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Saturday, September 10, 2016

Polvorones de Naranja | Frida #FoodnFlix meets #CooktheBooks

Polvorones de Naranja
This month, Food 'n Flix meets Cook the Books once again. Both the movie and book selection are stories based on the life of Frida Kahlo, and seeing how Mexican Independence Day falls this month (September 16), it's the perfect time to bring some Mexican and Frida-inspired recipes to the table.

If by some very slim chance you're not familiar with Frida Kahlo, she was a Mexican painter known for her 143 bold and surreal paintings, 55 of which were self-portraits—and also for her unibrow. She was a communist sympathizer, a (bisexual) feminist, and a fiery personality who was married twice—to the same man, fellow Mexican painter Diego Rivera. Although they were separated by more than 20 years in age, and had an infamously tumultuous relationship, both admitted to the fact that they were soul mates.

The Movie - Frida (2002):

I've seen Frida several times, but this month was the first time I'd sat down to watch it with an eye towards the food. Like the woman I envision, Salma Hayek portrays Frida as passionate, colorful, and larger than life all wrapped up in a tiny little body. The movie also stars Alfred Molina (as Rivera) with appearances by Geoffrey Rush (as Leon Trotskey), Diego Luna, Ashley Judd, Antonio Banderas, and Edward Norton.
Polvorones de Naranja
Set and filmed in Mexico, I love the vibrant colors and scenery. Obviously there is only so much of a her life that can be shown in two hours, and the film focused mainly on her painting, her relationship with Diego Rivera, and the horrible bus accident and the pain that it inflicted on her life physically, emotionally, and mentally.

Relating to food, there were a couple of scenes that featured it prominently—Lupe's special Mole recipe, Frida and Lupe and sopa Azteca, and some background spreads at the wedding. Besides those, I spied tons of produce like bananas, tomatillos, cebollitas, oranges, nopales, canteloupe, avocado, corn, gourds, and chiles. There were agua frescas, maybe tamarindo or some tepache. There was tea, cookies, a bin of pan dulce that included conchas, tequila, wedding cake (maybe tres leches), posole, hot chocolate, and even some beer and Chinese food when they were in America.

The Book - The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo (2012):

Okay, the book. Aaaaah, the book. The book is a work of fiction based on Frida Kahlo's life. In the beginning, it mentions that there was a little black book found among her belongings that contained recipes for Dia de los Muertos, titled "The Hierba Santa Book". But honestly, I'm not sure if that's the truth behind the inspiration for this book, or if it's an actual fictional part of this story.

There are "hand written" recipes interspersed among the chapters that relate to the food mentioned in each one that are supposedly pulled from this secret book. Some of those recipes are also translated to modern-day, typed up, and included in the back of the book. That part, I like. While I'm not sure if these actually were favorite foods of Frida or not, I think they complement the story well.

As for the story itself, I wasn't a huge fan. It had a lot of the basics of Frida's life (including actual mention of a sister besides the younger one who slept with Diego while they were married). The author also infused some magical realism into it, I'm guessing to help convey the surreal nature of her paintings and mindset. But I thought the writing itself was pretty childish, which was pretty disturbing when there were passages about sex.
Polvorones de Naranja
I often find that I don't connect with male authors who write about women, and this was one of those times. I found myself scoffing or shaking my head at the ridiculousness at what he thought was a woman's point of view. I'm not sure if the story got lost in translation or if it was just meant to be a piece of "fan fiction", but I wouldn't recommend it as a way to learn more about the life of Frida Kahlo.

I already mentioned the food, otherwise known as this book's one saving grace. There were really too many things mentioned for me to even list them all, but they include mole, tamales, horchata, pan de muerto, chiles en nogada, salsa, quesadillas, huevos rancheros, tequila pork loin, snapper with cilantro, mole de olla, cotton candy, apple pie, ribs, and mango ice cream to name a handful.

The Polvorones de Naranja (Orange Shortbread Cookies):

I wanted to choose a recipe to share that would represent both the movie and the book in some way. In the beginning of the movie, when Frida and Alex were on the bus and it ran into the wall, there was a moment where a bunch of oranges went bouncing everywhere, in a sort of slow motion. In the book, orange shortbread is mentioned several times in the third chapter and is written to be Frida's "favorite" in the handwritten recipes at the end of the chapter (quote below from page 32 of the book).
Frida screenshot - oranges

Before heading out, Frida grabbed a fistful of orange shortbreads like the ones they'd fed to the wounded, taking little mousy bites to allay her nerves. 

I didn't actually use the recipe in the book after reading because I have a base recipe that I use all the time for polvorones (shortbread), which are one of my husband's favorite cookies, that I wanted to adapt to fit. The result a slightly nutty, crumbly cookie that melts on your tongue, leaving the essence of orange. And it was delicious!

yield: 2 dozenprint recipe
Polvorones de Naranja

Polvorones de Naranja (Orange Shortbread Cookies)

prep time: 12 MINScook time: 18 MINStotal time: 30 mins
Melt-in-your-mouth soft and crumbly walnut shortbread cookies infused with a bright pop of orange.


  • 5 1/2 ounces (11 tablespoons) salted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • finely grated zest of 2 oranges
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange blossom water, optional (but nice)
  • 1 1/2 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 ounces walnuts, ground to a fine meal
to finish:
  • ~1 cup powdered sugar, optional


  1. Preheat the oven to 325° F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Mix in the orange blossom water. Add the flour and walnut meal to the bowl and beat until coarse pebbles form and no dry spots remain—basically it will look like streusel. Use your hands to press the crumbs together into a ball of dough.
  3. polvorones dough
  4. Use a 1 tablespoon scoop (or guesstimate) to portion dough, rolling each one into a ball and placing it on the cookie sheet, leaving at least an inch of space between each. Slide into preheated oven and bake until just golden, 18-20 minutes.
  5. polvorones with and without powdered sugar
  6. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Once they have cooled completely, roll them in the powdered sugar if you wish (personally, I like them better as-is, without powdered sugar).

More Recipes for a Frida Kahlo Inspired Menu:

Slow Cooker Posole VerdeCaldo TlalpeñoMole de OllaTortilla SoupCaldo de Camaron y PescadoChiles en NogadaSlow Coker Mole RojoMole Verde QueretanoNopales con Costillas de Puerco y Chile Rojo (Cactus Paddles w/ Pork Ribs & Red Chile)CarnitasPuerco Pibil (Cochinita Pibil)ChampurradoConchasMazapanes de CacahuateChocoflan

Food 'n Flix club logo
This month Food 'n Flix has teamed up with Cook the Books to create recipes inspired by the movie Frida and The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo. Our host is Debra from Eliot's Eats, for more information on how to join in this month, check out her announcement post. You have until September 30 to join in!

Next month, our host is Deb at Kahakai Kitchen, and we'll be cooking along with Beetlejuice!