During our years living in Columbia, we loved going to the Soda City Market on Main Street in downtown Columbia. Now that we live in Richmond, we’ve turned to the South of the James market for our Saturday morning perusing. For better or for worse, Soda City Market isn’t exactly a farmers market in our opinion. There are a handful of farmers with fresh goods, but they are definitely outnumbered by food vendors and artisans. South of the James is more of a true farmers market, with quite a few farms and farmers in attendance, in addition to some other vendors. Pro: there are way more options of fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats from which to choose! Con: there are not as many brunch-while-strolling-the-market options, though there are several.
This is in fact relevant to our recipe today and our goals of having this blog. While we were browsing through the produce at one stand, one of the proprietors was popping open these little tomatillos for people to taste. He told us these were “pineapple tomatillos” and would you believe it, they really do taste like a combination of a tangy, sweet pineapple and a sharply earthy green tomato. We bought a carton without a second thought. We’re certainly not tomatillo connoisseurs, but we’d never heard of these little guys. We also acquired some pretty purple beans, a few bell peppers and onions (which are also making their appearance in this salsa), and delicious plump blackberries that we finished before we even got to the car! Overall a successful trip 🙌🏼 Soooo… hopefully no one clicked on this link looking for a pineapple AND tomatillo salsa, because that’s not what we’re making tonight!
With a little research, we learned that tomatillos generally belong to two species of the same genus (Physalis philadelphica and Physalis ixocarpa), but that there are dozens of varieties. Tomatillos are native to Mexico and Central America, but are generally cultivated all over the Americas today outside of the coldest reaches to the north and south. The largest natural and cultivated variety of tomatillos grow in Mexico. Our pineapple tomatillos are one of those many varietals! Another interesting tidbit: the modern Spanish word tomatillo is derived from the Native American/Aztec word for the same plant and ingredient, tomatl.
I know these pineapple tomatillos aren’t exactly an ingredient everyone has on hand or can run out to the store and pick up, but if you come across them anywhere, get some! This salsa was refreshing – light and fresh! Everyone who ate it remarked that it tasted like a tropical fruit salsa, even though it obviously doesn’t contain any mangoes or pineapples or the like!
As a general rule, Americans aren’t usually celebrating the correct thing when we get excited about Cinco de Mayo. Rumor has it that most Americans think this day is Mexico’s Independence Day, which it is not. Instead Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Mexican victory over France at the Battle of Puebla. But hey… any excuse for delicious Mexican food. Or drink!
When we decided to make homemade margaritas tonight, Ally immediately thought about the margaritas our favorite Texans make for us. Texans know authentic Mexican better than anyone else in the country who is not Mexican, so we got their recipe – see Texas Margarita below. Since we were talking about tequila and margaritas, Selim had to share his personal recipe as well! Two margarita varieties in one post!
Notice the color of our margaritas, an appealing greenish-brown. Since we hand squeezed (yes, by hand, no electric or plastic juicer, just muscle) the limes, they keep their pale green hue instead of the neon green from marg mixes. Plus, we don’t use traditional white sugar in any of our cooking endeavors, instead we keep turbinado sugar in our pantry at all times, which is a clear brown in color and has way more depth of flavor.
Selim loves tequila (it comes in 2nd after wine, obviously). There are three “kinds” of tequila: joven, reposado, and añejo. Joven means young in Spanish and is often referred to as silver or white tequila. Joven is unaged and is really just the distillate from the agave; think of it being similar to the white grain alcohol before it’s aged in barrels and becomes whiskey. Reposado means rested and this tequila has been aged a minimum of 2 months in oak barrels. Añejo means aged and this tequila has been aged a minimum of 12 months in oak barrels. Barrel aging imparts complexity by adding notes of vanilla, cinnamon & spices, caramel, toffee, and so much more depending on oak type (American or European), new or old barrels, duration of aging, and of course… terroir! For those who have written off tequila as some inferior liquor, think again. To get back to the initial sentence, Selim loving tequila… He likes to highlight the tequila in his drinks, that’s why his pseudo-margarita only has three ingredients. Simply made, yet complex in taste. Always good tequila (we like Espolón), fresh squeezed lime juice, and local (terrior!) honey. Enjoy!
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
4+ limes ⇒ 1/2 cup lime juice + 1 strip of peel
1/4 cup orange liqueur
1/2 cup tequila
Coarse salt, if desired
Prepare simple syrup. Over low-medium heat, stir together the sugar and water. Watching closely, after the sugar dissolves, add the strip of lime peel. As soon as bubbles appear, remove from heat and set aside to cool.
(You can make a larger batch of simple syrup if desired to keep in the fridge for later use. Just maintain 1:1 ratio.)
Prepare drinks once simple syrup has cooled. Mix together 1/4 cup simple syrup, lime juice, tequila, and orange liqueur. Shake or stir to combine.
Salt the rim of two glasses if desired. Pour drink into glasses over ice.
Makes 2 drinks
4+ limes ⇒ 1/2 cup lime juice
1/2 cup tequila
1.5 oz (~1/6 cup) honey
Vigorously stir tequila into honey – it’s thick.
Add tequila-honey mix to cold shaker with lime juice and shake.
I don’t know if you noticed, but we haven’t shared too many posts this month so far (although our Sultan Selim Kofte was amazing & you should check it out!). A two-fold problem – we attempted a few recipes that we thought would be “blog-worthy,” that just didn’t turn out well, so we definitely couldn’t share our failures 🙄😬😣😉. And also, we used a few of our saved up vacation days to visit friends and watch UVA beat Wake Forest in Winston-Salem one weekend and to see our families in Nashville for a cousin’s wedding on another weekend! So we really haven’t cooked quite as much as normal this month!
Our lack of blogging this month is a little bit of a tragedy because January is National Soup Month, and I LOVE SOUP! I don’t know what month is better suited to officially be National Soup Month – what sounds more cozy and warming for chilly nights (and days!) than a big flavorful bowl of soup. It’s actually National Slow Cooker month too (probably for similar reasons…), so we just went ahead and did the two birds, one stone thing with this recipe – ✔️ & ✔️!
I’ve had this recipe saved on Pinterest for literally years I think. It comes from Gimme Some Oven, which actually is the very first blog I think I ever started following. I’ve made many of her recipes over the years, prior to the birth of our little infant blog. Check it out for some great recipes from a veteran blogger and much better pictures than ours! We tweaked her recipe just a tiny bit, adding a little extra vegetables & spices, because the entire world (or the 467 commenters on her post at least…) seems to love the original just as is! One little side note… one day we would like to make our own, traditional enchilada sauce, for this recipe or others. We were just feeling a little too lazy today for finding and roasting our own chilies. But we can only imagine how much better this soup would be when substituting authentic homemade enchilada sauce for the canned stuff!
As is my usual plan, when I’m uninspired and looking for something to make, I turn to a) the internet and b) a random cuisine from around the world. Is it because I’m American and have always eaten “American” food, that I think it’s the least interesting cuisine out there? Or is it because legitimate “American” food doesn’t really exist – just a combination of bits and pieces of all of our immigrant roots? I think it’s probably some combination of the two. Whichever reason, I was thinking Mexican for my dinner creation. And I wanted something a little different. I feel like in this country, we just assume that Mexicans live solely on tacos, burritos, and the occasional chimichanga. There’s so much more to Mexican cuisine than that (obviously), but I’m the first to admit I don’t know a whole lot about it.
Why did I call this post Sopa De Fideo (Almost)? Well, turns out the fideo connotates a specific type of noodle. Fideo looks like spaghetti noodles that have been broken into smaller pieces (and as such, most recipes you see for sopa de fideo tell you to purchase spaghetti and break it into smaller pieces.) Before I read more about it, I thought, “Hmmm… that orzo I have in the pantry would be a perfect substitute for broke spaghetti pieces…” Little did I know by substituting orzo, I essentially took away the namesake of the soup.
In a large pot, warm 2 tsp of olive oil. Add the chopped onions and cook for 5-6 minutes, until fragrant and translucent. Top this with a few turns on fresh black pepper.
Add the minced garlic, continue cooking for another 2-3 minutes.
Now, combine the garlic/onions, tomatoes, spices (cumin, cayenne, allspice), and 1 cup of stock in a blender or in a bowl with an immersion blender. Pulse until smooth.
Add the remaining 1 tsp of olive oil in the original pot. Once warm, pour in the orzo. Toss to coat with oil. Toast the pasta, stirring frequently, so it becomes golden, but does not burn. Give this ~5 minutes.
Now return the blended mixture and the remaining cups of stock to the pot. Stir to combine.
Bring to a boil and then lower heat. Allow to simmer for 10 minutes. The pasta will plump up and the soup thicken a bit.
Have you heard of elote, the beloved Mexican street food? Mexican street vendors sell you a char-grilled cob of corn, slathered with crema or mayonnaise or sour cream, cilantro, chili powder, cheese, lime juice, and maybe a few other ingredients. People rave about it! I’ve never had it, mostly because I haven’t spent much time in Mexico, and also because I don’t live in a big city with tons of street vendors. Also… because I haven’t ever been able to wrap my head around mayonnaise on my corn on the cob. I’m sure it’s amazing, because everyone says it’s amazing, but I haven’t quite made that mental leap yet.
But here’s the thing. Turns out, Mexicans also make a delicious dish called esquites, which as best I can tell, is basically elote in a bowl. For some reason, combining all those exact same ingredients in a bowl makes way more sense to my crazy brain. So I thought I’d dip my toe in and try esquites, hopefully as a gateway. My concoction is adapted from this one. We call our version Esquites Americano, solely based on the addition of the American favorite – bacon. We ate this as a dip with tortilla chips, but it works as a side as well. It’s as delicious as people say!