Picture it: Jinotega, 2008. A small rural coffee town in northern Nicaragua. I was traversing the country, doing a little exploring, and I got hungry. Typical Nicaraguan food can be somewhat plain, but here on the dirty cobbled street near the town square, a tiny little walk-in "restaurant", if you could call it that, offered up Salvadoranean fare. El Salvador, as of late, has had a crime problem, but their pupusas are great! So this hole-in-the-wall eatery had two plastic tables and a few chairs, and I sat down to peruse the menu hand-written on the wall... Pupusas, what are those? I decided to get adventurous.
The owner, the cook and the waitress - all the same person - brought me my dish. Three doughy discs smiled up at me; beans, cheese... and loaded on top, a vinegared mix of cabbage, onions and carrots. A dollop of sour cream and hot sauce, and I was in business! Holy goodness, I HAD to find a way to make these!
PUPUSAS AND CURTIDO
4 cups masa harina (corn meal for tamales)
1 cup all purpose flour
4 cups water or chicken broth
refried or mashed beans
about 5 medium to large tomatillos, sliced thinly
Heat beans... Saute tomatillos in a little olive oil and mash with a fork when softened. Salt to taste.
In a large mixing bowl, gradually stir water into flours until dough forms a ball. Divide the dough into about 24 pieces. (I usually cut the ball of dough in half, in half again, and then into smaller portions. Roll each section into a ball and flatten on your counter. (It's helpful to lay down a piece of plastic wrap first.) Put a spoonful of beans or tomatillos and cheese onto one side of each pupusa, fold over and form into a disc.
Heat a heavy, weide-bottomed skillet until hot. Brush pupusas with oil and cook about 5 mins on each side until golden brown.
1/2 head green cabbage, sliced thinly
1 medium onion, sliced thinly
2 small carrots, grated
2 cups vinegar
1 cup water
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp oregano
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp cumin
2 tbsp olive oil
Dump every thing into a wide-bottomed container, or a large gallon jar. Make sure everything is immersed in the liquid. Set aside for 6 hours. If there isn't enough liquid, add more portions of vinegar and water.
"Food is never just food. It's also a way of getting at something else: who we are, who we have been, & who we want to be." -- Molly Wizenberg