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Award-winning chef uses recipes to share appreciation of Latin cultural nuances

September is Hispanic Heritage Month, a time to celebrate Latin culture. In Eden Prairie, a chef educates the world about exquisite cuisine.

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — September is Hispanic Heritage Month, a time to celebrate Latin culture. In Eden Prairie, a chef educates the world about exquisite cuisine, one delicious dish at a time.

"Food is a conduit for having any kind of conversation and bonding in the kitchen; it is a unifier," said chef Amalia Moreno-Damgaard, who also believes that recipes are a way to pass down traditions. 

Chef Amalia does her part to keep the culture alive with her cookbooks. Her latest is "Amalia's Mesoamerican Table-Ancient Culinary Traditions with Gourmet Infusions." It's won four awards, including a Gold Medal for Best Cookbook 2022 from the International Latino Book Awards. The book has 132 recipes, including pictures and notes about the history behind each dish. 

Credit: Amalia Moreno-Damgaard
Amalia's Mesoamerican Table: Ancient Culinary Traditions with Gourmet Infusions

"It is also a multicultural area with Indigenous people that are now descendants of people that have been there for, you know, 1000s of years. They have been carrying recipes and ideas and trading for a long time; from Mexico all the way down to Panama and beyond into South America," she said. 

Chef Amalia's story begins in Guatemala City, where her maternal grandmother raised her. "She made all meals from scratch. She knew how to make just about everything," recalled chef Amalia.

That influence continued when Amalia left home.

"I started recreating; trying to recreate what I learned with her and just trying to learn more about my home country, the culture, the traditional cuisine, the original cuisine, and [I] just started doing it." 

Now chef Amalia is educating her readers about Latin cultural nuances.

"Even though we may share staples and ingredients and flavors, we have very distinctive cuisines depending on which country we are from,"  she said. "Even our language, Spanish, has different nuances, depending on the nationality."  

Ultimately, Hispanic Heritage Month is about learning and celebrating our own country's rich history.

"We are multicultural, multiethnic, and we are growing," Chef Amalia reminds us all. 

Chef Amalia shares one of her recipes:

NOPALES CON TOMATE Y HUEVO Y TORTILLAS DE MAÍZ

Egg, Cactus, and Tomato Scramble Hash with homemade corn tortillas

Recipe by chef Amalia Moreno-Damgaard, AmaliaLLC.com

Serves 1

2 tablespoons canola oil

¾ cup chopped onion

½ cup diced Roma tomatoes

1 cup fresh cooked small-diced cactus paddles

½ cup petite diced cooked potatoes

¼ cup diced pickled or fresh jalapeños or serranos

2 beaten large eggs

Kosher salt & freshly black pepper 

In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, warm the oil.

Add the remaining ingredients in the order listed, sauteing each for 1 minute before adding the next ingredient. 

Add the beaten eggs, season with salt and pepper to taste, and cook until smooth, about 3 minutes.

Serve immediately with corn tortillas.

Homemade corn tortillas: 1 cup masa harina (corn flour) for tortillas, 1 cup cold water. Combine into a homogeneous dough. Divide into 6 equal portions, make balls, flatten with a tortilla maker or skillet, and cook at medium-high heat on a dry nonstick, preheated griddle for about 1 ½ minutes per side.

Note: great pairings for this dish are black beans, queso fresco, fried plantains, Latin crema, and corn tortillas.

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