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.
In Mexico, and recently in some places abroad as well, you can find freshly made Oaxaca cheese, as it is usually found in small town and open air markets. You can also find commercially processed Oaxaca cheese in grocery stores, but the flavor and consistency changes considerably from the fresh ones.
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Shrimp tend to be perceived as a treat. That fancy item on a menu.
Think about what happens at a shrimp station on a Sunday buffet. It gets crowded. Even if you didn’t feel like eating shrimp, if there’s a shrimp station, chances are you will eat them. Your mom, your dad, your husband or friends will look at your shrimp-less plate and push some shrimp onto your plate.
Growing up in Mexico City, family Sunday lunches with the dozens and dozens members of our immediate family included giant shrimp from the Mercado de la Viga. There was so much anticipation as to when they would majestically appear on that huge platter carried by my grandmother. Before they got to the table, people started sneaking away some. So my grandmother decided to set a pre-lunch agreement on the number of shrimp per head, to avoid childish grown up wording snaps like “YOU always get the extra shrimp” or sudden door slams.
So when I was asked to develop a Mexican menu for the 2010 RAMMYS Awards I just had to include shrimp. I paired them with some signature Mexican ingredients: smoky and hot Chipotle Chiles in Adobo, tangy and salty Mexican Cream and the iconic Tequila Reposado.
Continue reading Tequila, Mexican Cream and Chipotle Shrimp
Squash blossoms are considered a true delicacy in Mexican cuisine. Available in rainy months, they fly out of the markets as soon as they are set on the floor mats and stands.
No wonder they are such a hot selling ingredient: They are gorgeous looking, with orange and green Fall colors, a velvety texture, a meaty and crunchy bite and a delicate and exuberant flavor.
Since they are also commonly used in Mediterranean cuisine, aside from finding them in the US in Latin markets, one can find them at Italian grocery stores. But one can also find them during the summer season in some grocery stores and Farmer’s markets.
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The last time I was at the Mexico City Chapultepec Fair was 20 years ago, with my high school friends. Going back last weekend with my own growing monsters, confirmed that it is not an ordinary Fair experience, ever, regardless of one’s age.
Yes, you find the balloons, with a mix of Mexican and American characters, right at the main entrance.
Continue reading Quesadillas at the Mexico City Fair
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 that is 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.
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Every year, just as summer peeks its warm face in Washington DC, I begin to crave fresh fruits and vegetables Mexican street cart style. One of the times when I have enjoyed it the most was last April. We were traveling through the Copper Canyon route, on a week long trip, from Chihuahua to Sinaloa. We had been waiting at the station in the town of Creel to catch the Chepe train to go to the next town.
As the station officer let out a scream that the train was approaching, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the fruit and vegetable cart. It was hot, we were tired and thirsty, and I saw Mr. Fruit Cart Man peeling some ripe and juicy mangoes. I grew weak in my knees.
Continue reading Running to Catch the Fresh Fruit Cart!
Huauzontles, also called Huazontles or Cuazontles, are a native plant to Mexico. Their scientific name is Chenopodium nuttalliae. Huauzontles gave a very thick main stem, oval leaves -that aren’t eaten- and thinner stems filled with edible green flowers that resemble broccoli or rapini, but are much more smaller and delicate.
They have a strong smell when you get close. Similarly as the Epazote, Huauzontles have a deep, clean and almost astringent smell. Some people say they taste similar to spinach or watercress. It seems to me, they have a welcoming and original, light bitter taste.
Though they have been commonly eaten during Lent for centuries, but they are also eaten throughout the year. Since they have become increasingly popular in the US -where they used to be considered a weed- they are now being imported and also grown. They are now available in many Latino and International stores.
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I was invited to design a Cinco de Mayo menu for Ceiba Restaurant along with their Chef de Cuisine, Alfredo Solis. The invitation included teaching a class covering that menu. As always, I was eager to teach whatever I know. But as always, I learn much more as I go. This time, I also learned, that you never know what foods you are going to like the best.
Continue reading Chef Solis’s Mexican Crab Cakes with Jalapeño Aioli
Chef Solis’s Mexican Crab Cakes with Jalapeño Aioli
Mexican cream is rich, thick, tangy and slightly salty. It used to be hard to find in the US, but now you can find it in Latin or International stores, but also mainstream stores! In Mexico, you can find it in any grocery store, and there are richer versions in small towns and ranches, where the cream earns its name “Crema Fresca” and I bet you would feel like me: that you can finish a whole pint in spoonfuls.
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Memories from growing up in Mexico City revolve around one celebration or another and mostly center on the foods that just had to be there. If there was no holiday, anniversary, birthday or special occasion for a formal celebration, then we celebrated the food itself. Just say the magic words and a get together would spring right up.
Nana made tamales? Fiesta!
Mami made mole? Well, what are you waiting for?
Papi brought real quesadillas potosinas? It is Sunday brunch everyone…
However, as much as I can remember, we didn’t celebrate Cinco de Mayo. As kids we reviewed it in passing at school, unless you lived in the state of Puebla. The place, where on a Cinco de Mayo in 1862, a small Mexican militia won an unexpected victory against the large French army. It was a short-lived victory, as the French won right back.
But fast-forward almost a couple centuries later: the French and Spaniards are gone, Mexicans proudly celebrate Independence Day every September 16th, and for a reason no Mexican can explain, Cinco de Mayo has become the most celebrated, joyous and colorful holiday for Mexicans living abroad. It even surpasses the noise we make for Independence Day.
Continue reading Chilorio for Cinco de Mayo!