Categories
Mucho Gusto

Sopaipillas: The Famous Chilean Winter Treat

Having lived the first few years of my life in Chile, there are a couple of memories that come to mind. One of the most prominent being all the snowy (or rainy) winter evenings spent eating sopaipillas as a family. It was our favorite thing as kids, whenever the weather was gloomy or the streets were covered in snow, because we knew that meant a trip to “Los Saldes”, our favorite bakery. As soon as we heard our dad’s car pull up to the driveway we would rush to the door and jump up and down in anticipation. He would walk into the house, greet us with a bear hug, put his work bag on the counter, and off to “Los Saldes” we went. 

The bakery was always packed: as if getting sopaipillas on a cold winter day was a nation-wide family tradition – which it was in a way. Sopaipillas, a fried squash pastry dusted with powdered sugar, is a common Chilean comfort food during the winter. After school or work chileans everywhere rush home or to a bakery to eat the famous winter treat. When we lived in Chile, “Los Saldes” was our tradition, but once we moved to Perú and couldn’t find our country’s treat in any of the bakeries, a new tradition was born where I would make sopaipillas for our family at home. And let me tell you, the winter pick-me-up is a pretty simple recipe to make. 

Ingredients:

500 g squash

500 g wheat flour

2 tsp baking powder 

1 tsp salt

3 tbsp melted butter

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit 
  2. Wash the squash thoroughly and remove the seeds. 
  3. Chop the squash into big chunks and place it in the preheated oven for 15 minutes or until cooked through
  4. Remove the squash from the oven and blend it until you obtain a puree
  5. Place the puree in a bowl and set aside to cool
  6. In another bowl sift together the flour, salt, and baking powder and mix to combine
  7. Incorporate the squash puree and the melted butter into the flour mixture
  8. With your hands, unify all the ingredients until a smooth dough forms
  9. Form a ball and place in a covered bowl to rise
  10. Let the dough rest for 20 minutes
  11. Once the dough has risen, knead it on a clean and floured surface 
  12. Stretch the dough with a rolling pin until it is about half a centimeter thick
  13. With a glass or a circular mold, cut out circular shapes
  14. Add vegetable oil to a pan and put it on medium heat
  15. Fry the sopaipillas until golden or about two minutes per side
  16. Place the fried sopaipillas on a sheet of paper to absorb excess oil
  17. Dust the sopaipillas with powered sugar and enjoy!
Categories
Mucho Gusto

An Ode to Yuca: Garlic Mashed Yuca

A small, white mountain of creamy, smooth, garlicky goodness sits atop my mother’s blue floral plate. Heaping spoonfuls of the sustenance are passed around the dining table—the meal cannot begin without the stellar accompaniment. It’s simple, comforting, and well-loved, like a grandmother’s handmade quilt. Looking down at our plates, the soulful food is a tribute to remind us of other homes, lands away, of customs and cultures we embrace, despite being out of reach. Sometimes, a white fluffy mound of savory, starchy, stick-to-your-ribs food is the best thing to reach the heart. We enjoy our beloved yucca dish in solidarity, grinning as we taste the flavors of a warm welcome home. 

You may have heard of this dish at your favorite local Cuban restaurant. I, too, have marveled at the magic of mashed garlic yucca with my dad at our favorite spot. Beautifully complementary, aromatic garlic and hints of salt zing my taste buds as the warm mashed consistency caresses them. Whatever excited debate or chatter we had going on before the unassuming dish came out has ceased as we savor in silence. Our wide eyes and full mouths hint that we can’t help but agree—this dish is superior to any mashed potato recipe we’ve encountered. 

Yucca is a root vegetable that my grandmother prepares often. As mentioned, this dish, in particular, is well-known in Cuban cuisine, but cooking with yucca has been a staple in Mama Silvia’s Guatemalan cooking for years, as it’s popular throughout Latin America. It’s a great substitute for potatoes, with a mild taste and starchy texture. Thus, it’s highly versatile and can be enjoyed in a variety of ways; at home, we frequently eat it boiled for a quick and easy side, but it’s also commonly roasted or fried. So, with Thanksgiving right around the corner, why not swap out the traditional bowl of mashed potatoes for something a little more interesting yet just as flavorful and comforting? With powerful punches of garlic sure to awaken the senses amidst buttery, savory yucca, this silky side just might become the star of the show.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large yucca root, peeled and chopped
  • 4-5 cups bone broth
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, roasted and smashed
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1-2 tablespoons butter
  • ½ teaspoon salt (more to taste)
  • ½ teaspoon pepper (more to taste)

Directions:

Start by trimming the ends of the yucca root on a cutting board with a sharp knife. Then, cut it into quarters. It will require a bit of pressure, as it’s a similar experience to cutting a squash. The cross-section should show firm, white flesh. Stand the sections on their cut faces, trim off the skin, and cut off both layers. Once peeled, dice the yucca into small pieces and boil it in bone broth with garlic and salt. Meanwhile, roast the garlic in olive oil for the best flavor results. Once the yucca is boiled, it should be soft and tender for mashing. Mash the yucca as you would a potato. You can do this with a mashing tool, a fork, or a hand mixer for a creamy, whipped texture. Add the butter, garlic, and seasoning to taste as you mash it. Once mashed, add salt and pepper as needed, and top with a garnish of parsley, if desired.

Cover photo courtesy of: https://www.runningtothekitchen.com/

Categories
Mucho Gusto

Raspberry Lime Gin, Jam, and Tonic

This recipe came about after a day spent sitting on the beach. Long hours of sunbathing and swimming leave a girl awfully thirsty for a fun cocktail. The drink comes together with a spoon or two of jam, a few squeezes of citrus, and a quick shake with some ice. You likely have these ingredients on hand, and even if you don’t, you’ll be just fine with a bit of improvisation. It’s a gin and tonic with a few bells and whistles; just sweet enough to take the edge off the alcohol but far from cloying. 

Now my loyal go-to, this drink has only four ingredients, and there’s plenty of room for substitution, variation, and creativity. No limes? Grab a lemon. Blackberry preserves instead of raspberry? Just as good. Dress it up with muddled basil or mint, add a splash of grapefruit, rim your glass with sugar and zest. The opportunities are endless. 

While the raspberry-lime iteration might be the best way to rinse salty, sunburnt lips, the upcoming holiday season calls for something a little more festive. I encourage an exercise of your own imagination with this drink, but I will suggest you try cranberry, orange, and rosemary for those late November and December festivities. I know I certainly will. Cheers.

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons raspberry preserves (I like Bonne Maman)

2 limes, juiced and peeled*

4 oz gin

Ice

8 oz tonic water


Directions:

Start with your lime ribbons. Find your longest pieces of lime peel, and trim the long edges with a knife, leaving them with a width of ¼ inch. Cut the shortest ends on a bias, both going in the same direction. Twist each end of the ribbons in opposite directions; they will contract and curl. Set aside.

Add the raspberry preserves, lime juice, and gin to a dry shaker, and shake without ice to build some froth and ensure the jam fully mixes with the other ingredients. Add ice to the shaker, and shake once more until cold.

Add fresh ice to two clean glasses and strain the gin, jam, and lime evenly into each. Top with tonic water and garnish with lime ribbons.

*Note: use a vegetable peeler or pairing knife to get long ribbons of peel from the lime. Don’t worry too much about the shape; the peels will be cut down further.

Cover photo courtesy of Sofia Frias

Categories
Features

Reflections on Chinatown, A Year Later

Last year, I wrote a piece about Boston’s Chinatown. A year ago Chinatown was a ghost town, ransacked by the struggles pandemic living brought and beaten down by the bombardment of Asian hate that swarmed the media and the streets. I remember the crowds of old East Asian men huddled around chess tables under Chinese paper lanterns. I remember Cynthia Yee, a blogger and writer dedicated to depicting life on 116 Hudson Street in Boston’s Chinatown. She would greet everyone in Eldo Cake House like a familiar aunty walking into her nieces and nephews home, shouting brave Cantonese as she ordered egg tarts, char siew buns, and Hong Kong style milk tea. Eldo Cake House, a staple Chinatown bakery for 50 years, sits on 36 Harrison Avenue. The milk tea was wonderfully aromatic and cupped nostalgically with one clammy palm, and in the other a tender char siew bun with an aroma that would fill the small bakery of only three wooden tables. When Cynthia strides into the shop, a flurry of Cantonese choruses out of the ladies behind the counter, wearing their signature forest green aprons. I sat there, right in the heart of Eldo Cake House, with Cynthia Yee a year ago, laughing at the jokes about old misogynistic Asian men, shedding a tear about the deterioration of our culture, rallying over the fight to preserve Chinatown. 

But as I returned to Eldo Cake House just last week, I was met with boarded up windows and a meager laminated for-sale sign taped on its front door. 

Although it’s heartening to see Chinatown crowded once again, full of college students looking for their Asian food fix, or families wandering around to enjoy the nice fall weather, seeing the boarded up windows of Eldo Cake House was a gut punch, and a reminder that this neighborhood is changing. 

Eddie was the bakery owner of Eldo Cake House. He had a stern aura to him, the type molded by decades of heads down hard work. When I spoke with him last year, he recalled struggling with the rising cost of living, particularly in rent where he had to sell half the lease to another store in order to keep costs down. “Very hard, hard for everybody,” he said. 

Eldo Cake House had an unassuming exterior. Below the forest green banner are floor to ceiling windows, where you can look into the various pastries, buns, and fruit cakes. Eldo’s cakes were neatly slathered in crisp white cream, with an array of glistening berries arranged on top in floral and elegant patterns, hinting at the moist yellow sponge cake inside with layers of buttercream. But sweets aren’t all this bakery was known for. Those char siew buns were delicately crisp on the outside but pillowy soft in the middle, the pork marinated in this thickened sweet and savory sauce. We ordered two more. 

The story of disappearing beloved businesses like Eldo Cake House isn’t new, and it won’t stop here either. It goes back to a wave of urban renewal in cities across the country throughout the 1950s and 1970s. Cynthia herself is a victim of urban renewal. In 1962, the Massachusetts Turnpike and I-93 highways reaped a seam in the fabric of Chinatown’s homes and communities. Approximately 1,200 residential units were evicted and forced to scatter, most ended up in the Combat Zone. 

“I was evicted – because of the highway! I ended up in the Combat Zone because I was evicted from Hudson Street,” Cynthia said. “And that was a major trauma. My Indian friend who is a young writer said to me, “Dear Cynthia, how will you ever forgive a highway?” I said, “I don’t think I have.” That’s why I write, that’s my revenge.”

The Combat Zone was an area of Boston’s Chinatown characterized as a chaotic red-light district that flourished in the 1970s until it’s cleanup in the 1990s. “It was the end of my childhood,” Cynthia recalled. 

Cynthia lived in a tenant apartment never graced by sunlight. Neon lights of naked girls and live shows flowed through the trash-laden streets. Constant beats of strip club music reverberated through the walls, pierced by wailing sirens through the night. Every morning the granite steps to their house had to be scrubbed from the Combat pleasure seekers roaming the night before. Her story is only one of many iterations of displacement throughout the years. Chinatown isn’t the same village community Cynthia grew up in. 

Although the neighborhood’s population has increased by 43 percent between 2000 and 2010, the Asian population has decreased over 10 percent, and the white population has doubled. The consistent pushing out of Chinatown’s working-class residents is driven by a rapid rise in housing prices. In Boston specifically, Chinatown saw one of the fastest-growing sales prices in 2017, increasing by $285,000. With an average household of $26,280 for Chinatown working-class families, luxury apartments are simply not an option. Even affordable housing projects are unaffordable, as these projects are based on residents making 80 to 100 percent of Boston’s median income, which is much higher than the average in Chinatown. 

With such forces against Chinatown, gentrification not only changes the neighborhood’s demographic, it also disrupts Chinatown’s cultural history. 

I stood in front of the now boarded up Eldo Cake House. I wondered where Eddie went, whether he finally comfortably retired like he always dreamed of, or his business was driven to the ground like so many other local gems throughout the years. I walked a couple blocks down to buy a dozen egg tarts from Bao Bao Bakery, hoping this one won’t suffer the same fate. 

Cover photo courtesy of wgbh


Categories
Mucho Gusto

As Unamerican As Apple Pie

There are few things as iconically Americana as apple pie. It’s the centerpiece at Thanksgiving, served up at summer barbecues, and remains the center of various familial debates about whether it should be served on its own or a la mode. Thousands of recipes exist both on the Internet and in the minds of home cooks throughout the nation as to what they constitute as the “World’s Best Apple Pie”, so I am not here to challenge those claims as I do not have the interest in challenging sacred family recipes. What I intend to do is show how the humble apple pie, while steeped in American lore, is much more than simply “All-American.”

When you look at the ingredients for apple pie, it seems relatively simple: a butter-based crust, sugar and spice and everything nice, and the namesake apple. But when one begins to look deeper into how these ingredients became connected, it shows a much more intricate tale of colonialism and international trade. Apple pie in its most basic form can often be traced back to the Dutch and English colonial empires; the Dutch spice trade and later, the British colonization of India and trade with the Ottoman Empire gave Europeans access to the spices and apples that are staples to the recipe.

So why is it “as American as apple pie”, when in fact the components are far from uniquely American? The term was coined in 1796 in the first American cookbook, American Cookery, by Amelia Simmons and has since gone on to become a key symbol in American culture, wartime propaganda, and marketing. At the end of the day, however, the idea that apple pie is created and born in the good old USA is like the fate of so many other components of what is assumed to be “American culture:” it is deeply ingrained in the tradition of colonialism and cultural cover-up to fit into what is considered “American.” So, when you make this recipe for a “traditional American classic.” I implore you to stop and think about the origins of your food. Who knows, maybe it’ll surprise you.

Ingredients:

Pie Dough:

3 ¾ cups All-purpose flour

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons sugar (omit for savory pies)

1 ½ cups unsalted butter, frozen and cut into chunks

1/2 cup water + 1/2 cup vodka, chilled (vodka can be omitted and replaced with water)

Filling:

2 tablespoons lemon juice

4 pounds baking apples (Honey Crisp, Granny Smith, Cortland), cored, peeled and sliced

⅔ cup sugar, plus additional for sprinkling on crust

¼ cup unsalted butter

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon all-spice

Pinch of ground nutmeg

1 large egg, beaten

Directions:

For the dough:

  1. In a bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Making sure you work quickly, add in your cubed frozen butter and begin to work the butter into the flour mixture. You should have both large flakes of butter as well as smaller chunks, resulting in a very coarse texture.
  2. Slowly add the ice water/vodka mixture (you will not need all of it) and mix it into the flour and butter mixture. Add until the dough will hold its form when pressed together. You’ll probably need between around half a cup, but this can vary. If the butter is beginning to soften from heat, place in the freezer for five to ten minutes and then continue mixing.
  3. Shape the dough into a rectangle, and then divide into third. Stack them on top of each other and press down into a new rectangle. Repeat cutting them in thirds and stacking one more time.
  4. Divide the dough in two and place each half on a separate sheet of plastic wrap. Use the plastic wrap to press each half of the dough together. Wrap each half and press the dough into a disk. Refrigerate your dough for 1 hour or if you’re in a hurry, freeze 20 minutes.

For the filling:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F
  2. Add the lemon juice, apples, and sugar into a large mixing bowl, tossing to combine evenly.
  3. In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the apples, and cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves and the mixture begins to simmer. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until the apples soften and release most of their juices. Apples should be tender, but still retain their shape.
  4. Strain the apples in a colander over a new bowl to catch all the juice. Return the juices to the skillet, along with the spices, and simmer over medium heat until thickened and lightly caramelized. The syrup should coat the back of a spoon and not slide off easily.
  5. Return the apples to the large mixing bowl and combine with the syrup mixture evenly. Let cool completely for at least two hours, and up to over-night. The filling can be made up to a week in advance and refrigerated as well.
  6. Cut and shape the pie dough to fit into a 9 inch pie plate, as well as a second disk for the top. Fill the bottom of the pie with the apple mixture, mounding it to the center if possible. Place the second pie crust on the top, and crimp or flute edges as desired.
  7. Split the pie crust a few times in desired space for venting. Brush the crust with egg wash, and sprinkle with sugar if desired. Place in a preheated oven for 50 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbling slightly. Cool on a rack before serving, and enjoy.

Pie crust adapted from Pâte Brisée by Jeremy Scheck
Filling adapted from Food Network Kitchen

Cover photo courtesy of King Arthur Baking

Categories
Mucho Gusto

Peruvian Turron de Doña Pepa

October: the month of purple, El Señor de los Milagros, and of course el infaltable “Turrón de Doña Pepa”.

In the mid-seventeenth century, two earthquakes devastated the region of Lima, Perú, crumbling every building in sight except for a single wall built out of adobe. The wall stood tall amongst the ocean of debris, raising a multitude of questions in the local community. 

Why was it that a wall built out of a rather weak material stood, whilst the rest of its building and those surrounding it collapsed completely? 

The wall in question had been built as part of a church for the Pachacamilla community located on the outskirts of Lima, and on it contained the now-famed mural of Crucified Jesus painted by  Angolan slave, Pedro Dalcon. However, this mural homaged a version of Jesus the Spaniards were not used to seeing: a darker version, one that resembled the artist and the community in which the wall stood. Therefore, in the 32-year time period between the two earthquakes, there were many failed attempts to remove the mural that Spanish authorities had thought neglected religious norms. 

It was a miracle, the people of Pachacamilla thought, that this single wall was the only structure to survive the two catastrophic earthquakes that struck their region whilst simultaneously evading removal by Spanish authorities. And so the news of the phenomenon spread across all of Perú like wildfire. Peruvians everywhere indeed deemed it to be a miracle, one performed by none other than the deity in the mural, el Cristo de Pachacamilla, better known as “El Señor de Los Milagros”

The Pachacamilla community held ceremonies in tribute to The Lord of Miracles every Friday ever since the second earthquake struck on October 20th, 1687. People from all regions of Perú would travel to Pachacamilla to gift Him flowers and all sorts of offerings to pray for a miracle. Amongst the usual attendees, stood doña Josefa Marmanillo, a slave from the Cañete region in the south of Perú.  

Doña Josefa Marmanillo was an extremely highly regarded cook within her community, when suddenly she was afflicted by a puzzling disease that is the worst nightmare of cooks everywhere: paralysis in both of her arms. 

Devastated, Doña Josefa Marmanillo, otherwise known as Doña Pepa, made her way to Pachacamilla, where she prayed to El Señor de los Milagros. It was then, during the month of October, that Doña Pepa instantly regained the mobility of both her arms. Out of immense gratitude for granting her wish, she decided to make good use of the miracle and craft a new dessert devoted to the Lord of the Miracles – and so, el Turrón de Doña Pepa was born. A buttery and crumbly yet moist crumb covered in a deep complex honey with hints of anise seed and on top lay her staple sprinkles of all shapes and sizes. 

Thankful, Doña Pepa would return to visit the Lord of the Miracles every Friday night, bringing batches of her famous Turrón to share with the local community. Soon after that, her dessert had become a local staple and has now transformed into a treat Peruvian households impatiently await to enjoy as soon as the clock strikes twelve on the first of October. 

Ingredients:

Dough

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

1 tablespoon anise seeds

500 grams all-purpose flour

250 grams butter 

5 egg yolks

½ cup anise tea

½ teaspoon salt

Honey

2 cups water 

2 cinnamon sticks 

3 cloves 

1 apple (diced)

1 orange (cut in half with peel)

250 grams Chancaca

1 fig leaf

10 gram fresh strawberries (diced)

2 Membrillos (diced)

1 cup sugar

Assembly

Sprinkles

Parchment paper

Sheet pan

22×22 centimeter casserole serving dish

Directions:

Dough

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F 
  2. Toast the sesame and anise seeds on the stovetop on medium-low for 2 minutes
  3. Beat the butter until fluffy and add the toasted sesame and anise seeds
  4. Gradually fold the all-purpose flour into the butter mixture until fully incorporated
  5. Add a pinch of salt and incorporate the egg yolks one at a time
  6. Slowly add the anise tea while mixing the dough. The dough should not stick to your hands and should be manageable.
  7. Divide the dough into 22-gram pieces and roll them into 25-centimeter-long logs
  8. Place parchment paper on the oven pan and start placing the logs in the sheet pan
  9. With a spatula, slightly flatten the logs
  10. Cook the dough in the preheated oven for 15 minutes (flip the dough after the first 10 minutes)
  11. Remove dough from the oven and put aside

Honey

  1. In a pot, pour the water and add the cinnamon sticks, cloves, membrillo, apple, orange, fig leaf, strawberries, and chancaca. Let cook on medium low for 25 minutes.
  2. Strain the mixture and transfer to a new pot
  3. Add the sugar and let reduce on medium-low for 30 minutes
  4. Turn off the heat and let the honey mixture cool. It should reach a stretchy caramel consistency. 

Assembly:

  1. Add parchment paper to the bottom of the serving dish
  2. Place the logs of baked dough in the same direction across the serving dish. Should the logs of baked dough be longer than the serving dish, break off the ends
  3. Add a layer of honey
  4. Place another layer of dough logs in the perpendicular direction
  5. Add another layer of honey
  6. Repeat until you run out of dough
  7. Finish with a substantial layer of honey on top
  8. Add decorative sprinkles
  9. Let honey settle before serving

Cover photo courtesy of Vital

Categories
Essays

Our PopCorners

What is your favorite snack in your college dorm? In ours, it’s definitely Sea Salt PopCorners. 

It exists in so many different forms in the common room. After grocery shopping, you will see a bunch of them leaning against each other on the top of the refrigerator. Sometimes, when four of us sit around the table and our computers form a perfect square, the green plastic wrapping will sit straight at the center of it. Hands reach for it occasionally for help against midnight hunger, and the green little thing eventually becomes too weak, failing to stay straight on the table.

And the cruel people would make it sit up again, putting their hands in for more and more.

It is so addictive—the tastelessness at the beginning gradually turns to the aroma of corn, diffusing in the mouth. It is crunchy but not delicate, tasty but not greasy, salty but not pungent. It never feels abrupt, like a beautiful box of macarons sitting gently, which somehow keeps people from touching it. With its plainness like water, it flows in our life naturally. Facing those bumpy and dry little triangles, we never hesitate. We love it so much that it feels valuable, but there is never a sense of loss when a pack is finished.

We even have a photo album to collect pictures of every empty bag. We proudly show it to everyone who comes over, and open a new package for our guests. We pass that around until a new record has been broken—the total empty package number reaches 19 instead of 18. It makes relationships so approachable. We take one PopCorner from this bag and pass it around, creating a simple ritual that breeds the urge to connect. 

Maybe it started with only one of us, or it could be some of us, but in the end we all love it. I do not even remember how this started—maybe it was one of those nights when we cuddled on the chairs around the kitchen table, one person asking for some snacks, and it was excitingly introduced. 

But I could never forget the Saturday night when a group of friends sat around the small end table in the living room, the string light gently omitting orange light on the wall, Taylor Swift’s country music videos projecting on the walls under the dim light. We were playing card games—some leaned back on the sofa, some comfortably sat cross-legged, some leaned forward, concentrating, and some laughed and clapped their hands. 

One round came to an end, and we opened a package of PopCorners and passed it around. One of us took one piece of the chip out and said, 

“You know what, appreciate its name. It tastes like popcorn and it has corners. PopCorners! So cute.”

He stared at it, “It has 4 corners.”

“Nah…It has 3 corners—this is a broken one.”

But it does not actually matter how many corners it has, honestly, with all the warmth flowing in the air at 2:00 am. 

Because when you bite one corner, two new ones would emerge. 

The more the better.

Cover Photo Courtesy of: https://snackswithkat.com/pop-corners-chips-review/

Categories
Mucho Gusto

The Broke College Student Special

by: Jacob Ye

Imagine it is your freshman year again. You’ve just finished unpacking your bags, filled to the brim with objects reminiscent of your hometown. Now tired from the exertion, you look forward to exploring the college of your dreams, and of course, its food. Just a few weeks ago, I was in that exact place, starting off my freshman year at BC. Since then I’ve been all around campus, exploring the various food options offered at Mac, Lower, the Rat, and although I live on Upper, even the Newton dining hall. But soon, the feeling of missing the nostalgic taste of home grew to unbearable levels. 

This is a meal I made almost every single day at home. I remember how I would run up the driveway after school with a pep in my step while looking forward to it. Made in under ten minutes, and with less than ten dollars worth of ingredients, which I would slide sneakily into my parents shopping cart as we roamed around the supermarket. In a way, I feel this meal represents what I initially thought would be the “college meal experience.” While the recipe below will cover what I call the “full experience” with three sides, feel free to customize!

Ingredients: 

1 cup Shin Black Ramen 

1 scallion

1 egg

Side 1: Fried Rice

1 cup cold white rice

1 Chinese sausage 

1 scallion

Side 2: SPAM Musubi 

1 can SPAM

1 sheet seaweed

1 cup soy sauce

1 cup cold white rice

1 tablespoon sugar

Side 3: Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls

1 sheet  Vietnamese rice paper 

1 carrot

1 cucumber

1 beef smoked sausage

Directions: 

To start off the main dish, boil 3 cups of water in a small saucepan. Add in the noodles from the cup of Shin Black Ramen. Meanwhile, mix egg until completely golden and smooth. Drizzle the egg onto the noodles while slowly turning the saucepan. After three minutes, turn the heat to the lowest setting and add the powder flavoring packets. Mix well and add scallions when fully cooked. 

The other three side dishes may be either cooked together on one large nonstick pan or separately, as convenient. 

For the fried race, start off by cutting up the Chinese sausages into small disks. Turn the heat to medium and put the sausage in, allowing them to cook until completely red. Add a cup of white rice and mix well with the sausage; cook until there is light browning on the sausages. Put into a bowl to cool and add chopped up scallions to finish. 

For the SPAM musubi cut up the SPAM into quarter inch thick slices. Drown in the cup of soy sauce and let soak for 2 minutes, mixing in with the tablespoon of sugar. After that, place onto the pan at medium heat and cook until lightly browned. Meanwhile, shape the cold rice with your hands, adding water as needed to help soften. Try to shape them into rectangles that are as long as your thumb widthwise and your index finger lengthwise. Cut the seaweed sheet into 2-inch wide strips. After the SPAM is done cooking, place onto the rice beds and wrap with seaweed strips, adding dabs of water all around to help stick. (Note: you can also add the cup of soy sauce to your fried rice for extra flavoring!) 

For the Vietnamese rice paper rolls, cup up the carrots and cucumbers into rectangular prisms that are about ¼ x ¼ inches wide on the ends. Do the same for the sausage and place into the pan, cooking until brown. Meanwhile, place the rice paper sheet into a plate filled with water and let it soak for 10 seconds. Add the sausage, carrots, and cucumbers to the sheet and roll it up so it looks like one long cylinder. Enjoy it as is, or simply use a knife to cut into smaller bite sized sections. 

Enjoy!

Cover Photo Courtesy of Jacob Ye

Categories
Mucho Gusto

Sweet Potato Mac and Cheese

As I stroll through the aisles of Trader Joe’s with a heavy basket in hand, the artfully illustrated chalkboard displays with the colors of fall pique my interest. It’s that time of year again when new autumnal items hit the shelves for a limited time, and people just can’t seem to help but buy out all the bright orange pumpkin products. I can’t blame them, though—I, too, get excited every year when my favorite fall items make a return, complementing my fall festivities with pumpkin-shaped cookies, cinnamon-sugar donuts, spiced tea, candy apples, and other seasonal essentials. 

That being said, Trader Joe’s fans are loyal to their products, and for good reason. If you’ve been on the hunt for savory fall flavors but can’t seem to get to the store in time, this recipe is for you. This comforting sweet potato mac and cheese will fix your hankering for that butternut squash mac and cheese that seems to be sold out whenever you’re in the store. Even better, it’s lovingly homemade by you with real ingredients, making it a fun fall activity, and not to mention tastier!

Additionally, sweet potatoes level up the basic dish, adding another layer of depth to the flavor to tie it all together. Creamy and tangy, with a hint of sweetness, this recipe will add a sophisticated fall twist to the classic you know and love while still being rich and satisfying—a warm hug for the taste buds. There is nothing more fulfilling or rewarding than preparing this mac and cheese and holding a warm bowl in your hands on a brisk fall day, savoring each soft, cheesy bite of noodles. It’s also a great alternative if you’re sick of the pumpkin trend. This fall, spice up your basic mac and add a wholesome sweet potato to the delectably gooey pot of goodness. It takes a fair bit of prep, but the cheese pull will make it all worth it. 

Ingredients:

  • 1½  tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 2 cups elbow macaroni
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 cups milk of your choice
  • 1½ cups freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese, or a blend of cheeses of your preference
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 3 tablespoons breadcrumbs (optional)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the sweet potatoes on a baking sheet with a ½ tablespoon olive oil and a dash of salt, and bake for about an hour, or until soft and tender. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and add the macaroni. While the noodles cook for about 8 minutes, or until al dente, coat a 2-quart baking dish with cooking spray. Drain the cooked pasta and set aside. 

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat olive oil and garlic, and mix in the flour for about a minute. Slowly pour in the milk while whisking. Cook until the sauce mixture is steaming and thick, but not boiling. Then, add the sweet potato to the saucepan. Depending on your preferred consistency, you can mash the sweet potato into the mixture, or use a blender,  food processor, or an immersion blender. It should be smooth, resembling a cheese sauce. At this time, you can also add thawed frozen peas or spinach for more veggies, if desired. Add the cheese, mustard, salt, and pepper to the sauce. Once well mixed, add the macaroni. Stir until the noodles are evenly coated, and everything is combined. 

Topping with breadcrumbs makes for a crispy, irresistible topping, but this is optional as well. Finish off the mac and cheese by topping with cheese and baking it in the oven at 400℉ for about 3 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Enjoy!

Adapted from Eating Well’s Sweet Potato Mac & Cheese Recipe

Categories
Mucho Gusto

La Vie d’un Banane: du Fruit au Pain

From the moment I met you, I knew our time together was fleeting. I remember the day…. No. The instant we first crossed paths like it was just last week. 

It was a slow Sunday afternoon, the kind where time feels ethereal. I had a mountain of assignments on my mind, but before I could consider any of them I had to contend with the nagging void at my core. I was really hungry. 

I found myself wandering from aisle to aisle, lost in the romantic lighting and gentle Ed Sheeran of the Chestnut Hill Wegmans. I didn’t know what in particular I was searching for—I miss when my mom bought my groceries—but all doubt left my mind when I finally stumbled into the produce department and laid eyes on you. 

You were so youthful. Your peel was smooth, unblemished, and the perfect shade—mustard yellow with traces of vibrant green on your edges and stem. Once I had found you, I knew you would be coming home with me. 

Checkout was a whirlwind of passion and excitement. I bagged the rest of my groceries quickly and carelessly, but you received my full attention and gentle care. I placed you gingerly at the top of all my bags, careful not to bruise or bump you before leaving the store. I was 15 cents poorer in my bank account, but I felt infinitely richer in my soul. I thought we would be happy together for a long time, but every romantic story needs its conflict, right? 

I was naive and failed to consider the truth. Bananas change. I put you on top of my microwave, expecting you to always be there when I needed you, but where was I when you needed me? I got caught up in class, assignments, friends, and a million other excuses, and the entire time you were there, atop the microwave, waiting for me. 

When I discovered you again, you were no longer an embodiment of youthful beauty. Your peel had become thin, flat, and dull. Your original yellow color had become tarnished and populated with brown and black spots. All green was gone. You were a different fruit than the day on which I met you, and I was devastated at that moment but only because I had yet to realize the truth… the truth of your inner beauty. 

Time had made you sweet and soft, perhaps too sweet and soft to be consumed alone, but you now had the opportunity to be a part of something greater than yourself. I preheated the oven, collected the rest of my ingredients, and began the passionate dance of mashing and mixing. 

You emerged from the oven more beautiful than I could have imagined, and filled my apartment with tantalizing aromas of banana, vanilla, and browned butter. At that moment, I felt the kind of happiness that I imagine a parent feels when they first meet their newborn or a cat lady feels when she receives a new kitten. You had become a beautiful banana bread. Thank you. 

Jokes aside, I’ve been making this version of a banana bread recipe I discovered on Food Network since high school, and the small additions such as browning your butter or adding vanilla and chocolate chips turn something already classic and delicious into one of the best desserts I’ve personally ever made. I hope you give it a try next time your bananas aren’t looking too spry!

Ingredients:

  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 ripe bananas 
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips (optional) 
  • 1 tablespoon honey (optional) 

Directions: 

Preheat oven to 325℉. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and cook until the solid milk fats have separated. Remove from heat when the milk fats are just beginning to turn blonde and let butter cool. Next, in a large mixing bowl, mash ripe bananas before adding granulated sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla. Once sugar and spices are incorporated, add eggs one at a time, mixing between. Add milk and now cooled butter to the wet mixture and set aside. 

In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Fold the dry mixture into the wet ingredients until few lumps remain and there are no dry spots. Pour half of the batter into a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan, and sprinkle chocolate chips in an even layer. Cover chocolate chips with the remaining batter and bake for one hour to one hour and ten minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few crumbs but no wet batter. After removing the bread from the oven, brush the top with honey while still warm. You’re now ready to enjoy some amazing banana bread, warm or cold (if it lasts that long). Enjoy!

Cover photo courtesy of Simply Recipes