The wonderful Debra of Eliot's Eats is hosting both the Food and Flix movie pick of Frida (see her announcement post here) and the Cook the Books pick of The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo (see the announcement post here).
I first saw Frida with friends when it came out in 2002, after a dinner of Indian food. (Unfortunately there were no decent Mexican restaurants nearby the old Indie theater, so what can you do? It worked much better thematically when we saw Monsoon Wedding!) Because of this movie, I will forever picture artist Frida Kahlo as Salma Hayek and Alfred Molina as her husband artist Diego Rivera no matter how many pictures I see of the real people. I remembered all the color (I love the way the paintings 'dissolve' into the movie scenes) and the basic story, but this time I got it from Netflix and watched it for the food. We don't see a lot of specific dishes in the film beyond Diego's favorite mole dish and some mentions of sopa Azteca and pozole, but there is plenty of food and drink (mostly tequila of course) pictured throughout, including lots of tropical fruits and veggies, Chinese food, a diner breakfast of cinnamon buns, eggs and bacon, a wedding feast, and corn being shucked.
The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo on the other hand, is as much or more about the food as it is the story of Frida's life, told from the notebooks and sketchbooks supposedly found in Frida's home Casa Azul in Mexico City. The author, F. G. Haghenbeck, writes the novel as a special notebook; “El Libro de Hierba Santa” (“The Sacred Herbs Book”) where Frida's story is shared through her memories and recipes. Frida Kahlo led a very colorful life in more ways than one and the book is at times sad, at times humorous, at times a bit magical. It really does make a nice companion to the movie--providing more detail to parts and spinning out on its own for others. At times I didn't love the way it was written (and maybe that was due in part to the translation and word choice?), but overall it was easy to get swept up in the story. The recipes and food descriptions were my favorite part of the book and I will probably go back and make some of the recipes like the pico de gallo (if I ever find nopales), the pumpkin tamales, and the Mango Tepozteco Ice Cream which intrigued me with the addition of the sour cream and egg white.
I chose not to cook from the book for this round because a couple of month's ago I stumbled across a copy of Frida's Fiestas: Recipes and Reminiscences of Life with Frida Kahlo by Diego Rivera's daughter Guadalupe Rivera and journalist Marie-Pierre Colle for $5.00 at the thrift store. It is a gorgeous book with illustrations from Frida's work and photographs by Ignacio Urquiza.
I wanted something simple, meat-free and relatively healthy so I went with a dinner of Shrimp Tacos, accompanied by Bean, Radish and Cheese Salad. To drink, I made a simple Jamaica (Red Hibiscus) Vanilla-Lime Agua Fresca.
Adapted from Frida's Fiestas
1 medium onion, chopped
4 serrano chiles, chopped (or to taste--I used half & de-seeded them)
4 Tbsp butter
3 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1 lb cooked shrimp (I used large shrimp)
24 small-medium corn tortillas
(I added fresh lines to squeeze on when eating)
Saute the onion and chiles in butter until the onion is translucent. Add the tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes are thoroughly cooked (about 10 minutes). If the sauce is too thick, thin it with a bit of broth or water.
Add the shrimp and cook until they are just warmed through--about 2 minutes.
Grill or warm the tortillas and fill with the shrimp mixture. Serve piping hot. Or serve the shrimp mixture with the tortillas on the side.
Bean, Radish and Chese Salad
Adapted from Frida's Fiestas
5 cups cooked black beans, drained
10 radishes, cut in quarters (I thinly sliced mine)
3/4 lb panela cheese (or Munster) cut in cubes (I used Cotija cheese)
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
2/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
2 tsp chopped cilantro
salt to taste
For salad: Mix the beans, radishes, cheese and cilantro in a large salad bowl and toss with the dressing.
For the dressing: Whisk all the ingredients together, seasoning to taste.
Jamaica (Red Hibiscus) Vanilla-Lime Agua Fresca
by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen, Adapted/Inspired by The Vanilla Chef
(Makes 2 Quarts)
1 quart water
2/3 cup (about 1 ounce) dried hibiscus flowers
1 vanilla bean, sliced lengthwise
3/4 cup agave or honey, or to taste
1/3 cup lime juice, or to taste
1 quart very cold water
Bring a quart of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the hibiscus flowers and the vanilla bean to the boiling water. Remove the pan from the stove and allow it to steep for at least 20 minutes. Strain the mixture into a large glass pitcher. (You can save the vanilla bean for another use if you like). Add the agave or honey and stir well to dissolve. Add the cold water and lime juice and adjust sweetening as needed. Chill and serve over ice with slices of lime to garnish.
Notes/Results: This turned out to be quite the tasty meal! simple ingredients but really fresh and good flavors. I made half-ish quantities of the taco and salad recipes and the minor adjustments I made worked for me. First I used half the serrano chiles and I removed the stem, seeds, and membranes before chopping. I like a bit of spice but I find serranos are usually pretty spicy. These tacos had a definite kick still, so I know if I had doubled them as the recipe was written the tacos would have been too spicy for my tastes. I also think the squeeze of lime was perfect with the buttery shrimp and tomato. For the bean salad, I used my mandoline to thinly slice the radishes instead of quartering them. I am not big on chunks of radish, but I do like thin slices. Cotija cheese, a bit more crumbly than panela is readily available at my local grocery store and it was easier than driving into the Latin market to buy some panela. With the tacos, beans salad and the sweet and tart agua fresca, it was a perfect light dinner that was pretty quick to make. I would definitely make all three recipes again.
The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo is my thirteenth foodie book entry for the Foodies Read 2016 event. You can check out the September Foodies Read linkup, hosted by Heather at Based on a True Story, to see what everyone is reading this month.
Submissions for both Food 'N Flix and Cook the Books are due tomorrow, September 30th. Debra will be rounding entries up on her blog for Food 'N Flix and on the Cook the Book's site respectively. If you missed out and like food, books, and foodie books, join us at Cook the Books where our Oct/Nov pick is Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots by Jessica Soffer, hosted by Simona of briciole, and if you are a fan of food, movies, and making food inspired by movies, I will be hosting October's Food 'N Flix fun film: Beetlejuice, here at Kahakai Kitchen!