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Archive for Holidays & Occasions

TIP OF THE DAY: Sweet & Spicy

Watermelon Agua Fresca With Tajin

Mango WIth Tajin

Mango Ice Cream With Tajin

Mango Paletas With Tajin

Tajin Seasoning

Cheese and Honey

[1] Watermelon agua fresca with a spicy rim. Or, switch out the salt on your Margarita (recipe).[2] Fresh fruit perks up with a sprinkle of Tajin. [3] On ice cream or sorbet: cool with sweet heat (photos #1, #2 and #3 courtesy Tajin). [4] A sprinkle of Tajin is a must on paletas—Mexican ice pops. Here’s the recipe for these mango-lime paletas sfrom Christy Wilson Nutrition. [5] Tajin: Buy a bottle of mix your own (see bingrediengs below; photo courtesy PicClick). [6] Mix it into condiments, from ketchup to honey (photo of cheese board courtesy Martha Stewart Living).

 

Mankind has been combining sweet and spicy flavors since ancient times…and up to just yesterday (2016), when Doritos Spicy Sweet Chili tortilla chips appeared on store shelves.

The combination of sweet heat has been part of global cuisines from Asia to Mexico. If you’ve never sprinkled a mango or lime paleta—a Mexican ice pop—with spicy heat, you’ve been missing out!

Cultures around the world variously use black pepper, chiles, horseradish, mustard, wasabi and white pepper for heat.

Whatever the combination with whatever sweet element (agave, honey, sugar, fruit), after an initial bite of sweet, the heat builds into a kick: a combination that appeals to many.

For Cinco de Mayo, we’re focusing on the famous heat of Latin America: hot chiles (all about chiles).

At the restaurant level, sweet and spicy has been showcased in casual fare (burgers, chicken wings, pizza), chocolate (bars, bonbons, desserts and spicy hot chocolate).

Ketchup and other sweet condiments are good candidates to combine sweet and heat.

Small manufacturers have long been featuring sweet and spicy, from jerky flavors to rice chips, tortilla chips and crackers.

Even chocolate bars, a standard bearer for sweet, has been combined with spicy for at least 20 years. Today, you’ll find this combination in everything from savory Mexican mole sauce to desserts.

In fact, the first chocolate consumed—an Aztec beverage for the elite—ground roasting cacao beans, with and vanilla—plus chiles, allspice and spicy petals from a local tree (Cymbopetalum penduliflorum, a member of the custard apple family known in English as sacred earflower.

While honey only arrived with the Conquistadors in 1519, the local agave sap was not used as a sweetener.

SWEET & HEAT PAIRINGS

Some of our favorites:

  • Cocktails: start with fruity (mango, pineapple) and look online for tons of ideas
  • Fresh fruit slices (including cucumber) and fruit salad (sprinkled)
  • Fruit sauces for proteins (chicken, duck, pork, turkey)
  • Fruit sauces for desserts (mango, orange, pineapple)
  • Ketchup and other sweet condiments (barbecue sauce, chutney, honey, glaze, hot pepper jelly, fruit preserves, maple syrup, marinade, teriyaki sauce)
  • Mexican hot chocolate
  • Red salsa with chopped berries, mango, stone fruits (e.g. peaches), pineapple
  • Spicy cheese (pepper jack, cheddar with habanero, horseradish or jalapeño) or fresh-to-aged cheesewith spicy honey
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    Why sweet heat? Why now?

    More and more Americans are enjoying spicier foods, due to the growth in popularity of International cuisines (not just Mexican, but Indian, Thai and numerous others).

    They ported the sweet-heat combinations found in ethnic dishes to provide a more complex depth of flavor to traditional, European-based foods.

  • When sweet is added to spice, the heat is mitigated, allowing the taste of the spice to be better captured and appreciated without burning one’s taste buds.
  • When spice is added to sweet, it gives food an unexpected kick.
  • Mexican hot chocolate, anyone?

    If you’re ready for some sweet heat, start with a spice mix. You can play with hot sauce and sliced of pureed jalapeños later.

    Mix your own hot spice blend (more about that below), or buy a bottle of Tajin seasoning.

    WHAT IS TAJIN SEASONING?

    Made by Tajin Products, a Mexican company, this mildly spicy seasoning combines chili, lime and salt. It is delicious on fruits: citrus, cucumber, melon, and tropical fruit (mango, papaya, pineapple, etc.); and in cooked fruit recipes.

    It’s a versatile seasoning. In addition to its popularity as a glass rimmer for cocktails or juice drinks, try it on:

  • Eggs
  • Fries
  • Ice pops and sorbet
  • Popcorn
  • Proteins
  • Mozzarella sticks
  • Salads
  • Vegetables and grains
  • Wherever you want a kick of heat
  •  
    A Mexican staple, you can find Tajin seasoning in the Mexican foods aisle in supermarkets, in Latin American food stores, and online.

    If you want to make your own, mix lime zest with cayenne, chile flakes, chile powder, jalapeño—or go beyond Mexico to layer on international heat: black pepper (India), horseradish (Mediterranean), hot paprika (Spanish Basque region), mustard powder (China) or wasabi (Japan).

    You can add yet another layer your spice mix—perhaps some cumin or curry powder.

     
    THE SENSORY CHARACTERISTICS OF SPICES

    Spices don’t have a single flavor profile: They have several. Thanks to Spices Inc. for this analysis of the 15 most commonly used sensory characteristics when describing the flavor and aroma profiles of spices.

    Both spices and herbs are obtained from plants.

  • Spices are seeds, fruits, roots, barks, or other plant substances, primarily used for flavoring, coloring or preserving food.
  • Herbs are the leaves, flowers, or stems of plants, used for flavoring or as a garnish.
  • While pepper is a spice (it’s the fruit of a vine), salt is neither an herb nor a spice. It is a mineral, mined underground (from ancient, dry lake beds) or evaporated from sea water (i.e., sea salt). It is thus not included with these taste characteristics, as its flavor in foods doesn’t come from spices (or herbs).
  •  
    Spices have secondary functions as well, for coloring and as a preservative, antioxidant or medicine. The focus here is on their culinary uses: flavor and color.
     
    THE SENSORY CHARACTERISTICS OF SPICES

    The flavors:

  • Bitter: ajwain, bay leaf, celery, clove, cumin, epazote, fenugreek seeds, horseradish, juniper, lavender, mace, marjoram, oregano, savory, Sichuan peppercorns, star anise, turmeric, thyme.
  • Cooling: anise, fennel, sweet basil.
  • Earthy: achiote, cumin, saffron, turmeric.
  • Floral: coriander, lemongrass, rose petals, saffron, sweet basil thyme.
  • Fruity: anise, fennel, nigella, savory, star anise, tamarind.
  • Herbaceous: dill weed, lavender, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, savory, tarragon and thyme
  • Hot: black pepper, chiles, horseradish, mustard, wasabi, white pepper.
  • Nutty: ajwain, black cardamom, coriander seed, cumin seed, fenugreek seeds, mustard seed,poppy seed, sesame seed.
  • Piney: bay leaf, rosemary thyme.
  • Pungent: allspice, epazote, garlic, ginger, grains of paradise, horseradish, marjoram, mustard, onion, paprika, spearmint, star anise, wasabi.
  • Sour: amchur, pomegranate, sumac, tamarind.
  • Spicy: bay leaf, cassia cinnamon, clove, coriander, cumin, curry leaf, ginger, marjoram, nutmeg.
  • Sulfury: asafoetida, chives, garlic, onion.
  • Sweet: allspice, anise, caraway, cassia cinnamon, chervil, clove, dill seed, fennel, green cardamom, nutmeg, poppy seed, sesame seed, star anise.
  • Woody: cardamom, Ceylon cinnamon, clove, juniper, lavender, rosemary, Sichuan peppercorns.
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    RECIPE: Strawberry Pistachio Nougat + Nougat History

    If your Mother’s Day celebration includes nougat fans, whip up a batch of this Strawberry Pistachio Nougat from chef and cookbook author Samir Nosrat.

    Nougat (U.S. pronunciation: NOO-got, French pronounciation NOO-gah) is a family of chewy confections made with sugar or honey, roasted nuts, whipped egg whites, and sometimes, chopped candied fruit (photo #7, below).

    It can be cut into rectangles or squares, broken into irregular pieces like toffee or dipped in chocolate (nougat bars, or enrobed bonbons.

    We saw one recipe where the nougat was cut layered onto a brownies between the cake and the frosting; and a recipe for Snickers Brownies that adds a layer of caramel as well.

    Nougat is a regular ingredient in popular candy* bars and chocolates—including those you would never suspect, because the nougat blends into a very different consistency and appearance (follow the asterisk).

    TYPES OF NOUGAT

    There are three basic kinds of nougat.

  • The most common is white nougat, photo #6 below, is known in Italy as torrone and mandorlato in Italy, turrón in Spain, and nougat (the “t” is not pronounced) in France. It is a simple recipe: beaten egg whites, and honey and nuts. It first appeared in Cologna Veneta, Italy, in the early 15th century. The first published recipe in Spain appears in Alicante, in the 16th century. The first recipe found in France is from Montélimar, in the 18th century. White nougat is used as the base for modern flavored nougats.
  • Spanish turrón follows the traditional recipe, with toasted almonds (minimum 60% almond content!), sugar, honey, and egg whites.
  • Italian torrone (photo #6) includes these same basic ingredients, using different nuts (no legal minimum) plus vanilla or citrus flavoring. It is often sandwiched between two very thin sheets of rice paper (photo #4, cocoa-flavored).
  • Venetian nougat, made in the town of Cologna Veneta is well known for its nougat production, especially the type called mandorlato. It is made from honey, sugar, egg whites and almonds (mandorle in Italian). It has a different taste and a harder bite than torrone.
  • British nougat is traditionally made in the style of the Italian and Spanish varieties. The most common industrially-produced nougat, commonly found at fairgrounds and seaside resorts, is colored pink and white, with almonds and cherries. The pink nougat is often fruit-flavored. It is sometimes wrapped in edible rice paper, which keeps stickiness from the fingers.
  • U.S. candy artisans make conventional white nougat to modern flavors and colors: black cherry, café au lait, cranberry, matcha, pumpkin and so forth. There’s even an all-American chocolate-peanut nougat (photo #5).
  •  
    The Other Types Of Nougat

  • The second is type is brown nougat, called nougat noir (NOO-gah-NWAHR) in French (which literally means black nougat). It is made without egg whites and has a firmer, often crunchy texture. See photo #8 below, which (like most of the photos) links to the recipe.
  • The third type of nougat is known as German or Viennese nougat. It contains only sugar, cocoa butter, nuts (usually hazelnuts) and cocoa mass, and has a soft consistency, similar to gianduja (chocolate and ground hazelnuts, also known as hazelnut praliné. It is often sliced from a loaf. This is the style called “nougat” in Germany and Austria, as well as in Denmark and Sweden. In the latter two countries, the original white nougat is referred to as “French nougat.” In Germany, is simply called nougat [source]. See photo #10, below.
  • ________________

    *In the U .S. alone: Baby Ruth, Big Hunk, Charleston Chews, Mars Bar, Milky Way, Pay Day, Reese’s Fast Break, Snickers, Three Musketeers, Zero Bar. However, the nougat that appears in many modern candy bars in the U.S. and U.K. is different from traditional recipes, including in several cases, the original recipes of those candy bars.

    Modern candy bar nougat is often a mixture of sucrose and corn syrup, aerated with a whipping agent such as egg white or hydrolyzed soy protein or gelatin. It may also include vegetable fats and milk powder. This type of nougat is often used as a filler by large candy companies, since it’s inexpensive to make. Typically, it is used plain or chocolate-flavored, or combined with nuts, caramel and/or chocolate to make the body of the candy bar. But some American confections feature such nougat as the primary component, rather than one of several.
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    RECIPE: STRAWBERRY PISTACHIO NOUGAT

    These are shown in photo #1 (rectangle cut) and photo #2 (square cut). Prep time is 15 minutes, cook time is 10 minutes.

    For step-by-step photo, visit ACozyKitchen.com. While you’re there, sign up for the inspiring blog feed.

    Ingredients For 14 Pieces

  • 1/2 cup freeze-dried strawberries
  • 2 1/2 cups white granulated sugar
  • 6 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large egg whites
  • Optional: 2 drops red food coloring
  • 2/3 cup chopped pistachios
  •  
    Plus

  • Loaf pan
  • Parchment or wax paper
  • Spatula, pre-sprayed with cooking spray
  •    

    Strawberry Nougat

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    Rosewater Pistachio Nougat

    Chocolate Almond Nougat

    Chocolate Peanut Nougat

    White nougat (or its colored variations) can be cut into [1] fingers or [2] squares (recipe at left; photo courtesy A Cozy Kitchen). [3] Another pink nougat; East meets West in this rosewater, pistachio and cranberry nougat. Here’s the recipe from The Healthy Cook. [4] A variation of Italian torrone with cocoa (chocolate) flavoring and almonds, with edible rice paper on the top and bottom. Here’s the recipe from Butter Baking. [5] The All-American: chocolate peanut nougat. Here’s the recipe from Kitchen Sanctuary.

     
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the freeze-dried strawberries in a food processor. Pulse until the strawberries turn into a powder (a clumpy texture is O.K.). Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.

    2. LINE a 8 x 5-inch (a 9 x 5-inch will work too) loaf pan with wax paper or parchment, making sure there are a few inches of flaps on each side (this will make the removal of the nougat super easy). Spray a spatula with cooking spray.

    3. COMBINE the sugar, corn syrup, honey, water and salt in a medium saucepan. Give it a light stir until everything dissolves; then cook until a digital thermometer reads 260°F (the hardball stage).

    4. ADD the egg whites to the bowl of a stand-up mixer (or use a hand-mixer) and beat on low until they begin to get frothy and eventually turn into stiff peaks. While beating the stiff egg whites at low, slowly pour in the sugar syrup (step 3). Immediately add the powdered strawberries.

    5. TURN the speed of the mixer to high and beat until the candy starts to thicken and hold a bit of shape, 4 to 5 minutes. Pour in the pistachios and transfer the nougat to the loaf pan, using the pre-sprayed spatula—the nougat will be sticky.

    6. TOP with a sheet of wax paper. Press the top of the wax paper down to the surface so the top of the nougat will be smooth and even. Allow to set at room temperature for about 2 hours. When the nougat has set…

    7. LIFT up the sides the wax paper, remove the top sheet and spray a sharp knife with cooking spray. Cut up the nougat with a sharp knife into slices or 1 x 1-inch cubes.

    Nougat will stay fresh for a week when kept in an airtight container.

     

    Pistachio Nougat

    White Chocolate Nougat With Nuts & Candied Fruits

    Nougat Noir With Hazelnuts

    Brown Nougat

    German Nougat

    [6] Classic vanilla nougat with nuts (here, pistachios, although almonds are common and any nut can be used). Here’s the recipe from Aran Goyoaga, Canelle et Vanille. [7] White chocolate nougat with nuts and fruits. Photo © Elizabeth LaBau. Here’s the recipe from The Spruce. [8] Brown nougat, a.k.a. nougat noir, with hazelnuts. Here’s the recipe (in French) from Les Foodies, and [9] a loaf recipe recipe (in Italian) from Tavolarte Gusto). [10] German or Viennese nougat: hazelnut praline (photo courtesy Juergen Jeibmann | German Wikipedia).

     

    THE HISTORY OF NOUGAT

    The French word nougat, adopted by English speakers, comes from Occitan (dialect of Provence, France) pan nogat, likely derived from the Latin panis nucatus, nut bread. In late colloquial Latin, the adjective nucatum means nutted or nutty.

    The earliest known recipes for white nougat, which probably came from Central Asia, have been found in the Middle East.

    A 10th century book from Baghdad (in modern Iraq) calls the recipe natif. One of the recipes indicates that the it comes from Harran, a city located between Urfa, now in southeast Turkey. Another comes from Aleppo, in Syria.

    Mention of natif is found in works from the triangle between Urfa, Aleppo and Baghdad.

    At the end of the 10th century, the traveler and geographer Ibn Hawqal wrote that he ate some natif in Manbij (in modern Syria) and Bukhara (in modern Uzbekistan) [source].

    When it reached southern Europe, notably Italy and Spain, nougat (called, respectively, torrone and turrón) was a specialty associated with the Christmas season.

    Next Stop: Renaissance Italy

    Thanks to Flamingi, makers of fine Italian nougat, for helping us to continue the story.

    We start with a tale, likely apocryphal. It takes place in the city of Cremona, in the northern Italian region of Lombardy. On October 25, 1441: Bianca Maria Visconti was married to Francesco Sforza. The union allowed the Sforza family to dominate the Duchy of Milan for the next half century.

    According to the story, nougat (torrone) was first created for the wedding feast.

    It was made in it the shape of the Torrazzo, the bell tower of the Cremona cathedral. The claim is that torrone derives from “Torrazzo” (but wait….)

    Is the story too good to be true? Yes: It seems to have been cited for the first time in a monograph published by the Chamber of Commerce of Cremona in 1914.

    Earlier Claims From The Other End Of Italy

    Let’s head south, to Benevento, the main town of the ancient Sannio region (in Latin, Samnium) in the southern part of Italy in what is now Campania. The people there lay claim to have having invented torrone.

    As proof, they refer to the Roman historian Livy (Titus Livius, 59 B.C.E. to 17 C.E.) and the Roman poet Martial (Marcus Valerius Martialis, 40 C.E. to 104 C.E.), claiming that these ancients documented in their writings the existence of nougat in that area, called cupedia.

    However, in this digitized world, research cannot find a mention of cupedia. There is a similar Latin word, cuppedia, that does not appear in the writings of Livy and Martial.

    Cuppedia can be translated as the deadly sin of gluttony, or as a delicacy. But what type of delicacy?

    Italy As The Origin Gets Very Confusing

    In various Italian dialects there are similar words: cupeta, copeta, copata and coppetta, which identify sweets similar to nougat or croccante, a product made with almonds or hazelnuts bound with caramelized sugar.

    Cupeta and torrone are traditional products not only in Sannio, but also in Abruzzo, Calabria, Emilia Romagna, Lazio, Lombardy, Marche, Molise, Piedmont, Puglia, Sardinia, Tuscany, Valtellina, Veneto and finally, in Sicily, where croccante is called cubbaita.

    That’s a lot of territory, for one to claim to be “the first” to invent torrone, absent any documentation.

    By the 16th century, however, torrone is documented for sale in some apothecaries. Earlier, by the 15th century, turrón is documented in Spain.

    The Spanish word, turrón, is quite similar to the Italian word torrone, and its most reliable source can be found in the Latin verb torrere, which means to toast (the nuts).

    So take that, Torrazo bell tower of the Cremona cathedral! Take that, Benevento. We’re sticking with the Middle East, around the 10th century.

    Back To The Middle East

    References there to “roasted seeds kept together by a sweet paste” can equally refer to other products produced in many countries, starting with the Middle Eastern halva, made from ground sesame seeds and honey.

    Some scholars suggest it originated before the 12th century, in Byzantium, and is documented at least by the 13th century—so nougat/natif is older.

    Similar roasted seeds or nuts bound with a sweet paste can be found in other Middle Eastern Countries, as well as in the Slavic countries, and as far away as India.

    While the earliest residents of the Middle East ate dates and figs and honey† as their “candy,” their descendants combined ingredients into more complex sweets.

     
    Now, we just need someone to dig up documented information in Central Asia (from the Caspian Sea in the west to China in the east, from Afghanistan in the south to Russia in the north) to discover the first mention of nougat—whatever it was called there.

    Honey: The Oldest Candy

    Archaeologists have found beehive colonies in Israel, dating from the 10th to early 9th centuries B.C.E. [source].

    But honey is far older than mankind—very far.

    Honeybees first appeared during the Cretaceous Period, about 130 million years ago, in the area around what is now India.

    But it was during a Pleistocene warming about 2-3 million years ago, that the honeybee spread west into Europe and then Africa (still no mankind†), stopping in the Middle East en route [source].
     
     
    DO YOU LIKE FOOD HISTORY?

    THE NIBBLE has written some 200 histories of foods, beverages, and cooking techniques.

    Some are just a couple of paragraphs, some are as long as the history above, and most are in-between.

    You can find all the links on our food histories page.

    ________________

    †Species of early Homonids appeared in Africa about 2 million years ago and went extinct, as did all the other hominid lines before Homo sapiens. The modern species of Homo appeared about 600,000 years ago in Africa and migrated from there to Europe and Asia. The Neanderthals appeared in Europe about 130,000 years ago, distinguished by their manufacture of diverse tools and evidence of symbolic thinking. [source].

    Thus far, the earliest discovery of modern Homo sapiens skeletons come from Africa and date to nearly 200,000 years ago. They appear in Southwest Asia around 100,000 years ago and elsewhere in the Old World by 60,000-40,000 years ago [source].

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Tricolor (Multicolor) Tortilla Chips

    Today’s tip is to make Cinco de Mayo (and any celebration) more colorful with tri-color taco chips.

    Some brands sell them in mixed-color bags. Or you can buy your favorite brand in different colors and mix them yourself.

    Tortilla chips, such a popular snack food and dip holder, is a relatively new Tex-Mex food, created in 1940s Los Angeles by Rebecca Webb Carranza, who owned a tortilla shop and Mexican delicatessen.

    THE HISTORY OF TORTILLA CHIPS

    Rebecca Webb was born in Durango, Mexico in 1907, to Leslie Webb, an engineer from Utah who worked for an American mining company in Mexico, and his Mexican-born wife, Eufemia Miranda.

    In Durango, her family, including five brothers lived through the turmoil of raids by Pancho Villa and other bandits. Pancho Villa especially did not like her father, because he was American.

    Leslie Webb moved the family moved to El Paso, Texas when Rebecca was a pre-teen. After her parents divorced, in the 1920s, her mother brought the children to Los Angeles. She met her future husband, Mario Carranza, on a blind date, and they married in 1931.

    At that time, she was sewing ties for a neckwear company, and he worked in finance at O’Keefe & Merritt, an appliance maker. On the advice of a friend who ran a successful tortilla shop in East Los Angeles, the Carranzas opened one in the early 1940s and moved into an apartment above the tortilla factory and shop. [source: L.A. Times].

    The deli sold fresh tortillas daily. In the tortilla factory, she observed the daily waste of misshapen tortillas and leftover dough that were discarded.

    She set out to do something with the discarded tortillas.

    According to the Boston Globe, for a family party in the late 1940s, Ms. Carranza cut some of the discarded tortillas into triangles and fried them into a delicious, crunchy snack.

    A hit with the relatives, she soon was selling them for a dime a bag at her delicatessen, and at the factory that made them for her in southwest Los Angeles.

    From Handmade To Conveyor Belt

    Tortillas met the machine age in the late 1940s. The Carranza’s El Zarape Tortilla Factory was among the first to automate the production of tortillas, acquiring a tortilla-making machine in 1947.

    Tortillas poured off the conveyor belt more than 12 times faster than they could be made by hand.

    At first many, came out bent or misshapen, recalled decades later, and were thrown away. So we can thank tortilla machinery for the existence of taco chips.

    The chips Ms. Carranza created were initially called tostadas, from the Spanish word for toasted.

    Tortilla chips became a wild success among her customers. In addition to snacking from the bag, they were used with Mexican dips such as guacamole and salsa, and even with refried beans.

    By the 1960s, the snack chips, packaged as Tortills Chips, were distributed up and down the West Coast by El Zarape, and had evolved into El Zarape’s primary business.

    Competition Arrives

    The product came to the notice of Frito-Lay, which began making their a mass-market version of the crunchy triangles. Soon, other manufacturers got into the act.

    She turned her tortilla chip business over to her husband when they divorced in 1951, and he moved the factory to Long Beach. But by 1967, El Zarape was forced out of business by competition the superior marketing clout of Doritos and Fritos.

       

    Pumpkin Salsa Tricolor Tortilla Chips

    Tricolor Tortilla Chips With Dips

    Tricolor Tortilla Chips Bag

    Multicolor Tortilla Chips

    [1] Tricolor chips with pumpkin salsa from The Veg Life. [2] Tricolor chips with dips (crema, guacamole, salsa) from Tastespotting. [3] A bag of mixed chips from Abuelita’s [4] We mix and match our own colors with one of our favorite brands of tortilla chips, Food Should Taste Good. Beyond the mixed colors and shapes, there are eight different flavors, from traditional to jalapeño, kimchi and olive.

     
    In 1994 and 1995, Ms. Carranza was among the 20 Tex-Mex industry innovators honored with the Golden Tortilla Award, which was given by Azteca Milling of Irving, Texas.

    The hard-working Ms. Carranza worked in East Los Angeles into her 80s, first as a meat wrapper at grocery stores and then as a U.S. Census taker. She had three more relatively brief marriages, and in 2003, at the age of 95, moved to Phoenix to be near her family: 2 sons, 12 grandchildren, 19 great-grandchildren and 2 two great-great-grandchildren. She passed away at the age of 98.

    All of her descendants and take great pride that their abuela invented tortilla chips.

    It’s a nice story to share with a glass of beer and tortilla chips.

     

    Tex Mex Scrambled Eggs

    Nacho Hot Dogs

    Use leftover chips in [5] Tex-Mex scrambled eggs, [6] nacho hot dogs, and more everyday foods.

     

    MORE USES FOR TORTILLA CHIPS

    Whole chips, broken chips and the crumbs at the bottom of the bag, can all be repurposed to add crunch and flavor to everyday recipes. Some ideas:

    Burger crunch: taco-rubbed burgers with avocado and tortilla chips. Use this recipe from Kraft to season the burger meat; then add layers of avocado and broken taco chips.

    Casserole toppings: broken and crushed tortilla chip pieces are a great casserole topper. Here’s a recipe for Chicken Tortilla Casserole from Kristin’s Kitchen.

    Cheesy casseroles, like this Ranch Black Bean and Veggie Tortilla Casserole recipe from Mom Foodie.

    Chili Topping: Use the chips or crumbs for a chili topping, like this Salsa Verde White Chicken Chili recipe from The Comfort Of Cooking.

    Crusted Chicken, Fish & Seafood, like this Taco-Crusted Scallops recipe from The Woks Of Life.

    Egg Scrambles
    , like this Mexican Egg and Sweet Potato Breakfast Scramble recipe from Taste And Tell Blog.

    Hot Dog Topping, like this Nacho Hot Dogs recipe from A Spicy Perspective.

    Salad topping, from green salad and potato salad to Tex-Mex salads like this Chopped Taco Salad recipe from Cinnamon Spice And Everything Nice.

    Vegetable tots, like potato or this recipe for Tortilla-Chip Crusted Cauliflower Tots from Mom What’s For Dinner Blog.

     

      

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    RECIPE: Baked Churros

    You don’t have to wait until Cinco de Mayo to make a batch of churros.

    But this lesser-guilt recipe for baked churros (instead of fried), from The Baker Chick, is reason enough to serve them anytime.

    The recipe is below, but first:

    THE HISTORY OF CHURROS

    According to Fox News Latino, churros evolved from a Chinese cruller* (youtiao). Portuguese sailors discovered them them on their Far East voyages, which reached China in the early 16th century.

    They brought the recipe home with them. The recipe spread to Spain, and the Spanish improved on the concept by passing the dough through a star-shaped tip prior to frying.

    In addition to the eye appeal, the signature ridges created by the tip turned out to be superior for holding dipping sauces: an improvement over the original.

    The name may have derived from the Spanish word for coarse or rough, churro. Certainly, these fried, ridged pastries were rougher than the finer works of pastry chefs.

    The churros were dusted in cinnamon and sugar, and dipped in chocolate sauce, and enjoyed at breakfast with café con leche or hot chocolate, the latter also developed in Spain in the 16th century.

    Churros arrived in what is now Mexico in the 16th century, via the Spanish conquistadors.

    While traveling from country to country, the churro was enhanced, from guava-filled churros in Cuba, the dulce de leche-filled churros in Mexico and cheese-filled churros in Uruguay.

    Dulce de leche, a popular sauce for churros, was invented in Argentina in the 19th century. The first historical reference to the Argentinian dessert comes from a peace meeting between military leaders in 1829.

    According to legend, dulce de leche was produced by accident when the maid was cooking some milk and sugar and was unexpectedly called away. Upon her return, the mixture had transformed into a thick, brown consistency (not very different from caramel sauce, which is made with sugar, cream and butter).

    The “new dessert” was called dulce de leche, a milk sweet [confection]. Today it is usually made with sweetened condensed milk (which did not exist at the time).

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    *The Chinese cruller, youtiao, also popular in, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam.

    †There is also a story about nomadic Spanish shepherds developing churros while tending their flocks in the mountains. There are breeds of Spanish sheep called the navajo-churro and the churra, the horns of which are said to look similar to the fried pastry. If the shepherds did mak4e churros, it was more likely after they spread through Spain.
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    RECIPE: BAKED CHURROS

    Ingredients For 18-20 Churros

  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs‡
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ cup cinnamon sugar
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter (or cooking spray)
  • Optional dipping sauce(s): chocolate sauce or fondue, dulce de leche, caramel sauce
  •  
    Plus

  • Piping bag with large star tip
  •    

    Churros With Chocolate Fondue

    Churros In Doily

    Churros In Basket

    [1] Churros, shown here with fruit dippers and spicy chocolate fondue (here’s the recipe from McCormick).[2] Two ways to serve churros: nicely arranged in a doily at Soccarat Paella Bar in New York City, and [3] in a basket, at King Arthur Flour.

     

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    ‡If you don’t have large eggs, use what you have but aim for 2/3 cup of egg. A larger amount could yield more watery dough.

     

    Baked Churros Recipe

    Baked Churros Recipe

    [4] and [5] Churros made with this recipe from The Baker Chick.

       
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. In a medium saucepan combine the butter, salt and water. Bring to a boil over medium high heat.

    2. REMOVE from the heat add the flour; stir to combine. The mixture will thicken and start to resemble the texture of mashed potatoes.

    3. LEAVE the dough in the saucepan, but beat it on low with a hand mixer, adding one egg at a time and mixing well before adding another. After adding each egg, the mixture will become wet and glossy, but after mixing on high for a few seconds it will thicken again. When all the eggs are are combined…

    4. ADD the vanilla. The dough will be thick and starchy, still with a similar texture to mashed potatoes. Spoon the dough into a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip. Lightly spray a cookie sheet and pipe 6-inch rows of the dough with at least 1 inch between each churro.

    5. BAKE in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and crispy. Remove from the oven, brush the warm churros with melted butter or spray lightly, and place in a shallow baking dish. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and shake the dish to make sure they are well-coated.

    Churros are best enjoyed warm. If they cool to room temperature, give them 30 seconds in the microwave.
     
     
    MORE CHURROS RECIPES

  • Chocolate Churros REcipe
  • Churros With Three Chiles Fondue (Spicy Fondue)
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    RECIPE: Homemade Tortillas

    Want to make homemade tortillas for Cinco de Mayo?

    Practice this weekend with this recipe from King Arthur Flour. They’re so much more authentic than the flat-pressed commercial versions.

    Although traditionally made with lard, these tortillas are equally delicious using butter, shortening or vegetable oil as the fat.

    This is also a flour tortilla version. The originals were made with corn flour, until wheat flour arrived with the Spanish in the 16th century. If you prefer a corn flour version, here’s a recipe and video from Mexican food specialist chef Rick Bayless, plus more about corn tortilla.

    The resting period improves the texture of the dough by giving the flour time to absorb the water. It also gives the gluten time to relax, making the tortillas easier to roll out.

    You may extend the resting, or skip it altogether if you don’t have the time—the recipe is pretty forgiving. The tortillas will roll out and stay thinner if you include the rest, though.

    If there are leftovers, allow them to cool completely, then wrap tightly in plastic and store in the refrigerator. Reheat in an ungreased skillet, or for a few seconds in the microwave.

    Prep time is 15 minutes, cook time is 15 to 25 minutes.

    RECIPE: HOMEMADE TORTILLAS

    Ingredients For 8 Eight-Inch Tortillas

  • 2-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus additional as needed
  • 1/4 cup lard (traditional); or butter, shortening, or vegetable oil
  • 7/8 to 1 cup hot tap water (about 110°F to 120°F)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MAKE the dough: In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
    Add the lard (or butter, or shortening; if you’re using vegetable oil, add it in step 3). Use your fingers or a pastry blender to work the fat into the flour until it disappears. Coating most of the flour with fat inhibits gluten formation, making the tortillas easier to roll out.

    2. POUR in the lesser amount of hot water (plus the oil, if you’re using it), and stir briskly with a fork or whisk to bring the dough together into a shaggy mass. Stir in additional water as needed to bring the dough together.

    3. TURN the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and knead briefly, just until the dough forms a ball. If the dough is very sticky, gradually add a bit more flour.

    4. DIVIDE the dough into 8 pieces. Round the pieces into balls, flatten slightly and allow them to rest, covered, for about 30 minutes. If you wish, coat each ball lightly in oil before covering to ensure that the dough doesn’t dry out. While the dough rests…

    5. PREHEAT an ungreased cast iron griddle or skillet over medium high heat, about 400°F. Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll into a round about 8″ in diameter. Keep the remaining dough covered while you work. Fry the tortilla in the ungreased pan for about 30 seconds on each side.

    6. WRAP the tortillas in a clean cloth when they come off the griddle, to keep them pliable. Repeat with the remaining dough balls.

    TORTILLA HISTORY

    The mainstay of the Mexican diet was, and still is, the corn* tortilla, made with indigenous corn from prehistoric times. Excavations in the valley of Valle de Tehuac, in Sierra Mountains in the state of Puebla, date their use to more than seven thousand years [source].

     

    Homemade Tortillas Recipe

    King Arthur Flour

    Woman Grinding Maize by Diego Rivera

    'Tortilla Maker' by Diego Rivera

    [1] and [2] Mmm…homemade tortillas. They’re so much more flavorful than most store-bought varieties (photo courtesy King Arthur Flour). [3] “Women Grinding Maize” by Diego Rivera. [4] “Tortilla-Maker” by Diego Rivera (photos of paintings courtesy Diego Rivera Foundation).

     

    The corn used was a very small wild cob (that was bred, by 3000 B.C.E., into the large ears we know today), ground corn foods, along with roots and fruits plus hunting, comprised the diet.

    The cooking process is little changed today. Corn kernels are cooked with lime to remove the husk (known as nixtamalization), then ground on a stone slab with a grinding stone (photo #3). The dough is formed into small round balls that make the individual tortillas, and patted out by hand into thin round cakes (photo #4) and cooked over a fire (today, homemade versions use a skillet on a stove top).

    For tamales, the cake is placed in an unbaked tortilla, filled and wrapped in a corn husk for cooking.

    When Hernan Cortez and his conquistadors arrived in the New World in 1519, they discovered that flat corn breads were a staple Aztec food. In the Aztec’s Nahuatl language, the word for them was tlaxcalli (pronounced tih-lax-CAH-leee. The Spanish gave them the name tortilla.

    Technology arrived centuries later, in the 1940s, when the use of small gas engines and electric motors became widespread to power grinders for making masa (the ground corn). A hand press became used to form the masa into tortillas.
     
    By the 1960s, small-scale tortilla-making machines could churn out hot, steaming tortillas every two seconds—quote a change from the hours they took to make before modern times.
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    *Wheat flour only arrived in the 16th century, with the Conquistadors, and became popular in Mexican/U.S. border cooking. By the time Spaniards reached the shores of what is now Mexico in the 1400s, indigenous Mesoamericans had a sophisticated and flavorful cuisine based on native fruits, game, cultivated beans and corn and domesticated turkeys.

      

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