Saturday, August 23, 2014


Do you have a Panaderia Tortilleria in your hometown? Chances are you do, they are Mexican bakeries with all kinds of delicious foods inside. We are a melting pot of cultures, even in NW Arkansas you can sample Indian, Thai, Mongolian, Szechuan, Cantonese, Salvadorian, and Mexican. I love trying new recipes and no matter where we've lived, I try my hand at regional favorites. In Texas, that included making tamales, gorditas and sopes. Masa Harina is the secret ingredient, but it's not easy to get the same results as Mamacita's kitchen turns out. Just like a Southern Grandma's biscuits, technique is key. So, since my Moma was not a Mamacita... I have trouble making something as simple as a sope!

In Mexico, the sope (pronounced “SOH-peh”) is as common as a taco for lunch. Street vendors turn them out in minutes while you wait, and salivate! They are open face sandwiches, similar to a tostada, but the sope is made of fresh masa formed into a boat shape vessel to get the delicious fillings from plate to your mouth easily. They can be hand held, but the best ones require a plate and a fork to get every last bite! 

My local Panaderia sells the sope shells, freshly made and ready to slip onto a warm griddle to crisp (or a quick dip into hot oil and drained), then topped with chopped brisket, pork or chicken it turns leftover meat into a delicacy! From Rick Bayles' Mexico One Plate at a Time, here is the simple recipe for sopes. I love the way he writes recipes, you taste the country as well as the food! This recipe is long but not complicated, it's technique that he teaches.

"Every culture has its small bites–sushi, dim sum, tapas, mezze. But in Mexico, these flavorful tidbits fall into a different kind of category: “antojitos,” the foods you crave. These are the snacks and street foods, as well as the special-occasion treats, that Mexicans love best–the stuff that comforts the soul and sets the heart racing."
1 pound (2 cups) fresh corn masa for tortillas (OR 1 3/4 cups powdered masa harina mixed with a scant 1 cup + 2 tablespoons warm water) 
2 tablespoons lard or 2 tablespoons shortening 
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup brothy beans, coarsely pureed with a little broth 
8 ounces chorizo sausage
vegetable oil (for frying) 
green tomatillo sauce 
mexican queso fresco 
mexican crema or thinned sour cream
shredded lettuce
radishes, sliced paper thin

Forming and griddle baking the sopes: Heat a well seasoned or nonstick griddle or heavy skillet over medium. Put the mash (fresh or reconstituted) into a bowl and knead in 3/4 teaspoon salt. If necessary, knead in a few drops of water to give the masa the consistency of soft cookie dough. Divide into 5 pieces, roll into balls and cover with plastic to keep them from drying out.
One by one, form the fat little tortillas that will become the sopes: Line a tortilla press with two pieces of plastic cut to fit the plates (be on the safe side, cut them from a food storage bag; the thicker plastic usually works better for beginners). Place a ball into the plastic lined press, gently pat and press it into a evenly flat disc, about 3/8 inch thick (the original recipe says 1/4" thick, with practice maybe I can do this!) and 2 and 1/2 inches in diameter. With the fat little tortilla still on the plastic, flip it over onto one hand, dough side down and peel off the plastic. Lay the tortilla on the hot skillet and bake for about a minute per side, until lightly browned-- in doing so you are transforming the tortilla into a sope, a little masa boat!  Do the same with all of the balls, allowing each to cool and forming into sope/masa boats. Cover with plastic and set aside. 
For the Filling: Simmer the beans down to a thick bean soup consistency. Take out half the beans and mash, add back enough of the brothy beans to make a refried consistency. (Also adapted from the usual method of re-frying the beans.) In a small skillet heat 1 T. oil over medium heat. Add the chorizo and cook, breaking up any pieces. When cooked drain off fat and cover with foil-place in oven to keep warm. (I used leftover grilled chicken.)
Frying the shells: Add the oil to a heavy skillet 3/4 of an inch deep. Fry the shells one at a time until lightly browned. Drain on paper towels then place in a cast iron skillet to keep warm in the oven. Repeat until shells are done. (You just have to do this step, no baking the shells. It's a flavor thing... the crispy/soft shell, the spicy filling and the cool creamy toppings!)
Finishing the Dish: Layer in this order- Shell, refried beans, chorizo, tomatillo sauce. cheese, lettuce, radish slices, crema.

One more note Herdez is making a great new Taqueria Salsa made from tomatillos and morita peppers, just like the familar smoky sauce you find on dinner tables all over Mexico! I found it at Walmart.

Friday, August 22, 2014


It's easy to close my eyes and think back to the long hot summers of my childhood. After supper we'd play outside until darkness took over the sky, Hide and Go Seek or Mother May I until the Fireflies came out. We'd try like mad to catch their little flashlight bodies and place them in an old Ball jar, but mostly it was running and giggling!

The fireflies flew just out of our reach, inspiration and wonder just beyond our fingertips. That's kind of like life, what we want sometimes is out there but it seems almost fantasy... what we want is just too hard to "catch." If we're not careful, we let the "I can'ts" into our hearts and then we forget how to be children again. Every Summer my Grandchilden teach me how to be young again. They leave fingerprints on the glass doors, they scatter toys in the living room and they delight in a simple ice cream cone.

Not a banana split, not a sundae... just a plain, ol' ice cream cone! 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Magic Carpet Ride


Lots of changes in the last 44 years, it was a first having my better half post anniversary wishes on Facebook this morning! We have tried our best to change with the times, not stay back in the 70's. When we first married he was in his second year of college and I was barely 18. I imagine many of our friends and relatives thought our marriage was doomed from the start. Those first few years were very hard, disappointments when our life didn't go as we had planned. That was the first mistake, thinking life would go as planned!


I got out my wedding dress a couple weeks ago, it's stored in a zipped garment bag now and has turned a cream color over the years. It has the smell that all antique things have, it made me a little sad to see it. It looks so small, I didn't even attempt to put it on! No one ever arrives at 44 years the same, physically or 
                      emotionally. I like to think I've grown in character as well as inches!

Nothing prepares you for marriage, it's one of those things that you just jump into with both feet and hope for the best. No rule book out there, everyone has to work through the hard stuff and appreciate the good stuff! Somewhere around 5 years (or kids, whichever comes first) we have a tendency to forget why we married in the first place. We forget that delicious kiss that took our breath away and it's all work and kids. Too bad we have to go through several more years until we realize that having that person in your life is so much more important than work or meetings or soccer games. 

44 years, and today I'm remembering how it felt going that aisle. It was thrilling in a sick-to-my-stomach kind of way, the excitement of a roller coaster and Christmas all rolled into one! That's kind of what happened in the years that followed... it wasn't always smooth sailing, but for the most part we have had beautiful sunsets every single day.

I'm glad I chose you Honey, let's keep the magic going!

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