Good Food, Fast Food : From El Salvador: Breakfast Warm-Up


Saturday morning is party time at Ana Oviedo’s apartment in Huntington Park. “That’s the only time we can all get together,” says Oviedo as she joins husband Jorge, daughters Veronica and Jacquelinne and family friend Roberto Guzman for brunch.

The food is Salvadoran and Mexican because this is a mixed group. Oviedo and her daughters are from Santa Ana, El Salvador; Jorge and Roberto are from Mexico City.

There’s lots of laughter and enthusiasm as the group gathers around the table in a sunny corner beside the kitchen. Baskets of plump bolillos and various kinds of pan dulce (sweet bread) are lined up in the center.

The bolillos --French rolls--are soft inside with a crackly, thin crust. They came from Tianguis in Huntington Park. Oviedo picked up pan dulce from El Quetzal, a Central American bakery in downtown Los Angeles. Little cornmeal pastries called salpores contain bits of cinnamon stick. They’re delectable with coffee.

The fragrant coffee is poured into pretty earthenware cups made in Tonala in the Mexican state of Jalisco. Then come beans, cooked Salvadoran-style. They’re creamy, yet firm and so tasty that you want to fill your plate repeatedly. But you have to leave space for the Salvadoran chorizos--little sausages packed with lean meat and delicate seasonings. Oviedo has simmered them with tomatoes, onions, chiles and a dash of oregano. Like the beans, they’ve been cooked in a clay pot because that is supposed to give the best flavor. Oviedo has also set out a dish of Cotija cheese, which reminds her of a cheese she used in El Salvador.



Producing such a meal on a Saturday morning may sound unreal to those of us who stumble around limply in robes or sweats. But Oviedo can do it in only 35 minutes. That’s the time it takes to cook the chorizos and brew the coffee. The beans have been cooked in advance so they have only to be reheated. In fact, this reheating is what makes them taste so good. And if you prepare them several days in advance and reheat them a couple of times, they’re even better.

Veronica, 18, cooked the beans this time. She uses a blend of red and black dried beans, which produces a color more like that of Salvadoran-style black beans. The beans have been simmered with onion and garlic until only a little broth remains. Sometimes they’re cooked with lots of broth and served as soup. In that case, pork and bolitas de masa-- little corn dough dumplings--might be added, and there would be rice on the side. For a snack, Oviedo cuts a bolillo in half, pulls out a bit of the soft center and stuffs in leftover beans and cheese.

Some weekends, she cooks eggs with tomatoes and onion instead of chorizo. Or she might serve fried plantains and fried beans with sour cream on the side. And one weekend she and Jorge made tamales. “But you’re always going to see the beans,” she says. “We love beans.”



1 onion 1 cup dried black beans 1 cup dried red beans 15 cups water 3 cloves garlic 1 tablespoon salt 9 tablespoons oil

Slice onion into 2 pieces. Reserve 1 piece for refrying beans next day. Cut remaining piece in 1/2.

Rinse beans. Place in large clay pot or soup pot. Add 6 cups water and bring to boil. Reduce heat, add 2 onion quarters and garlic and simmer 2 hours or until tender. Stir beans occasionally so those on bottom do not burn. Add remaining water in stages as needed. When beans are done, remove from heat, cool and refrigerate in pot overnight.

Next day, remove beans and wash pot. Cut reserved 1/2 onion into 2 pieces. Reserve 1 piece for another use. Slice remaining piece into strips and separate. Heat oil in pot. Add onion strips and cook until well browned. Remove onion and discard, leaving oil. Add beans and simmer 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Makes 6 to 8 servings.


Each serving contains about:

402 calories; 1,190 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 22 grams fat; 41 grams carbohydrates; 15 grams protein; 3.76 grams fiber.



18 (2-inch) Salvadoran chorizos 1/2 cup water 1 onion, cut into thin slices 4 serrano chiles, quartered lengthwise, seeded 2 large tomatoes 2 teaspoons oregano 1 teaspoon salt

Place chorizos in single layer in skillet. Add water. Boil, uncovered, until water cooks away. Cook chorizos in drippings remaining in skillet until browned on each side. Add onion and chiles.

Break apart tomatoes with fingers and add to skillet. Crumble oregano into pan. Add salt and stir. Cover and simmer 10 minutes, or until onion is tender and tomatoes have cooked down to sauce. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Each serving contains about:

500 calories; 1,849 mg sodium; 89 mg cholesterol; 39 grams fat; 11 grams carbohydrates; 26 grams protein; 1.33 grams fiber.