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Local woman cooks up authentic Mexican dishes

Zoe Greszler • Aug 25, 2016 at 6:00 PM

BELLEVUE — Norma Florez, originally of Mexico, and now of Bellevue, has cooked for a family for more than 30 years, starting when she was just 7 years old.

“I love to cook. Oh yes,” Florez said through her son Omar Marrufo, who translated most of what she said for her. “I learned from my mother. I used one chair at the stove.

“She said she was 7 years old and she had to start cooking for her family; she was the oldest daughter,” Marrufo said while translating.

“She had to cook for eight kids. My grandfather was working ... so she cooked and took care of the kids. They had a very big pan she made things in, so that’s why she still has troubles making things (in smaller portions). She still makes so much food.

“My mother said taught me how to do things. A little bit of oil here,” Florez said.

“She said she learned the little tricks in the family,” Marrufo said. “And there was a lot of trial and error. She’d burn batches of tortillas or sometimes she’d forget the salt in the tortillas. She makes her food with love and affection and she just puts so much into it.”

Meals were large though in her family with eight children to feed.

“We had a big family,” Florez said. “We used three chickens (for one meal).”

“She had to make everything herself, so she had to go get the three chickens, defeather the chickens, clean out the insides, take off the feet. She had to do everything. But that’s why she’s the best cook of all of her sisters.”

It’s much easier for Florez to cook for her family now since they moved to Bellevue more than 20 years ago. 

She said probably her favorite ingredient is garlic, but there are several that she relies heavily on. 

“I use pepper, garlic, salt, onions, tomatoes,” she said. 

The meal she makes most often uses a lot of those ingredients. 

“She makes a dish similar to (chile verde) with beef, a red chili base, peppers and beans, but it’s all fresh. It’s good,” Marrufo said.

Florez said she couldn’t think of anything she made that came out tasting bad, but admitted she does have troubles with beef stew.

“She said if she had to pick (one dish as her worst) it would probably be beef stew,” Marrufo said. “It’s not that it came out tasting bad, but she hasn’t gotten it to where the vegetables don’t disintegrate. I think she just adds them a little too soon.”

The best dish Florez makes though is chicken mole, a traditional Mexican dish she cooks a little differently than most.

“Chicken mole she makes with a red chili sauce base, but she doesn’t put chocolate in it, which most families do. It’s too sweet that way,” Marrufo said. “And then we have it with mashed potatoes.”

* * *

Chili Verde

Ingredients:

1 1/2 pounds roast

1/4 onion, chopped

1/2 Cup water

2 cloves garlic

1 tomato, diced

1 jalepeño

Directions: 

Cut meat into nice, little squares.

Put enough canola oil in a large pan to cover the bottom well. Throw meat and salt in pan.

Take the garlic cloves and make small cuts in them to help release the flavor. Do not completely slice. Add garlic, onions and pepper. Cover and allow to cook for 30 to 40 minutes. About half way through, or when the meat has soaked in most of the oil, add tomato and water before allowing to finish cooking. 

Serve with rice, beans and tortillas. 

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