There’s a commonality in most every book I’ve written and it won’t surprise those who know me that it’s food. I don’t profess to be a culinary genius or even a true gourmet (as my current lunch of black cherry yogurt and rolled-up deli turkey would attest). But, I do like to cook and to eat, and because eating is something many of us do every day, often in the company of others, the sharing of a meal or the search for a snack or the excitement of preparing a special dish crops up in a lot of my work.
In my Gabby Garcia’s Ultimate Playbook series, Gabby’s father, Juan Garcia, is a home chef. Much like me, Gabby’s father is a freelance writer and he makes most of the family’s meals. (And sometimes, he procrastinates on his deadlines by cooking something very elaborate; I fully understand the impulse and recently enjoyed some deadline chicken cordon bleu.)
Meanwhile, Gabby — a baseball pitcher extraordinaire — has quite an appetite. She plays hard and she needs fuel! She’s a particularly big fan of baseball food, especially hot dogs (likewise, baseball stadium hot dogs are among the greatest delights of my life). She loves Hot Dog Night at home because her dad always make a toppings bar. (A procrastinating parent can really pay off, kids!) One of his specialties is peach mango salsa, and Gabby and her brother will fight over the last spoonful. (Delicious fresh peaches are easy to come by as the Garcias live in Peach Tree, Georgia.)
So, I really wanted to bring some dishes to life to share with readers. I am so lucky to have worked with Ericka Sanchez at Nibbles & Feasts in the past. She’s a recipe developer, food photographer and stylist who’s done work for Disney, Land o’ Lakes, Sprouts and many others. She’s been a great supporter of the Gabby series and so I approached her about creating a Mango Peach Salsa for readers to make at home. She came up with a really easy, but super-delicious version that I highly recommend you set out for your next picnic or barbeque. (Or on Hot Dog Night, if you’re an enthusiast, too!) Since it’s the season for backyard parties (not to mention Little League team gatherings), Ericka also came up with a fabulous creamy pasta salad that would surely rate the Juan Garcia seal of approval. (It also gets its creaminess from cheese, instead of mayonnaise, which is a super-win in my book.)
Check them out, and if you make them, post your photos to Instagram with the hashtag #gabbygarciasultimateplaybook so I can give you a shout-out! (And, visit Ericka’s site for a ton more recipes or to sign up for her newsletter; I’ve made a number of her dishes and they’re always delicious.)
Mango Peach Salsa
Makes 3 ½ cups
1/3 cup red onion, chopped
1 cup Roma tomatoes, chopped
1 cup Ataulfo mango, chopped
1 cup peach, chopped
1 ½ tablespoon Serrano pepper, seeds removed and chopped
1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
¼ teaspoon salt
Directions Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Toss to mix well. Serve with corn chips.
Creamy Pasta Salad
Makes 7 cups
6 cups small pasta shells, cooked al dente and drained
2 tablespoon butter
1/3 cup white onion, chopped
½ cup frozen peas
¼ pound ham, cut into small cubes
½ cup Mexican cream or sour cream
5 ounces queso fresco, cubed
¼ cup Cotija cheese, crumbled
Salt and pepper to taste
Set cooked pasta aside.
In a 5-quart sauce pan, melt butter over low-medium heat. Add onion and sauté for 2 minutes or until translucent. Stir in peas and ham; cook until ham begins to brown slightly.
Decrease heat to low. Stir in cooked pasta to the ham/pea mixture. Add cream, queso fresco, Cotija, salt and pepper. Stir gently to combine ingredients. Pasta can be served hot, cold, or at room temperature.