Arepas, fried or baked skillet breads made from corn flour, are eaten night and day in Venezuela (usually stuffed) and Colombia (usually not). Michelle Bernstein says they're also her favorite snack at street fairs and carnivals in Miami. Here, she makes mini arepas, or arepitas, to serve as canapés, adding cheese and chorizo to the dough. They're her answer to the corn dog.
This recipe is based on typical street food in Oaxaca, Mexico, where Michelle Bernstein once lived. The corn is typically smothered in mayonnaise, dipped in cheese and then covered with a spicy chile powder. Here, Bernstein adds a little melted butter for an American accent. She uses a powdered-sugar shaker to apply an even coating of the chile powder.
In Argentina, a mixed grill is called a parrillada (parrilla means "grill" in Spanish). The dish is served in a rustic style, with whole pieces of meat like chicken hearts and sausage brought to the table. Michelle Bernstein prefers to grill skewers of meat for a more elegant presentation; here she uses chicken livers instead of hearts.
Michelle Bernstein discovered authentic ceviches during a trip to Peru. One of her favorite preparations combines several types of raw seafood with celery, garlic, cilantro, lime juice and lots of salt. The unusual ingredient is ají amarillo, a spicy yellow-pepper paste (sold in tubes) that turns the seviche a bright yellow color. Bernstein prefers to quickly cook most of the seafood with Old Bay seasoning, then add fresh ginger for extra kick.
Michelle Bernstein is a big fan of pound cake. She makes hers with lots of butter, then sometimes slathers slices with more butter and sautés them in a heavy skillet. Here, she tops slices of warm grilled cake with a fantastic Mexican-inspired chocolate sauce flavored with cocoa, cinnamon and chile powder.
Brazil is famous for the caipirinha, but less well known for the classic caipiroska cocktail that combines vodka, lime juice and sugar. Michelle Bernstein doesn't love the taste of alcohol so she throws passion fruit puree into the mix, creating a deliciously fruity sweet-tart drink.
Living in Miami, surrounded by Cuban culture, Michelle Bernstein has grown to love black beans, particularly in thick and chunky black bean soup. She makes a silky version by adding cream to the beans, then blending them until frothy.