The City: Welcome, to Glendale, Arizona! I know there are other reasons we're all very excited to be here, but for now, we're going to study up on the history and the food! To start it off, a little piece of trivia: Glendale will be hosting the Super Bowl for the second time, but it hosted it for the first time back in 2008.
Glendale's population, as of 2010, was 226,721. According to the 2000 census, about 76% of the population is white, and about 5% of the population is African American. The average income is $19,124, and 11.9% of the population lives below the poverty line.
Glendale's official founding date is February 2, 1892, and the area had been a desert until it was irrigated and turned into land that was livable. Farming was the big monetary source for the area. A sugar beet factory drew in a lot of workers and income. The first World War also brought with it an increase in farming to the area which also brought in workers and a need for more housing.
The state of Arizona was a part of Mexico until 1848 when half the state was signed over to the United States. The other half of the state came into the nation in 1853. The territory was part of New Mexico until 1863, but didn't become its own state until 1912. As much as the connection with Mexico was strong, there was an even greater Native American population in the territory that still has a strong presence in the state to this day. Much of what we know as the "Wild West" was actually the territory of Arizona.
Because I have already and will continue to focus on Native American food in other states, I wanted to focus on the connection to Mexico with Arizona. I picked two dishes to make and was very happy with how both of them turned out. And I did something I have never done before: I cooked with lard! I was scared of it, because it's so high in saturated fat, but I was even more afraid of cooking with shortening, which still has trans fat in it. I realized it was a "pick your poison" situation, and decided to go with the more natural fat, even if it's higher in saturated fat, rather than the laboratory-made trans fat. I think the lard also lent a little more flavor to the food than shortening would have done.
Frijoles de Olla, is a bean dish that I had never heard of before. Traditionally it's made in a clay pot, but since I didn't have one, I just used a regular pan. I learned something very valuable about beans tonight: you don't have to soak beans before cooking them! Don't waste your time or the water on it, just throw it in the pan and add your water and go. It still takes several hours to cook, but no longer than if you'd soaked them first. I adapted the recipe from two different recipes I found online and it is as follows:
2 cups dried beans of choice(I used pinto. I wouldn't recommend garbanzo or soy, they just don't evoke thoughts of Mexico, in my opinion)
1/4 yellow onion, sliced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and cut down the middle(You can use a spicier pepper if you so desire)
Rinse and pick over the beans, taking out any rocks or wrinkled beans. Place the rest of the beans in a large pan big enough to hold them and about three inches of water. Bring this to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for an hour before adding the salt(I didn't measure, I just poured in what looked good to me. Also, I had planned on adding some dried oregano as well but I forgot. It was still good, but I would like to have had that additional flavor), the onion and the pepper.
Continue to simmer for another hour to an hour and a half or until the beans are fully softened. Keep an eye on the water level and add more if it starts to thicken too much. When the pepper halves are fully softened, remove them from the pot, dice them, and return them to the pot.
When the beans are softened, spoon them into bowls to serve on the side of your meal. The flavors are strong enough that they stand out well and you want to taste them by themselves as opposed to having them mixed in with something else.
I really liked it and it made a lot, so there will be leftovers for my coworkers on Monday! They're vegan, and not spicy so nobody will have to worry about being afraid to try it!
And the other item I made...Homemade tortillas. I have had this recipe in my collection forever but I have never tried it yet. Boy was I missing out! I was sooo impressed with this one. I don't know that I can go back to the flavorless, textureless store bought ones after this. I may have been ruined for store bought tortillas now. It was definitely not a simple task. In was pretty involved and took a bit of time to get done, but the result was phenomenal. The recipe claims that leftovers can be frozen for later use and I might need to make a ton of these and keep them in my freezer instead of bags of the kind from the store. I followed the recipe, though I halved it, so I will write it out here. It's so old I have no idea of the original source.
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 1/2 tsp. salt
4 Tbsp. lard or shortening(I went with lard, but if you'd like a vegetarian option, you should go with the shortening. Just note that even with the revamped formula, shortening still has trans fat in it.)
Combine dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Cut in shortening.(I used a pastry cutter and this worked really well. Use it for longer than you think you need to and break down the fat really well into the flour.) Make a well in the center and add water, a small amount at a time, to form a dough. Knead dough in bowl until smooth and elastic. Cover and set aside for ten minutes. Form dough into egg-sized balls and flatten between palms. With rolling pin, roll each ball into a 6" circle, about 1/8" thick. Cook on preheated ungreased skillet over medium high heat, about two minutes per side, until tortilla looks speckled.(Be careful once you turn it because it will burn very quickly. I ended up turning them several times just to cook through but keep it from overheating on each side.) Cover with a clean towel to keep warm and soft until served.(I placed a plate on top of the pot of beans that had finished cooking. I turned the heat off but there was a lot of heat in the pot and it kept the tortillas hot and pliable.) The tortillas may be cooled and stored in plastic bags in the freezer for later use.
I forgot to count, but I think the half-recipe of this made about 8-9 tortillas. I actually burned the first one, but there was still plenty left. Most of them were almost round! I really liked the flavor and texture of these. They were thick, but not too thick, and chewy. They were crispy on the outside, but not crunchy, and were foldable. I made basic tacos for them and served the beans on the side. I swear they were the best tacos I've ever had! Also, a trick I learned: buy pre-marinated fajita-style chicken from the grocery store, and cook it while everything else cooks. This was too spicy for me and I cut it by adding sour cream to the chicken and mixing it together. It was amazing this way!
I would definitely make both of these recipes again. The beans were easy and not that hands-on. The tortillas were easy, but labor-intensive. I think it was well worth it, however. Give it a try sometime and let me know what you think! You may be spoiled for store bought too afterwards!