“‘Pati’s Mexican Table’ hit the air in April 2011. Its host was born and raised in Mexico City and has a master’s degree in Latin American studies from Georgetown University. She switched gears to focus on research and share her knowledge about Mexican cuisine.
On the program, she introduces viewers to Mexican ingredients and cooking techniques. She also mixes in information about regional cultures and Mexican history and traditions.
The first episode I watched showed Jinich making Mexican wedding cookies, which is what we gringos call them, but they are known as polvorones in Mexico.”
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The pomegranate is such a vivid, vibrant and enticing fruit, that I consider it to be one of the most sensuous ingredients. It has a thick and tough pink-to-reddish skin that comes off as impenetrable. But, break into it, and you will find an overabundance of shiny, ruby red seeds that resemble jewels and have the juiciest crunch.
The taste is sweet, bright and slightly tart and the bursting juice seems primed to make wine. Be mindful when you peel them, as the stains from the juice can be hard to clean off. I cut the fruit in half and then use my fingers to open up the clusters covered in a white membrane. As I remove the membrane I loosen the seeds. Some people like to do this in a bowl with water to avoid the stains. I do it without the bowl of water but use an apron for sure.
Pomegranate season in Mexico starts in early August and goes through October. No coincidence, as one of the most famous dishes it is used for, the Chiles in Nogada proudly boasting the three colors of the flag (green, white and red) are made mainly in the month of September to celebrate the month of Independence. In the US the prime season is a bit later: from (sometimes end of September) October through January/February, which makes it a bit of a challenge for those of us craving that peculiar dish on that specific month…
Continue reading Pomegranate or Granada
I hadn’t heard about Thanksgiving until I moved to Texas. Yet, I took my first shot at cooking the meal that cold fall of 1997 in the vast yellow plains of Dallas. Inspired by the glossy food magazines, cookbooks and TV shows, and wanting to immerse myself in the American experience, I baked, cooked and stirred while feeling homesick for my family’s home-cooking. It took years of living in the US for me to grasp the depth and warmth of the holiday and the menu, many failed turkeys and side dishes along the way.
It turns out, fifteen years later, the Thanksgiving feast has become such a relevant part of our lives that if we ever moved back to Mexico, I’d have to bring it back with us.
The connection wasn’t instantaneous. Slowly, some elements began to resonate within me. Take the bird: Turkey is an indigenous ingredient in Mexican cookery and a center piece for Christmas and the New Year. Both are holidays which also happen near the end of the year, during the coldest season, and have to do with gathering family and friends around a plentiful table. And being thankful. And hopeful.
Continue reading Sweet Potato Rounds with a Punch
FLUFFY PLANTAIN AND PECAN BREAD
Pan de plátano macho y nuez
Makes 1 10-inch loaf
1 1/2 sticks or 6 oz unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
2/3 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 pound ripe plantains, peeled, sliced, and roughly mashed (about 1 1/2 cups mashed)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 pinch of salt
1 cup roughly chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Butter sides and bottom of the loaf pan and lightly dust it with flour; set it aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium-high speed for about 3 to 4 minutes, or until soft. Stir in the sugar and keep beating until fluffy. Beat in the eggs until well mixed.
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Lower the speed on the mixer. Alternate between adding the plantains and the sifted dry ingredient mixture.
Add the vanilla and pecans and mix until thoroughly combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and gently place a piece of aluminum foil on top. Place the pan in the oven and cook for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and cook for an additional 15 to 18 minutes, or until the top of the bread looks golden brown and puffed-out. If you inset a toothpick, it should come out moist but not wet.
CACTUS PADDLE TOSTADAS
Tostadas de nopales
3 tablespoons safflower or corn oil
3 pounds fresh nopales, rinsed, cleaned and diced; or, if canned, rinsed thoroughly
1/2 pound ripe tomato, chopped
3 tablespoons white onion, chopped
1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped, optional
1 jalapeño pepper, chopped, seeding optional
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lime juice
Salt to taste
For the tostadas:
8 corn tostadas
1 cup refried beans
Garnishes of your choice: queso fresco, Mexican crema, avocado, salsa…
To Clean Fresh Cactus Paddles:
Rinse fresh cactus paddles under cold water, being careful not to prick your fingers with the small thorns on its surface. Using a vegetable peeler or small sharp knife, peel away the darker bumps where thorns grow, as well as the thorns, trying not to peel off all the outer dark green skin. Lay the paddles flat on a chopping board, then trim around approximately 1/4 inch of the edges and 1/2 inch of the thick base. Once cleaned, rinse and dice into 1/2-to-1-inch squares, to your liking.
To Use Cactus From A Can, Bag or Jar:
After you have removed the diced cactus from the jar or can, rinse it under water and drain well.
To Cook the Cactus:
Heat two tablespoons of the oil in a thick, large-sized skillet (one that has a lid) over medium-high heat. Add the diced cactus, stir in the salt and stir for a minute or two. Place the lid on the skillet.
Reduce the heat to medium and let the cactus cook and sweat for about 20 minutes, until it has exuded a gelatinous liquid that will begin to dry out (NOTE: If using cactus from a can or jar, already cleaned and cooked, just cook for an additional five minutes).
Take the lid off the skillet, stir and make sure most of that gelatinous substance has dried up. If it hasn’t, let the cactus cook for a few more minutes until it does. Let the cactus cool slightly. In a mixing bowl, toss the cactus with the tomato, onion, jalapeño, cilantro, lime juice and salt. Like this, it can be eaten as a cactus paddle, nopal salad!
To Assemble the Tostadas:
Spread a layer of refried beans on each tostada. Spoon some the cooked cactus mixture on top, and add the garnishes of your choice. I add avocado slices, queso fresco, Mexican crema and salsa verde!
ZUCCHINI SOUP WITH TORTILLA CRISPS
Sopa de calabacita con totopos
Serves 4 to 6
1 tablespoon corn or safflower oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup white onion, chopped
1 cup leeks, white and light green parts, sliced
1 jalapeño chile, sliced in half, seeding optional
3 pounds green zucchini, ends removed, diced
5 cups vegetable broth
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt, more or less to taste
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground, or more to taste
1 1/2 cups tortilla crisps or totopos, optional
1 cup oaxaca cheese, or mozarella, diced, optional
In a soup pot set over medium-low heat, add butter and oil. Once the butter bubbles, stir in the onion, leeks and jalapeño. Cook, stirring sporadically, until the onion has softened, its color has become translucent, and the edges are beginning to brown lightly, about 12 to 15 minutes.
Raise the heat to medium, incorporate the zucchini and cook for about 3 to 4 minutes, stirring here and there. Pour in the broth, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Let it simmer for about 10 minutes, until the zucchini is thoroughly cooked and the soup has seasoned. Remove from the heat and let it cool slightly.
Place it all in the blender in batches and purée until smooth. Return the soup to the pot and let it thoroughly heat over medium heat. Serve very hot. Either spoon some diced cheese and totopos into each soup bowl right before eating, or let your guests add as much as they fancy.
ADOBO FISH TACOS WITH GRILLED PINEAPPLE SALSA
Tacos de pescado adobado con salsa de piña
2 oz or 3 ancho chiles, rinsed, stemmed and seeded
1/2 cup white onion, coarsely-chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound of mild and firm fish fillets like snapper, striped bass, rock fish, snook or tilapia
4 pineapple slices
1 jalapeño or serrano chile, chopped, or to taste
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon freshly-squeezed lime juice, or to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
Kosher or coarse sea salt, to taste
To make the Adobo Sauce:
Cover the chiles with boiling hot water and let them soak for 10 minutes. Pace the chiles along with 1/2 cup of soaking liquid, onion, garlic, oregano, vinegar, sugar and salt in the blender. Purée until smooth.
In a saucepan set over medium heat, heat the oil. Once hot, pour the sauce into the oil; cover the saucepan, leaving it slightly open, and let the sauce season and thicken for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring here and there. Remove from the heat.
To make the Fish:
Baste the fish fillets with the adobo sauce; you may refrigerate them and let them marinate for up to 24 hours.
In a large skillet coated with oil and set over medium-high heat, cook the fish for about 3 to 4 minutes per side.
To make the Salsa:
Heat a grill pan, a grill or a nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot and lightly coat with safflower or corn oil. Cook the pineapple slices for about 4 minutes per side until they are slightly charred. Remove from the heat, once cool enough to handle cut into bite-size chunks. Place in a mixing bowl and toss with the cilantro, chile, lime juice, oil and salt to taste.
To assemble Tacos:
Place the warm tortillas, the pineapple salsa and the fish on the table, then assemble the tacos!