I am not going to make any more excuses for not keeping up with this blog of mine as much as I would like to. I am running a full fledged ice cream store in NYC, so I have come to terms with only being able to update this when I can. The other night I was fully inspired to write an entry, but now that I am writing, it is clear to me that there are about 3 entries that will need to follow. The first one is about margaritas. I have a hard time following recipes in general, but there is a Mexican cookbook that I have been loving for almost a year now, and it has been very worth my while to follow the instructions. It is called Amor y Tacos by Deborah Schneider, and I have made quite a few of her recipes. I have also loved reading through her dichos and anecdotes. Anyway, her Margaritas Sol recipe is killer, and I have made it twice very recently. Both times they were received with “these are the best margaritas that I have ever tasted”. That statement, coming from 30 year old women who drink a lot of margaritas, is a pretty major compliment. They are really well balanced with acidity and alcohol- they are just perfect. I opt out of the salted rim, and garnish with some sliced orange and a nasturtium blossom.
My grandmother brought me home the latest O magazine the other day, and in the recipe section I found this amazing photo of a blood orange salsa. I tore it out and stuck it on the fridge for us to make the next day. I didn’t copy the recipe exactly, because the photo was inspiration enough. We had just received 1/2 bushel of grapefruits and oranges from The Orange Shop in Citra, Florida, and we had the rest of the ingredients in the fridge. I segmented 1 grapefruit and 2 clementines (a bit tricky, but we had to use them up!), working over the serving bowl to catch the juices. Then I added the seeds of about 1/4 pomegranate; 1/2 an avocado, diced; 1 handful of cilantro, roughly chopped; 1/4 of a red onion, thinly sliced; and 1/2 a jalapeno pepper, thinly sliced. I seasoned it with salt, 1 tablespoon of honey, and a squeeze of lemon. The juices collect at the bottom of the bowl, and the “ceviche” marinates itself as it sits. We ate this with a special chicken dish I will share one day, along with sweet potato. My grandmother thinks it would be the perfect bed for any type of fish ceviche, and I agree. The combination of grapefruit and pomegranate is rare, but they compliment each other perfectly.
My mother often thinks of me when she goes to the market and brings me home veggies and fruits that she knows I will like. The other day she went to the Farmers Market at the Hill Stead Museum in Farmington, CT and brought me tomatillos and serrano peppers. We have found that many serrano peppers grown locally are not as spicy as the ones in Mexico. She promised that these were really spicy, and that I should make a Salsa Cruda with them. Salsa Cruda is a raw salsa, in which the tomates (tomatillos in English) are not roasted before being blended. I went through my fridge and found that I had a ton of herbs, except the only one that I was missing was cilantro. I didn’t want to have to go out and buy cilantro, but at the same time, I didn’t want to stray too far from what I wanted. I ended up adding the Japanese herb shiso, which is also known as perilla and sesame leaf. It has a flavor that combines mint, basil, and fennel in very slight undertones. It is fun to cook with, and I have also mentioned it as a possible taco shell. I absolutely loved the shiso in the salsa cruda. One would never think that it was replacing cilantro as a main ingredient; it came through as a perfect match for the tomatillos and serrano. I poured it over my black beans and was in heaven. I promise you that Shiso Salsa Cruda will be a favorite summer salsa for time eternal! To make the salsa, blend together a dozen tomatillos, 2 serranos (you can use more or less, according to your taste in spice), 1 clove garlic, a tablespoon or two of olive oil, and salt to taste. You will have about 2 cups of salsa, which should last about a week in the fridge. Use over hard-boiled eggs, with black beans, stirred into hummus, atop quesadillas, and of course with chips. !Buen provecho!
Rhubarb does not exist in Mexico, but that does not mean that Mexicans in the US can’t adopt it into their recipes and dishes. The other day I was thinking about how strawberries and rhubarb go so well together. The sweetness of the strawberries, paired with the sour tang of the rhubarb compliment each other beautifully. Mangoes are all over the place these days and they are all so sweet and delicious. I try to eat as locally as possible, but sometimes I simply cannot resist a juicy mango! I thought that the sweetness of the mango would be a nice match for the tart rhubarb, and I was right. I stewed rhubarb with a little sugar, and served it with goat milk yogurt, mint, toasted and chopped pistachios, and mango slices. Originally, the idea has been to chop the mint very finely and make it so that it was a mint yogurt, but I was so hungry when I was making this, that I completely forgot about that detail! Anyway, here is the yogurt cup that I made. I hope you enjoy the mango rhubarb combination as well!
Over the past couple of years I have gotten really into goat milk, and have fallen in love with goat milk yogurts from different farmers in the region. I love them all- some are runnier and more liquid- perfect for mixing with cereal and granola. Others are thick and creamy- perfect for topping with fruits and nuts- and eating as a dessert instead of ice cream or custard.
All of the plain local yogurts I have tried have a slight tang that is to die for. And I love when that slight tang is accentuated by the addition of something sweet, not to mask it, but to dance with it in the preparation. I find that cajeta does just that- it mambos with the yogurt. Cajeta is a Mexican goat milk caramel, made by boiling down goat milk with sugar for a long period of time, until it becomes thick and caramelized. I love cajeta on ice cream, but only recently did I discover how delicious it is with tangy yogurt. Now, instead of adding honey, I simply swirl in a spoonful of cajeta, and top with berries and nuts. It is absolutely delicious and incredibly satisfying.
As far as I know, there is no name for this condiment, so I will just call it by its adopted nickname, “Las Cebollitas”. My uncle Brian is responsible for its creation. He lives in Baja California Sur, Mexico and is a big foodie. He is also what I call an “occurrista“. An occurrista is someone who gets an idea of a flavor that they want to eat, and then puts together a whole meal based on whatever that craving was. They aren’t necessarily cooks, but they know how to get what they want and need into their mouths. They aren’t satisfied with something that is given to them either, they must doctor everything up somehow by adding this or that.
I think this is how this amazing condiment came about. He made it in the kitchen while we were waiting for lunch one day, as he normally enters 30 minutes before the meal is served and fixes something up based on what he sees around him. All of us fell in love with these “Cebollitas“, or onions, and starting adding them to our condiment spread at meals. All you do is thinly slice a white onion, either in half moons, or quartered moons, so that they are as thin as paper. Place them in a small bowl and add thinly sliced jalapeno peppers, seeds and all. Pour over some lime juice and olive oil and season with salt. The quantities are based on your own taste, but you will need about 2 limes for 1/4 of an onion, and about 1 tablespoon olive oil or so. I really can’t imagine measuring the amounts, because an occurrista wouldn’t, and this is an occurrista‘s recipe.
This is great over grilled fish, chicken, and meat. It goes well in burritos, on tacos, as a garnish on veggies or soups.
Every year we celebrate Christmas and New Years in Los Cabos, Baja California. My uncle and aunt moved here when they were recently married, and we have all been coming out to visit them for so long, that now it is like a second home to me. I really love being here. Even though there is a lot to do, the best moments are when the whole family is together and we just do nothing.
Tuna and marlin are big here in Cabo, and many people visit the peninsula just for the sport fishing that is available. There are also amazing bass, clams, scallops, and abalone. As you can tell, it is all about fish here. While we are here, we usually just stick to fish tacos from Tacos Rossi, homemade ceviche, and sushi. The sushi here is the best that I have ever had. The Mexican ingredients (cilantro, chile, avocado, mango), combined with the freshness of the fish, compliment the Japanese technique perfectly.
On a recent fishing trip this past Fall, my uncle caught 23 tuna with a friend who was visiting. They ate the fresh tuna for a week straight and froze the rest for the Winter. So yesterday for lunch my aunt made a fresh tuna salad in which she boiled the tuna in water and then mixed it with onion, celery, salt, pepper, and little bit of mayonnaise. The result was delicious- no canned tuna can compare to the real deal. We had a big tub of this tuna salad in our fridge, and there was no way I was going to leave the house for lunch today. I forgot to mention along the way that I am a tuna freak. I decided to make a Mexican-style tuna melt. I don’t usually eat tuna melts in the States, because I am very picky about how my tuna salad is prepared, and I dislike greasy sandwiches. But today I obviously found myself in a very unique situation. We had freshly made flour tortillas in the fridge (Mexico rocks) and cheese galore, and I knew that nothing could go wrong. So I heated up a tortilla in a pan and put a few pieces of thinly sliced Manchego cheese on top. Mexican manchego is different than the manchego from Spain, as it is much milder and easier to melt. I kept the heat low, so that the tortilla would not become hard, but that the cheese would melt. Then I spooned on the tuna salad, and finally added thinly sliced tomatoes and a little bit of avocado to top it off.
My parents and sister were not going to eat lunch at home, they were going to get fish tacos from Rossi. But right as I was putting everything away they arrived at the house hungry. I made the tuna quesadillas for everyone, and they all had 2. My dad said it was better than a fish taco, and even said that I should sell them! He is my biggest fan. I wanted to post this, because you can all poach your own fresh tuna at home and make this same thing, or you can use canned tuna and make your own tuna salad. The point is that it is a fun Mexican riff on an American classic. I would be curious to know what types of cheeses people use for these, and what other things they think go well in them.