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
I had the pleasure of interviewing author Arthur Allen about his new book Ripe: The Search for the Perfect Tomato in this week’s Splendid Table. Listen in to hear about how the tomato came to be a worldwide obsession.
Listen to my segment right here…
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
Purslane or verdolagas, one of those ingredients that Mexicans hanker for when outside of Mexico, is likely to be growing in your backyard. In Mexico, it is considered one of the quelites or edible herbs. It is nutritious and succulent, yet it has long been considered a weed in the United States. Indeed, once it grows roots, it spreads and grows fast.
It is essential to the cuisine of Central Mexico, where it is most commonly added to Puerco con Verdolagas: my favorite way of eating them. There, slowly braised pork is finished off in a seasoned salsa verde and verdolagas are dropped in almost when it’s done (continue for more information and photo).
Continue reading Purslane or Verdolagas
With a metallic dark color and mottled skin, Chia seeds are delightfully crunchy. Once you rehydrate them in water, as the popular Lime based Agua Fresca, they become covered in an irresistible gelatinous layer. No wonder the word chia comes from the náhuatl name chian, which means oily.
Scientifically, Salvia Hispanica, they come from a flowering plant from the mint family. Some new wave health oriented groups, call it “the Miracle seed”. They are indeed miraculous for good digestion and some say weight loss.
In Mexico they have been used for centuries. In Aztec times, aside from eating, they were one of the main means of exchange and also used for religious rituals (continue for more information and photos).
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I grew up eating chorizo in Mexico, and I love it. It comes in deep-burnt-reddish links of fresh, moist, exotically seasoned ground meat, that once, fried, becomes crisp and filling bites with bold flavors and a thousand uses.
When I moved to the United States, more than a dozen years ago, I was thrilled to find chorizo in international grocery stores. Lately, I have been intrigued and surprised to see that my Mexican chorizo is now accompanied by many other kinds in the refrigerated sections of bigger, more mainstream stores (continue for more information and photos).
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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 for more information and a photo).
Continue reading Beans: Black Beans
The Guajillo chile is one of the most commonly used Mexican dried chiles, and it is now widely available in the United States. It is long and pointy, with a beautiful maroon color. Its skin is quite smooth and shinny on the outside, but it is hard and tougher and less pliable than others, like the Ancho.
It has a pleasant and deep flavor, with mild heat. It tends to be a crowd pleaser (continue for more information and photos).
Continue reading Guajillo Chile
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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Huauzontles, also called Huazontles or Cuazontles, are a native plant to Mexico. Their scientific name is Chenopodium nuttalliae. Huauzontles gave a very thick main stem, oval leaves -that aren’t eaten- and thinner stems filled with edible green flowers that resemble broccoli or rapini, but are much more smaller and delicate.
They have a strong smell when you get close. Similarly as the Epazote, Huauzontles have a deep, clean and almost astringent smell. Some people say they taste similar to spinach or watercress. It seems to me, they have a welcoming and original, light bitter taste (continue for more information and photo).
Continue reading Huauzontles