angelo Sosa's 'Healthy Latin Eating: Our Favorite Family Recipes Remixed' Amplifies Latin Flavors, Combats Obesity & Features Guest Celeb Recipes
"SABOR" is a food & wine and lifestyle series that savors Latinos' zest for life and passion for home and family.
Reminiscent of her love for music, her finger on the pulse of hip-hop and getting the scoop out to the masses, radio and TV personality Angie Martinez is dishing out some juicy stuff lately, but this time it's not over the radio waves.
The Puerto Rican, Cuban and Dominican, New York native teamed up with Dominican/Italian acclaimed Chef Angelo Sosa to bring healthy Latin recipes to your table with her first-ever cookbook, "Healthy Latin Eating: Our Favorite Family Recipes Remixed" (Kyle Books).
Inspired by family recipes, celebrity friends trying to lose weight and lead healthier lifestyles, her blog, "Healthy Latin Eating," as well as the arduous feat of completing the New York City Marathon in 2014 for charity, Martinez wanted to kick off 2015 right.
"Healthy Latin Eating: Our Favorite Family Recipes Remixed" amplifies Latin flavors and also combats unhealthy eating habits that often affect the Latino community.
One of the culprits of this unhealthy lifestyle involves acculturation, which has led to the increased consumption of processed, convenient and ready-to-eat foods that are all associated with weight gain and can lead to high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke.
"It was a cookbook that I wanted for myself, really. I am obviously not a chef, but if I was going to do it, it had to be amazing," Martinez told Latin Post. "We clicked right away and we both really feel passionate about the topic. We really love the history of these meals."
Like the art of cooking, the craft of storytelling often unfolds over conversation at the dinner table; that's why it's so important to savor life, memories and your family's recipes from generation to generation.
"Not only are these recipes more vibrant and full of flavor, but it's how can we bring the family together, being that food is the starting point of our stories..." added Chef Sosa, who has appeared on Bravo's "Top Chef" and "Top Chef All Stars" and has had an impressive culinary career.
When Martinez and Sosa joined forces, they decided to put their spin on the old and new and also incorporate recipes from Martinez's celebrity pals - from John Leguizamo, Jorge Posada, Rosie Perez, Rapper Fat Joe, Henry Santos, Adrienne Bailon, DJ Enuff, and Robinson Cano to the Estate of the iconic Celia Cruz.
"That was brilliant and amazing that they shared that," Martinez said of the contribution from the Estate of Celia Cruz.
"(Rapper) Fat Joe lost 80 pounds and his wife, who is one of my best friends, started grilling, using brown rice and serving bigger portions of salad instead of using a lot of rice and beans," she added. "It's not just me doing these kinds of things, so I knew that they would be able to contribute."
With Chef Sosa's skillset, Martinez's contributions and guest celebrity recipes, the cookbook seemed like a recipe for success.
"I think that is the main emphasis of this cookbook is that (merging the past with the present). Why do those recipes have to die, why can't we bring them to the present, as opposed to cooking with lard. We don't have to cook with lard. We can use olive oil or coconut oil," Sosa told Latin Post.
"What other vegetable can we use that can take the place of starch? An avocado, a yucca," he added. "These recipes really are 'How do we alleviate the richness, the saturated fats and how do we amplify that flavor?' The past always evolves to the present and that is the beauty of this book."
What is the dynamic duo serving up?
Some of their signature dishes include: "Shrimp and Papaya Ceviche" and "Silken Soymilk Flan," and beverages such as the "No-Guilt Mojito," alongside "deep-rooted" family recipes like Martinez's Abuelita's "Crispy Tostones" and Chef Sosa's Tía Carmen's "Dominican Fish Stew."
"My Tía Carmen, who passed away 20 years ago, she's my inspiration; she instilled that passion in me for cooking," Chef Sosa said.
One of Chef Sosa's favorite dishes from "Healthy Latin Eating: Our Favorite Family Recipes Remixed" is the spin on "Arroz con Pollo," which is a Latin staple, but is unfortunately high in carbs.
How do you carve out some of the empty carbs?
Replace the white rice with quinoa, a whole grain packed with protein, fiber and iron by making the "Red Quinoa con Pollo" recipe. Another slice of advice: Latinos especially should never buy store-bought guacamole, but instead you can make a fresh, healthy 'guac' like the "Guacamole Verde with Tomatillo" recipe.
"There really is no excuse (to not make your own guacamole). It's easy to make it fresh," Martinez reiterated.
In the first chapter of "Healthy Latin Eating" titled, "Angelo's Healthy Kitchen," Chef Sosa also shares smart ingredient substitutions, alternative cooking methods, and subtle reductions in sugar, fat and sodium. This creates healthier dishes without compromising the integrity of the signature Latin taste.
Being of half-Dominican and half-Italian descent, Chef Sosa has always been inspired by a fusion of flavors.
"My parents were always educating me about food," said Chef Sosa, who graduated with High Honors from the Culinary Institute of America in 1997. "On Saturdays and Sundays, I would cook with my father, we would make a big Dominican feast. It was an integral part of my growing up."
"A lot of my cooking is fusion ... and the end result is to hear a story of my past," he explained. "The essence of my cooking is to infuse flavors, to infuse stories and to find inspiration."
For Martinez, growing up with a hard working mother, it wasn't always easy to have a full-on, home-cooked meal.
"She (my mother) tried to do the best she could because she was working. She made fast-cooked meals, but we would go to my grandmother's over the weekend," Martinez explained.
"That still happens; we got to my grandmother's house over the weekends and have a small feast. I gain like 5 pounds when I go over there," she laughed. "I have been slowly introducing these recipes to my grandmother and so far so good."
"Over the holidays, Angie brought her cucumber pineapple salad to her family and they devoured it and didn't think twice about it, which was really cool. ... Our salad selection is marvelous. These recipes really blend into the Latino home," Sosa said.
Both Martinez and Chef Sosa lead busy lives with hectic schedules. Martinez, who was dubbed "The Voice of New York," hosts "The Angie Martinez Show" on New York's Power 105.1 and on Miami's The Beat 103.5 and is an Extra TV correspondent as well as a mother to her 11-year-old son, Niko.
Chef Sosa runs two restaurants in Manhattan (Añejo in Hell's Kitchen and Tribeca) and one in Las Vegas, and does philanthropic work (he helps build homes and gives food to those in need in Tijuana, Mexico). The two know that time is of the essence; therefore, the recipes in "Healthy Latin Eating" aren't as time consuming and can be for any level of experienced cook.
With music often infused with cooking, what does Martinez, a radio guru and former Grammy-nominated rapper, and Chef Sosa listen to when they cook?
"It depends, it could be J. Cole one day and Marc Anthony the next. ... I am a huge Marc Anthony fan. It depends on the recipe, it depends on the mood and the time of day," Martinez said.
"When I cook, I listen to salsa and merengue, something up tempo," Chef Sosa added. "I do like hip-hop, as well, I like Biggie Smalls. Cooking with Biggie (in the background,) the food may be a little bit spicier!"
After almost two decades of being on the radio, is there an artist that Martinez would love to sit down and have a meal with?
"That's a great question. I would have to say Jennifer (Lopez). We know each other through social interactions, but I have never had a meal with her," she said. "So somebody like her who is so in tune with what she puts into her body, she's just in amazing shape and I would just love to sit down and have a meal with her."
"I would have to say (Rapper) Fat Joe because he's a foodie like me!"