(Editor’s note: Ingrid Hoffmann’s new book Latin d’Lite: Delicious Recipes with a Healthy Twist, was released this week, on April 2. We last profiled the hometown cooking diva last February, just as she was expanding her multicultural reach from broadcasting to the South Beach Wine & Food Festival).
By Elizabeth Rahe
Ingrid Hoffmann and butterflies on an island paradise – sounds idyllic, but there’s a catch. Paradise is Spanish Wells in the Bahamas. The butterflies are in Hoffmann’s stomach.
It’s the first week of January, and South Florida’s multicultural kitchen maven is vacationing on the remote island to recharge before getting back to her fast-paced, multimedia life. In the next week she begins marathon taping sessions for her Spanish-language cooking and lifestyle show Delicioso with Ingrid Hoffmann plus radio and morning-show spots. There are HSN promotions for her cookware and flatware lines and live appearances, including preparing pork tacos for the masses at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival.
Hoffmann has been adding Latin color and spice to TV cooking for 13 years, but this season, the hour-long Delicioso is slated to be broadcast over the entire Univision network, first in the nation for Hispanic viewers.
“It’s a big break, but also a risky break,” says Hoffmann, 46, who was born in Colombia. The challenge is to get viewer ratings from a broader fan base, including the large population of Hispanics with Mexican roots on the West Coast. She says she is excited about the task, and ready, if a bit on edge.
“I always like to have the anxiety and these nerves because the adrenalin drives you to a different place. If you don’t have fire in the belly, you’re sort of complacent. Complacent doesn’t give good TV,” she says.
The new season of Delicioso, which previously aired on Univision’s cable outlet, Galavision, and then on its sister TeleFutura network, debuted at 1 p.m. on Feb. 4, with a show entitled With a Mexican Touch. Mexico is just one of the 22 Latin American countries the show embraces in its programming, says Delia Annette Leon, vice president of operations and creative development at Hoffmann’s company,
Chica Worldwide. “We present viewers with flavors they know and introduce them to new flavors,” she says.
Hoffmann’s co-host is Mexican-born Maggie Jiménez, who is as tall, dark and willowy as Hoffmann is petite, blond and shapely. “I’m five-feet-zero, but I tell people I’m five-feet-one,” Hoffmann says.
On the Univision set in Doral on Jan. 12, Jiménez wears flats while Hoffmann zips around in tall, wedge-heeled sandals as she prepares breakfast before the cameras – Coffee-Laced Spanish Torrijas (French toast), Breakfast Burrito with Cilantro-Pepita Sauce and Creamy Fruit Salad. Later she discusses the sugar content in children’s cereals and crafts a serving tray from a stained plank of wood and rope for handles.
As several busy chefs and producers set up the scenes, the co-hosts bundle up against the chill in the studio. “¡Qué frío, Dios mío!” Hoffmann says, at one point warming her hands over the stove. Just before the cameras roll, they peel off their wraps and turn on the charm.
Hoffmann is all business as she prepares for her segments. “Silence, guys, please!” she pleads as she practices her lines. Then she delivers the scene in one take with smooth professionalism. Her hands-on style is evident even in prop selection.
“This ties it all together,” she tells a producer, indicating a pink and purple print napkin that will be placed under the plate of torrijas in a picturesque table setting.
Being involved in the process from beginning to end is just her way. She arrives at the studio at 6 a.m. on shoot days and often stays until 9 or 10 at night. During breaks, she whips out her pink BlackBerry to answer texts and emails and to update her Facebook and Twitter pages, in two languages.
Her Yorkie, Paris – aka Salsita on the show – accompanies her to the studio on these long days, but he doesn’t have to work as hard as his master. Hoffmann leads a visitor to a back room, where the perfectly groomed pooch is curled up on a dog bed placed on a couch. She picks him up for a quick snuggle, then places him back on the couch. As she turns to leave, Paris begins to follow her. Hoffmann commands him to stay, and he instantly obeys. Salsita knows his cue.
“I’m obsessive with any task that I do. I live it, breathe it, sweat it, cry it. I’m very emotionally intense,” she says. “Some people may call it being a control freak and, in the end, yes, it is. It has my name on it. I’m allowed to be the control freak here.”
In addition to her television shows, she lends her name to Latin-influenced cookware for T-fal (sold at Target, Kmart and via HSN) and a cutlery and gadget line for Furi (on HSN). There’s more in the pipeline, she says, including a sauce and salsa line. She has endorsement contracts with Coca-Cola and Chilean Hass avocados. In 2008 she published Simply Delicioso: A Collection of Everyday Recipes with a Latin Twist (Clarkson Potter/Random House) in both English and Spanish.
Her next book, which she describes as “Latin light,” will focus on her belief that diets don’t work. She has learned this lesson herself and devised a system of eating and exercise that keeps her in balance. “I definitely have an obsessive relationship with food. It’s sort of always been a battle. I eat double what I should eat, and I’m a little person. Thank God I think I’m blessed with an amazing metabolism.”
The issue is accentuated by her profession. “Food is the one thing my mind is really focused on every day of my life,” she says.
Whatever she is doing, it seems to be working. She appears fit and energetic on the set, wearing skinny jeans and a ruffled peacock-blue shirt accented with a long necklace and, in some segments, a leopard-print scarf.
Her personal life seems to be cruising along as well, often at high altitudes. She has been dating Paul Bacardi – yes, that Bacardi – for the past two years, and the pair escape whenever possible in a plane he pilots. Hoffmann says they both enjoy cooking, eating, fishing, hunting and flying together.
“I found Ingrid incredibly attractive because we both enjoy similar activities in life,” Bacardi says. He also was captivated by the way she built her career and adds another example of her strength and drive: “Did you know Ingrid once used to ride a Katana Suzuki 1100 cc motorcycle? It’s twice what I ride now!”
It’s no surprise that she would be attracted to a pilot. Her father, Billy Hoffmann, had a career in aviation. Her mother, Yolanda, was a Cordon Bleu-trained chef, and little Ingrid learned to cook and entertain at her elbow. She grew up in Colombia and the Netherlands and acted in Colombian telenovelas before moving to South Florida in 1985, opening a fashion boutique in Coconut Grove and then a restaurant in Miami. Hoffmann got her start on television 13 years ago, hosting a segment on a local morning show. That led to Delicioso with Ingrid Hoffmann, which initially aired in Latin America before Galavision picked it up in 2006. The English-language Simply Delicioso premiered on The Food Network in 2007, moving to The Cooking Channel two years ago.
Bridging cultures has always been a part of Hoffmann’s life – she speaks five languages. Early on, she identified the difference between her two audiences: The American viewer wanted fast recipes; the Hispanic viewer wanted budget recipes. “But the lines are getting blurrier and blurrier,” she says. “With the economy…people are working more, and they can’t afford what they used to be able to afford. In 10 more years I really doubt we’ll be speaking about ethnic food. It will all be global.”
She is doing her part to globalize ethnic ingredients. For the South Beach Wine & Food Festival she will bring Latin zest to the multicultural Swine & Wine event Feb. 26 at the Biltmore Hotel, Coral Gables, preparing La Caja China Pig marinated in Coca-Cola with her Adobo Delicioso. She and her crew will turn the roasted meat into Mini Cold Pork Tacos with Guava Salsa Negra and Pickled Mustard Seeds.
Hoffmann sees herself as an ambassador for Latin food, yet she is sometimes amazed by her influence. “When you hear somebody from the Midwest saying, ‘I’ve done this recipe from you, and I really like it,’ that’s surprising to me. I say, really?”
What is your favorite ingredient of the moment? Chilean Hass avocados. They have more flavor. I use them even as a spread on toast in the morning and include slices in almost all my meals.
Your favorite gadget?
I would have to say my pressure cooker of my own T-fal/Simply Delicioso line. It’s become my best friend…the only way to eat healthy fast. I make everything in it – risottos, pastas, stews, desserts.
What are some of your favorite local restaurants?
Michael’s [Genuine Food & Drink], Zuma, Haven, Michy’s, Meat Market, Salmon & Salmon, Sardenia
Beyond family and close friends, what people, past or present, would you like to dine with? Joan of Arc, Julius Caesar, Winston Churchill and any past presidents of the USA.
Who is your favorite cooking partner? My significant other, Paul Bacardi. We love cooking together, and he does most of the cooking at home. He should have been a professional chef as he is extremely talented in the kitchen. We love fishing, eating, hunting and, most of all, flying together in his plane, with me and my dog as co-pilots. I think my dream would be to have a cooking/fishing/hunting/flying show together with him.
Eat, drink & enjoy
In honor of the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, www.sobefest.com ), Ingrid Hoffmann offers a pair of favorite recipes as well as wines to serve with them.
Lamb Chops With Cilantro-Mint Chimichurri
Your favorite Rioja
For the chimichurri sauce
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
½ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves
1-2 pickled or fresh serrano chiles, halved
(seeded and ribbed for less heat)
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice (from about ½ lime)
1 tablespoon honey
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
For the lamb
12 1-inch thick lamb loin chops,
trimmed of excess fat
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
3 garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely chopped
To make the chimichurri, combine the cilantro, parsley, mint, serrano chile, rice vinegar, lime juice, honey and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse into a paste. With the food processor running, gradually add the olive oil, continuing to process until the sauce is smooth, scraping down the sides of the food processor as necessary. Transfer the chimichurri to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before serving. (Best served the same day.)
To make the lamb, preheat the broiler to high and place the oven rack at its highest position.
Season the lamb with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a large, oven-safe skillet over high heat. Add the lamb chops and brown on all sides, about 10 minutes total. Add the rosemary and the garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.
Transfer the skillet to the broiler and cook about 5 minutes (lamb should be pink in the center) or to desired doneness. Serve the chops with a spoonful of the chimichurri drizzled on top.
Makes 4-6 servings
Shrimp & Scallop Easy Paella
Mar de Frades
Albariño Rias Baixas
4-6 cups chicken stock
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 red pepper, seeded, ribbed and thinly sliced
1 green pepper, seeded, ribbed and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon Spanish saffron, pistils only
4 links (about 6 ounces) chorizo, sliced
2 cups medium-grain white rice
1 10-ounce can diced tomatoes with chilies
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 pounds raw large shrimp, peeled
1 pound sea scallops
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/3 cup chopped Italian parsley
Lemon wedges for garnish
In a medium saucepan, heat the chicken stock until boiling.
In a separate large saucepan or paella pan over medium-high heat, heat the oil and add the onion, garlic, peppers, saffron and chorizo. Cook for 6 minutes or until vegetables are soft and chorizo is browned.
Stir in the rice, tomatoes and tomato paste until well mixed and cook for 5 minutes. Add the boiling chicken stock little by little, stirring constantly until the stock is almost absorbed (add enough for desired consistency).
Cover the pan with lid or aluminum foil and cook for 25 minutes, until rice is tender. Add the shrimp and scallops and let cook covered for 5-7 minutes more.
Garnish with chopped parsley and lemon wedges.
Makes 8 servings
Coffee-Laced Spanish Torrijas
1 8-ounce loaf French bread, cut into
8 (1/2-inch) slices
½ cup strong brewed coffee
¼ cup milk
¼ cup sweetened condensed milk
2 teaspoons grated lime zest
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons mild olive oil
or canola oil
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Place a small baking sheet in the oven.
Whisk together the coffee, milk, sweetened condensed milk, lime zest and vanilla in a large bowl. Whisk the eggs in a medium bowl until blended. Working with 1 bread slice at a time, place into milk mixture, then into the beaten eggs, turning gently to coat both sides.
Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add half of the soaked bread slices and cook until browned, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to the baking sheet to keep warm. Repeat with remaining bread slices.
Combine the sugar and cinnamon in small bowl; set aside. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar over the torrijas and serve warm.