Tuesday, May 18, 2010

My favorites... inspired by giveaway-day questions

Dinner recipe:
As I have told you all before I am Mexican (here legally, don’t you go calling Arizona’s PD on me) and well it is not a cliché that we Mexican love tacos and quesadillas. We do! Tacos and quesadillas are our way of saying I love you and I am sorry… hahaha no, well actually I think they are our way of saying I am really hungry but also short on money.

Basically a taco is a tortilla folded in half with some type of protein in the middle and quesadillas are the same tortilla but with cheese in the middle… and then of course for both there are many thing you can add to make them better; fresh vegetables, herbs, salsa, grilled onions, guacamole… anything that makes your breath less kissable is a good option (they are NOT a date dinner, well only if the date is going horrible hahaha).

Ok… but! Mexico is also filled with chubby people like me; you know our type, the ones that in USA said: Wait a minute! why can’t the pizza delivery guy also bring me some buffalo wings and a molten chocolate cake! Or Why don’t you just add the onion rings to the burger, I am going to order them anyway!!

Yes, we Mexicans have evolved. And SO! We make… Quesa-Tacos!!! Yes! Yes! My 14 followers!!!! We forgot our traditional upbringing of having to choose!!! One day a smart mexicano just said: BOTH! And the country changed forever!

Here is what you do if you are in the mood for one (or more of them)…
For the basic meal: you go to your local store and buy a good steak, flour tortillas (we use Mission), but I am pretty sure most will work fine), cheese (whatever you like, we like Monterey)

For the little extras: tomatoes, lemons, a salsa can (for this one, go to the international section and search for the La Costeña brand), onions (if you don’t care about your breath), avocado if it is not too expensive and cilantro (if you are feeling the whole Mexican flare).

So, you do your steak as you like it (as bloody or well done as you might need, salt, pepper). Then you do your Quesadillas (cheese in the middle of the tortilla and heat up until cheese has melted)… don’t do this in the microwave because those tortillas that come in the pack have an ingredient that smells kind of funny unless you worm them on a skillet or pan.

Ok, when the quesadillas are done, you cut the steak into little strips or cubes (bite size cubes are better if the meat is kind of tough) and place them in the middle as well, be careful with the melted cheese!!! Then you add whatever you like: little squares of tomato, freshly cut cilantro, little pieces of onion (you could caramelize them if you like them that way), all the salsa you can handle, avocado or guacamole and a few drops of lemon juice.

Then after all is inside fold the tortilla back to that taco shape and eat!!!
I love this meal because you can make it for one and it is not a big deal or you can make it for a whole family. The tip to make it for more than 2 is to place all the toppings in individual little plates on the table, that way everyone gets the task to make their own quesa-taco the exactly how they like them… no extra work for the cook. Plus since basically it starts with tortilla, cheese and meat well about 99% of (non-vegetarian*) people will like them; and you can always skip whichever topping you don’t like or have**.

Oh yeah, if you want buy some refried beans and just worm them up for a little side extra, you could even place them IN your quesa-taco but then it goes kind of messy.
We love green salsa

*If you have a lovely vegetarian member in your family or friend coming over, just give them a plane quesadilla, the toppings will still work perfect for them!! See!! It is the perfect crowd pleaser!!
**I love avocado but since now each one is about $1.40, well we just skip that one hahahaha you don’t even miss it with all the other flavors.

Summer treat:
When I was a little girl I loved flan, I used to ask my mother to make it but she would always say no… hahaha that it was too hard to make, so my readers I have no idea how to make flan from scratch. Sure I could find the recipe online, but… even better I found the little box in store!!! And I have been making this little treat for a month now!

Here is what you do if you want some:
Again, go to the international section of you store and search for the little box marked flan (Goya is one brand that makes it, but there are more) the box is about as horrible and cheap as they come; the size of a gelatin mixture box with a picture of a lifeless flan on it. But worry not, the flavor is there.

OK. I am telling you about this because I found the instructions in the packet to be rather simplistic. You will need ½ cup of sugar, 2 cups of milk and heat resistant little molds (four one-cup molds, or eight ½-cups if you are really cheap hahahahaha). You place the sugar in a small pot and melt to make delicious caramel, it hast to take a honey like color (if you get to brown it is burned and will taste really bad). Be really carful when doing this, the sugar will be extremely hot, don’t ever touch it or try to taste it. Once it is the desired color you place a coat* of it on you molds (again, don’t play too much with it because you could burn yourself). This is not a kid friendly recipe (I find that extra hot sugar and children don’t mix well).

Ok, so, sugar in the mold it will turn hard, don’t worry. Magic and moisture will turn it into eatable syrup.
Then mix the contents of the box (powder) with the milk. Mix well… the box’s instructions tell you to let it boil while stirring, but to boil milk is always a mess; so don’t, it does not change the result, just heat a little while. Then pour the mixture on you molds. Wait for them to cool a little and refrigerate them.
When you want to serve, turn your molds upside-down on a plate and let the flan slip down. If it won’t, help it out a little with a knife, it won’t take too much to pop it out.
And there!! Flan!

Of course you can do a little Mexican party with friends and this is a really good dessert after quesa-tacos.

I told you the box was awful

*Try to do a delicate coat of the caramel, because only the layer touching the flan mixture will turn into yummy syrup, the other will be hard candy stuck to you mold.

Strange Pilgrims by Gabriel García Márquez.

I do have other books that I love, but I think if one is going to recommend a book or a author, it is always best to start the list with short stories. It is like going to a buffet to try all kind of different meals. I used to travel with this book, because I could read it over and over again. The collection has 12 short stories relating to being a foreigner; it is never preachy or political, it is not about immigration problems, but instead about the emotional lines Latin-Americans follow when faced with other countries and their cultures.

Since the author is Gabriel García Márquez (one of the main writers of Magical Realism), the book is filled with all kinds of supernatural and incredible notes. I fell completely in love with one of the stories where thanks to his involvement with the characters, García Márquez allows light to flow like water; and so the two main characters (two little brothers) explore the deep parts of their home swimming trough the glow.

Now that I think about it, it is really a lovely book. The characters are mostly immersed in this quiet spell, and… well… so am I; if this blog wasn’t up, I would have little contact with the world. I am a stranger to this land, and in many ways I find myself holding to little pieces of my Mexican past as I try to shed others, it creates and imbalance, a longing... I am here knowing that that I am better off, but missing my family, able to speak and understand English but always aware of my accent; making flan and quesa-tacos for special days (when back in Mexico those are pedestrian and cheap dinner options).

We hold on to this beautiful piece of glass; hiding it in our hands, afraid that others will think it is trash but knowing that it is only thought that glass that a complete image of ourselves is revealed. We walk these streets knowing that some parts of ourselves might never be understood or cherish by those who walk beside us, and we have to let it go, find a way to still feel at home.

I guess that is why this little post is important to me; I want you to know that taco night IS a great night (a night of sharing and making a mess of your dinner) and that flan is NOT hard to make!!! (you just have to be careful). Because maybe if you know these things your children will grow up having quesa-tacos, flan and García Márques in common with my children and somehow they will be able to understand each other better, no part of them will be hidden (I promise to make sure they eat sloppy Joes and thanksgiving turkey as well).

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