Oaxaca cheese is a mild tasting, gently salty, stringy white cheese with a deliciously chewy, full and filling bite. It is made in the same way as Mozzarella cheese. In fact, they taste very similar! Once the curds are formed, they are heated in water, stirred, and heated in water again. Throughout the process, as they are heated and stirred, they are made into very long threads that are pulled once and then again, until the desired consistency is achieved. Then the long threads are wrapped into balls (continue for more information and photos).
Continue reading Oaxaca Cheese
The Pasilla Chile is the dried Chilaca Chile. It is also by far the most harvested and used chile in the state of Michoacan. In some towns you can see some patios covered with mats where hundreds and thousands of Chilacas are being dried in the sun to be turned into Pasillas.
Continue reading Pasilla Chile
Piloncillo is the rawest form of sugar cane. The same thing as cane juice but in a solid form. It typically comes in a block, with the shape of a cone, square or round.
It can be substituted for brown sugar. However, the flavor of piloncillo is more rustic. Reminds me of foods eaten in small villages or pueblos, it is homey. It adds that extra “something”, be it depth, color, aroma, that is hard to define but amazing to taste (continue for more information and photo).
Continue reading Piloncillo
Continue reading Piquín Chile
Plantains are now available almost anywhere in the United States. They have the appearance of being thicker, longer and bigger type of bananas. But they are not. No wonder they are called macho bananas, plátano macho, in most areas of Mexico. Although from the same family, plantains are a different ingredient. They are starchier, meatier, firmer, milder in flavor and have much thicker skin than bananas and are better treated as vegetables in a culinary sense, since they are only eaten cooked (continue for more information and photo).
Continue reading Plantain
The Poblano chile is a star in Mexican kitchens. It is used in a wide range of ways and in a wide range of dishes. Some well known examples are Chiles en Nogada, rajas, pickled, and stuffed with meat or cheese and bathed in a tomato sauce. But there are hundreds of other ways…
Aside from being absolutely gorgeous – chubby, curvy, large, sensuous and with a beautiful dark green color with a bit of a shine to it- it has a striking flavor -rich, exuberant and fruity. It tends to be a bit capricious as well: it ranges from the very mild to the very hot. However, there are ways to tame its heat (continue for more information and photo).
Continue reading Poblano Chile or Pepper
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 (continue for more information and photo)
Continue reading Pomegranate or Granada
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 (continue for more information and photo).
Continue reading Pumpkin Seeds or Pepitas
Purslane or verdolagas, one of those ingredients that Mexicans hanker for when outside of Mexico, is likely to be growing in your backyard. In Mexico, it is considered one of the quelites or edible herbs. It is nutritious and succulent, yet it has long been considered a weed in the United States. Indeed, once it grows roots, it spreads and grows fast.
It is essential to the cuisine of Central Mexico, where it is most commonly added to Puerco con Verdolagas: my favorite way of eating them. There, slowly braised pork is finished off in a seasoned salsa verde and verdolagas are dropped in almost when it’s done (continue for more information and photo).
Continue reading Purslane or Verdolagas
Queso Fresco, which translates to Fresh Cheese, can be found throughout Mexico with slightly different variations. It is also called Queso de Pueblo, Queso de Rancho and sometimes just Queso Blanco. In some small towns it may be found sold wrapped in banana leaves and if you are lucky, in the small baskets where they are sometimes made.
It generally comes in rounds. Though it appears to be firm and can hold its shape nicely when cut into sticks or squares, it is very soft and crumbles easily. It is used in many ways, such as a side to guacamole and salsas, crumbled on top of hundreds of antojos like tacos, tostadas, enchiladas, refried beans and even soups. I also love it diced or crumbled in salads. Possibilities are endless (continue for more information and photo).
Continue reading Queso Fresco