Vanilla only comes in a bottle, right? Oh, it’s a bean!? Where on earth do I find vanilla beans and then how do I cook with them? Do I crack them open? Wait, vanilla comes from Veracruz, Mexico–not Madagascar!? This episode will explain all of that, plus share a few amazing vanilla-infused recipes, including:
WARM SWEET POTATO SALAD WITH CHORIZO
Ensalada Calientita de Camote y Chorizo
Makes 4 to 6 servings
3 lbs sweet potatoes (about 3 large sweet potatoes), peeled and cut into bite-size chunks
3 tbsp olive oil
1 cup orange juice, preferably freshly squeezed
1/2 tsp brown sugar
3/4 tsp kosher or sea salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
8 oz fresh, uncooked Mexican chorizo, casings removed and coarsely chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, stemmed and seeded if less heat is desired
1/3 cup red onion, chopped
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the sweet potato pieces, once it comes back to a boil, reduce the heat to medium; simmer for about 10 minutes, until almost tender and a knife can go through without breaking a piece. Drain, and transfer to a baking dish large enough to hold the pieces almost in a single layer.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Whisk together orange juice, oil, sugar, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Pour the mixture over the sweet potatoes and toss to coat evenly. Roast for about 20 minutes, turning them after about 10 minutes, until the potato pieces have started to brown and the sauce has thickened. Remove from the oven.
Meanwhile, cook the chorizo in a medium skillet over medium-high heat; use a wooden spoon of spatula to break it into smaller pieces as it cooks. After 5 to 6 minutes, when it has nicely browned and crisped, use a slotted spoon to top the hot sweet potatoes.
Sprinkle the jalapeño, red onion and cilantro on top, and toss gently to combine. Serve warm.
SPINACH SALAD WITH JAMAICA VINAIGRETTE AND CARAMELIZED PECANS
Ensalada de Espinaca con Vinagreta de Jamaica y Nueces Garapiñadas
Serves 8 to 10
18 oz fresh spinach leaves, rinsed, drained and thickly sliced
1 bunch watercress, rinsed and stems removed
6-8 scallions, white and light green parts, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves
Jamaica Vinaigrette (see below)
1 cup caramelized pecans, roughly chopped or whole pieces, to your liking (recipe follows)
3/4 cup dried jamaica flowers
3 garlic cloves
1 cup safflower oil
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp kosher or sea salt
2 tsp sugar, or to taste
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Place the jamiaca flowers in a bowl along with the garlic, oils, vinegar, salt, sugar and pepper. Let them sit for a few minutes, for the flowers to soften up a bit. Then pour everything into a blender and puree. The flowers will not be pureed until smooth. The mix will have a textured consistency with chewy flower chunks: that’s what you want!
Let the mix stand for at least two hours. If it will not be used then, it can be kept in the refrigerator, covered, for up to a week.
Place the spinach and watercress in a large bowl. Pour some of the vinaigrette on top and toss. Top with the chopped caramelized pecans and sprinkle the scallions over the top. Drizzle some more vinaigrette on top. If you have leftover vinaigrette, you can eat it with a spoon!
1 cup shelled pecans
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 tbsp butter or vegetable shortening, diced
1 tsp salt, or to taste (use regular salt, not kosher or sea salt)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the pecans on a baking tray, add the butter chunks and pour the maple syrup on top. Toss. Bake for 10 minutes, take them out of the oven and stir to make sure all the pecans are covered with the syrup. Place them back in the oven for another 8 to 10 minutes, until they have browned and the syrup has thickened to the consistency of caramel.
Take them out of the oven, scoop the pecans out and place on a dry surface such as a kitchen counter or another baking tray. Try to separate the nuts from each other. Once completely cool, they can be stored in a closed container
This episode shows us how to pick and prime the perfect avocado, then walks us through four great recipes:
AVOCADO & HEARTS OF PALM CHOP CHOP SALAD
Ensalada de Aguacate y Palmitos
Serves 4 to 6
3 ripe Hass avocados, or about 2 pounds, pulp cut into large chunks
14 oz hearts of palm, or about 1 1/3 cups, drained, rinsed and thickly sliced
1 cup corn kernels, from 2 large freshly cooked ears of corn or thawed and cooked from frozen
1 tbsp red onion, chopped
6 oz cherry tomatoes, or about 1 cup, whole or halved according to your preference
Vinaigrette dressing (see below)
3 tbsp pumpkin seeds, toasted
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp lime juice
1/4 tsp dried oregano
3/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp brown sugar
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp safflower oil
To make the vinaigrette, pour the vinegar and lime juice in a small bowl. Add the oregano, salt, sugar, and black pepper. Pour the oil in a slow stream, whisking with a whisk or fork to emulsify. The vinaigrette can be made a day ahead of time and refrigerated, just emulsify before using.
To toast the pumpkin seeds, place them in an already hot, small saute pan set over medium heat. Stir often, being careful that they don’t burn; until you start to hear popping sounds (similar to popcorn) and they being to acquire a nice tan, about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and place in a bowl.
In a bowl, gently mix the avocado chunks, hearts of palm, corn kernels, cherry tomatoes and red onion with the vinaigrette. Sprinkle with the toasted pumpkin seeds and serve.
The dish can be served as a main salad with a side of toast or pita bread. Or serve it as a side salad to grilled chicken, fish or meat.
I’ve been wanting to write this post for days. Every time I try, it feels like hundreds of flowers bloom in my head, clouding my thoughts. My tongue gets tied too. Which is not common. I usually don’t hesitate to express my thoughts.
So. pushing aside the flowers and the thing with the tongue…
Dearest friends, here’s the news: if you like Mexican food, if you like Public Television, if you like my approach to cooking, then… I hope you’ll like to hear that Pati’s Mexican Table is premiering on National Public Television, this spring.
Here is a short PREVIEW (!)
I can tell you so many things about how the series came together and why I am so passionate about it. It’s been a fascinating journey: radically switching careers, launching the Culinary Program at the Institute, starting the blog, and now, embarking on the TV series.
Yesterday, right after my blog turned 1 year old, I added a new category under Ingredients: Cheese.
This site is a continuous work in progress. As my husband notes, it is very time consuming, but as I always respond, it is immensely rewarding. Truth is, I can’t wait to keep on adding more. One of the things I have loved the most has been getting your requests, so please, keep them coming! Which brings me back to Mexican cheese, a topic I have gotten many requests for.
The first kind I added is the widely available Queso Fresco. A deeply white, mild, fresh, light, barely salty, gently tangy and versatile cheese that crumbles right in your mouth the moment you take a bite. Yet, it also holds its shape beautifully if you dice it or cut it
into sticks. So it lets you play with it in many ways.
Continue reading Queso Fresco: Tri-Color Salad with a Lime-Honey Vinaigrette
Queso Fresco: Tri-Color Salad with a Lime-Honey Vinaigrette
Avocados are, to me, amongst the most sensuous, luscious and luxurious of ingredients. Add how delicious, soft and subtly flavored they are, and you get a clear winner for Valentine’s Day.Despite the many pounds of avocados we go through at home each week, regardless of the infinite number of cases I use for events at Washington, DC’s Mexican Cultural Institute, and notwithstanding that my sisters and I used them for hair and face treatments as we were growing up (all those nurturing natural oils and vitamins), I still find avocados to be wow-inducing.
If there’s an avocado dish on a restaurant menu, it lands on my table.
So if I am planning a menu, especially with a hint of romance, avocados will be there…
Continue reading Romancing The Avocado
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
“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 witchcrafting material. But among our most prized ingredients were dried jamaica (pronounced ha-may-kah) flowers, known in the U.S. as hibiscus flowers, stored in a big jar in the kitchen…”
To read the entire article, click here.
NPR Kitchen Window: Jamaica Flowers Charm The Kitchen