Many great cooks grow up around great cooks and learn by osmosis through years of hanging out in the family kitchen. Lourdes Castro didn’t, and it’s one of the reasons she’s such a terrific cooking teacher. She doesn’t assume students have kitchen smarts, because she didn’t when she started out. Instead, she gives them the info they need in a totally accessible way—both in her classes in New York and Florida and in her recipes, which appear on the following pages.
Castro, who grew up in 1970s Miami, learned to love food by eating at Cuban restaurants with her Cuban-born parents. When she began pursuing a master’s degree in nutrition at Columbia University, she finally began to cook as a way of learning about food science. At home in her Manhattan apartment, she started making dinners (“experimenting,” she jokes) for friends. Her approach was scientific: “I’d go to the market and analyze ingredients. When I saw a plantain, say, I’d think about carbohydrates and sugars, and it helped me understand the best way to cook it.” Today, Castro teaches food science at New York University and is the culinary director of Miami’s Biltmore Hotel. Her first cookbook, Simply Mexican, was published this spring.
Related: Ropa Vieja Recipe