Sofi’s Does it Right!!

In a border town with a Mexican restaurant seemingly on every corner you find lots of good ones.  And occasionally an exceptional one that keeps drawing you back.

One of my favorites is Sofi’s.  It’s on the small side.  It features homestyle cooking.  Sofi is there almost all the time making sure it is maintaining quality food.  Service can be a little on the casual side, but the food more than makes up for any of that. Sofi’s is in a strip mall on Crossroads close to Doniphan on the West Side.

One of my favorite Mexican treats is sopes.  A sope (it is pronounced so-pay) is a cornmeal masa base topped with a choice of fillings and garnishes. Masa is dried field corn that is treated with slaked lime to loosen the hull from the kernels.  If it us used wet, it is just masa.  If it is dried and packaged, it is called masa harina (flour).  Masa harina is transformed into corn tortillas, tamales and other familiar Mexican food staples.  Some cooks bake their sopes on a griddle, others deep fry them.  At Sofi’s, a little red chile power is mixed in the masa, the bases are formed and fried so they have a nice texture to them.  I chose deshebrada – shredded roast beef – for my sopes.

The platter arrived with sides of beans and rise and containers of creama (a thinned sour cream), creama con aguacate (creama and avocado mixture) and a red chile sauce.  Half a lime to squeeze over the sopes makes  them even better.  Sofi’s serves a killer good salsa and tostadas as an appetizer, so it is a good thing that the serving includes three sopes.  I could have the table salsa on one and the three sauces on the other two.


The platter arrives.  Yes, this is a single serving.


A sope en estilo bandera Mexicana – a sope Mexican Flag style, red, white and green.


A sope disected:  the masa base topped with shredded beef, lettuce tomato and red chile sauce and a squeeze of lime.


Yes.  It was all good.  Try Sofi’s.  You, too will love the food.


Spoiled and Loving It!

Sometimes we get spoiled by good people.  My sister-in-law, Carol, and her family surprised me with a big box of treats from Omaha Steaks at Christmas.  Last night, I tried their twice baked potatoes and wonderful pork loin chops.  Delicious!  And easy on me. (Especially with a side of  deli broccoli salad.) I pan-broiled the moist and tender chop with a little chipotle rub.

I’m looking forward to exploring more of the goodies.

Thank you, Carol and all!


Breakfast in a Hurry – an Apple Pancake, Almost from Scratch

Time’s awastin’ and everything I thought I could make was not going to happen because I need to go to the store.  What I have are three Honeycrisp apples and part of a box of pancake mix kept on hand for speedy solutions. That will work!

Core, peel and slice the apples thin on the medium setting of my trusty mandoline.  Toss them in a skillet with about 2 TBSP butter and cover.  Let them steam in the butter over medium heat.

While the apples cook, whip up a recipe of pancake mix.  Heat a griddle and pour a 6-7 inch pancake on it.  Let the pancake cook on medium heat.

Meanwhile, back at the apples. Taste the apples and check for tenderness.  Add a few generous shakes of ground cinnamon and a scant tablespoon of sugar and stir to coat the apples, Cover and cook a few minutes more while you flip the pancake and let the other side brown.

When the pancake is done, put it on a plate. Smear the top with plain Greek yogurt and top with some of the apples.


Sit.  Eat.  Enjoy!

Blood Oranges – a Winter Bright Delight


Blood Oranges.  The Moro variety offers red blushed peel and rich flavored deep red flesh.  Their short season in the winter is something to look forward to.  The taste is orange, but more rich than sweet.  They are spectacular in both salads and in cooked dishes.  They pair well with fennel,  another of my favorite vegetables as you’ll see over the next few days and weeks.


You’ve seen this salad from the other night.  Supremes of blood orange and raw sliced fennel dressed simply with olive oil and kosher salt.  A few fennel fronds brighten it on the plate. If you haven’t tried fennel, you’ll love its crisp crunch and delicate hint of anise flavor.  It is delicious raw and it can be roasted with other vegetables.  Very versatile; do give it a try.

We need more omega3-rich fatty fish in our diets.  Salmon is the go to fish for that in my house.


Here’s a dish that Bon Appetit magazine calls fool proof fish.  It is slow roasted salmon with citrus. Slow roasting takes a little time, but it will make you want to text everyone OMG! OMG! (Oh my goodness!!!) I scaled their recipe down from six servings to two very ample helpings.


3/4 lb salmon filet, skinned

1/2 medium fennel bulb, stalks removed, and thinly sliced.  I use the wide setting on my hand-held mandoline.  Save and chop a couple of spoonful of fronds for garnish.

1 Meyer or regular lemon thinly sliced.  Again, I use the wide setting on the mandoline.

1 Blood orange thinly sliced as above.

1 jalapeño or fresno pepper with seed thinly sliced. I switched to the thinnest setting on the mandoline and actually used about 1/2 a very large jalapeño.

1/4, or so, Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Kosher salt and course ground black pepper

Flaky sea salt for finishing (can substitute Kosher)


Preheat oven to 275 F

Toss fennel, orange, lemon and jalapeño with a light drizzle of olive oil in a large bowl.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Transfer to a shallow baking dish big enough to hold this mixture and the salmon filet.

Season the salmon with salt and place on the fruit and veggie .  Pour the olive oil over it all.

Roast until the salmon is just cooked through.  A knife tip will slide through easily and the flesh will be slightly opaque.  Medium rare takes about 30 – 40 minutes.  Go a little longer if you want the salmon more done.

Transfer the salmon to a serving platter.  Break it into chunks as you go and don’t worry about pretty slices.  Spoon the fennel and citrus over and around the salmon.  Season with the sea salt and pepper and sprinkle a few fennel fronds over it all for garnish.

Enjoy the rich flavors and a savory hint of bitterness from the citrus rinds.








Huevos Divorciados

You may have realized by now that the Gringo Gourmet loves Mexican and TexMex food.  Variations on enchiladas montadas (stacked, not mounted) are a favorite breakfast at mi casa.

Here’s my take on Huevos Divorciados (divorced eggs): steamed tortillas topped by a green sauce on one side and red sauce on the other.  The eggs are separated, hence divorced.  Refried beans moderate the heat of the chile sauces.


Good eats start the day of right!

A Riff on a Spanish Tortilla

Somehow, a tortilla in Spain is a potato and egg fritatta-like dish generally served as one of the dishes when having tapas.  Here, in the southwest, a tortilla is a corn or wheat flour disc used in multiple ways – stacked and layered with sauces, as a wrap for just about anything or even as a scoop or eating implement.

I had a couple of small potatoes on hand this morning so I thought I’d put down the castanets and pick up the sauté pan and make a Gringo Gourmet Spanish-style Tortilla.

I browned some crumbled sausage in my sauté pan and drained it. I then made a layer of very thin sliced potatoes and nuked them for 3 minutes to speed up the cooking time.  The potatoes were layered over the sausage and then drizzled a liquid egg substitute over the potatoes and sausage to just about cover them.  I cooked it on medium heat until the eggs were nearly set, and then popped the pan under the broiler for a few minutes to finish setting the eggs and cook the potato layer a little more.  I took the pan out of the oven and inverted the tortilla onto a plate.  Then I slid the now upside down tortilla back into the pan, sprinkled the top with grated pepperjack cheese and put it back under the broiler until the cheese was melted.

Here’s the tortilla out of the pan and setting up so I could cut it.



After it set up, I cut it and plated it.  Note the potato layer now on the bottom and the sausage and egg layered on top.  Plated with a little parsley and a few sliced grape tomatoes and it looks as good as it tasted!


Comfort Food for a Cold Night

When the forecast is for a low of 22, comfort food helps me cope.  Here’s a nice soup that warms the spirit and the body.  Little meatballs made with lean beef, shredded parmesan cheese and grated garlic in a chicken broth flavored with carrots and celery.  Cheese tortellini and spinach make it extra special and all for about 400 calories a serving.  A light sprinkle of chile flakes makes it even better.



On the side, a salad of Moro oranges and fennel tossed with a little olive oil and a dash of salt.  As tasty as it is beautiful.  Love those red oranges!


Gorgonzola and Butternut Squash Pizza

Delicious, Healthy and Easy 



1 12-inch whole wheat pizza crust – made from scratch,  from store-bought dough or use a Boboli ready made crust.

1 TBSP cornmeal (if using unbaked dough)

1/2 cup peeled butternut squash sliced paper thin.  I use the thinnest setting on a handheld mandoline.

1/4 small red onion sliced paper thin.

2 TBSP olive oil

4 ounces gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

5 large fresh sage leaves

1/4 cup walnut pieces


Preheat oven to 475 (450 if using a Boboli crust)

Sprinkle corn meal on a work surface and roll or stretch pizza dough into a 12 inch circle.  Brush crust with a little oil. Transfer crust to a lightly oiled baking sheet.

Scatter gorgonzola evenly over the crust leaving about an inch margin.

Toss butternut squash and onion with olive oil in a large bowl.  Sprinkle squash and onion over cheese on the crust.

Mince sage leaves and scatter over the pizza.

Scatter walnut pieces.

Bake 7-8 minutes until cheese bubbles and squash is tender.

Slice into 8 pieces.  Two pieces = 1 serving = 400 calories.



Let the pizza set up for about five minutes; then slide it onto a wooden cutting board.  Cutting the pizza on a wooden surface is better for your knife blade.

Serve with a fresh tossed salad and enjoy.  I couldn’t stop at two pieces.


Best Breakfast of the New Year – so far!

Sometimes we get crafty and plan for leftovers in anticipation of a favorite treat.  Our New Year’s Dinner was very special with Hoppin’ John and the addition of some chile treats for Hoppin’ Juan.  I shared leftover chiles rellenos with the family but insisted they leave a few for me.  I love cold (room temperature) leftover chiles rellenos with eggs for breakfast.  This time, there were some leftover pinto beans in the fridge to add to treat.  I managed to snag some of Maria’s New Year’s salsa and that all made it even better. People raise their eyebrows when I talk about enchiladas and chiles rellenos for breakfast.  Don’t knock it until you try this southwestern way to start the day!!!


News Year’s Day Family Dinner

Happy New Year Everyone.

Grandniece Norma and boyfriend Phillip engineered a News Year’s Day dinner at her grandfather’s today.  They recruited a few contributions from other members of the family and came up with a traditional Southern New Year’s Day meal.  Ham and Hoppin’ John.  That’s blackeyed peas on rice topped with tomato, onion, celery and bell pepper and sides of greens and Don’s cornbread.  We like to invite Hoppin’ Juan to the party too, so there was diced jalapeños, Maria’s killer salsa and my crunchy chiles rellenos.  I make my chiles rellenos (royal chiles stuffed with cheese) with panko crumbs.  Sometimes I brown the panko in the oven and bake my chiles.  Sometimes, I fry them. Today’s were fried.

Norma’s peach crumble with a little ice cream was a great dessert.  Many thanks to Norma and Phillip for getting us all together.



Hoppin’ John and Hoppin’ Juan on New Year’s Day.