My paternal grand mother, Bobe, used to make two kinds of gefilte fish every Friday: white or traditional and red or a la Veracruzana. The moment you sat down, she made you choose, “which do you want mamele, white or red?”
Invariably, after you chose, she’d ask, “you don’t like the way I make the other one?”
She’d barge in, make room on your plate and serve you the kind you hadn’t picked, right next to the one you had chosen. She’d wait for you to taste it and tell her how good the one you hadn’t chosen was. Then, she would eat right off your plate.
Having come from tiny shtetls in the polish countryside, both her and my grandfather arrived in Mexico so very young. Mexico gave them an opportunity to start a life away from pogroms.
They worked hard and made a simple but good life for themselves. Though they were humble, and without much savings, every Friday they had a bountiful table full of food for their three grown children and their families – all together there were ten granddaughters. Nope. Not a single grandson!
Continue reading Do You Want it Red or White? Mexican Style Gefilte Fish
Do You Want it Red or White? Mexican Style Gefilte Fish
Before she died, my maternal grandmother, whom we called Lali (remember I’ve told you about her before?) gave me Gloria Miller’s Thousand Recipe Chinese Cookbook. She was fascinated with Chinese cookery. She was also very good at it. What she loved the most were the stir-fry dishes: fast, tasty and healthy.
So, she bought herself a wok.
I couldn’t begin to count how many wok-made dishes I ate at her house during those long summers I visited her and my grandfather, after they moved to the Californian desert.
After she passed away, that wok found its way into my kitchen. I’ve cherished it. I’ve prized it. I haven’t used it! I’ve dragged it through so many house moves that I’ve also managed to lose its cord. It’s an electric wok. It’s real pretty, too. It’s hers. And in my mind, it is inseparable from her Miller’s cookbook, so I didn’t try to cook “her” Chinese dishes for years. And here and there, I’ve looked for that cord…
Continue reading A Taste of Barrio Chino: Green Beans with Peanuts and Chile de Arbol
One of the things that I’m most enthusiastic about in what I do, is breaking down myths about Mexican food and also about Mexicans. One of the biggest misconceptions is that Mexican food is greasy, fatty, cheesy and overloaded in heavy amounts of condiments. Some of the dishes that crossed the Mexican border and have become popular in the US, have been re-interpreted and promoted by the US fast food industry. Yet, mega burrito bombs, nachos smothered in cheese, and sizzling fajitas with scoops of sour cream on top are things you will have a really hard time finding in Mexico.
One thing that surprises people who delve a bit more into the Mexican culinary world is how crazy we are about salads. Not taco salads, no, no, no… Wholesome salads that use vegetables and beans and grains and flowers and all kinds of dried chiles and herbs…
It may be that the Mexican use of the word salad “ensalada” doesn’t help much to spread this good information because we usually call “ensalada” when there is lettuce or leafy greens in it. This leaves out chayote en vinagre, calabacitas en escacheche (pickled zucchini salad), nopalitos, and a gazillion other salads named simply by their main ingredient.
Continue reading Hearty Bean & Corn Salad with Cilantro Vinaigrette
Hearty Bean & Corn Salad with Cilantro Vinaigrette
It was my friend Tamara´s birthday party. Her husband, Sean, an American who speaks and acts like a Mexico City native (says a Mexico City native), made the dinner for the 40+ guests. The guests were drinking, eating and laughing until their stomachs were hurting, usual for their home. Sean came up to me when he saw me walk in, gave me a plate, placed two of these sliders on and said, “You are going to like these.”
I ate one. YUM.
I said, “There’s chipotle in them!”
I ate two. OMG.
I said, “I can take that platter”, and ate the remaining four. Of course, he was grilling some more.
No, I didn’t even try his Asian tuna sliders. No, I didn’t try his regular cheeseburger sliders. No, of course, I didn’t try his vegetarian sliders. All I wanted were these Chipotle Pork Sliders. I was hooked.
After I had my fill, I told Sean I had to post his recipe on my blog, as I was sure you all would love them just like I did. He obliged, and I tested his recipe many times giving it a few tweaks (hey, you know, I can’t help myself). I added a bit of onion, garlic and oregano to the meat mix and more chipotle (come on Sean, you talk like a Mexican!). I took some of the mayo out of the avocado spread and added the refreshing chives.
Continue reading Sean’s Cheesy Chipotle Pork Sliders with Avocado Spread
Sean’s Cheesy Chipotle Pork Sliders with Avocado Spread
Red, green, orange, blue… and all the colors you can dream up! Vanilla, cajeta, jamaica, chocolate, coffee, fruits, nuts… and just about any flavor you may crave. Smooth or chunky, creamy or foamy, heavy or light… choose any texture you like. Wait! We haven’t even gotten into shapes. Did you say your son likes Spiderman, your mom likes flowers or you want to go for a simple 2 layer design?
If you haven’t fallen for Jello, then you haven’t tried those in the Mexican repertoire. Forget about the 1950s-style-jello salads. Forget about the Jello you’ve seen people eat, or you may have eaten, in hospitals, too.
Mexican Jello is something to celebrate, to showcase, to boast about.
Gelatinas, in Spanish, many times come in individual servings with different flavors stacked in bright and colorful layers. Sold by street vendors who carry them in see through 2 to 3 tier covered stands, they are a common site in gas stations where cars wait for their turn and passersby can’t help but be tempted. Now you know why I always tagged along with my dad to fill up the tank!
It’s hard to show up at a kids party in Mexico and not see them. You will run into more sophisticated versions of them, standing tall, firm and proud at grown up parties, maybe with generous splashes of rum, tequila or rompope in their mix. There are simpler Jello creations brightening shelves at bakeries and grocery stores, too. In fact, Jello is such a big thing, that some cooks have elevated it to a complex art form with floral and abstract designs.
Continue reading Dream Big: Tres Leches and Strawberry Jello
For years, I’ve managed to turn every Mexican vacation into a working trip. As soon as I touch Mexican soil, I set up interviews, plan research tours, library searches, cooking adventures, all the while trying to tweet and instagram. And facebook, pinterest and blog too… My appetite expands outrageously as if giving me a chance to try all that my eyes can see and my mind can gather. Even with the best of intentions to relax and disconnect, they only last so long.
My family had been enthusiastic about it until recently: my husband announced last summer he’s had it. He won’t travel with me to Mexico when he wants us to vacation, together.
So when I suggested we go visit for the December holidays, he said “no, no, no Pati, you can’t control yourself there.” I kept pursuing Mexico because I missed it so bad, seeking out a place where I wouldn’t be tempted to work. San Miguel de Allende sounded like just the spot.
Continue reading Homemade Cajeta
Insanely practical, that’s what these empanadas are. Perfect to make ahead for gatherings, as you can eat them hot or not. And they are oh, so, comforting: think of a tuna casserole in the good old style, but revamped with great Mexican flair and then flipped and turned into individual size. They withstand hours of travel and will remain delicious until you are ready to take a bite.
With that in mind, I made a full batch last Saturday to bring to a friend’s house. So thrilled were the boys, and I, with the packets as they came out of the oven (crispy on top, soft layers of barely sweet dough as you get close to the middle and a rich tasting filling) that by the time we put our jackets on, and I went back to the kitchen to transfer the empanadas from the baking sheet to a platter, I gasped at the sight of the only two remaining…
Continue reading Tuna Minilla Empanadas
I hadn’t heard about Thanksgiving until I moved to Texas. Yet, I took my first shot at cooking the meal that cold fall of 1997 in the vast yellow plains of Dallas. Inspired by the glossy food magazines, cookbooks and TV shows, and wanting to immerse myself in the American experience, I baked, cooked and stirred while feeling homesick for my family’s home-cooking. It took years of living in the US for me to grasp the depth and warmth of the holiday and the menu, many failed turkeys and side dishes along the way.
It turns out, fifteen years later, the Thanksgiving feast has become such a relevant part of our lives that if we ever moved back to Mexico, I’d have to bring it back with us.
The connection wasn’t instantaneous. Slowly, some elements began to resonate within me. Take the bird: Turkey is an indigenous ingredient in Mexican cookery and a center piece for Christmas and the New Year. Both are holidays which also happen near the end of the year, during the coldest season, and have to do with gathering family and friends around a plentiful table. And being thankful. And hopeful.
Continue reading Sweet Potato Rounds with a Punch
I wouldn’t be caught dead without Pan de Muerto during Day of the Dead.
One of the most meaningful, colorful and delicious of Mexican celebrations, Día de Muertos has this bread as one of its trademark treats. It may sound strange to eat fluffy sugared up bread in the shape of bones, but then again, we also eat calaveritas, candies in the shape of skulls. This shows how crucial food is for Mexicans but also how it gets infused with our sarcastic sense of humor, generous spirit and gutsy attitude.
Not that Day of the Dead is such a big occasion here in the United States, but I notice an increased awareness. Teachers are starting to talk about it in schools, sugar skulls and decorations are popping up in stores…It’s becoming trendy. As it happens right on the tail of Halloween, elements from both celebrations seem to cross paths. They both include graveyards and a lot of eating, but they are quite different.
Day of the Dead, which is not one but two days, November 1st and 2nd, is when those departed have a license to come back and visit the ones they’ve left behind. And hey, if they are coming back from another world, it better be a feast worth the trip! Altars are decorated, filled with the visitor’s favorite foods and drinks, candles and flowers placed throughout, to help illuminate for a safe journey back home. There are visits to the cemetery, too, but of a different nature than Halloween: Day of the Dead is a bittersweet, sad and joyous time for gathering, feasting and remembering.
Pan de Muerto, has to be one of the sweetest sides of it, eagerly awaited by all.
Continue reading Make Pan de Muerto at Home!