December 06, 2009

Holidays, Traditions and Familia

Well, it's been an incredibly long time since I've posted to my blog and I must apologize for that. This past month has been quite a busy turn of events. I must say however that A and I have been eating so I hope that assuages any of your fears that we might not have been since I wasn't posting to my bloga. I've missed this space, I've tried to mimic the color of my blog to match the feelings I have when I'm in my kitchen and just like the pleasures of home I too need to feel connected to this writing space. Since my last post I've applied to ten jobs and sent a chapter off to my advisor for review so perhaps a little break, though sad, was necessary.

The holiday season (which I acknowledge as starting around Thanksgiving and running through New Year) is a special time. Ever since I moved away from Albuquerque to go to college in Kansas and then onto graduate school in Minnesota, Thanksgiving and Christmas meant spending time with my familia. I know that as a lesbiana family means many things, it means the ones who birthed, love and care for you, your blood kin and it means the family that you choose to make. And this year while sad that I was unable to be with those who I am proud to have shared blood running through our veins I was able to fully enjoy my own family including A and Sandie and JoJo. I also had a chance to cook my very own first turkey and enjoy the three-day-long preparations involved with putting together a feast of this magnitude.

As a Chicana, Thanksgiving is a holiday that is about remembering the importance of reclaiming and acknowledging histories that are often silenced. For me, it is about remembering losses and confronting US colonialism alongside honoring familia. I like to think about the ways that participating in an event across the nation can one day move us to a place where those of us who voice our opinions about the tradition of Thanks-taking are no longer the minority, rather the norm who acknowledge the pains of our past as a nation and create meaningful dialogues on healing wounds and ensuring these cycles of violence do not continue both within and beyond the US national context. In that way, the meal is important to me, knowing that how a single day can be defined by a meal in such concrete ways so that I know that my neighbor down the street is probably enjoying just about the same meal as I, myself am. Not to elide the very real class disparities that exist in this country, but I am struck by the possibilities of many people sharing in the same meal in many places. I know many have such different connections and/or problems with this "holiday", for me it is but another of many of the contradictions that lie within my soul.

I promise to get back to providing some recipes alongside my thoughts about cooking in the very near future, my life has been so full lately that new recipes have been put on the back burner (pun intended) and I have been rolling with many staples. In fact, all of my Thanksgiving items were completely standard fare, a foil-wrapped turkey slathered in butter, just like my mama does it, green bean casserole, candied sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, rolls and a pumpkin pie, so I don't have any exciting recipes to report back. Also, this meal preparation happened within application and writing deadlines so my documentation of the recipes was unfortunately not a top priority, maybe next year if we host the meal at our place, I'll try to attend to these details a bit better. However, I would like to share some pictures of the big event, because as I mentioned, changing history also means the proper documentation of of stories, so here's mine in pictures.

Of course, the picture A takes of me I'm doing the mundane chore of chopping up potatoes to be boiled.

Sandie trying to find some pre-dinner morsels on my immaculate kitchen floor.

My first turkey, notice how the skin on the right side totally got stuck to the foil, oh well, learned a valuable lesson, when mama says tuck foil around edge of bird she doesn't mean the breast.

An amazing meal on an amazingly sunny November in Minnesota.

A- My amazing partner, so glad that she is part of my ever-expanding familia.

J- My wonderful cousin who was able to spend time with us, enjoy a meal with us and take a nap on the couch following the main event. Followed by, a new tradition - watching Elf and enjoying pumpkin pie.

Sandie wondering if she can have some more turkey.

More recipes are on their way, I'm very much looking forward to doing some major baking in the near future, nothing like Christmas to make you want to gorge yourself on sweets and candies, oh wait, that's every day for me, now I just have an excuse for my behavior!

October 29, 2009

Halloween, día de los muertos and Loved Ones

As a young girl in Albuquerque, New Mexico I have always had vivid memories of Halloween. I love pumpkins and jack-o-lanterns and I remember the excitement of carving a pumpkin with my father. My brother and I would get to pick out our pumpkin in the giant cardboard bins outside of the grocery store. I seem to recall always being drawn to tall, skinny ones, the ones that seemed like they might not have been the first choice because they weren't perfectly symmetrical and round. The color was also really important to me, I wanted to find the pumpkins that had different shades of orange within it. What can I say, I was attracted to oddly-shaped pumpkins and had a tendency to anthropomorphize them (but I mean, come on, once you put a face on something how can you not?) When we got home, mom would lay down yesterday's newspaper down on the big oak table and my brother and I would draw our faces for our pumpkins out on paper and then onto the pumpkin. Dad would pop off the top and we would get to reach our hands inside the pumpkin to pull out it's insides. Then he would carve our faces in it. We'd light a candle inside of them, pop the top back on tilted so if something started burning our new pumpkin friends wouldn't ignite into an orange blaze. My mom and I would then toast the pumpkin seeds in the oven with some salt which is the featured recipe for today's post. As my sisters grew up, I took over the drawing and carving piece, as my dad became much more busy at work, and apparently I was steady-handed enough to wield our one large knife. This hasn't changed much in my older years except now my love draws the face and I carve it out. My only insistence for this one was that it have a happy face, and for some reason I also really feel the need to incorporate a gap tooth in my pumpkins so ta da!   

A and I usually do the carving together every Halloween but this year I was home alone carving our pumpkin because she was at a work event and I am leaving tomorrow for Kansas for my Auntie's funeral. My Aunt Cynthia Perez Falcon passed away at the young age of 51 years old. She leaves behind a daughter, my cousin who just started taking college classes this semester and a son who is a sophomore in high school. This summer while I was doing research with my familia, I collected her oral history. I was struck by how much she balanced reflection on her past with what was in her future plans. At the time a mere two months ago, I never knew just how precious my request for her oral history would be. As I prepare for a trip down to Topeka, Kansas to pay my respects I've been thinking a lot about what I can pull from her own words as a way to honor her memory. I have become the keeper of these stories and I have the responsibility to share these words with her family. I know she would have wanted this from me. Forgive me for trying to work out some of the things I want to say about her here in my bloga. I think it is relevant as I have increasingly moved away from Halloween as the only holiday I celebrate into incorporating spiritual practices from día de los muertos. My Tía will be laid to rest on Saturday the 31st, and even though día de los muertos follows it directly where we honor our antepasados the 31st will forever remind me of my Tia's generosity, grace, love and joy in the world. She was an amazing woman, a friend and confidant, she would come and visit me while I was at college and even though we didn't get to see each other as often as I would have liked, every time we got together it was a comfortable meeting of two women. I will miss those comfortable times, my friend and my Tía, en paz descanses. 

Now back to anthropormorphizing my pumpkin, after I ripped out her guts, I rinsed and dried my pumpkin seeds, this is from that big pumpkin! There is something to be said about the smell of a fresh pumpkin, there's nothing like it and carving one just brought back so many memories for me. 

I separated my seeds into two bowls and had decided that I would use two different flavor profiles for my seeds. As you all know, spicy is my forte so I flavored one half of my seeds with some green chile powder from the Santa Fe Cooking School that the Lone Baker bought me and the other half with cayenne pepper. Yum Yum Yum. 

Dress your seeds with about one half tablespoon of olive oil and salt them to taste and toss them to coat. Then add your other flavoring, of course this is to taste, as the more you use, the spicier it will be. 

Lay out your deliciously coated seeds on a baking sheet as a single layer into a pre-heated oven set to 400 degrees for about 20 minutes. Enjoy some warm right out of the oven and to snack on throughout your Halloween or día de los muertos festivities with your loved ones.  

October 15, 2009

New Mexican Green Chile Stew

New Mexican Green Chile Stew (Adapted from Bueno Chile Recipe)

I must preface this entry with an apology to my Minnesota fans, this might be a bit more difficult to recreate, as I am using some green chile that was literally frozen and then overnighted by my mama. I will say that I am going to try to recreate this with some other chiles and see how it goes, maybe with some roasted poblano chiles and some beef broth to add some liquid? Who knows, but to my New Mexican followers, this will seem to be a perfect reminder of the simplicity of ingredients and the deliciousness that is freshly roasted Bueno green chile and beef combining into a spicy stew.

My hermanita KRC was in town visiting A and me over her fall break of her freshman year of college at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. My mama had called a few days before to let me know that KRC was missing the (hot air) balloon fiesta that Albuquerque hosts every October and green chile. She said she couldn't do anything about the balloons, but she could do something about the chile, so she overnighted me some fresh roasted green chile that my dad buys and freezes, a container of Bueno green chile to make a beef stew and two packages of Frontier flour tortillas. It was like heaven when it arrived on my doorstep a few days later and I of course had to test the tortillas to make sure they had weathered the journey ok. Once KRC arrived I used the fresh roasted to spice up breakfast burritos (to which my sister said, "this is better than the Frontier's breakfast burritos" and while they were good I am not sure they really surpassed the quality of the Frontier, but I try. The next day I prepared a green chile stew like my dad does by following the instructions on the side of the Bueno canister.

You basically need three key ingredients and the other ones can be added for extra flavor or not. These main ingredients are potatoes, bueno green chile and beef (stew meat). Since I had some smaller red potatoes left over from the week before I decided to use these, and honestly preferred them over the Russet browns. (Sorry if this seems superflous but I get so annoyed when the recipe doesn't tell you what kind of potato to use!) In your pot heat 1 Tablespoon of canola oil.

Then throw in your stew meat to brown for about four minutes. Turn periodically to ensure every side becomes brown. I like my stews a bit heartier so I added about one full pound of beef while the bueno recipe only calls for one half pound.

While your meat is browning chop up your 3 small potatoes into bite size chunks/cubed. While the meat was browning my sister was napping on the couch and A was playing video games online. It was such a nice time with my family, I don't know what it is about soups and stews or a pot of beans but it really just inspires reflection on how lucky we are all to have familia to love us and provide support right at the most important times. My sister's visit couldn't have been better for me in terms of reassessing priorities and remembering that life is about living (as opposed to working so hard in the attempt to live at one day in the far off future). And so, while I browned my meat and cut my potatoes I thanked the heavens for my familia, green chile and chilly fall afternoons.

I then added in my potatoes and browned for four more minutes and stirring occasionally. In between stirs I totally would peek out to the living room and see my wonderful family enjoying their lives in our one weekend where are lives could continue to intertwine. KRC's head was on the arm of the couch as she quietly slept, totally wore out from our night at the MN Rollergirls' Derby the night before, and my A was cute as always, saying things like her usual, "it smells SO good." That really warms my heart. I'm also thankful that I created this blog and now the memory will stay with all of us in the event that we forget these wonderful times.

The smells of beef and potatoes totally lured my kitchen assistant in to check out the action. Here she is looking a bit wonky eyed, but I'm going to say that's because of the cool lighting that I caught as the afternoon sun actually peeked in our window that day! How artistic no?

Poor thing didn't even get anything out of that except maybe some minced garlic that went flying onto the floor (as I minced). I used four cloves of garlic (when the recipe calls for only 2) what can I say, I love garlic. Throw that in and get ready for the main event, the chile simmer.

Now, for those of you who are not from New Mexico and/or have never seen green chile, this is what it looks like when you buy it chopped. Notice this is quite different than say, getting it in those miniature cans. This actually has some heat to it, you can tell it was roasted before put into the container, and it's been marinating in it's own juices. Also, probably because of the processes behind canning or something, this is much more flavorful and full of liquid. When I popped the lid off of this I almost cried. Now, if any of my fans are rich you can have your very own Bueno green chile mailed to you for the cheap price of $27.99 for the actual container (WOAH! seems a bit pricey, but it's actually for six containers) and $50 shipping, (again, WOAH!) I'm not sure how much it cost my mom to overnight this to me, but the take home message is, if you're in NM, stock up and bring home if you can (via car - you might have some issues in security with this).

Pour this deliciousness into your pot, add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and give a quick stir. Allow to bring to a boil, then lower to simmer for about 20 minutes and then you're ready to eat the best spicy stew you'll ever taste. In fact, it is this stew that I feel has ruined my taste for any other stews that are not spicy. Bland stews forget about it!

Serve with two warm tortillas that you heated on your stove. Don't even think about microwaving these, please it hurts me when people do that. Take the extra minute to heat your skillet, it will be worth it I promise. Cozy up with your familia and share some laughs about the crazy times you had the day before, most of all be thankful that you know the deliciousness of green chile. This entry is for my mama, who is the best mama in the whole wide world. I love you. And for my hermanitas (KRC and KMC) for being the best hermanitas ever. I'm so glad all of you are in my life.

September 26, 2009

Beef Fajita Marinade Deliciousness and a Baking Revelation

I realize I haven't posted in a while but it is because of of my amazing work ethic I've been exhibiting on that other writing project. I finished a complete draft of one of my dissertation chapters! Only two more hard ones to go and I'm done! (Not to say I don't still have a lot of work) I feel so proud. In fact, this is somewhat inspired my baking revelation! I usually hate baking, hate may be a strong word, but I tend to not have the patience for it and baking makes me worry that I've messed it all up and I have to wait until it's done baking to see if I've done everything right. While I was baking this beautiful cake (that ended up being perfect) I realized that baking is a lot like scholarly writing. It takes advance preparation (read whole recipe/read other scholarship), the putting together of things in a certain order (dry ingredients, wet ingredients/several sections come together to make a whole) and some faith that it is all going to come out all right (rising dough and/or baking time in the oven/knowing that you will get the right combo together and have a finished product sometime). Yes it's hard work, but you have to have faith in the process, the more you work at it the better at it you'll be, the better prepared you are in advance then the more likely something better will come out of it! Like this deliciousness...

I made this cake to bring over to A's friend/co-worker, S' house for a dinner that we planned because she wanted to cook with me based on my prowess! This isn't my first invitation to someone else's kitchen but I am very excited that my blog has inspired the potential for cooking collaborations.

I decided to bring a marinated steak for fajitas. This is a really great and easy marinade, I made it the morning of our dinner and allowed the meat to soak it all up for about twelve hours. If you are marinating a meat, I would definitely suggest the longer the better. The flavor of the steak was absolutely tasty, grilling it outside on S' giant grill also enhanced the flavors. The pictures that I have of the process are of my time making fajitas a couple of weeks ago on my grill pan, not quite as awesome as the outside grill, but an amazing implement to have in my kitchen arsenal.

This marinade will be enough for one pretty large sized steak. Squeeze the juice from two limes. Add one tablespoon each of olive oil and red chile powder (or to taste). Cut up about half a jalapeño, two cloves of garlic (minced) and whatever else you think might add a tasty flavor, in the case of the other night I added in some chopped onions. Let your steak soak it all in, it will totally be worth it.

This was a really thick steak but I recommend seven to five minutes on each side and then you're good to go. Don't forget to quickly saute some onions and peppers to top your fajitas. I often throw the second half of the jalapeño in with my veggies to add some flavor, apparently I'm a sucker when it comes to jalapeño, I mean seriously, I might have a problem.

I like to make sure I don't have them too soggy, I like them with a little bite and crunch in my fajita, so literally they're only on the stove for a few minutes, I try not to stir too soon after they head in for their olive oil dip, so that the onions and peppers can be brown and deliciously caramelized.

Slice your meat into thin strips and pull your tortillas out of the oven. I like to warm them in foil for fajitas because to the soft tortilla juxtaposed to the crunchy veggies and chewy carne is heaven.

Assemble it all together and you have a really great meal that is relatively easy to do. Serve with sour cream of course and some salsa/pico if you feel like you need some tomato.

Here are my awesome fajitas along side some Mexican rice, I'll divulge those secrets on another post, but for now, I will just revel in the power of positive thinking, weekly writing action plans and persistence, because all of these things make it possible for me to survive. Thanks for letting me have this venue to talk out some things, it feels good to be in this informal voice instead of dissertation voice, it's a balance that I need to achieve to make all of my writing better. And make these fajitas, especially if you're in the mood for something fast and filling, and maybe try to bake a cake from scratch, you'll be surprised if you can accomplish baking a cake from scratch, you might just feel like you can do anything!

September 14, 2009

La Kitchen Chicana or Brown Hands

My abuelita's hands making her delicious enchiladas

As I have been an official blogger for at least a month now, I thought it might benefit my readers if they knew a little bit about how this blog emerged. Specifically, a conference paper on Gloria Anzaldúa was the initial inkling that I might want to engage with the issues of food, identity and family in a meaningful way. For those of you who know me are probably in no way surprised by this revelation, because her seminal text Borderlands/La Frontera defines my life and my approach to so many things. But as I begun to think about these ideas, A's mother, my wonderful mother-in-law J or as I often refer to her as, The Lone Baker also started a blog a little bit before mine took off and she really made me think that it was worth a go. I briefly mentioned in my last post about the ways that I feel trapped in the Borderlands as an emerging food blogger. By this, I mean, I don't feel my recipes are necessarily going to win any major food awards anytime soon, but it's always been more about the process and what goes on behind the scenes that has been important to me. What was it that made a hot dog in a tortilla so good? I laugh to think of how I define my own identity as the ways that Mexican food (tortilla) and American (hot dog) come together to form Mexican American? I promise this is not the last that you will read on the topic, but I love the ways that my identity can be traced through both enchilladas and pot roast, meals served to me by my abuela and my grandmother respectively. I am so happy that I created this blog as an outlet to explore my identity through food and perhaps share a recipe or two.

The real reason for this post is that I wanted to put a link to a piece that gives a little more into the backstory behind this blog, well, a little piece of the puzzle so to speak. I am going to be a regular contributor for a new online ezine called LuchaVista Magazine the inaugural issue just came out today and has a poem and piece about my family and the role of food in their lives. I urge you to check it out because it goes hand and hand with my blog, if you're interested. Check it out by following the link: Brown Hands, Comida & Love

Thanks for reading.

September 04, 2009

Kr's (Mini) Tuna Melts

Long before Brangelina, more like back in the day when Brad and Jennifer were still together lived the infamous Krandace. Two resident assistants living in Oliver Hall at the University of Kansas on the fifth and eighth floors became one over the course of our sophomore years. Amidst fire alarms, calling the KUPD on students smoking pot, busting up keggers, avoiding Cutco knife salesman and honoring our 10:00pm curfews Kristy and Kandace became Krandace: the ultimate life long friends. As our lives intertwined throughout our college years and Kr worked her way up the Res Hall perpetual ladder by our senior year (I mean, given a few more years we would've been in that main office - that is just how awesome Krandace is - just ask Dr. Stoner!) Kr had worked her way up into having her own kitchen and multiple room apartments our last summer together and began working her way around the kitchen.

I feel it is important to divulge a bit about Kr's background. You see, she comes from a culinary-inspired family where there is cocktail hour and courses involved for every dinner! Quite a change from anything I had ever known growing up. I guess that's how you roll in the burbs of chi-town. Anyways, Kr has always amazed me in the kitchen because I believe R and B's (her parents') positive attitude about food and finding flavors that mesh well together translated into her own ambitious mixing of whatever she has in the kitchen to make delicious meals, I should know she had done this on plenty of occasions long after Krandace had to physically part (but clearly never in our heart). Check out her free spirit here as a guest blogger on Graficionada. But the point of this heartwarming story is one time, I do believe in my first apartment in Minenapolis, Kr and I cooked up some delicious tuna melts, this is a little bit of an adaptation but tuna melts are always a quick and easy lunch or dinner meal. So consider this for one of those times when you don't have much in your kitchen but you're hungry and need something filling. The amount of foods used here was enough for two people with leftovers depending on your appetite. Thank you Kr for your wonderful spirit and being the Kr to my andace.

Now, onto the meat! Two notes about my beautiful display of ingredients here:

1) I forgot a key ingredient to tuna melts - mayonnaise ugh, I try so hard to make it look pretty and this is what I do, leave out key ingredients.

2) La Kitchen Chicana is not a professional operation, I am happy about this for the most part, sure my femme sensibilities sometime push me to want prettier bowls, or dream of shopping sprees at expensive cooking, baking and dish stores but I do recognize that I have an amazing arsenal of plenty of more than adequate cookware and dishes in my kitchen. However, I am often amazed at how much money, time and effort a lot of food bloggers spend on their kitchens and their blogging. Imagine my surprise when The Lone Baker informed me that most of these bloggers have professional photography equipment to make beautifully lit photos, that alone means some serious money is involved. Then to begin to think about the amazing equipment these bloggers have in their kitchens one can become quite upset with one's own lacks in the kitchen area. I like to say what I lack in equipment I make up in love. Well, as the doctoral candidate that I am, we all know that I am not in any sort of financial situation where I can spend endless amount of money on professional photo lighting so that I can make prettier pictures, nor do I have the time to take hundreds of pictures of my food from every angle (people seriously do this - but I do scarily see the appeal) to be honest if I capture the gist of the thing I'm ok with that (for some examples of this type of blogging behavior check out the blogs that had their pics chosen on Food Gawker or one of my other favorites Pioneer Woman.)

I think these are important issues to discuss on the interwebs because blogging and the internet in general has been seen as a "liberatory" tool of the masses. In fact, I have a (albeit small) audience of people who put up with my ramblings in this published format and blogging becomes a means of communication around issues that one might not have access to in the realms of the general/mass media. Clearly, one of these issues should be global capitalism and the selling of certain "ideals" in terms of what you should be if you are a food blogger - mainly, a well-off housewife comes to mind. But what about those of us who clearly do not fit into this world? Am I destined yet again, to be in the borderlands (see Gloria Anzaldúa for more) of cyber space, trying to navigate a world that presumes class privilege while making foods that are meant for those who are clearly not in that status? It's almost too much to bear, but I keep on because I think this blog is as much about my identity as a Chicana who loves food as it is about the food I make. I'm sure I have plenty more of this to discuss but that will come, with my ruminations on future meals. I fear my audience is ready to get to the recipe already.

A perfect way to ponder these very issues is to make up these CHEAP tuna melts and share them over some lively conversation - be my guest. A and I however, enjoyed ours watching Project Runway, so maybe this is more a suggestion and definitely not lead-by-example type advice. Open and drain two cans of tuna. Add some mayonnaise I would say this is about two heaping tablespoons. Mix with a fork to combine.

Now add the secret ingredient, that when I first made these for A she was like, "hmm... what is that in there? It's good but different." That special ingredient would be (yellow) curry powder. Add in about 1/2 tablespoon and a teaspoon (to taste) of red chile powder. Mix it in thoroughly. At this stage I also add in a pinch of kosher salt and some freshly cracked black pepper.

Next comes the delicious crunch. chop up some jalapeños and put into your tuna concoction. I love jalapeños and since I have a high tolerance for spice I put in about 1/4 cup chopped pickled jalapeño peppers. I would NOT suggest putting in this much if you are using a fresh jalapeño, chop that finely in that case but do not add this much or you might die from over-spiced tuna melt syndrome. At this point I also add about 1/4 cup of shredded cheese - I'm using again the three cheese blend from Trader Joe's here, my favorite for easy melting.

Stir it all together and you should have something pretty chunky because of the cheese and the jalapeños and you're ready to go.

Since we're making mini tuna melts today, I cut up about half of a french bread loaf that I got at Cub that morning. It felt fresh at the time, to my disappointment it was really dry on the inside, meaning it was really difficult to cut, I think I lost about two pieces due to squishing them and their insides crumbling out. You may of course use whatever bread you would like.

Then give a little piece to your kitchen assistant, just to make sure it's edible. A will be happy to know that Sandie is working on her poses. Look at her smiling with her eyes, or is she contemplating how to bite my finger off for some additional protein? Alas, we may never know.

Now, I decided to use my Broil King because I wanted to make them all at once. You may of course (which might be the preferable method) use the broil setting on your oven. I had a hard time getting my tuna melt to melt with the BK unfortunately so, I will either use a lower setting (because my bread did get toasty) or put this in the oven to broil to ensure the insides get heated enough. There's almost nothing worse in your mouth than a lukewarm, soggy tuna sandwich. Don't say I didn't warn you.

I used butter to coat my Broil King and then I was able to make this many mini sandwiches from my tuna mix. I let both sides of the bread toast but flipped the top up onto the sandwich part sooner than later in an attempt to warm up my tuna to make it nice and melty.

When your bread gets toasty and your insides are melty, you're ready to eat! You can see that I've paired these with some delicious macaroni and cheese. This made me feel like I needed to add some different colors in my food but another day means another meal means another lengthy blog about it. Until the next time we break bread with one another...

August 24, 2009

Fresh Radish & Cucumber Ensalada or A Note about Onions

A's friend and co-worker S was taking a little trip to the land of cheese and she was gracious enough to unload some of her CSA veggies to us before she left as she wouldn't be able to use them. She was describing what she had to give us before and I already started envisioning a radish and cucumber salad dressed with lime and vinegar. Of course, jalapeño and cilantro would want to be friends as well. And so, we joined all in a lovely embrace of tart salad goodness. You will need to have all of the ingredients above and any other fresh veggies you might have on hand that you might need to get rid of. I used half of the cucumber because I didn't have very many radishes to balance it out. I also love a pretty cucumber, so I peeled some stripes into it. Also, I was making it a little more palatable for my lovely partner, she's usually adverse to cucumbers (unless they're pickled) so this falls into the general category of feed it to her even if she acts like she doesn't like it. I thought (rationally of course) that peeling off the peel might make her mistake them for something else.

You should slice it as thin as possible. Lucky for me I have a nice sharp knife exactly for these purposes. However, one of those slice-your-finger off julianne thingies would have done a really good job with this. I think the thin slices really made the salad.

Give a little piece to your kitchen assistant. She's so patient in her favorite spot in the kitchen. She also wants to tell you that one time A accidentally dyed her favorite rug robin egg blue. Lucky for her she bleached it and it came back to it's original color. Otherwise someone might be mad... me or Sandie, you can guess.

Give your radishes the same treatment - minus the pretty stripe peel (unless you want peppermint candy-inspired radishes).

Add into a bowl and keeping going down your list of ingredients, slicing and dicing. Next up, purple onion.

I'm trying to like onions more. They are such an important ingredient in Mexican and Mexican American cooking. But here's the deal, my mama does not (and I don't believe ever has) love onions. So this means I have to try extra hard to begin to like them. I like them cooked and in most foods, I think they smell lovely sauteing, especially like when I make them in my spinach quiche (which is what I paired this wonderful salad with tonight). But what onions really remind me of is my mama - as her extreme hatred of them is pretty much scarred as a notch in my brain. This distaste for onions was so bad that she singlehandedly changed her own mother's cooking to sin cebollas, siempre. She also somehow convinced my white grandma to make her little small portions of onion free dishes (of which I can't seem to remember currently) but this was no small feat, dare I say this means white grandma actually might love my brown mama. On top of this, I was forced to eat the small non-onion dishes then because when you're little and your mama doesn't like something, you don't like it either, it's a standard practice, just ask anybody.

Anyways, back to onions. Onions always make me cry. Paradoxically, this makes me kind of happy. Not because the release of endorphins associated with crying feels good, but because of the wonderful book Buried Onions by Gary Soto. The main character, Eddie, is constantly talking about how he smells onions buried under Fresno and that the oppressive smells of the onion actually make the inhabitants of the city cry (whether they know it or not). Not to give away the whole point of the book, but buried onions become a metaphor for so many things in the lives of these residents' and the only one who can really see it is Eddie.

Because of this book and because onions always make me cry, the onions also make me contemplative as I'm crying over them in my small kitchen. I am reminded of millions of families who have and continue to toil in the fields to pull up onions. I've never pulled an onion out of the ground but I can imagine, in the heat of dark soil, they probably do stink, and perhaps being in a field full of lots of burning onions in the brown dirt might inspire some tears. I don't mean to paint a picture of farmworkers as pitifully crying in fields as they pull up whatever-season-produce, because farmworkers are full of dignity in the fields in which they work, and this is noble work that not many think about. As far as I know none of my familia have worked in the produce fields. However, my great-grandfather on my mother's dad side laid down the railroad from Missouri to Colorado via Kansas and Nebraska. My mother's mother picked cotton in the South with her familia when she was young on many of her trips across the US/Mexico border. So I know the ways that hard labor shapes a person, I know the pain because it lives through me in my historical memory. In this vein, and in thinking about Soto's book I often remember these memories and feel them vividly when I am cutting an onion and crying, thinking about the ways that my own relationship to the onion that has landed on my cutting board, knowing it was touched by a farmworker's hand, before it came into my own. The onion to me holds a lot of power, it can make you cry and then you have to examine why you're crying - because while it does hurt a bit to have onion fumes enter into your nasal canal and water your eyes, it also becomes the avenue for you to explore some deep, repressed feelings if you let it. What I can assure you is that the next time you peel or cut an onion you're not going to forget to ask yourself why you're crying.

After you've finished crying because of your onion, or for whatever reasons you might be crying as long as you've contemplated why it might be that you did, de-stem some cilantro for the rest of your salad.

Next if you're feeling like some spice in your life, grab a jalapeño - I'm often amazed at how many of these I manage to have in my house at any given time. See this little piece of the end, that's how much I put in my salad, it added a bit of a kick, but it wasn't making my eyes water like that sliver of onion did. I love jalapeños but they just don't make me cry like my onions do.

I had a chance to use my jalapeño corer again today! I just scooped out was was in the middle of that little piece I chopped off and then finely, finely diced my pepper. Since I was just throwing it in with the other ingredients and I didn't want A or myself to choke on a chunk of jalapeño I decided finely dicing was the way to go.

Doesn't it look pretty and yummy? I totally snuck a taste (can't trust kitchen assistant with that job) to see how hot my pepper was. I wasn't disappointed. Lastly it's time to dress your salad. My abuela makes this delicious cabbage and carrot salad that is literally dressed with vinegar, salt and pepper and it is almost my favorite salad of all time. It might also be because she painstakingly shreds every inch of that salad out by hand and that gives it some extra love that cannot be replicated by shredding that takes place in the Cuisinart 5000 power food processor and definitely not with the pre-shredded cabbage and carrots you can get in the "I'm too lazy but bourge enough to buy pre-cut vegetables" area of the produce fridge at the grocery store. Anyways, the point of this rant is that I was saying, a) you always have to make it with love or else why bother and b) my abuela makes this delicious salad with vinegar as the dressing and I thought, what better way to bring my salad up to a delicious state but to dress them with some aged, white wine vinegar. I would've used just some plain vinegar but I didn't have any in my cabinets! The horror! Oh, and don't forget to squeeze half a lime in there (or to taste), my lime was small, I would actually say probably one tablespoon would do.

The white wine vinegar gave it the tart and sweet finish I was looking for. There were a lot of delicious tastes all mingling into one tasty accompaniment to my quiche (see who says I can't cook French food) that was serving as our main course. A even ate all of her salad! Including all of her cucumbers. What a nice little hot summer meal. It was light and refreshing all around. Fresh vegetables, check. Vinegar, check. A little creativity, check. You can do it too! I just know you can!

Sorry again for the bad pictures, my kitchen does not have very good lighting and I'm usually like an ogre in there trying to take pretty photos - as in my hunking shadow tends to block out what little light I do actually have in there. You can't tell here but I cracked some freshly ground pepper over mine and it was very tasty. I do like how I have the close up view of the salad here, but again, everything looks so dark and sad - which is unfortunate since it was quite a cheery dinner minus the tears I had to shed when slicing that onion, but one might say, I'm learning to love those tears.

PS: Has anyone seen Princess Protection Program starring the adorable Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez? I'm watching it now with A and having conflicted thoughts on it... more on this later I suppose.