Fiction-Food Café

April 30, 2018

Elotes, Agua Fresca, Fruit Salad, Banderillas | All the Crooked Saints

          She began to prepare food beneath her umbrellas, furiously, quickly; wanting to be able to deliver it before the radio show was over, before the others decided to go to bed. She heated up her skillet, and while she waited for that to be hot, she cut fat slices of watermelon and cucumbers and orange and squeezed lime on them, wiping the sprays of lime out of the corners of her eyes, and then she dashed chili powder and salt over them all. By then the skillet was hot enough for her to place as many fresh cobs of corn as she could fit into it. While the corn roasted, she cubed a fresh pineapple and added mint and sugar and more lime juice into the gaping mouth of the blender. While the blender ran in the background, she stirred together crema and guajillo chili pepper and mayonnaise and crumbled cotija cheese to make a thin sauce. She tore cilantro into fresh-scented shreds and added it to the bowl. Then, still waiting for the corn, she rapidly began to make colorful banderillas for those who didn't have a sweet tooth, spearing lip-puckering pickled gherkins, salty olives, and bright pickled red peppers. And finally, the corn was roasted and she transferred it to a platter and poured the crema and cheese over it.
          It had been only ten minutes since she had decided to prepare refreshments and now she had some fruit with chili and some savory banderillas and some elotes and some eye-opening agua fresca to wash it all down with. It was not perfect, but it was closer than anyone else in Bicho Raro could come to it.
All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater
      This may not be as perfect as Marisita Lopez's meal (she has an almost magical talent for preparing food it seems, along with her desire for perfection), but it tastes pretty dang good, especially shared with family and friends. :)

       All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater, a magical realism, stand-alone novel set in 1960s Colorado with miracles, owls, and rock music, was published in October 2017 through Scholastic Press. I'm sharing this post in time for the #MagicalRealFood Fandom Foodies link-up hosted by Megan at The Hungry Bookworm!


1/4 Cup Crema*
1/4 Cup Mayonnaise (Spanish mayo if you can find it)
1/4 Cup Finely Crumbled Cotija Cheese* + more for sprinkling
1/4 tsp. Guajillo Chili Pepper Powder*
1/4 Cup (or less) Torn Fresh Cilantro Leaves + more for optional garnish
3-4 Fresh Cobs of Corn (you can cut them in half if you'd like after shucking)
Fresh Lime (optional)

Stir the crema, mayo, cheese, & pepper together until well combined. Stir in the torn cilantro (you can put in less than a loose 1/4 cup) & set the mixture aside until needed.

Heat an iron skillet spread lightly with oil (about 1 tsp.) on medium high. Shuck & rinse the corn. If there are strings stuck to it, covering the corn in hot water should make it easier to get them off. Pat the corn dry & rub it all over with butter.

Turn on the blower of your stove in case smoke arises from the pan when the corn is cooking. Once the pan is hot lay the corn in (as many as will fit) & cook for a couple of minutes on each side until lightly to moderately charred all around (tongs are very useful for turning). Do not add butter to the pan or else it will smoke! Once the corn is roasted all over, transfer it to a serving plate.

Spoon the crema mixture onto the corn & sprinkle on more cheese if desired, plus more chili powder & cilantro. You can also squeeze a little lime juice on if you want.

* Crème fraîche, or even sour cream mixed with a little bit of buttermilk, works as a substitute if you can't find crema.
If you can't find cotija cheese, feta will work, as well as parmesan, queso blanco, queso fresco, or ricotta salata, all finely grated or crumbled (I used feta + parmesan).
If guajillo pepper is hard to find (you might need to grind the dried peppers if you find it), you can sub in cayenne, or really any pepper powder you'd like.

Alternate Ideas:
          If you'd like to put a stick in the corn, before adding the creme mixture, hold the corn with a towel (because the corn will be hot!) & twist a wooden candy apple stick (this is short & very sturdy), bamboo skewer, or chopstick through the bottom into the core.
          Instead of mixing several ingredients into the crema, you could simply combine the crema and mayo & brush it onto the roasted corn & then roll the corn in the cheese or sprinkle the cheese on along with the chili powder, & garnish with cilantro (though the cilantro might not stick as well because of the cheese coating; you could leave it off) & an optional squeeze of lime.

Pineapple Agua Fresca

1 Fresh Pineapple (overripe is great)
1/4 - 1/2 Cup Sugar (depending on the sweetness of your pineapple)
2 Tbsp. Torn Fresh Mint Leaves
1 Fresh Lime
2 - 4 Cups Cold Water

Peel & cut the pineapple into about 1" cubes, discarding the hard core pieces. Place the pineapple in a blender along with the sugar*, mint, & juice from the lime (you can use as little or as much lime juice as you like according to your preference). Pour in 2 cups of cold water, cover, & blend well for a few minutes.

Pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a pitcher, stirring & pushing with a spoon to get all of the liquid out that you can. Discard the solids (or eat it!). Taste the agua fresca & adjust it how you'd like; more sugar, more water, more lime. Serve in glasses over ice. Garnish with mint &/or thin pineapple wedges.

* If you'd like to bring out the pineapple's juices more & dissolve the sugar, toss the cut pineapple pieces in a bowl with the sugar, cover, & let sit for about an hour in the fridge.

Ensalada de Frutas con Chile (Fruit Salad with Chili)

Watermelon (not the rind)
Cucumber (you can peel or not. English cucumber is better if not peeling)
Oranges (I used clementine segments)
Fresh Lime Juice
Chili Pepper Powder (of choice. There are ones specifically for fruit that you could try)

The amount of everything depends on how much you want to make. The basic how-to is to cut the fruits into bite-size pieces & then toss them in a bowl with a sprinkling of salt, fresh-squeezed lime juice, & chili pepper to taste.

Suggestion: These are the ingredients from the book, but if you wanted you could also add other fruits like pineapple, mango, jicama, & more. Get colorful & creative!


Gherkins (I used dill)
Green Olives (I used garlic-stuffed)
Pickled Red Pepper (I used roasted red bell peppers)

You can use toothpicks, short bamboo skewers, or plastic skewers. Simply skewer the ingredients in whichever order you'd like, the amount depending on your preference & size of skewer.

Suggestion: Though not mentioned in the book, little cocktail/pearl onions are a common addition & add additional color variety. Roasted garlic would also be lovely. Artichoke hearts and anchovies too!  Anything pickled really. As with the fruit salad, be colorful & creative!

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More food from novels by Maggie Stiefvater:

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