Monday, July 10, 2017

Simple Chilaquiles; inspired by The Lacuna

This recipe came about due to several different events that happened over the past few months.  First and foremost, my friend Cam of Culinary Adventures with Camilla, posted this recipe using an herb called epazote for our Soup Saturday Swappers group.  I mentioned to Cam that my recipe had also called for epazote but that I had been unable to locate any.  The next thing I knew I got a package from Cam containing a package of epazote.  Cam is like that.....she is always surprising me with her thoughtfulness.

Then, my friend, Linda, gave me The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver to read.  This novel takes place in both the US and Mexico and follows the life of Harrison Shepherd.  Shepherd was born in the early 20th Century to an American father and a Mexican mother.  His parents split when Harrison is 9 years of age and his mother takes him to Mexico where he spends the next 20 years of his life.

Image result for The Lacuna

Shepherd's parents leave much to be desired and he stays mostly to himself finding comfort from servants of his mother's household, the sea in which he spends much time and his writing of which he is very ashamed.  He loves to cook and spends much time in the kitchen learning new techniques and learning patience.  This helps him to land a job as a plaster maker for the artist, Diego Rivera, which in turn places him in the esteemed position of head cook of Rivera's household.

This story spans the life of Rivera, Kahlo, Trotskey and others all told as seen through the eyes of young Shepherd.  Time spent with these historical figures helps Shepherd to discover a love of history, especially those of the Aztec Indians.

As an adult, Shepherd leaves Mexico and returns to the USA where he becomes an acclaimed author of historical fiction revolving around the Aztecs and Mexico.  Unfortunately, he gets caught up in the politics of the Cold War and has the audacity to believe that our Constitution was written to protect all people, regardless of race, creed or color.  These beliefs, combined with his history of employment by known Communists in Mexico, brand Shepherd a traitor to our country.

It is a powerful story.  One that had me shaking my head at the way history repeats itself, not only in our Country but in all Countries.  We people are a slow, dense animal, it seems.

This novel was filled with delicious foods prepared by Shepherd for Kahlo during her hey days when entertaining was constant.  I, of course, was inspired to create a Mexican recipe.

Image result for Mexican Kitchen by Rick Bayless

The third thing that made me choose this recipe was the cookbook from which it is taken. Whenever I get a hankering for Mexican, I head to my bookshelf and grab Mexican Kitchen by Rick Bayless.  I knew I wanted to use epazote in my recipe so I looked for it in the index and found a lesson on it. This is one of the things I love about this cookbook, not only is it filled with wonderful recipes but it reads like a history lesson.

Here is, in part, what Rick has to say about Epazote:

"If this is your first time using epazote, think that you are holding an herb with the aggressiveness of fresh rosemary, the pungent assertiveness of cilantro and the tenacity of anise."
He finishes by saying:

"In my opinion, dried epazote is right for medicinal tea, not for cooking."
Sorry, Rick, but dried is what I had and dried is what I used in this recipe from your American Home.

This recipe is found under the recipe for Rick's Salsa de Chile Chipotle y Jitomate aka Essential Quick-Cooked Tomato-Chipotle Sauce.  I am including my adaptation for this sauce along with the adaptation for the Chilaquiles.

For the sauce I used canned chipotles en adobo and I used a lot less than Rick calls for because Frank is ultra spice sensitive and I wanted him to enjoy these as well.

I adapted the Chilaquiles by seasoning with the dried epazote and using spinach leaves for the greens in the dish.

We served them up pool side on a platter along with Margaritas.  Thanks to Cam, Linda, Barbara Kingsolver and Rick Bayless for the inspiration to make this wonderful snack.  This recipe served 10-12 as an appetizer and could be served as a main course of 4 generous servings.

I am linking up with Foodies Read 2017.  Stop by and see what the others are being inspired to create from the books they are reading.
Simple Chilaquiles
adapted from Mexican Kitchen by Rick Bayless

2 Chipotle Chiles (from canned chipotles en adobo), removed from sauce
1 T. minced garlic
3 large tomatoes
2 t. dried epazote
1 T. olive oil
salt to taste
2 c. broth of choice ( I combined beef and chicken broth)
8 oz. ground corn tosatada or taco shells, broken into tortilla chip size pieces
2 large handfuls of spinach
1 pkg. Queso Blanco (Mexican Crumbly Cheese)

Place the tomatoes on a grill or under a broiler for about 6 minutes per side, until they soften and the skin blisters and blackens in spots.  Set aside to cool.

Place the chipotle peppers and garlic in a heavy duty blender or food processor.  Peel the skins from the tomatoes and place the tomatoes and any collected juices into the blender or food processor. Pulse to a course puree.

Heat the olive oil in a large pan over med high heat.  Add the puree and the epazote.  Cook and stir for about 5 minutes until mixture thickens and epazote softens.  It should be the consistency of tomato sauce.  Taste and season with salt as needed.

Add the broth, spinach and crushed chips. Simmer and stir until the chips are softened but not mushy and the mixture is slightly saucy.  Pour onto a platter and sprinkle generously with the cheese. Print Recipe.


  1. What a nice gift to get in the mail from Cam! I like how you wove all of the coincidences together and formed this great meal (with margaritas). I started The Lacuna this spring and although I love Kingsolver, I haven't picked it up in a while. (Rick looks super young on the cover of that cookbook.)

    1. I know Debra, I have had this cookbook for probably 20 years. It is one of my favorites.

  2. Thanks for this!! I'm glad you were inspired by several different friends. Kingsolver is hit and miss for me, but I'll definitely give this one a go. Thanks, Wendy!!

    1. Yes, for me as well Cam. I love Animal Vegetable Mineral and hated Poisonwood Bible. This started off slow but I ended up liking it.

    2. I feel the same way. I haven't really given any of her other books a chance after Poisonwood. I'll try this one.


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