This morning I taught my first real cooking class! It was so exciting to teach people one-on-one how to make some of our wonderful recipes. My cousin who lives in Chappaqua, NY (home of the Clintons for all of you who don’t know) got together with some of her friends and organized the event. We woke up to lots of snow and school cancellations, but managed to pull together the group despite our obstacles.
I taught the women how to make some of our favorite Kitchen Caravan recipes: Arugula Salad with Squash and Pomegranate, Sea Bass with Orange Chile Sauce, and the infamous Chocolate & Anise “Champurrado” Tart. The fish was a dish originally from our “Oaxacan Guelaguetza” episode from the Summer of 2007, when we used Red Snapper. This time I used Striped Bass, a much better choice as it is approved as Eco-OK by Ocean’s Alive. We dredged the skin-side of the fish in flour before slipping it into the pan, which gave each piece a really nice crispy skin. The sauce is super easy to make, and I would love to teach as many people as I can how to work with Mexican chiles, as they really broaden your possibilities in the kitchen. I think they were all surprised by how easy it is to work with dried Ancho and Guajillo chiles, and transform them into a delectable sauce.
The Champurrado Tart was another succes, and I taught the ladies each step in preparing a proper tart crust. I love making tarts, but I know that a lot of people are intimidated by working with dough. Anyway, the chocolate and anise combination makes my heart melt every time, and I was sad to not take any home. I look forward to more cooking classes in the future!
What I love about food, not just in Mexico, but just about anywhere, is that you will always discover something new. It happens to me all the time that I will notice something, and then realize that it has been around all the time, right under my nose.
The other weekend we were in Valle de Bravo, a lake resort town in Mexico State. While strolling through the main square one night we found an old man selling these small little round fruits that resembled a berry. My tita and aunt Lupita pointed out that they were green mountain tomatoes, and make a really delicious salsa. We brought them home to Rossy, who cooks for my aunt, and is from the town and conosseur of the local foods. She brought them to a boil in a pot of water, took them off the heat, and then blended them up with a little bit of white onion, and some jalapeno. The salsa was delicious- slightly acidic, and naturally smoky. You could taste the woods from where it came! We ate it with jocoque seco on baked totopos (like nacho chips).
What was fun about those tomatoes was that they were something we happened upon. Those tomatoes are not always in season, nor are they available everywhere. We could taste something new and different, something unique to where we were at that place and time. I love new discoveries!
Pico de Gallo
Pico de gallo might seem like something way too simple to put as my first blog entry, but I had a major revelation about the Mexican mixture over the holidays. At Tacos Rossy in San Jose del Cabo, renowned for being the best fish taco joint in all of Baja, I had a pico de gallo that was so good that it overturned any preconceived notions of pico that I had ever had. I thought it was strange, as I have had pico de gallo in every Mexican restaurant since I was little. It always seemed to just be this “salsa” without anything special about it. But the “Salsa Mexicana” at Rossy was somehow different. It was very dry, with little juice left over to sog up the taco. It also had a good proportion of chile and onion to tomato. Pico de gallo was no longer that “salsa” I take for granted with greasy tortilla chips, but an actual combination that takes a little bit of thought, and that can transform a dish by its balance of acidity and heat. I found myself wanting pico de gallo all the time, on whatever we were going to eat.
Yesterday I was able to finally calm my craving. I made some pico de gallo to botanear (eating appetizers) before lunch. I used three tomatoes, a little less than ½ of a white onion, and about ¾ of a jalapeño pepper. I chopped up the tomatoes and onions in a small dice about the same size, and minced the jalapeño as small as I could. Then I added a lot of salt. You need a lot of salt in a good pico to really perk up the tomatoes and make it acidic. I also used the juice of two limes. It was gorgeous. We ate it up so quickly with these baked tostadas made of 60% nopal and 40% corn we found at the Superama yesterday.
I don’t want to give anyone a recipe for this, because you really have to go by what looks good in the bowl, in terms of proportion of tomatoes, onions, and chile. Then you have to measure by taste the amount of salt and lime juice. There are no recipes for that balance, only intuition and personal satisfaction!