Archive for ‘Mexican?’

August 24, 2012

Be Brave, Or Keep Wasting Time

by Kathryn Baldwin

 

Why do we avoid tasks that seem above our capacity? When you were two years old, if someone told you to jump and touch the basketball hoop, you would have looked up, bent your knees, stretched your fingertips way up…. and “…ummff!” You were many feet away, and yet, you tried to reach the hoop anyways without judging whether or not it was in your capacity to really touch it! Why not?! At least you tried, and you probably learned an inkling of hand-eye-foot coordination from the moment of fearless leapage. Now, if someone tells us to jump and reach the basketball hoop, we look up and think, nah, that’s kinda far, I probably won’t make it.

(This will eventually connect to my culinary adventure-of-the-week; I promise.)
When I was living with my host family in Cuernavaca, dinners were more like mini snacks and tea before bed. My Mamá would warm up a small bowl of lentil soup, a concha with Mexican hot chocolate; sometimes all we craved was some papaya. Still, when I think of sun-down Mexico, I picture my tamal de elote with a drizzle of Mexican Crema.
After weeks of nights arriving at the table with a steaming, sweet, “corn tamale” on my mini plate, I finally asked: “Mamá, how do you make these!!!!!” (Well, I probably asked this in incorrect-grammar-Spanish, but we won’t go there…). Mamá swish, swish, swished her slippers across the tile floors to show me where the magical, sweet tamales came from. I was like a five-year-old asking where where babies come from; it was a mystery and I was unprepared for the answer.
She opened her mini fridge (how she fed a giant family out of two mini fridges, GOD KNOWS!) and pulled out a bag of frozen, pre-made corn tamales. The mysticism was a little faded after finding out that nobody I personally knew was making these by hand, but who says a family member has to slave away for me to be satisfied at the dinner table?!?! I’d always heard that making tamales was this huge ordeal. Why should anyone have to slave over my dinner?
For years (not kidding: from Spring 2010 to Summer 2012) I have been scouring freezer aisles for frozen corn tamales. Safeway, Nob Hill, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Diablo Foods, Lucky (personal favorite…NOT), Costco, Target, Sam’s Club, Andronico’s, even friggin’ Walmart and “Fresh and Easy Neighborhood Market” in Walnut Creek! If it sells frozen food, I’ve check the place. Pretty much every store’s helpers looks at me like I’m crazy when I ask if they have corn tamales. ….They’re face probably looks just like my face after someone orders a cheese quesadilla.Cheese quesadilla?! Are you for real?
When I heard that my Mexican Mamá wouldn’t make the corn tamales by hand, I immediately thought I wouldn’t be able to make them by hand either.
Well I’ve been craving these sweet corn pockets of love even more so lately with my severe Mexican Travel Bug buzzing in my ear all day. I even planned to make them last Sunday… and chickened out. Then, Monday I went to the grocery store for corn husks and when we returned to my boyfriend’s house, a family friend had dropped by and left some fresh, sweet corn tamales on the counter. “OK UNIVERSE!” I thought, “I CAN TAKE A HINT… YOU DON’T HAVE TO YELL!”
Then, on Wednesday, I finished my run at Trader Joe’s to buy three fresh corn husks. The girl that checked me out was like… “balanced meal huh… ?” I arrived home with my arm-band still attached and went for my maseca. Here’s my Tamales de Elote story:
It turns out that making corn tamales is a million times cleaner and easier than most other Mexican dishes that I have attempted. No oil-splattered stove, no pots on fire, no smoky kitchens, no chile-burned hands, no slimy meat-skin, and I didn’t feel like I had to drink three beers to get through the dishes. It turned out that mustering the courage and completing a seemingly scary task saves a ton of time, energy, and gas that I normally spend avoiding it. No more freezer aisle searches. Tamales de elote: I’m home!
(KGUAC AFTER-FACT: Did you know that tamal actually means “trap” in Spanish? Maybe this is why I was afraid to make them! Subconsciously, they were putting a vibe of “Hey, I’m an accident waiting to happen!” Still, the same word in Spanish can be used to mean “pile” or “bundle.” Let’s go with bundle. My sweet little bundles of love. ….
“I shall call him squishy and he shall be mine and he shall be my squishy. Come here squishy. Come here little squishy… hey littledabuswishydebu-da-budah…. “)
July 27, 2012

Queso Fundido

by Kathryn Baldwin


Last week, my family said “see you soon” to our grandfather who passed away watching a Cubs game at age 85. Art Bonwell was the cofounder of the Save Mount Diablo Foundation and also built the foundation my father needed to raise his own healthy family.

This week, my boyfriend’s family said “hello” to four squeaking, new-born puppies. Nala, the yorkie-mix mother, gave birth Monday, right at her favorite part of the day (dinner time, duh), and has been tending to the wobbly crew ever since.

There is something so beautiful about life. Each Good-bye can be soothed by another Hello.

This week of contrasts that left me contemplating the wisdom of old age and the sweetness of youth, led me to the perfect culinary parallel: cheese! After all, what other food is beautiful fresh AND beautiful, if not more so, in old age?

So after the puppies were born, I had the crazy idea to try Marcella Vallodolid’s recipe and MAKE fresh cheese from milk. To make a long story short, I FAILED. Here is the sad story in picture form:

On the way home from work the next day, I went to a local Mexican grocery store (Las Montañas) to buy 5 ingredients from the gods: Oaxaca cheese, Mexican Chorizo, a white onion, fresh garlic, and a stack of tortillas. My mood soared the moment I dropped the ingredients in my basket.

The first time I ate “Queso Fundido” was with my boyfriend’s family in Guadalajara, Mexico. A mini, cast iron dish arrived at the table with steaming cheese, a fork, and warm, flour tortillas. I remember asking what it was called. I also remember immediately responding, “Queso Qué?!”  Queso means cheese, of course (and if you don’t know that, you’re name is Patrick Star and you live under a rock). I know now that the word “Fundido” means melted (although the same word can be used as “molten” or “ruined,” but this isn’t a linguistics blog…).

Mexican Mozzarella from the Oaxaca region:

After the cheese stops bubbling from it’s quick oven bake, you can stick a fork in it and twist the cheese like caramel or taffy. Pull the molten cheese from the hardening puddle and then squeeze the warm glob between a piece of soft tortilla.

Slide the cheese off, as though it’s a roasted marshmallow sliding off of a stick between two graham crackers. In another country, we may call this fondue; In Mexico, it’s Queso Fundido. And remember to indulge in the mess. It’s part of the Mexican way, after all!

Follow Marcella Valladolid’s recipe from “Mexican Made Easy.”

I used more onion because I like it better that way! If you want to make the appetizer a more fun experience for guests, have avocado slices, cilantro, lime, and salsa around to add to each bite. Lead the way: show the crowd how each bite can be just as unique and delicious as it is messy.

Tomorrow you can search for the wiser, aged cheeses of life to learn something new from. Today, we thank the universe for the fresh cheeses of life.

In Loving Memory of Art Bonwell. Thank you for being the link of wisdom that our family needed.

June 29, 2012

Just add color… (Mexican flag snack!)

by Kathryn Baldwin

Black, White, Brown, Yellow, … I like to call myself peach…

In an effort to humor American culture’s obsession with colors, I will share a meal that was inspired by colors. Here’s the story:

It’s 8:15am, Wednesday morning. I have 45 minutes to make my way through East Bay traffic and settle in my desk at work before I’m officially late. I’ve already run up and down the stairs a million times since 7am: I forgot my ring; dang, I left the bathroom fan on, I forgot mascara; gosh, this shirts’ way too tight! (sound like a familiar morning?) I consider blowing through the front door without a packed lunch, but remember that being two minutes late is better than spending six bucks on a random, expensive, unmemorable lunch. (I know what you’re thinking: “wooord!”) My purse already on my shoulder, I yank on the fridge door. “Vegetables!” I think. “Find some vegetables!” I snatch cottage cheese from the shelf, a zucchini from the drawer, a tomato off of the bunch on the counter, and the cayenne out of the spice cabinet. Four hours later, I sit on the patio at work with a Mexican flag and a spoon…

When the juice of the tomato mixed with the cheese and cayenne, I felt like I was eating fluffy spoonfuls of chilled, pepper jack cheese. The zucchini added a crunch, making each bite unique. It was sweet and sour; bitter and spicy, Light and filling; simple and complex.

Most importantly, the meal was vibrant. I couldn’t help but think about how much the colors in my bowl changed my mood as I ate. I thought of cultures, of Latin flags, and of course, of Mexico.

What do you think of when you see certain colors? Does pink give you energy? Does black depress you? Does yellow make you hungry? Wearing blues, greens, and silvers can cool you down whereas reds, oranges, and golds can heat you up. When you see red, white, and blue do you think of the Fourth of July… or do you think of the Chivas?

Make a meal this week thinking of colors. Then, look around at who’s sitting with you at the table: what colors do you see? Is your friend really black?… or is he or she closer to cappuccino, peanut butter, or cumin? Is your cousin really white?… or is he or she closer to wheat, a pealed almond, or cous cous? What beautiful colors we have. I am so lucky to live in a place where I get to see laughing, and loving rainbows of color at every turn.

Black, White, Brown, Yellow, … I like to call myself peach…

…and you can call yourself purple if you so please.

June 22, 2012

American Capirotada

by Kathryn Baldwin

What do you think about when you dredge a slice of bread in whipped eggs, milk, cinnamon, and sugar? Do you think of French Toast? Well, I would like to propose a recipe that will alter your vision of French Toast forever.

Here’s the story:

It all began when I realized that my aunt’s famous “French Toast Casserole” is an American version of the Capirotada. According to my Mexican cuisine cookbook, the Capirotada was designed as a delicious way to use up last night’s leftovers:  cinnamon syrup is made over the stove and poured in a casserole dish that’s already filled with stale bread slices, raisins, almonds, and some cream. The bread and parched toppings soak up the syrup and, voila, leftovers never screamed “EAT ME!” so loud in their lives! Casseroles in the U.S. have a similar history: wilted green beans don’t look half-bad once they’ve been baking in cream of mushroom soup for an hour (hence the green bean casserole…).

Thus, inspired by the blending of cultures, I decided to try making my aunt’s American Capirotada. At about 9pm the night before, I sliced up a loaf of French bread and staggered the slices in a buttered casserole dish. In a separate bowl, I whisked together 8 eggs, 1 cup of half and half, a cup of sugar, about a tablespoon of cinnamon, and a couple dashes of nutmeg. After pouring the egg mixture over the staggered bread, I put the soaking bread in the fridge and climbed in bed…

Lying in bed, I thought about that dry bread soaking up its flavor. “Lucky bread…” I thought. But hey! Why can’t we all be like that French bread before bed?

Sometimes, when I’m finally headed to my bed late at night, I’m feeling exhausted, limp, uninspired: dry, if you will. Why can’t I soak up all the flavor of my life right before bed, just like that dry bread did before taking his spot on the refrigerator shelf? Why can’t I lie on my soft, cool bed and soak in every positive thought from my life as I wait for dreamland’s arrival?

We CAN be like that French bread. When I soak up (or think about) all the greatest things in life right before bed, just like that dry French bread did, I spend all night blanketed in positivity. Then, what am I like in the morning? I am as inspired, as refreshed, and as vibrant as the flavor, texture, and smell of my Aunt’s American Capirotada in the morning.

As for the Casserole, in the morning, just:

1) Mix a stick of butter, a cup of oatmeal, a cup of brown sugar, and ½ cup of white sugar (will be a clumpy, crumbly goodness!).

2) Scatter the mixture over the soggy bread.

3) Bake at 350 degrees, covered loosely with foil, for an hour.

4) Serve with warm syrup and the option of slivered almonds and/or raisins to sprinkle on top.

So, as your dry bread settles in its flavor over night, you can climb under the covers of positivity and happy thoughts. Call it your night time Prayer of Gratefulness, your Meditation of Gratitude, or even your Happy Place.

I call it my American Capirotada.

June 8, 2012

Taco Soup, My Adopted Brother

by Kathryn Baldwin

 

 

You are desperate for this soup recipe and you don’t even know it yet. Taco Soup was the fourth child born into my family (or adopted? Yes. we legally adopted my younger brother named Taco Soup). Since Taco Soup’s integration into the family, scouts honor, the Baldwin household is incomplete in his absence.

It’s time for you to take my mom’s Taco Soup recipe card and plant it in your family recipe book (or digital file?) permanently!!!!!!!

 

Making Taco Soup is as easy as eating ice cream; as soon as you do it, you know right away you’re going to do it again reeeal soon. Actually, if you fetch all of the ingredients, a stack of cans on the counter with a sticky note can leave the rest to someone else. I promise, you can confidently assign the cooking to any teenager or seemingly incapable significant other. Or you could get someone else to fetch the goodies, and make the soup yourself… behind your back…  with your eyes closed.

(Disclaimer. Please don’t actually close your eyes while making this soup. I don’t want KathrynGuacamole getting sued or anything crazy.)

Sometimes, you need a bowl of hearty, warm, Mexican goodness, and you don’t want to mooch off of your Mexican friends who are still served insanely elaborate meals daily (cough, boyfriend, cough). Good news! This Americanized, quasi-Mexican-esque tortilla-soup-ish dish saves you from that Mooch-Off-Of-Mexican-Cooks Syndrome. Trust me, your friends will be asking you for this recipe. Plus, the taco truck doesn’t always serve soup and sometimes you just NEED it. (I should have posted this recipe Superbowl week. I can’t watch the Superbowl without Taco Soup. Just one of those things…)

 

MAKE TACO SOUP!

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs of ground beef (Or, I used 1.5 lbs of ground turkey. Beef is probably better in the winter)
  • one large onion (chopped)
  • 15oz can Ranch Style Jalapeño Pinto Beans (I couldn’t find it this time around so I just used Chipotle style Jalapeño pinto beans)
  • 15oz can regular pinto beans
  • 11oz can white shoepeg  corn
  • 4oz can chopped green chili (I use the “hot” version. This way the soup is spicy but perfect with the sour cream that cools it off.)
  • 14oz can Mexican Style Stewed Tomatoes
  • 14oz can stewed tomatoes
  • 10oz can Rotel Tomatoes
  • 1 package of Original Ranch Style Salad Dressing powder
  • 1 package of “Taco Seasoning” powder
  • 2.5 cups of water (I added a vegetable bullion cube to offset this water… and for extra antioxidants of course.)

 

 

 

 

Directions:

  1. Chop onion.
  2. Brown ground beef with the onion and drain grease. (I don’t drain the grease with turkey)
  3. Add a pinch each of Salt and Pepper.
  4. Add EVERYTHING ELSE to the pot!!
  5. Heat mixture until it starts to boil. Reduce heat and simmer, lid on, for 30 mins.
  6. Assemble as though it were a TACO!!!!  (Crush tortilla chips into a bowl. Ladle soup on top. Add a spoonful of jack or cheddar cheese and/or sour cream. Add avocado, DUH! Possibly a squeeze of lime? If I have cilantro, I add that too!)
  7. EAT. YUM. Pack leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch. Assemble. EAT. YUM AGAIN!
May 24, 2012

BLTA Tacos!

by Kathryn Baldwin

I doubt the average American knows the significance of Memorial Day, nor that it became an official national holiday in 1868. (Ya. I DEFINITELY had to look that one up!) For me, this particular weekend has always felt like an initial toast to summer: the worst of the allergy season has hopefully passed; salads are back in style; a bowl of watermelon cubes sits free for passersby on the kitchen counter. On my favorite summery days, when I’m not walking around barefoot or holding the hose for babies in swimsuits, I am sitting in the outdoor patio of a restaurant ordering a BLTA.

According to some sandwich history, we have the roaring twenties (1929) to thank for the addition of Bacon to our sandwiches. In a period of U.S. history where thriftiness was respected, it was natural to use every part of the pig and leave nothing to waste. The greasy strips of bacon were easy to roast over a fire and stick between bread. Today, I would argue, summer is incomplete without BLT’s… and BLT’s are incomplete without Avocado.

Considering I love twisting traditions to meet my Melting-Pot-American lifestyle, I recently tweaked the traditional BLTA by accident. My boyfriend had been unexpectedly freed from work, giving me less than ten minutes to prepare a mini-lunch date. Within seconds of reading his warning text, I had the fridge and every cabinet wide open. Ugh! I thought. Of course we’re out of bread! So I took inventory. What DO we have? Hmm. Turkey Bacon. Whole-wheat tortillas. Lettuce. Oh YES: Avocado. And tomatoes. PERFECT! I threw a few strips of turkey bacon in the microwave, whipped out the mayo, and while the tortilla was steaming on the stove, I slapped BLTA on top. By the time my poodles were yapping at the fully suited man on my front porch, lunch was served.

The mayo and the tomato juice ran together to combine with the smoky grease off of the bacon. As the romaine lettuce crunched, I felt like I was eating a fried tortilla. With sun tea in my left fist and a dripping, BLTA taco in my right, this instant meal felt like July 16th.

These BLTA tacos ended up being a new go-to. You NEED to try it. Plus, in my opinion, it’s much more satisfying to turn your head sideways to eat a BLTA, than to occupy your drink hand with a two-handed sandwich.

1) Bake Original Bacon on a sheet pan with either parchment paper or a drip rack: 375 degrees for 20 minutes

(or thick cut at 400 for 18 ish).

2) Lather some mayo on your whole wheat (or regular flour) tortilla.

3) Cut Tomatoes in half-moons, slice open the avocado, and prepare whatever lettuce you have on hand. (We had bagged lettuce in the fridge left over. Romaine or butter lettuce would be best. Keep it mild).

4) Put the BLTA (Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato, Avocado) on top of the mayoed tortilla however you think it looks pretty 🙂 Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

5) Place it on a warm/medium heat comal (flat pan on the stove). If you’re rushing, just lay the tortilla on the pan while you’re adding all the ingredients. You’ll be sad if you burn it. Just get it a little warm.

6) Fold it like a taco, turn your head sideways, and chomp!!!!!!

May 3, 2012

Cinco de Mayo: Paloma Time!!!!!

by Kathryn Baldwin

Are you ready for Cinco de Mayo?! It’s actually ironic how much Californians love to celebrate the fifth day of May. Mexico unexpectedly won a single battle against the French in the state of Puebla on May 5th, 1862. Thus, the day has almost nothing to do with us. I took this picture of that particular battle site while studying abroad in Mexico:

I suppose the U.S. is stoked off their asses that the French didn’t take full control of Mexico. Plus, can you imagine taco trucks being Nutella, crepe stands?! Anywho, I can tell you from experience that Cinco de Mayo is a fiesta that mainly takes place here, considering Mexican Independence Day isn’t actually until September 16th. I took this picture in 2010 of the countdown board for Mexico’s 200th year freedom from Spain in Mexico City:

Still, there is something quite Mexican about this day. Octavio Paz, a famous Mexican writer from the mid 1900s, once wrote an essay about how Mexicans embrace every excuse to party. This is one reason I am thankful for having a Mexican boyfriend:

“C’mon Kat, it’s Friday and I got paid today. Let’s celebrate!”… “C’mon Kat, it’s Thursday and I got an A on my math test today. Let’s celebrate!” …  “C’mon Kat, it’s never this warm out this late at night. Let’s celebrate!”

So, it’s Cinco de Mayo guys…let’s celebrate!!! Give in to the wannabe-Mexican-inspired liquor-sale stands that greet you at the entrance of every single effing store!!!!!!!

Paloma (pah-loh-mah)

My boyfriend calls this a Paloma. I call it Tequila-n-Squirt. You should call it whatever the heck you want. Although, I think it’s serendipitous that a Dove (a “Paloma” in Spanish) was nesting on my parent’s deck last week.

THUSSSS……my boyfriend’s family’s signature drink:

-Hornitos, Jimador, Don Julio, Patrón, or Milagro Tequila (Mexicans mainly drink tequila in Guadalajara since the Agave plant is grown in that region. Just like Americans don’t only drink their stereotypical Whiskey, Mexicans don’t only drink Tequila. But hey, this is mainly a Californian celebration anyways so pff… we’ll stick to our confused stereotypes of what’s Mexican.)

Squirt (This is a similar taste to that lovely triple sec flavor, only it’s easier, it’s carbonated, and it comes in Diet for those who count calories).

Salt (Because it’s good for our hearts. NOT. Actually it balances the intensity of the alcohol and the sourness of the lime. You know how we lick salt and chomp a lime when we take a shot of tequila?—same  idea. Plus, salt keeps it colder. That’s why we mix salt in the ice while making ice cream J.)

Lime (An irreplaceable citrus that reminds me of the beach. Lemon? Psh. We’re trying to be Mexican here people… cough cough.)

Directions: Rub lime on the rim of the glass. Sprinkle salt all over (I recommend doing this over the sink, or over a plant next to you if you’re outside). Then, just get it all in the cup! A handful of ice, a double shot of tequila, fill the rest with squirt, squeeze a lime on top, and stir it with anything you have. Your stir-stick may just be the utensil you broke into the lime with. I always end up stirring with my knife.

Swish swish. Sip. Ahhh… Happy fiesta day!

April 4, 2012

Spring Break Panuchos

by Kathryn Baldwin

Considering it’s Spring Break, I decided I had time to dedicate an entire evening to learning to cook something. I am the craziest person I know.

Why Panuchos?… you ask…

–       I prefer to make things that people have never heard of before. That way, when my boyfriend eats it, there is no way in heck he can compare it to his mom’s similar, yet far superior, dish.

–       I was craving black beans because they remind me of Cuernavaca, Mexico. (Plus I wanted to practice making refried beans from scratch and black beans can’t be compared to our usual pinto beans, which the pros in our families always make).

–       In the spirit of Easter, I was searching egg recipes but I didn’t feel like constructing some lame morning scramble.

–       I had way too much time on my hands because the entire point of Spring Break is to pretend you have no homework.

Once I decided to make Panuchos, I read up on those Yucatan medallions in the handful of old school, faded Mexican cookbooks we have around the house. Apparently, travelers passing through the Yucatan area during the 1800s stopped at “Don Hucho’s” food stand where they bought a unique on-the-go snack. Don Hucho basically created a sandwich by slitting open a fried corn tortilla and tucking beans and an egg inside. Hence the name: Pan-Hucho (aka: Bread-ooch-oh). I swear, when humans get in a hurry, we wrap a layer of grains around some protein and then munch on the run. The Grilled Cheese, the Pita Pocket, the Sushi Roll, the Burger, the Crunch-Wrap Supreme, the Panucho… psh, they’re all related.

So, after over three hours of a Mexican Monsoon swirling in my kitchen, I had constructed something you could more or less call a Panucho. A fried, homemade corn tortilla was slit open with refried black beans and a hard-boiled egg tucked inside. On top, I’d piled a layer of chipotle mayonnaise, chicken, and a mixture of lettuce, tomato, avocado, and cilantro.

(Granted, slitting open the tortilla was well above my skill level so the rest ended up being tostadas. Psh. Don’t hate.)

Let me clarify one thing: DON’T TRY TO MAKE THIS ENTIRE THING FROM SCRATCH IN ONE SINGLE EVENING unless you had a long string of “hey-I-have-a-good-idea” moments and an endless amount of time.

What you should do is this:

Go to the Mexican market and find dried chipotle peppers. Put a bunch of the shriveled little guys in a bowl and pour boiling water over them. Let them sit about a half hour or three (while you cook whatever you’re cooking). Then remove the reconstituted chiles. With a fork and knife, cut off the stem side, scrape out the seeds, and put what’s left (the outer layer) in the blender. Puree them and mix in either mayonnaise or sour cream.

I’m pretty sure this simple nonsense is exactly what made the entire Panucho dish “one of the best ever.” I will soon be making burgers with this runny goodness.

Happy Spring Break everyone 🙂

March 21, 2012

Attention to simple…

by Kathryn Baldwin

It has been brought to my attention that my posts are too long. Normally I would argue that I am simply a long-winded person… a modern Proust. But something happened this week that made me think: can something short and simple provide an even more complex sort of comfort?

Here’s the story (it’s short… well short for me… I promise).

***

For years after my 5-year-old graduation from Forest Hills Preschool, my parents would honk the horn every time we drove past the school. And we would wave through the window as if to say “Hello again! We miss those carefree, preschool days!”

17 years later, last Sunday, my boyfriend was taking me on the scenic route to Target when suddenly he honked. I slapped my ponytail into the sides of my headrest, trying to find a manic, intrusive driver, when I suddenly spotted my old preschool’s fence shrinking in the right, sideview mirror. Letting out a gasp of excitement as though I were a Kindergartener all over again, I turned to look at my driver. “What?” He said as he leaked a proud, guilty smile and continued steering down the road.

***

One half honk—a slight beep really—and I was left to wonder: when, in these past five years, had I told him that my family maintained such a quirky tradition?! Who knows. Whenever it was, he remembered, and he put away his obsessive un-use of his horn just to let me know that he listens when I tell useless stories.

If one beep can provide decades of comfort, maybe petite ideas do pack heavy force. (I’ll try to work on applying this idea to creating shorter blogs. Just not today.) Now, I encourage you to find your simple comfort this week. Just, please, don’t go honking around town. Leave that to me.

Recipe:

In the spirit of simple comfort, I learned to make a creamy, oh-so-simple pinto bean puree soup  (inspired by my “Mamá” in Cuernavaca, who often began our comidas with this smooth, tummy warmer).

Sauté a chopped onion with a Serrano chile about five minutes. Add two minced garlic cloves to the pan and sauté another minute or so.

Pour in a 15oz can of pinto beans (plus the luscious liquid). Pour in a cup of vegetable broth. Salt and Pepper the beauty! Cover and simmer for about fifteen minutes.

 

Then, take out the chile, puree the soup until it’s smooth, and serve piping hot!

My Mexican Mamá used to chop corn tortillas into small, friable squares and set them to drain in a paper-toweled ceramic bowl. We would all take turns dropping baby, fried chips into our creamy bean soup, as though adorning a cake with rainbow sprinkles. My favorite thing to do, though, is to swirl Mexican Crema Casera onto the surface. The more I swirl the cream into the soup with my spoon as I eat, the more comforting and complex it feels.

(See Marcela Valladolid‘s “Mexican Made Easy” for other simple Mexican dishes like this one.)

March 14, 2012

Burrito or Buritto?

by Kathryn Baldwin

On Sunday, a trip to Oakland with my boyfriend and his mom to investigate a discount furniture store (Famsa) led us on a detour past an inspiring gas station sign:

Who’s idea was it to distort the spelling of a beautiful, two handed meal wrapped in foil? BURITTO?!?!?! Since when is it OK to create an American spelling for a Mexican culinary masterpiece? Let’s consider the facts… shall we?

You could argue that Mexico is Americanizing, but I can’t help but notice the Mexicanizing of America. (Or should I say re-Mexicanizing, considering President Polk stole this territory from Mexico in an unfair, 1845 treaty.) The two-way cultural exchange is blatant. Discotecas in Guadalajara blare Pit Bull’s Give Me Everything Tonight. Maná concerts fill up the San Jose, California’s HP Pavillion. Words like “troca” replace the regular word for camioneta or truck on both sides of the boarder. Mexican families sit at the dinner table in Cuernavaca, chewing slowly as they read the subtitles to CSI. S.F. Bay Area commuters (people like…me) listen to Piolín Por la Mañana, the most insanely successful Spanish radio station in the country, as a Mexican morphine drip to remedy thick traffic.

Then there’s food. In my opinion, the most fabulous piece of culture that flows freely into the U.S. involves an endless menu of Latin spices: steaming, flattened corn cakes, mounds of different shades of browns and reds piled onto a giant plate, shredded cheese spreading and glistening under a broiler, plump chiles and pickled, spicy carrots hidden in the mix, sliding down little hills of sour cream. (Nevermind the fact that the United States’ introduction of things like packaged Doritos have propelled Mexican youth into the number one spot for obesity in the world.)

I argue that Mexican cooks are, in a sort of backward, unexpected way, making me proud to be an American. Cinco de Mayo, any taquería, Olive Garden, California Pizza Kitchen, Fuddruckers; Mexicans and Mexican Americans are the majority of the culprit behind the counter in these magical food experiences no matter the restaurant.

And the Burrito? We eat these things every day but are they really “Mexican?”

Ironically, studying abroad in Mexico, my “house mother” asked me what food I missed and craved the most after four months away from home. “Burritos!” I answered without delay, considering I hadn’t seen a single burrito on any Mexican menu since leaving California. She turned to her husband to clarify how these “¿Burros?” (“Donkeys?”) are made. The next day, an oversized fajita sat lonely in the middle of my plate: a motherly attempt at easing my homesickness.

If my Mexican Mamá didn’t know how to make a true burrito, I had to find out… WHERE DO THEY COME FROM?!

El Farolito in the S.F. Mission District, El Tepeyac in East L.A. (among other small Mexican restaurants established around the late 1950s) argue over who created the burrito first (check out this guys blog about it). Some say the one handed, open-ended burrito my Mexican “Mamá” concocted for me originated in Sonora, Mexico.

Well, I’ve decided I don’t care where it originated. The cylindrical envelope of endless fillings that we Americans woof down with two hands and wide-mouthed chomps is now a necessary part of my life. The hybrid culture of Mexican-American, or American-Mexican, that nobody can pinpoint, the beautiful international nationality that feeds me from all angles is nourishing, intoxicating, satisfying, and addicting.

Spell it however you want. As a true American, as a true Mexico-lover, I LOVE BURITTOS.

Try constructing this one that I stole from my Mexican Cookbook. The ground cloves warmed my body in the midst of all this unexpected March rain.

-Boil two boneless, skinless chicken breasts for ten minutes. Let them rest a couple minutes on a plate. Shread the cooked meat with two forks.

-Sauté an onion with some ground cloves and oregano.

-Boil white rice and a little salt for 8 minutes. Rinse. (then add to the onion mixture)

-Add a 7oz can of tomatoes and their juice to the rice and onion mixture.

-Add the shredded chicken to the rice/onion mixture along with as much Jack cheese you want (maybe a cup and a half)

-Get some giant tortillas, warm them (wrapped inside foil on a plate above boiling water).

-put a mound of the chicken/rice/onion mixture in the middle of the circle and fold in all four sides. Cut it in half if you want to make it pretty 🙂

-garnish with sour cream? Salsa? More cheese? Fresh Oregano? Fresh Cilantro or Parsley? Make it how you want it. After all, it belongs to you not Mexico nor San Francisco, not L.A, nor Sonora, not President Polk, nor …. well you get the picture…