Our 2nd New Southern-Latino Table Dinner Party!

I’m sure you’re still stuffed from our first dinner party last week, but it’s time for another virtual feast! We’re celebrating the publication of The New Southern-Latino Table: Recipes That Bring Together the Bold and Beloved Flavors of Latin America and the American South, by Sandra A. Gutierrez. Guest food bloggers are cooking the recipes, and we’re crossposting their experiences here and at Sandra’s website, SandrasKitchenStudio.com.

Our second dinner party features:

Spiced Pepitas, prepared by Meghan Prichard of nestMeg
Layered Potato and Egg Salad (Causa Vegetariana), from Robin Asbell of The New Vegetarian
Chile-Chocolate Brownies, prepared by Dean McCord of VarmintBites.

If you missed out on our first dinner party, here’s what we ate:

Peach Salsa, prepared by Tara Mataraza Desmond of Crumbs on My Keyboard
Chicken Enchiladas with Tomatillo Sauce, prepared by Jill Warren Lucas of Eating My Words
Pecan Rum Cake with Figs, prepared by Amy Lewis of The Practical Cook

**And if you’re in the Triangle area this Thursday, come to The New Southern-Latino Table Launch Party!**  For more information and to RSVP, check out the Facebook event page, and we’ll see you there!


Spiced Pepitas

from Meghan Prichard of nestMeg

Photo © Meghan Prichard, nestMeg

Remember that time I got to help with a cooking demonstration at A Southern Season? Well, I’m excited to be a part of another project with Sandra Gutierrez in celebration of her first cookbook: a virtual dinner party! I’m joined by fellow bloggers Robin Asbell (making layered potato and egg salad) and Dean McCord (making chile-chocolate brownies) for this week, with participants from the other weeks listed below.

I had the privilege of seeing The New Southern-Latino Table in its final stages of development while shadowing Sandra last semester, and I’ve been cooking out of my very own copy for a couple of weeks now. Sandra combines the familiar — Southern cuisine — with the more unfamiliar flavors (at least for me) of Latin America. I’m particularly looking forward to tackling her empanadas and cocoa, chile, and bourbon mole. I am also excited for Sandra herself. I consider her a mentor and, above all, a friend. She provided me with a wealth of insight about the world of food writing for someone just starting out in the field. I think her final quote in my profile about her says it all:

“I would like to see the next generation to be responsible about the world we live in, the food that we eat, generous with helping others who are coming along in their career or feeding people, but also, honest, to really try to treat each other with respect. I’d really like to see a return to honesty and respect in the next generation. For others. For our world, for our earth. For our ingredients. And a return to the kitchen. I feel that these last two generations have run away from the kitchen and that you really lose that connection with the world, that honesty and respect, if you do not have it for cooking.”

Respect, Sandra believes, begins in the kitchen. My respect for her began there, as well.

She encompasses everything I love about being a part of the food community. Foodie people are happy people.

These spiced pepitas certainly make me happy. This recipe is quite possibly the easiest I have ever posted on this blog, and I like to think that most of my recipes are easy. Cooking time is under 10 minutes, and the final product makes for an addictively healthy snack. A little bit salty, a little bit spicy, and undeniably easy to consume in large handfuls.

Photo © Meghan Prichard, nestMeg

Spiced Pepitas

2 cups raw pumpkin seeds
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ancho chile powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon sugar

Preheat the oven to 375°F. In a medium bowl, toss together the pumpkin seeds, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, cumin, pepper, coriander, chile powder, cayenne, garlic powder, and sugar. Spread the mixture on a baking sheet. Bake for 5 minutes; remove the baking sheet and shake to redistribute the seeds. Return to the oven and bake for another 3 minutes; stop to shake the pan again. Finish baking for 1-2 minutes, or until the pumpkin seeds are crispy and golden, being careful not to burn them. Transfer to a cool baking sheet and cool completely before storing.  Makes 2 cups


Causa Vegetariana

(Layered Potato and Egg Salad)

from Robin Asbell of The New Vegetarian

Photo © Robin Asbell, The New Vegetarian

It’s a great big world out there, and as people move around in it, they bring their cultures and cooking with them. Cuisines evolve, living and breathing along with us. New traditions are born. When a talented chef grows up moving between cultures, absorbing and reinterpreting cuisine as she goes, you can bet there will be some tasty results. When that chef is Sandra Gutierrez, the tasty results are the creative recipes, gorgeous photographs, and enticing prose in her new book The New Southern-Latino Table (UNC Press).

Sandra Gutierrez has taken a path that started in the US, went to her parents’ homeland of Guatemala, looped up to Canada, and ended up in North Carolina. Along the way, she learned to cook her native dishes at the side of her Aunt, traveled a lot, and learned more about Latin cooking, even as she absorbed the multicultural foods all around her. She also noticed that the South was home to a whole collection of Latinos, from all the countries south of the border, and they were creating a new kind of cuisine in their adopted homeland. From this realization came The New Southern-Latino Table. This cuisine is bigger than Sandra’s home cooking, encompassing the evolving food styles of all her Latino brethren. It’s a beautiful book, and Sandra clearly embraces both the food of her origins and of her current home, and composes from their palette thoughtfully and affectionately.

When you take a forkful of any given dish from this book, you might be tasting Guatemala, Mexico, and Mississippi Delta in one bite. Or Peru via New Orleans, or Brazil with a soupcon of Creole. It’s exciting stuff, delicious at face value, but fun to analyze a little bit, to see which influences she’s whisked together this time. That’s why I wanted to share her recipe for Causa Vegetariana, and the thinking that went into its creation.

I asked Sandra to tell me more about the origins of the causa, a Peruvian dish.

“Potatoes are native to Peru and they have dozens and dozens of varieties and colors of potatoes there. You find causas all over Peru and it’s one of their most famous dishes, along with ceviche. There is a Southern element in my causa because I took the elements of a classic Southern potato salad and deconstructed it; then I built it in the shape of a causa.


Photo © Robin Asbell, The New Vegetarian

“All causas have these things in common: first the potato part is always enhanced with lime and chile (traditionally with the Peruvian ají Amarillo). Second is that they are always stuffed with a mayonnaise-based salad which can be made with anything you want: other veggies only, seafood, or meats. But the one I made with egg salad is new and I pulled from southern elements in traditional potato salad. Causas therefore can be vegetarian but many times are not,” said Gutierrez.

See what I mean, about the thought process that went into building this dish? It’s not the kind of thing most cooks can pull off with such skill and familiarity. That comes from years of crossing and mingling cultures and cuisines, and a rare ability to work both analytically and intuitively. The book is full of recipes like Chile Cheese Biscuits with Avocado Butter; Coconut, Chayote, and Corn Bake; and Chile-Chocolate Brownies, all of which make mouth-watering use of New Southern combinations.

Since this vegetarian version is a brand new creation, I asked Sandra how vegetarians would fare south of the border, in places like Peru and Guatemala.

“There are many vegetarian dishes in Peruvian cuisine, but mostly each Latin cuisine features a huge array of plant-based dishes. Vegetable Escabeches (pickles), rice and bean based dishes such as Nicaraguan Gallo Pinto, fruit smoothies (sometimes called aguas or batidos), and a wide selection of salads are traditional to Latin American cuisine in general,” says Gutierrez.

Maybe I need to make a trip to North Carolina, to get a taste of this Nuevo cuisine. Pimento cheese and collards never sounded so appealing!


Photo © Robin Asbell, The New Vegetarian

Causa Vegetariana (Layered Potato and Egg Salad)

This is Sandra’s version of the causa. Like a potato-based egg salad sandwich, this causa will definitely wake people up at your next potluck, with its zingy lime-chile potatoes and a generous topping of olives. I substituted hot sauce in place of the ají amarillo paste in the recipe. Vegans can use crumbled tofu instead of eggs for the filling, and with vegan mayonnaise, you can enjoy this creative new party dish!

For the Potato Layer:

4 pounds yellow potatoes (such as Yukon Gold), boiled, peeled, and mashed
1/2 cup minced white onion
1/3 cup key lime juice
1 teaspoon ají amarillo paste
2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

For the Egg Layer:

9 hard boiled eggs, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped pimiento-stuffed green olives
2 tablespoons minced capers
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon yellow mustard
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pinch salt
1 cup sliced pimiento-stuffed green olives
1/4 cup finely chopped chives

Spray a 9x13x2-inch casserole dish with cooking spray. Place the mashed potatoes in a large bowl; add the onions and stir to combine. In a medium bowl, whisk together the lime juice, ají amarillo, salt, and pepper until the ají paste is dissolved. Whisk in the oil and add the dressing to the potato mixture, stirring well to combine. In a medium bowl, combine the eggs, olives, capers, mayonnaise, mustard, pepper, and salt; stir to combine. Spread half of the potato mixture evenly in the prepared dish. Spread the egg salad evenly over the potato layer; top with the remaining potatoes. Garnish with the olives and chives. Chill for at least 1 hour (up to 24 hours) before serving. Serves 12


Chile-Chocolate Brownies

from Dean McCord of VarmintBites

Photo © Dean McCord, VarmintBites

My 10-year-old daughter Clara has become quite the baker. She’s always surprising me with cookies, breads, muffins, and lately, even pies. But one of her favorite things to bake is also one of the easiest: brownies. She’s been making brownies for years, and she occasionally looks for a new variation on the tried and true standard chewy chocolate version that our family prefers.

Well, do I have a great variation for you: Chile-Chocolate Brownies from Sandra Gutierrez’s new cookbook, The New Southern-Latino Table. (It’s funny, I’ve never met Sandra, but I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been told, “Oh, you two should really meet!” Even now, after receiving a complimentary copy of her new book, we still haven’t met. Time to fix that!)

Photo © Dean McCord, VarmintBites

But back to these brownies. I recently read a local magazine’s take on this rich, dense and moist brownies, which combines two different types of chile powder, one in the brownie itself and a spicier, smokier chipotle for the glaze. This magazine said that if you’re making these brownies for kids, leave out the chile powder. Leave out the chile powder? Are you completely out of your mind??? Yes, this recipe would make a very nice brownie without the spice, but it would still be relatively ordinary. It’s the chile powder that makes this dish something special, something unusual, something truly memorable. And the amount of heat is really not that great. We had a bunch of kids trying these brownies, and they all loved them. Were they a bit spicy? Yup. But combined with the sweetness and all that chocolatey richness, it was a perfect combination. So please, try making these brownies, just the way Sandra intended you to (although you can leave out the nuts, if so desired — we did). But do not leave out the chile powders — it’s all the difference between a good brownie and a kick-ass one.

And the recipe is so simple, even a 10-year old can make it!

Photo © Dean McCord, VarmintBites

The recipe below comes directly from Sandra’s cookbook. We made just two minor variations. First, we did not include the pecans. We wanted a nut-free version. Second, rather than melting chocolate in a double boiler, we did our standard operation of combining the butter and the chocolate in a large Pyrex measuring cup, and melting it in a microwave, thirty seconds at a time, stirring after each cycle. If you’re wondering where to find the chile powders, check out a Latino store, but I was lucky enough to find both types at my neighborhood Whole Foods.

Chile-Chocolate Brownies

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
2 cups sugar
4 eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons ancho chile powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped and toasted pecans (optional)

For the glaze:

1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 tablespoon cocoa powder
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon coffee-flavored liqueur
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon chipotle chile powder

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Place the butter and chocolate in the top of a double boiler and heat over low heat, stirring occasionally, until they have melted and are well combined. Lift the bowl carefully from the pan so no water droplets come into contact with the chocolate mixture; let cool for 5 minutes and transfer to a large bowl. Stir in the sugar; add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition; stir in the vanilla. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, ancho chile powder, and salt; gradually add the dry ingredients to the chocolate mixture, beating well until fully combined. Add the pecans. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the center is set and the brownies begin to pull back from the sides of the pan. Cool brownies for 1 hour in the pan.

To make the glaze: In a medium bowl, combine the confectioners’ sugar, cocoa powder, butter, liqueur, vanilla, and chile powder; blend until smooth. Place the glaze in a pastry bag (or zip-top bag with a snipped corner), and drizzle back and forth over the brownies. Cut them into 20 bars. Makes 20 brownies


All recipes from The New Southern-Latino Table: Recipes that Bring Together the Bold and Beloved Flavors of Latin America and the American South. Copyright © 2011 by Sandra A. Gutierrez.