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November 19, 2011

Sliced bread brushed with melted butter, toasted until golden, layered with handfuls of nuts and dried fruits, drenched in Piloncillo syrup, topped with crumbled salty cheese and baked until it all comes together…. Once out of the oven, it tastes like a cross between French Toast and Bread Pudding. Crisp-on-the-top and moist-in-the-center, every spoonful a delightful mess.

That is Mexico’s most well known version of Capirotada. Being a lover of delicious Mexican style food messes, I am one big fan of it. But some newcomers to the dish are taken aback by the salty cheese on top. What -you may ask like many do- is the need for the cheese on top? Well, that salty tease makes the thick feel and sweet taste of the dish come out in bold strokes in your mouth.

It reminds me of how my father loves to slice sweet bananas over his savory lentil soup; or how my family goes crazy over piling ates (fruit pastes) with Manchego cheese, as so many Mexicans do; or how I used to love eating a handful of chocolate covered raisins right after a handful salty pop corn, and then repeat it again and again at the movies growing up, as long as the movie lasted. Capirotada has that same wild mix.

Once you finish your piece, I bet you will beg for a bit more of that addicting combination. That’s probably why I have received so many requests for a recipe.

Continue reading Going Nuts and Bananas for Capirotada


October 25, 2011

You can do fabulous things with pumpkins aside from spooky faces and pumpkin pie… Just ask any Mexican. We have a way with pumpkins.

Native to Mexico, pumpkins have been devoured there for centuries, in their entirety. The seeds are addicting as snacks, used as a hefty base for salsas, soups and sauces and more recently sprinkled on top of many dishes. The pumpkin meat is used for soups and stews, and along with the entire rind cooked in a piloncillo syrup, becoming a traditional favorite known as Tacha.

Yet there is something else you can make with those fall pumpkins: Mole!

An easy to make, silky textured and exquisite tasting mole sauce, that can bathe anything you can think of. From chicken to meat, fish, seafood and veggies; it all goes beautifully swaddled in it. I like it mostly with chicken or turkey, which is how I am most used to eating thick and rich Mole sauces….

So that you can try it too, here it goes.

Continue reading Pumpkin and Ancho Chile Mole


October 18, 2011
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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).

Pepitas are the seeds of different kinds of pumpkins! They can be seen all over Mexico from stands on the street to bags in the stores. They have been a part of Mexican cooking as long as…well…Mexican cooking and just as well as pumpkins, have been used in a myriad of ways over thousands of years.

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 reading Pumpkin Seeds or Pepitas


October 6, 2011
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Funny, it wasn’t until recently that allspice became incorporated into Mexican local cuisine. Allspice has been grown in Mexico since the 1600′s but was seen as an exotic and expensive spice for export.

Allspice is as unique and simple as it sounds. It is the only spice that grows exclusively in the Western Hemisphere. When the Spaniards first encountered it in Jamaica, they named it pimienta because of its close resemblance to peppercorn. Because allspice is much larger than peppercorn it earned the name pimienta gorda, which literally means fat peppercorn.

Continue reading Allspice or Pimienta Gorda


September 23, 2011


My grandfather on my mother’s side, Francisco, whom we called “Yeye,” was wild about chiles. Not very common in his native Bratislava, I guess. He used to say that what he loved the most about his new country was the predictable weather (especially the bright sunny winters), the colorful markets, and most of all, the chiles. All of them.

He was oh so very crazy about them that my grandmother used to hide them from him. She complained about him having no boundaries, no sense of measure, when eating them. He simply would not stop.

But he knew all the tricks, discover all the hide outs, and stuff them in his pockets. Seriously. Not only fresh jalapeños or serranos but also wet pickled jalapeños... Those must have been some messy pockets to wash…

Continue reading Mushroom-Jalapeño Matzo Ball Soup


September 9, 2011
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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.

Continue reading Hominy, Maí­z Cacahuacintle, Mote or Giant Corn


September 9, 2011

Red pozole, or Pozole Rojo, Jalisco style, has been my favorite pozole of all time. It is bold and gorgeous in every possible way. I am so attached to it, we even served it at our wedding.

For decades now, I’ve refused to replace it with another… And then, I tried a unique green version, Pozole Verde, Guerrero style. It has not surpassed my Pozole Rojo, but it is attempting to tie with it at my table. And that is a lot to say.

Treasured all around Mexico, pozole has many variations, mainly green, red and white. Each distinct and beautiful, and coincidentally, represent the colors of the Mexican flag. Since September is the month of Mexican independence and The Day of El Grito is just around the corner, there is no excuse not to find an excuse to celebrate! And in my mental Mexican dictionary, pozole equals celebration.

Continue reading Pozole: Try It Green!


July 30, 2011

This year I promised my boys we would plant goodies in the backyard to harvest ourselves. At the nursery, jumping up and down as in a candy shop, they dragged so many plants to the counter, I had to give an absolute NO to half of them.

We ended up with thyme, oregano, bay leaves, rosemary, mint, parsley, and cilantro.  Ok, and tomatoes, cherry and roma. Fine… corn too, don’t know what I was thinking. And wait! We couldn’t leave without jalapeños, which led me to run for some tomatillos. And scallions. I stopped there. I did.

Then Sami came back with a little watermelon plant.  That was the wildest idea, oh, that monster of mine. We’ve no room to grow watermelon. I told him about the big wide fields in Northern Mexico, in states like Sonora, Chihuahua, Jalisco and Sinaloa where watermelon is grown extensively. Our backyard is… not so big.

Beats me.

We brought home Sami’s watermelon plant.

Continue reading Summertime Watermelon & Tomatillo Salad: Beat the Heat!


July 22, 2011
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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.

Continue reading Chia Seeds

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Chia Seeds

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June 29, 2011

The Mexican way to wildly dress simply cooked corn drives me wild:

Crunchy sweet corn on a stick, brushed with butter and mayo, coated in tangy and salty crumbled queso fresco, sprinkled with chile powder, typically chile piquí­n, coarse salt and a liberal squeeze of lime juice…

It doesn’t matter if I am hungry. The mere site of a street food corn stand makes me stop dead in my tracks and zoom over for one. Like a wild woman. I need one. Well, the truth is one is not enough, ever.

In Mexico you find corn stands all over, in little towns and big cities. Locals know what day of the week and at what times they show up. If you are not from there, it takes a while to figure it out.

Continue reading Go Wild, Munch On Your Crazy Corn!


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