As a Latina with Puerto Rican and Mexican roots, I grew up in a household with a wonderful blend of these two Latino cultures. By the time she was a young wife, my mom was already beginning to master the delicious meals she's grown up cooking alongside her mom, my abuela, on the Island. Soon, with her mother-in-law's (my grandma's) help, my mom began mastering the Mexican-American recipes my father loved.
And so, when I went off to college and moved into an apartment with my older sister, I carried with me a beloved recipe book painstakingly typed on the computer and printed on our dot matrix printer by my mom (yes, it was that long ago).
I still have that book. In fact, each of her grandchildren have received one when they moved out of the house and on their own. It's like a rite of passage, receiving abuela's recipe book. A bible from the heart our familia's kitchen.
Perusing the table of contents, you'll find Puerto Rican recipes like arroz con gandules (pigeon pea rice) and tortilla de amarillos (sweet plantain tortilla—yummy!). You'll find Mexican recipes like enchiladas and chalupas. And you'll see American recipes like apple pie and "grandma's turkey and cornbread stuffing." Listed under appetizers is our family's tasty salsa recipe, "pico de gallo 'picante' sauce."
We made this by the big Tupperware bowlful when I was a kid. Kept jars of it in our fridge for snacks, parties, dinners, and, if you have my dad's taste buds, drizzling on pizza, omelets, and more. We even had special containers labeled HOT specifically for my dad. These were the jars that we scraped the jalapeño pepper seeds and membranes into, and let me say, "HOT" wasn't descriptive enough. I mean, WHOA if you accidentally opened one up, poured some in a glass bowl, dipped your chip in for a hefty scoop and took a bite. Five alarm fire! You were definitely going to remember to check the lid for a label the next time.
As I grew older and became a mom, especially once my girls were in junior high, Christmas gifts for their many teachers featured a jar of our homemade salsa. A simple heartfelt gesture of thanks from our casa to theirs. My girls helped me chop and dice, then they'd feed the blender for a few seconds of pulsing. Or later, take out their adolescent angst on the Pampered Chef food chopper handle. It came as a pleasant surprise the first time a teacher stopped me in the hall the next year to say how disappointed they were not to have one of my girls in their class...it meant no jar of salsa come holiday season. Yeah, I may have slipped an extra jar or two on a former teacher's desk. Spreading good cheer.
I typically didn't give out our salsa recipe back then, thinking it added a little mystic. But in the spirit of sharing with readers, I thought you might enjoy a little treat from my familia's kitchen. The same way, I hope, many of you have enjoyed the taste of the Latinx culture you find on the pages of my books.
Peek into my fridge and you'll find jars of salsa mixed in with the grape and mango jellies, olives, Greek yogurt, and other necessities. Our salsa's a great topping for a black bean burger. A tasty treat with a bowl of chips during a movie night at home and definitely a good beach snack. As you're preparing for a picnic or a get-together with friends, consider giving my familia's salsa recipe a try. If you do, look me up on social media or shoot me an email to let me know what you think.
Hope you're enjoying your summer and you're finding time to sneak away to get lost in a romance novel. Wishing you many hours of happy reading!
Pico de Gallo "Picante" Sauce—Priscilla Oliveras' family recipe
¼ lb. jalapeño peppers, chopped (add membranes and/or seeds to increase heat level)
2 large onions, chopped
1 large can peeled tomatoes, chopped
1 large can crushed tomatoes
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 bunch cilantro (coriander), chopped (leaves, not stems)
1 bottle Italian dressing (I use light or Fat-free)
salt/pepper to taste
Method: Chop jalapeños, onions, cilantro, tomatoes, and garlic. Place in large bowl. Add Italian dressing, salt, and pepper. Mix well, divide into glass jars, and refrigerate.
Her Perfect Affair by Priscilla Oliveras
The Fernandez sisters have always had big dreams, and the talent and drive to pursue them. And in this sunny, spicy new series, each one will discover that success is that much sweeter when love follows . . .
Rosa Fernandez doesn’t act on impulse—she’s the responsible one, planning her career with precision, finally landing a job as the librarian at conservative Queen of Peace Academy, confining her strongest emotions to her secret poetry journal. But she’s been harboring a secret crush on dreamy Jeremy Taylor, and after one dance with him at her sister’s wedding, Rosa longs to let loose for the first time. She deserves some fun, after all. So what if she doesn’t have a shot with Jeremy, not with his wealthy pedigree and high profile lifestyle. But one dance leads to one kiss, and soon Rosa is head-over-heels . . .
The adopted son of a prominent Chicago lawyer, Jeremy has a lot to live up to—especially with his birth father in prison—the perfect example of a bad example. With a big promotion and a move to Japan in the works, Jeremy is worlds away from settling down. But sweet, steady Rosa is a temptation he doesn’t want to deny himself, at least for now. Yet when their simple fling turns complicated, everything they’ve both worked for is threatened—except the red-hot intimacy they’ve found together. Can forever really grow from just-for-now?
Praise for Priscilla Oliveras’ His Perfect Partner
“Moving familial relationships and splashes of Puerto Rican culture round out this splendid contemporary.”
—Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW
“Oliveras takes all the right steps in this sweet romance . . . Packed with emotion, humor, and memorable characters.”
--Booklist, STARRED REVIEW
“Well written and full of fun, welcoming characters. Readers will laugh and cry and be uplifted.”
--RT Book Reviews, 4 Stars