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  • Writer's pictureNick Clarizio

Tantalized by Tequeños (Menu #4)

Updated: Oct 8, 2023

Dearest Reader,


This week, I fell in love. My love is wonderful. My love is warm enough to melt my heart...My love is bronze-skinned and beautiful...My love is cheesy and gooey on the inside...My love is...Tequeños of course. What else were you thinking?


To put it in crudely simple terms, Tequeños are a Venezuelan cheese stick. I ate them for the first time at a Venezuelan street food bistro that my friends and I adore while returning to campus for a visit. The same visit is also why this post has been delayed a bit ---sorry!


Apparently, tequeños appear to be known as an iconic Venezuelan snack (Blazes n.d.). They're most commonly made by wrapping strips of dough around sticks of cheese then frying them (Blazes n.d.). (For some reason, I thought the process would be more complex and arduous.) Versions of this attractive appetizer appear in numerous world cuisines:


"In Colombia, tequeños [my italics] are called palito de queso (cheese stick) or cheese finger...In the Middle East, where they are believed to have originated many years before, they get the name of raqqat jibneh...In Turkey, they are called sigara böreği (literally translated as “borek cigarette”) and are stuffed with feta cheese, potatoes, parsley and even minced meat at times..." (2021).

But none of this captures my newly-found undying love for the humble tequeño. Nor does it encapsulate their divine beauty. Maybe a triple haiku could do what prose may not. Is that allowed? It is now.


Tequeño, my love

Radiant on the platter

Redolent of lust


Tequeño, my love

Melting my heart bite by bite

Dough, cheese, sauce ---oh my!


Tequeño, my love

How could I resist you, you

who's so tasty ---mmmmm!



I think that's enough silly Shakespeare for the day. Let's briefly get to one or two of the other dishes from this week.


Jamaican Black-Eyed Peas: I originally found inspiration for this dish in this NYT recipe: https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1023536-stew-peas-and-spinners. The similarities are only vague, though: a kind of bean, some spices, the name. By naming it Jamaican, I don't intend to say it's representative of that culture or heritage but rather that it reminds me personally of Jamaican food. (Which I'm no expert in.) I also named it this way because my inspiration came from a recipe with Jamaican in the name. Nonetheless, I consider this recipe to be one of my most unique creations, and I thoroughly enjoy it. It has a meaty texture with hints of sweetness and wisps of smoke on the palate, making it reminiscent of backyard barbecues and campfire food. As a bonus, it's a lovely vegetarian/vegan option! Maybe one day I'll share the recipe on the blog.


Spanakorizo: I first came across this dish in the book Cooking Greek: A Classic Greek Cookbook for the At-Home-Chef by Pemi Kavanos and Tanya Stamoulis. It sounded simple and enticing ---just rice, spinach, and a few other sundries. Sarah Jampel notes, in a recipe for the food magazine bon appétit, that there's "no one way to make the classic Greek dish spanakorizo [my italics], but all versions include rice, spinach or other dark leafy greens (by name, they must!), dill, and lemon" (Jampel 2022). With a similar attitude in my heart, I took inspiration from the book and went and made my own version. I have to admit that I often forget to include the herbs (dill, mint, parsley, etc.), but the result is still dreamy. It feels luxurious yet healthy at the same time. You get a creamy texture from the spinach melting into the starches of the rice, a certain umami depth from a spoon or two of tomato paste, and tangy waves of flavor from the herbs. (My secret weapon is to add preserved lemon in place of regular lemon to boost the lemon flavor and add a meatiness to the dish.) I couldn't agree more with Suzy Karadshe when she writes on her food blog, The Mediterranean Dish, that spanakorizo is

"[a] soft and creamy rice and spinach dish, [a] classic Greek comfort food. It's become one of my go-to dishes, especially when I want to dig into something cozy, while sticking to healthy, whole foods. I love that spanakorizo has vibes and flavors similar to spanakopita, my favorite crispy Greek spinach and feta pie, but is a less involved dish I can make any night of the week" (Karadsheh 2021).


I think that's enough description for today. Without further ado, I present to you the menu of Chez Nico for the week of June 12-17! Feast your eyes!




Photos (Clockwise from top left): Jamaican peas meal, Arepa, Jamaican peas meal spread, my friend Grace with a super shake!, Spanakorizo meal spread, Banana bread [bonus photo ;)], Tomato-Bulgur pilaf + Asparagus meal, Spanakorizo meal, Spanakorizo meal, Super Shake, Tomato-Bulgur pilaf + ribs meal (in center), Tomato-Bulgur pilaf + Asparagus meal (in center), tequeños + mini arepas and mini cachapas


Bibliography


Blazes, Marian. n.d. “Irresistible Fried Venezuelan Queso Blanco Sticks (Tequenos).” The Spruce Eats

Jampel, Sarah. 2022. “Spanakorizo (Spinach Rice).” Bon Appétit (blog). February 22, 2022.

Karadsheh, Suzy. 2021. “Spanakorizo - Easy Greek Spinach Rice.” The Mediterranean Dish (blog). May 12,

Sabri, and Bian. 2021. “Tequeños.” 196 Flavors (blog). June 14, 2021. https://www.196flavors.com/tequenos/.

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