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May 26, 2009
cut jicama

Jí­camas are one of the many Mexican ingredients that luckily, have become readily available outside of the country. Also known as Mexican yams or turnips, they are also a root vegetable. But they are far from the latter in flavor, texture or cooking uses.

They are mostly (and as far as I know also successfully) eaten raw. No need to try to cook them, for many of the qualities they are loved for would be lost. They have a similar taste and crunch as the water chestnuts, but in my view, jí­camas are more refreshing, crispy, sweet and watery.

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Jí­cama

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May 19, 2009
the-best-tostada

I am so surprised tostadas haven’t become wildly popular in the US. Here are some reasons for my surprise…

They can be assembled in a couple minutes, as ingredients can be prepared beforehand or store-bought. They can be eaten anytime of day, depending on what you layer on them. They are a wholesome one stop meal, for proteins, vegetables and carbohydrates happily mingle in there. They are accommodating, you can decide how much to add of each topping. They are forgiving, choices can vary from one tostada to the next. Moreover, they are fun to prepare, eat and share.

In a sense, they are the perfect dish for casual entertaining. So much of Mexican food just lends itself to being in a Fiesta mood.

Continue reading Tostada Buzz: To infinity, and beyond!


May 15, 2009

Tostadas and chips are very versatile ingredients to have in the kitchen. If you don’t want to make them at home, you can buy good quality already made tostadas and chips in the stores these days.

You can make your own tostadas and chips with home made corn tortillas or store bought corn tortillas. In either case, spread the tortillas outside of the refrigerator, in your counter, baking sheet or tray for a half hour and up to a couple hours, so they will dry out a bit before baking, toasting or frying. This helps achieve a nicer crispness as they bake, toast or fry.

If you are going to make chips, cut them into 6 triangles before letting them dry.

Continue reading Making Tostadas and Chips


May 12, 2009

“Bandido!” My late grandfather would scream, with his wide smile and the most endearing eyes, to my youngest son, if he were here to see how Julian messes up the kitchen.

As soon as a thought of cooking appears in my head, he drags a chair, climbs on top, asks  what are WE going to make, and without waiting for an answer announces that it is “yo, yo, YO…,” who will cook and experiment. I shall be of assistance.

Needless to say, it takes much longer than needed and the kitchen looks messier than my husband likes to see it. But if you ask me, it is worth every extra second and extra spoonful of crumbs on the floor.

Well then, what cake to make for his birthday? Of course chocolate! His brothers tell me with a tone of disbelief. However, I know it has to be spongy, fluffy, gooey, sticky, moist, extra messy, sweet and truly decadent to be worthy of the three candles in its middle.

Continue reading Juju’s Chocolate Birthday Cake


May 5, 2009
Pump_achar.jpg

One way to add a nice rustic feel to a dish is to char, or roast, a few of the ingredients. Charring concentrates and deepens the flavor of an ingredient and brings out a subtle sweetness.

It is one of the signature cooking techniques in Mexico where, traditionally, ingredients like chiles, onion, garlic, spices, herbs, tomatillos and tomatoes are charred on comales or directly over the flame. If you don’t have a comal, or don’t want to cook directly over the burner, you can just as easily char ingredients on a grill or in a skillet.

OR, the way I find to be the easiest and fastest: in a pan under the broiler in your oven. Put the ingredients on a large sheet pan leaving plenty of space between them so they roast, not steam, and broil until they are nicely browned on one side. Carefully flip and repeat on the other side.

You want the outside to darken until almost black, and the inside cooked and transformed, but not burnt.

Below are the specific techniques for a couple of the ingredients most often charred in Mexican recipes: tomatoes and garlic.

Continue reading Charring ingredients


May 5, 2009
MolcajeteMain.JPG

The molcajete is a cooking tool that although not absolutely necessary this day in age, it does have its uses, benefits and looks. Mexico’s version of the mortar and pestle (the pestle being called tejolote) it has been used for thousands of years to pound, smash, grind and mix ingredients such as herbs, spices and chiles, create rubs, pastes and sauces.

It it is traditionally made of basalt volcanic rock, which is very porous and rough and it makes it very heavy. There are however, newer versions of lighter material, that I am not so fond off. When new, there are many takes of how to “cure” them, so they can begin to be used. Some people grind white rice, while others grind peeled garlic cloves.  I like to do both. So just take either one or the other, or both, and grind them with the pestle. Then just wash with a soapy sponge and rinse under cold water.

Continue reading Molcajete

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Molcajete

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May 5, 2009
Homemade Corn Tortillas

Yes, you can buy them already made at the store… but there are few things that can compare to the nurturing and filling sensation of homemade corn tortillas.

And the great thing is: We can buy the premade corn tortilla flour of extraordinary quality in the US these days. So you don’t have to nixtamalize the corn kernels (dry in the sun, cook and soak in hot water with lime, peel and grind to a paste) through a process of more than 36 hours to make your own fresh corn tortilla dough. Here is how you make them:

Continue reading Making Corn Tortillas


May 5, 2009
chipotle-chiles-in-adobo-sauce

Chipotles in adobo sauce are one of my favorite Mexican ingredients. They are ready to be spooned on top or inside of almost anything: quesadillas, tacos, sandwiches, grilled meats… Yet, they are also a wonderful cooking ingredient to use for making a wide range of dishes, from soups to moles, from salsas to stews and even mashed potatoes.  Chipotles have truly unique layers of flavor that come together in a most wonderful way: smoky, sweet, deep, rich and pleasantly spicy.

Continue reading Chipotle chiles in adobo sauce


April 29, 2009
corn-in-a-bowl-or-on-a-stick

In Mexican cooking, corn is eaten and drank, in just about every possible way… Esquites, freshly shaved corn usually cooked in a buttery broth with epazote leaves and Serrano chile, is one of the most popular takes. So much so, that my boys counted eight Esquite street carts in the small down town square of Chihuahua, when we were there last month.

It is very common to walk through the streets in a Mexican city or village, no matter how tiny it may be, and find a wide array of street food stands boasting the dishes that Mexicans abroad hanker for the most: Antojitos, or little cravings. Each one being a Universe compounded with layers of flavors, in its own right.

Continue reading Corn: In a bowl or on a stick


April 29, 2009
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The epazote herb is one deeply Mexican ingredient that has no substitute that I know off. It has a very unique, clear and deep flavor that adds a lot of character to a dish. Hard to describe, it has that I don’t know what, that somehow makes a distinct difference.

Continue reading Epazote

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Epazote

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