Girl + Fire = Food



Monday, June 27, 2011

Louie's Salsa Verde

In Puerto Rico, salsa refers to the music that makes the hips shake. In Mexico, it's a condiment. In our house, it's both. But made by a Puerto Rican. And it's good.

It's a bit of a family joke that my Mexican mother cooks the greatest Puerto Rican food, but it's my Puerto Rican father who created his own salsa verde, or green salsa.

A Puerto Rican making Mexican food, and vice versa? Yeah, it's a bit like a liger.

This is my absolute favorite. I put it on everything from pasteles (not cakes) to quesadillas. It's great on hot dogs, hamburgers, scrambled eggs, to add a bit of a kick to just about anything. I like it on rice too, turns it a bit green and a bit spicy.

Of course, it's a great dip for chips.

I've taken it to two food swaps now and it always disappears quickly. I'm trying to convince my dad to market it. Till that happens, you can enjoy making it yourself.

print recipe
Louie's Salsa Verde
Our family's special recipe.
  • 1 pound tomatillos
  • 11 serrano peppers
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 yellow pepper (guero)
  • 1 long green pepper (Hungarian)
  • 3 scallions, chopped (plus 3 additional for garnish)
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped (save half for garnish)
  • 1 sprig each thyme, oregano, rosemary, mint
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
1. Remove the papery outer skin of the tomatillos and rinse well (they will be pretty sticky). Dry and chop in half.2. Place the tomatillos, peppers (remove seeds from the serranos if you're sensitive to heat), onions, and garlic in a saucepan and cover with water.3. Bring to a boil, lower flame and simmer for 5 minutes.4. Allow to cool off for a few minutes, until no longer piping hot.5. Drain but reserve the liquid, and place in blender/food processor. Add the fresh herbs, salt to taste and process for 30 seconds.6. If mixture is too thick, add reserved liquid and blend until incorporated.7. Garnish with remaining chopped scallions and cilantro.
Yield: approximately 10 servings

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Exquisite Simplicity of Spaghetti Squash

It's June here on Earth, normally a time when the sun shines brightly and the temperature flirts with triple digits in Los Angeles. But apparently the weather fairy is on vacation because it's freezing cold in the land of perpetual sun.

And by freezing, I mean relatively. It's in the 60s. Whatever. It's not June weather.

As such, the winter squash is still in play. And what better squash than one with noodle-y insides? It's so neat!

I'd never had a spaghetti squash, so when I spied it at the market, I decided it would be dinner. I didn't know anything about how to make it, but it came with a lovely sticker that suggested microwaving it for a few minutes. Microwave? What? No.

Instead I fired up the oven to 375 degrees (relatively not-freezing), cut my watermelon-shaped squash in half, drizzled it with a bit of olive oil, and sprinkled Adobo seasoning on it. Then I placed it face down on a foil-covered baking sheet, and let it bake for about 30 minutes, just until the sides were brown.

Then I scraped. It was the coolest trick I've ever seen a squash perform. Run a fork down the fleshy interior and it comes apart in little tendrils. How does it do that? Like a magician, it refused to reveal its secrets. So I ate it.

And it was good.

I recently bought a bottle of Mike's Hot Honey and was looking for a way to showcase it on a dish. Since the only other ingredients here were the olive oil and seasoning, I added some of the honey, and WOW. If you haven't tried Mike's delectably spicy sweet nectar, do yourself a favor and buy a bottle for your squash. And your cheese. And ice cream. And anything else you consider food stuff.

It's that good. And this faux-noodle dish? Also that good.

print recipe

Roasted Spaghetti Squash
Easy as 1-2-eat!
  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Adobo seasoning
1. Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. Cut the squash in half. Scoop out the seeds and stringy bits. Drizzle the insides with olive oil and sprinkle the seasoning. If you don't have Adobo, shame on you! But I supposed you can use regular salt and pepper. If you must.

3. Place cut-side down on foil-covered baking sheet and put in the oven for 30-45 minutes, depending on the size of the squash. Check periodically and take out when the flesh starts to brown.

4. Remove from oven and allow to cool enough to handle. Scrape the flesh with a fork and remove noodles to a bowl. Serve with a drizzle of Mike's Hot Honey, regular honey, Worcestershire sauce, or even a dollop of sour cream. It's your dish, do with it what you want!
Yield: a 2 pound gourd will give you about 2 large servings.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Chocolate: The Exhibition at Muzeo

Chocolate. They say enough of it causes the same chemical reaction as being in love. No wonder there are so many choco-holics.

Last week, I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek at the sweet treat that is Chocolate: The Exhibition. Developed by The Field Museum in Chicago, it opened on Saturday at the Muzeo in Anaheim and traces the origin of chocolate from the rain forests of Central America to the fun-sized sugar-laden candy bars we give to children on Halloween.

The exhibit opens in the rain forest of the Mayan empire 1,500 years ago, progresses into its use as currency in pre-Hispanic Mexico, then moves east to Europe where sugar was introduced and turned chocolate into the "mass-produced world commodity" we know it as today.

A kid-friendly setup, it even has a mock Aztec store where kids can budget their cacao beans to buy tomatoes and peppers.

Out near the gift shop, there's a chocolate bar where one can taste 99% pure dark chocolatebut only if you agree to have your reaction video-recorded. Having never been a fan of dark chocolate (I prefer my cancer-killing flavonoids from red wine), I figured it couldn't be that bad, right?

Oh. Wow.

You'll have to try it for yourself.

The chocolate tasting bar also has other single-origin varieties from Ecuador, the "homeland of the unique 'Arriba' beans." Ranging from 67% to 85% cacao solids, I was surprised that the 85% was actually my favorite. Go figure. I'd always been a milk chocolate kind of girl. But I came home with a little bag (seen above) of 3 different types: 67% from El Oro region, and two of 75% from Manabi and Los Rios. Interestingly enough, I preferred the Los Rios chocolate over its coastal cousin. It's a bit sweeter to the Manabi's hint of spice.

The exhibit runs through September 11, 2011. There are even special events on select Fridays and Saturdays throughout the summer, including a Chocolate & Bubbles Happy Hour (presented by The Catch Restaurant on Friday, July 15) and a The Chocolate Day Spa featuring spa services and wine (Friday, July 29).

The museum was nice enough to give away some buy-one-get-one free tickets. Admission for adults is $13, so take a friend and it's only $6.50 each! First 3 people to comment can have them. You must be able to get to Anaheim before the exhibit closes and agree to be added to their mailing list.

For more information, check

Thursday, June 9, 2011

San Fernando Valley Food Swap

Last week, the lovely people at GOOD LA mentioned what sounded like a wonderful event, right there in my hometown: a food swap! People would gather to exchange food they either made or came from their gardens, and all would then go on their merry ways. And in Burbank, right where I was born and raised!

Our host, Faith
I was supposed to be on my way to Riverside for a work conference, but decided that a detour to visit my parents and exchange goods with our neighbors was the better way to spend a Sunday morning. Our little blog mascot, my nephew Alex, also tagged along (bribed by the promise of a lollipop or other some such goodness).

I know I am usually pretty snarky on this here blog, but I truly do love community food events, like last summer's public fruit canning fest with Fallen Fruit, or the Olive Harvest at Cal-tech  (also featuring our mascot, Alex). They bring people together in the spirit of fellowship. And in our current state of affairs, it's nice to experience that as often as possible.

I explained to Alex that before people used money to pay for things, they would exchange food like we were doing. His 3 year old mind pondered this for a bit, then he asked when I was going to give him a lollipop. One-track mind, that one.

The rules of the swap were simple: taste each other's food, and if you liked it, offer your food up in exchange. No hard feelings if someone declined.

Our family contribution to the party was my father's green salsa. (I've been meaning to write a post about his salsa for months, but that's another story.) We thought maybe 10 small containers of the green sauce might be too many. Little did we know it would disappear so quickly!

And just as quickly we made friends. That's the wonderful thing about sharing food, you instantly bond with people:

  • Jane had a forest of rosemary (!), giant lemons, and chocolate chip cookies. 
  • Pam (who is also in charge of the Santa Monica Food Swap) brought an excellent marinade. 
  • Adrienne offered Maskipops, small round cakes on lollipop sticks (which of course made Alex happy). 
  • Rachel came with homemade maraschino cherries (complete with a recipe for Surley Temples!). 
  • Peigi had gluten-free lemon bars. 
  • Christina made bread in a can! 
  • Our host Faith, who opened her home to everyone, had a large array of homemade jams made from loquats, strawberries, apricots—name a fruit, she had jam!

And in the true spirit of community, I ran into an old high school friend! Neither of us even live in Burbank anymore, but we still call it "home." And she brought one of my favorite sauces: chimichurri!

We came home with a larger bounty than we started with. And our little mascot was very satisfied.

The sugar kick he was on for the rest of the day? Well, isn't that what aunties are for?

His parents can pay me back some day...

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Crispy Leeks Fail

I kind of enjoy blogging about these kitchen failures. Maybe because I like laughing at myself while cleaning up the mess I inevitably make.

This particular attempt at deliciosity was sparked by a wonderful lunch I had at McKinley's Grille in Pomona. They have their own farm on-site and Chef David Teig prides himself on a primarily farm-to-table menu.

While there, I was treated to tasting plates of Japanese lantern scallops with citrus ponzu, gorgonzola-stuffed dates with chestnut oil, Angus beef sliders with caramelized Maui onion and sriracha aioli, all mouth-watering. But my favorite was the crispy leeks with truffle salt. Truffle salt! You know I saw that item on the menu and couldn't resist it. Look at it!

Crispy yummy goodness.

I should have asked the chef for his recipe. I stood there, shook his hand, thanked him for the meal, and didn't ask about my favorite dish? Clearly I'm a dummy.

(And he was so nice, too. I like nice chefs.)

So I had to wing it. Google gave me two options: flour and bake or fry in a pan. I had two good looking leeks, so I figured I'd try both. One of them had to work out, right?


My impatience got the best of me, I'm sure. This is what mine looked like:

Not at all like Chef Teig's. Nope. These are limp. Flaccid. Crummy. The very opposite of yummy.

Look at them, sitting in my new wok, sad and pathetic. The baked ones were over-floured, the fried ones were...well, they sure were crispy. And tasted like crap.

Failure. Plain and simple. No amount of truffle salt was going to save this. Not that I was going to waste truffle salt on burnt food.

I might be a dummy, but I'm not a complete idiot.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Guess the Abstract Food

It's Friday. No one wants to tax their brains with words. Instead, tax your brain trying to figure out the subject of this abstract food art.

This was taken at a recent FBLA meeting, so if you were there you probably know what it is. Let's face it, this is pretty easy even for those who weren't.

Hint: I promise it's edible.

Winner gets...bragging rights!