Tamales de Rajas con Queso

tamales de rajas con queso

Most of you usually look forward to the Salvadoran recipes I post here, but today I have a Mexican recipe that both Carlos and I love, (and it’s rare that I can get away with serving Carlos a vegetarian meal!) Mexican tamales de rajas con queso are my favorite, (well, they’re tied with Salvadoran tamales de elote fritos.)

I make these tamales with Monterey Jack cheese, roasted Poblano peppers, and then top with chipotle sauce. It’s the perfect combination and the flavor reminds me a bit of Mexican chiles rellenos, (another favorite dish of mine. Can you tell I love cheese?) Since the filling is vegetarian and I have a few vegetarians in the family, I also make the masa with vegetable broth and Canola oil instead of chicken broth and lard. A little salsa added to the masa gives it a pretty color and plenty of flavor – ¡No te preocupes!

As for Salvadoran recipes, I only recently learned that Salvadoran tamales de chipilín have queso in them too, so I may have to give those a try next. If they turn out well, I’ll be sure to share it here. For now, I hope you enjoy this recipe. Buen provecho!

Tamales de Rajas con Queso / Roasted Pepper and Cheese Tamales

For the masa you need:

4 cups instant corn masa mix for tamales (I use MASECA brand)
2 2/3 cups vegetable broth
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/3 cup Canola oil
1/4 cup La Costeña chipotle sauce (keep the rest of the can for later)


1. In a large bowl, combine MASECA, baking powder, and salt.

2. With your hands, mix in vegetable broth, canola oil, and chipotle sauce.

3. Work the masa for several minutes until fluffy. If it doesn’t seem moist enough, you can add a little more vegetable broth and work it in. Set aside.

For the filling you need:

3 large Poblano peppers
1 lb. Monterey Jack cheese, sliced in long pieces about 1/2 inch in width

Other supplies:

corn husks for tamales, soaked in warm water for 15 minutes
a steamer pot
2 pennies
aluminum foil, ripped into about twenty 12×8 inch pieces


4. Wash and dry the peppers. Rub a little Canola oil on them and then roast them over medium high heat on a comal/griddle, turning occasionally until blackened.

5. Once roasted, put the peppers into a plastic bag to “sweat.” Seal the bag well. Wait 15 minutes. Remove peppers from the bag, and use a metal spoon to scrape as much of the skin off as you can. Slice peppers open, remove stem and seeds. Slice peppers into long pieces about 1/2 inch in width.

6. To assemble the tamales, take a corn husk, shake dry. Place on a flat surface, spread masa on the corn husk, leaving an inch or two at the tapered bottom without masa.

7. Place 1 piece of cheese and 2 pieces of Poblano pepper in the middle. Fold the sides in, then fold the bottom up. Do not fold the top. Wrap the tamal in foil, leaving the top completely open.

8. Set the tamal into the steamer pot vertically, top up, (with water and pennies in the bottom part of the pot.)

9. Repeat until you have about 20 tamales. Put steamer pot on the stove over medium-high heat. Cover.

10. Cook about 1 hour. You may need to add more water during cook time. If the pennies start clanking around instead of gently jingling, you need more water. When you pour more water into the pot, avoid getting it on the tamales.

11. To test for doneness, remove 1 tamal from the pot. Set it on the counter or a plate and let it sit for 5 minutes. If after 5 minutes, you are able to cleanly pull the corn husk off without masa sticking, they’re done.

12. Serve with chipotle sauce to pour on top.

Bistec Salvadoreño a la Parilla

Summertime is almost here, and that means afternoons which turn into late nights on the patio enjoying good food and good company.

When Carlos and I were dating and early in our marriage, we were often invited to parties at the house of a family friend from El Salvador. Don Andres is from San Miguel, and he always made the best grilled steak. Paired with generous helpings of rice, salad, chirmol, beans, and tortillas piled onto a Styrofoam plate, and eaten with a cold drink on a hot day, it’s one of my favorite meals. When I asked Don Andres for his recipe years ago, he rattled off some ingredients, but wasn’t precise about measurements. I scribbled them down and over the years figured out the right amounts and made my own little changes based on what I usually have on hand. So, here’s the recipe we use now when we want tender, flavorful Salvadoran-style steaks on the grill!

Bistec Salvadoreño a la Parilla

(Salvadoran Grilled Steak)


1 cup Canola oil
1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
1 tbs. white vinegar
almost 1/3 cup red cooking wine
juice of 1 medium-sized lime
3 tbs. Worcestershire sauce
1 tbs. black pepper
2 tbs. yellow mustard
2 tbs. minced garlic
1 large white onion sliced

2 to 3 lbs. top sirloin steak sliced about 1/4 inch thin (“butterflied”)
(at a Latino market this cut may be labelled “Palomilla”)


1. Put 1 tablespoon white vinegar into a 1/3 cup. Fill the rest of the way with red cooking wine.

2. In a medium bowl add the white vinegar and red cooking wine with Canola oil, soy sauce, lime juice, Worcestershire sauce, black pepper, yellow mustard, and garlic. Mix until combined.

3. Pour the marinade into a large glass Pyrex or large plastic zipper bag. Add the steaks and sliced onions. Cover and refrigerate for 5 hours. [Tip: Now is a good time to prepare your side dishes.]

4. While getting the grill ready (we prefer charcoal), remove the steaks from the marinade and let them sit at room temperature. Remove the onions from the marinade. (I cook the onions in a frying pan on the stove top, then serve atop the steaks.) Discard the marinade.

5. Grill the steaks on both sides to your desired doneness. Serve with onions, rice, tortillas, beans, chirmol, and fresh salad. Enjoy!

Huevos Duros en Escabeche de Remolacha (Recipe in English and Spanish)

pickled eggs

Over the years I’ve shared mostly Salvadoran recipes here, but today I want to share something from my side of the family because it’s something Carlos loves — Maybe you’ll give it a try and love it too.

Pickled eggs are a traditional dish we have each year with Easter dinner, but they can’t be just any regular pickled eggs. In Pennsylvania beets are used; in addition to adding to the flavor, beets give them a pretty purple color. (Kind of like Salvadoran Ensalada Rusa!)

Pickled Eggs

What you need:

1 dozen large eggs, hard boiled and peeled

2 (14.5 oz.) cans sliced beets in beet juice
(Beets can be “small whole” or sliced, but it’s important that you DON’T get the kind that are already pickled.)

3/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 cups white vinegar


1. In a large pot, combine the entire contents of the cans, including the liquid, the sugar, and the vinegar. Heat to boiling, then lower to a simmer.

2. Simmer for 5 minutes and stir to dissolve sugar. When the liquid is tasted hot, it should make you cough a little bit. If not, you may want to add a little more vinegar.

3. Remove from heat and cool. Once cool, pour the liquid into a tall jar or pitcher with a lid that seals. Add the peeled hard boiled eggs and make sure they’re all covered by the liquid and beets. Cover and store in the refrigerator.

4. Wait at least 24 hours before serving. Some wait 2 or 3 days so the flavor and color will penetrate deeper into the eggs. Eat within about a week.

Variations: Traditionally some families add pickling spice. Yet another variation you could try is to add fresh garlic, slices of onion, and slices of fresh jalapeño if you’d like a spicy kick.


Huevos duros en escabeche de remolacha, (o Huevos duros encurtidos)


1 docena de huevos grandes, hervidos y pelados

2 (14.5 oz.) latas de remolacha en rodajas en jugo de remolacha
(Las remolachas pueden ser “pequeñas enteras/small whole” o cortadas en rodajas, pero es importante que NO obtengas el tipo que ya están en escabeche.)

3/4 taza de azúcar

1 1/2 tazas de vinagre blanco


1. En una olla grande, combine todo el contenido de las latas, incluyendo el líquido, el azúcar y el vinagre. Calentar a hervir, luego bajar a fuego lento.

2. Cocine a fuego lento durante 5 minutos y revuelva para disolver el azúcar. Cuando pruebes el líquido caliente, debe hacerte toser un poco. Si no, puedes agregar un poco más de vinagre.

3. Retire del fuego y enfríe. Una vez que se enfríe, vierta el líquido en una jarra alta o recipiente alta con una tapa que sella. Agregar los huevos duros pelados y asegúrete de que están cubiertos por el líquido y remolachas. Cubrir y guardar en el refrigerador.

4. Esperar por lo menos 24 horas antes de servir. Algunos esperan 2 o 3 días por lo que el sabor y el color penetrarán más profundamente en los huevos. Comer dentro de una semana.

Variaciones: Tradicionalmente, algunas familias añaden especias de decapado/pickling spice. Otra variante que puedes probar es agregar ajo fresco, rebanadas de cebolla y rebanadas de jalapeño fresco si quieres un sabor más picante.

Author Interview: Christy Esmahan

Tell me a bit about yourself and your background. What made you want to write this story that mostly takes place in El Salvador?

My father was from El Salvador and my mother is American, so that part of the story was pretty easy to write, although the characters are not my parents. I was born in the US, but we did live in El Salvador when I was a little girl and I have many fond memories of the people and the food. Plus, many of my cousins on my father’s side still live in El Salvador. I grew up in Ohio and majored in Microbiology in college, then moved to Spain where I completed my doctorate degree. After that, I worked as an educator and also lived in Germany. Eventually I moved back to the US and taught here as well, before retiring to write novels. A CRICKET OF A GIRL is my 6th novel.

Having lived in El Salvador as a little girl, I always carried that part around inside me and I found that when people looked at me and saw my dark skin, they didn’t understand the depth of culture and love that I also carried around for my father’s country. Also, (spoiler alert) we did flee the country right before the military stormed the university with tanks, in the middle of the day, and shot students and professors. My father would surely have been killed that day if we had still been there, and I really wanted to write about that and how someone could embrace the lovely country that El Salvador is while still dealing with the pain and injury that was caused by the war. Finally, I wanted to illustrate (my opinion) that the civil war really started years before its official start date, due to the changes that were made by the rich.

For those who haven’t read your book yet, what is A CRICKET OF A GIRL about?

One of my reviewers, Lauren Sapala, a writer and blogger in San Francisco, described her experience with the novel really well, so let me give it to you in her words. “A CRICKET OF A GIRL is the story of two women: one born and raised in El Salvador, and one from the Midwestern United States who relocates to El Salvador in the late 1960s. These two women form an unlikely but beautiful friendship against the backdrop of the political turmoil, violence, and relentless fear that was [and continues to be] the climate of El Salvador. Considering the fears we are dealing with about the future of our society today, I think this should be required reading for anyone who wants to further their education on race, gender, class, and politics. It is guaranteed to make you think twice about what people are capable of, both for good or ill.”

Another reviewer, a young man from Mexico named Arturo Almazan said, “[The novel] tackles difficult topics such as social class inequality, gender roles, cultural identity, and modern slavery.”

I think those two opinions of the novel summarize it well.

I think one thing you captured well in this book is that many Salvadorans are great story-tellers. The character Sesi, who’s a niñera in your book, tells the little girl she cares for the story of The Monkey Princess. I had never heard this folktale before, but you say your Salvadoran niñera used to tell this story to you?

Yes, as true as I could, I tried to capture the real Sesi’s voice. I’ve given her a different name, of course, and her real life is somewhat different than in the novel. For one thing, her life was even harder and she didn’t have a “Figo” but was assaulted. Still, she remained positive and optimistic and did, in the end, learn to bake and make a better life for herself and her daughter. But back to your question, yes, she would walk me to school and tell me stories, and this one of The Monkey Princess is the one I remember best.

One thing I’m always drawn to in the books I read is food, and your book mentions plenty of Salvadoran cuisine. At one point in the story, Sesi learns to make “green rice” (or “arroz verde”)… Any chance you have a recipe you want to share?

Sure! I have it all written down on my blog site.

On your most recent trip to El Salvador, what was the most interesting thing you experienced?

I was struck by how much and how little the country had changed. I could not recognize my house or my school because of the tall walls and gates that had been erected around all of the buildings, to protect from crime. That was sad. But the airport was basically unchanged, and the chattering of the wild green parakeets which fly in thick flocks over the sky were familiar. The view of the majestic volcanoes was breathtaking. And of course, I loved the food!

What’s next for you?

I’m in a busy promotional phase now. My fourth novel, THE LAPTEV VIRUS, (hard sci-fi medical thriller and winner of the Indie Excellence Award) just got made into an audio version by Tantor Media and I’m asking everyone to ask their local libraries to acquire it (shameless plug: you can request it at your library by giving them the ISBN 978-1515969044.)

I’m also promoting my 5th novel, THE COBRA EFFECT, which is another medical thriller, but this time about the plastic pollution in the ocean.

If you’d rather read more contemporary fiction, check out any of my first three novels, BUENO, SINCO and BRUJAS which are a love story set in Spain. They are a series, but I recap enough that you can start with the second or third one if it catches your fancy. (And by the way, SINCO was a finalist for the 2016 International Latino Book Awards.)

Your books are very different genres — is there anything that connects them?

Writing is my way of engaging in social activism, which I think is critical for us at this juncture in time. A CRICKET OF A GIRL is particularly timely because of the immigration issue and the need for all of us to understand and empathize with people from other cultures. I think that the more book clubs and groups of people read and discuss books like this one, the more tolerant we can all become.

My first three novels, BUENO, SINCO and BRUJAS are also about being immersed in a different culture (Spain) where not only are the customs, language and food different, but also the way of thinking about the world. Again, it goes back to helping us to understand and empathize with the foreign.

My fourth novel, THE LAPTEV VIRUS, is about climate change and the dangers of things emerging from the melting Arctic, but it’s also about corporate greed and mistakes that good people can make. THE COBRA EFFECT is about the huge problem of plastic pollution in the ocean, but it also touches on corporate greed and GMOs. And again, part of the narrative is set in other countries (India and China).

I recently heard author and professor George Saunders speaking and he said (I’m paraphrasing) that right now, more than ever, all of us artists (no matter how we make art) need to work on our craft to help our country [and our world] deal with the turmoil in our society and move toward a better future, with more understanding and tolerance. I love that thought!

Find out more about author Christy Esmahan on her website, ChristyEsmahan.com.

Salpores de Arroz

salpores de arroz salvadoreños

Two days ago I received a request in comments for any type of Salvadoran “pan duro” to go with coffee. The first one that came to mind was salpores de arroz, which are a crunchy cookie-like pan dulce made with rice flour. Traditionally salpores come in a few different shapes and are sprinkled with pink or red-colored sugar.

Although these aren’t a Valentine’s Day cookie, they’d make a pretty sweet surprise for your valentine, especially if he or she happens to be Salvadoran.

Salpores de Arroz


3 cups rice flour
1 cup sugar
½ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
¾ cup unsalted butter, softened
2 extra large eggs, slightly beaten

For topping: pink or red sugar


1. In a large bowl, whisk together the rice flour, 1 cup sugar, cinnamon, salt, and baking powder.

2. Add butter and knead by hand until combined.

3. Add eggs and knead by hand an additional 10 minutes. The dough will be very dry and crumbly. You must work the dough until it all comes together.

4. Preheat oven to 350 F.

5. Take a golf ball-sized amount of dough in your hands and shape it into a flat oval, then press three flat fingers into it to make indentations. Place the cookie on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Repeat for each cookie.

6. Sprinkle cookies with pink or red-colored sugar. Bake on middle rack of oven for 18 minutes until cookies are nicely browned on the bottoms.

7. Remove from oven and allow to cool on the baking sheet. Serve with coffee. Makes about 18 salpores de arroz.

Election 2016: Where Do We Go From Here?


I usually don’t get too political here, because I consider Latinaish to be a “niche” blog with a focus on Latinx and Latin American culture, bilingual/bicultural life, language, and language acquisition. This is my happy place, and I like to wipe my feet before entering so as not to track any dirt in here.

But if you know me personally and/or follow my personal Twitter account, you know that I’m very vocal and passionate when it comes to current events, politics, human rights, and other less cheerful topics. (I contain multitudes, as we all do.) Usually Twitter is the perfect platform for me to be involved and have my say, but today I need to say something much longer than 140 characters, and I also feel that it’s important enough to break with my self-imposed rule of covering only very specific topics, because in the end it affects this community. It affects the readers of this blog who are mostly Latinx, or married into the Latinx community. It especially impacts those of us without papers, DREAMers, and DACA recipients, but also our loved ones regardless of legal status, our family and friends — all of us.

I know that most of us here voted for Hillary, and felt sucker punched on election night. Since then, many of us have gone through various stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression. The last stage of grief is acceptance, but this is a stage we cannot enter, at least not in a traditional sense. If we are to reach acceptance, it must be an acceptance with conditions. It must be “I accept this is our situation, but I will fight it every day and in every way I can.”

Some people like to say those who have not accepted the results of this election are not respecting democracy, (or in less eloquent words, that they are “liberal cry babies.”) This is not true. This would be true if this had been a normal election, and if Donald Trump was a normal candidate. Not accepting the results of an election corrupted by FBI and foreign government involvement is exactly what we should be doing in a democratic society. Not accepting the presidency of an incompetent, dangerous demagogue who daily threatens Constitutional rights is our duty and responsibility to prevent the destruction of our country.

So drowned out the voices of the ignorant, emboldened trolls and hatemongers. Despite what they want you to think, thankfully, they are in the minority. My advice is to not waste your breath, time, or energy, arguing with them. There are bigger things to do.

As most of you know, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, but Donald Trump has won more electoral votes. This is why many have turned their attention and hopes to the electoral college who will vote on December 19th, 2016. It is these electors who actually hold the power under the Constitution to select the president. Regardless of why the electoral college was created by our founding fathers, (there is some disagreement on that), and if we should abolish it, the fact is it exists today, and it is a tool that can be used.

And so there has been a movement to contact electors and convince them to become “faithless electors” – to vote their conscience — which is to say, they should not vote for Donald Trump even if their state went red during the election. There is another movement called Hamilton Electors, which is somewhat less popular with those who supported Hillary Clinton because it calls on all electors, even those in blue states, to unite behind a “reasonable Republican candidate.”

Some find it unconscionable that electors in blue states would cast their vote for a Republican, but I ask those of you who are having a hard time with this to take a deep breath, and listen for a moment.

You will never get enough Republican electors to back Hillary Clinton. Let’s just be realistic and clear-headed here. If the vote then goes to the House of Representatives with Hillary as the candidate electors backed, the House of Representatives will simply revert back to Trump. All your efforts will have been pointless.

Choosing a Republican alternative is the only option that has an ice cube’s chance in hell of working. If the vote goes to the House of Representatives in January with a sensible Republican alternative to Trump, that would be very tempting to many at the House of Representatives who have already voiced their concern that Trump is not fit for office. (There are more than 40 Republicans in the House of Representatives who reportedly feel this way.) States only get one vote, so those states with multiple representatives must come to a consensus. A president is elected with a 26 state majority — So this scenario isn’t impossible.

Those who say electors need to vote Hillary because she won the popular vote — in an ideal world, yes — but this is a numbers game, this is not a time to fantasize about what could have been. You will not get Republican electors to vote Hillary – it just will not happen. We must compromise. For those refusing to support Hamilton Electors, you are showing your privilege. Not all of us can afford to be so idealistic. We are in damage control mode. We are in anyone-but-Trump mode, because we fear for our Constitutional rights. We fear he will do the things he has promised. We fear for our freedom of speech, freedom of the press. We fear for our rights as women, our safety as Muslims and Jews, as members of the LGBTQIA community, as POC, as immigrants and refugees. We fear for future generations and the future of this planet when climate change isn’t taken seriously. So much is at risk. We can’t afford to be idealistic.

Whether we agree on this point or not, in the meantime, I encourage you to be active and vocal. None of us can afford to sit idle and hope the electoral college will save us.

What else can you do?

• Join Flippable.org to get daily and weekly action items. For those intimidated or confused by contacting congresspeople, Flippable makes it simple to know who to contact and what to contact them about. [Updated 12/5/2016 to add another great one to join: Wall Of Us.]

• Sign petitions from organizations such as Change.org, and MoveOn.

• Get involved with Hamilton Electors. (There’s an event happening nationwide on December 19th, as well as other actions you can take.)

• We have midterm elections to win in 2018, you have representatives at the state and local level you should be contacting regularly. Call them, tweet them, write them, email them.

• Denounce each disagreeable Cabinet pick Trump makes via social media, signing petitions, calls and emails to relevant government officials.

• Stay vigilant and call Trump out on social media every time he tramples our Constitutional rights.

• Follow The DJT Resistance on Twitter.

• Protest his “victory tour” rallies if they come to a city near you.

• Show up to the Women’s March on Washington.

• Join the #GrabYourWallet movement and contact companies you’re boycotting because they carry Trump merchandise.

• Donate to and volunteer for organizations like the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, Black Lives Matters, #NoDAPL, We Need Diverse Books, Immigration Reform for America, CAIR, Greenpeace, American Association of People with Disabilities, and MALDEF.

• Subscribe to responsible news outlets such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, donate to NPR. Call out irresponsible reporting. [Updated 12/12/2016 to add: Even these respected news outlets have been hit or miss the past few weeks, so it really is important to call them out when they’re irresponsible. Also wanted to add that Teen Vogue, to many people’s surprise, has been doing some of the very best reporting, thanks in great part to the arrival of their new editor. They are very much worth reading and following on social media.]

• Download the Signal app for double encrypted texting. This protects your messages from government spying or from being otherwise intercepted.

• Prepare for the worst by arming yourself with knowledge of your rights and resources. It is better to be prepared than not to be.

• Ask your mayor if he/she will declare your city as a Sanctuary City.

• If you see racist or anti-Semitic graffiti then grab a paint brush and cover it up. Do not allow hate symbols and speech to be normalized.

• If you see someone being mistreated or discriminated against then take action to stop it.

• Resist, resist, resist.

• Share this post on your social media channels. Spread the word.

Our work is not nearly finished, it’s only just begun.

Additional Reading:

5 Concrete Ways You Can Act Now in the Face of a Trump Presidency

Cantinflas Marathon


Cine Sony Television will have a four-day Thanksgiving weekend Cantinflas movie marathon. From November 24th to November 27th. Starting at 7 am ET, you will be able to watch over 30 Cantinflas films commercial free.

A few of the popular Cantinflas films airing during the marathon include:

• El Analfabeto (The Illiterate One)
• A Volar Joven (To the Skies Young Man)
• Los Tres Mosqueteros (The Three Musketeers)
• El Padrecito (The Good Priest)
• El Bolero De Raquel (Raquel’s Shoeshiner)
• Ni Sangre Ni Arena (Neither Blood Nor Sand)
• El Barrendero (The Sweeper)
• Su Excelencia (Your Excellency)
• Si Yo Fuera Diputado (If I Were A Deputy)
• El Bombero Atomico (The Atomic Fireman)
• Don Quijote Cabalga de Nuevo (Don Quijote Rides Again)
• El Ministro y Yo (The Minister and I)

If you’re not familiar with Mario Moreno (1911-1993) who was professionally known as Cantinflas, you should take this opportunity to get acquainted. Moreno was not just a Mexican Golden Globe-winning comic film actor, but a producer, and screenwriter who was regarded as “the Charlie Chaplin of Mexico” for his onscreen persona of the underdog who overcame all odds. (Chaplin, by the way, upon seeing “Ni Sangre Ni Arena”, declared Cantinflas to be the greatest comedian alive.) In his life off the screen, Moreno was an activist and philanthropist who became a symbol of hope for the downtrodden and impoverished.

As a linguaphile, one of my favorite things about Moreno is how he became a verb.

“Cantinflas is so popular, he even changed the Spanish language. There’s a verb in Spanish: cantinflear. It means to talk in so many circles and puns that everyone ends up completely confused. It was the character’s signature move when caught in a tight spot.” – [JASMINE GARSD/NPR]

The impact Cantinflas had and continues to have, can not be overstated. His films span decades and served not only as entertainment, but as political commentary which is just as relevant today as it was then — commentary which extends well beyond the borders of Mexico.

Links worth checking out:

Cantinflas, With His Puns And Satire, Is Back (And Still Relevant)

Cantinflas on Wikipedia

Not sure if you have Cine Sony? Click here to find the channel