Happy New Year! ¡Feliz Año!

 

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I woke up on New Year’s day after a most vivid dream where I was a spicy, Colombian singer named Shakira. I quickly slid my fingers down the sides of my body, actually hoping that I’d find some curvalicious hips and a quarter-bouncing booty. Nope, still Asian over here. After a few minutes of sulking and cursing my ancestors for having dull and shapeless figures, I looked out the window and saw that snow had fallen and collected to form a powdery, white carpet covering our entire neighborhood. We decided to take a drive downtown and stopped by Island Park on the way. Here are a few photos from our cold and snowy walk through the park.

 

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It was a great way to relax after a fabulous night of partying. For New Year’s Eve, we joined our neighbor, Alfonso and his family and friends for a wonderful fiesta de fin de año. We feasted on delicious Colombian, Peruvian and Puerto Rican food while listening to some awesome cumbia music. Our new friends looked on with curiosity as this SAC (Small Asian Chick) continued to heap onto her plate an ungodly amount of food that included roasted chicken with a garlicky, piquant salsa verde, jamón with mashed pineapple, rice with onion and green beans, pork tenderloin in a dill crust, steamed potatoes, coconut besitos and a few more items that I forget the names of.

And what is a fiesta without dancing? Before we knew it, the vino had gotten to us and Pierre and I were right in the middle of the floor, happily breaking out all our salsa and bachata moves; oh yes, all THREE of them. Not to be outdone by us youngins’, Alfonso also took to the floor and showed us how Colombians do it – with gusto, baby!

During the few times I paused from the revelry, I’d scan the room and see Alfonso’s young nephews kicking around a soccer ball, his friends enjoying wine, chatting and laughing, and everyone else, from his 4 year-old niece to his elder siblings, getting down to the music. I cannot fully describe the joy that emanates from Alfonso and his family. The beautiful food, wine, and dancing – it’s simply in their blood. And this, I believe, is why Latin Americans have an incredible edge on all things party-related.

To Alfonso and his family, muchas gracias for an unforgettable evening.

Now, back to the food. I brought some pasteles de guayaba – guava and cream cheese pastries using store-bought puff pastry. Growing up, we had guava trees in our backyard. Two had fruit that were white-fleshed with very few seeds, ổi xá lị, we called them, and one had fruit with a rose-colored flesh with lots of seeds. I loved picking and eating them right off the tree though I wasn’t allowed to eat it as much as I wanted as mother claimed it can be nóng (literally: hot), disruptive to the chemical balance in your body and cause bodily rashes or worse, pimples. She says the same thing of mango, rambutan, lychee, jackfruit and basically any other amazingly delicious fruit I like.

You can imagine the smirk on my face as I stuffed a couple (okay, three) of these guava pastries in my mouth. Hot my arse. As a bonus, these pastries are just as good as the ones you’d find at Cuban cafes on Calle Ocho. ¡Rico y sabroso!

 

PASTELES DE GUAYABA – GUAVA PASTRIES

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INGREDIENTS:

  • puff pastry sheet, cut into approx. 2.5 inch squares
  • guava paste (pasta de guayaba), cut into 1/2 inch-thick strips, approx. 1/2 inch wide and 2 inches long [I often find these at Latino markets, in round tins next to the membrillo]
  • cream cheese, cut into strips, slightly bigger than the guava strips
  • egg wash (one egg yolk whisked with 1 tsp. water or milk)

STEPS:

  • Preheat the oven to 400F.
  • Place the cream cheese and guava a little off-center on the the pastry square. You may need to push the guava down a bit, into the cheese.
  • Next, fold the sides of the square over the filling and carefully seal the edges.
  • Place the pastry, seam side down onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and brush the top with the egg wash. Repeat with the remainder of the pastry squares.
  • Bake for approx. 18-20 minutes. The tops should be a light golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.
¡Buen provecho!