A couple weeks ago, right as I was setting up for one of my classes, “A Culinary Compass of Mexico,” at the Mexican Cultural Institute, Alberto Roblest came over and asked me a great question.
“Pati, do you cook traditional Mexican recipes OR do you create your own?”
Alberto is doing a project with the support of The Office on Latino Affairs. It is called Hola Cultura and explores the contributions of Latinos to DC life and culture, from art to language to sports to cooking.
I think he meant for me to respond with an either or. He really did. Come on Pati, “traditional” OR “new,” he insisted. But I kept answering “BOTH!” As I kept trying to explain why, I realized so wholeheartedly that both traditional and new not only describe my cooking style but also one of the many wonders of Mexican cuisine.
Continue reading Apple, Radish, Watercress Salad with Pistachio and Chile de Arbol
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
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