Israel (Izzy) Sanchez is a fan of the cooking craft.
"I inherited it from my mother," said Sanchez. "She used to say 'I'm not going to live forever' and she wanted us to learn."
Sanchez, a dancer with Ensemble Espanol, will perform with the troupe in "Flamenco Passion," which is the culmination of the 37th American Spanish Dance & Music Festival June 21 to 23 at North Shore Center for Performing Arts in Skokie. FYI: (847) 673-6300.
Sanchez is one of five children and said he started helping his mother cook when he was 10 years old.
"I learned how to cook Puerto Rican food. One of my favorite dishes that my grandmother used to make was mofongo, which is plantains," he said.
Sanchez, who was born in Chicago, said he was raised in Puerto Rico. He enjoys cooking ethnic favorites now including Puerto Rican rice, chicken stew and other dishes. His family had a coffee farm and grew an assortment of other crops, including vegetables, fruits and herbs.
"We would go to the backyard and get everything," Sanchez said. That's one of the reasons he's now still so attuned to healthy eating. "I grew up eating fresh food," he stressed.
As a dancer, Sanchez said he focuses on eating healthy. He also stays away from fast food and junk food. Another reason Sanchez maintains such a healthy diet is due to a lung transplant he had about nine years ago.
"I feel blessed to have a second chance at life," Sanchez said. "I don't take anything for granted."
The following recipe is a Sanchez favorite.
3 unripe green plantains
6 ounces pork rinds (crushed)
1 tablespoon garlic paste
Vegetable oil for frying
DIRECTIONS: Preheat about two inches of oil in a frying pan or deep fryer to 350 degrees. While the oil is heating up, peel the plantain and cut into one inch rounds. Fry the plantain until golden and tender. This will take approximately 4 to 6 minutes. Remove cooked plantain from the fryer and allow to drain on paper towels. Put the garlic paste in a mixing bowl and then add fried plantains. Mash until thoroughly blended. Add the pork rinds/cracklings. Continue to mash and mix until all ingredients are well incorporated. At this point you may shape the mofongo into 4 balls and serve hot or divide the mofongo into 4 equal portions. Use a small condiment bowl as a mold. Push the mofongo down to the bottom of the bowl. With the back of a spoon, smooth over and level off the mix. Then use the spoon to scrape around the bowl and remove the mash in a half dome shape.