Garam Masala Vegan Dip

Living the vegan lifestyle is a concept that I both accept and deny. I love vegetables and cannot imagine eating animal flesh, yet when in comes to the satisfying creaminess of cheese, ice cream and other dairy products, the thought of giving them up, causes my head to involuntarily shake out a most-emphatic, “NO!”

I’ve found with a pizza oven in the back yard, dairy product consumption is at an all-time high around our house, and has given me a little pause. And although we’re still topping our little wood-fired babies with fresh mozzarella, Pecorino Romano, and Gorgonzola, I’ve begun to wonder about vegan alternatives to cheese.

I’m not yet ready to take the dive, but thought I would start experimenting with vegan cream sauces. This recipe has as it’s base walnuts, olive oil and tahini and when mixed with a little soymilk, turned white and creamy and sweet. I was surprised by how sweet my plain soymilk made the dip, so to make it savory for the cucumber sticks, I added garlic, white wine vinegar and Garam Masala. As you can see I served it with vegetables, but it’s very satisfying spread on crackers as well. I might try it another time, sans savories, as the cream filling for a chilled fruit tart.

Ingredients:

Sweet:

  • 2 cups walnuts
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup plain soymilk

Savories to add to Sweet:

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbs. white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp. Garam Masala

Directions: Mix all ingredients together in a food processor until smooth and creamy. Add more or less soymilk depending on how thick you want the dip.

 

Advertisements

Vindaloo Roasted Potatoes and Cauliflower

When Jeff tried this dish, he said, “Mmm, tastes like candy.” The Vindaloo I used comes from Penzeys, and it is a spice mixture made with coriander, garlic, ginger, cinnamon, mustard, hot peppers, cardamom, turmeric and cloves. Any curry powder roasted with veggies would taste great, but I particularly enjoy the cinnamon in this version. Roasting it brings out its’ sweet rich flavor and it pairs nicely with sweet roasted cauliflower.

When large quantities of root vegetables start rolling around in the bottoms of the CSA boxes, roasting is a great way to quickly work through the veg. The veggies can simply be tossed in a titch of olive oil, spread out over a cookie sheet and baked until they are tender or beginning to brown. In the roasting process, natural sugars begin to caramelize, and for veggies with a low water content, a lovely crunch develops on the outside. You can prepare a mixture of veggies on one sheet as long as you cut the pieces to the same size. I felt comfortable roasting both the potatoes and cauliflower together as the potatoes were babies – already creamy and soft to start, and I wanted to allow the cauliflower to crisp and caramelize.

Fennel is the next veg that will take a ride through the roasting cycle. I’m thinking thin slices of fennel, onion and apple tossed in olive oil, salt and pepper to be served on toast…

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds new potatoes, cubed
  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • cumin seeds
  • Vindaloo Curry

Directions: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, drizzle olive oil over the veggies. They should be lightly coated. Then generously sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Next add cumin seeds and curry to lightly coat.

Spread the veggies out on a baking sheet in a single layer. Roast until browned and crispy – about 35 minutes.

Strawberry Vinaigrette

One of the sweetest treats delivered by our CSA this summer – diminutive, fresh and utterly perfect – strawberries! With a box full of veggies screaming “Chop Salad!” the strawberries seemed the perfect match to the fresh crispness of the greens.This could be the “red” part of your Fourth of July weekend!

Strawberry Vinaigrette

  • 2 cups fresh strawberries
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbs. sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. salt

Blend all ingredients until smooth.

Simplicity

At some point in your life you decide you have everything you could possibly need and most of what you want. At this point you are able to understand ideas of simplicity. You stop buying every brand of detergent to see which is best, staying at home becomes the free-time choice, you enjoy sparsely clad, tidy closets and food becomes almost boring. You find the most satisfying dishes are homey and primitive: a pot of soup, a loaf of bread or a simple steamed vegetable. And who wants to read about that on a blog?

Of course I have been cooking and eating, keeping to my mantra of healthy, and doing my best to feed everybody from sustainable sources, but it all just seems so simple and unappealing that I haven’t wanted to bother you with particulars, but I know you miss me.

Even though the food has been simple, I have been experimenting a bit. The polenta above was an attempt to make a beautiful layered dish – not so beautiful, but delicious. In another attempt at layers, I whipped up this vegetable lasagna made with sweet potatoes, butternut squash and eggplant. I loved it, but the boys wanted it mashed and pureed. They’re not that into big chunks of these particular vegetables!

Another idea was to pickle rhubarb with fennel bulb, red onion and radishes. I wanted it to be a sweet and tangy pink little pickle, but it just tasted funny. I think the radish set it off in the wrong direction.

So, as you can see, we’ve been eating simply as I wait impatiently for Foxtail Farm’s first CSA delivery. Once that box arrives, I hope my inspirations and successes in the kitchen will return!

Pickled Peppers

Today I had one of those “Duh” moments in life. Jeff and Max and I are huge fans of pickled jalapenos. Jeff loves them on pizza, finely chopped in his burritos, or the standard American form, scooped up with a plate of nachos, and I love to add them as a garnish for soups. Neither of us likes, however,  when they are mushy, and the brand they carry at the co-op is terrible. As I rarely shop elsewhere, we unfortunately go without our pickled jalapeno fix more often than not.

I have canned jalapenos in the past, and was sad to discover that they also turned out mushy. Because of this, I have given little thought to any DIY approach as of late. The “Duh” moment came when I realized I could make them as a refrigerator pickle. In this manner, they spend less time in the heat thereby retaining their crunch. Ah ha!

The “Duh” moment came together as a little vision. I have a couple of these glass jars that are normally used to store nuts, but one of them had been empty for a few weeks alone on the counter looking silly. Then I came across a sale on fresh jalapenos and suddenly had a vision of them floating in the empty jar in brine as a refrigerator pickle. A little on-line research proved my idea was possible, and this is what appeared on my porch!

Note: I took this photo on the front porch as the morning sun was coming up with the hope that perhaps the heat of the jalapenos would appease the kitchen gods, and they in turn, would speak to the sun god to bring Minnesota a little more heat on this first day of Spring!

I followed David Lebovitz’ recipe mostly, but added two white onions and five cloves of garlic. This recipe fits my jar, but it may not fit yours. The Purple Foodie directed me to a Michael Rulman hint to size brine to the container. He suggests packing the jar with whatever you plan to pickle and then fill it with water. Dump the water out into a measuring container, and then remove half of it. Replace the water removed with vinegar. So smart!

Pickled Jalapenos

  • 1 pound fresh jalapeno peppers, sliced
  • 2 medium white onions, sliced
  • 2 3/4 cups water
  • 2 3/4 cups vinegar (I used white distilled vinegar)
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons black peppercorns

Directions:

Pack the jar with onions, garlic and jalapenos. Bring the water, vinegar, sugar, salt, coriander seeds and peppercorns to a simmer in a non-reactive pan. Allow the mixture to simmer for about five minutes. Pour it over the veggies, cover and let cool on the counter. Once the mixture is cooled it can be moved to the fridge. It sounds like these are better after a few days rest and can be kept for many weeks.

Bruschetta

DSCN2470

(Sing the following words to the tune of “Goin’ to the Chapel”)

Goin’ to a party and we’re gonna bring brusche-e-eta, goin’ to a party and we’re gonna bring brusche-e-eta, goin’ to a party for fun!

Catchy, isn’t it? I had that song rolling through my head the entire evening. Why? I have no idea. I started to prepare the bruschetta for a little neighborhood gathering, and those words and that tune popped into my brain and wouldn’t leave! It’s crazy. Going to the Chapel wasn’t playing on The Current on the way home from work. It just spontaneously combusted! As did the recipe, for this little lively easy-as-pie Friday night treat. The tomatoes, garlic and basil were the only things left from last week’s CSA. Thanks Foxtail Farm!

Fresh Tomato Bruschetta – Recipe

Ingredients:

Tomato Mixture:

  • 6-8 medium tomatoes
  • 1 large handful fresh basil leaves
  • 2 – 4 cloves garlic (I used 2 VERY large cloves)
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1 Tbs. raspberry balsamic vinegar

The Bread:

  • Italian peasant or baguette sliced 1/2 inch
  • Oil to brush-coat each side of bread
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt

Directions:

1) Begin by making the toasted bread. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. I needed two large cookie sheets for one large loaf of Italian peasant bread.

2) In a food processor, mince the garlic. Place it in a bowl and cover generously with olive oil.

3) Brush the garlic infused oil onto both sides of the bread. Place the bread on the baking sheets.

4) Sprinkle the bread lightly with a little bit of salt before baking. Bake until the bread starts to brown.

5) Next, make the tomato mixture. Place the leftover garlic and oil mixture into the food processor.

6) Cut the tomatoes into pieces so they don’t need too much processing.

7) Add the rest of the ingredients to the food processor and pulse as few times as possible. You want the tomatoes to still be chunky.

8) Strain the excess liquid off the tomatoes by placing it in a mesh colander over a bowl. (If there is a smiley face where the eight should be, I have no idea why it is there – some strange thing having to do with WordPress?)

9) Serve with good wine, of course!

Thanks, neighbors for the home tours and the great community building!

DSCN2474

Herb Chimichurri

IMG_3537

I know, I know. We’re not supposed to serve anything with bits of green at a party, but we’re all friends. If someone starts to bare their teeth ever so slightly and seems to be fighting an uncontrollable urge to stick a fingernail between two teeth, take that as a cue to excuse yourself to the bathroom for a green speck check. What else are you supposed to do when basil is in season?

I have to admit something. I still have basil pesto in my freezer from last summer. It’s true. I like the stuff a lot – once a year. It’s just too rich for me. It’s easy to overdose on it. So, I like to use my basil to make chimichurri instead. It still holds the wonderful basil flavor and you can use it much the same, but it’s just a little lighter. I learned about chimichurri while living in Ecuador where it was mostly made from parsley and used as a condiment for meat or empanadas. Every now and then, in different restaurants, I detected different herbs. That was all the permission I needed to think outside the box with chimichurri. I have made it with whatever herbs I have on hand, and it always tastes great.

My patio herb pot is exploding, so I plucked a huge pile of greens including rosemary, thyme and sage. The basil came from the CSA, and the cilantro is local but from the co-op. As you can see, chimichurri is a great accompaniment to fresh tomatoes, a lovely spread on sandwiches or a great condiment for any warm savory summer dish.

IMG_3527

Herb Chimichurri Recipe

Ingredients:

All herb amounts are approximate:

  • 1 cup basil leaves
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves
  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 handful fresh sage
  • 1/2 tsp. dried pepper flakes (optional: fresh chile)
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 2 Tbs. red wine vinegar
  • juice from 1 lime
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • freshly ground pepper

Directions: Pulse in food procesor until well blended. This will be a little chunkier than pesto.

Pineapple Salsa

IMG_3487

Does anyone in Minnesota grow pineapple? I didn’t think so. This chip topper is far from local, but a real crowd and kid pleaser. The only thing local, in fact, is the cilantro and jalapeno. This one tips over my 80% local goal!

Pineapple Salsa Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups pineapple chunks
  • Juice of one lime
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro
  • 1 jalapeno pepper
  • dash of salt

Directions:

This is a zinger. Toss everything in the food processor and pulse, pulse, pulse. The only thing I would caution is if you plan to feed this to kids, check the heat of your jalapeno. I have found that organic jalapenos tend to be pretty hot. I’m not sure if that’s due to the producer or what. My trick for testing the Scoville level is to cut off the stem and a little of the pepper. Then I give the cut part with all the capsaicin a quick lick. With that test I know if I need to remove the seeds or if it is safe enough for my easy method – throw the whole darn thing in!

Stacked Enchilada

IMG_3502

Doesn’t this just look autumnal? I never noticed light quality as much as I have since I started snapping pictures of food. Using natural light in the late afternoon with late August sun is enough to remind me that winter in the Northern Hemisphere is heading in this direction. Fortunately, we have stacked enchiladas to warm the way.

The other day when I woke up thinking “Mexico,” I cooked eight pounds of black beans in order to have them on hand in the freezer. The only CSA produce remaining in the crisper were a pound of tomatillos and four yellow squash. As you know, the tomatillos got a spin around the salsa dance floor while the yellow squash demanded to be sliced up into buttery yellow ribbons. The yellow squash didn’t really get the parade it deserved with this dish, but added a sweet color and flavor when sautéed with strips of onions and little slivers of garlic before being sandwiched between two giant tortillas.

Not wanting to hide the layers and completely smother the enchilada in sauce, I only used a little tomatillo salsa to dress-up the stack. Extra salsas were served on the side along with cotija, crema and fresh avocado.

Part of the fun of this enchilada is its size. I wanted a giant single stacked enchilada that could be sliced like a pie for serving, so I made giant tortillas from maseca. I used a spring form pan so the thing wouldn’t slide, but in the end, could have baked it on the plate. As it’s a dry enchilada, it didn’t move at all. If the tortillas had been a little bigger, it would have been fun to really pack the springform pan full, so the enchilada would have a more cake-like shape. I’ll save that experiment for later.

Stacked Enchiladas with Black Beans and Yellow Squash

Tortilla Ingredients:

* 4 cups maseca tortilla flour
* Water to make soft dough

Directions: I have found that the directions on the maseca bag make the tortillas a little too dry. I add water to the maseca flour until I get nice smooth dough when it’s kneaded. Form the dough into a cylinder and cut into six pieces.

To make the tortillas you will need two pieces of plastic wrap and a large flat object to press the tortilla. I used the bottom of the spring form pan, but a small cutting board would also work. Roll the tortilla dough into a ball and gently press and flatten until you get a disk shape. Dip your fingers in a little oil at this point and cover the dough with it. Place the disk on the plastic wrap and cover with another piece of plastic. Then place your pie pan bottom or cutting board on top and press firmly until the tortilla is about 1/8 inch thick. The edges of the tortilla will split open, so I usually push all the edges together before I cook it.

To cook the tortilla you need a griddle on medium temperature. Place the tortilla on the griddle and cook it until it starts to show spots of brown then flip it. Each tortilla usually needs three to four minutes per side.

Enchilada Ingredients:

  • Two cups black beans cooked
  • Four yellow squash peeled into ribbons
  • 1/2 white onion cut into thinly sliced rounds
  • 3 cloves garlic thinly sliced
  • oil to coat pan
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • white cheddar cheese
  • Tomatillo Salsa – link to recipe

Enchilada Directions:

Peel the yellow squash with a potato peeler leaving the seeds. You only want the firm seedless part of the squash. Slice the onion rounds and then from the middle of the onion to the outside make a cut, so when the onions are sautéed they will form strips. In a little olive oil, sauté the onions until they become translucent then add the garlic and squash. Cook until the squash is just tender.

To make the enchilada stack, put a little tomatillo salsa on the bottom of the pan and then a tortilla. Alternate each stack with black beans, cheese and the sautéed squash. Cover the enchilada with grated cheese and bake for 30 minutes on 400 degrees. The cheese should be bubbly and beginning to brown. Garnish the enchilada with more tomatillo salsa and fresh cilantro. Mexican cotija, crema and fresh avocado give it a nice finish.

Three-ways To Salsa

IMG_3481

There is nothing better on a beautiful summer day than sitting outside sipping cold beer and dipping the old chips into something hot and spicy. I woke up thinking Mexico, and when I opened the fridge, the Minnesota tomatillos were just begging for a salsa lesson. Once I got started, the jealous garden tomatoes wanted to be spun around too. I ended up with the tomatillo, a roasted tomato and fresh tomato salsa.

Three Salsa Recipes

Tomatillo

The tomatillo and roasted tomato are basically the same salsa only one has tomatillos and the other tomatoes. All the ingredients get roasted on a sheet pan under the broiler until they start to blacken, then they get a zing through the food processor with lime juice, cilantro and salt.

* While I prep the ingredients for these salsas, I wrap a head of garlic in foil and place it in the oven at 400 degrees to roast it. When the other ingredients are ready to broil just toss the garlic on the sheet pan so it can continue to cook a little longer.

Tomatillo Ingredients:

  • 1 pound tomatillos, husks removed and washed
  • 1/2 medium white onion cut in quarters
  • 2 cloves roasted garlic*
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, stem removed
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro washed
  • salt to taste

Directions:

Line a large sheet pan with foil. Lay out washed tomatillos, chopped onion and jalapeno on the sheet. If you haven’t already started the garlic, that can be wrapped in foil and placed on the sheet pan as well. Place the vegetables under the broiler. Watch them carefully so they don’t burn. I roast them until everything has a blackened spot on it. The onions take a little longer, so sometimes you may need to move things around so the tender veggies are further away from the heat. Once they are blackened a bit, set them aside to cool for a minute. When they are cool spoon them into a food processor and add the cilantro, lime juice salt and two of the roasted garlic cloves. Run the processor until the salsa is smooth. Refrigerate before serving.

Roasted Tomato Salsa Ingredients:

  • 10 Roma tomatoes washed and cut in half lengthwise
  • 3 cloves roasted garlic
  • 1 jalapeno, stem removed
  • 1/2 medium white onion cut in quarters
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro washed
  • juice 1 lime
  • salt to taste

Roasted Tomato Salsa Directions:

Follow the same directions as for the tomatillos above. It’s very easy to make both of these recipes on one sheet tray together.

Fresh Tomato Salsa

A while back I posted this recipe but used red onions instead of white. These ingredients get a few pulses in the processor and you are ready to eat. Enjoy!

  • 6 Roma tomatoes quartered
  • 1/2 medium white onion
  • 1 jalapeno pepper
  • 1 bunch cilantro, washed
  • 1 lime juiced
  • salt to taste

Food Traditions

Have you heard the term, “food traditions?” Talk about food for thought! What the heck does this mean? This semantic butterfly has been fluttering through my brain waves the last three days trying to find a place to land meanwhile keeps hitting my radar. I first heard the term used by a friend when discussing the idea that eating good healthy food costs an unfair amount of money. This was when friend, MJ whipped out the idea that, “food traditions are being lost when people choose to eat fast food, processed foods and cheap foods.” Hmmm. Food Traditions? Then I saw a YouTube piece with Michael Pollan talking about “Food Rules” where the term was used in the intro as if I had already heard it a thousand times, and then I was on the Slow Food website and it popped up again. Under the charms of gastrological influence, this matter of semantics is finding its way into my vernacular.

So what is a food tradition? I eat food every day. Is that tradition? We gather family for food around holidays. Is that tradition? We eat certain foods different times of the year. Is that tradition? MJ gave my processing brain a little context clue by contributing that many immigrant groups coming to the U.S. still have strong food traditions. With that tidbit, the semantic is finding a brain file where it fits and makes sense. People with a strong food tradition eat the traditional foods from their culture and are not eating copious amounts of processed junk.

Although the brain feels somewhat satisfied, it continues to question. I imagine my students from South East Asia who eat freshly prepared real foods each day, but who are also being indoctrinated into the gluttonous eating of Skippy and Hot Cheetos. Will they too lose their food traditions? We live in a dangerous place. We have easy access to foods that undermine healthy food traditions, but we don’t give adequate warnings. Our immigrant kids don’t know that these foods are dangerous, and I am not sure their parents do either. So, are they creating new food traditions? Or does “food tradition” insinuate healthy? Does it imply some sort of identifiable ethnicity?

And what about people like me? Do I have a “food tradition?” I love foods and spices from other cultures, but tend away from traditional American foods. I choose mostly healthy foods to eat, and cook from scratch. Does that constitute a “tradition?” Well, Max made himself lunch today, and upon seeing his plate, it became clear to me that I do, indeed have a food tradition and I am sharing it with my son (and all of my dear readers for that matter). In pondering the possible connotations behind the phrase, I’ve come to the following conclusions about what a “food tradition” is:

IMG_3339

This play on words signifies that you come from a healthy palate and you have a preference for the cooking style you grew up with. You are part of a family that cooks and teaches cooking to each other, and you share food with a group. You cook food from scratch – real food. You know how to put ingredients together in a palatable formation, you use ingredients that are local or indigenous to your culture, you have spices and flavorings that signify your food tradition, you have grown your own food and you know where food comes from. Ultimately, you understand what “healthy” means and your home cooked food is better than processed or fast food so you would rarely, if ever, consider eating anything else. Ultimately, food traditions are shared so that each generation that follows can build on the knowledge base bestowed. Creating and supporting food traditions is no small undertaking.

This land of roads paved in gold is perhaps the most dangerous place on earth to live for maintaining strong food traditions. Good food can be expensive, food companies make fake food and call it healthy and many Americans do not cook. Adults who do not cook stop the development of healthy food traditions by not teaching their children to cook from scratch. Americans face too many constraints: we have to work very long hours, both parents have to work, many of our families are broken. Many people don’t have access to fresh foods, don’t have time, don’t know how and are bombarded by cheap and convenient foods. Americans are losing food traditions because we erroneously believe they are not necessary or preferable and many people simply don’t think about it.

However, all is not lost because in the place of old food traditions lie the new. Many people are realizing the importance of living a healthy lifestyle and they are learning that farm fresh and organic means not only taste but viability, stewardship and environmentalism. Lots of people are having fun picking up the spoon and shovel and getting creative in their kitchens and gardens. An inspiring example I recently heard about is in North Minneapolis folks are growing community gardens on abandoned lots and asking a Local Land Trust to buy the land so that these places can remain gardens and not face future development.

Food is a common factor in human existence to celebrate and share – there is no greater tradition. It just seems like we need to redefine ours here in the US. If you have any thoughts about how to define “Food Traditions?” Just scroll up to the “Leave a Comment” button to share your ideas.

Read about Renewing America’s Food Traditions on the Slow Food USA Website.

Pupusas

The day I met the Pupusa was one of the happiest days of my life! I became a traitor that day – falling in love with something I could not have – giving my allegiance to another country’s cuisine. I was a Peace Corp Volunteer on vacation in Guatemala from Honduras where food is more practical than delicious.  After a year of vainly searching for something satisfying and vegetarian, I had finally found a Central American foodstuff I could love. I found the Pupusa!

IMG_3197

It was December 1994 and Jeff and I were strolling through the Plaza Central in Antigua, Guatemala when we saw a woman making these fat stuffed tortillas. Central America is famous for making a thicker pancake-like tortilla than the paper-thin Mexican version, but these were downright chubby. We watched mesmerized as she took a ball of masa (corn flour dough), patted it out into a little cup formed in the palm of her hand, stuffed it with cheese and other savories, then sealed it all up. Then she skillfully smack, smack, smacked it back and forth in her hands forming it into a fat tortilla and tossed it on the comal, a griddle in Latin America. When they were perfectly crisp and piping hot, she served them up on a piece of brown paper along with some spicy pickled cabbage and hot sauce. This was the pocket sandwich of my dreams!

It turns out the Pupusa is the national street food of El Salvador, and despite a trip to that country, we never ate Pupusas again in Central America. Many times, since our return to the States, have I tried to recreate the Pupusa. But not until today, have I been successful! And there is a trick – a secret Pupusa trick – oil! The Pupusa maker needs a little bit of oil on the finger tips when forming the final Pupusa tortilla, and had it not been for YouTube, I think I very well could have lived out the rest of my life attempting, unsuccessfully to make the Pupusa.

These little delicacies are worth every minute of preparation, but I recommend a little YouTube viewing before you begin. Here are some links to check out:

Making Pupusas

Making Pupusas 1

Making Pupusas 2

IMG_3181

La Masa – Corn Flour Dough

IMG_3183

Fresh Mozzarella

IMG_3186

Smashed Black Beans

IMG_3190

One Pupusa to go

Ingredients:

La Masa – The Dough

Note: If you live in an area with Latino markets, you can buy fresh masa which is better than Maseca. Mercado Central in Minneapolis sells masa in bags at the Tortilleria.

4 cups Maseca tortilla flour

About 5 cups water

1/2 tsp. salt

canola oil in a bowl for finger dipping

Directions: Mix the dough in a bowl adding the water until the dough is soft and doesn’t break apart when you test-run a tortilla. The edges will crack open a little, but you want enough water so the tortillas don’t totally break apart.

Fillings

I think it is safe to say you could put nearly anything in a Pupusa as long as it is not too wet. Today I used mashed black beans and fresh mozzarella that I ran through the food processor.

Forming Pupusas

If you are not well practiced with the smack, smack smacking of tortilla formation, I recommend you use two pieces of plastic wrap and a flat round plastic lid to form them. Once you fill the Pupusa and close the dough around the filling, form it into a flattened disk by placing it between the plastic sheets and gently pressing on it with the plastic lid. Remove the top sheet of plastic, and with your finger, close all the cracked edges of the Pupusa. Again, there are lots of demonstrations on YouTube to help you through the process. Enjoy!

Curtido De Repollo (Pickled Cabbage Salad)

  • 1 head cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 1 white onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 1 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbs. honey
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 2 tsp. oregano
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

Mix together and allow to sit for a few hours before serving with pupusas.

Family Roots

IMG_2811

Kilfenora in Collegeville, Minnesota

I recently enjoyed a lovely afternoon with my mother and my aunt, Susy enjoying the garden at Kilfenora. The roots of my family’s arrival in Minnesota lie in the St. Joseph and Collegeville area of Central Minnesota. St. Joe is the home to the colleges and monastery of St. John’s and the convent of St. Ben’s – and just outside town is the site of the old train depot and borough called, “Collegeville.” My grandfather was an artist, and both grandparents were social activists and pacifists originally moving to Minnesota from Milwaukee fleeing a potential military conscription. They were sent by friends, including Dorothy Day, to a Catholic Worker Farm in Aitkin. The farm, however was a lonely place for both my grandparents so they eventually ended up in Robinsdale to once again surround themselves with intellectual social activists and artists. Eventually through friends, Don and Mary Humphrey found themselves in St. Joe, and my grandfather became the artist in residence at St. Ben’s. It was in St. Joseph and later St. Cloud that my grandparents raised their eight children.

My grandfather was both a silversmith and painter who provided for his family by making chalices and Eucharist plates for various catholic churches in the area. During the depression he also worked as a WPA artist to paint murals. In fact, one of his pieces still exists on the walls of the North St. Paul post office.

IMG_3086

IMG_3087

Our roots continue in the area as my aunt, Susanna Hynes and her husband, Denis tend to Kilfenora, the Hynes parcel in Collegeville named after their family’s home county in Ireland. The Hynes family was also involved in the social work of the Catholic church, had eight children, and were friends of the Humphrey family. Susanna and Denis actually knew each other as children growing up and often spent time playing in the very garden that exists to this day in “Kilefenora.”

IMG_2787

Over the years and through various tenants, the Kilfenora gardens had been abandoned, but since Susy and Denis returned to their roots, it has been revived. They first set out to renovate the house that Denis’ father built, and Susy proceeded to recreate the gardens. This labor of love spanning more than twelve years is certainly something to behold as both Susy and Denis share a deep love for art and all things beautiful. Everywhere you look, there is something interesting to see. They recently moved an old corn crib to the site to use as a screen gazebo. Trails have been mowed through the woods and rusted pieces of art pop out as pleasant surprises. Even the chickens live in an artful coop topped with a growing roof garden and Victorian windows.

This place connects me to my family, to my ancestors and to my roots. This garden and this place means much more than food and beauty, and I am honored that Susy and Denis have so lovingly maintained this heritage. In today’s world these kinds of connections are increasingly lost. A simple garden lunch and stroll brought to me the threads of memory and roots of ancestry.

IMG_2790

Succulent strawberries growing with a friendly hen and her chick.

IMG_2795IMG_2826

This is the chicken coop and a couple of it’s most gracious bodacious inhabitants.

IMG_2798IMG_2799

A field of poppies and zucchini ready for veggie bowling.

IMG_2858

Auntie Susy’s Lemon Vinaigrette Over Garden Green Beans With Roasted Cashews and Almonds

IMG_2801

Zucchini

IMG_2803

Onions

IMG_2802

Poppy seed harvest

IMG_2860

Penne pasta with tomatoes, basil, garlic, parmesan and olive oil

IMG_2848

Quirky Arty Garden

IMG_2852

The Corn Crib Screen Porch