Tuesday, September 2, 2014


I still think about them, hardly a day goes by that I don't remember Mom's words, Dad's laugh, the way my Grandparents looked at each other. Lot's of unspoken words that made up the strengths of each of  loved ones who have gone on. It's been a year now, since Richard passed. Still jagged and hurtful, a senseless death following years of one disappointment after another.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Sopes




Do you have a Panaderia Tortilleria in your hometown? Chances are you do, they are Mexican bakeries with all kinds of delicious foods inside. We are a melting pot of cultures, even in NW Arkansas you can sample Indian, Thai, Mongolian, Szechuan, Cantonese, Salvadorian, and Mexican. I love trying new recipes and no matter where we've lived, I try my hand at regional favorites. In Texas, that included making tamales, gorditas and sopes. Masa Harina is the secret ingredient, but it's not easy to get the same results as Mamacita's kitchen turns out. Just like a Southern Grandma's biscuits, technique is key. So, since my Moma was not a Mamacita... I have trouble making something as simple as a sope!

In Mexico, the sope (pronounced “SOH-peh”) is as common as a taco for lunch. Street vendors turn them out in minutes while you wait, and salivate! They are open face sandwiches, similar to a tostada, but the sope is made of fresh masa formed into a boat shape vessel to get the delicious fillings from plate to your mouth easily. They can be hand held, but the best ones require a plate and a fork to get every last bite! 

My local Panaderia sells the sope shells, freshly made and ready to slip onto a warm griddle to crisp (or a quick dip into hot oil and drained), then topped with chopped brisket, pork or chicken it turns leftover meat into a delicacy! From Rick Bayles' Mexico One Plate at a Time, here is the simple recipe for sopes. I love the way he writes recipes, you taste the country as well as the food! This recipe is long but not complicated, it's technique that he teaches.

Sopes 
"Every culture has its small bites–sushi, dim sum, tapas, mezze. But in Mexico, these flavorful tidbits fall into a different kind of category: “antojitos,” the foods you crave. These are the snacks and street foods, as well as the special-occasion treats, that Mexicans love best–the stuff that comforts the soul and sets the heart racing."
Dough:
1 pound (2 cups) fresh corn masa for tortillas (OR 1 3/4 cups powdered masa harina mixed with a scant 1 cup + 2 tablespoons warm water) 
2 tablespoons lard or 2 tablespoons shortening 
3/4 teaspoon salt
Filling: 
1 cup brothy beans, coarsely pureed with a little broth 
8 ounces chorizo sausage
vegetable oil (for frying) 
Toppings:
green tomatillo sauce 
mexican queso fresco 
mexican crema or thinned sour cream
shredded lettuce
radishes, sliced paper thin

Forming and griddle baking the sopes: Heat a well seasoned or nonstick griddle or heavy skillet over medium. Put the mash (fresh or reconstituted) into a bowl and knead in 3/4 teaspoon salt. If necessary, knead in a few drops of water to give the masa the consistency of soft cookie dough. Divide into 5 pieces, roll into balls and cover with plastic to keep them from drying out.
One by one, form the fat little tortillas that will become the sopes: Line a tortilla press with two pieces of plastic cut to fit the plates (be on the safe side, cut them from a food storage bag; the thicker plastic usually works better for beginners). Place a ball into the plastic lined press, gently pat and press it into a evenly flat disc, about 3/8 inch thick (the original recipe says 1/4" thick, with practice maybe I can do this!) and 2 and 1/2 inches in diameter. With the fat little tortilla still on the plastic, flip it over onto one hand, dough side down and peel off the plastic. Lay the tortilla on the hot skillet and bake for about a minute per side, until lightly browned-- in doing so you are transforming the tortilla into a sope, a little masa boat!  Do the same with all of the balls, allowing each to cool and forming into sope/masa boats. Cover with plastic and set aside. 
For the Filling: Simmer the beans down to a thick bean soup consistency. Take out half the beans and mash, add back enough of the brothy beans to make a refried consistency. (Also adapted from the usual method of re-frying the beans.) In a small skillet heat 1 T. oil over medium heat. Add the chorizo and cook, breaking up any pieces. When cooked drain off fat and cover with foil-place in oven to keep warm. (I used leftover grilled chicken.)
Frying the shells: Add the oil to a heavy skillet 3/4 of an inch deep. Fry the shells one at a time until lightly browned. Drain on paper towels then place in a cast iron skillet to keep warm in the oven. Repeat until shells are done. (You just have to do this step, no baking the shells. It's a flavor thing... the crispy/soft shell, the spicy filling and the cool creamy toppings!)
Finishing the Dish: Layer in this order- Shell, refried beans, chorizo, tomatillo sauce. cheese, lettuce, radish slices, crema.


One more note Herdez is making a great new Taqueria Salsa made from tomatillos and morita peppers, just like the familar smoky sauce you find on dinner tables all over Mexico! I found it at Walmart.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Fireflies

It's easy to close my eyes and think back to the long hot summers of my childhood. After supper we'd play outside until darkness took over the sky, Hide and Go Seek or Mother May I until the Fireflies came out. We'd try like mad to catch their little flashlight bodies and place them in an old Ball jar, but mostly it was running and giggling!

The fireflies flew just out of our reach, inspiration and wonder just beyond our fingertips. That's kind of like life, what we want sometimes is out there but it seems almost fantasy... what we want is just too hard to "catch." If we're not careful, we let the "I can'ts" into our hearts and then we forget how to be children again. Every Summer my Grandchilden teach me how to be young again. They leave fingerprints on the glass doors, they scatter toys in the living room and they delight in a simple ice cream cone.

Not a banana split, not a sundae... just a plain, ol' ice cream cone! 


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