Mexican Home Fries

November 6, 2010

In my search for some international news about Mexico (to fulfill my assigned blog post topic for the week), I had a hard time finding something non-violence or drug related. However, after looking a bit deeper, I found a great little blog post on The New York Times.com about el Dia de los Muertos, which occurs each year on November 2. For all of the non-Spanish-speaking Americans out there, that translates to the Day of the Dead. Dia de los Muertos is a Mexican tradition that dates back to pre-Hispanic times and celebrates the annual return of those who have died. In Mexico, the celebration is held in cemeteries where dead family members are buried.

Aside from tacos, corn, hot chocolate and pork with pineapple, traditional food includes sugar skulls and Pan de Muerto, or Bread of the Dead. People place sugar skulls on alters after writing the name of the person who died on them, and round, cinnamon-flavored Pan de Muerto represents the circle of life, with sesame seeds to symbolize the tears shed when a loved one dies.

Here’s a photo I found of a sugar skull. Look how small it is!

This year’s main alter honored those who fought in the Mexican Revolution and the Mexican War for Independence. Those who go to the festival put photos of deceased family members on the alter and light candles, placing them alongside fruits, flowers, sugar skulls, Pan de Muerto and marigold flowers.  The smell of marigold flowers is believed to guide the dead to the site.

Lots of marigold flowers. :)

Now, on to more interesting things. Mexican Home Fries! This was one of my all-time favorite recipes as a kid. Until now, the last time I had it must have been almost ten years ago now. Recently, I found the original recipe, and was excited to see that it could easily be veganized just by leaving out the cheese, and substituting creamy plain soy yogurt for sour cream.

Mexican Home Fries

Ingredients

  • 6 to 7 small potatoes
  • 4 to 6 corn tortillas
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 head garlic (chop very large cloves into smaller pieces)
  • 1 heaping cup onion, minced
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt (or more, to taste)
  • a generous amount of black pepper
  • 1 bell pepper, cut into small strips (or a combination of red, yellow and green bell pepper strips)
  • 1/2 cup chopped, pitted black olives (or sliced or left whole for more texture)
  • 1 tomato, chopped (cherry tomatoes work great, too)
  • 3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • plain soy yogurt, for garnish
  • minced fresh cilantro, for garnish (I left this out since I didn’t have any, and it was still great without it)

Preparation

  1. Scrub the potatoes, and slice thin.
  2. Tear the tortillas into small, 1 or 2-inch pieces, or cut them into wedges.  Set aside.
  3. Heat the oil in a large skillet.  When it is hot, add sliced potatoes.  Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring over medium-high heat, then add the garlic cloves and onions.  Keep the heat medium-high, and use a spatula to move the potatoes around until they are brown and crisp.  This takes about 15 more minutes.
  4. Add cumin, salt and pepper.  Stir until seasonings are well-distributed.
  5. Add bell pepper strips, tortilla pieces, olives and tomato.  Cook and stir about 10 to 15 minutes, until everything is well blended the tender.
  6. Stir in crushed red pepper and lime juice.  Taste and adjust seasonings as needed, and keep stirring until potatoes reach a desired crispiness.
  7. Serve hot, with plain vegan yogurt and minced cilantro on top.

Preparation time: 1 hour

Makes: 4 to 6 main-dish servings.

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