I will impulsively buy things at the grocery store, and deal with coming up with how to use them effectively much later. This week, the impulse buy was yellow squash – which I figured would be easy enough to use. I contemplated making Mexican tartlets, which I’ve made before, but then my brain began to play with the general idea. I came up with turning the tartlet concept into a sort of pizza-type thing, which I am calling Mexican pizza (although admittedly it is neither really Mexican nor pizza, ah well).
Masa Harina dough
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup masa harina
dash of salt
1/3 cup butter
1 tablespoon wine vinegar
Measure flour, masa harina, and salt into a bowl and mix them all thoroughly. Using a pastry cutter or a fork, cut in the butter until there are no significant sized lumps. Mix the vinegar with 3 tablespoons of water and add the mixture, a little at a time, until the dough comes together. If you need more water, add it in small amounts. The dough should be soft and pliable, but cohesive and not sticky. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside while you make the filling
4 ounces crumbled queso fresca
1/2 onion, sliced and quartered
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 ear corn, kernels shaved off
One medium yellow squash, sliced
1 1/2 – 2 teaspoons cumin
Stick the onions, garlic, and corn in a bowl. Add a tablespoon of olive oil and the cumin and coat the veggies so they are all coated. Roll out the masa harina dough either into a large pizza, or two little ones. Spoon a layer of salsa over the dough, then add the squash slices. Spoon the corn-onion mixture over the squash, then add the crumbled cheese on top. Bake the pizza for 30 minutes at 375. Serve warm.
Ok, I’ve made a lot of Mexican-fusion type recipes in my day, and all of them were good. But this was just incredibly delicious. It’s very much a summer recipe. I generally go with beer for Mexican food, a wheat beer or a Hefeweizen works best, although this recipe isn’t spicy. I’m sure if you want, you can add chopped cilantro to the pizza once you pull it out of the oven, or additional spices when you add the cumin to the onion-corn mixture. Song of the week: If I Needed Someone by the Beatles. Rubber Soul is the second-best Beatles album (Revolver is the best) and this is just such a good song. Lesser-known Beatles songs are still better than 80% of all music.
So this is yet another slightly delayed holiday recipe posting. March 31 is Cesar Chavez Day in the great state of California – it replaced Columbus day (good riddance) as a state holiday. Cesar Chavez is a Latino labor rights organizer for farm workers who did a lot of good for CA and the Latino communities across the U.S. I want to note (I just learned this) that equal credit should be given to Dolores Huerta, the co-founder of the United Farm Workers and a badass in her own right. So in honor of Huerta and Chavez and Labor Rights in general, I decided to do another one of my Cali-Mex recipes this week. So this was an odd synthesis of a Zucchini salad from my Mexican vegetarian cooking class and a recipe from Everyday Greens cookbook.
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup masa harina
dash of salt
1/3 cup butter
1 tablespoon wine vinegar
Measure flour, masa harina, and salt into a bowl and mix them all thoroughly. Using a pastry cutter or a fork, cut in the butter until there are no significant sized lumps. Mix the vinegar with 3 tablespoons of water and add the mixture, a little at a time, until the dough comes together. If you need more water, add it in small amounts. The dough should be soft and pliable, but cohesive and not sticky. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside while you make the filling.
1 medium zucchini, chopped
1/2 ear of corn, kernels cut off
1/3 cup onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 medium poblano pepper, chopped
1 tsp cumin (or in reality to taste)
salt and pepper
2-3 ounces queso fresca, crumbled
Heat the olive oil in a saute pan. Add the garlic, and after a couple minutes, add the onions and poblano peppers. Once they start to soften, add the corn, zucchini, cumin, salt and pepper. Saute until everything is softened, but not so long that it turns squogy. Toss with the queso and set aside. Roll out the tartlet dough and cut out little circles from it (once again my glass ice cream bowls are used to fulfill the task of a biscuit cutter). Take each circle and stick it into a spot in a cupcake tin. No worries if its a little large and needs to squish a little, that’s totally fine. Fill each one completely with the fill. Bake at 375 for like 20 minutes or so.
Damn these were tasty. I had to exercise a great deal of discipline to save some of them for meals at work instead of gobbling them all as a meal and then snacks. I had these with Oberon Summer Ale (it’s back! and my all-time fav beer to pair with Mexican food) as a meal, but I think they would make an amazing appetizer at a party or something. The tartlet dough is awesome – I’m loving the flour-masa harina combo, and have been using it when making tostadas for a while. Song of the Week: Mrs. Brown You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter by Herman’s Hermits. I love this song for so so many reasons, but the main two are the guitar rift in the beginning (and really the guitar throughout) and the theme of being heartbroken without bitterness or recrimination. It’s an uplifting song about lost love – which is amazing. We should all strive to be that decent regarding our former lovers. Also Herman’s Hermits are incredible and tragically underrated.
Unlike Cinqo de Mayo, Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is actually a legit Mexican holiday. Like pre-Conquista legit. Yet for some reason I’ve never really celebrated it. Maybe just because it comes right on Halloween (and Celts trump Mexicans in our Euro-centric culture). But this year I decided this would be an awesome choice for new-recipe day. After some internet research, and the sad acknowledgement that I am not skilled enough to make skull-shaped cakes, I decided to make Roasted squash with mole verde. However, I didn’t have pepitas, or more than one kind of chili and had already gone to the store, so what I made is a fairly bastardized version of mole verde. Oh well. My ancestors are Russian, so I doubt they will care.
1/2 a medium butternut squash, chopped into reasonable chunks
1-2 tsp cumin
1-2 tsp cinnamon
Chop the butternut squash and toss with the oil and spices until thoroughly coated. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes or so, until the squash is tender (as in can be easily pierced with a fork). Once its done, remove from the pan, and let cool. While that is going on, make the mole verde.
Mole Verde (sorta)
1/3 onion, minced
3-4 cloves garlic,minced
1/2 a poblano pepper, roasted and chopped
1/3-1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup vegetable broth
Mix the onion, garlic, pepper, and cilantro in a bowl. Remember to chop everything extremely fine. In theory, you should stick it all in a food processor, but chopping is fine, provided you make everything very small. Heat some olive oil in a frying pan, and add the onion-cilantro mixture. Saute for about 5 minutes, then add the vegetable broth. Cook for another 5 minutes or so, and then add the roasted squash. Cook until the squash are heated through, then serve.
This dish is awesome. Not particularly spicy, but seriously flavorful. I’ve been making not-spicy Mexican food as of late, which is tasty, but a little peculiar. You can serve this solo, with rice, or with tortillas. I served it with home-made (yes, that’s right) tortillas which almost worked. They were a little too crumbly and fell apart, but I am still pretty freaking proud of myself. I was out of white wine (and forgot to buy tequila) so I served it with a lighter-style beer. I didn’t realize until after I’d finished making it that this meal was totally vegan. My policy is that I don’t make “vegan food” but I do make food that happens to be vegan. Song of the week: Smooth by Santana featuring Rob Thomas. Cause Santana is a guitar god (just ask Rolling Stone) and I totally love this song. And listened to it a lot while cooking. Also, fun fact, Santana is a San Franciscan.
As an American, I have few qualms bastardizing other countries’ cuisines or mashing separate ones together. We call it fusion. As a Californian (where much the food is some kind of fusion – its a side effect of diversity) I try to make that food as tasty as possible. This past weekend it was actually warm – legitimately above 60 degrees warm – so naturally I wanted warm weather food, aka Californian food. Actually, I wanted Mexican food, but I’d tried most of the recipes in my various cookbooks already. Naturally, the combination of flipping through the Greens cookbook and talking to my dad ended with a solution: mexican-style veggies on polenta.
2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup polenta/cornmeal
Take the vegetable broth and bring it to a boil. Add the polenta. Boil until the cornmeal is all soft and cooked, and no longer grainy. Then pour it into an 8X8 pan and let it cool.
1/3 red bell pepper, chopped
1/3 onion, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin
Shredded cheese (cheddar, Monterey jack, any Mexican cheese)
Saute the garlic in some olive oil. Add the onion and red pepper. After a couple minutes, add the zucchini. I’ve been told that adding zucchini to Mexican dishes is super Californian, but hey, California was a part of Mexico and zucchinis (and yellow squash) are native to Mexico. So I refuse to think of it as inauthentic. If you want to go further, corn is also native to the Americas, but I feel that’s stretching it a bit. Add salt, pepper, and cumin to taste and saute until the veggies are tender.
Once the veggies are done, pour them over the now-cooled polenta. On top of the veggies, scatter about 2 -3 ounces of grated cheese. I used cheddar, but monterey jack or a Mexican cheese such as queso fresco would also work. Bake the whole thing at 350 for 20-30 minutes, or until the cheese is all melted and bubbly. Top with salsa and serve.
The result was totally delicious. Simple and yummy and (this sounds silly) tastes like summer. Of course the corn works with the mex-veggies, and the time in the oven prevents anything from getting soggy. Zucchini often makes things soggy, so this is important. It is also a very complete meal in it of itself – although if you want to serve it with chips and salsa I completely support that. I served this with white wine, but generally Mexican food is best with a solid beer or tequila. My favorite is Bell’s Oberon Summer Wheat beer, but that doesn’t come out for another month sadly. Finally, the songs of the week are “Criminal” by Fiona Apple and “Smile” by Lily Allen. Awesome songs by female artists. Fiona Apple owns herself and her sexuality without being all “male-gaze” based – which is seriously impressive to pull off, especially in the music industry. Lily Allen has the most positive sounding songs with “holy shit, seriously?” lyrics. Honorable mention: “So What” by P!nk.