17 May 2018

Cookbook Club: The Flavors of Mexico

May's cookbook club theme was "The Flavors of Mexico" -- a fun opportunity to try out a new Mexican or Mexican-inspired recipe. It might have been smarter to save the theme for summer when tomatoes, chiles, cilantro, and corn are in season here, but I didn't really think about that when I planned out my calendar. Anyway, participating cooks did not disappoint, bringing in a impressive range of tasty dishes:

  • "Creamy Chicken Chipotle Salad" from Simply Mexican by Lourdes Castro. Fresh, bright take on the traditional Cobb salad. The creamy, smoky chipotle sauce was just fab.

  • "Cubiletes de Requeson (Individual Cheese Pies)" from My Sweet Mexico by Fany Gerson.
    Light, slightly sweet cheese filling with lots of nice citrus flavor nestled in a flaky, slightly sweet empanada dough crust. (The cook who made these could not find Requesón and so substituted ricotta, as the book described Requesón as falling being somewhere between ricotta and pot cheese in constancy and flavor).

  • "Dulce de Frijol (Bean Candy)" from My Sweet Mexico by Fany Gerson. These soft, pinto-based sweets had a consistency similar to marzipan, smelled strongly of cinnamon, and tasted mildly of orange. If we hadn't been told they were made of beans, I doubt any of us would have guessed. (It took much longer to make than the recipe indicated, the cook said, and there was a ridiculous amount of stirring needed).

  • "Pan de Elote (Corn Bread)" from My Sweet Mexico by Fany Gerson. This is not corn bread as we are used to seeing it. No, this was creamy and custard-like -- kind-of like a chess pie in consistency -- and tasted like the best of summer on a plate.

  • "Stacked Torte" from Quesadillas by Donna Meeks Kelly. A layered quesadilla made of ground turkey, red enchilada sauce, salsa, corn, black beans, flour tortillas, and cheese. Very Tex-Mex, very comforting and hearty.

  • "Tortilla Soup" from Simply Mexican by Lourdes Castro. Just ... see below.

  • "Maria Cookie & Lime Cream Trifle" from Mexican Made Easy by Marcela Valladolid. Marvelously zesty. Kind of like eating deconstructed key lime pie. It's my dish, so expect a post about it later.

¡Que delicioso!

Fany Gerson's My Sweet Mexico proved a popular recipe source and we were all really smitten with the dishes prepared from it. The creamy "Pan de Elote" was very morish, the "Cubiletes de Requeson" a nice balance of textures and flavors, and we just could not stop talking about the "Dulce de Frijol," because Bean. Candy. Just a fascinating (and delicious!) concept.

And now, a little weirdness: I am 99% sure the cook brought the "Tortilla Soup" passed off a completely different dish as Castro's. We certainly ate a soup, but it does not resemble the one in Castro's recipe. The one served was full of corn, beans, and shredded chicken while Castro's sounds much more vegetal with a thinned roasted vegetable puree base and lots of fresh toppings. It's not even as if she just added in extra ingredients -- it seems like a completely different soup. The one served was good, but I don't know why she tried to pass it off as Castro's. If she'd tried Castro's recipe and it failed ... well, why not say? We've all had failures before. No-one judges. Indeed, some of the failures people have shared have yielded the liveliest and most pleasant conversations.

All I know is, curiosity demands I make Castro's "Tortilla Soup" as soon as possible to see what it's like!

16 May 2018

Wordless Wednesday: Dwarf Iris After Rain

Dwarf bearded irises speckled with rain. Variety might be "Scruples," but I can't be certain. Transplanted from my mom's garden yonks ago.

09 May 2018

Wordless Wednesday: Dicentra spectabilis

This pink bleeding heart is one of my garden favorites.

03 May 2018

Baked Tortilla-Crusted Tilapia

Often, when I buy a box of hard taco shells, one or two will be broken. I save these shells in a bag for "later" with the expectation I'll crush them up to top taco salad or a casserole or something, but what actually happens is that I just end up with a bag of broken taco shells rattling around the cupboards for months, getting in the way and annoying me to no end.

But no more! For I have finally used my bag of broken taco shells! I ground them up in the food processor and used them to coat tilapia fillets. This isn't a very original idea, I know, but it made for tasty fish. If you don't have a bag of broken taco shells on hand, tortilla chips would also work just fine.

Baked Tortilla-Crusted Tilapia



  • 1 lb whole tilapia fillets
  • 5 hard yellow corn taco shells
  • 1 tsp salt-free southwestern-style seasoning blend [Penzeys Arizona Dreaming]
  • 2 egg whites
  • Salsa, for serving
  • Guacamole, if desired, for serving


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Line a half sheet (13" x 18") pan with baking parchment.
  3. Pat fillets dry with a paper towel. Cut fillets in half, length-wise, and set aside.
  4. Pulverize taco shells in a food processor until finely ground. Pour into a shallow dish -- a soup bowl or pie plate works well. Stir in seasoning blend.
    Serve with salsa and guacamole, as desired.
  5. Place egg whites in another shallow dish.
  6. Dip fillets in egg and then in tortilla crumb mixture.
  7. Place fillets on the parchment-lined sheet pan and bake at 400°F for 15 minutes or until crispy and fish is 145°F.
  8. Serve with salsa and guacamole, as desired.

We ate this tilapia with cucumber salad and garlicky cilantro rice. The rice was the usual medium grain white cooked in low sodium chicken broth with dried garlic flakes, but I stirred a generous handful of minced cilantro into the finished rice just before serving. As a meal, it was light but filling with bright, clean, summery flavors.

Anyway, I've switched over to using corn tortillas, so I shouldn't have to deal with broken shells in the future. If we want them crispy, I follow Mexican Please's method for oven-baked shells.