Illustration by Suz Boretz

An international celebration: Cooking demos made with love

Bonjour! Hello! This past Fall, myself and several members of the Annenberg Cross-Cultural Student Association shared recipes from our own heritages, bridging cultural understanding and creating connection while safely distancing during the global pandemic. For this second round, I thought it would be nice to showcase these cooking demonstrations for Valentine’s Day and asked members of our faculty and staff — and even President Carol L. Folt — to participate and present their recipes.

The idea is to celebrate our love of cooking in all its forms and to show how we share a common membership in humanity.

After a year characterized by so much division, fear and hatred in our country, I believe that these cooking demos highlight the diversity and unity that persists across USC Annenberg, USC and the United States. Cooking is an activity that many of us have in common, and my hope is that by offering these recipes, we bring people together to remind us of our collective strength.

This project is also a nice opportunity to honor President Folt and our USC Annenberg faculty and staff, who go above and beyond to support our students and to ensure our university continues to advance during these challenging times.

No matter where you are located in the world, I hope this collection of cooking demos will brighten your day by providing a little food for your heart and soul. 

Bon Appétit and Happy Valentine’s Day!

Bintou Agne


President Carol L. Folt’s Grape Leaves with Avgolemono Sauce

Dr. Carol L. Folt serves as the twelfth president of the University of Southern California. Here, she shares her Albanian grandmother’s grape leaves recipe with our community.  

Download a PDF of President Folt’s recipe here.

Amara Aguilar’s Tamales

One of Amara Aguilar’s favorite things to do is cook with her family. The associate professor of professional practice in journalism chose a tamales recipe because it is a dish she loves to make with her daughter, dad and grandmother every year. Up to four generations of her family make tamales together and, of course, enjoy eating them for days afterward.

Download a PDF of Amara’s recipe here.

Daniel Durbin’s Perfectly Poached Eggs

Poached eggs are something of an art, according to Daniel Durbin, clinical professor of communication and director of the Institute of Sports, Media and Society. Durbin’s first remembered experience with poached eggs was seeing his grandmother break open the yoke and watching its thick yellow fluid seep into her Saturday morning pancakes just before covering it all with great globs of maple syrup. He shuddered with six-year-old nausea at the time. But later in life, Durbin found that Grandma Clydamont might have been, in her own unique way, a gourmet.

Download a PDF of Daniel’s recipe here.

Helene Sparangis’ Vasilopita

Vasilopita is something Helene Sparangis, senior career services advisor, enjoys every New Year. It’s the first dessert she learned how to make with her parents. Being Greek Orthodox, Sparangis has always been excited about finding the coin baked into Vasilopita and sharing the story of its origins with friends and colleagues. This version was made from A Guide to Greek Traditions and Customs in America by Marylin Rouvelas.

Download a PDF of Helene’s recipe here.

Jasmine Mora’s Nuegados

Nuegados are one of Jasmine Mora’s favorite childhood desserts. The special events coordinator shares this “decadent treat” that her family makes every Easter. Vivid memories of standing over the stove and smelling the strong aroma of cloves and cinnamon for the syrup, still bring Mora back to the time when she watched her aunts and great-grandmother make this traditional dessert. It’s a labor-intensive dish with many steps, but worth it for trying this sweet Salvadorian staple. 

Download a PDF of Jasmine’s recipe here

Leticia Lozoya’s Mexican Green Enchiladas

This is one of Leticia Lozoya’s favorite dishes because it is easy to make and (most importantly) delicious! Her godmother showed the director of alumni relations how to make the dish when Lozoya first moved out on her own. It represents a part of her Mexican heritage and is one of the first dishes she made for her husband when they first started dating. It is one of his favorites, too! 

Download a PDF of Leticia’s recipe here.

Miki Turner’s Lemon Spinach Ricotta Instant Pot Pasta

Miki Turner loves pasta and all the ingredients that go into this particular dish. When she first bought an Instant Pot, the assistant professor of professional practice of journalism, began experimenting with recipes. As much as she loves pasta, she hates the wait. Only three minutes to make an entire pasta dish is great!  She admits that a “cool thing” is that most mistakes can be easily fixed once all the pieces are all assembled together.  

Download a PDF of Miki’s recipe here.

Suzanne Alcantara’s Spaghetti Aglio E Olio

Deeply proud of her Italian heritage, Suzanne Alcantara, assistant dean of student affairs and director of career development, is excited to share this recipe. This is a simple and delicious pasta dish that reminds Alcantara of her trips to Italy. 

Download a PDF of Suzanne’s recipe here.