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The Basics

December 16, 2009

Incredibly long leaves from the banana tree, the banana leaves have a beautiful deep green color and a strong fragrant smell. They are often used in Mexican cooking to wrap and cook many kinds of foods including tamales, meats, fish and poultry. They are both malleable and strong. Cooking in them not only concentrates the flavors of the wrapped ingredients but it also infuses them with a grassy, intensely aromatic and fresh feel.

Banana leaves used to be hard to find in the US when I moved here more than a dozen years ago.

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Banana Leaves


December 11, 2009
Salami de Chocolate

Come December, everyone seems to be thinking about end of the year traditional tasty treats. Though in my family we used to eat them all year round; chocolate salami came to mind, as it is such a funny, creative and addicting nibble. It works great to bring along to friends (it will make them laugh, you will see…), as well as to keep some at home for an anytime sweet bite, since they keep in the freezer for months.

Growing up, my sisters and I used to make batches in minutes. We also managed to eat so much of the chunky, crunchy, funky, gooey batter in the seconds it took to transfer the mix to the wrapping papers set on the table. We would get all messy as we helped my oldest sister give the dough their salami shapes. Then, it was so hard to wait, until the chocolate salamis were frozen and hard enough to slice.

My oldest sister, Karen, told me the recipe came from a Women Community-Cooperative cookbook called Tu y Yo Cocinando (You and I Cooking) which was popular in Mexico City around the 70’s. That book was one of those fabulous gems, where participants pitched in their tried and true favorite recipes.

Continue reading Salami de Chocolate (with Coffee Liqueur made with Tequila)

December 4, 2009
refried beans

In this post, I have invited Cristina Potters to be a guest and share one of her favorite recipes. Cristina is the author of Mexico Cooks!, a culinary and cultural website about all things Mexico. She is also known for giving outstanding tours. 

A Chicago native who arrived in Mexico in 1981, she was first a social worker in Tijuana.  Now, after 30 years, she is a permanent fixture in Morelia, Michoacan.  She learned the cuisines of the central highlands of Mexico from the Mayoras (Michoacan home cooks). Now, without further ado, here is Cristina…

I’d like to offer my personal recipes for frijoles refritos and frijoles de la olla. The following recipe for refried beans is not only simple and delicious; it converts people who turn up their noses at ordinary refried beans into folks who insist on another helping!

Continue reading Guest: Cristina Potters’ Refried Beans

November 27, 2009
coconut flan

I do love the change of seasons in the Eastern United States. The fall leaves change to different shades and make fluffy mountains where the boys jump a thousand times in a single day. I also like the smell of winter winds waiting around the corner as our home heating starts to warm up. And I have so much fun getting all of us coats and hats and gloves, something I never did growing up.

But I do miss my piece of beachside coconut flan. The one I used to have in Acapulco, many Decembers ago, growing up. My favorite was from Pipo’s, a restaurant in “la Costera”, an old neighborhood along the beach. It has a creamy and smooth layer on top that blends into a bottom layer of softened and nicely chewy coconut. I have tried a couple versions and the best one is also the simplest one.

Continue reading Beachside coconut flan

November 18, 2009

Piloncillo is the rawest form of sugar cane. The same thing as cane juice but in a solid form. It typically comes in a block, with the shape of a cone, square or round.

It can be substituted for brown sugar. However, the flavor of piloncillo is more rustic. Reminds me of foods eaten in small villages or pueblos, it is homey. It adds that extra “something”, be it depth, color, aroma, that is hard to define but amazing to taste.

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November 18, 2009
sweet potatoes with orange piloncillo syrup

Our friends Tamara and Sean are crazy foodies and fans of the richness and versatility of chilies. So after receiving the invitation to join them next week for their Thanksgiving feast, I started playing with options on what to bring; with chilies of course.

This is one of the things I came up with and can’t wait for them to try:  creamy and soft sweet potatoes bathed in a buttery orange-piloncillo syrup sprinkled, with toasted chile de arbol. How good are they? That fork in the picture I just shot accounts for my third consecutive serving today. How easy are they to make? Read below…

Continue reading Sweet potatoes with orange-piloncillo syrup and chile de árbol

November 17, 2009
Chile de Arbol-thumb-510x342-757

Chile de árbol is a very spicy, yet incredibly flavorful dried chile. It is small, but elongated and thin. It has a deep and shinny orange-red color and it is used in many, many ways. It is often crushed for very spicy table salsas, though it is also used to add flavor and a bit of heat if not opened when cooking, amongst others.

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Chile de árbol


November 5, 2009
tarascan bean soup

You know how some people become attached to a certain dish? They try it somewhere once and then want to go back to eat it again and again, or they make it at home repeatedly in an until-death-do-us-part kind of vow? Well, I am one of those people, and I have made that vow with quite a few dishes from the Mexican state of Michoacan.It surprises me how Michoacan’s cuisine has remained such a well-kept secret. It has a defined personality and a complex layering of delicious flavors like the more popular cuisines from Oaxaca and Puebla, but its dishes seem to be a bit more comforting and use fewer ingredients.

Continue reading Foods of Michoacan are Forever

October 31, 2009
Pasilla Chile 1-thumb-510x343-620

The Pasilla Chile is the dried Chilaca Chile. It is also by far the most harvested and used chile in the state of Michoacan. In some towns you can see some patios covered with mats where hundreds and thousands of Chilacas are being dried in the sun to be turned into Pasillas.

When it is fresh, it is long and shiny with a bright light green color. Once dried and with the name Pasilla, it is very long, slender, dark brown or black, with soft wrinkled skin. It has a rich, earthy and mildly spicy taste with a hint of sweetness. It is used for many things such as table sauces, soups, stews, rubs, marinades and moles (continue for more information and photos).

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Pasilla Chile


October 30, 2009
birthday cake with meringue and strawberry jam

It seems that when it comes to birthdays and cakes, most of us grown ups are like little kids too. So this year, I planned my husbands’ cake with a little help from my three young boys.

The night before, as I tucked them in bed, we talked about making an irresistible I-want-to-jump-into-that-cake kind of cake. It had to be something that could WOW him away and could also feel yummy and soft when they dipped his face in it (yep! that was their plan).

This talk led me, once again, to tell the boys stories about cakes from my childhood. Most of those cakes came from Sanborns’, a chain of stores that sells almost anything you can imagine: books, DVD’s, make-up, electronics, luggage, candies, the best ever chocolate covered raisins, marshmallows and toys. It also has great coffee-shop style restaurants with some of my favorite molletes and enchiladas. Not to forget its perfumeries and pharmacies. It is a serious knock out one-stop-shop. But most importantly, it was, and may still be, one of the most popular places to get a birthday cake.

One of the cakes that left me with a permanent impression went something like this: A couple layers of fluffy and moist vanilla cake, a foamy and soft meringue filling paired with old fashioned strawberry jam and pecans, the same soft meringue layered all over the top, some more pecans and whatever decorations you fancied.

That cake, by itself, made a party happen. It was a creation worthy of its own celebration.

Continue reading A Cake Worthy of its own Celebration

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