Farmers Market Sack Lunch: Sotera Jaime's Pupusas

Pupusas + a portable griddle

JgarbeePupusas + a portable griddle

Tired of ho-hum sack lunches? Time to talk to Sotera Jaime about her work-week pupusa plan of action. The cherubic abuela of Jaime Farms knows when to pull out that trusty electric burner at the office.

Jaime makes sporadic appearances at her family's vegetable stand at the Wednesday Santa Monica Farmers Market, where she is known for spooning out make-ahead dishes like puerco con chile negro, which she reheats for stand workers and friends. But she also knows there isn't always time for a long pre-lunch simmer on weeknights.

Sotera Jaime at her kitchen cubicle

JgarbeeSotera Jaime at her kitchen cubicle

And so yesterday, she was heating up pupusas, masa pancakes filled with refried beans. They're speedy to make but have a lot more chef appeal (literally) than your average lunchbox sandwich. "Oh really? I've got to get over there," said Rich Mead of Anaheim's Canyon Restaurant when we told him it was one of those "good" days at the market. (Read: Jaime is cooking lunch.)

Jaime giving Fig chef Ray Garcia her pupusa step-by-step

JgarbeeJaime giving Fig chef Ray Garcia her pupusa step-by-step

Watch Jaime in action and you will wonder why you aren't doing this at work, too. She's also more than happy to give a lesson to any passerby, chef, farmer, home cook or otherwise. Just stir together some masa, water and a little salt. Form the dough rounds into a small ball, use your thumb to make an indention and then add your filling. Jaime used refried beans this week, but you can make them with seasoned chicken, beef, pork, last night's vegetables, whatever you like.

Inside a finished masa pancake

JgarbeeInside a finished masa pancake

Flatten the cakes and then fry them with a little oil in a skillet or plancha on both sides until golden brown. Jaime likes to pan-fry the pancakes the night before and then re-fry them the next day, but imagine all the fun to be had by bringing all of the ingredients to work. (Per Jaime: Fiery hot homemade salsa is a topping must; crema/various Mexican cheeses are always welcome.) And then making those pupusas in your office, the hallway, the janitor's closet. Does it really matter? As for the electric burner required, it's a much better office-pool investment than the typical congratulatory grocery-store cake, right?

Now, about getting your office moved to an outdoor location three blocks from the ocean...

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