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
A Mexican brunch is the perfect way to ease into the weekend. What kinds of recipes are truly Mexican but truly inspired, too? This episode will look at what a late breakfast/early lunch in Mexico might look like, and what recipes you can prepare in your own home.
REFRIED BEAN AND CHEESE CHIMICHANGAS
Chimichangas de Frijoles con Queso
4 tbsp vegetable oil, divided
1/4 cup white onion, chopped
1 jalapeño or serrano chile, seeded and chopped (more or less to taste)
1 garlic clove, minced
2 cups refried beans
1/4 cup water
2 cups Mexican Manchego, Chihuahua, Monterey jack or light chedder, shredded
12 flour tortillas, medium size
Salsa of your choice
Pour 2 tablespoons of oil into a medium sized skillet set over medium heat. Once hot, add the onion and let it cook 4 to 5 minutes, until softened and translucent. Add the chile, give it a couple stirs and add the garlic. Cook until fragrant, about 15 to 30 seconds more. Incorporate refried beans along with 1/4 cup water and mix well. Let it cook and season for a couple minutes as you mash it all together. Turn off the heat.
In a comal or skillet set over medium-low heat, heat flour tortillas one at a time, about 15 seconds on each side, to soften so they won’t break when folded. Add about 2 heaping tablespoons each of refried beans and cheese near the edge of the tortilla, one at a time. Begin rolling as if making a chubby taco, after the first fold, tuck in both edges of the tortilla, continuing to roll to make a thick bundle. Flatten a bit with your hand.
Reheat remaining oil in the same saute pan or comal, over medium-low heat. Place chimichangas in batches and cook for about 3 to 4 minutes on each side, until they achieve a lightly browned crust on both sides. You may also use more oil and deep-fry them over medium heat for less time, but I like the first option more…
Serve along the side of the Rabo de Mestiza eggs and spoon some of its sauce on top, or serve with the salsa of your choice.
COWBOY CHARRO BEANS
Frijoles Charros con Tocino y Chorizo
6 oz sliced uncooked bacon, chopped
8 oz fresh, uncooked Mexican chorizo, casings removed, chopped
1/2 cup white onion, chopped
1 jalapeño pepper (seeded if desired), finely chopped, more or less to taste
1/2 lb roma tomatoes, about 2 to 3 tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp kosher or sea salt, plus more as needed
5 cups cooked pinto beans and their cooking liquid (or substitute with black or Peruvian beans)
Cook the bacon in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat for 3 to 4 minutes, until it is lightly browned and starting to crisp. Add the chopped chorizo; cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until it starts to brown and crisp. As it cooks, use a wooden spoon or spatula to break it into smaller pieces.
Add the chopped onion and jalapeño; mix well and cook for 1 or 2 more minutes, letting them soften a bit. Add the tomatoes and mix well; cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring, until the tomatoes soften and appear mushy.
Add the cooked beans and their cooking liquid; mix well and reduce the heat to medium. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until the beans are moist but not soupy. Add a bit more water if needed. Taste, and add more salt to your taste. Serve hot.
If you’re fighting a war, how do you cook food on the run? What sort of meals can you make around ranches, porches, and rustic bonfires? What might Pancho Villa or Emiliano Zapata have eaten? This episode looks at the culinary legacy of the Mexican Revolution, with recipes that include:
Beans are a crucial part of any Mexican meal, where the black bean is the most common bean used generally speaking. However, speaking regionally, it is favored in the Southern states and also in Veracruz. In the northern areas of Mexico, the lighter colored beans such as the Pinto are more common, and in the center areas, both kinds are eaten as well as Peruvian beans.
Continue reading Beans: Black Beans
Quesadillas–the perfect marriage of heaven and earth, where the basic, simple tortilla meets the ecstasy of cheese. If you can find the right cheese, that is… So, where do you find great Mexican cheeses in the US? If you can’t find Oaxaca Cheese or Manchego, what can you use instead? What about Monterey Jack or Cheddar as a substitute?
In this episode I interview the fabulous Joe Yonan (who just came out with an equally fabulous cookbook!), who gives us a lot of cheesy advise.
Would it shock you to know that you don’t technically need to stuff cheese inside for it to qualify as an authentic Mexican quesadilla?
Fava beans have been around for quite a long time. Ancient Egyptians prized them so much that they were buried with them inside of their tombs! Originally native to Africa and southwest Asia, today Favas are cultivated all over the world. Thanks to the Spaniards, Mexicans have been enjoying them since the XVI century, in may different ways.
Filled with nutrients and Vitamins, they are also filled with a deep strong flavor. In Central Mexico, they are commonly found fresh at markets in the spring time where they range in size from the mini to the large and in colors from the pale green to the deep purple. When fresh, they come with a shell and a leathery skin underneath it, both of which needs to be removed before eating. Which can be quite laborious. Then they are eaten in soups, stews and salads mostly.
Continue reading Beans: Fava Beans
When I think about my mother, I think about her fava bean soup (fine, and a couple other things too…). That’s how strong an impact that soup has had on me.
But not many people are wild about favas, habas in Spanish. Different from pasta or potatoes, Favas haven’t gone mainstream.
Okay. I can see why.
First, the fact that they come in many forms can be confusing (fresh in their pod, fresh out of the pod, dried with their skin on, or dried and peeled). Also, the ways to cook them in their different forms haven’t been widely publicized. On top of that, favas have a strong flavor that can be overpowering, and to some, hard to bear.
Now, bear with me here. If you know what form of favas to get for which kind of dish, the confusion is almost gone. With the right recipe, the confusion evaporates further and their overpowering flavor is tamed. Thus… beloved cooks, favas become what they must:
filling, rich, wholesome and deliciously intense.
Continue reading Fava Bean Soup: Time to go Mainstream!
It is partly because of a soup like this, that I want to write a cookbook.
A soup that makes me feel all warm inside when I spoon it into my mouth.
A soup that has the earthiness and simplicity that grounds me.
A soup that, aside from having a comforting base, has layers of surprising life and color and crunch.
A soup that makes me want to eat nothing else for an entire week.
A soup that speaks of centennial traditions and is passed down through generations recipes.
A soup that is a pleasure to think about, to write about, to talk about, to prepare and to savor.
It is mostly because I want to share a soup like this with you, dear friends, that I am jumping to write this cookbook.
So with great news to share: I will be working with the delightful Rux Martin, editor at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, to make this cookbook come to life.
In this book, I will write about -and tell you how to make- all of those foods that make me want to scream out of joy, along with the stories that revolve around them.
Continue reading On a Soup and a Book