Global Cuisine

limesaltchips.jpgCorn tortillas come in such huge bags, I don't know how can you possibly use them all. Buying one of those packages, though they are cheap, is a major commitment in my house. It means weeks of enchiladas, tacos, chilaquiles and when I run out of ideas, tortilla chips or totopos as they are known in Mexico. I love the word totopos, even though it sounds a bit too much like the Italian name of a certain well-known cartoon mouse.

Traditionally totopos are tortillas cut into triangular wedges that are deep fried in oil. If there is one thing I just can't bring myself to do, it's deep fry anything in oil. I just can't. Don't ask me. So here is what I do instead, I bake the tortillas. Baking doesn't make them as light, crispy and decadent as frying, but they are still yummy and as a bonus you can enjoy them with very little guilt.

If you look for tortilla chips in the store, you'll find they come in all kinds of flavors. With a little experimenting I found you can make great lime and salt flavored chips with--you guessed it, lime and salt! Eat them plain, with salsa or with toppings like guacamole, refried beans and crumbly Mexican cheese. Are you getting hungry yet? Because I sure am.

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sopapaillas.jpgThere are just some things that instantly take me back to my childhood. Sopaipillas do that to me every time. Made by my grandmother, the tender warm pillows of fried dough were sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and drizzled with honey and always disappeared within minutes. She would encourage us to eat them immediately while they were still warm, but it was always said with a wink in her eye – she knew we couldn’t keep our hands off them until there was an empty plate of grease-laden cinnamon-scented crumbs.

My grandmother was the best cook I have ever known (next to my mom, of course!). She was in the kitchen every day and her way with food was astonishing, no matter what she prepared.  But unlike her rice and beans, sopaipillas were for special events (as were her bunuelos, too). It was usually Christmas or New Year’s Eve when she would make dough and fry it in her cast iron skillet, and I always wondered why we had to wait so long. To a child eleven months might as well be an eternity.

Traveling the world you’re bound to find various versions of hot-oil-meets-dough desserts, whether it be beignets, youtiao, malasadas, loukoumades or gulab jamun.  Unfortunately I adore every single one of them. But sopaipillas top my list, and not just because of their familial significance but also because they are among the most basic of all fried dough desserts. A very simple dough puffs up in the hot oil in a matter of minutes, and when drizzled with honey it’s pure nirvana.

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TART.chilirell.slice .sm Generally, on Cinco de Mayo, we go out to one of two of our favorite Mexican restaurants. I grew up going to Casa Vega. It truly is, in my opinion, the best, authentic restaurant in Los Angeles. The enchilada sauce is perfection, the crispy tacos with shredded beef cannot be beat, and the margaritas kick your butt. More importantly, it holds a whole lot of nostalgia for me. Another favorite is Lucy’s Cafe El Adobe. There is really nothing better than their bar-b-q beef tacos!

This year we are eating home. I have planned a festive meal to share with my family and I am making some of our favorites. Along with our favorites, I wanted to make something new. What I really wanted to make was chile rellenos. I don’t even order chili rellenos in a restaurant, but I had an anchoring to make these.

I looked through my Diana Kennedy Cookbook, a book I have had for over 30 years. I have made several of her recipes, but she did not really have a chile relleno recipe. Sooooo, I turned to the trusty Internet. I searched Saveur, Food & Wine, Cooking Light, and Epicurious. Epicurious was the winner. I found this recipe for a tart and I immediately knew that I wanted to make this dish.

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GRILLEDSALMONIn other places in the world, September is the month that the heat of summer gives way to the welcome chill of fall.  Sadly for those of us in L.A., September is just a cruel extension of August…but with more traffic.

And if you, like me, are looking to keep the heat out of the kitchen this fall, here’s another skinny dish you can make on the grill that’s easy enough for a weeknight supper yet festive enough for a weekend party: Southwestern Spiced Salmon with Black Bean, Cucumber and Mango Salsa.

Without much effort (unless you consider opening a can of beans a work-out), this delicious dinner can be made on the fly in less than 30 minutes.  Or, if you’re cooking for a crowd, the salmon can be seasoned and the salsa can be prepared ahead and you can have dinner plated and served in just 20!

But the real magic isn’t just how easy it is…it’s how satisfying and nutritious it is…

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fishtacosPanko crusted fish tacos, with a Chipotle-Lime Mayo and Chipotle Spiced Corn....sheer yumminess. Best of all was the Wild Alaskan Halibut I received from the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute

I'm not sure I could compare the halibut I received to any I have had before. It was a beautiful 2- pound fillet, perfect for making into fish tacos. I have always loved halibut, the texture is just right, and it has a sweet mild flavor, which makes it perfect for a family meal. No complaints of a fishy taste from the munchkins. 

Eating seafood from a sustainable source is also something we should all be practicing. Alaskan seafood is some of the most sustainable fish in the world, ensuring continued healthy fish for generations to come.

I sliced my halibut fillet into fairly even pieces, breaded them and pan fried them. This size works perfect in a soft taco shell and these also double as a fish stick if you have little ones who are not fond of tacos.

Dinner comes together so easily when you have amazing food to work with, wouldn't you agree?

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