Savory Tamales de Calabaza y Pollo (o Pavo!)

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I asked all of you if you wanted me to make sweet pumpkin tamales or savory pumpkin tamales. The results were pretty evenly split, so after I made the sweet tamales, I began to figure out what I wanted in my savory tamales.

I began to brainstorm – Pumpkin reminds me of autumn and autumn reminds me of Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving reminds me of turkey and turkey reminds me of Salvadoran panes con pavo – and that is when I knew exactly what I wanted to make.

I didn’t have any turkey on hand, but I had chicken, (and honestly that’s what we often use because it’s more affordable.) So I prepared the chicken for filling the tamales the way I do Salvadoran Pavo, complete with the savory Salvadoran salsa spiced with relajo (see the notes about relajo in the recipe below.)

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What this means is that these tamales are perfect for your Salvadoran pavo leftovers this holiday season! Even if you have only regular roast turkey leftover from Thanksgiving you could just add a little mustard, Worcestershire sauce, the salsa with relajo, and you’ll be ready to start assembling these tamales.

As for the pumpkin, I incorporated that into the masa and the flavor ends up not being very noticeable as the delicious chicken and salsa steal the show. I do think that the pumpkin lends a very pretty color and moisture to the masa though, plus it’s full of vitamins – so I will absolutely include it again next time I make these tamales.

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Warning: These are pretty amazing and the recipe below only makes about 10 regular-sized tamales. You may want to double or even triple the ingredients!

Savory Pumpkin Tamales de Calabaza y Pollo (o Pavo!)

For masa:

1 cup Maseca
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
4 tbs. unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 cup pumpkin puree

1. In a medium-sized bowl combine the Maseca, salt and oregano, then add the pumpkin and butter. Mix to combine. Add the chicken stock and mix until completely combined. Set aside.

For filling:

3 large chicken thighs (or the equivalent dark meat turkey)
1/2 tsp. yellow mustard
a few shakes Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper
1/2 small onion
1 tbs. minced garlic
1 – 2 cups water

1. In a medium pot, coat the chicken or turkey pieces in mustard and Worcestershire sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Add water, garlic and onion. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, cover and lower to a simmer. Cook until the meat is cooked through and juices run clear. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Once cool, remove meat from bones and shred. Discard skin, bone, onion and any liquid left in the pot – you just want the meat which you will be mixing into the salsa later.

For salsa:

1 cup diced tomato
½ tsp. fresh minced garlic
1/4 small onion, diced
1/4 small green pepper, diced
1/3 cup chicken stock
1-2 large tablespoons Salvadoran relajo spice mixture (see note below)
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon achiote
salt and pepper to taste

Note – If you can’t find Salvadoran relajo spice mixture, the following can be substituted: 1 tablespoon sesame seeds, a few shakes dry oregano, 4 dry roasted peanuts, 6 dry roasted pumpkin seeds, 2 large bay leaves – crushed, 6 whole cloves and/or allspice.

1. In a blender combine all ingredients except salt and pepper. Blend until mostly smooth, about one minute. (The sesame seeds and other spices will give this salsa texture – that’s how it’s supposed to be.)

2. Pour the salsa into a small pot and simmer over medium-high heat for a few minutes, stirring. Add salt and pepper to taste. (You can remove the allspice and/or whole cloves if you like at this point.) Mix the shredded chicken into the salsa. Set aside to cool.

Assemble the tamales:

Take 10 to 12 dried corn husks and soak them in a large bowl of hot water to soften. Once softened, remove one by one and gently shake dry before using.

In the middle of each corn husk, spoon a few tablespoons of the masa and spread out with the back of a spoon, but stay towards the middle of the husk – don’t go to the edges.

In the middle of the masa, put a large spoonful of the chicken and salsa mixture.

Fold corn husk closed as described in this post. Optional: Wrap the tamales inside aluminum foil.

Stack tamales in a tamalera and steam about 2 to 3 hours. Makes about 10 regular-sized tamales.

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(Carlos eating his fourth tamal for breakfast this morning!)

El Festival Salvadoreño Americano

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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 in italics!

Me di cuenta de que no he compartido mis fotos del Festival Salvadoreño Americano que fuimos el mes pasado en Wheaton, Maryland y hoy es un buen día para compartirlas, ya que viene el Día de la Independencia de El Salvador este fin de semana.

I realized that I haven’t shared my photos from the Salvadoran American Festival we went to last month in Wheaton, Maryland and today is a good day to share them since El Salvador’s Independence Day is this weekend.

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El Festival fue muy bien organizado por Salvadoran-American Transnational Communities y el Condado de Montgomery. Había suficiente estacionamiento a poca distancia y estaba cerca de la estación de METRO si uno no viene en carro.

Salvadoreños caminaban en grupos grandes por las aceras hacia el sonido de la cumbia y el olor de las pupusas. Cruzamos las calles juntos, esquivamos el tráfico, intercambiamos miradas y nos reímos. “Todos vamos a ser atropellados”, alguien bromeó. Éramos como niños tras el flautista de Hamelín.

The Festival was very well organized by Salvadoran-American Transnational Communities and Montgomery County. There was sufficient parking nearby and it was close to a METRO station for those that did not come by car.

Salvadorans walked down the sidewalks in large groups toward the sound of cumbia and the smell of pupusas. We crossed streets together, dodged traffic, exchanged looks and laughed. “We’re all going to get run over,” someone joked. We were like children following the Pied Piper.

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Por supuesto, la primera cosa que hicimos fue caminar alrededor para ver qué comidas queríamos comer.

Of course, the first thing we did was walk around to see which foods we wanted to eat.

bebidas

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(La camisa de este hombre me hizo reír: “La salsa que te hara llorar puro bichito.”)

(This guy’s shirt made me laugh: “The salsa will make you cry like a little kid.”)

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Decidimos empezar con agua de coco. No sé por qué mi hijito siempre lo prueba cuando bien sabe que no le gusta. Después de que nos bebimos el agua de coco el hombre lo abrió y nosotros comimos la carne.

We decided to start with coconut water. I don’t know why my younger son always tries it when he knows very well that he doesn’t like it. After we drank the coconut water, the man cut it open and we ate the coconut meat.

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El hombre que cortó los cocos con un machete fue muy gracioso. Todo el mundo estaba tomando su foto y se reía diciendo: “Yo voy a ser famoso!”

The man who cut the coconuts with a machete was hilarious. Everyone was taking his photo and he laughed, saying “I’m going to be famous!”

fruta

Siguiente compramos fruta fresca.

Next we bought fresh fruit.

mamones

Yo prefiero la piña pero quería probar algo nuevo, así que elegí mamones. Me encanta el sabor pero la textura de mamones es algo raro.

I prefer pineapple but I wanted to try something new so I chose mamones. I love the flavor but the texture of mamones is kind of yucky.

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Las tostadas de plátano preperadas con curtido y salsa fueron deliciosas.

The tostadas de platano prepared with curtido and salsa were delicious.

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¿Cómo podíamos resistir pupusas?

How could we resist pupusas?

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A pesar de que estabamos llenos, hacía mucho calor, así que necesitábamos minutas para refrescarnos. El cartel tenía los nombres de las minutas en diferentes países. Fue muy interesante!

Snowcones – Los Estados Unidos
Minutas – El Salvador
Granizadas – Guatemala
Nieves – Honduras
Raspados – México
Raspadillas – SurAmerica
Piraguas – Puerto Rico
Frío-Frío – Rep. Dominicana

Mi hijito y yo decidimos que el nombre “frio-frio” es lo mejor.

Even though we were full, it was hot, so we needed Salvadoran snowcones to cool off. The sign had the name of snowcones in different countries. It was really interesting!

Snowcones – USA
Minutas – El Salvador
Granizadas – Guatemala
Nieves – Honduras
Raspados – Mexico
Raspadillas – South America
Piraguas – Puerto Rico
Frío-Frío – Dominican Republic

My younger son and I decided that the name “frío-frío” was the best.

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Pedí leche condensada azucarada en mi minuta.

I asked for sweetened condensed milk on my snowcone.

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Carlos pidió tamarindo en su minuta.

Carlos asked for tamarind on his snowcone.

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Después de comer demasiado, nos fijamos en todo lo que tenían por venta.

After eating too much, we looked around at all the things they had for sale.

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Fue un excelente festival. Si vives en la zona, te recomiendo que vayas el próximo verano. (Y ven con hambre!)

It’s an excellent festival. If you live in the area, I recommend you go next summer. (And come hungry!)

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Feliz Día de la Independencia a El Salvador y a todos mis amigos de Centroamérica y México!

Happy Independence Day to El Salvador and to all of my Central American and Mexican friends!

Pupusas Revueltas with Salsa and Curtido

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I realized the other day that while I made a video on how to make pupusas de queso and recently shared a recipe for making mini pupusas de queso y frijol, I hadn’t posted a recipe or video for Carlos’s favorite – pupusas revueltas!

It was a little difficult for me to quantify everything and give clear directions because I make them a little differently each time, adjusting this and that to make them better – but here is how I made them this time. As you can see, I used ground pork instead of making authentic chicharrones with chunks of pork, but it works well like this and saves you from getting greasy meat all over your food processor when you grind it up.

Now, whenever I make a pupusa video, inevitably I get comments on YouTube asking for curtido and salsa recipes, so I decided to make a video of those too, even though I have variations of both posted here.

So, without further introduction, here are the videos and recipes for pupusas revueltas, salsa and curtido. (And as a special treat, in one of the videos you can see Carlos attempt to make a pupusa by himself!)

Pupusas Revueltas

What you need:

1 lb. fresh ground pork (you can even use turkey or chicken if you don’t eat pork)
1 tbs. minced garlic
1-2 tbs. canola oil
1 medium tomato, washed and quartered
1 medium Poblano or the equivalent green pepper, washed, stem & seeds removed, and quartered
1/2 a medium onion, cut in half
1/2 cup refried beans
1 lb. whole milk mozzarella cheese, softened (directions below)
salt to taste

For the masa/dough:

3 cups MASECA
3 1/4 cups water
a little less than 1/2 tsp. salt

Directions:

1. Heat oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add oil and garlic. Stir for a few seconds before adding ground pork and season with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally until browned. Remove from heat, set aside. (Note: Many people use chunks of pork in place of ground pork and after cooking, run it through the food processor. This is totally up to you. I’ve used both methods and both work.)

2. In the food processor set to “mince” – Process: the tomato, the Poblano or green pepper, and the onion. Add to the pork and mix to combine. Taste and correct with salt if needed.

3. Add the refried beans. Stir to combine.

4. To soften the cheese, place it in a warm water bath while it is still in the plastic packaging. After about 10 minutes, drain the water and open the package. Knead the cheese by hand until soft. Add to the pork mixture and stir to combine. This will be your pupusa filling. Set the mixture aside.

5. In a large bowl sprinkle salt over MASECA and then pour in water. Mix by hand until combined.

6. To form pupusas, take a large handful of dough, (slightly bigger than a golf ball but not as big as a baseball), and pat it into a tortilla. Cup your hand so the tortilla forms a bowl-like shape. In the hollow, place a large pinch of the pupusa filling. Close your hand gently to fold the sides up around the filling and form the ball again. Pat out into a thick tortilla shape and then place on a hot griddle, comal or non-stick frying pan. (No oil is needed!) Flip to cook on each side. Serve with salsa and curtido.

Salsa

What you need:

3 to 4 fresh large tomatoes (Roma are best), chopped
1 handful fresh cilantro
1/2 of a medium-sized onion, chopped
1/4 of a medium Poblano pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon raw, minced garlic
Salt to taste
A few shakes of Worcestershire sauce (also known as “Salsa Perrins.”)

Directions:

Combine in a blender. Blend until smooth, about one minute. Serve immediately or put in a jar or container with a tight-fitting lid and keep refrigerated. You can also pour the salsa into a pot and simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes which will brighten the natural red color of the tomatoes and deepen the flavor a little. Use in almost any recipe calling for salsa, or as a side with Latin American dishes. Use within a few days or can it to keep longer.

Possible substitutions: A 32 ounce can of undrained whole tomatoes can be substituted for fresh tomatoes. Green bell pepper can be substituted for the Poblano pepper.

Curtido

What you need:

1 small cabbage, washed and cut into large chunks
1 cup carrots, washed and peeled
1/2 a small onion
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup warm water
salt to taste
oregano to taste

Directions:

1. With the food processor set to “shred” – Process the cabbage and carrots. Switch the food processor to “julienne” for the onion. Combine in a large bowl with remaining ingredients. Cover and refrigerate until ready to eat.

A Chico le Gusta ver la Tele

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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. Scroll down for English translation!

Aunque no quería la responsibilidad de tener una mascota de nuevo, el año pasado adoptamos a Chico porque pensabamos que sería bueno por la salud de nuestra familia. Tener un perro ayuda a reducir el estrés, y si uno tiene un perro igual que Chico, le da sonrisas cada día con sus bayuncadas.

Aquí les muestro que hizo Chico de chistoso anteayer. Carlos estaba viendo las noticias cuando salio un reportaje sobre un día de celebración en El Salvador por los perros callejeros. (O como les dicen en El Salvador, “chuchos aguacateros.”)

Como lo pueden ver, bien le gusto el reportaje a Chico, y bien curioso está de sus primos en El Salvador.

[ENGLISH TRANSLATION]

Even though I didn’t want the responsibility of having another pet, we adopted Chico last year because we thought it would be good for the health of our family. Having a dog helps to reduce stress, and if you have a dog like Chico, he’ll give you smiles each day with the silly things he does.

Here I’ll show you what funny thing Chico did the day before yesterday. Carlos was watching the news when a report about a celebration for street dogs in El Salvador came on. (Or as street dogs are called in El Salvador, “chuchos aguacateros.”)

As you can see, Chico really liked the report and he’s very curious about his cousins in El Salvador.

Cold Horchata and a Low Electric Bill

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It’s August which means it’s time to share my home improvement project of the month. This month Lowe’s challenged us to make our casita more energy efficient and to also get ready for autumn.

When I researched ways to make our home more energy efficient, I came up with a lot of options, but so much of the information pointed to one thing – “el refri” – (that’s Spanish for “the fridge.”) Check out some of these facts:

“Refrigerators and freezers consume about a sixth of all electricity in a typical American home – using more electricity than any other single household appliance.” – Source: ConsumerEnergyCenter.org

“ENERGY STAR certified refrigerators are required to use about 15% less energy than non-certified models…By properly recycling your old refrigerator and replacing it with a new ENERGY STAR certified refrigerator, you can save from $200–$1,100 on energy costs over its lifetime.” – Source: EnergyStar.gov

“Refrigerators are the top-consuming kitchen appliance in U.S. households…” – Source: Science.HowStuffWorks.com

It didn’t take long for me to get the message – especially knowing that our refrigerator was over 10 years old and not functioning well – (Although according to Carlos, our old fridge wasn’t completely broken compared to his childhood refrigerator in El Salvador. He says the door of his refrigerator wouldn’t stay closed so they installed a latch on the outside of it.)

Anyway, we went to Lowe’s and after browsing for a few minutes, we found an Energy Star refrigerator in our price range that fit the dimensions of our kitchen. It’s not one of those fancy side-by-side refrigerators and it isn’t made of shiny stainless steel, but we’re happy with it.

The next day Lowe’s delivered the new fridge and took away the old one for free.

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As you can see from the two photos so far, I have the new fridge organized inside and out – which brings me to the “getting ready for autumn” portion of the challenge. For most families, August means it’s time to get ready for “back-to-school” and the refrigerator is one of those parts of the household that is impacted. There will be school lunches to pack and store on the inside, while the outside serves as a message center for events, permission slips, menu plans, grocery lists, calenders, art work, and graded assignments we want to display to show our orgullo when our niños do well.

Sticking all these things on the fridge haphazardly with magnets from the local pizza place doesn’t set a very good example for the kids when you hand them new school supplies and tell them to keep organized, plus it just looks messy, so I came up with a few do-it-yourself crafts to de-clutter and keep organized. See the directions below to make your own!

Do-it-Yourself Magnetic Frames & Corkboards

What you need:

• Picture frames
• Magnets (I found these in the hardware aisle at Lowe’s, you can use circular discs or rectangular blocks, depending on the size of your frame.)
• Hot glue gun & glue sticks
• Scissors
• Pen
• Style Selections 2′ x 4′ Cork Roll (at Lowe’s)
• Optional: Paint or spray paint

Directions:

1. Gather your supplies. For the frames, lightweight frames work best since you’ll want the magnets to hold it securely on your fridge. Check your dollar store and second hand stores for great deals on frames and get them in a variety of sizes. Smaller ones can be used for photos, but you’ll want larger document-sized ones for the corkboard and for displaying papers your child brings home from school.

Note: I left my frames silver because I thought they looked nice like that, but if you want to paint or spray paint the frames, you should do that before anything else. Just remove the backing and the glass, place on newspaper, and then paint or spray paint. (Lowe’s has a Valspar brand spray paint specifically for plastic if you’re using plastic frames.) Allow to dry before continuing.

2. Cut the cardboard stand off the back of the frame – you won’t need it. This doesn’t have to look pretty.

3. For a corkboard frame, remove the glass and use it to trace the shape/size onto the corkboard with a pen. Cut the corkboard out with scissors. Set aside.

4. With the glass removed, trace the inside of your frame onto the cardboard backing with a pen. These marks are what will guide you for positioning the corkboard in the center of the frame if needed. Remove the cardboard backing from the frame and use hot glue to attach the cork material to the cardboard. When finished, put the backing, now covered with the cork material, back into the frame.

5. To make both magnetic corkboards and regular magnetic frames, flip the frame to the backside, and attach a magnet in each corner with hot glue. If your frame is heavier, you may need to attach more magnets for it to stick securely to the fridge.

Note: I recommend not using the glass at all when frames are displayed on the fridge. The glass makes the frames heavier and considerably more dangerous if one happens to fall when opening or closing the door.

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Three Bonus Organizing and Energy-Saving Tips:

• Buy an expanding folder that closes securely. Hang this on your fridge using two strong magnetic clips. It’s great for keeping smaller clutter like business cards for local repair companies, coupons, frequently used recipes and restaurant menus, accessible but hidden.

• Label things and keep them organized inside your refrigerator to cut down on the amount of time you search for things. Keeping the refrigerator door open leads to higher energy bills.

• Keep a magnetic grocery list on the fridge and update it as needed throughout the week. This will save you from holding the fridge door open for an extended period on grocery shopping day to take inventory.

What is your best tip for keeping your electric bill down and staying organized? Díganos en comments!

Check out more from Lowe’s Creative Ideas Network by subscribing to their Creative Ideas Magazine and E-Newsletter, liking them on Facebook, following them on Twitter, (Hashtag: #LowesCreator), watching their videos on YouTube, re-pinning them on Pinterest, and by seeing what the other Lowe’s Creative Ideas Network members are up to at LowesCreativeIdeas.com.

Disclosure: This is not a paid or sponsored post. As a member of Lowe’s Creative Ideas Network I received gift cards from Lowe’s to purchase products to complete projects. All opinions are my own.

Salvadoran Bento Box Lunch!

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With Back-to-school only weeks away and Día Nacional de la Herencia Salvadoreña Americana (National Salvadoran American Heritage Day) coming up on August 6th – I decided to make a Salvadoran themed bento box which would be ideal for packing for your child’s lunch.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a fan of packing traditional Salvadoran foods for my children when I get a chance. I feel that it roots the boys in their heritage and also gives them a chance to share their culture with classmates.

Although changes have been made to school lunch in the United States, I think they still have a long way to go. Making your child’s lunch gives you control over how much sodium, sugar, fat and calories they’re getting and it allows you to provide healthy foods you know your child likes. This particular bento box contains a balanced alternative to school bought lunches: Bean and cheese mini-pupusas provide plenty of fiber and protein and when cooked without oil, are lower in fat. In place of the traditional cabbage curtido and salsa we have a salad of finely chopped fresh spinach and grape tomatoes which are packed with vitamins. Potato chips are replaced with homemade baked plantain chips cooked without any oil and sprinkled lightly with salt. To drink, horchata stands in for chocolate milk – When made with skim or 1% milk, your child gets calcium for growing bones without extra calories, sugar and fat.

Ready to give this Salvadoran bento box lunch a try? Recipes are below!

Horchata

You need:

Salvadoran horchata mix (find it at your local Latino Market)
Skim or 1% milk
A thermos or bottle that seals tightly
Optional: Sweetener of your choice

Directions:

1. Put a couple tablespoons of the horchata mix into the thermos or bottle. (A funnel may make this easier.) Add a cup of milk – make sure you leave some space at the top so the drink can be shaken at lunch time.

2. Optional: Add sweetener of your choice, but depending on the mix you use, you may find it tastes great without these unneeded calories.

3. Another optional step is to pour the horchata through a sieve to remove any clumps of mix that didn’t dissolve. Otherwise, seal the bottle tightly so it doesn’t leak. At lunch time your child can give it a few shakes to make sure it’s well mixed before opening.

Mini-Pupusas de Queso y Frijol

You need:

A quarter cup softened mozzarella cheese
1/8 cup frijoles molidos or frijoles medio molidos
MASECA Instant Corn Masa Flour prepared as instructions on package indicate. (Use the proportions that yield 4 tortillas: 1/2 cup Maseca, 1/3 cup water, pinch of salt.)

Directions:

1. Mix the cheese and beans by hand until well blended. The beans you use can be molidos (completely pureed) or you can use frijoles medio molidos, (which leaves some of the beans mostly intact or slightly smashed.) I used Salvadoran frijol rojo de seda, which I prepared medio molidos.

(Need help making beans? Click here, here and here.)

2. Now just assemble the pupusas as usual, but using a smaller amount of masa and filling so that the pupusas come out mini-sized. Cook on a hot comal (griddle), flipping once. No need to use any oil on the comal. This will make about 6 mini-pupusas.

(Need pupusa-making tips? Click here.)

Homemade Sweet and Salty Plantain Chips

You need:
1 ripe plantain (yellow with black markings)
Optional: salt

Directions:

1. Cut the peel off the plantain. Slice the plantain into thin coins. Put the plantain rounds on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. (No need to add any oil!)

2. Bake at 350 F, turning once to brown on both sides for about 10 to 15 minutes. Optional: Lightly sprinkle with salt. This makes enough for two servings.

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Conserva de Coco

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Conserva de coco is a sweet coconut candy. In my experience, the texture of conserva de coco varies depending on how long ago it was made. My recipe yields a conserva that is at first soft, sticky and pleasantly chewy, but by the next day it hardens a little. On the third day the conserva starts to get crunchy. When I started experimenting with making this it had been years since I had eaten an authentic freshly made conserva de coco so I wanted to be sure it was right – I brought half a batch to a local Salvadoran friend and she was super impressed. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Conserva de Coco

Ingredients:

1 3/4 cups fresh shredded coconut, packed
2 cups sugar
11 ounces coconut water (right between 1 1/4 cups and 1 1/2 cups)
5 ounces water (right between a 1/2 cup and 3/4 cup)
3 big pinches of salt

Notes before we get started: Make sure you use coconut water, not coconut milk. Also, be certain that you use fresh shredded coconut, not the flaked coconut you find in the baking aisle. You may be able to find fresh shredded coconut in the freezer section of your grocery store if you don’t want to buy an actual coconut. When you measure the 1 and 3/4 cups of coconut, it should be packed down to ensure you’re getting the correct measurement. It’s highly recommended that you measure the coconut water and water in ounces to get the most accurate measurement.

Directions:

1. Boil everything in a medium-sized pot, uncovered, over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Knowing when the conserva is ready was the tricky part for me the first time I made it. You will see the liquid begin to boil away and the mixture will thicken. Don’t be too eager to get it off the stove when you see it happen. The process can take a good 30 minutes or more. When the conserva really comes together the best indicator is if you see the coconut starting to brown a little – Time to remove it from heat!

2. Spread the conserva out on a flat heat-resistant surface. I found it easiest and less messy to put the conserva into a rectangular glass Pyrex baking dish. (I grease the dish with a little cooking spray to ensure it won’t stick, even though I suspect the natural oil of the coconut would prevent that from happening.)

3. Allow the conserva to cool several hours before cutting into pieces, (cubes, bars or squares.) Once cut in pieces, store in an airtight container. I found that it’s best eaten within 3 days, (I like it best the first and second day.)

Rellenos de Ejotes

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Combine the words “melted” and “cheese” and you’ve got my attention – mozzarella sticks, Chicken Parmesan, pupusas, pizza, macaroni and cheese, chiles rellenos – They’re all firmly in my favorite foods category. So it should come as no surprise that when I found out about Salvadoran Rellenos de Ejotes, you didn’t have to tell me twice to grab a fork.

Fresh green beans are pressed by hand into softened mozzarella cheese, dipped in batter and fried until golden brown, then topped with homemade salsa. Carlos likes this served with rice, but I’m happy to eat them all on their own.

Rellenos de Ejotes

Ingredients:

1 to 2 lbs. fresh green beans
1 lb. mozzarella cheese
6 eggs
3 tablespoons of all purpose flour
oil for frying (I use Canola)
salt and pepper

Directions:

1. Pull the stems off green beans and separate out any that are shriveled or too small. Discard the stems and shriveled green beans. Small green beans can be used in another recipe but for this one, you want big, strong green beans that are all around the same size.

2. Boil the green beans in slightly salted water for about 10 minutes or until when tasted they are tender and cooked but not soft. Drain and then set aside to cool to the point that they’re safe to handle by hand.

3. To soften mozzarella cheese, immerse the cheese (still in its packaging), in a bowl of warm water. After 5 to 10 minutes, remove the package of cheese from the water, remove the cheese from the packaging, and then knead it by hand in a medium-sized bowl until it’s soft and easy to mold with your hands. Set aside.

4. To make the batter, separate the eggs – placing the whites in a medium-sized bowl and the yolks in a small bowl. (I find the easiest way to do this is to carefully crack the egg and then pass the yolk back and forth between the two shells. The whites will fall into the bowl below and then when you’re left with only the yolk, you can put it in the other bowl.)

5. Beat the whites (an electric mixer comes in handy here), until stiff, then carefully mix in the yolks and then the flour.

6. To form the Rellenos de Ejotes, lay about 5 green beans in your palm, side by side. On top of this, add a small handful of cheese, and on top of that, repeat a layer of green beans like you have on the bottom. Cup your hands together and apply gentle pressure so that the green beans stick to the cheese.

7. Repeat this process until all the beans and cheese have been used. Season each Relleno de Ejotes with a little salt and pepper, then dip each one in the batter.

8. Fry the Rellenos de Ejotes in a few tablespoons of oil in a large frying pan, flipping once until golden brown on each side.

9. Remove to paper towels or place directly into salsa. (I prefer to keep the Rellenos out of the salsa until ready to eat to avoid any sogginess or falling apart.)

10. Serve topped with salsa. (My fresh salsa recipe is below.)

rellenosdeejotes_latinaish2

Señora López’s Fresh Salsa

3 to 4 fresh Roma tomatoes or a 32 ounce can of whole tomatoes
1 handful fresh cilantro
1/2 of a medium-sized onion
1/4 of a medium Poblano or green bell pepper
1 tablespoon raw, minced garlic
a few rings of pickled jalapeño (Optional. Add more or less to taste.)
salt to taste
a few shakes of Worcestershire sauce (also known as “Salsa Perrins.”)

Combine in a blender. Serve immediately or put in a jar and keep refrigerated for a few days. Use in almost any recipe calling for salsa, or as a side with Latin American dishes.

Chocobananos

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After Carlos’s accident I was really shaken up and dealing with some post traumatic stress. As is my habit, I researched to see how I could “fix” things and get back to normal, (or as normal as I get, anyway.) One piece of advice I read: If the event keeps replaying in the mind, do something to distract yourself — My something to distract myself all last week became cooking Salvadoran food and practicing my food photography skills. It served the dual purpose of showing my love for Carlos while taking care of him, as well as keeping my mind busy. I’m happy to say that this week Carlos is back to work, and I’m feeling better, too.

The reason I mention any of this is to prepare you for the onslaught of recipes I’ll be sharing. First up we have chocobananos, which are basically frozen bananas on a stick dipped in chocolate.

The first chocobanano I had was in El Salvador. It was my first day there on my first trip, and our one year old son had cried on and off the entire flight. (Apologies to our fellow passengers.) Carlos and I took a walk around Soyapango, leaving our colicky baby with suegra. As we walked around the neighborhood we passed all the little stores people had on their enclosed porches. Carlos bought a chocobanano for me from a neighbor and I fell instantly in love, (with the chocobanano, not with Carlos, because Carlos and I were already well-acquainted.)

Back in the United States it isn’t always as easy to find fresh chocobananos. Some Latino markets have them in the ice cream case but there’s no guarantee they were made the same day, or even the same week. Making your own chocobananos is easy, ensures freshness and also allows you to add whatever toppings you so desire.

Chocobananos

What you need:

• 6 ripe bananas (I prefer them yellow with no spots)
• melting chocolate (I use the Chocomelher brand which you can find at Latino markets)
• popsicle sticks (I prefer the bag of “Palillo Para Chocobanano” made by Melher because they have a square shape that works well for this, but any type will do)

Optional topping ideas:
• crushed nuts (I used a mix of peanuts, pistachios & other nuts)
• shredded coconut
• sprinkles

Chocomelher brand melting chocolate for making chocobananos on the shelf at a mercado latino 2013

Chocomelher brand melting chocolate for making chocobananos on the shelf at a mercado latino 2013

Sticks or "palillos" for making chocobananos on the shelf (lower right) at a mercado latino 2013

Sticks or “palillos” for making chocobananos on the shelf (lower right) at a mercado latino 2013

Directions:

1. Peel bananas and cut in half width-wise. Insert sticks into banana halves, about halfway through.

2. Place bananas in the freezer for about 1 hour. I put mine in a metal baking sheet lined with parchment or wax paper so they don’t stick.

3. Melt chocolate as directions indicate for whichever brand you’re using. For the Chocomleher, I cut open the package and break the chocolate into large pieces. Put the chocolate into a medium-sized pot over medium heat and stir until melted. (This will provide more than enough for a dozen chocobananos.) Remove from heat.

4. Dip the frozen bananas into chocolate, trying to cover them as much as possible. You can use a spoon to spoon the chocolate onto spots you missed.

5. If adding a topping, immediately roll the chocobanano in the topping or spoon the topping over the chocobanano. You must move quickly because the chocolate hardens within seconds.

6. Your chocobananos are now ready to eat, or you can place them back in the freezer. If everyone doesn’t eat them within the first day or two (not likely!) you can put each chocobanano into an individual plastic sandwich bag twisted closed around the stick to keep them fresh.

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Arroz con Pollo Estilo Suegra

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This is one of those recipes for which I don’t have exact measurements. I learned it by watching my suegra and she made this almost once a week so I got plenty of watching practice over the years. The chicken is first boiled until cooked and then browned in the pan with plenty of seasonings. Sliced onions and chunks of potato soak up some of the delicious flavor and are served alongside the chicken with colorful mixed veggie rice and thick handmade tortillas. When I think of Salvadoran home cooking, this is usually the meal that comes to mind.

Arroz con Pollo Estilo Suegra

Ingredients for the chicken:

1 chicken, washed and cut in pieces (I use 8 chicken thighs)
1 medium onion, sliced
3 to 4 tablespoons fresh minced garlic
2 cups cooked potato, cut into chunks or wedges
yellow mustard
Worcestershire sauce
salt
pepper
achiote powder
oregano
canola oil
water

Directions:

1. In a large pot, boil the chicken pieces until cooked through. Remove the chicken pieces to a plate to cool slightly, reserving the chicken stock to use on the rice.

2. You can leave the skin on or remove it – whatever your preference, but this is when we’re going to season the chicken before browning and this is when the measurements aren’t going to be exact. On each piece of chicken, give a good squeeze of mustard, a few good shakes of salt, pepper, achiote powder and oregano. Use your hand to make sure the chicken is coated. You can repeat the spices on the flip side as well.

3. In a large deep frying pan over medium-high heat, add a few tablespoons of canola oil so that the bottom of the pan is coated. Add the chicken pieces and try not to turn them over until you’re sure they’re browned, (or they get stuck to the pan.) Flip the chicken pieces over and add a few good shakes of Worcestershire sauce over each piece. Add the garlic, onion and potatoes. Once the chicken is browned on the bottom, move them aside within the pan so the onions can caramelize and the potatoes can soak up some of the flavor.

4. Remove from heat and set aside. Time to make the rice.

Ingredients for the rice:

1 cup white rice (although I use Jasmine, personal preference)
about 2 tablespoons canola oil
salt
oregano
chicken stock
1 small onion, diced
1 small Roma tomato, diced
a large handful frozen “mixed vegetables” (peas, corn, green beans, carrot)

Directions:

1. Put the canola oil in a medium pot over high heat. Add the rice and onion. Stir for a minute or two.
2. Add the tomato and frozen mixed vegetables. Add chicken stock until the rice is covered about 1/2 inch, (or about 1 1/2 cups chicken stock.)
3. Add a large pinch of salt and a few shakes of oregano. Bring to a boil. Cover and lower heat so that the chicken stock is at a steady simmer. Do not open the pot. Allow the liquid to simmer away, (about 10 to 15 minutes.)
4. Remove from heat, fluff with a fork.

Serve chicken, rice, potatoes and grilled onion together with fresh handmade tortillas.