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NPR Holiday Leftovers Presents: Puerto Rican Recipes

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

We've been searching for holiday recipes among the NPR staff these past few weeks. We've heard about Linda Wertheimer's leftover turkey tacos - that's with leftover turkeys - the tacos themselves are not leftover - and Nina Totenberg's supreme sausage stuffing. I added the supreme. We're going to turn now to Vicky Diaz-Camacho, who's an intern at NPR's Arts Desk. Thanks very much for being with us.

VICKY DIAZ-CAMACHO, BYLINE: Thank you for having me.

SIMON: First off, where are you interning from?

DIAZ-CAMACHO: I graduated from KU.

SIMON: You graduated from KU.

DIAZ-CAMACHO: Yes.

SIMON: Kansas or Kentucky or - which one?

DIAZ-CAMACHO: University of Kansas.

SIMON: University in Kansas.

DIAZ-CAMACHO: In Lawrence, Kans.

SIMON: I understand your family's from Puerto Rico.

DIAZ-CAMACHO: Yes.

SIMON: OK. Let's begin with the main course. Mofongo.

DIAZ-CAMACHO: Mofongo - OK.

SIMON: That's mashed plantains, I know, and that's about all I know.

DIAZ-CAMACHO: It's mashed, and it's fried, so that's what makes it so good (laughter). Anything...

SIMON: Yeah. Well, frying helps everything. What else goes in there?

DIAZ-CAMACHO: A bunch of garlic - usually I put three to five cloves. And then you add in a little bit of beef broth...

SIMON: Beef broth.

DIAZ-CAMACHO: ...As well, if you want.

SIMON: I've heard of bacon.

DIAZ-CAMACHO: Yes, bacon or chicharron, which is fried pigskin.

SIMON: Oh, my.

DIAZ-CAMACHO: And I know that that sounds a little bit odd, but it's totally tasty.

SIMON: Give us the sequence of the recipe if you can.

DIAZ-CAMACHO: OK. So first you have to get some green plantains. You cut them in to inch circles. You just fry them for a good two minutes. You put them in a big wooden bowl, and then you smash with a pilon, which is just another mashing device.

SIMON: You could in theory use a spoon if you didn't have a pilon - right? - flat end of a spoon. Yeah.

DIAZ-CAMACHO: Yeah, you could use a potato masher - anything that mashes, really. Then you go ahead and grab your garlic butter, a little bit of cilantro. That's something that my grandma would always add.

SIMON: Cilantro? Yeah.

DIAZ-CAMACHO: Is cilantro because it just has a great flavor.

SIMON: Sure.

DIAZ-CAMACHO: So you have the fried goodness with that cilantro freshness.

SIMON: And then - and then the bacon - you just...

DIAZ-CAMACHO: Yes, yes.

SIMON: And I understand you have a dessert recipe for us, too.

DIAZ-CAMACHO: Yes.

SIMON: Which is what?

DIAZ-CAMACHO: Tembleque.

SIMON: That one I don't know.

DIAZ-CAMACHO: OK. The definition of it is pretty much wiggly shaky. It trembles.

SIMON: Oh, tembleque.

DIAZ-CAMACHO: Get it? Tembleque.

SIMON: Right, OK. Yeah.

DIAZ-CAMACHO: So it's a coconut pudding-slash-jello. And the thing that my grandmother would always do is add freshness, so with lime zest inside and then put cinnamon on top.

SIMON: My, and you serve that cold, I imagine, right? Yeah.

DIAZ-CAMACHO: Yes, yes. You bring that to a boil, put a little bit of cornstarch in the coconut milk, and then you go ahead and add your lime zest in there, a little bit of cinnamon. And then once that goes down to a simmer, you put that into a mold so that it looks really pretty, especially for the holidays.

SIMON: Right. Yeah.

DIAZ-CAMACHO: And then you freeze it overnight. That way it holds its shape.

SIMON: Yeah.

DIAZ-CAMACHO: And I always serve it for Thanksgiving or Christmas, but it's so good you just want to make it year round.

SIMON: So who's the source of wisdom for these recipes?

DIAZ-CAMACHO: My grandmother - my grandmother's the one who always made you know, tembleque and then also mantecaditos, which are just butter cookies on the side. But she's always been the cook. And my grandfather would always infuse it with extra pizzazz because of his mother, you know.

(LAUGHTER)

SIMON: Yeah.

DIAZ-CAMACHO: So just hearing those stories from him made me want to learn to make these recipes.

SIMON: Oh, that's wonderful.

DIAZ-CAMACHO: And ever since then, I've just taken it over.

SIMON: You going to see him during the holidays?

DIAZ-CAMACHO: Yes, and I'm going to make him a feast.

SIMON: Oh, that sounds wonderful. They'll appreciate that a lot, you know.

DIAZ-CAMACHO: Yes, they do.

SIMON: And we appreciate it. Vicki Diaz-Camacho from the NPR Arts Desk, thanks so much.

DIAZ-CAMACHO: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.