Monday, December 19, 2011

Bean and Chile Pupusas

I lived in Washington, D.C. for six years, three of which were in Mount Pleasant, a small neighborhood home to many of the Central American political refugees who arrived in the nation's Capitol in the early 1980s. True of many recent immigrant communities, they simply recreated their culture where they landed. Although Mount Pleasant street is only about eight blocks long, stepping onto it off of Columbia Road was like walking into a Latin American country. Latino men sat along the sidewalks all hours of the day, discussing anyone passing by, the weather, politics, or whatever took their fancy. In the little square towards the north end of the street it was not unusual to hear a trio or quartet playing guitar and singing traditional songs from whatever homeland from which they were estranged. Bodegas and restaurants doted the street and fresh fruit vendors hawked cut papayas, pineapple and mangos throughout the seasons. It was on this street that I first ate pupusas.

Quintessential street food, pupusas are little pockets of masa wrapped around refried beans and cheese or slow cooked pork, fried golden and crispy. Masa is the lyme-cooked cornmeal that is the staple of so many latino cuisines, central to making tamales and fresh made corn tortillas. And trust me when I tell you nothing compares to homemade. Having purchased some masa recently I decided to try my hand at making my own.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Refried Bean Tostadas

I have met people who will not eat Mexican food because they claim it's too messy. While that sounds like a silly reason for refusing a whole cuisine, I have to agree that tostadas certainly are a case in point: pile a fried corn tortilla high with beans, salsa, avocado, onions, cilantro and whatever else you fancy and take a bite. Pretty much guaranteed that something will not make it into your mouth!

But for me that is all the fun. First you get a taste of this open-faced delight and as some parts fall onto your plate you get to scoop up some more with your fork or a fried corn chip, reminding you of just how fun this meal is.

An additional bonus is that this can be a pantry meal - canned beans, salsa, guacamole - and that makes dinner super fast. On the other hand, with a bit of planning you can make your own homemade refried beans and feel pretty satisfied with your Mexican cooking know-how.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Chipotle Kale Pasta

What do you make when hunger hits you over the head and you are too lazy to go any further than your pantry? For me pasta is almost always the answer.

For this quick pantry dish I fished out some locally smoked jalapenos AKA chipotles, rehydrated them and sauteed them with a healthy dose of garlic and kale. The smokiness of the peppers was soothingly comforting on a chilly night and the heat - yup, they're still jalapenos! - warmed my bones on a deeper level.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Soy-rizo - Vegan Chorizo

Have you ever made a dish that you haven't made in ages but you remember as the most amazing food ever, only to find that time has not been kind and that your memories are much rosier than reality?

Not the case here!

This Soyrizo (soy chorizo) was one of my favorites years ago and when I made it again recently I feel in love all over again. Big happy sigh...I love it when that happens!

From The Best 125 Meatless Mexican Dishes, it is simple and almost a pantry dish, as long as you have dried ancho peppers in your pantry. After trying this, you will make it a point to never be without them! Ancho peppers are dried and smoked poblano peppers, dark red with a smoky flavor and just a bit of heat, they are the heart of this dish. You can find them in any latino grocery store or good spice store like Penzey's Spices.