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
The pomegranate is such a vivid, vibrant and enticing fruit, that I consider it to be one of the most sensuous ingredients. It has a thick and tough pink-to-reddish skin that comes off as impenetrable. But, break into it, and you will find an overabundance of shiny, ruby red seeds that resemble jewels and have the juiciest crunch.
The taste is sweet, bright and slightly tart and the bursting juice seems primed to make wine. Be mindful when you peel them, as the stains from the juice can be hard to clean off. I cut the fruit in half and then use my fingers to open up the clusters covered in a white membrane. As I remove the membrane I loosen the seeds. Some people like to do this in a bowl with water to avoid the stains. I do it without the bowl of water but use an apron for sure (continue for more information and photo)
Continue reading Pomegranate or Granada
TORITOS: PEANUT AND VANILLA APERTIF
Torito: Bebida de Cacahuate y Vainilla
2 12 oz cans evaporated milk
1 14 oz can condensed milk
3/4 cup cane liquor (aguardiente de caña), or rum, more or less to taste
3/4 cup smooth peanut butter (or espresso if you want to make it coffee flavored)
1 tsp vanilla extract
Ice, to taste
Place the cane liquor, evaporated milk, condensed milk, peanut butter and vanilla extract in the blender and puree until smooth. Transfer to a jar, cover and refrigerate until chilled.
Alternatively, you may also pour directly over ice cubes or add some ice cubes to your blender and make it a Frappé! In any case, serve very cold.
NOTE: There are different Torito flavors. To make coffee Toritos, substitute peanut butter for a cup of strong coffee and add more sugar to taste. To make fruit Toritos, substitute peanut butter for about 2 cups of guaba or mango (or any fruit of your choice) pulp, and sugar to taste.
Tamarind, also called Indian date, is the pod of a tropical tree that is said to have originated in Asia and North Africa. It was brought to Mexico sometime in the 1500′s in the galleons that came from Asia, manged by the Spaniards, that landed in the gorgeous beaches of Acapulco. Now somewhat touristy…
Tamarind tastes a bit sour, acidic and sweet at the same time. Its flavor has a lot of depth and an earthy feel to it too. Through the years it grew strong roots in Mexican land, where the large trees are loved for their heavy shade, and the pods for their multiple uses in Mexico’s kitchens. From candies and snacks, to drinks and desserts, as well as moles, sauces of different kinds.
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Every year, just as summer peeks its warm face in Washington DC, I begin to crave fresh fruits and vegetables Mexican street cart style. One of the times when I have enjoyed it the most was last April. We were traveling through the Copper Canyon route, on a week long trip, from Chihuahua to Sinaloa. We had been waiting at the station in the town of Creel to catch the Chepe train to go to the next town.
As the station officer let out a scream that the train was approaching, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the fruit and vegetable cart. It was hot, we were tired and thirsty, and I saw Mr. Fruit Cart Man peeling some ripe and juicy mangoes. I grew weak in my knees.
Continue reading Running to Catch the Fresh Fruit Cart!
Plantains are now available almost anywhere in the United States. They have the appearance of being thicker, longer and bigger type of bananas. But they are not. No wonder they are called macho bananas, plátano macho, in most areas of Mexico. Although from the same family, plantains are a different ingredient. They are starchier, meatier, firmer, milder in flavor and have much thicker skin than bananas and are better treated as vegetables in a culinary sense, since they are only eaten cooked (continue for more information and photo).
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The smooth, soothing, creamy qualities of avocados are the perfect combination to the richly flavored and sometimes spicy Mexican food. My favorite avocados are the Hass variety and for some reason… I like the Mexican ones the most (!) They tend to be larger, meatier, creamier and just more luxurious than others (continue for more information and photo).
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