Quarantine Kitchen Part Three: Balancing Taste, Texture, And Parenthood With Carlos Tayag

Jul 17, 2020

"I think the most enjoyable part for me is that we do a lot of cooking classes and a lot of instruction for people. And I like teaching and I like sharing the joys of food with people," said Tayag.
Credit Carlos Tayag/The Pirate Chef Cooking Company

Since mid-March, Unalaskans have been hunkering down and socially isolating due to the COVID-19 pandemic. During that time—and even now as the State of Alaska reopens—many people have been avoiding crowds and public spaces such as bars, restaurants, and supermarkets—and spending more time in their own kitchens.

Over the past couple months, I have been putting together an Unalaska quarantine kitchen cookbook—sitting down with a few locals to hear about what kind of experiments, recipes, and memories they've been cooking up during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In part two, we learned how to make oatmeal with soon-to-be second grader, Maddy Castillo. And in part three, I take a dive into the quarantine kitchen of local chef and baker, Carlos Tayag. 

 

When it comes to cooking, especially when quarantining and social distancing mandates mean seeking out recipe substitutes and getting extra experimental in the kitchen, Carlos Tayag—locally renowned chef, baker, and mastermind behind The Pirate Chef business and cooking tutorials—said it all boils down to balance and logic. 

"If you just think logically, about the texture, taste, and consistency of something—if you can find something similar to that, then it should work in your recipe," said Tayag.

Despite his logical and measured approach to gastronomy, Tayag is a self-taught chef, who relishes having the space and time to create on his own terms. His business name and Instagram handle Pirate Chef is no coincidence.

"And we call it the Pirate Chef because we're not traditional," explained Tayag. "We're just a couple of guys who just enjoy cooking more so as a hobby, but have done it professionally. So we have experience on both ends of it." 

Tayag is the executive chef and co-owner of The Pirate Chef Cooking Company, through which he cooks and caters for local events and teaches cooking courses with his friend Brenden McEldery. 

Although he's worked professionally as a cook in various settings, as a teen, he learned cooking techniques in a rather informal setting. And while other kids his age were likely off galavanting and pursuing adolescent trysts, Tayag might have been found pedaling fervently home from the grocery store, garlic bulbs, leeks, and lemongrass in hand.

"I started off watching a lot of Food Network when I was a teenager, and would ride my bicycle to the store and pick up whatever ingredients I thought I needed," said Tayag. "And I would try and replicate what I saw on TV. That kind of later turned into a passion for just studying cookbooks. On my bookshelf here at home, I've got a few shelves full of cookbooks." 

"If you just think logically, about the texture, taste, and consistency of something—if you can find something similar to that, then it should work in your recipe," said Tayag.
Credit Carlos Tayag/The Pirate Chef Cooking Company

Working as a chef has not always been Tayag's main source of income or career, but it's been a consistent passion for him. Regardless of whether or not he was able to rely on a cooking career, his passion for cooking and baking has been unwavering, and he's worked in a handful of restaurants while maintaining a full-time career elsewhere.

Now, Tayag has the time and opportunity to cook on his own terms. He said his passion lies with creating, but also teaching others.

"I think the most enjoyable part for me is that we do a lot of cooking classes and a lot of instruction for people. And I like teaching and I like sharing the joys of food with people." 

For Tayag, the pleasures of food and cooking are largely about the community and connection they create. While he spoke a lot about consistency and dedicated progress as a chef—such as creating cooking logs to keep track of recipes and ingredient substitutions or developing a reliable set of go-to recipes—Tayag said people shouldn't fear cooking. When it comes to trying new things in the kitchen, he said, it's great to involve family and friends, and to approach it with an open mind.

"People should be excited to get together and cook," said Tayag. "You kind of have to throw your expectations out the window. You know, it might be good or it might be bland, or it might be really terrible. But you're spending time with people that you care about in the kitchen. You're having fun, and cooking shouldn't be intimidating—cooking's for everyone." 

The COVID-19 pandemic has meant a lot more cooking at home for Tayag—experimenting with pantry items, and learning how to create healthy balances in a new and unstable setting. But the social distancing and hunkering down mandates haven't been the only recent change requiring Tayag to retune his life in the kitchen. 

He and his partner Karen Kresh welcomed a new addition to the family earlier this year: their son Remy. And now, along with sensory components like taste and texture, Tayag is also learning to literally balance an infant while feeding his family and developing his culinary career. 

"I find myself having to put stuff on pause sometimes," reflected Tayag. "You'll take the pot off the oven, or you'll turn the heat off, or you'll turn the oven off and come back to it when you can come back to it. But I can cook with [Remy], while I'm wearing him a little bit." 

When I spoke with Tayag in March, his son Remy wasn't yet eating solid foods, but Tayag said he's looking forward to begin trying new foods with Remy, recognizing that he'll face a new challenge in the kitchen when that day arrives. 

Tayag is the executive chef and co-owner of The Pirate Chef Cooking Company, through which he cooks and caters for local events and teaches cooking courses with his friend Brenden McEldery.
Credit Carlos Tayag/The Pirate Chef Cooking Company

For now, Tayag will continue developing recipes for his business and work on perfecting his heavy-hitters. He said soups are for the weekends—the perfect time to throw whatever is left in the fridge into a pot. He also enjoys cooking tacos, bread, and salads. And if you're looking for a simple but elegant comfort food, Tayag suggested that cheese and noodles are the way to go.

 

"Butter, flour—make a little bit of a roux. Add your milk or your cream and add the cheese in there—you've got a cheese sauce," said Tayag. "And then add that to your cooked pasta noodles and you've got some mac and cheese. That can also double as an alfredo sauce, if you add a little bit of nutmeg in there and some white cheese. So you can get fancy with your noodles--you don't need a lot to get fancy with your noodles." 

TAYAG'S CONTRIBUTOR PIECE AND RECIPES:

 

The Quarantine Kitchen 

By The Pirate Chef

"We call it the Pirate Chef because we're not traditional," explained Tayag. "We're just a couple of guys who just enjoy cooking more so as a hobby, but have done it professionally. So we have experience on both ends of it."
Credit Carlos Tayag/The Pirate Chef Cooking Company

Hello, Unalaska! My hope is to provide you with some inspiration to find joy in these uncertain times and inspire you to occupy your time doing something you enjoy. You might have a long-forgotten hobby that got lost in the fast-paced shuffle of daily life and hasn’t returned yet. You might have been thinking about starting a new hobby or finding a new passion, but you haven't committed yet. You may have a skill that can provide solace and bring joy to those around you. I encourage you to find the joy in life and pick up those aspirations today. 

My great joy is cooking. More specifically, cooking for people. I find it enjoyable and joyful, but I understand that some may find the act of cooking to be stressful and overwhelming. For those of you who do feel that way, and for those of you who enjoy cooking but need some inspiration, I hope to provide a little for you here. If you are hungry now, feel free to scroll down to the recipes and suggestions provided throughout this piece. Otherwise, thanks for sticking with me.

Things are strange. These days are different. We're in unprecedented times, they say. You suddenly find yourself in new and frightening situations, one of them being the daunting task of feeding yourself and your family daily—multiple times throughout the day, in fact! Maybe you have more time on your hands these days, and you have exhausted all of your normal time-occupying activities. You find yourself staring at your kitchen space, suddenly more interested in the intricacies of your appliances and those rarely-used kitchen utensils. Maybe you are tired of eating ramen or your regular go-to packaged meals. Maybe you enjoy cooking but have hit a creative wall, and since everyone on the island is also burning up the internet, it's moving too slowly for you to stay interested in that recipe you were thinking about trying. Maybe you feel like you don't have as much time on your hands, and that daily life is becoming more stressful. In either case, now you're beginning to cycle through your weekly meals in a matter of days. Maybe your kids are home and they consume food like an Aleutian wind storm feasting on loose pallets. They are constantly hungry, have eaten all of the snacks in the house—even the fiber-based ones they typically avoid—and are begging for more food, continually asking when and what is for dinner. Let's answer those questions. 

Now is the time for you to take back your kitchen, work on some new skills, and add some new tricks to your repertoire. When the end times are over, you will undoubtedly find yourself with a slew of new survival skills to take with you as you re-enter the new world from your quarantine.  

We're in this together. I can offer some suggestions on what to do in your kitchen during these strange times. Hopefully they will inspire you to discover the depths of your pantry and provide sustenance both physically and emotionally.

Let me start off by offering this: Cooking should be relaxing. You should start cooking before you (and your children or other household members) are hungry, and with the goal of making more food than necessary for just the next meal. That way you will have leftovers for another meal, or to sustain you before your next meal. Turn on some relaxing music. Gather your essential tools and ingredients. Lay them out on a clear space on the counter so that you have exactly what you need when you need it. Finally, find some tasks for your "children" to help you with if they are "bored." After all, cooking is for everyone, and you will be surprised at how capable the other members of your family are in the kitchen. Or simply invite them to have a conversation with you while you cook. It may turn out to be a fun bonding experience. Wash your hands often. Put on gloves if you feel you need to. Make a plan and get started.

A note about food insecurity: The picture I just painted seemed rather pleasant given the current situations. You may find that it is not so easy for you to be optimistic during this period of isolation. If you are experiencing food insecurity and are in need of food or other resources please contact Unalaskans Against Sexual Assault and Family Violence (USAFV) at 581-1500. There are many folks in town who are here to help without judgement. I encourage you to reach out to the Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association (APIA) or any of the faith-based organizations in town, or a friend you can trust. You are not alone. 

Doing more with your cans of food

The media outlets are reporting that there IS enough food and that it will continually be restocked at your local market. Nonetheless, I'm sure that you have stocked up on some pantry essentials and canned goods. Below I have provided you with some simple soup recipes that use those canned goods as the main ingredient. They all start with the same base. I hope you enjoy making them! 

We all know about the classic canned foods right? Green beans, corn, peas, tomatoes, spinach, and most importantly, spam. These things are awesome on their own, and so are some of the other canned classics. Chicken noodle soup, cream of mushroom, canned chili, and although it's not in a can, ramen. What you don’t often hear is how these common staples can be doctored up. Can you combine any of them? What happens when I add eggs? Or rice? Or pasta? Or sriracha? Now is the time to find out! 

In addition to your new-found sense of adventure in the canned food realm, I encourage you to continue your adventures and discover the less popular canned foods. Did you know there is a whole chicken in a can? You can find it at the local Safeway! I have some environmental and ethical concerns about that canning practice, but if you are into it, give it a try and send me a message! I want to know about your experience. There is a whole world of canned fish! I have a clam chowder recipe below. Feel free to experiment with cans of shrimp, oysters, salmon, anchovies, or sardines—which are also great on pizza, crackers, and sandwiches. There is also a plethora of interesting canned vegetables that one can experiment with. There will surely be an abundance of canned goods available to you, especially the less than popular ones. Next time you venture out to Safeway or Alaska Ship Supply, pick up a can and see what you can do with it.  Let's get on to the staple soups.

PEA SOUP, THREE BEAN SOUP, CORN CHOWDER, CLAM CHOWDER

Ingredients: 

4-6 garlic cloves, peeled

1 medium yellow or sweet onion

1-2 stalks celery, depending on preference

4-6 slices bacon (feel free to substitute any salted meat or meat substitute if bacon isn’t available: spam, hot dogs, smoked sausages, vegetarian meat alternatives) 

1 large or 2 medium potatoes, or a can of diced canned (drained) potatoes *for corn and clam chowder only

Milk / half & half / heavy cream (Hell, even powdered milk…) or sugar free milk alternative *clam chowder only

1/2 Tbsp Italian seasoning or herbs de Provence (has lavender and adds a delicate floral flavor)

1 bay leaf

2-3 Tbsp oil (olive or vegetable)

Salt and pepper to taste

Chicken or vegetable stock, or bouillon cubes/concentrate (ramen packets also work), or water

Canned goods depending on chosen soup: 2 cans of peas, or 2 cans of corn, or 3 cans of beans such as black, kidney, garbanzo, or any that you like. 1 can of clams, preferably chopped.

 

Tools:

Medium stock pot

Mixing spoon, wood or high heat plastic

8-inch chef’s knife

Measuring spoons and cups

Directions:

For the base: 

  1.  Start by placing your stockpot on the stove over medium low heat. 

  1.  Place your bacon on a clean cutting board and slice into 1/4 inch pieces; uniformity doesn't really matter. Add bacon and oil to your pot, stir gently to separate pieces, and let it begin to do its thing. Clean your cutting board or get a new one for the following steps.

  1. Dice the onion so that your pieces are similar in size to peas or corn. 

Recommended onion cutting technique: cut the onion in half from top to bottom. Place the halves flat side down and trim off the heads and tails from each half, then peel off the paper layer and the top layer of onion if you need to. Discard your trimmings. With the halves still face down slice the onion by pointing your knife near the tail of the onion but not through the end (about 1/4 before the end) and slice vertically through the head and repeat cutting a slice every quarter inch. Please be careful and watch out for your fingers! Tuck your tips. Turn your onion half 90 degrees and slice across the vertical slices you just made. This should be making some cubit shaped pieces about the same size as the peas or corn.

  1. Stir your bacon and repeat with the second half of the onion.

At this point, your bacon should be getting crispy but not over cooked. Add the whole onion to your pot with the bacon. Stir. Turn down your heat at any point if you feel like things are over cooking.

  1. Dice your celery stalk so that it is the same size as the onion pieces. You can cut in a similar manner to the onion, you got this! Add diced celery to your pot and stir. It should smell pretty great right now! Add just a sprinkle of salt to help your vegetables release their juices. 

  1. Roughly chop garlic cloves by keeping the tip of your knife on the board and slicing through the garlic. Placing the palm of your flat hand on the back side of the blade helps you make a rolling slicing motion. When garlic is chopped into small pieces, place it into the pot, stir and reduce the heat to low if you need to. The onions, and celery should be translucent and maybe lightly brown but not too browned. The bacon should be cooked. If at any point you feel things are over cooking, go ahead and turn your heat down. If things are sticking to the bottom of your pot, add a bit more oil. 

  1. Add bay leaf and sprinkle in Italian seasoning.

  1. Open cans and follow next step according to the adventure you chose. 

  • Corn: add entire contents of can to your stock pot (corn kernels and can liquid). Gently stir.

  • Peas: add entire contents of can to your stock pot (peas and can liquid). Gently stir and use your spoon to mush the peas against the side of the pot. Mush until the peas are almost a purée.

  • Beans: Drain beans in a colander (spaghetti strainer) and rinse with cold water. Add rinsed beans to pot. Stir. Add 1 cup (8oz) of chicken or vegetable stock, or 1 cup of water with diluted bouillon. 

  • Clams: add entire contents of can to your stock pot (clams and clam juice). Stir. Rinse your potato and pat dry. Cut your potato into French fry strips and then dice the strips into cubes. You can peel the potato or leave the skin on; it doesn't make a difference to me. Add potato to pot and season with salt and pepper. 

Your soup is almost finished! Add a minimum of 3 cups (24 oz) of additional liquid to your soup. See below for details. Note. If you are using all stock or bouillon, expect your soup to be pretty salty already. Using water or a combination of stock and water creates a more balanced, delicate flavor and will allow the pea, corn, and clam flavor to shine through.

  • Corn, Peas, or Beans: add 3 cups of any combination of water, diluted bouillon, chicken, and/or vegetable stock.

  • Clams: add 1 cup water, 1 cup diluted bouillon, chicken, or vegetable stock, and 1 cup milk.

  1. Stir, turn heat up to medium high, and bring to a light boil. Carefully taste for salt and pepper, add more to suit your taste. Then turn heat down to low and simmer for 5-10 minutes before serving. Or leave on low heat to enjoy throughout the day.

  1.  Enjoy! This recipe serves 4 comfortably. For larger batches, double or triple the recipe. Note: when finishing the bean soup at step 9, I like to add a bit of smoked paprika or chili powder to give it a more complex flavor. When finishing the Clam Chowder at step 9, I like to add a dash of onion powder to heighten the flavor. You can also add a half cup of milk to your corn chowder when adding liquid at step 8; it will add to the creaminess. If you have a blender or blending device handy, a few pulses to the corn chowder gives it a velvety texture. (Be careful, hot liquids expand in the blender.)

You're going to want bread with that.

Of course, there's really no concern that the bread supply in America will run out, but you have some time on your hands, as well as that bag of flour sitting in your pantry. You may as well use it for something other than cookies. Besides, you will have a great homemade loaf of bread and most likely save some dough by using the flour you already have. This bread recipe will pair well with your freshly made soup and will also function as a great snack while waiting for the rest of the meal. 

I spend a considerable amount of time studying and testing bread recipes. This one was recently shown to me by the wonderful and incomparable Linda Norris, who got it from a friend who apparently got it from the NY Times. So I make no claim that it is an original recipe. It is the easiest, most foolproof recipe I have ever encountered. It's simply delicious. You will amaze yourself and those in your household if you have never baked bread before. I do want to preface that by saying this peasant loaf does take 18 hours until it's ready for the oven. Don't worry, though! It only requires about ten minutes of actual work from you. So don't let the long fermentation process discourage you; the good bacteria needs time to do its thing. You can make this bread daily, and it will be ready to bake after one sleep every day.

NO KNEAD PEASANT LOAF 

Ingredients:

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 cups lukewarm water

1/4 tsp active dry or instant yeast OR 1/2 cup of sourdough starter*

*With all of this time on your hands you may feel like starting an ambitious project. Try making sourdough starter! It takes about 5-7 days to be fully ready, but is a wildly interesting process that results in owning a new living pet! It’s like the Tamagotchi of the bread world! Google it, young people. Sourdough starter that is. I recommend the recipe provided by King Arthur Flour.

Tools: 

Large glass or ceramic mixing bowl. Plastic will do if it is what you have.

Wooden spoon

Measuring spoons and cups

Plastic wrap 

Cast iron or ceramic dutch oven. Or a deep oven safe pot with lid. Or if nothing else, a pie tin or loaf pan

Directions:

  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine all dry ingredients and mix with wooden spoon.

  1. Add water and gently combine until all the water is incorporated, then continue to work to try to form a loose ball with most of the dry ingredients incorporated. The dough ball will look raggy. This is perfectly fine. 

  1. Scrape the excess off your wooden spoon, and add it to dough ball. 

  1. Seal your bowl tightly with plastic wrap and place in a warmer location of your kitchen. 

  1. Let the dough rest for 12-18 hours. When you come back, it should have some air bubbles and may look wet. Using your wooden spoon, gently release dough from the sides of the bowl, doing your best to not push out all of the air bubbles. 

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

  1. Dump dough into a lightly greased dutch oven and place the lid on top. If using an alternate vessel, cover with greased or non stick foil.

  1. Bake in oven on middle rack with lid on for 30 minutes at 450 degrees F.

  1. At the half hour, remove lid and let bread continue to bake for 15 additional minutes.

  1. After 15 minutes, remove dutch oven from your oven. Place it in a safe location away from vulnerable populations to cool.

  1. Gently remove loaf when cool enough to touch. Enjoy now or with your soup. To slice, saw with a serrated knife. If you need more than one loaf, you can do multiple separate batches. I don’t recommend that you combine them, but they can bake together. 

What have I been cooking during quarantine? 

Before I get to the specific answer of that question, now is a good time for me to shout out some Unalaska produce. What, you say? It's always crap! Not true, although our produce section on the island is limited compared to Anchorage and most of the Lower 48. We do have some consistent staples to work with. Mushrooms seem to survive the journey fine. I stock up on them regularly and store them in paper bags. There is usually an abundance of greens; if you are a kale person, you should try mustard greens, collards, or chard. Other staples I usually find are green onions, a variety of sweet and hot peppers, carrots, potatoes, and surprisingly, there are usually great mangos. I'll come back to the mangos! I use all of these things regularly. I try to find recipes where I can use them in different ways throughout the week. For example, I might use fresh spinach in a salad with apples, nuts, and berries. Then add some to my collard greens as they simmer away. Spinach on pizza and in your smoothie. You can also use it fresh, canned, or frozen to make a delicious dip when combined with some of your extra dairy. Spinach, a little garlic if you like, cream cheese, any shredded cheese, a touch of sour cream or mayo. Bake at 350 until golden. Enjoy with chips or crackers. Or with a spoon. No shame.

OK! But what have you been cooking during quarantine?

I did make that spinach and cheese dip. I made a tomato soup from some cherry tomatoes that were about to look questionable and vegetable stock. Roasted carrots drizzled in maple syrup and butter. Chili dogs with some doctored up canned Nalley chili on leftover onion buns. Slow stewed mixed greens. A version of a Filipino coconut stew with mustard greens, green onions, mushrooms, basil, cilantro, and ginger. I corned bison steaks on St. Patrick's Day. I made latkes with a bag of pre-shredded potato hash browns and my sourdough starter. Fruit tarts inspired by Julia Child. I added dried figs and saffron threads to my brown rice in the rice cooker. Made samosas with leftover vegetables including frozen broccoli, a former St. Paddy's day potato, edamame, mushrooms and a dash of garam masala. You can add any ground meat if you want to. I made tzatziki to dip the samosas in with greek yogurt, garlic, dill, lemon, and a cucumber. Those are the most notable of my quarantine experiments. Here is my point: you have some time to be creative, so use what you have to try out some interesting stuff. You may not find everything called for in the recipe, but don't be afraid to substitute. 

Let's talk about tacos

I usually make tacos at least once a week, and not just on Tuesday. Maybe you are getting bored with your typical taco recipe. Maybe that’s unlikely, because who doesn't love tacos any day of the week? But chances are, you have been stuck at home and you are going to your taco recipe way more often than usual. Let's doctor it up. 

Taco Tips! 

  • Warm up your tortillas! Try lightly grilling them in your cast iron.

  • Use a meat alternative! Shaved cauliflower is my go-to. Using a knife, shave pieces into your pan, add a bit of fat, and cook it as you would any ground meat. Diced sweet potato is awesome too.

  • Chop onions and cilantro, combine with lime juice and zest. Use it to top your tacos.

  • Add a packet of taco seasoning to your sour cream and your refried beans to give them a kick.

  • Make your own taco seasoning from spices you most likely have in your pantry. Here is a base for you to start. Play around with it. (1 1/2 Tbsp chili powder, 1/2 Tbsp smoked paprika, and garlic powder, 1 1/2 tsp onion powder, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp cumin, and oregano)

  • Get a can of chipotle peppers in adobo and blend one pepper in a blender with sour cream or Mexican crema, some taco seasoning, and a little lime juice. Put that on your tacos!

  • Instead of ground meat, try making tacos with whole cuts like chicken thighs or flank steak or pork chops. 

  • Make fresh salsa.

  • Make fresh guacamole if you can find good avocados! 

  • Make mango salsa. The recipe for all three is below!

THE THREE AMIGOS

Fresh Tomato Salsa, Mango Salsa, Guacamole

*Note. Don't choose one. We are going to make all three at the same time!

Ingredients:

Tomatoes: 2 packs of cherry or grape (preferable), or 4-6 Roma, or 3-5 on the vine, or two cans diced (separate the liquid but do not discard)

2 avocados

2 medium/large mangos

4 limes

1 white or sweet onion

3 green onions

1 bunch cilantro

5-7 cloves garlic

2-4 jalapeño peppers

1-2 habanero peppers

Salt & pepper

Tools:

4 medium sized mixing bowls

Cutting board

8-inch chef's knife

Plane grater

*Garlic press (optional)

*Blender (optional)

Potato masher or heavy fork, or a very clean or gloved hand

Tasting spoons, like more than a few. One use only! 

Directions:

  1. Begin by washing all of your produce. Even the mangos and the avocado. After rinsing the cilantro and green onions, wrap them in a few paper or kitchen towels to soak up the water.

  1. Ready your tools and clean surfaces. Place a damp paper towel or a kitchen towel under your cutting board so that it won't slip. Decide if you want to use a blender. You will only need it for the tomato salsa, but it isn’t necessary. I do enjoy the consistency of the salsa better when using the blender. Finally, place three bowls on the opposite side of your cutting board for your salsas, and the fourth to your side for scraps. If you are using the blender, one of your bowls can be replaced by your blender vessel for the tomato salsa.

  1. Dice your tomatoes. Divide your diced yield among the three bowls: half in your tomato bowl and 1/4 each in the other two bowls.

  1. Grab your mangos! This step is good for knife skill practice. Saving as much flesh as possible, trim a tiny slice off of the tops and bottoms of your mangos to create a flat edge to stand on your cutting board. Stand your mangos up on the bottom or wide end. Starting from the top begin to trim the skin off with the blade of your knife in strips using a long sawing motion. Hold the mango at the top with curled (tucked) fingers and support the mango with the heel of the same hand. When both mangos are peeled, slice quarter inch chunks around the mango until you hit the seed. Trim as much flesh from around the seed as you can. Dice the mango flesh evenly, then add the flesh and juice to your intended bowl with the tomato.

  1. Grab your avocados! I assume most of you have figured out how to dice an avocado if you have eaten one before. If you need detailed instructions, DM me. Dice your avocado or just halve it and add it to your avo bowl; we're going to smash it later.

  1. Lightly salt your avocado and mango bowls. Combine them gently with the tomatoes. Now is the time to mash your avocado: gently mash with your chosen device. You want a chunky, slightly pasty consistency. Clean your hand if you need to before continuing. 

  1. Using your plane grater, zest two limes, shaving off only the bright green part. Cut your limes in half, then juice them in a separate small bowl. At this point, you are going to start adding lime juice to your three bowls. Remember you can always add more but you cannot take it out. I divide the juice evenly among the three bowls, using slightly less in the avocado bowl. If you are nervous about the sour taste, add the juice one spoonful at a time and taste to your liking. Sprinkle a few pinches of lime zest in each bowl and mix. 

Taste for salt and acid. Add more if you like. 

  1. Using your plane grater or garlic press, carefully shave garlic cloves into your bowls accordingly. 2 cloves tomato, 2 cloves avocado, 1 clove mango. More or less as desired. Taste again. You should start to notice the flavor building with each component.

  1. Grab your bulb onion! Using the method from the soup recipes, dice your onions. Add onion in the same ratio as you did the tomato. 1/2 in the tomatoes and 1/4 each in the avo and mango. 

  1. Chop your green onions and distribute to your bowls like this: one full green onion in each of the tomato and mango bowls. The top (the green part) of your remaining green onion will go in the avo, the bottom in your tomato. Mix gently. Taste. Adjust salt again.

  1. You will now decide how spicy you want your amigos. Note: I recommend that you start with 1/2 of the habanero and taste for spice before adding the rest. If you do not like spice or want to control the spice level (gloves recommended): Lengthwise, cut the flesh from the core (flank) of your peppers, being careful not to get any of the seeds. Then chop the flesh and add the jalapeños to your bowls in the same ratio you did with the tomatoes and onions. Half, quarter, quarter. All of the habanero flesh goes into the mango. If you want the full spice, dice jalapeños and habaneros with the seeds intact and add accordingly. Mix and taste for spice. Remember, you can add but can't take away.

  1. Chop your whole bunch of cilantro. I like using it all, and I love the flavor. This is all about your personal preference though, so adjust accordingly. Add the cilantro to your amigos in the same ratio as before. Half, quarter, quarter. 

  1. Taste! At this point you should taste for salt first. Add more if you need to. Then adjust the heat and acid as you like with more peppers and lime. Your amigos will mature over time. The acid and heat will become more pronounced. Add a sprinkle of black pepper to each mix. More if you like.

  1. *Blend your tomato salsa if you choose to. Pulse it a few times for a nice chunky texture or liquify it if you want. Adjust to your desired consistency.  

  1. Cover with plastic wrap and let your amigos chill in the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes. This will allow the flavors to really deepen and mature. Then enjoy with tortilla chips and with your tacos. 

Unalaska! I sincerely hope you are doing well. I hope you are finding ways to take care of yourselves and each other. This will not last forever, and we are in this together. Just not together in the same room. From my kitchen to yours, stay safe, be well, and eat well! 

Thank you so much for reading this, it has truly been a pleasure. Until next time, check me out on Instagram @lospiratechef and please message me with any food-related questions or just to say hi! Thank you to the dedicated employees at KUCB for your tireless work and for always keeping our community informed. 

With Love, Los