In a strip mall on Sugarloaf Parkway, sandwiched between Old Norcross Road and Highway 316, is the third member of Taqueria Los Hermanos chain (of four, as there is now a Suwanee location). It’s easy to miss, as this area is packed with chains of all kinds. Passing it though, would be a mistake, as this small Atlanta area chain is one of the better taquerias around (reviews here and here).

The emphasis has to be placed on “tacos” in this place, because the tacos, far better than in any generic “Mexican” chain, make the reputation of this restaurant. Well, in Taqueria Los Hermanos, it’s the tacos, the excellent salsas and dry crisp chips, the excellent service, the way food rapidly reappears on your table. I’ve felt in general that Taqueria Los Hermanos always excelled at the little things and had some trouble getting together really good entrees. This changed when we ate at the Lawrenceville location.

pechuga en mole, sauce on the side.

pechuga en mole with the sauce.

One of the specials this day was pechuga en mole, and both my daughter and my wife ordered it. My wife ordered it with the mole on the side, my daughter as it is normally served. It worked well for both of them, and they really enjoyed the dish.

The base salsa here is a bright red salsa with lively bright flavors. The bowl they give you is large and they refill it often. Chips, as mentioned, are dry, not oily. They do well with the salsa that comes with  their tacos, and their pico de gallo is also quite good. Taqueria Los Hermanos wouldn’t hurt themselves if they added a salsa plate to their menu.

The carnitas taco is much larger than I remembered, and this day the verde sauce came separate from the taco. Other  times I’ve eaten at this chain, everything was assembled for me.

excellent marinated pork

I also had their pastor burrito. I  think Taqueria Los Hermanos handles pork well, and  you’re missing out if you don’t have some pork when you eat here.

Overall? The best meal we’ve collectively ever had at the Taqueria Los Hermanos. This chain comes very highly recomended. It’s a serious fix for the “I want more than a Speedy Gonzales” blues.

Taqueria Los Hermanos
4955 Sugarloaf Pkwy
Lawrenceville, GA 30044
(770) 817-0363

Taqueria Los Hermanos (Lawrenceville) on Urbanspoon

There is an excellent article on salsa in the New York Times, barring only one thing: once again, when something from Mexico is involved, the Times can’t avoid taking pot shots at Tex-Mex and Mexi-Cali cuisines. That’s an affectation I’ve lost all patience for. The central conceit is that a gringo reporter from New York knows far more about Mexican foods, in all their permutations, than a Tejano or Hispanic born in California ever would.

I spent a little bit of time at Cheeseburger in Paradise. I needed something different at 3pm and the end result was a sandwich CIB calls the Dragon Fire Chicken Sandwich. With the sauce on the side, I liked it a lot. Also interesting is this was the first time I was ever asked about specific issues in my diet, after telling a server (bartender in this case) that I was on a strict diet. Kudos there. They’ll also give you a side of steamed broccoli, instead of fries, if you ask.

I’ve bought at least 3 new cookbooks over the short term, and I thought I would mention them briefly. “Whole Grains for Busy People“, by Lorna Sass I found to be a fun read, though not as clued into “pure” whole grains as I had originally anticipated. That’s not necessary a bad thing. Foods like couscous and bulgur cook quickly, and everyone can use a recipe or two that is fast to the table. Second is Mark Miller’s “The Great Chile Book“, which is a paperback that is roughly 3″ by 9″ and his nice long color pictures of the peppers that he speaks about. It’s not much of a cookbook, though there are recipes in the back. Better is Mark Miller’s “The Great Salsa Book“, also in 3 by 9 format. The salsa recipes he publishes all look fantastic. Some look to be doable even with modest kitchen skills, such as mine.

In terms of my grandmother’s holiday lizzies, I wrote Barry Popik on the matter and he replied that he had posted an article on lizzies about a year ago. His understanding is the origin of the phrase is unknown, but in a Dallas Morning News article (dated 21 November 1952) that he quotes, you see the following:

…and if you’ve lost your grandmother’s recipe for Brown Lizzies, those rich Christmasy cookies, you’ll find it on Page 67….

My point simply is that if lizzies were a “grandmother’s recipe” in 1952, they must have been decades old at the time.

In terms of the Guam boonie pepper, seeds from both eBay sellers (rightbbq and floralys) have arrived. Seeds from Reimer Nurseries have yet to appear. I’ve planted some of pepper pilot’s (aka rightbbq; they’re the same) seeds and we’ll see how they do. I’ll also note the site Garden Web, which I have joined. There are a number of gardeners seriously growing (or attempting to grow) boonies there and you can get a host of good advice on Garden Web on getting your peppers off the ground. I started mine in Jiffy peat pellets because Garden Web regulars have had good luck with peat pellets and boonies. We’ll see how they go. I planted some jubilee tomato seeds at the same time as the peppers, using the same method, and they have already sprouted. Speaking of jubilee tomatoes, the blogger Out of the Garden has a good looking tomato chutney that uses jubilees.

boonie seeds in jiffy peat pots

boonie seeds in jiffy peat pots

Last but not least, let’s post this link to Haley Suzanne’s salsa criolla. It just looks fantastic.

Update: from this post on cheftalk, JonK notes that Cross Country Nurseries will sometimes sell boonie pepper plants. I have verified that they do. Be warned there is a minimum purchase of 12 plants from them and shipping is not cheap.

One of the simplest “spreads” that you can do is to make some ground beef, refried beans, add some cut fresh vegetables, sliced jalapenos, and some salsa for people to eat. Your young ones will pile on what they want, ignore the rest. The cooking is simple and fast. Salsas don’t require any cooking at all, and no preparation if you buy a canned salsa.

Black Bean and corn salsa:

We made this using:

1 can (15 oz) black beans
1 can (15 oz) corn
1 roma tomato, diced.
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1/2 green onion, diced.
2 hot peppers, diced finely.
juice of 1 lime.

We should have added minced cilantro but didn’t. It didn’t affect the outcome. We mixed well and put it in a bowl to marinate.

Pico de gallo:

See the blog article here.

Taco meat:

Brown ground beef or ground turkey in a skillet. Season as desired.

Soft flour tortillas

Place between moistened paper towels and microwave for a few seconds, till steamy and warm.

hard taco shells

Heat in the oven, per package recommendations.

additional

We usually take a round tray with segments and fill the segments with things like:

lettuce
diced tomatoes
commercial red picante
commercial salsa verde
sliced cheese
sour cream

and provide spoons for those who want them.

Just what is a holiday lizzie?

In a recipe found in the Our Fair Lady cookbook, my grandmother makes a cookie that she calls a Holiday Lizzie:

Recipe for Holiday Lizzies

Recipe for Holiday Lizzies

I’ve never made these. The cost of this kind of cookie was always so prohibitive that I shied from making it. But it does beg the question: what is a holiday lizzie and why are they called that?

It’s clearly a kind of fruit cake cookie.  And while information on the fruit cake cookie is scarce, finding good sites that talk about the fruit cake are relatively easy to uncover. The Wikipedia has a good article, the site What’s Cooking America has a nice article, but the nicest and most exhaustive I’ve seen so far is on the site Food Timeline. Their article on fruit cake is a pleasure to read. The site covers all kinds of topics, from the beginnings (covering things like emmer and einkorn wheat) to quirky fads such as Space Food Sticks. Lynne Olver, a librarian in New Jersey, is the little engine that keeps this site going and I have to say, boy am I glad I found it.

I suspect I’ll have to ask her what is the origin of the phrase “lizzie” because I really can’t see or find it. Dictionaries have preserved the phrase “tin lizzie” (a reference to a model T, circa 1915) but “holiday lizzie” seems to have escaped them. I can’t help but think “lizzie” is early 20th century slang, from which both “tin lizzie” and “holiday lizzie” are derived, but tracing it will be tough. The Urban Dictionary offers some clues, but I’m wondering if the context is entirely lost.

To scan the blogs for fruit cake cookie recipes, the Blog Magnolia Blossom offers a nice one: Great Aunt Audrey’s fruit cake cookies. Another interesting recipe comes from the Gardening Granny, who uses a pumpkin bread base for her fruitcake cookies.  The blog Christmas Recipes features fruit cake cookies that include raisins in the mix (my grandmother’s recipe didn’t use raisins that I can see). The blog Life’s Just Beachy has a Lizzies recipe, but the site is down. This cache, for now, recovers the recipe.

Pico, pico, pico

I went shopping at Buford again, and picked up a pretty yellow tomato, a red onion, and some long hot peppers. I wanted to make a pico de gallo, and wanted one with a bit more color.  I tried Jo’s lick test on the long hot pepper and it was plenty spicy when licked.  I thought they were about as hot as a jalapeno, buut.. I have pictures of long hot peppers here:

I suspect these "long hot peppers" are in the cayenne family.

I suspect these "long hot peppers" are in the cayenne family.

And if you take a look at those, and take a look at cayenne peppers on Miss Vicki’s site, wouldn’t you say they are similar? That’s my impression. In any event, I’ve wanted a bit spicier pico and I’m hoping these will provide the extra heat. I used red onion and a yellow and vine ripened tomato. The recipe, such as it was, was something like this:

3 tomatoes, 1 yellow, 1 roma, 1 vine ripened, diced
1/2 red onion, diced
1 bunch green onions, minced.
2 long hot peppers (one turning red), diced.
1 bunch cilantro, minced.
juice of 1 lemon and 1 lime, extracted with a spoon.
mix well, cover with a plastic bag and marinate in the refrigerator.

The result looked like this:

pico looks brighter with a little yellow tomato.

pico looks brighter with a little yellow tomato.

We usually marinate overnight to yield flavor, and it’s better when marinated two days.

kumquats

I had never had kumquats before, so I bought some at Trader Joes.  I took a picture just before we finished the last of them.

kumquats next to a garlic clove.

kumquats next to a garlic clove.

They’re small, about grape sized. I’m not sure if I’ll get them again, as for the same price I can pay for half of a box of clementina oranges. But for those looking for a new recipe kick: Picky Cook’s grapefruit, avocado and kumquat salad.

Boonie pepper seeds.

We have discussed boonie pepper seeds in the past. The first of mine have arrived, from rightbbq. It turns out the email seller rightbbq is the eBay incarnation of The Pepper Pilot. The Pepper Pilot site seems incomplete to me, so I’d buy seeds through eBay till the site is completed.

Found on the blogs:

The blogger Vegeyum has scored again with a very nice summary post. To point out two excellent links from her summary, there is Culinate.com’s glossary of grains, and Red Ramekin’s quinoa salad.

My first exposure to any black bean and corn salsa was when my wife came home with a bottle of Desert Pepper Trading Company’s Black Bean and Corn Salsa. The realization that a salsa could be more than a light condiment hit me between the eyes as if it were a 50 pound hammer.  For me it’s been a Super Bowl treat since, to get some of that salsa and some Green Mountain Gringo Tortilla Chips and ruin any diet I might have been on.

Aha moment number 2 just came at lunch this morning, when the neighboring division of my company held an open lunch. There was a black bean and corn salsa there. I got a cup, tasted it, and then looked at what was in it. It didn’t seem that far removed from a pico de gallo, and I’ve been making pico these days. Pico de gallo is amazingly good when made fresh. I told myself I’d dig through the blogs, gather some recipes, and then briefly review what I had found. This is going to be a link-filled summary article. It’s more a wish list of things I’d like to consider making some day — at least the easier ones!

Salsa Notes

If you dig though the very nice salsa article on the Wikipedia, you’ll find that pico de gallo is a kind of salsa (salsa cruda). The kind of black bean and corn salsa I’d be interesting in making would probably start as a salsa cruda (Improvements welcome, of course).

Black Bean and Corn salsas

Just doing a web search on black bean and corn salsa gets some workable links, such as the ones here, here, here and here. But if I had any complaint to make, they are using a lot of canned goods, as opposed to frozen or fresh, and they don’t stretch the reader very much or teach much of anything.

The first blog based recipe I ran into was Kimberly’s salsa. It looks good. This recipe by Cheap Ass Chef was the first I had seen to use some lime zest. Spencer’s Kitchen offers a pretty straightforward recipe for the salsa (canned beans though, although one canned ingredient is hardly a problem). Real Mom Kitchen offers a bean and corn salsa that looks really good (uses Italian dressing to add sweet and sour flavors). The blog Royal Tart has a recipe that includes feta cheese, and the 7th Sage’s recipe is one you can cook and can. Last, but hardly least, Innocent Primate’s black bean and corn salsa recipe was really nicely done.  I like the trouble she took to tell people how to roast the peppers that the recipe requires. The difference between Innocent Primate’s directions, and what you get on the average cooking site, is like night and day.

Other salsas

In One Stop Cook’s recipe for Southwestern roll-ups, she presents the first salsa I found that was cooked. The roll-ups look good too.  Janet Joseph has an interesting fresh salsa, one that uses oregano instead of cilantro. Today’s Menu presents a trio of salsas, a pico de gallo, a salsa, and a salsa verde. The blog Your Easy Recipe presents a salsa using canned tomatoes. In the blog Biscuits and Such, a black bean salsa is presented. This one uses a commercial picante sauce as part of the recipe and also involves some cooking.

In the blog Lobster and Fishsticks, a Greek salsa recipe is described. In the blog “And She Can Cook!”, a simple, versatile recipe is shown, one that can become salsa or pico de gallo as needed. On the blog The Foodie Collaborative, the author presents a salsa and salsa verde recipe from a friend of hers. Both look really good.  Finally, on Sacred Chef’s blog, a nice looking smoky red capsicum salsa recipe has been published.

Sweet Salsas

In Cooking With Lindi, a mango salsa is presented as an accompaniment to steak. In this case, rather than cilantro or oregano, the ‘leafy’ component is parsley.  In the blog What’s Cooking, the salsa recipe (accompanying chicken this time) includes not only mango, but orange as well. In Duffek BBQ, a pineapple “salsa” is presented (with instructions for turning it into a salsa, unquoted). The blogger Domestic Diva presents a mango-peach salsa, and in the blog Margaritas in the Afternoon, a pineapple-mango salsa is given.

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