Fans of reading, Mexican food and cooking had a red-letter day last month at the Payson Public Library with the Capirotada Cooking Class and Book Discussion.
As part of the library’s ONEBOOKAZ program, Director Terry Morris presented two classes on Mexican cooking and led a discussion of the selected book, noted Arizona author Albert Rios’ “Capirotada: a Nogales Memoir.”
ONEBOOKAZ came to Arizona in 2002 and is coordinated by the Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records (ASLAPR). It is designed to bring communities together through literature. Beginning in April every year, this program encourages communities across the state to read the same book at the same time and participate in discussions and programs centered around that book.
About “Capirotada: a Nogales Memoir”
Capirotada, Mexican bread pudding, is a mysterious mixture of prunes, peanuts, white bread, raisins, milk, quesadilla cheese, butter, cinnamon and cloves, Old World sugar — “all this,” writes Ríos, “and things people will not tell you.”
Like its Mexican namesake, this memoir is a rich mélange, stirring together Ríos’ memories of family, neighbors, friends and secrets from his youth in the two Nogaleses — in Arizona and through the open gate into Mexico.
The vignettes in this memoir are not loud or fast. Yet like all of Ríos’ writing, they are singular. Here is the story about a rickety magician, his chicken and a group of little boys, but who plays a trick on whom? The story about the flying dancers and mortality. About going to the dentist in Mexico because it is cheaper, and maybe dangerous. About a British woman who sets out on a ship for America with the faith her Mexican GI will be waiting for her in Salt Lake City. And about the grown son who looks at his father and understands how he must provide for his own boy.
This book’s uncommon offering is how it stops to address the quiet, the overlooked, the every day side of growing up. Capirotada is not about prison, or famous heroes. It is instead about the middle, which is often the most interesting place to find news.
About the author
Alberto Álvaro Ríos, born in 1952 in Nogales, Ariz., is the author of 10 books and chapbooks of poetry, three collections of short stories, and a memoir. His books of poems include, most recently, “The Theater of Night,” winner of the 2007 PEN/Beyond Margins Award, along with “The Smallest Muscle in the Human Body,” a finalist for the National Book Award, “Teodoro Luna’s Two Kisses,” “The Lime Orchard Woman,” “The Warrington Poems,” “Five Indiscretions” and “Whispering to Fool the Wind.” His three collections of short stories are, most recently, “The Curtain of Trees,” along with “Pig Cookies” and “The Iguana Killer.” His memoir about growing up on the Mexico-Arizona border — called “Capirotada: a Nogales Memoir” — won the Latino Literary Hall of Fame Award.
Ríos is the recipient of the Western Literature Association Distinguished Achievement Award, the Arizona Governor’s Arts Award, fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, the Walt Whitman Award, the Western States Book Award for Fiction, six Pushcart Prizes in both poetry and fiction, and inclusion in The Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry, as well as over 200 other national and international literary anthologies. His work is regularly taught and translated, and has been adapted to dance and both classical and popular music.
Capirotada Cooking Class
The menu prepared by participants in Morris’ two cooking classes and book discussion groups included three appetizers, four main courses, a drink and a dessert.
Appetizers were Mini Shrimp-Guacamole Tostados, Bite-Size Sweet Potato Tamales and Avocado Soup Shooters with Crab. The main courses were Beef Tacos, Easy Green Chili Burros, Black Beans and Mexican Rice. The drink was Hibiscus Tea (which can be made into Hibiscus Margaritas). The dessert was Capirotada which, for the purposes of the library programs, was redesigned into Mexican-style apple strata.
Mini Shrimp Guacamole Tostados
1 jalapeno pepper
12 shrimp, defrosted
Salt and pepper
12 mini corn tortillas
1 clove garlic
Canola oil for frying tortilla shells
Olive oil for frying shrimp
Any bottled hot sauce
6 wooden skewers
Mash avocados with a fork (do not need to be smooth). Add finely chopped jalapeno pepper, finely chopped garlic, half of lime, juiced, two of three dashes of bottled hot sauce, salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
Take a two-inch biscuit cutter and cut out mini tortillas from regular corn tortillas (yellow corn tortillas work better, they are slightly thicker) — you should get three mini tortillas per tortilla. Fry in canola oil until light golden brown in color.
Defrost raw shrimp, devein, lightly salt and pepper, and dust with fajita seasoning. Heat griddle and lightly oil with olive oil. Place shrimp on skewers and grill on both sides until light pink in color. Turn once – grilling should take 3 minutes total. Remove from skewers.
Place small teaspoon of guacamole on tostado shell, add a shrimp and you have an appetizer.
Avocado Soup Shooters with Crab
3 medium scallions, white and tender green parts only
2 medium garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 jalapeno, seeded and quartered lengthwise
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 Haas avocados, halved and pitted
1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup of guacamole
1 cup cold buttermilk
1/2 cup bottled clam juice
1/2 cup ice water
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
Jumbo lump Crab meat
For Crème Fraîche
2 cups heavy crème
1/3 cup buttermilk
To make Guacamole
Preheat a grill pan. In a small bowl, toss the scallions, garlic and jalapeno with the vegetable oil. Grill over moderately high heat, turning occasionally until charred all over, between 5 and 6 minutes. Transfer to a work surface and allow to cool.
Finely chop scallions and jalapeno and transfer to a medium bowl. Peel the garlic cloves and mash them to a paste and add to bowl. Scoop the avocado flesh into the bowl and coarsely mash with a fork, combining with other ingredients. Fold the cilantro and lime juice into the avocado paste and season with salt and pepper.
To make the Soup
In a blender puree guacamole with buttermilk, clam juice, ice water and lime juice. Season with salt and pepper and pour into shooter glasses and top with crab meat and crème fraîche.
To make Crème Fraîche
Put heavy cream and buttermilk in a glass jar, stir and cover tightly with lid. Let sit on counter for 8 hours or overnight. Place in the refrigerator. It will thicken and keep for one week. Use with savory Mexican dishes in place of sour cream or with sweet dishes in place of whipping cream. It is also good with fresh fruit.
Easy Green Chili Burros
2 pounds ground beef
1 container Bueno frozen chopped green chili – hot
1 container Bueno frozen chopped green chili – mild
(use half of each container for this recipe, if you can’t find the Bueno brand, any will do, however don’t used a canned brand as flavor is lacking)
2 to 3 poblano chilis (depending on size) roasted, seeded and chopped
1 large or 2 small cans refried beans
1 clove garlic, chopped
12 flour tortillas
Grated cheese for topping
Fry ground beef with garlic, add salt and pepper to taste. Add half a container of each frozen chili and all roasted chilis. Simmer for 5 minutes. Add refried beans. Turn to low and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes.
Heat flour tortillas, add green chili mix, top with cheese and roll up. Serve
The green chili can be used as a substitute for beans in tostados, in chimichangas (deep fried burritos) and Navajo tacos. It will make a dozen burritos, eight Navajo tacos, two dozen tostados or a dozen chimichangas.
1 gallon of water
2 cups dried hibiscus flowers (available in Latin supermarkets and natural food stores)
3 cups sugar
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
Bring gallon of water to rolling boil in a stockpot over high heat. Add the hibiscus, remove and heat and steep for 15 minutes. Pour the tea through a strainer, pressing down on the solids. Discard the solids; add the sugar and lime juice. Stir well and pour into a pitcher and refrigerate until cold before using.
To make a Hibiscus Margarita
4 ounces (1/2 cup) Hibiscus Tea
2 ounces tequila
1 ounce Triple Sec
Fill cocktail shaker halfway with ice. Add first three ingredients and shake hard. Use lime wedge to rub the rim of a margarita glass and dip rim into sugar. Fill glass with ice and add margarita, garnish with lime wedge and serve.
Capirotada (Apple Strata)
2 cups water
1-1/4 cups packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter
6 slices white bread, toasted
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup pine nuts or chopped almonds
2 apples, peeled, cored and sliced (2 cups)
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
Light cream (optional)
In a medium saucepan, combine the water, brown sugar and cinnamon. Bring to boil; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered for 3 minutes. Stir in the butter.
Cut the toasted bread into 1-inch squares. Fold the toast squares, raisings and nuts into the brown sugar mixture.
Place half of the mixture in the bottom of an 8-inch-by-8-inch-by-2-inch baking dish, top with apple slices, then remaining toast mixture. Cover and bake in a 350-degree oven for 20 minutes. Uncover and sprinkle with the shredded cheese. Bake uncovered about 20 minutes more or until apples are tender. Serve warm with light cream, if desired. Makes six servings.
To find out more about the ONEBOOKAZ program, visit onebookaz.org online or call the Payson Public Library at (928) 474-9260.