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From the Kitchens of Pancho Villa has been awarded the honor of "WINNER" in the "Cookbooks: International" category of the 2014 International Book Awards!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Make salsa at home - don't be intimidated!

You just had this amazing chile sauce at a nearby Mexican restaurant and want to make some at home....where do you start? It probably seems like some sort of magic that this sauce can only be made by 'Mexicans' in their restaurant. They are experts, right? You would be surprised! Most food at your local Mexican restaurant is the very basic of foods, red rice, beans, enchiladas covered in sauce and buried beneath a mound of cheese. Although you probably think this is complicated to make, they have a restaurant – so they must be chefs! Nope! Most come to the U.S. with one skill, cooking for their family. So they adapt their traditional family recipes to the Americanized version and voila! the U.S. version of Mexican food.

Most sauces are a combination of chiles, tomatoes (either red or green tomatillos), a slice of onion and sometimes a little garlic and a pinch of salt. Nothing more. There are a few creamy sauces that are usually even easier to make with fewer ingredients!

Don't be intimidated by those sauces. Many of my Mexican friends here in Mazatlán make up the sauces as they go, depending on the main ingredient of the meal, such as chicken, beef, pork or fish. You can do the same thing. I experiment with almost every sauce I make now on a daily basis. Some are amazingly delicious while others make you shudder. Even those nasty tasting ones can almost always be 'saved', so you aren't really wasting your time or ingredients.

Start by purchasing several types of dried chiles and a small can of chipotle chiles in adobo. For the dried chiles, wipe them off with a damp paper towel and put them into a small pan of boiling water to rehydrate. Count how many chiles you have of each kind. Only put one type of chile in at a time – dump the water and use fresh water each time you change chiles. After about 5 minutes of boiling, drain the chiles. When cool enough to handle, remove the stems and the seeds. Toss them into a blender and blitz them well. There can be some small bits but nothing big. Rinse the blender before blitzing the next kind. Do this for each type of chile you have, but keep them separate. For the chipotles, as you add the canned chiles to the blender, count how many chiles there are.

OK, now, cut some squares of plastic wrap. I use 6” squares. Use one square for the equivalent of 1 chile. If you have 6 ancho chiles, then use 6 squares. Just divide each blended chile into roughly the same size packet and wrap them up. Put each type of chile into a freezer bag and label it. They will keep forever in the freezer if you have wrapped them well.

The hard part is that was really hard!  

The first sauce we will try is a creamy sauce. You are having fish or chicken and want a great sauce. Personally, my favorite chile is a chipotle with it's smoky flavor. Since I am writing this, that is what I will use. Any of the chiles you just blitzed will work the same. BUT now that you have so many chiles prepared to choose from, why not make several different batches – small batches – and see which you like best.

You can use either mayonnaise or sour cream. I am not a mayo fan, so I use sour cream except when making the sauce for my potato salad. So, start with about ½ cup sour cream or mayo. Add a teaspoon or so of chile puree (or the whole packet) and stir well. Give it a taste. It will probably need a little 'zing', so squirt in the juice from ½ a lime or a bit of lemon juice. Stir and taste. Add more of either if you need. Stir and taste. I doubt you will need any salt but if you like, you can add some of that. Done. If you like potato salad like I do, and I make mine with cooked chicken cut into cubes for a main meal, I use ½ mayo and ½ sour cream with my chiles.

Making a red or green sauce is easy when you already have the pureed chiles too. Boil a couple of roma tomatoes or tomatillos for about 3 minutes, toss them in the blender with 1 small slice of onion and 1 teeny bit of garlic (like ½ a clove), puree then start adding some of your chiles. Stir and taste. Salt? Stir and taste. Use these sauces on chicken, pork, seafood or beef. Very versatile and very easy. These tomato type sauces also freeze well, but make sure to label them with which chile you used.

Once you make the first sauce, you can experiment with tons of other ingredients. Add some diced peaches or squished raspberries or blackberries to your creamy sauce. I know you have heard this before, but it really is true – you are only limited by your imagination!

Drop me a note if you 'invent' a sauce and want to share it here. I am always interested in new sauces!

Cooking is fun OR it should be. And food is one of the biggest pleasures in life OR it should be. And, remember, recipes are only a guideline never the rule.

¡Buen Provecho!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Sweet Chile Salsa

Another wonderful cooked salsa to impress your family.  When I make cooked salsas, I always make a double or triple batch and pop the extra in the freezer.  I hope you make a habit of this too – it really simplifies dinners when you can just defrost a freezer bag of salsa and not have to assemble and prepare all the ingredients.   Last minute dinner guests will be 'wowed' by your culinary expertise!  Serve this salsa on the table with grilled, broiled or roasted meats such as chicken, pork or even a good burger.  Sit back and give them your 'smug' face....


Note:  the sugar you will use is either piloncillo (dark brown sugar cones) or muscovado sugar.  Both are unrefined sugars, thus both have high molasses flavor.  In Mexico, diabetics are allowed both of these sugars because they are unrefined.  Check with your own doctor if you are diabetic to see if either of these two sugars are permitted on your diet.

The poblano chiles do not add a significant amount of heat, just a lovely green-grassy type flavor!

Makes about 2 cups

10 plum or Roma tomatoes, peeled, seeds removed and roughly chopped
4 poblano chiles, charred, peeled, stem and seeds removed, then chopped (same size as tomatoes)
1 medium onion (¾ cup) finely diced
½ cup apple cider vinegar
½ cup muscovado sugar OR 4 oz cone (125 ml) piloncillo
½ teaspoon whole cloves, well crushed but not ground (use 2 spoons together)
½ teaspoon whole allspice, well crushed but not ground (use 2 spoons together)
½ inch (13 mm) whole cinnamon stick
¼ teaspoon salt (more if you desire)

Toss all the ingredients into a saucepan and cook over low heat for 3 hours.  I use a screen over my pot because tomatoes tend to bubble and 'pop'.   Remove and discard the cinnamon stick.  The salsa will be thick and delicious!  Serve in a pretty bowl on the table for your guests to serve themselves.  Either refrigerate or freeze the left-over salsa. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Reviews ...

Reviews – why would you take the time to write one?

Suppose you just finished a book that was well written, kept you engrossed in the pages and you hated for it to end.  You are excited about the book and want to pass that information on to your friends: 1. that you did like the book; 2. why you liked the book.  How many of us have told our friends, “I am reading a wonderful book, I bet you would like it too”.  A review passes on your information to others.

From an author's point of view, I get excited reading that you liked my book.  It makes me feel sort of 'warm and fuzzy'.  So much time goes into researching and writing a book that we want some feedback.  Of course, we really want positive feedback.  This positive feedback, in the form of a review, helps us get our book out there to the public.  Meaning … we sell more books.  It also lets us know that our time was not wasted; that we produced a good product. 

In my case, selling more books means giving more to the cooks represented in From the Kitchens of Pancho Villa. 

Therefore, I ask you, if you have read this book, please leave a 'review' on this blog in the comments section on any page.  If you can give it a 5 star rating, then please leave a review on  You need not have purchased the book on Amazon, just have an account with them. 

Thank you!!!  

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Fruit Filled Dessert Chimichangas

Tortillas are a cornerstone of true Mexican cuisine. Tortillas,
both corn and flour, are found on every table at every meal. It is no wonder that tortillas are also a favorite dessert component. They are such a huge part of the Mexican diet that the government regulates how much can be charged for corn tortillas. Today, I am making fruit filled chimichangas, using flour tortillas. You can make your own tortillas or purchase them. The only criteria is that they be very thin. Not those clod-hoppery tortillas that you can fill with 3 pounds of beans, but tortillas that are almost paper thin. If you have a tortillaria near your home, ask them to make some for you. It is just a simple adjustment on their equipment.

Fruit is also a staple of the Mexican diet. Some are more expensive than others, like apples which are imported. But many fruits are grown right here in Mexico, so those will be the ones we use.

I have chosen peaches....... I love peaches....... but you can choose apples, apricots, berries, pineapple, bananas – you get the idea.

I am only making enough for Pete and I today. So will use 4 flour tortillas – 2 each.

2 fresh peaches, peeled and seeds removed. Dice into large squares and place in a small pan with 1 tablespoon sugar. Gently sauté the peaches until the sugar melts. In a small cup, mix 1 teaspoon cornstarch with 1 tablespoon cold water. Add to the warm peaches and stir until clear and thickened.

Spread ¼ of the peach mixture in a line on each tortilla. Fold one end over the fruit, then each side to make a sort of pocket and then roll the other end to enclose the fruit.

Heat vegetable oil in a large pan to about 1/2” depth. Pop in a small square of bread and if it gets crispy, you are ready to fry the tortillas. Gently place the filled tortillas into the oil, seam side down. Fry until that side is golden brown, then turn and fry the other side. Remove to a plate lined with paper towels to absorb the oil.

Place 2 chimi's on each plate and sprinkle with some powdered sugar. May be served with ice cream or whipped cream too.

A word of warning: the fruit will be like napalm so let it cool slightly before digging in. You know how that first piece of pizza burns the roof of your mouth? This is worse!

Geez.......I had planned on taking photos of the beautiful chimi's I made, but Pete and a friend ate them while I was writing this!!!! Good grief!!! Is nothing sacred??? Photos to follow another day...

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Besos - Kisses

February seems to be the 'month of love' or 'mes del amor' where I live.  Spring is in the air, at least the hope of Spring is in the air.  Birds begin looking for a mate and then go nest shopping.  When we are young we start to wonder if he (or she) likes me..... maybe I will get chocolates or a flower for Valentines Day.  Better yet, maybe I should give chocolates or a flower and let my intentions be known.  All are part of the rituals of February.  We even celebrate a Love your Pet Day, February 20th.  The possibilities for love are endless.  Blah blah blah........ 

You get the drift, right?  Today I will show you a simple recipe for 'Besos' which means kisses in Spanish.   The recipe is from my book and it is so easy and a cute and tasty gift to give to all your friends and loved ones.

From page 164, From the Kitchens of Pancho Villa


Makes about 48 cookies

Small one-bite shortbread type cookies, these are only  slightly sweet. The big burst of sweetness comes from the powdered sugar coating. They taste just as good without the  coating, but it would not be a true beso (kiss) without it. For  those cooks who own ovens, this little delight is usually  made around Valentine’s Day, sometimes two cookies  sandwiched with a filling of strawberry jam. Mexico is full  of traditions, and this is a sweet one!


2 cups flour
½ cup granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons baking powder
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup butter, or a combination of butter and solid vegetable shortening
powdered sugar for coating after baking

Preheat the oven to 175°C/350°F. Prepare a cookie sheet by greasing with shortening or lining with parchment  paper.

Knead together all the ingredients except the powdered sugar until fully mixed. Form into small balls the size of  hazelnuts. Place on the prepared cookie sheet. Flatten a little with a fork. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the  oven, carefully remove cookies from the cookie sheet (they are fragile), and cover them in powdered sugar.  Gently shake off the excess sugar, and cool on a wire rack.

You may need to make more than one batch though.  I find myself falling into the 'cheater' category when I make these because they never make it to the cookie tin! 

As seen on:

As seen on: