Idaho is no longer a "meat and potatoes" type of state: it is becoming a veritable culinary melting pot! New and interesting ethnic restaurants and grocery stores are opening up in cities around the Treasure Valley and a growing group of "new" Idahoans is introducing exciting unfamiliar ingredients, different approaches to old-fashioned foods and secret family recipes that have been handed down from one generation to the next.

This blog allows us a peek into the pots and pans of these travelers that have chosen to make Idaho their new home. It captures a compilation of stories and dishes from people who, far away from their country of birth, recreate familiar elements in the dishes they prepare. For many, food from their home country is a comfort to the soul: for some it's an important part of their cultural or religious celebrations and for others, it's just good eating!

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Name: Maria Trujillo
Born in: Guatemala City, Guatemala
In Idaho since: 1993

Funny how some foods can have the same name and yet be something completely different. Maria's husband Carlos pointed this out to me when we visited on a sunny Saturday morning in their Middleton home. Enchiladas in Mexican Spanish are a dish of meat-filled tortillas baked in tomato sauce, whereas the Guatemalan enchiladas are practically the opposite: a crispy fried tortilla as a base for lettuce, ground beef, pickled vegetables, onion, egg, cheese, tomato sauce or salsa and parsley. The color combination is so pretty that it is almost a shame to eat (and you better put shame to the side because there is no way of eating these delicious enchiladas while upholding your table manners! ).

Maria tells me that these enchiladas hold special memories for her. "One of the many things my grandmother taught me was how to make the curtido for the enchiladas", she says while she stirs the pickled vegetable mix. "My kids also love this dish, especially my daughter Joanna. Enchiladas are a typical dish that you make on Sundays to share with the family for lunch, or on special holidays like Christmas. They are also served during Easter but on Holy Thursday and Good Friday, you leave out the meat."

Enchiladas are also much appreciated outside the Trujillo home. Entire websites are dedicated to the national Guatamalan dish, also called the Queen of the Appetizers, and in Los Angeles where many Guatemalan expats live, people line up for the colorful snack at the local bakeries.

Enchiladas Guatemaltecas
For the curtido
2 medium size red beets
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1/2 cup of green peas
1/2 cup of shredded cabbage
1/2 cup of green beans, sliced in 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 cup of cauliflower, cut into small florets
1/2 cup of white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme (or 1 teaspoon of fresh thyme leaves)
1 bay leaf

Scrub the beets, cut off the tail and the top and boil in enough water to cover them until they can be pierced with a fork, about an hour or so. Take them out of the water and let them cool. Now add the carrots to the water and boil until soft, about ten minutes. Scoop them out of the water and place them in a bowl, then boil the beans, the cauliflower and the cabbage in that order until done. Peel the beets, dice them and mix them with all the other vegetables and add the peas. Add the vinegar and the thyme, taste and add salt and pepper. Stir well, add the bay leaf and refrigerate overnight.

For the meat
1 lb of ground beef, lean
1/4 medium size onion, diced

Brown the beef in a skillet, add the onion and sauté until done. Pour off the fat and set the meat aside until you are ready to serve.

For the toppings
3 cups of shredded iceberg lettuce (or 4 iceberg lettuce leaves, torn in halves)
8 crispy tortillas
4 tablespoons of cheese
8 slices of onion
2 tablespoons of minced parsley
2 boiled eggs, cut in 4 slices each
2 cups of tomato sauce (optional)*

Put the tortillas on a serving platter. Top each with lettuce, then a heaping spoonful of meat. Place two generous scoops of curtido on top, sprinkle cheese over it, and top with parsley, a slice of onion and a slice of boiled egg.

You can break the tortilla and use it as a scoop, you can attack the whole thing with a fork and there are those that don't need a fork, a plate or anything but who are able to eat the whole enchilada (no pun intended) while holding it, and without dropping one little bit. I'll have you know that I am not one of those!

The tomato sauce can go over the top of the egg, on top of the tortilla or on top of the meat, that's a personal preference. I prefer to leave it out altogether.

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