Category Archives: recipes
I don’t usually share my gringo traditions here but I realize that just as I’m fascinated by and curious about Latin American traditions, maybe there are people from other parts of the world reading this who might be just as fascinated by and curious about the traditions we have here in the United States. As I mentioned before, carving a jack-o-lantern and roasting pumpkin seeds were two of the very first traditions I shared with Carlos, so now I’m going to share it with you. (Besides, roasted pumpkin seeds are popular in parts of Latin America too!)
Directions and step-by-step photos below!
How to Make: Jack-o-Lanterns & Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
1. Choose a side of your pumpkin to work on. I always choose the side that has the least amount of blemishes or scratches, but if you’re going for a different look, maybe that would add some character. Once you’ve decided which side you like best, use a marker to draw a face. Remember that you’ll be carving these shapes out with a knife, so the more complicated the shapes, (especially round shapes or tiny details), the more difficult it will be. (Note: Don’t carve your pumpkin more than a few days before Halloween or it will start to rot.)
2. Draw a circle at least an inch out from the stem around the top of the pumpkin. Cut along the line at the top and then gently pull the stem to open the pumpkin. Use a knife to cut the gunk and strings hanging off the top so it’s clean and flat.
3. Reach inside the pumpkin and pull out the “guts.” (Most little kids find this disgusting but fun.)
4. The gooey, stringy stuff can be discarded, but separate the seeds out into a bowl as you go. At some point you will need to use a spoon to scrape the inside nice and clean.
5. Use a sharp knife to carefully carve out the face you drew on the outside of the pumpkin. Little kids will need lots of help and should be supervised at all times.
6. Admire what a good job you’ve done. Your jack-o-lantern is finished and ready for the final touch, but first, let’s roast pumpkin seeds.
7. Put the pumpkin seeds in a colander and rinse with water for a couple minutes, using your hands to mix them around. Leave in the colander to drip dry about 20 minutes.
8. Cover a baking sheet in aluminum foil. Spread the pumpkin seeds out on the ungreased baking sheet. Put into the oven at no more than 200 F. Right now we’re not roasting the pumpkin seeds, just drying them out. Check the pumpkin seeds every 10 minutes. They should be dry in 20 – 30 minutes or less. Pumpkin seeds should still be white when you remove them from the oven. Allow to cool for a couple minutes until they’re safe to handle with your hands.
9. Use your hands to mix the pumpkin seeds around and get them unstuck from the aluminum foil. Dribble a little oil on the seeds, (some people use butter – I spray them generously with cooking spray), and then sprinkle with salt. Mix around with your hands, making sure all seeds are covered in oil and salt. Bake in oven at 350 F until slightly browned. Allow to cool and then serve or store for eating.
10. Back to your jack-o-lantern! On Halloween night, place a lit candle inside your jack-o-lantern (battery operated “candles” are best so you don’t have to worry about a fire hazard), and then put the top back on. Set on your doorstep out of the way of trick-or-treaters. Happy Halloween!
I shared this recipe before here, but I make it so often that I’ve made a few changes. For one thing, Carlos prefers toasted bread, and for another, he prefers Parmesan cheese over Mozzarella because it doesn’t upset his stomach the way heavier cheese does.
So, here is another way to make it! (By the way, I learned recently from my friend Maura over at The Other Side of the Tortilla, that Mexicans eat the same dish. In Mexico it’s called “molletes” – Check out some interesting history and Maura’s recipe, which was also featured on NBC Latino.)
El Desayuno Universitario II
1 loaf French bread
Parmesan cheese, grated (preferably fresh, not powdered)
Refried Beans/Frijoles Molidos
1 large Roma tomato, diced
1 handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
2. Cut the French bread loaf in half lengthwise. Spread each inner half with butter. Place on a hot comal (griddle) to toast for one to two minutes. (You can also use slices of French bread.)
3. Place toasted French bread halves on a baking sheet. Spread each half with refried beans and then top with as much Parmesan cheese as you like.
4. Put into oven at 350 F for 5 to 10 minutes or until bread is warm to the touch on all sides. (You can also do this under the broiler if you like.)
5. In a small bowl, combine diced tomato and chopped cilantro to make a quick fresh salsa. You can also add diced fresh onion, green bell pepper or your favorite fresh chile pepper, such as jalapeño or poblano.
6. Cut French bread loaves into serving sizes and top with fresh salsa.
Nope, I’m not talking about getting married – I’m talking about Salvadoran Casamiento.
“Casamiento” means “wedding” and it’s the name of a bean and rice dish in El Salvador. Although Casamiento is usually made from leftover beans and rice which are mixed together, it can also be made from scratch. I made a video showing all the steps – from making a simple pot of plain, white rice, to making a pot of Salvadoran beans, to then combining them along with some other ingredients to create Casamiento.
Because Casamiento is usually eaten with Platanos Fritos and Crema, I decided to throw that recipe in the video as well… So here’s the video, and the recipes are typed up below, too.
Plain, White Rice
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 cup rice (Salvadorans traditionally use white rice. I use Jasmine.)
1 3/4 cups water
a little less than 1 teaspoon salt
Directions: Heat oil in a medium pot. Add rice and stir around for a minute or two. (Do not brown the rice.) Add the water and salt. Stir just to distribute the salt and then no more stirring after that! Bring to a boil. Cover and lower heat to low. After 12 minutes your pot of rice should be ready. Uncover and fluff with a fork. If using for Casamiento, set aside or refrigerate when cooled.
1 lb. beans (these can be black beans or Salvadoran red beans/frijoles rojos de seda.)
1 medium onion, peeled and cut in quarters
a few cloves of garlic, peeled
Directions: Pour beans into a large pot. Cover with water to rinse. Remove any debris or shriveled beans. (I don’t usually find anything to remove but it’s just a precaution.) Drain water and add fresh water to cover.
Now you have a choice – If you want to cook the beans as soon as possible, you can do a “quick soak.” Bring the beans and water to a boil, then cover and remove from heat. Let beans sit for one hour. This is a quick soak and your beans are now ready to cook.
If you aren’t in a hurry, you can simply cover the beans (without heating the water), and let them sit overnight. The beans will be ready to cook in the morning.
Once your beans have either been through the “quick soak” process, or have sat overnight, you’re ready to cook them. Drain the water and add fresh water again. Make sure the water covers the beans by about a half inch. Add the onion and garlic to the pot. Simmer the beans covered until tender. This can take up to five hours and you must frequently check the beans to make sure they have enough water. Add water when needed and do not let the beans cook dry or they will burn. NOTE: Do not add salt until the beans are completely done cooking. If you add salt while the beans are hard, they will not soften. When the beans are tender, add salt to taste.
3/4 cups green pepper, diced
1 large roma tomato, diced
1/2 cup onion, diced
1 to 2 tablespoons canola oil
2 cups cooked rice
1 cup cooked beans
1/2 cup bean broth (the liquid from cooking the beans)
salt, to taste
Directions: Add the green pepper, tomato and onion to oil in a medium pot. Cook over medium heat until onion and green pepper become tender. Add in the rice, beans and bean broth. (If you prefer a drier Casamiento, use a little less bean broth.) Mix until combined. Remove from heat. Add salt to taste.
Note: The green pepper, tomato and onion are all optional.
1 platano, (should be yellow with many black markings)
oil for cooking
Use a sharp knife to cut off the ends of the platano. Slice through the peel length-wise to remove. Slice the platano in circles or quarters length-wise. Fry in a tablespoon or two of oil, flipping to brown both sides. Remove to a plate covered in a paper towel to drain. Serve with crema. (If you don’t have Salvadoran crema available near you, sour cream will do.)
I’ve got a backpack full of links for you to check out for Día de Los Muertos (also known as “Day of the Dead” or “Día de los Difuntos”.)
SpanglishBaby.com had the genius idea of creating this collection of Day of the Dead links which includes everything from altars/ofrendas, crafts for adults and kids alike, themed products available for purchase from around the internet, recipes, history, culture, photos, videos, and personal stories. The collection of links includes all my Día de los Muertos posts too in case you missed them in previous years.
Click the image below to go to the SpanglishBaby post which includes not only all their awesome links within their own site, but links to all our fellow amigas’ great content which continues to be added!
Many countries claim to have first created Tres Leches Cake, (Nicaragua and Mexico especially like to declare ownership) – but one thing is certain – Tres Leches is well-known and well-loved throughout Latin America. Usually reserved for special occasions, the moist cake uses three types of milk, which explains its name.
Most recipes you’ll find for Tres Leches are pretty similar. The recipe for Pastel de Tres Leches offered on Whats4eats.com is the one I make most often, with a few tweaks. Here is my slight variation.
PASTEL DE TRES LECHES
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
5 eggs at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup 1% milk
1 cup sweetened condensed milk
2/3 cup evaporated milk
1 jar maraschino cherries
Whipped Cream Topping Ingredients:
3/4 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup sugar (use a little less if you prefer it not too sweet)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Combine flour and baking powder in a small bowl. In a separate, large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together using an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy.
3. Reduce the mixer speed and add the eggs one at a time, allowing each to be incorporated. Add the vanilla extract and beat until combined.
4. Fold in the flour and baking powder until it is well incorporated.
5. Pour the batter into a greased 8×11-inch baking pan and bake 30 minutes, or until done. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes.
6. Pierce cake all over with a bamboo skewer or toothpick. You should try to make sure there’s about four holes, evenly spaced, for every square inch. These holes help the liquid absorb later.
7. Mix the 1% milk, sweetened condensed, and evaporated milk together and pour the mixture over the whole cake. (You may feel like there’s too much liquid but add it all. It will absorb later!) Try to distribute the liquid evenly over the cake, making sure you get the edges, too.
7. Refrigerate cake, covered with aluminum foil, for an hour or until liquid is completely absorbed and cake is well chilled. (Some recipes instruct you to wait longer, but mine never takes that long to absorb.)
8. Beat the cream, sugar and vanilla together until the cream holds soft peaks. (Important: Using an electric mixer makes this much faster and easier!) Frost the cake with the whipped cream. Serve, topping each individual piece with a maraschino cherry. Refrigerate cake that isn’t eaten immediately.
(Note: If you’re not serving the cake immediately, you may want to keep the whipped cream in a closed container in the fridge and top the cake when you’re ready to serve it.)
It’s a constant battle. One day I’ll try to be more active and make healthier choices, other days I give in to every craving that pops into my mind – this weekend was no different. Despite watching the Olympics and feeling guilty that I can’t even manage a consistent 20 minutes of activity each day while athletes are capable of so much more, I was hit by an intense yearning for pupusas … and horchata … and tamales fritos.
I have learned a lot in life, but I have yet to fully overcome my hedonistic nature – this manifests itself in various ways but most notably through what I eat. Suegra used to laugh at me when we’d go to the Latino market because I would come out of the store with various kinds of candy instead of normal groceries like other adults. “Sos como una niña” – You’re like a little girl, she would say to me, shaking her head.
So this weekend, this niña had Carlos take me to a pupusería to fulfill my latest craving.
Pupusas de queso con curtido y salsa, a tamal de elote frito, platanos with crema y frijoles, and horchata to drink. (I actually gave most of the platanos to Carlos and my older son and only had a few bites of the beans but it’s still more food than any one person should be eating, and also not the healthiest food either.)
I went for a walk after that meal, to put a small dent in the damage at least, but sometimes I wish I would crave healthier food. My suegra used to crave mangoes and would enjoy them, slurping the sticky juices with her eyes closed, declaring them to be perfectly ripe and delicious to anyone who would listen. I, on the other hand, don’t ever crave fruit and while I do make sure I eat it on a daily basis, I don’t feel passionate about it, (unless chocobananos count, which I don’t believe they do.)
So today when I read “Can the Latin Diet be Healthy?” by fellow contributor, Chelsea, on SpanglishBaby, and “Don’t Let the Olympics Make You Feel Fat” by fellow contributor Elizabeth on Mamiverse, I was reminded of my own thoughts this past weekend, and of a neat link a friend gave me months ago.
Zhu of Correr es mi Destino, E-mailed me a link to a PDF provided by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. The nearly 60 page bilingual PDF document is a cookbook of popular Latin American foods, made healthier. Platillos Latinos includes recipes for yucca (baked in the oven instead of fried), lomo saltado, Mexican pozole, arroz con pollo, and even pupusas revueltas using ground chicken and low-fat cheese.
I’m a fan of making small changes to eat healthier since drastic changes don’t last long for me. Others say “everything in moderation” – but moderation is something I still can’t get the hang of. Obsessively passionate or completely disinterested tend to be the two settings I run on regarding everything in life and I’m not so sure I can be re-wired. So I will choose to have my Tres Leches and eat it, too – but perhaps it woudn’t hurt to use fat-free sweetened condensed milk.
Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. English translation is below!
For today’s Spanish Friday I made a video in Spanish of a special sandwich I made. Since the video is in Spanish, I’ll explain here in English. Last year when we went to Parque Hula Hula in San Salvador, we stopped by some unnamed food stall and had a torta for lunch. Carlos and I have been unable to forget that delicious torta so this was my attempt to re-create it. Here’s the video and the recipe.
Torta Salvadoreña – Estilo Parque Hula Hula (Hula Hula Sandwich)
bolillos or small French breads
mayonnaise (I prefer lime-flavored mayo)
shredded cabbage (boiled until tender and drained)
shredded sandwich steak
guacamol (recipe below)
#1. Cook meat in a frying pan. Add a little cooking oil if needed. Optional: Season with a little Worcestershire sauce & Goya Sazón Culantro y Achiote.
#2. Butter the bread and toast on both sides. Do this on a comal, griddle or frying pan.
#3. Spread mayonnaise on both open faces of the bread. Top with cooked sandwich steak.
#4. Top steak with shredded cabbage, then add ketchup, mustard and guacamol. Serve.
BONUS RECIPE (Fresh Guacamol for Sandwiches): To make guacamol, I put 1 avocado, a large spoonful of minced onion, a spoonful of mayonnaise, a few shakes of dried oregano, a pinch of salt and a good squeeze of fresh lime into a self-sealing plastic bag. Close the bag and massage the avocado until smooth and combined with other ingredients. Cut off the corner of the bag so the guacamol can be piped onto sandwiches.
We gather in the small apartment kitchen, myself, Carlos, our friend Mando and his very pregnant wife, Naji. They have invited us over for dinner again and this time they welcome us behind the curtain that separates the kitchen from the living room, to watch them prepare the meal together.
They work in perfect rhythm, this young couple from Veracruz, never fighting for space at the stove. She drops a handful of chiles into a sizzling pot of oil and while she’s turned to the counter to chop tomato, Mando reaches over to add seasoning to the diced lengua and stir it with a wooden spoon.
“Cocina usted, Don?” Mando asks Carlos, using the nickname his Mexican co-workers had given him his first day on the job.
Carlos laughs, “Honestamente, ella cocina casi todo,” he responds.
“Tiene que aprender, Don, para que usted le ayude a ella,” Mando says, surprising me with his lack of machismo. He tells us how he diced the lengua the night before, that it took him two hours, and I can see why. The meat is in perfect, uniform cubes, each one smaller than a sweet pea.
I ask Naji if she’d mind me writing down the recipe for the salsa she’s making. This, I realize, is the bright orange salsa I love – the one Carlos often brings home from work in a twisted plastic bag, a gift from Mando’s lunchbox. Naji smiles and tells me to go ahead. I pull out a little notebook and pen from my bag, I start scribbling down the ingredients and the generous extra tips she gives me.
Soon the kitchen fills with all the delicious scents of tacos de lengua. The meat is seasoned and cooked, the salsa prepared, the cabbage finely chopped with a large, sharp knife. Naji warms corn tortillas and cuts limes into wedges while Mando pours glasses of agua de uva. Now it is time to sit together at the table and eat this meal made with love.
Mexican Salsa Roja
• 2 generous handfuls of chiles guajillos secos – stems removed
(use chiles japones secos for spicier salsa)
• 2 large tomatoes chopped (or 1 can diced tomates, 14.5 oz, no salt added, undrained)
• 1/2 a medium onion
• 1 tsp. minced fresh garlic
• 3 tbs. canola oil
• 2 cups water
• 1 1/4 tsp. salt
• 1 can chiles in adobo, 7 oz. (optional)
1. In a medium-sized pot over medium heat, add oil, dried chiles, onion and garlic. Chiles should have stems removed. When you remove stems, seeds will fall out. Include the seeds in the pot.
2. Stir continuously taking care not to let it burn. After a minute or two, add tomato. Stir over medium heat another 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
3. In a blender combine 2 cups water, salt and contents of pot.
4. Blend 1 minute until mostly smooth. (If you prefer a thinner salsa, add more salted water and blend.)
5. This step is optional: To make the salsa spicier and add a lot of flavor, add 1 can chiles in adobo. Blend for another 30 seconds.
6. Return contents to pot. Stir salsa over medium heat for 2 minutes.
7. Allow to cool.
8. Keep refrigerated in jar or container for 1 week. (You could also can or freeze it.) Use on tacos or anything you like.
I gave you my recipe for Salvadoran Escabeche already, but do you ever buy the Mexican Escabeche in a can? (Pickled jalapeños and carrots?) Carlos and I love those so one day when I was faced with a nearly empty jar of pickled jalapeños, I decided to make good use of it by “recycling” it into “homemade” Mexican Escabeche. Chécalo!
In just a day or two those carrots soaked up plenty of flavor!
It all started the other night when I made Chinese egg rolls for dinner. Carlos wandered into the kitchen and observed me for a moment before joking, “Those are egg rolls? … They’re not even round. They look like tamales.”
I kicked Carlos out of the kitchen for that, although I had to admit, these look more like “tamales chinos” than egg rolls. The important thing is they tasted good, and thinking about Latin American food while making Chinese food sparked an idea.
I watched how the egg rolls puffed a little and became crispy as they fried in the oil and I thought, “I wonder if these egg roll wrappers would work for sopapillas?”
There was only one way to find out, so I gave it a try and success! Here’s how you make sopapillas [pronounced so-pah-pee-yas] from egg roll wrappers. (Step-by-step photos below!)
Easy Egg roll Wrapper Sopapillas
Egg roll wrappers
Cinnamon and sugar
1. Take a few egg roll wrappers and cut into quarters.
2. Separate the layers into individual squares.
3. Heat enough canola oil to cover the bottom of a frying pan or large pot.
4. Place a few squares into the oil so that they’re not touching, (you will have to cook them in batches.)
5. Flip squares over so they brown on each side.
6. Remove to paper towels to drain but sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar right away, before they cool.
7. Repeat until you have fried all the squares.
Now you can serve these drizzled in honey, or with vanilla ice cream topped with whatever you like – Some suggestions: chocolate syrup, cajeta (dulce de leche), whipped cream, cherries. (When served with vanilla ice cream, it tastes like fried ice cream.)
Note: There are many types of sopapillas (also spelled: sopaipilla, sopaipa, and supaipa) found in Latin America and they go by other names such as torta frita, cachanga, Kreppel and chipá cuerito. This version most closely resembles the American Southwest dessert version which you find in Mexican restaurants in the United States.