Growing up in Mexico City, my sisters and I used to prepare exotic meals, perfumes and potions for the inhabitants of our enchanted forest. That was our dog, the bluebird, snails, butterflies and ladybugs that happened to peek into our backyard and witness our extravagant mess. It also included any family friend who happened to stop by and become a willing victim. We sometimes offered cooking classes too.
My mother set us up in the backyard on a big blanket with random pots and pans, while she cooked laborious weekend meals. There was a fig tree, an apple tree, a peach tree, a couple of what we called Chinese orange trees and tons of azaleas and herbs that offered an immense array of witch-crafting material. But among our most prized ingredients were dried jamaica flowers, known here as hibiscus flowers, stored in a big jar in the kitchen.
Continue reading Jamaica Flowers Charm the Kitchen
No matter how hard we tried we just couldn’t stay dry.
A single step out of the plane and it all seemed part of a magical realism novel from Gabriel García Márquez. In that hot, humid and tropical pueblo, every move was slowed down in a permanent mist, which made my clothes feel damp. Under the open sunny sky, that mist was shiny and full of light as it transformed the colors from the exotic overgrown plants, colorful houses and small streets. There were cute little insects, bees and hummingbirds moving all around. Wide chubby trees offered some shade, as people walked by with no hurry, wearing earth colored hats.
And everything, absolutely everything, was infused with the lusciously sweet aroma of vanilla.
No. I don’t do drugs.
This is a true description of a small town in the region of Totonacapan in the state of Veracruz, where vanilla originated and is still heavily grown. Also where my husband and I were invited to a wedding, more than a decade ago. And it was in that small pueblo, where I tasted the best horchata I have ever tried.
Continue reading We could all use a little Horchata…
Ay, ay, ay! Patita, espérate mamacita! My nanny repeated, as she snatched the hot plantain tightly wrapped in aluminum foil, from my hands. Her hands were more resistant, she insisted, as they were older and had cooked so much. She would hold my chosen package with an open hand, so the camotero (sweet potato street cart man, who also sold plantains) could tear up the foil. As the steam flew up to the skies, he poured a more-than-any-child-could-wish-for amount of La Lechera sweetened condensed milk… and so it fell, sweet ounce, by thick ounce, onto that moist, rich, filling and immensely satisfying treat. Sheer joy, that was.
I devoured it in what seemed a couple bites, just to lick the last but yummiest remains from the crumbled foil. There we were, standing on the street corner where my family lived, mischievously laughing: it was already getting dark, almost dinnertime, and no, no, no, I wasn’t supposed to be having any. Oh dear, how I miss that woman! Now every time I eat a plantain, I get a sparkle of that sheer joy.
Continue reading Three tasty ways to eat ripe plantains
I am not one to carry a bottle of hot sauce in my bag wherever I go. I do have an uncle that proudly does. Wherever he travels, his Tabasco sauce eagerly jumps out of his bag and splashes its somewhat flavorless heat on whatever food it happens to come across. Yep, fancy restaurants too.
Most Mexicans are picky chile eaters. Since we have so many varieties, and such varied and distinct ways to use and prepare them, we can exquisitely discriminate how and what we pair them with. We love their different flavors, textures, fragrances and personalities. It is like considering different kinds of fruits. So my uncle is more an exception than the rule.
All this to say, without any excuse, that although I am not a hot sauce bottle kind of woman, I am a pickled Jalapeño kind of gal.
Continue reading Pickled Jalapeño Kind of Gal
Some people get motion sickness when they travel. Some people get hungry. I am among the latter.
The minute I step on whatever will transport me from one place to another, my mind swims through related food memories… and I just have to eat. So since I know I will have a craving for something other than a moist, soggy, chewy and never-ever crunchy baguette from the Amtrak train, and after being so spoiled with the food from El Chepe Train, I am packing my own Torta.
Torta (according to me…): A satisfying and delicious, self contained, easy to transport, edible package filled with tasty ingredients that just love to schmooze together.
Continue reading I am packing my own Torta…
I wish each day had ten more hours so I could tell you about so many dishes already.
This is how behind I feel in all I want to share: Six weeks ago our family came back from the Copper Canyon in Mexico. I took notes, pictures, short videos, interviewed cooks, planted myself in their kitchens until forcefully uprooted by my husband, and ate like a mad woman from any interesting sounding dish, which was practically everything (partly with the purpose to come and tell you all about it…).
Then we came home, and life got in the way… I took longer to launch this site because I wanted to add more sections. By the time it was ready, so many weeks had gone by, I was eager to share more recent food excursions from my kitchen.
Yesterday, these red tomatoes reminded me of my delayed purpose. They looked perfectly ripe to become the base for that Mexican Style Rice we ate at the Chepe train (formally known as the Chihuahua al Pacífico). It was unbelievable. Not only how good it tasted, but where and how it is made, every day.
Continue reading Unforgettable Rice from El Chepe
I have come to realize a couple things regarding a group get together around here…
For one thing pot lucks are so popular. Maybe it’s because they can make entertaining easier and promote a warm feeling of collaboration. I don’t remember many pot luck meals growing up in Mexico. It was generally assumed that the host was in charge of the whole meal and guests arrived with a box of chocolates, a bunch of flowers, or maybe a bottle of wine or tequila too. So that pot luck pitching in element, has been such a nice surprise.
Secondly, no potluck seems to be complete without a salad, which seems to represent the wholeness of a meal and that higher degree of healthfulness. They aren’t always that fat-free. But in any case, they help reduce the guilt we all may feel after indulging in a couple of servings of whatever decadent dish may happen to be there too.
Continue reading A salad to dress and impress
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!
“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
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