USA: a take on Tex Mex

All the leaves were brown, and the sky was (as it usually is in Stockholm for 8 months out of every year) grey,

so we were definitely California dreaming when we met up with our next guests, former Golden State natives Kelsey and Corliss. If the weather outside was bleak, the atmosphere at Kelsey’s place was anything but. We immediately traded in our mountain of winter attire for a glass of tequila-y, margarita-y goodness (with pink party straws to top it off).

Kelsey’s boyfriend Kaj was standing dutifully in the kitchen, and we soon found out that Kelsey and Corliss had both been seduced by Swedes into trading in California’s permasunshine and sandy beaches, for dark winters and (aww) Swedish romance (what was this disconcerting pattern amongst all our interviewees, and had Sweden always had a reputation for smooth-talking casanovas?). Drinks in hand, we jumped in to start chopping (lesson here: be careful when mixing alcohol and freshly sharpened kitchen knives), because it was time to get this Tex Mex party started. This feast, featuring a variety of cutlery optional dishes, is perfect anytime, anywhere, and is easy to prepare (even after a few drinks). Read on to find out what you need to start your own Tex Mex fiesta:

“I fear that my child will eat like a Swedish child. It’s my greatest fear.”

Recipe for a wild night of Tex Mex:

Everything we made can ultimately be wrapped up in a tortilla and immediately devoured (did we already mention that cutlery was optional?), making this a perfect party meal with room to improvise on the ingredient front. The key takeaway was ultimately: when in doubt, just add more cilantro… and if you hate cilantro, eat it anyway?! Just kidding, please feel free to share your cilantro alternatives, we’ll be sure to take them into (brief) consideration.

Listen to: we blasted everything from Katy Perry, to Snoop Dogg, to The Beach Boys… basically any West Coast artist will get you feeling those Cali vibes (try this playlist or this one)

Pair with: start the night with a tequila-based welcome drink (recipe below). Get classy by pairing dinner with a nice red wine, like a Californian Zinfandel.

For the salsa

  • 10 large tomatoes
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1 red chilli
  • Juice from half a lime
  • Fresh cilantro
  1. Roughly chop everything and mix in a bowl
  2. Use a hand-held blender to mix until chunky (or smooth), whatever consistency floats your boat! You are the captain of your own destiny!

For the guacamole (yeah, I know guac is extra)

  • 3 ripe avocados
  • 1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped
  • Cilantro (the more the merrier)
  1. Cut the avocados into smaller pieces and place in a large bowl
  2. Using a fork, mash the avocados (we like chunky guacamole and were distracted by The Beach Boys, so did not spend much time doing this)
  3. Add in the onion, chili, and cilantro. Mix everything together.

Rice

  • 2-3 dl long grained rice
  • Olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 carrots, coined
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 can of crushed tomatoes
  1. In a large pot, heat up olive oil.
  2. Add rice and crushed garlic and stir, ensuring that all the rice is covered in olive oil.
  3. Add carrots and onion and let cook for a few minutes
  4. Add in the can of crushed tomatoes and stir. Let the mixture simmer for about 15-20 minutes until rice is thoroughly cooked.

Beans

  • One can of black beans
  1. Pour into a pot and cook for a few minutes on medium heat, then serve (simplest yet amiright?)

Tortilla chips

  • 5 soft flour tortillas
  • 2 dl of canola oil
  1. Cut tortillas into smaller, pieces (slice them like you would a pizza)
  2. In a large pan or pot, add heat canola oil (for frying the tortillas)
  3. (A tip for knowing when the oil is ready for frying is to stick the back end of a match into the oil. If small bubbles form around it then the oil is ready!)
  4. Add in the tortilla pieces, a few at a time, and fry until golden
  5. Take out the tortillas, letting them dry a bit on a plate covered with paper towel

Beef (with marinade – see below)

  • 500 g of beef sirloin
  1. Let beef marinate for at least a few hours in the fridge (preferably overnight)
  2. On medium heat, fry each side of the beef for about 7 minutes, until the outside is browned but the inside is still pink (you can choose to cook it as long as you like, if you’re not a fan of blue steak)

Marinade

  • 1 dl orange juice
  • 1/2 dl lemon juice
  • 1/2 dl lime juice
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 dl soy sauce
  • 1 dl olive oil
  • 2 dl fresh cilantro
  • 1 dried chipotle pepper
  • 1 dried ancho chile
  • 1 dried pasila chili
  • 1 dried chile de arbol
  • Chili powder
  • Garlic salt
  • Cumin
  • Oregano
  • Paprika
  1. Toast dried chiles until softened over medium heat.
  2. Combine all ingredients to taste using a hand-mixer to create a more liquid consistency.

Cheese

  • 1 half of a prästost (or you can use grated cheese)
  1. Grate cheese
  2. Serve in bowl (yay for two step recipes)

Fried Zucchini and Pepper salad

  • 2 tbsp of cooking oil
  • 1 zucchini, sliced
  • 1 yellow long bell pepper (banana pepper), sliced
  • 2 red onions, chopped
  1. In a large skillet, heat oil and add chopped vegetables
  2. Cook for about 10 minutes, until onion is translucent and vegetables are soft

Welcome drink

  • Tequila
  • Cointreau
  • Lime juice
  • Blood orange juice
  • Ice
  1. Mix tequila, cointreau, lime juice and blood orange juice in a mixer
  2. Serve with ice (and preferably adorable straws like as pictured below!)

Interview Time

After everyone had unbuttoned their jeans, served themselves a trillionth portion of food and wine, we got down to business- the business of finding out why Kelsey and Corliss moved to Stockholm, as well as their biggest fears (spoiler alert: it has to do with Swedish food)

Kryddhyllan: What’s your favourite food from home?

Kelsey & Corliss: Tacos. That was easy. I think if you ask most Southern Californians, they’d say the same thing.

Kryddhyllan: I thought they’d say kale, or kale smoothies.

Kelsey: *laughs. That’s Santa Monica, that’s a different thing.

Kryddhyllan: And yeah, tempeh. Organic. Okay so you guys said both said tacos, but why tacos?

Corliss: It’s uh, I dunno I mean I grew up eating a lot of tex mex. And it’s also, I feel like after school or when we got older, we’d always go out and eat tacos.

Kelsey: Yeah, it reminds me of home, being with friends and family. It’s also easy, you can do it really simply.

Kryddhyllan: Have you had Swedish fredagstacos?

Kelsey: That’s different…

Kryddhyllan: But also great?!

Kelsey: There’s corn and pineapple. I’m not really into being able to slurp up my food with a straw…

Kryddhyllan: Everything has to be very finely chopped, it’s like baby food. They do actually have taco babyfood in Sweden.

Kelsey: This is another thing. Also the spices on Swedish tacos… It doesn’t really remind me of my mom’s Mexican food, let’s put it that way. But it has it’s own place…

Kryddhyllan: On Fridays! Okay, next question is, what brought you to Sweden?

Kelsey: My partner, I fell in love and it was beautiful… I got really drunk at a brännboll game (editor’s note: a Swedish variety of baseball, although not really at all. Google will explain everything), and I never left.

Kryddhyllan: So you met during a game of brännboll?

Kelsey: Yeah. It was a big thing for a month, we played games every day. It was beautiful.

Kryddhyllan: Were you guys on the same team?

Kelsey: No. But I played on his team because they didn’t have enough girls, they had only boys. I ran into a pole, it was cool.

Kelsey’s boyfriend: That’s when I realized she was a keeper.

Corliss: What brought me to Sweden? Well I wanted to live in Europe, I thought it would be cool, and then I got stuck here because of love. I had studied Swedish and I have Swedish family. I just wanted to have an adventure and I ended up staying here, after Under Bron.

Kryddhyllan: Next question. Favourite new dishes since moving to Sweden?… Everyone’s always silent when we ask this.

Kelsey: Well, I definitely cook a lot more meat since moving to Sweden. When I lived at Berkeley, I ate at vegetarian houses, and I only ate vegetarian food. So I learned how to cook meat when I came here, that’s the main thing. One specific dish, I don’t really know.

Corliss: I had a meat period, but now I don’t really eat that much meat. But I don’t cook that much either since I’ve started working so much. But when I do cook, I always cook things from home. Like tex mex, last night I made tuna melts. It was really good.

Kelsey: What do we eat that’s Swedish? I guess fish, like gravlax. Sill, that’s really good.

Kryddhyllan: You guys like sill? That’s pretty rare.

Kelsey: Yeah, sometime I buy for myself when I’m home alone.

Kryddhyllan: That’s awesome, because I feel like it’s an acquired taste, most people don’t like sill.

Kelsey: I guess it’s kinda like sushi though.

Kryddhyllan: Do you like surströmming? That’s horrible.

Kelsey: I’ve never had surströmming…

Kryddhyllan: Or lutfisk? That’s also horrible.

Kelsey: I recently discovered “bodycakes” as I like to call them.

Kryddhyllan: Kroppkakor? They’re pretty good.

Kelsey: With melted butter, they’re pretty good.

Kryddhyllan: Another guy we interviewed was saying how Swedes just have the same food for everything. Like lingonberries, with everything. And we were pretty confused, because we rarely have lingonberries. I mean I don’t have lingonberries at home…

Corliss: But I think families do. With kids. When they have köttbullar, and macaroni with ketchup.

Kelsey: I fear that my child will eat like a Swedish child. It’s my greatest fear. It’s only macaroni and meat. And ketchup. Like white carbs and ground beef.

Kryddhyllan: The food in schools is actually pretty healthy.

Kelsey: Yeah but then they come home and are only fed macaroni. With meat.

Kryddhyllan: Well, they also get pancakes, fish sticks. Billy’s pan pizza… Okay to sum it up, fave dishes since moving here are gravlax, kroppskakor, and more meat. That said, before you came here, what did you know about Swedish food (apart from the chef in the muppets)?

Corliss: I mean… I’d been here when I was little, and the thing I remember the most was like, this nettle soup. It was super nice, I thought it was so good and I thought this was what Swedish people ate, so I was really looking forward to eating nettle soup when I moved back. Then I’ve had it like one time again since then.

Kryddhyllan: That’s pretty rare.

Kelsey: Yeah, I think I’ve made it one time…

Kryddhyllan: Did you have any stereotypes about Swedish food?

Kelsey: I don’t think I had any idea about what the food was like. And then I found semla, and I realized I could eat two of these for dinner and not eat anything else, and that was great.

Kryddhyllan: Yeah, that’s a good dinner for every night.

Corliss: But I think you knew a lot about all the famous Swedish chefs and their restaurants.

Kelsey: I don’t think I knew that before though. I usually get really into finding out about restaurants wherever I am.

Kryddhyllan: The food scene. Stockholm food scene is getting a lot better, even in the past 10 years a lot has happened.

Kelsey: Yeah, in general Scandinavian food has come onto the scene more recently.

Kryddhyllan: And what would you say is the best and worst thing about Swedish food?

Kelsey: The answer to both questions is butter. And salt.

Corliss: Yes! There’s so much and it’s so delicious, and then you get heart problems.

Kryddhyllan: But in the sauces?

Kelsey: In everything. It’s in sweet stuff, salty stuff, the potatoes which you eat a lot of in Sweden. In the buns, butter. When we go to Kaj’s parents country place, first you have lunch, and then at 3 o’clock you have fika, and then at 5 o’clock you have a snack, and then there’s förrätt, huvudrätt and efterrätt. There’s butter in everything. So much butter. And then at the end you’re just like wow I just ate a stick of butter.

Corliss: Yeah, it’s good and bad. For better or for worse.

Kryddhyllan: In sickness and in health.

Corliss: Ooh, flingsalt. That’s delicious. That’s one of my favourite things.

Kryddhyllan: So next question- if you had to pick one food to eat for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?

Corliss: Cheese! Cheese. We’ve actually had this discussion before, but you might have changed your mind now that you don’t tolerate lactose that well anymore.

Kelsey: No, but I would eat ice cream. That’s always been the one thing I can eat all the time.

Corliss: Let me justify cheese. It’s a large category with a lot of variation, with like sweet cheeses, savory cheese, hard and soft cheeses. Yeah. Cheese.

Kelsey: And I’ve thought about this too a lot, and realized, what’s the one thing I don’t get sick of? Ice cream. In a perfect world, I wouldn’t get stomach aches or get fat from ice cream. That or Mexican food.

Corliss: Or avocados.

Kryddhyllan: Following that question, if you were only allowed to use one spice or condiment for the rest of your life, what would it be? What’s your spice of life?

Kelsey: Salt.

Corliss: Does avocado count as a spice? Because that’s what I always put on my food if given the option. For extra. And chili.

Kryddhyllan: Chili is great in everything. Muesli, oatmeal. It’s great. Yoghurt. That could actually be really nice, like a nice mild burn… Anyway, what’s the best meal you’ve ever had?

Kelsey: When we went to Mathias Dalhgren. We were really poor and Kaj got money because he got his head smashed with a bottle, and got insurance money.

Kaj: It was worth it.

Kelsey: There was a guy who just came up to him randomly and smashed his head.

Kryddhyllan: Like a champagne bottle? That’s a big bottle.

Kaj: No it was a beer bottle. Otherwise I would probably be dead.

Kelsey: But he didn’t get hurt, it bled a little around his ear.

Kaj: And then I got money!

Kelsey: And I had no money, we both didn’t have jobs, I’d just moved to Sweden, and Kaj was like “let’s go to Mathias Dalhgren!”. It’s the most YOLO I think we’ve ever been. We have the menu framed as a memory. It was the best. It was also because we were such noobs, and everyone working there knew we were noobs, and they were super nice.

Kaj: They took the bread away from me because they told me to wait for the food… I was like “no! my bread!”

Corliss: I don’t think I’ve ever been to a Michelin star restaurant… But when I was a student, my boyfriend took me to Pubologi. The wine pairings were amazing. But then I was also thinking of my stekströmming meal that my boyfriend made, because it was my first stekströmming, and he made it for me.

Kryddhyllan: Awwww!

Kelsey: Good one Corliss.

Kryddhyllan: Last question, what is your fave restaurant at the moment?

Corliss: We go a lot to a place near where we live. Barbro. Really good food and nice people. It’s very cozy and unpretentious. We sit at the bar and eat sushi.

Kelsey: We go to Indio a lot. They have good sushi. It’s hard because you always go where you live. Nook is in our building, and we always go there. You can even make your own bao.

Kryddhyllan: Thanks guys!

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