Those that feast together grow together
Someone recently claimed that recipes have no place in buyer-focused produce marketing. That someone doesn’t know my history with buyers or recipes nor does that person connect the dots between farms and tables, like I do. That someone has probably never witnessed the excitement over the vibrant consumer mango recipes and educational cards boldy worn by the displays of #MuchosMangoes during Crespo Organic Summer Mango Mania, put there by people like Four Seasons Produce’s merchandiser extraordinaire Brian Dey. That someone has likely never tasted the tantalizing Crespo Organic Sinaloa Sauce recipe, the one that I created to pay homage to the Crespo family’s home state of Sinaloa and the habanero and mango connection. No doubt that someone completely underestimates the power of a good recipe and of food in general.
Food is a connector. When we share food, we get deeper insights into one another. Food builds friendships and mends conflicts. It’s a life necessity and one of the few sensory experiences that we get to share with all other human beings on the planet. Food may just be the most powerful connector there is. It is nourishing and, to partake in it together, nourishes the group. As we bring food into our bodies with others, we become the same. That feeling of sameness relaxes us and creates more openness. Trust, cooperation and growth are born out of openness. A mango recipe shared, seen, cooked, shared again (with consumers) binds us all. I know the power of food and a good recipe.
I just got back from an annual team building trip in Nogales that ended up being a powerful breaking bread kind of experience with some of my RCF/Crespo Organic People (aka #CrespoPeople). The trip ended with many of us sharing a meal and growing together side by side, as people and as a team. Amidst the backdrop of the San Cayetano mountains I cooked a mango-centric, “Nissa-style Mexican” meal on a moment’s notice with the ideas, ingredients, and recipes that come from years spent moving around the globe as a young girl and through my current life working in organic agriculture. A meal that my teammates and some of their extended families gleefully jumped in to help prepare. Extended family is such an essential part of any team within the Mexican culture and I love that about Mexico.
My 3-day whirlwind experience in Nogales ended with what I consider significant growth for myself, many of my fellow workmates, and the team at large. Most certainly the team is stronger and closer and further aligned than before. This can be attributed to the moment we all shared food (and bebidas) in a food-centric experience. We created strong bonds simply by being around each other amidst the energy of food. By picking the compost out of the trash for Tony’s chickens and chopping corn, mangoes, and tomatoes in RCF gear. Drinking wine and Job’s bebidas. We laughed, we danced, we shared, we exposed vulnerabilities, we savored our time together and all the different flavors we were exposed to.
Food bonding breaks down walls and creates openings for learning, sharing, and growing. There is a certain amount of safety one feels when opening up during a food-centric experience. I know we all felt it that night in Nogales at Malu’s home. I know we all needed it. It’s simple but hard to explain. These food openings, as I call them, have the power to bring big potent positive changes. This type of openness is impossible to achieve in a conference room or amidst the daily grind of the office, be it physical and virtual.
Let this be a reminder to break more bread with your team. Get to really know the individuals that make up your team.
Individuality is actually one of the most important aspects of a strong team, which I smartass-ingly pointed out at our sales meeting when I mentioned that there was an “I” in team: in Spanish equipo. Only days after I understood my flippant comment to be really important.
Every great team consists of several capable, dynamic individuals. When a team works well, the team members see and respect the complexities, strengths and weaknesses of the others and work together in utilizing those individual characteristics for the betterment of the whole team! The team creates the space where individuals can improve and expand on who they are. That safe space where the individuals operate from together forms the backbone of a strong team. It’s from that space and because of that space that every human being is able to achieve greatness.
I am going to get vulnerable now and disclose that I know I can often give the impression that I am not a team player in the sense of my need for independence and freedom. Space and freedom creates the space for my creativity to flourish, which is how I produce results and I absolutely need it . A good team fit for me knows that. A good team leader knows how to set the team up so the individuals feel comfortable individually and also want to partake in and be a part of that bigger entity, the team. It takes time to build teams, just like it takes time for individuals to learn and grow. Food sets that process in motion and accelerates the process.
These food openings have always been at the center of my attraction to food and agriculture. Food has tantalized both my taste buds and my tendency toward growth. My experience as a little girl in Central America planted the seeds of my “career” at the intersection of food and agriculture, which for me is really people & culture. The intersection where food and agriculture collide is the place that most represents the Crespo Organic Mango brand: where the word “culture” can be seen loud and clear in agriculture. It’s about the farm, the family, the communities, the place, the culture, the fruit, the team, the mango eater; all of it. Sure, we sell produce, but our mangoes are more than just a box of fruit or pallet ID. In the end, the recipes are fundamental to all of it. This latest experience with my Nogales team etched that deeper into my being.
By the way, the main reason I wrote this is because Malu keeps asking me for the recipes – here they are, Malu!
Bebidas Y Comida Para Mi Equipo
The following mango and Mexican centric meal was made on the fly with an impromptu menu made by myself, Tony, Issis and Job. The recipes are all previously made recipe for Crespo Organic, many of which are also Points of Sale Recipe & Educational Cards or renditions of something I have made before, all of which is based on my life and work in Latin America and my love of cooking healthy with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. We served the following recipes with locally made corn and flour tortilla and tasty frijoles.
Mango Coladas for a Crowd
Makes 1 gallon
Disclaimer, we never made this at Malu’s house, but we intended to and I wanted to share it with Job who, like me is a part-time cocktail artist. I developed this recipe for a big mango party we had in Bolinas a few years back in conjunction with our distributor in the Bay Area, Earls Organic. The party brough several Earls and local retailer employees as well as local mango lovers. The drink and the party were a big hit. It’s got a general piña colada vibe but with a potent mango essence. It’s ultra-creamy and easy to make for a crowd. It’s delicious with or without booze. I of course loaded it up with an extra additive of pineapple sage for a little herbaceous twist. You can add mint or even cilantro just as easily.
2 cups mango puree
2 cups mango pit mixer
2 cup coconut cream
2 tablespoons coconut extract
2 cups lime juice
2 cups rum of choice
Mix all the liquids up together until well mixed. Blend in batches, my mixing 3 cups of liquid with 1 cup of ice. Serve with a mango slice as garnish.
Job’s Drink (The RCF Citrus Tajín)
What I love most about Job’s drink is his enthusiasm for it. It is served in a short (rocks style) glass, spiced up with a little tajin pepper or salt, depending on taste. He garnishes it with a quarter of an orange slice, which he put around the edge. It’s even better with the RCF brand oranges of course!
2 tablespoons Chili Tajín
1 orange, cut into quarters
1 oz tequila
Orange wheel garnish
Place some Tajín on a small plate. Moisten the rim of a lowball glass with an orange wedge and then roll the rim of the glass around in the Tajín until it has the desired thickness.
Fill the glass up with ice and pour in the tequila. Squeeze in the juice of one of the orange wedges and fill it up with grapefruit soda. Garnish with an orange wheel. Add a pinch of salt if desired.
Mango Pico De Gallo
Makes 3 cups
In my mind no taco party can be complete without a good mango salsa and certainly no RCF/Crespo party should go without this tropical wonder. The key to a good pico de gallo is cutting everything uniformly small to tiny. This is how the recipe gets its name. Pico de gallo translates to “little bits the chicken eats.” A pico de gallo should be able to be tossed into the air on a windy day and it will blow away.
This recipe is the perfect use of the Tommy Atkins mango with its firm flesh that is the perfect texture.
2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters or eighths
1 cup finely chopped mango, semi ripe or ripe
¼ cup finely chopped red onion
¼ cup cilantro leaves, chopped
½ to 1 jalapeno, deseeded and chopped fine
Juice of 2 limes
1 teaspoon of salt (more to taste if desired)
Gently toss the ingredients together until well mixed. Serve room temperature for optimal flavor.
Roasted Tomatillo, White Onion & Jalapeño Salsa
Makes 2-3 cups
When pressed for time, as I was last week in Nogales when preparing this menu, this salsa can be whipped up by boiling the ingredients rather than roasting them. Roasting them leads to deeper more complex flavors but honestly boiling them is perfectly fine, too. I love to grill the ingredients and grind them on a plate if I have lots of time.
10-12 medium tomatillos, quartered
1 medium white onion, peeled and quartered
2-3 jalapeños, cut in half and deseeded
2 poblano peppers, cut in half and deseeded
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cumin
Juice of 1 lime
¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
Preheat oven to 400°F. Place tomatillos and onions on a lined baking sheet. On another lined baking sheet place the peppers, cut side down. Roast the ingredients for about 15 minutes or until lightly charred. Allow to cool a few minutes and chop tomatillos and onions very small and place in a medium bowl . Remove the skin from the peppers and chop them fine and add them to the same bowl. Season with salt and cumin and the juice of the lime, mix well and toss in cilantro leaves until mixed. Blend about 2-3 minutes until very smooth.
Red Cabbage Cotija Salad
Makes about 4 cups of salad
This was one of the big surprises at the party, and a recipe dear to my little girl heart, adapted as my knowledge of ingredients and creativity have. It’s a simple lime pickled cabbage salad that is my Nissa version of the green lime pickled cabbage of my early days in Nicaragua that I was incredibly fond of. It was in restaurants, market stands and roadside stands, soaking in big batches at room temperature. The Nicaraguan version is similar to sauerkraut with a Latin style citrusy tone. My version uses heavier red cabbage and less lime, making it more of a salad than a kraut. I also add cilantro leaves and cotija which enables me to use less salt. I love it on tacos and also just love eating it. The RCF/Crespo crew loved it on tortilla chips. Add cubed mangoes for a fun twist!
3 cups shredded red cabbage (about ½ medium head)
½ cup cilantro leaves
Juice of 3 limes
1 ½ teaspoon salt
½ cup crumbled cotija cheese
In a medium mixing bowl toss cabbage and cilantro leaves with lime juice making sure it is very wet but not excessively dripping, if more lime juice is needed juice one more lime. Season with salt and mix in cotija. Let sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes before serving.
Shrimp, Corn & Zucchini Stuffed Poblanos with Tomatillo Sauce
Did I mention this mention this was a meal made on the fly with little notice? And did I mention we needed to feed 12-14 of us? Of course my super easy go to for a crowd is my rellonos. I love to fill beautiful poblanos with all kinds of fresh vegetables, herbs, sauces and cheese (and sometimes meat) and bake them up, there really is nothing as easy as these. The group wanted seafood in these so I choose precooked frozen shrimp, but you can substitute fresh shrimp just as easily. Using a store-bought tomatillo sauce can also save you some time.
A lot of recipes call for softening up the peppers before stuffing them, I never do that and find it not that difficult to cut a triangle shape out of the top, the flat part of the triangle should reach access the stem side and the opening big enough to stuff with ease. Most important is to use a paring knife to cut the seed base out of the inside of the pepper to prepare for stuffing.
12 poblano peppers, prepped for stuffing
3 ears of sweet corn, kernels shaved off the cobbs
3 small to medium zucchini, chopped small
1-2 white spring onions or about a cub of finely chopped white onions
1 cup cilantro leaves
1-2 jalapeños, seeds removed, finely chopped
3 teaspoons salt (I used My Herbal-Roots salt of course)
2 cups of fresh or frozen shrimp peeled shrimp
3 cups shredded Oaxacan cheese
1 cup tomatillo sauce, plus extra for serving
Pre heat the oven to 350 ° F. Lightly grease a large baking dish or two.
Mix corn, zucchini, onions, cilantro, jalapeño and salt. Toss in the shrimp and cheese and mix thoroughly. Add the tomatillo sauce and gently mix together.
Stuff the peppers with the corn mixture so that it is compact and pouring out the top a little. Place each stuffed pepper in the baking dish. Bake for 45 minutes or until the cheese is browned and the peppers are super soft.
Serve with tomatillo sauce.
Cilantro Jalapeño Pesto BBQ Chicken Thighs
I thought it would be quick and easy to make one of my signature herbal marinades for chicken; what I didn’t realize is just what a big hit this recipe would be among my teammates. The “recipe” is as simple as it gets. Blend a few things together, marinade the chicken thighs in the sauce an hour and then grill it up!
8-10 bone in, skin on, chicken thighs
1 bunch of cilantro, chopped (stems too)
1-2 jalapeno, chopped seeds and all (if you like it spicy use 2)
Juice of 4-5 limes
½ cup hot water
1teaspoons salt, plus some of chicken
Lightly salt both side of the chicken thigs with a lightly salt. Place in a Big baking dish.
Combine the cilantro, jalapeño, lime juice, hot water and salt in a blender. Blend until it turns into a smooth pesto like sauce. Add more hot water if you need. Pour over the chicken, turning the chicken to make sure its completely covered in the sauce. Marinate at least an hour before grilling.
Mango Adobo Orange BBQ Beef Steak
I wanted to use the oranges from the RCF Mexican citrus program we do with Citrícola del Yaqui and so I came up with this recipe on the spot, knowing I had just sent Malu a few jars of my Mango & Lime Herbal Adodo Seasoning that I made with my side hustle salt business- Herbal-Roots. I had my fingers crossed that this weird ID would work and that people would like it. I play with steak all the time but I know the average person doesn’t. I knew that the fact that the RCF oranges were being used would open minds, much like when you let kids cook with you, they are more open to tasting new things. Food openings, remember?
5-6 medium sized sirloin steaks
A few tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons adobo seasoning
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons cracked black pepper
Zest of 2 oranges
Juice of 2 oranges
Drizzle a little olive oil over the steaks on both sides, sprinkle half the adobo seasoning, salt, cracked pepper and zest over the tops of one side. Using your fingertips rub it in well all over the steaks. Squeeze the juice over each side and let the steaks marinade about a half hour before grilling.