Sunday, September 12, 2010
Who, why and the simple Torta.
I am competing in the Project Food Blog Challenge by Foodbuzz, for our first challenge, each competitor is asked to create a post that defines us as a food blogger. My blog was born out of Expat need to blog & therefore reach out to others from a quiet spot in a desert in Northern Mexico. Most of you read this in my previous "Blogiversary" post. That certainly doesn't describe the reasons phrases like demi-glace, stock, reduction or taste before you season have impact for me or have had meaning most of my life.
The main & simple reason can be narrowed down to a place & 2 people who have had profound effect at how I look at food. I lived as a child in a fabulous city which was & still is a cultural hodgepodge of sights & flavors. Most people who visit San Antonio Texas today have visited "El Mercado" in downtown San Antonio think of it as a fun touristy attraction which has restaurants & shops. It is now more commonly known by the gringo name of "Market Square". When I was a child it was the very encapsulation of food & where people actually shopped for vegetables, fruits & seasonings in a true farmer's market setting...long before farmer's markets were "trendy". There was even a wonderful shop in El Mercado which till the early 1980s still sold chili powders, cumino & other authentic Mexican seasonings as well as hierbas. We could also find the standard fare one would see in a Mercado south of the border in Mexico. El Mercado made a leap to prosperity at some point in the 1970s with Urban Renewal some of those more simple traditions by the wayside. I still enjoy going to El Mercado, the experience though never fails to dredge up memories of going there as a child even if I am partaking of those touristy margaritas & ogling the colorful pinatas. San Antonio for me is all about the food. San Antonio is a big part of my Food heritage.
My earliest memories as a child are of my Grandfather(check out the vintage photo of him serving customers at Ft. Sam in San Antonio, Texas, late 1940's). He worked most of his life in restaurant business in San Antonio Texas. He would have the entire family over for Sunday dinner. His meal repertoire was simple & yet truly wonderful. He would made an incredible Yankee pot roast, though I hardly think he called it that. As I grew older he told me how to reduce, thicken that roast gravy or even darken it with coffee if need be. He also made large pots of old school Italian Spaghetti Sauce much like the old fashioned Brown Sauces from the 1940s. My Grandfather would strain the sauce, correct the seasoning & then strain it again. Granddaddy was a very practical man but he always tossed out the bits & pieces we now keep in our contemporary Spaghetti sauces. Back then every process he used was like a slow, methodical dance step in the small kitchen. My mother on the other handmade made use of everything she had. She truly must have lived that phrase in the kitchen "waste not, want not". She used everything at her disposal, never throwing out a key ingredient, which created a continual feast. She made flavorful cornbread with grains of corn, jalapenos & cheese. That is common enough now but in the 1960s it was cutting edge & unique. She made frijoles & chilis which were legendary. When our family moved to Alaska she learned how people there lived off the richness of the land & cooked accordingly. As part of that experience our family would go out collecting mushrooms & berries where we learned what was ripe, flowering or non edible. We ate the best fish & game my father would bring home as is still commonplace in the 49th state. In this day it is rare when I am lucky enough to encounter a morel mushroom or a high bush cranberry but knowing the differences in such things at a young age made me the cook & food blogger I am today. The travel to or living in other countries as an adult has just been the cream on the coffee. Travel changes you, people touch you but it is the flavors which feed your soul.
To celebrate the start of Project blog I thought I'd post an easy recipe of a typical Mexican street food. Between Texas & Mexico so many of these foods could sum up who I am & my inner foodie philosophy. I love simple, hearty & food which make an impression on the palate. Those very impressions don't have to be expensive or extravagant to hit the mark. These simple sandwiches became very popular in Mexico around WWII. (I have checked this story out with several sources & all say the same thing) They are a very hearty sandwich which truly could keep a hungry working man or woman going for hours till the traditional late evening dinner hour in Mexico. While we lived in Mexico I marveled at how many varieties of these sandwiches I saw & how virtually any street corner might have a Torta vendor show up mid-day with a steady stream of customers well into the late afternoon. I am so glad I discovered the original "Belt-Buster" south of the border! Is there anything more portable or satisfying as a simple Sandwich?
How to make a Torta:
Use Bolillos Rolls found at a Latin American Market
2) Cut it in half, scoop out a little of the actual bread. (the roll can actually be toasted)
3) Spread the bottom half with a thin layer of refried beans
4) Layer sliced or shredded cold pork or beef. Leftover roast is perfect for this sandwich.
5) Use any or all of the following ingredients for the filling:garnishes such as guacamole, tomato, diced sweet white onion, jalapenos, chopped cilantro. lettuce.
To this squeeze lime & add a squeeze of mayo or Mexican. Give yourself time to finish this meal & plenty of napkins or share this generous sandwich.