I am in Houston today before heading out to Mexico on Sunday for my teacher fellowship! I always love coming home to visit family but am taken aback by the crazy Texas heat. There is only one thing on my mind on a hot day like today- fruit paletas! Mexican paletas are fruity and delicious…
Yesterday was my last day of work, but my transition to summer has been underway for a week.
The “official” final day of school was last week, and this week only the faculty met to wrap up and prepare for next year. These past few days, instead of hurrying every meal–yogurt during faculty meeting for breakfast, lukewarm leftovers while grading during lunch, and rushed dinner before John headed out to work–meals have slowed down.
In particular, breakfasts have become much slower. I’ve had time to prepare hot breakfast for John and myself every day this week. Left to his own devices, John will eat cereal for breakfast every day, so I love being able to prepare a nicer, more filling breakfast for him. As for me, a breakfast eaten while sitting at my dining room table, is the perfect way to start any day.
In just a little over two weeks I head to Mexico to,“Study culinary traditions in several regions of Mexico in order to teach our students about the intersection between food, culture, history and community in an effort to increase awareness of diversity at home and in our neighboring country.” I was generously awarded this Fund For Teachers fellowship two months ago, as I shared in my last blog post. I am beyond excited to have this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I plan to share what we’re learning and cooking along the way, with many more details upon my return in July. I am excited to learn about my own cuisine and to connect it to all my instruction by teaching students Spanish and culture in an authentic way, while also dismantling misconceptions about Mexican food and Mexican culture.
One of the misconceptions that I often hear about Mexican food is that it takes a long time to prepare. This can be true; many meals can take hours (Chiles rellenos, I’m talking about you), but there are so many easy meals that I grew up eating at home. Today I’m going to share Princess Nachos with you. Princess Nachos are simply nachos topped with flowers, a delightful meal to fill that nacho craving while also being semi-healthy–and cute.
Beyond their beauty, Princess Nachos can be prepared in less than ten minutes (OK, OK, this depends on how epic your avocado and sour cream piping skills are but in theory, you could make them under ten minutes). And if you top these with a soft boiled egg, you could even have these for breakfast.
The process is incredibly simple. I like to think of this as a loose formula rather than a recipe. You start with chips for your base. You add your favorite green–spinach, arugula, and baby kale work well. Then you add some black beans. You can be fancy and cook these from scratch or you can just as easily use canned beans. Goya beans are my favorite canned beans because they are the most flavorful. Then you add cheese. If you want to go vegan, you could stop here but… nachos need to have cheese in my book. If you’re feeling extra fancy or breakfasty, you can add a soft boiled egg or two (these take 6-7 minutes to cook). Finally, you add the flowers. In my case I made three avocado roses, and I topped it all generously with chive blossoms for beauty + oniony crunch.
I made this meal for myself and my husband this week a few different times in under 15 minutes, less time if you make it less pretty, and each time my husband was amazed at the deliciousness and speed of this meal.
Try them out and let me know what you think!
Princess Nacho Bowl Recipe
Prep time: 10-15 minutes
- A handful of your favorite greens
- 1 cup of drained cooked beans, seasoned to taste
- A big handful of shredded cheese
- 1 whole avocado, sliced thinly
Optional, but highly encouraged toppings
- Chive blossoms
- Soft boiled eggs!
- Pickled Jalapeño peppers, and/or salsa
- Layer chips in baking sheet of choice.
- Top with greens, beans, and cheese.
- Broil at 400 degrees for 5 minutes or until cheese is blistering.
- Top with chive, avocado and sour cream flowers.
I can’t believe it’s been four weeks since John and I were asking “dov’e…” and “come se chiama” ten times a day while filling in the rest with Italian-intonated Spanish. When I think back to the trip or when people ask me about it, I give a big sigh, every time. Our anniversary trip to Italy was truly a dream, and it will be one of my most cherished memories for years to come.
John and I first decided to go on an anniversary trip last summer. We had been saving up SPG hotel points since our wedding, and since we were switching credit cards, we decided to use them on an anniversary trip. So we began to research. While our hotel points in European cities yielded three nights, our points in Cancun could get us a whole week…We weren’t sure where we would go, but one fateful summer night, we found plane tickets to Dublin for $477! We snagged the tickets and committed to going somewhere in Europe to be determined at a later time.
After much soul searching—just kidding, it was a very easy decision—we settled on Italy! Then we chose three major areas to visit: Rome, Venice and Lake Como.
I am in my first year at a new school and my work schedule has been crazy, so apart from 5 minutes of Duolingo Italian practice every night for the three months preceding the trip, I didn’t really research or prepare much before leaving for Italy. This was agonizing, since I usually have a minute-by-minute itinerary when we travel anywhere, so I was bummed that we had so little planned. Thankfully, my mother-in-law gifted us with a Rick Steves book for Rome and Venice, and with those books in tow, we headed to Italy with no idea what we were doing.
The upside to our crazy flight schedule (Boston to London to Dublin to Rome) was that we had some time to make rough outlines for our trip, and so when arrived in Rome almost a full day after boarding our flights, we had a rental car booked for Dublin, a food tour in Rome, and a list of must-see places in the cities we were visiting.
Despite our hastily planned itinerary, we had a blast. Although I’ve been to a few Latin American countries, this was my first time leaving the American continent and visiting a country where I didn’t speak the main language. It was simultaneously fun and baffling to have to communicate in a different language as a novice, an invaluable lesson for me as a Spanish teacher. One day, I urgently needed something from the pharmacy, and since there were no English speakers around, and I didn’t know some key vocab words, I had to pictionary my way from Murano to Venice to the only open pharmacy on Easter Monday.
Yesterday, when editing these pictures, I was once again blown away by the beauty of the trip. The trip feels more distant now; I no longer say “grazie mille” accidentally, I’ve stopped finding museum pay stubs and euros in my pockets, and even the memories of my favorite foods on the trip—a rich chocolate cake in Venice subtly paired with whipped cream, a crispy, sprinkle-studded cornetto with cream inside, a freshly baked bresaola and arugula panini, the first bite of mozzarella di bufala, and sweet amaretto gnocchi enveloped in a crispy cheese shell—are fading a little. Thankfully, I have about 1000 pictures to remember the trip (without counting my phone pictures). Which brings me to an important question: How do you sort through your trip pictures? Where do you store them? I need some serious help in this regard; I’m kind of a cyber packrat.
“Concludingly,” as my 10th graders like to say, I’ve been remembering the trip by trying to recreate some of my favorite meals. These have already started making appearances on instagram and will be coming your way in a real recipe post soon. In the meantime, here are some of my favorite pictures from the trip.
Moltrasio, Lake Como:
Guys! It’s been quite a while since I’ve blogged. These past few months have been crazy hectic. Between writing a grant application, lent, planning an anniversary trip, taking the anniversary trip to Italy, and returning to school for the last month before finals, my schedule has been packed to the seams.
Thankfully, it has all been worth it! But I have been left feeling a little dazed and I’ve had very little time for myself. So let’s tackle these updates one at a time, and then I will share one of my favorite fish taco recipes with you right in time for Cinco de Mayo. Scroll down if you want to go straight to the recipe.
- Grant: I was recently awarded a grant with Fund for Teachers to travel to Mexico this summer to study the connection between language, food and culture. My partner and I will travel to different states in central Mexico to learn about various regional cuisines, the impact of colonization and globalization on Mexican cooking, and the role of food in the formation of a national identity, all while looking for ways to implement this knowledge into a food unit for our classes when we return to the U.S. It is VERY exciting stuff! Can’t wait to bring back this knowledge and to marry two of my greatest passions: education and cooking!
- Lent: I tend to dial things down during lent, as far as food is concerned, in an effort to have more time to spend reading the bible and praying. Things stayed somewhat active on Instagram this year, but sadly, not so much on the blog, since it felt weird to blog about rich and delicious foods that I was fasting from at that time. I am so glad for the time to turn inward and to spend time with God but also excited to invest time into sharing delicious foods with you again.
- Trip: I traveled to Italy during April Break and it was AMAZING! I had never been to a country where I didn’t speak the language, so it was my first time truly feeling like a foreigner or tourist. I had a 90-day Duolingo streak in the months leading up to the Italy trip and it was one of the most consistent activities of my life. I just learned the basics, but my limited Italian came in super handy during the trip. I ate some of the best meals during that week that I hope to recreate here in the weeks to come.
- School: I am in the last weeks of teaching here at school, so things are hectic as students begin to prepare for final exams and I continue to think of ways to teach more effectively. I’m so excited to try a few new review strategies I came up with during break.
Phew! That was a lot of information to share, and I plan to share in a lot more detail soon, but for now, I want to return to one of my favorite topics: food. Specifically, tacos!
My husband is not a huge cook, but there are a handful of dishes that he can make better than me: Asian stir fries, Korean bbq, and fish tacos. Even though I am the Mexican in our household, I have never been to Baja Mexico and have not eaten authentic fish tacos. John, on the other hand, lived in Ensenada for a few weeks in college, making him the resident fish taco expert in our home. BUT–this recipe recently dethroned his reigning rule as head fish taco connoisseur.
These tacos are a perfect marriage (hehe) of our cuisines. The fish is fried in tempura, because tempura is the best flour to fry things in, obviously. The tacos are then topped with the traditional mayo sauce, cabbage, and a brand new addition: kimchi de gallo! Kimchi de gallo is essentially, pico de gallo with kimchi. The kimchi goes well with the tanginess of the tomatoes and lime and puts a fun new twist on a mexican classic.
These fish tacos are crunchy, juicy, crispy, kimchi-ee, and just overall amazing. Give them a go this summer and let me know how they turn out!
Frying: I am not an expert at frying so I’ll recommend some tips and tricks based on what I’ve learned. Tip 1: Your oil needs to be VERY hot. I recommend having a thermometer if you want your fish to fry well. Tip 2: A slotted metal ladle like this one is very helpful to get the fish out of the oil quickly, although good ole tongs will also work in a pinch. Finally, you also want to set your hot fish on a metal rack so that the oil can drip off while keeping the fish crispy. As far as fish is concerned, I’ve used tilapia, haddock and cod and they’ve all been tasty in different ways so feel free to use your favorite white fish here.
Tempura Fish Tacos
Cook Time: 30 minutes
- 1 cup tempura mix
- Cold water
- 1 lb of fish filets, cut into taco size strips (3-4 inches)
- Corn tortillas
- Salt and pepper
Kimchi de Gallo:
- ½ cup of kimchi, diced into small pieces,
- ¼ cup cilantro, finely minced,
- 2 tablespoons, finely minced jalapeño
- ¼ cup onion
- Juice of 1 lime
- Salt if needed (kimchi is already salt so try the KdG before adding)
Fish Taco Crema:
- ½ cup sour cream
- ½ cup of mayonnaise
- Dash of black pepper
- Dash of salt
- 1 cup of cabbage, finely sliced
- ½ cup of boiling water
- ¼ cup of white vinegar
- Salt and pepper
- Combine boiling water, vinegar, cabbage, salt and pepper in a heatproof container and allow to rest for at least one hour.
- To make crema, combine one-to-one portions of sour cream and mayonnaise along with a little bit of salt and pepper in a small bowl. Mix and set aside.
- For Kimchi de gallo, combine kimchi, cilantro, onion, jalapeño and lime juice in a small bowl and mix. Taste and add salt if needed.
- In a thick-bottomed pan, add enough oil to fill the bottom inch or two of the pan, then heat to 350 degrees. While oil is heating, prepare tempura mix according to directions on the bag or use your favorite fish fry.
- Once batter is ready, pat fish fillets dry using a paper towel, season with salt and pepper, and coat with a light dusting of flour. Then dunk fish in batter and add to hot oil, leaving enough room to prevent fish filets from touching. Fry until golden brown on both sides.
- When the fish is fully cooked, place fried fish on an elevated wire rack with paper towels underneath to catch oil while keeping fish crispy.
- Heat corn tortillas in the oven or on a comal until warm and pliable.
- Once the fish is ready, add one or two strips of fish to your tortillas and serve with kimchi de gallo, crema, and slaw.