Food by the Book
Houston native Mario Alberto Zambrano brings to life the thoughts of 11-year-old Luz Maria Castillo, a ward of the state following a tragic mishap in her family, in his first novel, “Loteria.” Because Luz will not talk, she is given a journal and writes about what she is not ready to say out loud. All Luz has with her is a week’s worth of clothes and a game called Loteria. As she flips over each of the 54 cards, the images evoke memories leading up to the fateful night that destroyed her family.
Zambrano’s lyrical novel is interspersed with Spanish phrases and loaded with Mexican customs, but it is not a story of the immigrant experience. Although Luz is the only one in her family born in the United States, the novel is ultimately a portrayal of family dynamics and the resilience of the young, even in the face of domestic violence and child abuse.
Using Loteria as the basis for the novel’s unfolding was an intriguing tactic. Loteria is a game of chance very similar to our bingo. It originated in Italy in the late 1500s and was brought to New Mexico by the Spanish in the 1700s. It is played like bingo with a game card (tabla), but instead of numbers, a riddle (dicha) is called out, for example La Luna might be “the lamp of lovers.” To score in this quick-thinking game, you must fill a row on the playing card, just like in bingo. “Loteria” is yelled out as soon as the row is filled.
It is no wonder Zambrano penned a poetic novel that just skirts the magical realism so prevalent in Spanish language literature. Before he graduated from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, he spent 17 years as a dancer and choreographer for several ballet companies. He has said that “a voice in a piece of literature dances to its own language.” Luz’s voice dances to a language both singular and universal.
Traditional Italian osso buco takes on a Mexican flair just right for this time of year. Serve it with elote, Mexican street vendor corn, for a New World Thanksgiving feast.
Mexican-Inspired Osso Buco
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 boneless turkey breast half, sliced into 6 pieces
2 turkey legs
1/2 cup flour
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
2 carrots, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 cup chopped chipotle peppers in adobo
2 tablespoons adobo sauce from can
1 cup dry white wine
2 cans chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon paprika
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Rinse turkey and pat dry. Season with flour. In large Dutch oven, heat oil. Brown turkey in batches, turning to brown all over, about 6 minutes per side. Remove and set aside. Add onion and carrots to pan, sautéing until limp. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add turkey back to pan. Add wine, tomato paste, spices, chiles and adobo sauce. Add wine and chicken broth. Bring to a boil; cover and place in preheated oven. Bake 3 hours until fork tender. To serve, remove to serving dish. Chop 1/2 cup cilantro and mix with juice of one lime; sprinkle on top of meat and serve. Use leftovers for a unique, spicy turkey hash.
Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes
1/2 a sweet potato per person
1/2 cup marshmallow cream
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Bake or microwave sweet potatoes until tender; cool. Cut sweet potatoes in half and scoop out flesh into small bowl. In another bowl mix marshmallows, brown sugar, and spices until smooth. Refill potato shells. Top with cranberries and almonds and return to oven until hot. These are a sweet counterpart to the spicy turkey. Adapted from Holiday Cottage, November 2013.
Elote in a Cup
Elote is Mexican street vendor corn-on-the-cob covered in a sauce of crema, cotija, mayonnaise, chili powder and lime juice with variations throughout the U.S. from New York to Texas.
4 ears of corn grilled or 1 package frozen corn
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup Parmesan, grated
1 or 2 limes
1 tablespoons chili powder
1/2 tablespoon cumin
Grill corn in the husk over medium coals until beginning to blacken (or cook one package of frozen corn kernels); cool and cut kernels from the cob. Place corn in a microwave proof bowl. Add butter, lime juice and Parmesan. Top with chili powder and cumin. Microwave for 3 minutes until butter and cheese are melted. Serve with lime wedges and a few drops of Valentina hot sauce, if desired. Add salt to taste.
Corn Muffins with Roasted Red Peppers
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup roasted red pepper, chopped
1/2 cup drained canned corn
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a large muffin tin with baking cups. In a large bowl, stir together the cornmeal, flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Stir in mozzarella. In a small bowl, mix together buttermilk and egg. Pour into flour mixture and stir until combined. Stir in red peppers and corn. Fill muffin cups and bake for about 20 minutes until golden brown. Source: Holiday Cottage, November 2013.
1 prepared chocolate crumb crust
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels
1 teaspoon instant coffee granules
1 teaspoon hot water
3/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 tablespoons semi-sweet chocolate mini morsels
Melt 1 cup morsels in small bowl in microwave for 30 seconds; stir until melted. (Do not overcook). Cool for 10 minutes. Combine coffee granules and water in medium bowl. Add sour cream, granulated sugar and vanilla extract; stir until sugar is dissolved. Stir in melted chocolate until smooth. Spread into crust; refrigerate. In the meantime, beat cream, powdered sugar and cocoa in small mixer bowl until stiff peaks form. Spread or over chocolate layer. Sprinkle with mini morsels. Freeze for at least 6 hours or until firm. Enjoy. Recipe original from Nestle’s Very Best Baking.