Amanda Lee Ramirez is half of a creative culinary couple. She and Ryan Walsh, her husband of 15 months, enjoy connecting in the kitchen and to their community of family and friends.
Ramirez, who grew up cooking Mexican food, says if you start with fresh produce, you can’t help but create delicious dishes — no matter what global gastronomy you are cooking up. Walsh says he and Amanda share an adventurous appetite. “Amanda is the head chef, and I know my role as sous chef and bartender,” he says. “The way we work together and communicate in the kitchen represents the partnership we have in life.”
Residence: Kansas City
Occupation: UMKC clinical nursing student
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Special cooking interest: Feeding adventurous appetites
Was it a mutual love of food that brought Ryan and you together? I think that was a huge part of it. Both Ryan and I were students at the University of Kansas in Lawrence when we met. After we started dating, I invited him to come and eat a Mexican meal I prepared. My great-grandparents immigrated to Kansas City from Mexico and I started cooking with my mother, Sally Pecina Ramirez, when I was 10 years old. Making Mexican food comes second nature to me. Ryan and I began cooking together early on, and we enjoy sharing the whole process of preparing food as a team, especially when the end result is sharing good food together.
Why is sharing good food so important in your relationship? Life is so much more interesting when you try new things — and that includes eating good food. We make meals at home at least five or six nights a week, and enjoy our time in the kitchen as a chance to reconnect and bond. We pick different recipes to prepare — and while Mexican is my default — we also enjoy Italian, Spanish, Middle-Eastern and Thai cuisine and Moroccan chicken with couscous. We enjoy eating well-seasoned whole foods that are packed with flavor.
How important is it to you to eat fresh, locally grown foods? There’s nothing like this time of year, when fresh produce is plentiful at the farmers market. Every Saturday morning, my dad, Joe, and I have a ritual to shop the farmers market in the River Market district. If some vegetable looks particularly good, it can inspire our menu for the week. My parents also grow tomatoes and peppers, so I may try to get fresh vegetables from their garden, too.
Why did you choose this tostadas recipe to share? I learned to make this from my mother and, for me, it doesn’t even require a recipe. Tostadas are delicious, yet relatively simple to prepare. But Mexican food is nothing without fresh toppings like good salsa and freshly grated cheese. Many times, I prepare whole beans, instead of using the canned variety, but utilizing beans that have already been cooked allows this dish to come together even quicker. Ryan will prepare the toppings — including grating the cheese — and during the preparation and prior to cooking, we like to spend the afternoon snacking on fresh guacamole and sipping on margaritas made from scratch, often with friends.
We love to entertain. We were married in Spain and it doesn’t get better than when you’re sharing tapas or paella at the table with those you love. Eating our way around the world — whether we’re traveling or cooking together — is really satisfying. And, that we get to do it together helps us to savor the entire experience.
Mary G. Pepitone is a freelance writer who lives in Leawood. She also writes a nationally syndicated home column. E-mail her at email@example.com to nominate a cook.
Makes 12 servings
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 dried chile de arbol peppers or Japones chile
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sunflower seed oil
2 (15-ounce) cans great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
2 (15-ounce) cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sunflower seed oil, for frying
12 (6.5-inch) corn tortillas
3 cups freshly grated Colby Jack cheese
1 head romaine lettuce, cleaned and shredded
3 tomatoes, cleaned and diced
For the salsa: In the bowl of a blender, add diced tomatoes, chile peppers, cilantro, onion powder, garlic powder, cumin and salt. Pulse mixture until smooth and transfer contents to a bowl. Set aside.
For the beans: In a large sauté pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add beans to pan and season with garlic powder, cumin, onion powder and salt. Stir together until well combined and heated through. Use a potato masher to smash beans to desired consistency. Turn heat to low and stir occasionally to prevent sticking.
For the tostada shells: Pour sunflower oil to a depth of about 2-inches in a cast-iron skillet. Warm over medium until oil heats to 375 degrees, when tested with an instant-read thermometer. Carefully place a tortilla into oil and fry until golden brown and crispy, about 1 minute, turning over, using tongs, after 30 seconds. Using tongs, transfer fried tortilla to a paper towel-lined pan and continue process until all tortillas are fried.
To assemble tostadas: Place fried tortilla on serving plate. Spread desired amount of beans over crispy tortilla. Spoon desired amount of salsa over beans. Top with shredded lettuce, diced tomato and grated cheese. Continue process until all tostadas are assembled.
Per serving: 356 calories (37 percent from fat), 15 grams total fat (2 grams saturated), no cholesterol, 47 grams carbohydrates, 12 grams protein, 582 milligrams sodium, 9 grams dietary fiber.