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What’s Cooking with Celebrity Chef Gaby Melian

Rachel Sokol

Her kid-friendly cookbook features 70 Latin American dishes.

As someone who is half Puerto Rican, I’m always on the hunt for cookbooks for my family with a Latin flair and favor. I’m not the best chef, but I’m trying to improve!

Thankfully, it’s Gaby to the rescue! Celebrity Chef Gaby Melian’s newly-released cookbook contains easy-to-comprehend recipes I’d love to share with my daughters.

Gaby’s Latin American Kitchen features 70 mouth-watering meals and munchies from all over Latin America. Every recipe was created by Gaby and includes options for breakfast, lunch, snacks, and desserts. Geared towards kids, I love how Gaby’s book highlights LatinX culture and is educational. My Encanto-obsessed girls love cooking and learning about their culture — they were drawn to the colorful maps and illustrations in the cookbook. 

Gaby Melian is a very beloved America’s Test Kitchen chef, and her book also contains a Spanish glossary, personal memoirs, and a glimpse into Gaby’s own kitchen. It’s got a great tone and vibe and feels like she’s right there in your home cooking alongside you and your niños.

Gaby shared more about her interesting life and culinary talent in an exclusive chat with Latinista:

Where did you grow up–what was your childhood like?

GM: I was born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I was part of a close-knit, middle-class family that did everything together, especially cooking. My Abuela Porota is the main reason why I cook—she started teaching me when I was very young. A handful of recipes in my book are hers or are inspired by her, from Mermelada de Frutilla (Strawberry Jam) to Empanadas de Pollo (Chicken Turnovers) to Pastel de Papas (Beef Shepherd’s Pie).

What can families expect from your cookbook?

GM: Gaby’s Latin American Kitchen is a great way for kids to expand their palates and experience new cultures firsthand. It’s also full of opportunities for kids and their families to spend quality time together in the kitchen. Some of my best memories growing up are of cooking with my abuela, my mom, and my brother—it’s something you never forget! This cookbook includes many of the recipes that shaped my childhood and I’m so excited to bring that same experience to more families.

What’s your favorite recipe in the book, and why?

GM: All of the recipes that came from my family have a special place in my heart. If I had to choose just one it would be Árbol de Navidad de Ensalada Rusa (Russian Salad Christmas Tree). Every Christmas, my mother would make ensalada rusa, a potato salad, and shape it like a Christmas tree, with me and my brother cutting out “ornaments” from sliced carrots and radishes. If she had lots of time, the design would be very intricate and decorated. If she was in a rush, it would be more “rustic” but would still taste just as good!

What’s your go-to guilty pleasure dessert?

GM: I absolutely love all the desserts in my book, but I’d have to say that Panqueques con Dulce de Leche (Crepes with Dulce de Leche) and Brigadeiros (Chocolate Fudge Balls) are at the top of my list. I really believe that, if you want to eat dessert, then you should eat dessert with no need for excuses!

What’s a great back-to-school lunch parents can help their kids make–and why?

GB: Making a batch of Empanadas de Pollo (Chicken Turnovers) is a fun project to do together on the weekend and then you can pack them for lunch during the week. Mine are extra-easy because you use a rotisserie chicken and store-bought empanada dough. You could also make juicy, refreshing Ensalada de Frutas (Fruit Salad). It’s like dessert plus a drink thanks to all that orange juice! Pack it in a thermos to keep it cold.

You can order Gaby’s cookbook here. Learn more about the talented chefs from America’s Test Kitchen by visiting: americastestkitchen.com.

Rachel Sokol
Rachel Sokol

Rachel Sokol is a professional writer and editor with over 20 years of editorial experience in a variety of genres from higher education to holistic health to celebrity. She’s been published in Piccolo Universe (formerly Ricky Martin’s blog), Univision, Reader’s Digest, SHAPE, Hispanic Career World, Health.com, Parenting.com, REDBOOK, Real Simple, and more, and was an entertainment columnist for amNew York. A half-Boricua who has been to Puerto Rico numerous times, she lives on the East Coast with her family and is a mother of two.

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