By Liam Mayclem, the KCBS Foodie Chap
La Cocina is a ground-breaking business incubator designed to reduce the obstacles that often prevent entrepreneurs from creating successful and sustainable small businesses. By providing shared resources and an array of industry-specific services, business incubators ensure small businesses can succeed. La Cocina follows this model by providing commercial kitchen space and technical assistance to low-income entrepreneurs who are launching, growing and formalizing food businesses.
La Cocina (pronounced la co-see-nah, meaning “The Kitchen” in Spanish) was inspired by its current home, San Francisco’s Mission District. It is located in an ethnically diverse and economically vulnerable neighborhood that thrives in part due to the many small informal businesses that serve the community. As is the case in many cities, food lies at the heart of this community, and you don’t have to look far to find hidden entrepreneurs in the kitchens of many homes.
“The mission of La Cocina is to cultivate low-income food entrepreneurs as they formalize and grow their businesses by providing affordable commercial kitchen space, industry-specific technical assistance and access to market opportunities. We focus primarily on women from communities of color and immigrant communities.”
Recognizing a need to formalize these food businesses and the opportunity created when you turn inconsistent and illegal home restaurants into sustainable legal businesses, organizations like Arriba Juntos, The Women’s Initiative for Self-Employment and The Women’s Foundation of California and one very special and visionary anonymous donor created La Cocina.
La Cocina was born out of a belief that a community of natural entrepreneurs, given the right resources, can create self-sufficient businesses that benefit themselves, their families, their community, and the whole city. The food that has come out of this kitchen since 2005 reflects that aspiration. From Alicia’s Tamales to Zella’s Soulfull Kitchen – the food is inspired and all wickedly tasty.
The San Francisco Street Food Festival (Saturday August 20th this year) showcases much of the diverse cuisine coming out of the La Cocina kitchen.
I caught up with La Cocina’s Executive Director Caleb Zigas for my latest Foodie Chap Chat.
Spinach, Zucchini and Cheese Pupusa
Recipe from La Cocina‘s Chef Estrellita of “Estrellita’s Snacks”
4 cups Masa Harina
2 cups Water
1/3 cup Olive oil
1/2 lb. fresh spinach
1 small zucchini
2 cups grated cheese
Instructions for Filling
1. Chop 1/2 lb. spinach
2. Chop zucchini into 1/4 inch rounds, quarter the rounds
3. Saute zucchini in olive oil until it is translucent and tastes slightly sweet
4. Cool zucchini. Add grated cheese and fresh spinach
Constructing the Pupusa
1. Slowly add water to the dry masa.
2. Using hands, knead water and masa together until it is smooth. The mixture should not stick to
your hands. Mixture has reached a working consistency when it makes a smacking sound as you
pass dough between hands and holds its shape as you mold it.
3. Grease your hands with olive oil and form balls of dough using approximately 1/3 cup of dough.
Ball should fit comfortably in the palm of your hand.
4. Toss the ball between your palms, using its own weight to flatten it out into a round disk. Rotate
the disk as you move it between your hands so that it thins evenly. Disk should be 1/4-1/2 inch thick
and should be approximately the size of your hand with fingers spread wide.
5. Place filling in center of disk.
6. Join the edges of masa disk together in the center of the mound of filling, forming a conical
dumpling in your palm.
7. Gently flatten the papusa between your hands.
8. Spread olive oil onto hot griddle
9. Place papusa on hot, greased griddle. Check periodically for browning, and flip when the first side
is browned to your desire, or about 6 minutes.
Enjoy with salsas, peppers, and cabbage salad!
La Cocina SF
(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services may have contributed to this report.)