Ingredients : Grains & Beans
Beans are a crucial part of any Mexican meal, where the black bean is the most common bean used generally speaking. However, speaking regionally, it is favored in the Southern states and also in Veracruz. In the northern areas of Mexico, the lighter colored beans such as the Pinto are more common, and in the center areas, both kinds are eaten as well as Peruvian beans.
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Fava beans have been around for quite a long time. Ancient Egyptians prized them so much that they were buried with them inside of their tombs! Originally native to Africa and southwest Asia, today Favas are cultivated all over the world. Thanks to the Spaniards, Mexicans have been enjoying them since the XVI century, in may different ways.
Filled with nutrients and Vitamins, they are also filled with a deep strong flavor. In Central Mexico, they are commonly found fresh at markets in the spring time where they range in size from the mini to the large and in colors from the pale green to the deep purple. When fresh, they come with a shell and a leathery skin underneath it, both of which needs to be removed before eating. Which can be quite laborious. Then they are eaten in soups, stews and salads mostly.
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My personal favorite bean, they are lighter in color, creamier in texture and softer than black beans. In Northern states, the pinto is the most popular bean.
In Sinaloa they cook them with onion, garlic, tomato and the serrano chile, those four ingredients that are the basis for many Mexican dishes. There is also a twist on Sinaloa beans called frijoles puercos or piggy style beans which is rather heavy, and served with bacon, chorizo, and cheese. It is delicious!!!
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With a metallic dark color and mottled skin, Chia seeds are delightfully crunchy. Once you rehydrate them in water, as the popular Lime based Agua Fresca, they become covered in an irresistible gelatinous layer. No wonder the word chia comes from the náhuatl name chian, which means oily.
Scientifically, Salvia Hispanica, they come from a flowering plant from the mint family. Some new wave health oriented groups, call it “the Miracle seed”. They are indeed miraculous for good digestion and some say weight loss.
In Mexico they have been used for centuries. In Aztec times, aside from eating, they were one of the main means of exchange and also used for religious rituals.
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Known in the US as hominy in the US, maíz cacahuacintle is one of the favorite types of corn in Mexico. It has giant kernels that are whiter, softer, thicker, with rounder tops, than the regular white or yellow corn. It also has a deep, mealy bite.
Its traditional name, cacahuacintle comes from the combination of two náhuatl words, cacáhuatl and centli, meaning corn and cacao, because of its size, mostly. Though this giant corn is most used to make pozole, it is also used to make other dishes like tamales, sweets, drinks, and is eaten in street style crazy corn.
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When you don’t care much about something in Mexico, it is very popular to say “me importa un cacahuate” or “me vale un cacahuate.” This translates to something like “I don’t care enough” or “I couldn’t care less,” the word cacahuate being used for that “less or not enough.” That may be in regards to the tiny size of an individual peeled peanut, but ironically, cacahuates or peanuts mean a lot to Mexico and Mexicans.
Peanuts have been in Mexico’s culinary repertoire since Pre-Hispanic times. Though its origins can be traced to Southern Latin America, specifically Peru, and it is said to have been domesticated in Bolivia or Paraguay, when the Spanish arrived in Mexico they found it for sale in the street markets where it was a staple.
Used to snack on, be it raw, roasted, toasted, steamed, salted or spiced up and combined with other ingredients like in Pico de Gallos; as a thickener for Mole sauces or salsas, soups and stews; it’s oil extracted and used in and out of the kitchen; in “palanqueta” or bark form, entirely covered and hardened in some kind of a sweet and thick syrup and other sweets and even drinks! As times have moved on, the peanut not only remains central to our eating but also to our celebrating.
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Pumpkin seeds, Pepitas in Spanish, are one of the things I used to stuff in my suitcase when visiting Mexico. That’s because they have a mellow, somewhat nutty, almost sweet, barely chewy and nutritious nature. They are also one of the most nutritious seeds (they are full of fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants).
Pumpkin seeds were prized by both the Aztecs and Mayans and it is said that the Mayans were the ones who began grinding them to make bases for sauces. In fact, the Yucatan Peninsula, home of the Mayas, has amongst its basic seasoning pastes (one being the famous achiote paste ) a lightly colored pumpkin seed paste that can already be bought in the markets.
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