The poblano chile is a star in Mexican kitchens. It is used in a wide range of ways and in a wide range of dishes. Some well known examples are chiles en nogada, rajas, pickled, and stuffed with meat or cheese and bathed in a tomato sauce. But there are hundreds of other ways…
Aside from being absolutely gorgeous – chubby, curvy, large, sensuous and with a beautiful dark green color with a bit of a shine to it – it has a striking flavor that is rich, exuberant and fruity. It tends to be a bit capricious as well: it ranges from the very mild to the very hot. However, there are ways to tame its heat.
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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!
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.
Though they have been commonly eaten during Lent for centuries, but they are also eaten throughout the year. Since they have become increasingly popular in the US -where they used to be considered a weed- they are now being imported and also grown. They are now available in many Latino and International stores.
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I was invited to design a Cinco de Mayo menu for Ceiba Restaurant along with their Chef de Cuisine, Alfredo Solis. The invitation included teaching a class covering that menu. As always, I was eager to teach whatever I know. But as always, I learn much more as I go. This time, I also learned, that you never know what foods you are going to like the best.
Continue reading Chef Solis’s Mexican Crab Cakes with Jalapeño Aioli
Chef Solis’s Mexican Crab Cakes with Jalapeño Aioli
Mexican cream is rich, thick, tangy and slightly salty. It used to be hard to find in the US, but now you can find it in Latin or International stores, but also mainstream stores! In Mexico, you can find it in any grocery store, and there are richer versions in small towns and ranches, where the cream earns its name “Crema Fresca” and I bet you would feel like me: that you can finish a whole pint in spoonfuls.
Continue reading Mexican Style Cream
Memories from growing up in Mexico City revolve around one celebration or another and mostly center on the foods that just had to be there. If there was no holiday, anniversary, birthday or special occasion for a formal celebration, then we celebrated the food itself. Just say the magic words and a get together would spring right up.
Nana made tamales? Fiesta!
Mami made mole? Well, what are you waiting for?
Papi brought real quesadillas potosinas? It is Sunday brunch everyone…
However, as much as I can remember, we didn’t celebrate Cinco de Mayo. As kids we reviewed it in passing at school, unless you lived in the state of Puebla. The place, where on a Cinco de Mayo in 1862, a small Mexican militia won an unexpected victory against the large French army. It was a short-lived victory, as the French won right back.
But fast-forward almost a couple centuries later: the French and Spaniards are gone, Mexicans proudly celebrate Independence Day every September 16th, and for a reason no Mexican can explain, Cinco de Mayo has become the most celebrated, joyous and colorful holiday for Mexicans living abroad. It even surpasses the noise we make for Independence Day.
Continue reading Chilorio for Cinco de Mayo!
Though there are many kinds of avocado soups, this is my favorite. I tried it at the Mexican Ambassador’s residence a couple months ago. As Doña Rosita, the cook, heard me mmm, and mmm, and mmmmmmm all over again, she came out of the kitchen with a pen and a piece of paper ready to dictate her recipe.
What a surprise for such a tasty soup: just a handful of ingredients! Seems that what matters, again, is how you use them.
Doña Rosita told me she has tweaked her recipe through time. Also, she sometimes tops it with tortilla crisps, and sometimes with fresh croutons. Depends on the mood. But she always serves it with crumbled Queso Fresco. There you go! Another thing you can do with that Mexican Fresh Cheese, aside from a Green Salad and Enfrijoladas.
It is easy, tasty and sounds oh… so… fancy. Plus, it is wholesome. The only thing I added to Doña Rosita’s recipe, is some fresh lime juice. I couldn’t help it. So check it out, this is how it goes:
Continue reading Avocado Soup with Queso Fresco
The molinillo is a traditional Mexican kitchen utensil, that has been used for centuries to make froth in hot chocolate. It is made of a single piece of wood. The top part, typically thick and round, has decorations and indentations. A number of loose, movable rings follow. Lastly a round handle that is soft and round making it easy to beat with your hands. All of the decorations, shapes and pieces are made to create the most froth possible.
Though it is not that easy to find molinillos outside of Mexico, any market in any part of Mexico will likely have not only one, but different kinds to choose from…
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We came back home exhausted, after being away for a couple weeks in Canada for a big family reunion. Though we had delicious meals, trying all sorts of Canadian fare, as soon as we walked in I was ready to make some comforting, home tasting food.
Few things taste more like home to me, than beans. In Mexico there is always, always, a simmering pot of beans cooking at some point during the week in any kitchen. As beans need to be cooked for a long time, they infuse the kitchen with a moist, earthy and cozy aroma, that remains even after the beans are ready.
Of course one can make more than a thousand things with a batch of Frijoles de Olla, or Beans from the Pot. But one of the things that are the most simple, yet comforting, asides from scooping them with corn tortillas, are Enfrijoladas.
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The uses of beans in Mexican cooking are immense. Although you can buy them already made, if you make them at home they have a much nicer flavor and you will give your kitchen an irresistible smell. You can make a lot of them and refrigerate a batch which should last in the refrigerator for about 4 to 5 days. You can freeze another batch which will last for months.
I will give you two tips, included in the recipe below, if you make them at home:
1. Don’t add the salt in the beginning or it will toughen the beans. Add it at least after an hour of cooking when the beans are already a bit soft.
2. You don’t need to soak them the night before cooking. Yes, that helps to reduce the cooking time, but it is not necessary. If you do soak them, don’t soak them more than 12 to 14 hours, because they may begin to ferment and you will finish with a Chinese rather than Mexican tasting dish.
Continue reading Beans: Frijoles de Olla or Beans from the Pot