Living La Vida Sabrosa (the Delicious Life)

Teresa Gama was born and raised in Jalisco, Mexico, a town that offered its residents few of the conveniences of the 20th century. She was raised on a farm that included a wide array of vegetables and fruits and many livestock.

“The only time that we went to the little local store was to get staple supplies like sugar or flour,” she recalls. “Everything else came right from our farm. When we felt like having fish for dinner, my parents would have us throw rocks at the little fish in the nearby river and fill them to make fish soup. We even made the fire nearby and cooked the fish right there!”

Teresa moved to California when she was 18 with every ambition to fall in love and raise a family. She met her husband, Silvertre, at a wedding in Santa Barbara and was surprised to learn that he came from a small town near hers. They have three children –Sugey (24), Brandon (19) and Jennica (18). Sugey, who attended Crane School, just graduated from the University of San Francisco and became the first person in either side of her family to receive a college degree.

Teresa still makes everything from scratch, including her salsa. When preparing soft tacos, her trick is to leave room in the middle of the taco so it doesn’t break. One of her specialties, nopales, is a cactus salad that includes tomato, onion, cilantro and jalapeno. She has access to local cacti and removes the thorns individually before chopping and steaming them.

“You have to know when they’re ripe. I can tell by looking at them,” she explains.

With a taste similar to green beans, this nutritional cactus salad tastes great with red salsa and torta de camaron, dried shrimp cakes. (Note: For those cooks looking for a short cut, prepared cactus can be found at Santa Cruz Market.)

Another use for this prickly vegetation is, of course, tequila. Meticulously displayed on side tables in the dining room, Teresa’s husband has an impressive array of world-class tequila bottles.

Teresa’s cooking repertoire includes traditional Mexican beverages, such as horchata, a rice drink with cinnamon and vanilla; jamaica, a punch-flavored drink also known as hibiscus tea; and atole, which goes great with tamales.

With Cinco de Mayo fast approaching, Teresa offers some of her traditional Mexican recipes.

Sopitos

Bag of small corn tortillas

3 red potatoes (diced)

5 carrots (diced)

1 small onion (diced)

2 cloves of garlic finely chopped

Salsa for Sopitos

1 tomato

1 jalapeno

Oregano

Pinch of salt

Blend all ingredients in blender until consistency is very liquid.

Procedure:

In a large pan, sauté the potatoes, carrots, onion and garlic with a little bit of vegetable oil, until well cooked. Lightly fry the tortillas in vegetable oil until slightly crisp (or however desired). Place a spoonful of the cooked vegetables in the tortilla and you may choose to top with cabbage or lettuce, cheese and salsa.

Chicken & Vegetable Enchiladas

1 cup diced carrots

1 cup diced potatoes

1/2 bag of frozen corn

2-3 chicken breasts, shredded

1 onion, finely chopped

Enchilada Sauce:

Boil tomatillos with salt, garlic and cilantro. Blend in blender until liquid. Heat tortillas in microwave and dip them in the sauce. Fill the center with vegetable and chicken mixture and roll up like a taco. Put the cheese on top, and if you like, put another layer of sauce on top.

Horchata

1 cup uncooked rice

4 cups water

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ cup sugar

1 can Carnation evaporated milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

Soak rice in water overnight. Put all ingredients in blender and blend until thick. – This article was written with special thanks to Peter Phillips.

(If you know a cook who deserves attention, please e-mail your suggestions to news@montecitojournal.net)