Salvadoran Semita – Recipe!

My first taste of Semita, (a Salvadoran jam or marmalade filled pastry) was many years ago. Suegra had brought it back in her “encargos” from El Salvador and this one, although I didn’t know it at the time, was of great quality and very fresh. Suegra brought many Semitas with her and to keep from eating them I put them in the freezer – I soon found that they taste just as good frozen, (though that’s probably a very gringa thing to do.)

Once my stash of Semita ran out I was forced to buy some at the local Salvadoran-owned Latino market. I then discovered one more thing – Not all Semita are created equal. The Semitas bought locally were low quality – either because they were made to have a longer shelf life or because they weren’t and had gone stale. I vowed that one day I would bake my own Semita but I didn’t get around to it until a few weeks ago. The results were so fantastic that I would say this is one of the best things I’m able to make, (and Carlos fell in love with me all over again.)

Here is my recipe – I read a dozen Semita recipes and created my own. Sometimes straying from already established recipes while baking is asking for disaster, but in this case, it was sweet success. By the way, this recipe can also be used to make Empanadas de Piña, Pasteles de Piña or Pineapple Hand Pies.

Fun fact: There are different kinds of Semita. “Semita Alta” is thicker and other fillings include guayaba [guava] and higo [fig], but Semita de Piña is my favorite and it’s the most common.

If you mention Semita to a Mexican, they might think you’re talking about Cemita – a type of sandwich from Puebla.

Semita (Salvadoran Pineapple Jam-Filled Pastries)

Ingredients:

4 cups of flour
1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature and chopped in pieces
2 tablespoons yeast
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 pinches of salt
1 jar pineapple jelly, jam or marmalade (if you can’t find at the regular grocery store, check the Latino market)
1/2 cup water

Directions:

1. In a very large mixing bowl, add the flour. Create a volcano with a hole in the center for the rest of the ingredients.

2. Into the volcano, add butter, yeast, eggs, sugar, salt and water. Mix all the ingredients by hand, kneading them together. (These measurements worked perfectly – I double checked by making the recipe a second time, but if for some reason the dough doesn’t come together after a couple minutes, you can add a little more water – If too sticky after a few minutes, you can add a little flour.)

3. The original recipes call for rising time – I skipped this completely. Don’t be afraid – keep going!

4. Remove a baseball-sized amount of dough and set aside, then break the remaining dough into 4 equal balls.

5. On a lightly-floured surface, roll a ball of dough out until it’s as thick as pie crust, (not too thin or you won’t be able to pick it up.) Use a knife to cut the dough into a rectangle shape. (It doesn’t have to be perfect but you can use a ruler if you want.)

6. Place the rectangle on a greased baking sheet. Top with a nice layer of pineapple jam, (a little thicker than you’d put on a peanut butter & jelly sandwich.)

7. Create another rectangle with the second ball of dough. Place this one on top of the jam.

8. Repeat with the 2 other dough balls. You should now have 2 rectangular Semitas on separate baking sheets, 1 ball of dough and dough scraps from when you cut out the rectangles.

9. Take your dough scraps and create a ball. Roll out on a lightly floured surface and cut into long strips as you see in the photos. Place on top of the 2 Semitas in a criss-cross pattern. Sprinkle each Semita with a tablespoon or two of sugar.

10. Pasteles de Piña: With remaining dough you could make another rectangular Semita or try your hand at Pasteles de Piña. Roll the dough out on a floured surface and then cut out circles using a large drinking glass. Roll out each circle a little more, trying to give it a more oval shape. Put a spoonful of pineapple jam in the middle. With a finger dipped in water, wet the edge of one side before folding over and sealing by pressing the tines of a fork against the edges. (Don’t worry if the dough breaks open a little or doesn’t totally seal. The jam actually tastes really good when it seeps out.)

11. Put the Pasteles on a greased baking sheet, sprinkle with sugar.

12. Baking Time & Temp: Both the Semitas and the Pasteles should be baked on the middle rack of a 350 F oven until golden brown. (You probably won’t be able to bake them all at the same time.) The rectangular Semitas need 30 to 40 minutes in the oven and the Pasteles might be done after 15 to 20 minutes – check them and decide based on color.

Makes: 2 normal-sized Semitas and 12 individual half moon pies/pasteles/empanadas.
Or: 3 normal-sized Semitas, or 36 half moon pies/pasteles/empanadas.
Note: A “normal-sized” Semita serves about 9 people.

Salvadoran salsa dancers come to Q’Viva!

I was contacted many times with the opportunity to interview any of the contestants of Jennifer Lopez’s and Marc Anthony’s new show, Q’Viva The Chosen. I responded that if they had any contestants who were Salvadoran, I’d be interested.

Well, I got my wish! Junior and Emily are half-Salvadoran salsa dancing siblings from California. Check out my exclusive interview with Junior below!

Latinaish: I saw your auditions with Marc Anthony in Q’Viva and it’s very clear that you guys are professional dancers and that you love to dance. At what age did you start learning to dance?


(See Junior and Emily at minute 2:25)

Junior: We love what we do! We have been dancing salsa for 12 years together. Emily started when she was 10 years old and I started when I was 14 years old. It’s an incredible feeling to do what you love and to do with your sister. To be able to travel and share amazing and unforgettable moments with family.

Latinaish: You guys dance salsa but do you like other types of dance as well?

Junior: We love all types of music and dance. Our specialty is salsa but we also do other types of social dances.

Latinaish: What are your favorite songs to dance to right now?

Junior: We love to dance to everything! As of right now we have been very into doing music by Rodrigo y Gabriela. 


Latinaish: You guys are siblings and you have a lot of chemistry when you dance together, but siblings have a tendency to argue and annoy each other. What does your brother/sister do that annoys you more than anything?

Junior: We have learned to work together. We have learned to separate the personal and the professional. We have been dancing for 12 years together so like everything else, it’s a learning process. The thing that we try and focus on most is pushing each other past our comfort zone and constantly pushing limits. We always have to keep each other positive and motivated when things get really tough because for us it’s a never-ending process to create new limits and continue to innovate.

Latinaish: Your biography says that you’re from San Francisco, California – but I also heard you’re Salvadoran. My husband is from Soyapango, so I’m curious – who in your family is from El Salvador? Your father? Mother? (From what part?)

Junior: That’s exciting to hear that your husband is Salvadorean as well! We were both born and raised in San Francisco, California, but we currently live in Los Angeles, California. We are both half Salvadorean and half Korean. Our father is from Santa Ana, El Salvador and our mother is from Seoul, Korea.

Latinaish: Have you visited El Salvador?

Junior: We have been invited to perform in El Salvador before, but unfortunately we have never been able to go because of schedule conflicts. We would definitely love to visit someday!

Latinaish: In the Q’Viva competition, you guys represent the United States, but do you also feel like you represent El Salvador?

Junior: Yes, we were representing the USA, but we definitely felt that we represented El Salvador as well. Our parents divorced when we were really young and we were raised by our father. We were brought up knowing only our Salvadorean side of the family. It was such an honor to represent both countries.

Latinaish: What else can you tell us about your part on the show Q’Viva?

Junior: Q’Viva was an amazing and unforgettable experience for us. It was so incredible to see such amazing talent from all over the world and for us to be a part of that was an honor. We definitely were extremely excited and nervous at the same time performing for Marc, Jennifer, and Jamie. It will be a moment that we will never forget!

Tamales de Elote + Tamales Fritos

Tamales de elote (corn tamales) are often eaten for breakfast, (or any time really), in El Salvador, as well as in other countries in Central America. They are especially good if you re-heat them the next day by frying them, (which turns them into “tamales fritos” or fried tamales.)

Here is the recipe I use, adapted from the one found at Whats4Eats.com. If you want it completely authentic – (i.e. you want to use lard and fresh corn) – go check out their recipe. My recipe is easier and can be made year round because it uses canned corn – but I changed a few other things as well, and they’re delicious like this.

TAMALES DE ELOTE
Makes 1 dozen

What you need:

Corn husks (for wrapping) – 12
Butter, unsalted, softened – 1/2 cup
Baking powder – 2 teaspoons
Masa harina (MASECA) – 2 cups
Salt – 1 and 1/2 teaspoons
Whole milk or cream – 1 cup (warm)
Corn (whole kernel, sweet, no salt added) – 1 and 3/4 cups (drained) = about one 15.25 oz. can
Sugar – 3 tablespoons

Directions:

1. Put corn husks in a large bowl of warm water to soak.

2. Put butter, baking powder, corn and sugar in a blender or food processor and mix until combined. (Add a couple tablespoons of milk if blender blades won’t turn. This can be any kind of milk, including skim.)

3. In a large bowl, mix together (with your hands), the masa harina (MASECA), salt and warm milk. Knead until completely combined.

4. Mix the masa little by little into the blender mixture, using the blender to combine it. If the mixture is now too thick for your blender to handle, mix all into a bowl by hand. Squeeze the mixture through your hands until completely combined.

5. Drain the corn husks and shake dry, (it’s fine if they’re still moist.) You will either need to work fast so the husks don’t dry out again, or you can leave them in water and shake dry one-by-one as you use them.

6. Lay out a husk and add about 1/4 cup dough to the center. Fold in each side to cover the dough. Then fold up the bottom of the husk. Finally fold down the pointed part of the husk and insert it into the bottom. Repeat with the rest of the dough. (I go the extra step of wrapping my tamales in aluminum foil to prevent them from opening, which is easier than tying with string, which some people do.)

7. Steam the tamales in a steamer pot for 30-45 minutes. (If you don’t have a steamer pot, you can places balls of foil on the bottom of the pot and then put a metal pie plate on top of the foil. Make sure water doesn’t come above the plate. Over low heat, stack tamales on top of the plate and cover the pot. You may need to add water halfway through the cooking time if your pot cooks dry.)

8. Remove tamales and let cool. Serve warm, or refrigerate. To re-heat, unwrap tamal from corn husk and place on a comal or in a frying pan with a little oil. Cook on both sides until browned – now you have a tamal frito!

El Salvador – The much awaited souvenirs

[Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. Apologies that there is no English translation this week. If you have a question about something, ask me in comments and I'll try to answer you. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments!]

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Fuimos a El Salvador en agosto, y claro que trajimos recuerdos!

Si no has visto los blog posts sobre recuerdos de otros años, chéquealos. Hay un montón de cosas chistosas que ya compartí anteriormente:

From El Salvador with Love
From El Salvador with Love (Part 2)
Souvenirs from El Salvador 2011

Okay! Los recuerdos de este viaje!

Un capirucho y un trompo

Un libro sobre tradiciones de El Salvador

Tic Tack (alcohol)

Un librito para enseñar a los niños cómo escribir en el estilo salvadoreño. (Pero creo que ya es muy tarde para ellos. Sus escrituras no son tan bonitas – es típica cómo la mayoría de varones en los Estados Unidos.)

periódicos

juego de futbolito

Huaraches que no me quedan. Una mujer me obligó a comprarlos en el mercado. Me siento mal que los compré y que están en mi closet sin usarlos, cuando hay gente en El Salvador sin zapatos.

pulsera

Pulsera de los santos. Compré dos de unas mujeres fuera de las ruinas de San Andres. Días después, tuve ganas de comprar más pero no las encontré. En una tienda en Metro Centro, pensé que encontré las mismas pulseras, pero al chequearlas más cerca, descubrí que no eran fotitos de los santos pegados a las cuentas – eran fotitos de Justin Bieber.

Me compré esto para colgar las llaves, pero al día siguiente, me encontré una que me gustó más.

Esta la tenemos en la pared cerca de la puerta principal de nuestra casa. Afortunadamente mi madre y vecinos que nos visitan no hablan español.

Este es un huevo de barro y tiene algo muy especial adentro.

Win or Lose, a Day to Remember

I’ve now had two days to recover from the Copa Oro games we went to on Sunday, pero todavia estoy completamente rendida.

The night before, I couldn’t sleep, half from excitement and half from anxiety about the tickets. Following the wise advice of a friend, we arrived hours early at the stadium. (Gracias to Rudy, who we actually got to meet briefly at the game.)

We went straight to the “Will Call” window and I gave them my I.D. I watched them shuffle around and come up empty-handed. I watched them check and re-check. I knew this would happen. They apologized that they didn’t have tickets for me under my name. I called the number of the on-site manager that State Farm had given me in case I ran into problems – he assured me he had the tickets on him. When we met him in the parking lot where State Farm had set up, true to his word, he had the tickets. I resisted kissing him and instead let him tell me about some of the fun things they were doing there.

I talked with someone about the sOccket ball and she showed me how it worked. I also got to check out the State Farm iPhone app, Kick4ACause which allows you to donate electricity just by playing the game. [See video of me playing]

As Carlos and I decided what to do next, a mini-Salvadoran pride parade broke out. Of course we joined in.

The parade went around the parking lot making all kinds of noise. At one point we clashed with a group of panameños, but after dancing with them for awhile, the parade continued on, much to the bewilderment of gringos trying to tailgate in peace.

When gringos tried to interact with Salvadorans though, the Salvadoran response always made me smile. When gringos shouted “U.S.A.!” – the Salvadorans didn’t feel threatened – they joined them in chants for the red, white and blue. I wonder if this made an impression on anyone in that parking lot who had expected a different reaction – to realize that it’s possible to have enough love for the place of your birth, language or culture – but feel equally proud of the country you now live in.

After the mini-parade we sought shade and a late [very expensive] lunch inside the stadium. We found our seats and waited.

Salvadorans seemed amused by my "Guanaco Pitbull" shirt, but I didn't realize how confusing it would be for non-Salvadorans, who seemed to puzzle over what it meant.

While waiting, I observed a lot of Salvadorans who came prepared to not only cheer on El Salvador, but the United States as well. Many wore La Selecta T-shirts, but carried American flags. The “U.S.A.!” chant was alive and well in sections full of Salvadorans during the U.S. vs. Jamaica game.

The game itself was great, but the sky was so cloudy that I wasn’t able to access Twitter on my phone which was frustrating.

After the United States won, we were all full of happiness and hope for El Salvador.

Hearing the crowd sing the Himno Nacional de El Salvador made me tear up a little. To look around and know that all these Salvadorans were here together even though many, like Carlos, were far from their homeland… It’s difficult for me to put in words.

Being at the actual game instead of watching it on television is a unique experience. I’ve watched a lot of Salvadoran fútbol games on T.V. but never heard the crowd whistling in unison. Salvadorans have a unique way of whistling, (I wish I had caught it on video), but when you have thousands of people doing this, it sounds sort of like a forest full of parrots.

Speaking of whistling, at one point in the game, a Salvadoran player fell on top of a Panamanian player in a position that looked somewhat compromising. This got some funny responses from the crowd which I won’t repeat, but you definitely don’t get that on T.V. either.

As for the game – La Selecta missed a lot of opportunities on the field, but they did get this penalty shot which was very exciting.

Another highlight for me was seeing a guy run across the field with the Salvadoran flag. I know that’s frowned upon but it amused me, (and he was really fast. Maybe La Selecta should draft him?)

An unidentified man carries an El Salvador flag as he runs on the field during the second half of a CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinal soccer match between Panama and El Salvador. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

(You can’t see on my video, but you can see in others that the Panamanian goalie threw the U.S. flag out of the goal. That’s what the booing was about at the end of the video.)

El Salvador was ready to win… and then Panama scored a goal in the last minute… at least they say they scored a goal. I’ve watched the replay two dozen times and can’t decide if it was good or not. If only there was video of it from the other side – pero ni modo, what’s done is done. There’s no use being bitter about it.

Okay…maybe a little.

Cover of El Diario de Hoy / Deportes

Here are some of my favorite photos I took during the game:

As you see, some guys had a banner that proclaimed Zelaya to be better than Chicharito. While I was there to support La Selecta with all my heart, I’m not so sure I agree. My Pitbull didn’t do much better. The game was full of excitement, tense moments, joy, disappointment – the poor Salvadorans around me went from elated to crushed over and over again. One guy often took his frustration out on the empty stadium seat in front of him. By the end of the game I was kind of surprised he hadn’t managed to rip it out as he repeatedly pounded on it screaming “P*TA! P*TA! P*TA! HIJUEP*TA!”

Carlos was calmer than that though I heard him say a few choice words under his breath after the final penalty shot shoot-out decided our fate.

Win or lose, it was an amazing experience. I know it was particularly special for Carlos. I asked him what it felt like being in the stadium surrounded by so many Salvadorans. He said it reminded him of home and the games he used to go to with his friends. The good thing about Salvadorans is that even though Carlos didn’t have his old friends with him, the guys seated around us were more than willing to fill-in for the day. I know Carlos to be a mostly quiet guy, but when he’s with other salvadoreños he opens up and is actually quite talkative. I love to see him uninhibited like that. [ Read Carlos's post about the day here.]

The game came to an end, but the brotherly love was far from over. On the way out of the stadium I was nearly crushed, (this panicked me for a minute but I knew Carlos would throw people left and right if I were in any danger.) … Then we missed the first Metro train because it was impossible to fit anymore people on it. We waited twenty more minutes for the pleasure of being crushed on the next train. Besides myself, I think there was only one other woman on the train – it was packed with young men wearing blue, and all of us, (myself included), were in serious need of some deodorant after a long day in the sun.

Despite the heat, lack of personal space, exhaustion and loss of the game, the group on the train remained in good spirits.

“Yo soy salvadoreño!” shouted one man still full of pride and warrior spirit, “Soy guerilla!”
A man from the other side of the train answered him back,
“Guerilla mi c*lo!”

(Don’t ask me to translate it to English. Somehow, it’s not as funny like that.)

Disclosure: I attended the Gold Cup games at the invitation of State Farm. All opinions are my own.

Pitbull (not that one)

Tomorrow we go to the Copa de Oro (Gold Cup) quarterfinal games in D.C. – That’s right, plural – games! … I totally didn’t even realize that it was a doubleheader, which means two games one after the other at the same venue which are attended with the same ticket. So not only will I get to see the U.S. team play against Jamaica, I get to see the game right after it. Do you know whose playing?

EL SALVADOR vs. Panama! … I’m freaking out. The only way this could be more chévere is if Chicharito showed up and bought me a beer, but let’s keep things realistic, shall we?

Our tickets are supposed to be at “will call” which makes me nervous, but I’m told this is a reliable way to do things and I don’t have a choice in the matter, so primero a Dios and fingers crossed. The reason it makes me nervous is because these games are todo sold-out. I have a feeling it’s going to be crazy getting in. A friend who will be at the game advised us to arrive hours early, partly to avoid a really long line and also to enjoy the pre-game atmosphere. You’re going to have a parqueo full of guanacos, panameños, Jamaicans, gringos and a mix of others … I don’t know how hard everyone else parties, but the Salvadorans alone will make plenty of noise and fun – not to mention that they’re clever business people and I’m sure a lot of ventas will be going on. If Suegra were coming, (which she’s not!) I know she’d be out there hustling, selling pupusas, hand-embroidered delantales, joya, and whatever else she could carry.

Like I said, Suegra is staying home to watch the cipotes so it seems we’re ready for the games – except what to wear?

Carlos and I have been looking everywhere for a shirt to wear to the game. You would think we owned a La Selecta shirt but every time we asked Suegra to bring us one, she’d come back with tourist T-shirts. One time she got closer and brought us a team shirt for Chalatenango, but purple stripes are not as cool as “La Azul” – (not to mention, the shirt is too small – the chorizo look is not a good one.)

So we went to various sporting goods stores. One store we went to I asked where their soccer shirts are and the guy said, “Um, we don’t have… soccer…shirts… We have soccer balls?” … The other store had a U.S. MLS shirt, but it was $50… So not happening.

We tried department stores, where I found a really cool shirt for El Tri, which, (while I still want it), would have been an inappropriate choice for the game. (I may wear my “Mexico Numero Uno” shirt here at home and deal with the wrath of Carlos and Suegra, but I’m not tonta enough to wear it in a stadium full of Salvadorans.)

Wally World was also no good. They have a lot of patriotic shirts due to the season, but not anything I would be caught dead wearing. (Glittery kittens with fireworks? Seriously? People like this?)

Finally I had the idea to make a shirt. I bought a nice bright blue T-shirt for $3 and some iron-on letters… but what to write?

That’s when I remembered my new favorite player – Salvadoran, Dennis Alas.

While I was watching El Salvador play Cuba on television, I noticed that the commentator kept referring to one of the players as “Pitbull.” I thought this was just a silly, quirky thing that this particular commentator had come up with, but after searching the internet a little, I found out that Dennis Alas is known as the “Salvadoran Pitbull” – (I’m thinking it’s the shaved head.)

"Salvadoran Pitbull" - Image source: Guillermo Estrada/elsalvadorfc.com

After reading more about the player and looking up video of some of his past goals – I’ve really come to like him.

He actually didn’t score any goals against Cuba. Here’s him missing one though. Oops.

No me importa. His nickname is too chivo for me not to like him and I think he has potential.

So anyhow, Dennis “Pitbull” Alas inspired me to create a camisa for the game. I think I will be the only person in the stadium, (or in the world), with this one-of-a-kind shirt. If you watch the games mañana, look for me.

Disclosure: I will be attending the CONCACAF Copa de Oro/Gold Cup games at the invitation of State Farm. All opinions are my own.

El Trompo

Una tía de El Salvador está visitando. Nos trajo trompos y fuimos al parque para que Carlos pueda enseñarnos (yo, y los cipotes), cómo hacerlo.

An aunt from El Salvador is visiting. She brought us toy tops and we went to the park so Carlos could show us (myself, and the kids), how to do it.

Participaste en Spanish Friday? Deja tu link en comentarios!
Did you participate in Spanish Friday? Leave your link in comments!