Cinco de Mayo inspired the theme for May’s gathering, as we explored and cooked from a wonderful Mexican-American cookbook, Cocina de la Familia (Family Kitchen) by Marilyn Tausend.
Marilyn Tausend, who passed away earlier this year, spent thirty years leading culinary tours throughout Mexico. For this book, she spent three years traveling across the United States and Mexico, meeting family cooks who adapted family dishes and traditions from their native land to their new home. Coincidentally, we learned that Ms. Tausend was a friend of one of our newer members, Gayla (who unfortunately wasn’t able to attend this gathering because she was out of the country). Gayla told us that Marilyn would have been thrilled to know that her cookbook was being used and that the recipes work.
Jackie played host to thirteen participants. We welcomed our newest member, Adele; and were glad to greet one of our charter members, Meredyth. Together, we enjoyed 13 savory dishes and six desserts from the book (plus Christina shared her “renegade" brownies). Beverages included a refreshing sangria from the cookbook, a pitcher of margaritas and even some tequilas for sipping.
There were a few slight ingredient substitutions made - Jen used beautiful beet greens as a bed for her colorful Christmas Eve Salad (which featured the beet roots) instead of the recommended Iceberg - less food waste and higher nutritive value. Kate kept her Lentils & Chorizo vegetarian by utilizing a commercial vegan sausage.
Several participants made extra efforts in preparing their recipes. Linda followed the book's instructions to make a rich chicken stock for her Cold Avocado Soup - so delicious that she had trouble keeping her husband from consuming it all before she could add it to her dish! Jackie certainly went the extra mile by preparing two kinds of tamales: - Tamales of Tiny Vegetables wrapped in the traditional corn husks were filled with bits of a variety of vegetables; the second, Green Chile Tamales, were wrapped in banana leaves, featured a different masa recipe (using butter and sour cream) and a luscious filling of green chiles and tomatoes.
Some of the recipes featured unusual ingredient combinations: Susie’s Rum-Spiked Bread Pudding included feta cheese. Both of MaryLou’s offerings also included curious combos: a chicken recipe using prunes, raisins, chipotles and two cans of cola - came together as an example of synergy - the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. She also contributed an unusual Ancho Chile Flan featuring slivers of the chiles and a sauce made from anchos and orange zest as major flavor components.
Inspired by Tausend’s informative chapter on salsas and relishes, Jackie asked us to consider preparing a salsa or relish recipe for a Salsa Bar. Almost all participated and we enjoyed quite a variety of flavors, colors and textures, from creamy classic Guacamole to spicy Pickled Carrots to round out the feast.
With every gathering, we find it difficult to choose just three favorites, but we did our best! Our top favorite (and deservedly so) was Jackie's Green Chile Tamales.
Shelley prepared the group's second favorite: Minted Lamb Shanks with Thin Pasta
Kate's Corn & Zucchini Chowder was our third favorite.
Since we had so many desserts to sample, we decided again to vote for them separately. Our two favorites tied: Jackie's Cinnamon Ice Cream with Ice Coffee and MaryLou's Ancho Chile Flan.
We left the gathering filled with many calories and very much appreciation for Jackie's conviviality, her cute canines, and for all of our clever cooks. A wonderful afternoon of deepening friendships, delightful food and just darn fun! See you in June!
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