Delicious Refried Beans

Refried beans are the ultimate comfort food and they are great as an appetizer with chips or to accompany almost any meal.  I serve them as a side dish with my Tacos, Taquitos, Tostadas, Enchiladas, quesadillas and even with my Chanukkah Latkes!  Just a plain taco of these refried beans in a hot corn tortilla is incredible. My recipe is straightforward..too many ingredients and spices interfere with the pure delicious flavor of the beans.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. package dry black beans
  • 1 onion quartered
  • 2 large garlic cloves whole
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 – 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 2 onions chopped

Method:

Inspect the beans for any small stones or other particles and remove. Place the beans in a strainer and rinse thoroughly with cool water, and then pour them into a bowl and let them soak for 2 hours.

Pour the beans into a pot,  add the quartered onion and garlic cloves and cover with water.  Bring the beans to a boil, then lower to a medium high heat, and allow them to simmer rapidly for about one hour or until they are softened.   It is IMPORTANT that you add water every so often until the beans are cooked.  You want to end up with plenty of bean broth.  When the beans are very tender and edible add salt, stir, and allow to simmer 10 more minutes.

Place canola oil in a large frying pan and heat well.  Add the chopped onions and stirring them constantly allow them to become a very deep golden brown, (almost, but not burnt)

Using a slotted spoon add the beans  to the onions and begin mashing them with a masher, then slowly add the bean broth constantly mixing it in, while at the same time mashing the beans.  The broth will evaporate and as it does add more broth. It is up to you how dry you want your beans.  When I am serving them as an appetizer with chips, I allow the broth to evaporate to the point where they become almost a paste.  If I am serving them as a side dish I leave them a bit moist.  If you find that the beans need more salt add it at this point.

Try out this recipe and let me know how it goes.

Enjoy!

Thanksgiving…Without Mom

Lists written down,  assignments confirmed, shopping trips made – all was put into action like a general about to enter the battlefield, everything was perfectly and strategically planned.   My mother’s Thanksgiving preparation swung into full gear.  This was her holiday.  She was 88 but her mind was sharp. “Susie”, she said to me just a year ago,  “I got the yams and the cranberry sauce and the peas you love.  You’ll make the Guacamole, the stuffing and the salad as usual…what kind of wine does Iche like again? I got all of the kids’ favorite appetizers and oh, I ordered the turkeys from Doheny Kosher, can you just confirm that they’ll be delivered by 2:00 p.m., sliced?  You know how Michael gets impatient with me if I call him too much…”  Those were some of the words uttered by my mother as Thanksgiving approached.

This year Thanksgiving is making me look at loss in the face.  The dull ache somewhere between my stomach and my heart grows more intense as the day approaches.   I feel adrift again without my guide…my mom.    We’ve decided to have Thanksgiving at my mother and father’s house, where we’ve had it for 38 years.   We will affirm life without denying the difficulty of loss, as our family comes together, because it’s what we all want. It will be so hard without my mom, but I know that we honor her memory by being together, a family united at the dining room table with the mirrored wall behind. One by one, we will each rise to say what we are thankful for.  I just know mommy, we will all be thankful for being together, because that was the greatest value you imparted…time shared with those you love.   We will affirm how thankful we all are for having had you in our lives.

May all of you have a beautiful Thanksgiving surrounded by those you love!

Shabbat Dinner for 60 by Susie

Susie with the dishes right before they go out the door (sorry it’s not a great photo)

Hello everyone — Alex here.

It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted but I just had to on this auspicious occasion because I don’t think my Mom will brag about it enough! I am so proud of her because she just sent off dinner for 60 people for her first catering job. The event is a young Jewish professionals Shabbat dinner in Santa Monica. Here’s what’s on the menu:

- Best Guacamole & Spicy Salsa Verde

- Fideos (Mexican Lokshen)

- Aztec Portobello & Corn

- Breaded Cauliflower in Tomato Sauce

- Hungarian Roasted Paprika Chicken

- Classic Salad with Red Wine Vinegar Dressing

We will update with photos of the dishes once we receive them after the event.

60 people isn’t too much more than my Mom has done here at the house for one of our Sukkot dinners, so she has the organization before such an event down pat. No hectic moments. It was very cool (and a little odd) to pack it all up in aluminum, label it and send it off. But it was a very happy and proud moment.

Also: I’d like to announce that this is the beginning of our availability as caterers for certain select events around the Los Angeles area!  Please get in touch if you want to discuss at susanak@earthlink.net. 

Thanks as always for reading and sticking with us through our Mexican Jewish journey.

Bobe’s Cuernito Cookie Recipe – Que Ricas!!!

Bobe’s Cuernito Cookie Recipe

Alex and Anita went to Mexico City to learn and film a few of their Bobe’s (Grandma’s) recipes.  Click on The picture of Bobe (above) to view the video of her and Anita in the kitchen.  Follow  the instructions in this 5 minute video to learn how to make these delicious cookies that are a family favorite!   Keep in mind that in Mexico temperature is measured in Centigrade, which is why in the video Bobe says 200 degrees (392 degrees Farenheit). Bobe aslo mentions 1/2 kilo of margarine, which is 1.1 pounds of margarine, or a little over 4 sticks.

 

Recipe: Cuernito Butter Walnut Cookies

 Dora Schmidt prepares a batch of Cuernito butter walnut cookies.

Enlarge Courtesy Alex Schmidt Dora Schmidt prepares a batch of Cuernito butter walnut cookies.

Makes 4 dozen small cookies

Dora Schmidt learned this recipe from a Mexican Jewish friend, originally from Poland, many years ago. The cookies are, however, traditionally served at Mexican weddings.

2 cups ground walnuts
1/2 kilo margarine (or butter), softened – this is about 4 sticks plus 1 tablespoon
5 cups of flour
12 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt

Knead together walnuts, margarine (cut in pieces and room temperature), 5 cups of flour, sugar, vanilla and salt in a large bowl until all ingredients are combined and mixture is even.  Take about 1-1/2 tablespoons of dough and roll it  into a thick rope to form horseshoe or u-shaped cookies. Place cookies onto 2 baking pans sprayed with a small amount of cooking spray. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees (about 200 Centigrade, as mentioned in the video). Bake cookies for 15 minutes. Cookies are done when they are no longer shiny, and have grown slightly. Do not allow to brown. Remove from oven and allow cookies to cool roughly 15 – 30 minutes (as they cool they will harden).  Sprinkle confectioner’s sugar over the cookies (this is in addition to the sugar that goes into the dough mixture).

Enjoy!

Club Med…Where I Met My Beshert

As I sat far away from our  house in Los Angeles, I thought about how lucky I’d felt the day I’d pulled that letter out of the mailbox.  I screamed when I read the return address…”Place De La Bourse, Paris, France”.   My heart pounded as I tore the envelope open, and read the enclosed contract to be a “Hostess.”  I had no idea what that involved, but I didn’t care,  my dream was to travel and my plan was to have Club Med pay for my travels.  I’d gotten the job! I’d been hired to work  at Club Med, and included in the envelope was an airline ticket to Manzanillo,  a beach resort on the pacific coast of Mexico, north of Acapulco.  I ran into the house screaming “Mom, Dad,  Club Med hired me! Mom, thank you for making me go to the French Lycee when I was little, thank you, thank you!”

I had gone shopping for a special outfit for the interview.  I looked in the mirror of the fitting room at The Broadway Department Store (now Bloomingdale’s) in Century City.  I had finally shed my baby fat, and felt like a woman for the first time… boy, that had taken a long time!  I bought mint green pants and a matching mint and white striped sweater.  At the interview, which took place fully in French, I had felt confident, and powerful and beautiful!

I was 22 years old, had just graduated college, and felt on top of the world sitting in the Lobby of Club Med, Playa Blanca .  One week  after I’d arrived, I felt like a princess on a throne when I noticed a guy walking up to me.  The whole scene was unusual in that he was bare-chested and wearing a black and white printed Pareo (sarong) from his waist down, and in the Pareo he had tucked a large red hibiscus, a flower prevalent at the club.  Around his neck he wore a leather cigarette case, in which he carried his favorite cigarettes, Pall Malls without filter.  His dark brown wavy hair fell below his ears and he sported long sideburns…the cool look of the day. If it had been earlier, he would have fit right in, for Pareos were what most of the guests wore throughout the day.  By eight p.m. however, all of the guests had gone to their rooms, showered, and had come back for dinner dressed quite elegantly – tropics elegant.

My job as a Hostess (a job my mother protested was “beneath” me,  being a UCLA Graduate), was to sell the beads with which one bartered at the club, whether at the bar, the gift shop or the beauty salon, cash was never allowed.

As he approached my “throne” I noticed that in addition to the cigarette case around his neck, he wore a very small gold Star of David, on a gold chain.  Suspecting he was from Mexico City I spoke to him in Spanish,  “Can I help you?”  I asked.

I had been right, he responded in that comfortable, familiar unmistakable Mexican Spanish and said “Sure, I’d like a pack of beads please.”  I had to fill in the pertinent information on our little invoices so I asked “Como te llamas?”, what’s your name?  He said “Isaac Schmidt”.  I printed his name, and expressing surprise, he said, “In Mexico, nobody spells my name right.”  He signed the invoice, took his packet of beads and turned to go.  Then he turned back and said, “Would you consider joining me for dinner tonight? When do you get off?”  I told him that I got off at nine and I could join him then.  He went to his room, showered and came back at nine, nicely dressed.  We walked upstairs to the dining room, and while we waited in line to be seated, I said to him, “I like your Star of David.”  Without a word he reached behind his neck, unclasped it, held it out to me, clasped it around my neck, and said “It’s yours.”  I protested, he quietly insisted. 

On September 3rd my cherished Isaac (Iche), and I celebrated our 34th wedding anniversary …He had me at that simple, quiet, determined and generous, “It’s yours.”

Father’s Day Special: Chicken Enchiladas And Things I Learned From My Dad

Click on the YouTube link to learn to make enchiladas and see my dad make his video debut.

Father’s Day is coming up and I can say without a doubt, that I was blessed with the greatest dad.  His nature has always been such, that I could never make him mad.   Even when I tried I couldn’t take the smile off his face.  I didn’t even succeed in making him mad in my teenage years… sad maybe, but not mad.  I have sweet memories of our big dining room table in Mexico City.  It was made of green mosaic and had an ebony frame.  My father would sit me on that table when I was little.  He’d smile and joyfully sing among other songs,  “Oh Susanna oh don’t you cry for me…”.  He was always smiling, whistling, singing or humming to Gershwin, Ella Fitzgerald, Sinatra, or the great Agustin Lara, and many more. He carried music within him the way he carried his newborn little girl…lovingly and tenderly.

Things My Dad Taught Me:

  •   To love, by the way he loves me.
  •   To be kind, by the way he is kind to all.
  •   To not take life so seriously, by his constant joy.
  •   To let things roll off my back, by his calm nature.
  •   To turn the other cheek, by teaching me that almost nothing is worth a fight.
  •   To try to get along and respect everyone, for that’s what he has always done.
  •   To love and appreciate music, it has been his life.
  •   To understand that everything in life is borrowed and impermanent.
  •   To  remember who I am if someone mischaracterizes me.
  •   To forgive and not hold a grudge, because both sides have a story.
  •   To maintain self-confidence and resilience when life is tough, it’s what he does.
  •   That getting old takes courage, he sets the example each day.

Importantly, in addition to being so loving, warm and wise, my dad loves to eat… I definitely inherited his love for food.  He was a New York born gringo, but living in Mexico City for fourteen years taught him that the world of food was so much bigger than steak and potatoes, or the chopped liver, herring, or matzoh ball soup from his hometown’s Delis.  He learned to love Mexican food, the spicier the better.   Still today, at the age of 94, he loves to accompany his lunch or dinner with a jalapeño pepper.  Among my dad’s favorite Mexican dishes are Chicken Enchiladas in Salsa Verde, So dad, this one’s for you:

Chicken Enchiladas in Salsa Verde

  • 4 quarts water
  • 2 skinless chicken breast halves on the bone
  • 1/2 small onion
  • 2 peeled garlic cloves cut in half
  • 2  celery stalks cut in thirds
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 -6 fresh corn tortillas
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  •  Optional garnish toppings are diced onion, chopped cilantro leaves, shredded lettuce or avocado pieces

Bring water to a boil,  add all of the ingredients and bring to a boil again.  Lower heat so that soup simmers for 30 minutes or until chicken is well cooked.  Remove the chicken, allow it to cool, remove the bone, finely shred the meat and set aside, while you prepare the salsa verde.

Salsa Verde

  • 6 tomatillo tomatoes
  • jalapeño peppers
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 1/4 of a small onion
  • 1 extra garlic clove (optional)
  • 1 extra jalapeño pepper (optional)
  • 1 tsp of salt

Place the tomatillos,  jalapeño peppers and 2 garlic cloves  in a small saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil.  Lower heat and simmer for five minutes.  Add the 1/4 cup of water to a blender and then add the cooked ingredients from the saucepan.  Add the 1/4  small onion.  If you choose, add the extra garlic clove and if you like it very spicy, add the extra optional  jalapeño pepper.   Add the salt and Blend until you have a smooth rich sauce. Transfer the blended sauce to a  frying pan and bring to a boil.  Lower heat and allow to simmer gently while you prepare the enchiladas.

Making the Enchiladas

All of the following steps are clearly demonstrated in the video above.  Click, follow along and have fun.  Heat the canola oil in a small frying pan.  When the oil is hot, place the tortillas one at a time in the oil turning them over immediately and then removing each one to a paper towel to absorb extra oil.  Once you have fried the 4 to 6 tortillas pat them with paper towel on top as well.  Take each tortilla and douse in the simmering salsa verde, removing each one right away to the plate on which you will serve the enchiladas.  Fill the tortilla with shredded chicken and gently fold over.  Top the enchiladas with onion, lettuce, avocado and/or fresh cilantro.  Serve with a side portion of white or Mexican Rice and Enjoy!

Chayote Summer Salad

If you are  ready to be adventurous and try something new and nutritious click on the link to see my latest recipe video!

There is a little known, pear-shaped, light green vegetable at the supermarket that is waiting just for you.  It is called Chayote or Mirliton squash.   Chayotes have a mild,  sweet taste and lend themselves well to summer salads which can accompany nearly any dish.  Their texture is somewhat like a cross between a potato and honeydew melon.  Chayote  is not as commonly used in the U.S. as it is in Mexico, where it is consumed as a staple vegetable.   Chayotes are low in  calories, high in dietary fiber, and contain anti-oxidants, minerals, and B-complex vitamins.  Being part of the gourd family like zucchini, chayotes provide a certain amount of potassium and vitamin-C.

Chayote summer Salad:

3 Chayote squash

1/3 cup red pimento diced

1/3 cup scallion stems diced

1/3 cup purple onion thinly sliced

1/3 cup cilantro leaves chopped

1-2 ripe but firm avocados cubed

Vinaigrette Ingredients:

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Juice of 1 lime ( approx. 1/3 cup)

1 large garlic clove mashed

1/3 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Peel the chayotes with a regular peeler and cut into strips discarding the white seed in the center.  Bring three quarts of water to a boil, add 1 teaspoon salt and add the sliced chayotes to the water.  Bring to a boil, and allow to cook for 5 minutes.  Strain the chayotes, transfer them to a mixing bowl and set aside to cool.  Once cool, add the other ingredients except the avocado, mix gently and again set aside to prepare the vinaigrette.  Combine  and thoroughly mix all of the vinaigrette ingredients.  I prepare it by placing the ingredients in a small plastic container, which I can then cover tightly and shake to mix thoroughly.  Add the avocado cubes to the salad, add the vinaigrette and mix well but gently.  Refrigerate for 30 – 60 minutes and you now have a thoroughly delicious and refreshing summer salad.

Enjoy!

Chiles Rellenos

Click on the link to view my newest video recipe for delicious Chiles Rellenos.

It is said that actions speak louder than words, but in my case inaction has spoken even louder.  For  the last four months I have neglected this incredible blog due to a lack of spirit, for it was drained from me when I endured the loss of my mother.

But a little bit like a boxer who has momentarily had the wind knocked out of her, I am back.  Gradually, I have regained my spirit and with it, the energy and desire to start blogging once more, and I so appreciate the patience of all of you, my incredible readers and subscribers.  I truly am excited because I am filled with ideas for many delicious recipes for you.

I start here, with Chiles Rellenos, one of my all time favorite Mexican recipes.  Chiles Rellenos are Pasilla (also known as Poblano) chili peppers, which can be stuffed with either cheese or ground beef or as in this recipe, vegan shredded cheese.

Chiles Rellenos

  • 4 Pasilla (AKA Poblano) chili peppers
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • Canola oil

Sauce

  • 2 large tomatoes quartered
  • 1/4 white onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Additional 1/4 onion sliced
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Method

Broil chili peppers for 7 minutes or until skin is blackened, turn over and broil on opposite side for seven more minutes.  Allow the peppers to cool a bit and then gently remove the skin.  You will notice a small slit (if there isn’t one, then make one),  remove the seeds and any excess skin under gently running water and set aside, (using gloves is optional).

Take about 1/4 cup shredded vegan cheese or regular cheese and stuff each pepper, then secure the pepper with a long toothpick to keep the stuffing from falling out during the frying process.

Beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until peaks form.  Add the yolks into the egg whites and mix thoroughly with mixer.

Spread the flour on a plate, then lightly and evenly coat each pepper with flour.

Heat 3 tablespoons of canola oil over medium heat, dip a stuffed chili pepper into the egg batter and place in the pan with the hot oil,  fry two peppers at a time, allowing the edges to turn golden brown before gently turning the peppers over.  When each pepper is evenly golden all over, remove to drain on paper towels, and pat the peppers with additional paper towel to absorb excess oil.  Place the peppers on a nice serving plate, and REMOVE toothpicks.

The Sauce

Place water, tomatoes, quarter onion, garlic cloves and the optional chili pepper in a blender, and liquefy thoroughly.

Heat the tablespoon of canola oil on high heat, then add the additional sliced onion and mix constantly until it begins to turn golden.   Add the sauce from the blender, bring it to a boil and allow it to boil for three minutes.  Add the oregano, salt and pepper, mix in and allow to boil 2 more minutes.  Sauce is ready.  With a large spoon bathe each chili pepper with the sauce.

Serve hot, accompany with sliced avocado or a full meal and enjoy!

Thoughts Of My Mom At Passover

It’s Passover.  It’s been three months since I last saw you Mom.

There are days when I say, “Alright already, enough of this Ma, I want to see your face, I want to hear your voice, I want to feel your love”.  I still can’t conceive that I never will again.

And so it’s time to clean the mud off of the heels I wore the day I bade you goodbye.  I kept that mud on those heels because somehow it kept me closer to a time when I still had you.

You are so far away from me now, you are eons away.  Time takes on a different texture now, it is heavier than before.

My heart is a trunk full of gratitude for all that I have, and for all that you gave me.  I go on, I move on in life, I know what to do because you taught me so well, but I miss you.

It’s Passover and as I make the Matzoh balls for the soup, I hear you telling me that I make the best soup, that there is nothing like my soup.

We sit down for the Seder, it is a fine Seder, we sing, we laugh, we tell the story and have our four cups of wine.  But you’re not sitting next to me Mom, and I miss you.

Succulent Spicy Cauliflower

Succulent Spicy Cauliflower

This recipe has 3 key things going for it:  It’s Passover friendly, it’s vegetarian, and it’s a delicious way to spice up any meal. Since we’re so limited at Passover, when we get tired of the typical starches and kugels, this is a very refreshing taste. It’s a unique recipe that neither I nor my family has seen in any restaurant. I learned it from Doña Tere, a beloved housekeeper who had a place in both my and my mother’s home for over 20 years.

A note from Alex, the eager cooking student:

There are a few key parts to this recipe, and they’re all about frying. First, pat the florets very dry. This is to make sure the batter sticks. Second, be ready to start frying the florets as soon as possible after the batter is made. And third, keep the temperature of the oil right while frying.

Having the pan with hot oil ready before you start dipping the florets in batter is the best way to do this. That way, you just drop each floret in the pan as you go (the longer you let the batter sit, the more it loses its consistency). As far as temperature, while I was making the recipe, my Mom would constantly adjust the stove up, then down, then up, then down. I couldn’t understand what she was after – then it clicked: the flame has to go up and down to keep the oil at the temperature it should be, just lightly popping the entire time. Using wooden spoons with soft edges helped me keep the texture uniform on the florets, with the perfect mix of golden color and fluffy consistency.

Succulent Spicy Cauliflower

  • 1 large cauliflower washed and cut into florets
  • 8 cups of water
  • 1 tablespoon salt for water
  • 5 large or 6 small eggs – separated
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt for egg batter
  • 3/4 cup of Canola oil for frying
  • 1 cup onion finely chopped
  • 3 large tomatoes finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
  • Pinch of salt

Directions:

Cut the cauliflower in half, separate the florets cutting the large ones in half or even in thirds (See video demonstration).  Discard the stem.  In a medium pot bring the salted water to a boil.  Add the florets and boil for 6-8 minutes…until tender, but not too soft.  Do not over boil! Remove from heat to a strainer, rinse under gently running cold water, and set aside.

Place egg whites, and 1/8 teaspoon of salt into a bowl and beat with hand mixer until firm.  Gradually add the egg yolks into the beaten egg whites,  and continue to beat with mixer until mixture is fully incorporated .  Heat 3 tablespoons of oil.  Place 1 cup of the batter into a separate smaller bowl and dip one floret at a time in the egg batter (from smaller bowl), placing each coated floret into pan with hot oil.  Make  two – three batches…one batch  will contain 5-7 florets.  As soon as the lower edges of the florets begin to brown,   turn them over.   You will  need a pair of tongs to fry the sides of each piece.  When golden on all sides, remove each floret and place on a paper towel to absorb extra oil.   You will have to add oil to pan between batches.


Sauce preparation:
In the same saucepan where you have finished frying florets, place diced onions and allow them to fry until they glisten.  Add the diced tomatoes, bring to a simmer, then add water.  Mix continuously with a spatula allowing mixture to simmer for about 3 more minutes.  Add  crushed red pepper and salt and stir for another 2 minutes, until you get a somewhat thick consistency.
Place battered cauliflower in serving dish and spoon sauce mixture evenly on top of florets.  Serve hot and enjoy!
Serves  10-12