Posts tagged ‘colorful food’

August 17, 2012

Latin “Flavor”

by Kathryn Baldwin

Aside from a few of the derogatory terms thrown at immigrants, I sort of enjoy some of the stereotypical words used to describe Latin culture. For example: how Latin culture is “colorful,” “warm,” “flavorful,” “vivid,” and “lively!” (Someone in our class took this picture during our trip to Guanajuato, Mexico while studying abroad. “Vivid” and “colorful” things to buy huh?)

Really though, if you’re going to describe Latin culture as “flavorful,” at least call it spicy. Shoot, if you follow this plan, just plug “spicy” into your thesaurus. Possibly controversial… hmm. But truthfully, I wish U.S. culture could be described as “peppery, zesty, spirited, piquant, and saucy!”

I like to think I have a little spice in my personality; although some may find my particular form of spice on the overwhelming side. (If you can’t handle the heat… wipe your tears, blow your nose, and order some sour cream!) So, regardless of how much “Latin” I actually have in my blood, I love color, warmth, flavor (spice?), and liveliness. And, when I start to feel like I’m losing some of my “flavor,” I crave a Latin vacation like my personality depends on it.

In the interest of finding color and spice in my life, I seek recipes with these “LATIN?” characteristics.

When I saw this wall of peppers at Safeway, I was instantly reminded of another wall of “vivid” color in a “vibrant,” indoor, Guadalajaran market in Mexico. (You should have seen the glares I got after asking if I could take this picture. Haha. So worth it!).

This week, I found a recipe for mini stuffed peppers in my newest Giada book; it was the perfect way to use an entire bag (24 peppers!).

Here’s what to do:

Brown 3oz of chopped pancetta in 3 tablespoons of medium high, hot olive oil. (You could use bacon or chorizo instead!) Then spoon out the crispy flecks of smoky goodness to dry off the excess oil on a napkin. Add half of an onion, chopped, to the leftover grease in your hot pan.

While the onion softens and absorbs the smoky flavor of pig fat, grate your 1/3 cup of fresh parmesan cheese.

In a bowl, mix together:

3/4 of a cup of ricotta cheese,

1/3 of a cup of Parmesan cheese,

1/2 of a cup of frozen pees (thawed),

The cooked pancetta and onion,

And a pinch each of salt and pepper.

Prep the mini peppers by chopping off the stem side, slicing out the white ridges, and flicking the seeds out from the inside.

Using a cute, mini, sugar spoon (the opposite of an ugly, giant, soup spoon?), stuff the smoky, cheesy mixture into each vibrant casing.

Place them on a lightly greased cookie sheet and pop them into the oven at 350 degrees for just under 20 minutes. You’ll see the peppers start to wilt and the edges of the cheese start to get brown. I wish I let mine brown a little more. I also wish I greased the pan a bit less!

My equally vibrant coworkers enjoyed this Italian version of “vibrant, Latin flavor.” It was a work-place, appetizer pick-me-up. Gotta love that Latin flavor to spice things up a bit….

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 15, 2012

Cooking with a History

by Kathryn Baldwin

Sometimes a memory can enhance a flavor, just like a memory clings to a song. Do you ever find yourself holding onto a song long after others are sick of it because it reminds you of… that one dance club in Mexico?… or that one car ride in high school? I do.

For me, food is the exact same way. Sprinkling sesame seeds on my mole enchiladas isn’t a meal-altering flavor boost; it reminds me of my host mother and makes me feel more and more nurtured with each bite. Eating ice cream out of a tall mug with added milk and a long, skinny spoon doesn’t change the flavor of the ice cream; it reminds me of my Pop and how I grew up admiring his quirky traditions.

Of course, this is all explained through Miguel de Cervantes’ words, written in Don Quixote (year 1605):

Translating from one language to another, …is like looking at Flemish tapestries from the wrong side, for although the figures are visible, they … cannot be seen with the smoothness and color of the right side.

As we choose our meal menu, or lost in thought as we chew, sometimes our dinner dates are sitting on the other side of the tapestry.

We may be thinking, “These purple potatoes remind me of that meal I had, sitting next to the clucking chickens in a rural Peruvian village.” But our dinner guest may be thinking, “Oh God, my ex boyfriend loved his stupid, purple Lakers jersey: I officially hate purple!”

The culture, the colors, the flavors, and the memories, which seep through our taste buds and into our souls with each bite, are ours to keep. I can try to describe why recipes or flavors speak to me, but you must cook with the passion that you find in your own history.


Giada tips her hat to Peru every time she cooks with Quinoa. I followed her recipe for “Quinoa with peas, potatoes, and olives” from her newest cookbook. I had tri-color Quinoa already in the cabinet to work with. Also, I didn’t hunt down “Peruvian potatoes,” I just used the darkest ones I could find (Did you know Peru has literally thousands of identified potatoes with names and distinct flavors?). I also packed the meal in a casserole dish and brought it to my sister’s for dinner a day later. Plus, I had it for lunch the day after that! Half of the recipe could feed a family of five as a side dish. My sister marinated chicken with lime, oregano, and red pepper flakes as the main protein. They were perfect together.

Come queens, come crooks! Come climbers, come quitters! Come coaches, come crews! This colorful, carnival of quinoa can calm cranky kids, can comfort complaining cooks, can connect cultural cues.

Keep cooking …