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January 14, 2010
Zuchini1.JPG

I think the most commonly used zucchini in Mexican cooking is either what in Mexico is called the calabacita italiana, or Itailian zucchini, or the calabacita bola or round squash, which is similar to the Italian but rounder and smaller and used a lot in French cooking. Italian zucchini is different from the regular green zucchini found in most US stores, in that the later is large, thick and has a uniform dark green color. The Italian zucchini is smaller, a bit rounder with a chubbier appearance, and has a lighter green color that is randomly speckled with a cream color and is milder and sweeter in flavor.

Continue reading Calabacita italiana or Italian zucchini


January 7, 2010
Cafe de Olla

As we returned from our 10 day vacation to Mexico this December and walked out of the Dulles airport, I felt my bones freeze. Say what? I told my husband, I think I am turning around and catching the next flight back to Mexico.

Now we are home, with the heating so high it seems we moved to the Equator. And I admit that the cold and especially the snow, which I am watching right this minute through my kitchen window starting to magically fall from the night sky, is one of the things I love about living in the Eastern United States. We can experience the full change of seasons.

So instead of complaining, this is what I do: I take out my Piloncillo, or brown sugar, my bark of Ceylon or True cinnamon, some dark roasted coffee and make myself a Café de Olla.

Continue reading Comfort me with Café de Olla (or Coffee from the Pot)


January 1, 2010
Piggy Cookies

Piggies can be found in many places under different names: marranitos, puerquitos, cerditos, cochinitos. All these words are used to describe a Piggie in endearing ways. In some places, they are given different animal shapes, but still called in one way or another “Piggie”. That may be because that was their original shape.

They really should be called Flying Piggies and have wings attached given how fast they fly away from my kitchen each time I make them.  Sometimes it is even hard to bake them, since my boys find the dough irresistible: its gooey, sticky, and deliciously sweet.

Continue reading My Three Little Piggies


December 25, 2009
Pickled Red Onions

As promised, and right before the year ends, here is a recipe for pickled red onions or cebollas encurtidas or en escabeche, so you can try them with Pollo Pibil. Please do! You will see why it’s no wonder pickled red onion has been Pibil’s faithful and enlightened companion for centuries: they both taste great separately, but blissful when paired together.

Pickled red onions are also a permanent fixture at every single table in Yucatan. As they are mildly spicy, deliciously tangy and surprisingly crunchy they go well with so many things. These past couple weeks I learned first hand why they are such a fabulous pickle to have handy.

Since one of its main ingredients, the bitter orange, is hard to come by around here, I had 16 takes with different bitter orange substitutes. There are well-known versions for substitutes, but I am not crazy about any of them. 16 pickled red onion batches later: I found one I love! It is equal parts grapefruit, orange, lime juice and white distilled vinegar. Without the vinegar it’s not acid enough and the pickle loses its color and crunch, it faints quickly.

Continue reading Pickled Red Onions a la Yucateca


December 25, 2009
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The bitter orange or naranja agria is a citrus fruit that has a peculiar bitter flavor and a very high acidity that works very well for marinades and to tenderize meats and seafood. It also has a distinct look. It is not very pretty; it’s small, with a pale, somewhat dull colored pebbly textured skin that appears to be speckled with sand or dust. However, slice it down the middle, and you will find a shinny, juicy, deep orange and wonderfully flavored pulp.

It found its way to Mexico through the Spaniards, who got them from the Arabs, who got them from the Persians. In any case, bitter oranges found a wonderful reception in Mexican soil,  especially in some regions such as the Yucatan Peninsula and Veracruz. It is used in many ways: to prepare ceviches, sauces, soups, marinades, salsas, pickles… to name some.

Continue reading Bitter Orange

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Bitter Orange

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December 18, 2009
pollo pibil

Last December, Daniel and I went to Yucatán. I was swept off my feet by the grandiose nature and history of the old Haciendas, but mostly by the uniqueness of the cuisine. It stands out from the rest of the country; with its aromatic, pungent, citrus flavors, charred and toasted ingredients and elements not found anywhere else.

Since at the Institute we established topics for the 2009 program in January and I left Yucatán as a December closing session, by the time class came around I was desperate to share these flavors. What a tortuous self imposed wait!

Of course Pollo Pibil had to be included, as it is one of the most loved dishes of the area. The rest of the menu was built around: Dzotobi-chay tamales, avocado soup, strained beans, a yellow rice, and old fashioned flan for dessert.

Continue reading Pollo Pibil

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Pollo Pibil

COMMENTS (21)


December 18, 2009
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Achiote or Annatto seeds is a spice that grows heavily in the Yucatán area and is unique and native to this area. The seeds come from the Annatto tree, which grows beautiful pink flowers that produce a prickly pod which has dozens and dozens of these seeds inside.

The seeds have a beautiful brown, brick, reddish warm and appealing color. The Mayas used the seeds since Pre-Hispanic times to color their skin, garments, art and they also mixed them with their chocolate drink as a symbol of blood, given the color, in their rites. The seeds provide a strong, pungent and sort of permanent flavor to the dishes they are used in.



December 16, 2009
Achiote Paste-thumb-510x342-651

The achiote paste or recado rojo, is one of the main seasonings of the Yucatecan cuisine. Although it is mainly known for its use as the base of a marinade in the Pibil style dishes, it is used in many other ways.

This paste is made of achiote seeds, charred garlic, toasted herbs and spices such as oregano, cloves, cumin, black peppercorns, allspice, coriander seeds, salt and bitter orange or its substitute, which is a mix of citrus juices and/or vinegar.

Continue reading Achiote Paste or Recado Rojo


December 16, 2009
Banana.JPG

Incredibly long leaves from the banana tree, the banana leaves have a beautiful deep green color and a strong fragrant smell. They are often used in Mexican cooking to wrap and cook many kinds of foods including tamales, meats, fish and poultry. They are both malleable and strong. Cooking in them not only concentrates the flavors of the wrapped ingredients but it also infuses them with a grassy, intensely aromatic and fresh feel.

Banana leaves used to be hard to find in the US when I moved here more than a dozen years ago.

Continue reading Banana Leaves

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Banana Leaves

COMMENTS (2)


December 11, 2009
Salami de Chocolate

Come December, everyone seems to be thinking about end of the year traditional tasty treats. Though in my family we used to eat them all year round; chocolate salami came to mind, as it is such a funny, creative and addicting nibble. It works great to bring along to friends (it will make them laugh, you will see…), as well as to keep some at home for an anytime sweet bite, since they keep in the freezer for months.

Growing up, my sisters and I used to make batches in minutes. We also managed to eat so much of the chunky, crunchy, funky, gooey batter in the seconds it took to transfer the mix to the wrapping papers set on the table. We would get all messy as we helped my oldest sister give the dough their salami shapes. Then, it was so hard to wait, until the chocolate salamis were frozen and hard enough to slice.

My oldest sister, Karen, told me the recipe came from a Women Community-Cooperative cookbook called Tu y Yo Cocinando (You and I Cooking) which was popular in Mexico City around the 70’s. That book was one of those fabulous gems, where participants pitched in their tried and true favorite recipes.

Continue reading Salami de Chocolate (with Coffee Liqueur made with Tequila)


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