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Cocina San Pasqual Oklahoma kitchen cooks up fresh Mexican food By Elaine Warner D


ecades of cooking experience, combined with traditional, made- from-scratch Mexican dishes have been a recipe for success for Bobby and Leah Aufi ll, Central Rural Electric Cooperative mem- bers and the owners of Cocina San Pasqual. The image of smil-


ing San Pasqual, the patron saint of the kitchen, graces the labels of their products—which are prepared and ready for clients to take home and enjoy. Bobby grew up in New Mexico. At age 14, he started working in restau- rants; he went on to own three successful restaurants in Las Cruces and Socorro, NM. He came to Oklahoma in 1972 to go to law school but by the time he


graduated, he had become disenchanted with the idea of being a lawyer. Bobby loved food and decided to use his law education to help him in business.


Longtime residents of Stillwater, and others who made regular trips to


Cowboy Country, will remember Bobo’s, the popular Mexican restaurant on Highway 51 on the west side of town. That was Bobby’s baby for 17 years, until he retired in 1997. Leah, an Arkansas girl, had a Bachelor of Science degree in horticulture from Oklahoma State and a master’s in fruit crops from the University of Florida. She had grown up on a family farm and was well versed in garden- ing, cooking for a big family, canning and planning. She, too, had worked in Mexican restaurants and loved the cuisine. Back in Oklahoma, Leah had been growing fl owers and vegetables, which she sold at local farmers’ markets. Bobby had retired, but his former cus- tomers made it known that they missed his food. To quiet the clamor, the couple decided to offer some of his creations along with Leah’s produce. Soon the food was so popular it became a full-time occupation. Today, customers can get their products at farmers’ markets in Stillwater and Edmond, through the Oklahoma Food Cooperative or by phone order. Leah doesn’t have much time for growing her ingredients so the couple


now purchases meat and vegetables from local producers. Chilies, an essen- tial ingredient in New Mexican cuisine, come either from their own kitchen (locally purchased Anaheim chilies they roast and peel) or from New Mexico. “If you roast your own chilies, peel them under running water; it’s easier to get all the skin off. You can put chilies in anything with garlic and salt— salsa, pasta sauce, potato salad. Or you can lay them on hamburgers, just like onions,” Leah said. “Peppers are actually fruit so you can add them to sweet things, too, like apple pie.” Leah also adds them to blackberry jelly and makes both mild and hot jalapeño jellies. The Aufi lls use no preservatives or artifi cial colors in their products; the rich colors of their jams and jellies are purely products of the fruits.


Canning such products reminds Leah of her childhood on the farm. She recalls the family calculating how many meals would be eaten to determine how many items needed to be canned for a year. “We raised all our own meat and vegetables,” she said. “What really im- pressed me was at the end of summer, looking at all those beautiful colors— rows of canned squash, tomatoes, and green beans.” In addition to jams and jellies, other canned items produced by Cocina


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Leah Aufi ll sells her made-from-scratch brownies with cream cheese icing at local farmers’ markets. Photo by Elaine Warner


San Pasqual include salsas, pasta sauce, chow chow, dill pickles, even sauer- kraut. The last comes from Leah’s dad’s German heritage and is slowly fer- mented, the old-fashioned way, for a softer, not bitter, fl avor. Other items are sold either refrigerated or frozen. Using bones, they make their own stocks for tamales, sauces, stew, beans, posole and more. Cheeses are hand-grated to avoid the preservatives in pre-shredded cheese. Potatoes are hand-peeled and hand-made tortillas are created from stone-ground masa, masa harina (corn fl our) and stocks. Some of the recipes date back to the 1600s. Nothing they make is fast


food; the tamales and enchiladas take three days to make from the meat, stock and sauce to fi nal assembly. Vegan and vegetarian choices include green chili tamales, enchiladas, and Southwest white chili made with white beans, posole and roasted green chilies.


Breakfast burritos can be purchased frozen or eaten hot on the spot at the farmers’ markets. Casseroles and entrees come in several sizes. A small green chili quiche is the perfect size for two with soup or a salad. The list of products they offer is extensive and includes desserts. While


tres leches cake is a traditional meal ender, the most popular choice at the markets is the lime cake made with fresh lemon and lime juices and topped with cream cheese icing. Fudge and brownies made with Mexican chocolate (sweeter with added vanilla) are hits with chocoholics. Besides cooking as a business, Leah also uses her talents in the commu-


nity. First Methodist Church in Stillwater sponsors Love Feast dinners four nights a week for those in need. Leah volunteers for the program monthly. She says, “I love feeding people.” And, she and Bobby do it well.


What’s Cooking?


✓ Bobby and Leah Aufill hand craft Santa Fe Mexican food—tamales in the husk, enchiladas, salsa, desserts, appetizers, posole casseroles, dinners, soups and stews, jams and jellies, pasta


sauce, sauerkraut and much more


✓ Everything is made from scratch in a licensed kitchen without added preservatives


For more information about Cocina, visit www.oklahomafood.coop. The Aufi lls can be reached at 405-880-7645 or by email at cocinasanpasqual@gmail.com.


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