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August 5, 2009
Paula Deen and Pati Jinich

As I delightfully accepted (jumping up and down) the invitation to come cook Mexican with Paula, I told her producer, we love her show at home. Not only does it make my boys want to jump into the kitchen but her accent completely cracks them up. That last bit made her producer burst in laughter. Patriz-z-zia, he said, her accent cracks them up?  What about yours?

Mine?

Sometimes we are the last ones to notice some of our most obvious traits and talents. Growing up in Mexico I used to think I was tall, then I moved to Texas.  After years of studying to become a political analyst, here I am, cooking my life away.

A couple months after the invitation to visit Paula, guess what started to happen?  Even my little gringo boys at home started cracking up at my accent too. “Mami, you don’t say feesh, you say fish, not like bee… you know, like dish.” Oh well… I am not tall, I am not a political analyst anymore and I do have an accent.

Accents included and all, visiting Paula’s kitchen in Savannah was some of the best fun I’ve ever had. Thinking about it makes me smile so wide, my eyes barely get the chance to see what’s in front of them. She is hilarious.

This I can say: I am amazed by Paula. She is as scrumptious, funny and generous in person as she is on screen. As real as real can get, and its even better live. I don’t know that many people who enjoy food as much as Paula. She just dives into it, the whole thing, the preparing, the cooking and the savoring. So before deciding the menu, I knew the food had to be as yummy as she is. Now that’s a challenge.

Continue reading The crunchiest and tastiest tacos for Paula Deen


August 5, 2009
mango salsa

When asked recently whether I was a collector of some sort, I thought of my grandmother’s cabinet that holds hundreds of elephant figurines — more than 60 years’ worth, from many places. And she’s still adding to the lot. So my response was no.

Then a few days later I realized that I am a collector: of foods tasted throughout my life, or at least the memories of them. This is especially true of salsas. I have countless papers scattered on my desk with notes about the names of them, the places I ate them, their ingredients, the cooks who made them and, when generously given, directions on how to re-create them.

When the mood strikes, I search to find that precise note (which may be in a coat pocket, bag or drawer). Or I sit down with eyes closed and try to remember the feel of the sauce.

When all else fails, I make one up.

Continue reading A True Mexican Collectible: Versatile Summertime Salsas…


July 22, 2009

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


July 10, 2009

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…


July 2, 2009

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


June 19, 2009

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.

Now I know… Mexicans have the reputation of loving to eat everything with chiles. I admit this to be true. As Fray Bartolomé de las Casas, Spanish priest, defender of indigenous people, and chronicler of early colonial times said in the XVI century: Without chiles, Mexicans do not consider they have eaten. Hmmmm… the same can be said today. With the caveat, that it’s not just the heat that we crave.

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


June 11, 2009

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…


June 3, 2009

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


May 26, 2009

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


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!


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