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Enchiladas Verdes

Story & Recipe Collected by Ana Ruiz, Summer 2017

Growing up in Mexico, eating enchiladas was a luxury because obtaining all of the ingredients could be very expensive. For a time, tomatillos and chicken became very expensive, which forced families to find other ingredients to replace them. Once, my grandmother replaced the tomatillo with tomatoes, which meant red enchiladas. They were good, but nothing compared to the flavor of the green tomatillo sauce. I also remember my mom replacing the chicken with ham and cheese. It wasn't until I was much older that I realized how challenging it must have been to my parents to prepare this dish. Nonetheless, they created new recipes with the food they had available to them.

This dish was particularly special to my brother and I because when we were growing up, our grandmother ( my Mom's mother) would make this dish for us on our birthdays. Although my time in Mexico with my grandmother was short before coming to the United States, she always made sure our birthdays included a special dish. After we arrived to the US, my mom requested this specific recipe from her mother. My grandmother was more than happy to pass it down, but she also taught her how to prepare everything. Every time that my grandmother would visit, my mom would make a very small portion of enchiladas for my grandma to try. After eating it, my mom would receive feedback about it until she perfected the recipe.

Here in the US, eating enchiladas is still a rare occasion. Thankfully, it is no longer because of the economic barriers; however, making them does take a long time. When we eat them now, I still get really excited about it. Especially because I know that this recipe has been passed down from generation to generation. It's really cool to think about all of the people that have prepared the same recipe, yet the recipe is constantly changing. I've often wondered how my enchiladas will look and taste like when I make them, or how my children will carry on this recipe to their children.

 

Ingredients

Sauce & Chicken

  • 10 Tomatillos

  • 8 cups of water

  • 6 jalapeno peppers or other hot peppers of your choice

  • 8 Garlics

  • Half an onion

  • Oregano

  • Garlic powder

  • Salt

  • Chicken broth cubes

  • 2lbs of chicken breast

 

Enchilada

  • 3 Dozen Tortillas

 

Garnish

  • Shredded Cheese

  • Sour Cream

  • Lettuce or Kale

  • Sliced radishes

  • Sliced Avocado


 

Step by Step

  1. Wash all of your vegetables (tomatillo, onion, garlic, hot peppers, lettuce and/or kale). Also,  make sure you wash your chicken.

  2. Place 10  tomatillos in a pot with hot water and wait until the water boils.

    1. Using another pot, place some onion, 4 garlics, and 5 cups of water. While the pot warms up, massage the chicken with oregano, garlic powder and salt. Place the chicken in the pot and let it boil.

  3. After the tomatillos boil, place the tomatillos, half an onion, 4 garlics, 6 hot peppers and 1 cup of water in the blender until you have a thick paste. Taste a paste. If it's too spicy, add some sugar to the paste.

  4. Place some vegetable oil in a pan, and wait until the oil is hot. Then, slowly place the paste in the pan and fry it.

  5. Once the sauce is fried, allow the sauce to simmer at low heat. If the sauce is too thick, add some chicken broth or water.

  6. While the sauce simmers, take your chicken out of your pot and shred all of it.

  7. Start heating up some tortillas, and when they are warm, separate all of the tortillas.

  8. Place the tortillas in the simmering sauce and flips them over once so the tortillas soaks up the tomatillo sauce.

  9. Take the tortilla out, place some chicken on it and start rolling them into tacos.

  10. Repeat until you have your desired number of enchiladas.

  11. Then place whatever garnish you want on your enchiladas, and enjoy your enchiladas!

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Vegan Banana Bread

Story and Recipe collected by Alex Smith, Summer 2017

I grew up with a typical “American” diet: white bread, milk, eggs; the works. I never
really understood vegetarian diets or vegan lifestyles. However, as I began to become a chubby
kid leading up to junior high, I became determined to find a diet that would help me. I would
later find out that if I made a bigger change to my overall lifestyle, then I could better the
environment as well as my own body.


My family is known to have big meals of many hearty foods. My mother, specifically, is
known for her love of baking. She developed her own recipes, but my personal favorite is her
banana bread recipe. My mother’s original recipe included animal-based sources such as milk
chocolate, milk, and butter. Yes, I loved her baking as it was not only something she developed
herself, but also something she worked on all the time to get better at; her hobby.


As I began to work on my diet, I moved from my meat-based diet on to a vegetarian diet.
I was focused on losing weight first, but then I took a look at some food documentaries. One
specific documentary stood out: Cowspiracy. It was a film showing the how dairy farms make
the biggest impacts on the environment, and how moving to a vegan diet can help sustainability
and move away from the deforestation that dairy farms carried out. I knew switching over to a
vegan lifestyle would not only be beneficial for me, but also the environment as a whole. I took
many foods I once had eaten out of my diet, but I was determined to keep one of my favorite
foods in it, which was my mom’s banana bread. She looked for a way to remove eggs and butter
out of it, and the solution was using over-ripened bananas. These are the bananas that start to
turn black on the outside and are usually considered rotten and are thrown away. Though, the
fruit is still edible, albeit soft and extremely sweet. They could be used in place of eggs and oil.
So, instead of throwing them away, my mom found a way to use them up. Along with that, I was
able to connect back to my family’s enjoyment of baking through this newly-made vegan recipe
my mom adapted. In this way, I was able to be part of my family’s pastime as well as keep my
vegan lifestyle, and for that reason this recipe is important to me.

Ingredients:
4 ripe bananas
2⁄3 cup of sugar
4 tablespoons of water
1 teaspoon of vanilla
2 cups of flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1⁄2 teaspoon of salt
Optional ingredients:
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1⁄2 bag of vegan chocolate chips (example: EnjoyLife)


Directions:
-Preheat oven to 350°F and grease 8x4’’ loaf pan
-Mash bananas in a large bowl
-Add sugar, vanilla, and water to bananas and mix well
-In a medium bowl, mix flour, salt, and baking powder (also cinnamon if desired)
-Pour flour mixture into banana mixture and mix well (add chocolate chips now if desired)
-Pour batter into loaf pan
-Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean

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Tamales Rojos

Story and Recipe collected by Giovanni Garcia, Summer 2017

There is nothing in this world that I cherish more than spending time with family. And not just my immediate family like my parents and siblings, but also my cousins, my aunts/uncles, and grandparents. One of the few times I get to see them all at one time and place, is the Christmas season. Because so many of my cousins are going off to college, finding work, and now, even starting their families of their own, I do not get to see them as often as before, so moments like these mean more to me than ever before. One tradition my family has, as well as many other Mexican families, is the making of tamales to eat on Christmas Eve/Day. The process begins with one of my aunts/uncles volunteering their home to be used for the preparation of the tamales, which alternates every year. This is followed by the gathering of ingredients a few days in advance (which I have attached below). And it’s not just one person’s responsibility to bring the ingredients, every family is in charge of getting a couple of things, making the process more of a group effort. And finally, we all gather on the 23rd of December to actually make the tamales. The aunts/uncles are usually the first ones up and prepare a couple of main ingredients at the house before the grandchildren get there. Basically, the parents get the complicated stuff done, and we help them with the more basic tasks including the spreading of the masa onto the corn husks, filling the tamales with meat/vegetables/etc, and any other directions we receive. The process is really stressful, especially for the adults. But at the end of the day, which is usually late at night, we have made hundreds of tamales. Some fond memories I have include anything relating to my grandmother, and particularly the year my uncle brought a mixing attachment to his construction drill. Before he had brought this, we used to mix the maza by hand, so when he brought the attachment not only were we all amazed, but the preparation process became much faster.

 

Ingredients (100 tamales):

-       Maza (dough) (5 lbs.)

-       Mantequa (lard) (1lb)

-       Chile quajillo (3lbs)

-       Salt (to the taste)

-       Corn husks (100)

-       Pork (5 lbs.)

-       Onion (1 – medium sized)

-       Garlic (2 clubs)

-       Cumin (2 teaspoons)

 

Steps:

Leaves:

  1. Put the 100 leaves to soak in a bucket(s) of water. They should be submerged in water for at least 3 hours before using them  

Salsa:

  1. Cut the chiles open and remove the seeds from inside

  2. Fill a 8 quart pot ¾ of the way

  3. Boil the water

  4. Add the chiles

  5. Cook the chiles for about 10 minutes

  6. Take the pot off the stove and let it simmer on the side

Pork

  1. Cut the pork into small pieces, each about the size of a gumball

  2. Put the pork into a very large pot that can fit all the pieces

  3. Add two of water

  4. Cut the onion into a couple of pieces (4-6) and add them to the pot

  5. Also add salt (about a teaspoon), sprinkle this across the meat, reaching as much as possible

  6. Leave this to cook for about an hour and a half, if it takes a little longer or less, that is okay

Back to salsa:

  1. Put as many chiles as you can fit into a blender (With 3lbs should take around 4 times), have a strainer and a clean pot on the side

  2. Add half a tablespoon of the powdered cumin, and also half a club of garlic each time you fill the blender with chiles (this is assuming you use the blender 4 times, in total you should use 2 clubs of garlic and 2 tablespoons of cumin)

  3. Blend these ingredients.

  4. Dump the blended chiles into a strainer with a pot underneath and use a spoon to move the salsa around in the strainer/filter the good parts into the pot

  5. Put this pot on a stove with medium heat

  6. Add one and a half teaspoons of salt to the pot of salsa

  7. Leave this pot until the salsa starts boiling, might take around 30-45 minutes to cook

  8. Stir the salsa every 5 mins, and take a spoon and taste it, check if it needs more salt, if so, add little amounts until it fits your need

  9. Once the salsa is done cooking, put it on the side and let it cool

Mixing of Dough:

  1. In a large pot, add the corn dough and lard. Also add about 1 and a half tablespoons (more or less) of salt.

  2. Add 2 cups of warm water and start mixing the dough and lard. (if you find it difficult to mix, add more water)

  3. Mix until it has the texture of playdough

Making of tamales:

  1. Put the leaves into a strainer to let loose water drain out

  2. Now, spread the dough mixture onto the softest side of the corn husks, make sure to leave about two inches from the narrowest part of the husk, you will be folding this

  3. The layer of dough should be relatively thin but should cover the surface

  4. Now, add about 2 tablespoons of salsa to the middle of the husk, on top of the dough layer

  5. Then add 1-3 pieces of pork on top of the salsa, not too many so you are able to fold the husk

  6. Now, fold one side of the leave over, then the other so that the ingredients are covered, then grab the bottom part of the husk (the part you did not add dough to) and fold it over.

  7. Before adding the tamal into the steamer, add water to the steamer until it reaches the indicated mark, which will be about 2-3 inches from the bottom

  8. Add the covering plate (which will have holes)

  9. Now Place the prepared tamal into the steamer pot

  10. Repeat this until you use 95 of the corn husks.

  11. Try to place the tamales in a circle, and in neat, ordered layers

  12. Once you are finished adding tamales, using the remaining 5 leaves to cover the top

  13. Now put the steamer on the stove and boil it for two hours.

  14. About every 25-30 mins add more water, as you will probably run out

  15. DONE

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Maamoul

Story and Recipe collected by Nour Ghalyoun, Summer 2017

I can remember every morning I’ve awoken to maamoul being made. The smell of the timr, fasataq halabia, and mazahr – dates, pistachios, and rose water: the smells that I’ve associated with Eid, the Muslim holiday following the holy month of Ramadan. Mama would stay up late the night before making the dough, making sure that every Eid we would wake up to the traditional cookie, one that tied us back to our roots. We never ate it outside of Eid, and the one year we did, it was because mama made way too many cookies and we were eating them for the following weeks.

It was always my mother making the cookies because she wants them perfect, but she would always cave and let us help, whether that was pressing them into the mold or helping roll out the dough before stuffing them to the brim with the filling. They were always made with love, with care, with all the loyalty ties to country and culture. Growing up in America rather than Syria - my mother’s homeland – this was one of the few ties to the middle east that I understood with perfect clarity, one that none of us disputed about.

Some special things I learned about for the making of maamoul are the mahlab and the cookie mold. Mahlab is a spice made from the inner kernel of cherry pits, and the cookie mold is usually made from wood, with a long handle at the end. This information has been passed down from my mother from her mother, dating back as fat as anyone can remember.

This dish originates from ancient Egypt, dating back all the way to Pharaonic Era, documented with temple carvings and paintings. This dish migrated all over the Middle East. How it came to represent Ramadan is less certain. Some say that fasting is hard, but at its core, you can reap the sweet religious rewards – the same as a maamoul: hard on the outside, sweet and sugary on the inside.

 

Steps

(everything can also be done to taste)

Part 1

  1. First, make the dough. In a bowl, mix

    1. -        1 cup of semolina

    2. -        1 ¼ cups of flour

    3. -        2 teaspoons of mahlab

    4. -        4 spoons of sugar

    5. -        2 sticks of butter

    6. -        1 teaspoon of rose water

  2. Next make the filling. Use

    1. -        1 pound of pistachio

    2. -        4 spoons of sugar

    3. -        1 spoon of olive oil

    4. -        1 teaspoon of Rose water

Mix the dough and the filling well.

Part 2

  1. Mold the dough into a ball

  2. Concave part of the ball to put the filling in

  3. Close the opening, and press the ball into the cookie mold

  4. Press enough to fill the mold with the raw cookie

  5. Take the cookie mold and whack it down on the table, dislodging the cookie (don’t break any tables / plates in the making)

  6. Once you have enough cookies, lay them out on a sheet

  7. Bake for 15 minutes at 250°

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Nigerian Stew

Story and Recipe collected by Onyedikachi Ebiringah, Summer 2017

Love is a Warm Meal

In 1993 my mother left her husband and three children behind in Nigeria in hopes for a better life in America. Alone but determined my mother fought for the next two years to bring her family to the states. Eventually they would come in 1995 and my mother would become pregnant with me. The following year when I was born my mother’s mother arrived to help take care of the kids. My grandmother had many children and grandchildren back in Nigeria, and I am sure she never meant for her stay in America to be as permanent, but she would spend the majority of the next 18 years of her life here. Over the next few years my grandmother would be by my side at almost every waking moment, playing the role of mother and father. I would do everything with my grandmother and as I got older my grandmother began to keep a garden in our backyard.  I remember as a child following her into the garden and wandering around with curiosity. She grew various types of greens and vegetables that she would often cook with or give away to neighbors. My grandma would always cook me whatever Nigerian food I wanted. Even if everyone else was eating one dish she would make me whatever I felt like eating. One of my favorite dishes was rice and stew. It is a simple white rice dish topped with a tomato paste, and it serves as one of the staple dishes of Nigerian cuisine. My grandma would often use the tomatoes from her garden, and no one could ever come close cooking as well as her. When I was a child I often took my grandmothers cooking for granted but now that I am older I understand that true value of all the love and effort she put into every meal. My grandmother’s heart often ached for the grandchildren and children she couldn’t see back home in Nigeria, but she still loved me as much as she possibly could. Now whenever I eat rice and stew I know the tomatoes will never be as fresh, the rice will never be as white, and the dish will never have as much love as it could have had my grandmother made it.

You don’t have to put the stew on white rice you can put it on anything that think it might taste well on!

Ingredients

3.2kg (7lbs) fresh Plum Tomatoes

400g (14oz) tinned tomato paste

Vegetable Oil: a generous quantity

2 onions

 

Before you cook Tomato Stew

Phase 2

  1. Wash and blend the fresh plum tomatoes.

  2. Remember to remove the seeds unless you are sure your blender can grind them very well.

  3. Cut the onions into small pieces.

  4. Pour the fresh tomato blend into a pot and cook at high heat till almost all the water has dried. Cook till the water in the tomato puree have dried as much as possible.

  5. Add the vegetable oil, the chopped onions and the thick tomato puree that you mixed in step 2 above. Stir very well.

  6. Fry at very low heat and stir at short intervals till the oil has completely separated from the tomato puree. A well fried tomato puree will also have streaks of oil, unlike when you first added the oil and it was a smooth mix of the tomato puree and oil.

  7. Taste the fried tomato puree to make sure that the raw tomato taste is gone. With time and experience, you can even tell that the tomato puree is well fried from the aroma alone. If you are happy with the taste and you are sure that all the water has dried as much as possible, pour out the excess vegetable oil, then add the well fried tomato stew to your cooking. If you are not using it immediately, leave to cool down, dish in containers and store in the freezer.

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Empanada

An empanada is a stuffed bread or pastry baked or fried in many countries in Latin Europe, Latin America, the Southwestern United States, and parts of Southeast Asia. 

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Salvadorean Pupusas

Pupusas have been made for thousands of years in El Salvador, and until the last century were largely found in smaller villages in the country.

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Granola

A tasty and healthy choice for breakfast! This is also a family traditional recipe I collected from my mother. 

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