by Chef Kendall Huff
Native Foods Cafe
This weekend is Cinco de Mayo... and I am pumped because after enjoying my first torta sandwich on a recent visit with our Costa Mesa kitchen manager Eloy, I can't wait to eat some very delicious vegan Mexican cuisine this weekend (be sure to stop by Ntive Foods Cafe for some of Weird Al's Tamale Pie this weekend). To tell you the truth, I never paid quite that much attention to Cinco de Mayo. Perhaps it was me being uneducated, or just rolling with the excuse to have a fiesta, but I never really understood Cinco de Mayo. It could be because I was raised here in the Midwest and our history classes never really extended past Colorado (I’m not kidding here). I always just thought Cinco de Mayo was a Mexican Independence Day, like most Americans did. It wasn’t until last weekend when I went into our Costa Mesa location that I got schooled and FED properly.
The Battle of Puebla (aka Cinco de Mayo) is important for two reasons. First, very out numbered, the people of Mexican defeated a fully armed French Army. This army hadn’t been defeated in 50 years. History shows that the Mexican army consisted of around 4,000, compared to the French army of about double!
The second reason why this battle was significant is because since the Battle, no other country in the Americas has been invaded by another European force. So it had nothing to do with piñatas or sombreros. That was just the super awesome way of celebrating a great and memorable moment in history. Which today, now is as important annually as St. Patty's Day and Oktoberfest.
Now that was the quick history lesson that I received from our Eloy in Costa Mesa. My next question was the FOOD!! I know that there is a celebration involved. I’ve seen the dancing, felt the culture through the music, and have seen and smelled the food. But I wanted to taste it. Cause the comida de la familia in Eloy’s kitchen is amazing! Today he served up a Vegan Chicken Torta with chili con lemon orange segments. This simple, yet delicious sandwich was busting with pride and flavor! We decided to name it… Torta a la Eloy.
Torta a la Eloy is quite similar to the torta ahogada. This is a dish that comes from the city of Guadalajara. It means “drowned” because the sandwich itself is submerged in a broth made from a dried chili called chile de arbol (aka birds eye chili at Whole Foods). There are many versions of this sauce, using tomatoes and fresh oregano. It can also be made SUPER spicy or mild. The dish that I had the pleasure of enjoying, was definitely not tamed down or made with lots of tomatoes…if you get my drift!!
Torta a la Eloy
3 each Roma tomatoes (seeded and diced)
1 each Spanish Onions (chopped)
2 to 4 each dried arbol chilies (Rehydrated in hot water for 20 minutes)
1 TBSP cumin
1 TBSP fresh oregano (chopped)
A pinch of ground nutmeg
1 each habanero chile (seeded and diced)
Begin by removing the chilies from the soaking liquid and removing the stems and seeds. Then chop them.
Add the oil to the pan on medium high heat, add the onions and cook until they are translucent.
Add the chilies, garlic, habanero, tomatoes and spices and cook for 10-15 more minutes.
Let the sauce cool down and blend it until smooth.
Assemble the Torta!
4 servings Bun/Baguette/Bolillo
6 each Spanish onions (thinly sliced)
3 each red peppers (thinly sliced)
3# plant-based protein, thinly sliced pieces (soy chicken, tofu, seitan...)
1 oz safflower oil
4 cloves garlic (thinly sliced)
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 tsp cumin
Add the oil to a sauté of medium size saucepot. Once the oil is hot, add the garlic and onions and cook until translucent.
Turn the heat down to medium low and cook the onions until the start to caramelize, about 20 minutes.
Add the red peppers and continue the cook for 12 minutes. Stir occasionally, careful not to burn the bottom of the pan.
Add all the spices in the pan the stir together.
Add the protein (“chicken”, tofu, or seitan) and cook until heated though, about 10 to 15 minutes.
You can toast the bread in the over/toaster, fill with desired amount of goodies and dip in the sauce!
It’s so good, you’ll want to serve more sauce on the side!!
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