August in Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Kitchen: The Bug and I Help Prepare a Mexican Feast

by Carol Sacks on August 19, 2014

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When we were in Washington, D.C. a few weeks ago, The Bug and I spent an afternoon in Cathy Barrow’s (AKA Mrs. Wheelbarrow) sunny kitchen, helping her prepare a Mexican feast.

Well, we didn’t just help prepare it. We came back in the evening with Matthew and my parents, and devoured it.

A succulent, savory Beef Barbacoa was the centerpiece of a meal that featured homemade tortillas, creamy potatoes with roasted poblano peppers, a fresh corn and fennel salad, guacamole, salsas and condiments galore. Dessert? Bill Smith’s Atlantic Beach Pie, a citrusy confection with an improbable crust — crushed saltines. And, marvelous meringue-like chocolate cookies with chocolate chips.

We all left with smiles on our faces and full bellies. And, my Dad managed to sneak out a bag of chocolate cookies, too.

Here’s a look at our afternoon and evening in Cathy’s homey kitchen.

Before we got down to business, Cathy served The Bug and me generous slices of a tomato galette she popped in the oven shortly before we arrived. The summery tart was fortifying and delicious — a buttery, flaky crust was the perfect foundation for peak summer tomatoes and creamy ricotta cheese.

Next, The Bug and Cathy got the beef prepped before it spent the afternoon on Cathy’s grill.

Hours later, when we arrived for dinner, Cathy was shredding the tender, flavorful beef.

Cathy and The Bug mastered tortilla production like Henry Ford advanced Model T manufacturing — with precision, but plenty of laughter, too. My, they were tasty.

I loved how Cathy served the warmed tortillas at dinner.

I scarcely noticed when Cathy was grilling vegetables, but their smoky aroma was unmistakable as she whirred the cooked beauties in a blender to make this perfectly seasoned tomatillo salsa. (Maybe if we nudge her enough, she’ll write up the recipe and share it. It’s a winner.)

The best possible way to serve condiments, right?

I had pie duty, first baking the salty, sweet and buttery crust and then baking it again after pouring the tangy and sweet topping over the crust. Cool and fluffy whipped cream was smoothed across the top before serving. This is an ideal summer dessert after a spicy, hearty meal.

We loved cooking with Cathy

and hanging out with her adorable dogs — Louie and Morty. The Bug photographed Cathy’s charming pups.

Recipe links — all from Food52 — are below as well as a link to pre-order Cathy’s new book, Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry, due on November 3. I hope you’re enjoying the last few weeks of summer!

Beef Barbacoa

Bill Smith’s Atlantic Beach Pie

Divine Gluten-Free Chocolate Cookies

Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Gail August 19, 2014 at 8:44 am

I WANT IT ALL! Oh, Carol, I’m just GREEN with envy over the time (and food) you had!!!
And, the photos are fabulous! xoxo


Carol Sacks August 19, 2014 at 8:49 am

Gail, you and the girls were so missed! Would have been so fun to be there together. Thank you for the kind words about my photos, too! xoxo


Winifred Lender August 19, 2014 at 4:08 pm

What a wonderful virtual visit! I loved seeing the “action” in the kitchen via the photos. I am inspired to try some of the recipes. I think Cathy’s new book would be a great early Thanksgiving gift for the family.


Carol Sacks August 19, 2014 at 4:11 pm

Hi Winifred! I think your crew would enjoy the beef barbacoa! I can’t wait for Cathy’s book to arrive. Thank you so much for checking in!


Cathy August 20, 2014 at 7:34 am

What a lovely day that was. I’m so delighted we’ve been able to play in the kitchen over the years. Your Bug is the best.
PS Your photography makes the food look so wonderful!


Carol Sacks August 20, 2014 at 7:36 am

Cathy, The Bug and I cherish our time with you. Such a wonderful tradition…and what a meal you served us:) Thank you so much for the generous words about the photos, too!! xo


domenicacooks August 20, 2014 at 7:45 am

What fun you must have had ~ I love playing in Cathy’s kitchen. Please let me know next time you come to town! I may have to make that pie this weekend. But, ahem, where’s the recipe for the galette? xo p.s. The Bug is adorable.


Carol Sacks August 20, 2014 at 7:56 am

Hi Domenica! Thank you so much for the sweet words about my Bug:) We had a wonderful afternoon.

Would be great to get together — should be back this fall and will check in. Maybe a group lunch?


Deb August 20, 2014 at 8:46 am

Such a feast! Great food and company makes for the best of times! Beach Pie! I may have to give the scrumptious recipe a try!


Carol Sacks August 20, 2014 at 8:48 am

Hi Deb, you’ll love that pie and it’s a breeze to make. Thanks so much for checking in!


Beth (OMG! Yummy) August 20, 2014 at 11:30 am

Thanks for sharing Carol (and Bug). Can’t think of a better way to spend the day. And nudge nudge Cathy – I’d love that recipe 🙂


Carol Sacks August 20, 2014 at 1:22 pm

We had a ball. Thanks so much, Beth!


Jamie September 9, 2014 at 9:16 am

Oooh I am just way to far away! This looks like it was great fun and what food! Fabulous!! I think you all and a party of friends (Gail? Domenica?) must make the trip over to me!!

And yes, where is the recipe for that amazing galette?


Carol Sacks September 9, 2014 at 9:20 am

Jamie, I would love to visit you and your gorgeous Nantes. I’ve never been and the stories you write and photos you post are wonderful.

We’ll have to nudge dear Cathy about that galette. It was a perfect lunch!

Thanks so much for checking in!


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