Goat Milk Yogurt Swirled with Cajeta and Berries

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.

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“Cebollitas”: The Easiest and Most Delicious Condiment Ever

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.

Las Cebollitas

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.

Quesadilla de Atun- A Mexican Tuna Melt

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.

Tuna Melt - Mexican Style

Tuna Melt a lo Mexicano

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.

!Buen Provecho!

Cabbage, Kohlrabi, and Carrot Salad

You might not think that this salad is Mexican, but I had something similar at a Mexican restaurant the other night and was inspired to post it.  Actually, the more that I think about it, the less Mexican it seems.  Here goes nothing. . .

This past Summer in Oregon, we visited an organic farm on the coast.  The farmer there told us that she ate kohlrabi cut in a julienne on her tacos, as if it were jicama.  That idea seemed genius to me.  The other night my friend and I went for dinner to a Mexican restaurant here in the city.  I ordered a side dish made with raw sliced cabbage, jicama, and cucumber tossed with sesame oil and toasted pumpkin seeds. We couldn’t get over how delicious it was, and I really wanted to post a salad like that on this blog.  I wanted to use kohlrabi instead of jicama, because it is a local vegetable with a similar texture and flavor.  They are both crispy and refreshing.  I decided to steam the cabbage for my version, because I love the dreamy color of purple cabbage when it is cooked.

Cabbage, Kohlrabi, and Carrot Salad

You do not really need to measure much.  I peeled 1 large carrot, 1 bulb of kohlrabi, and removed the outer layers of the purple cabbage.  I only used half the cabbage head and saved the rest for later.  I sliced the cabbage very thinly, and then grated the carrot and kohlrabi with a cheese grater.  I steamed everything lightly together and seasoned it with salt and pepper.  I then transferred them to a large bowl, where I tossed them with apple cider vinegar, lime juice, and walnut oil (you can use olive oil or sesame oil).  I then added a couple tablespoons of toasted pumpkin seeds. This is a simple side dish that is light, but appropriate for Winter. It makes a large quantity, which is enough for 4 people, and maybe more than that.  It is always nice to have a bit leftover for lunch the next day.

Turkey Enchiladas

On Sunday morning we had a Mexican brunch with some friends of ours and made Turkey Enchiladas.  I was eager to put the leftover turkey into something Mexican, as my grandmother was in town from Mexico City and I always learn something new from her cooking.  She is a little worker bee and loves to be helpful around the house, especially in the kitchen.  My mom was in charge of the menu planning, and my grandmother was the executioner of the whole project, so I cannot take any credit for what went down.  I can only vouch for the beans, which I bought from Cayuga Pure Organics, and which I helped season.  A pretty lousy performance on my part, but sometimes it’s nice when Tita and mommy cook instead.

Enchiladas is a dish that uses up old tortillas and meat.  You basically fry the tortillas in oil to soften them, fill them with your meat of choice, roll them up, place in a baking dish, and pour the sauce over them.  You then top the dish with cheese and bake in the oven. The possibilities for Enchiladas are endless because you can use whatever meat, salsa, and cheese combination that tickles your fancy.   I am going to share with you the simple tomato sauce that we used, because it was a canned tomato sauce that was very easy to put together.  This is a great salsa for Winter when fresh tomatoes are not available.

Turkey Enchiladas

Tomato Salsa

2 28-ounce cans of diced tomatoes

1/4 cup diced white onion

1- 2 jalapeno chile peppers (depends on how spicy they are)

1 clove garlic

Oil

Cilantro (a few sprigs)

Salt and a pinch of sugar (if necessary)

Blend the canned tomatoes, onion, chile, and garlic in a blender until smooth.  Heat up a tablespoon or so of oil up in a large saucepan and add the contents of the blender.  Bring to a simmer, add the cilantro, and cook for about 20 minutes or so, until it is at the flavor and thickness you like.  Remove the cilantro sprigs before serving.  My grandmother adds a little bit of sugar if she thinks the salsa is too acidic.

Makes about 4 cups.

We used queso cotija as the topping, as well as thinly sliced onion for the garnish.

Buen Provecho!

Dia de los Muertos

This past weekend my sister, her fiancée, and I threw a Halloween/Día de los Muertos party.  We set up a little altar with candles, calaveras, and saints, and made some Mexican food to go along with the theme.  I made a Tamal de Cazuela, which is a Mexican tamal casserole dish.  The casserole is made by layering masa with a filling of choice and then more masa in a dish, and baking it in the oven for about an hour.  It is kind of like a Mexican lasagna.  You can make a Tamal de Cazuela with basically any combination of vegetables and meats that you would like, as well as green or red sauces to go along.  It is much easier to make than tamales, which are individually wrapped in corn husks and steamed.  Emma and I actually made a Tamal de Cazuela last year for our Dia de los Muertos episode.  I honestly had not realized that I was repeating the same dish until recently.  The dish just makes perfect sense for familiar gatherings- its comforting, delicious, and easy to serve.

The secret to the Tamal de Cazuela is the ingredients of course.  For the party I made two different kinds; one with chicken and guajillo sauce, and one with Queso Oaxaca and roasted poblano peppers.  The masa requires corn flour that is specially prepared to make tamales.  I bought mine at a Mexican panaderia on 110th and Lexington, but you can find it at most Latin food markets.  I also used Flying Pigs Farm Lard, which in my opinion makes a huge difference in flavor.  Lard is a healthier fat than butter or vegetable shortening, and if bought from sustainable farms, has incredible flavor and quality.  For last year’s dish, Emma and I had opted to use olive oil as the fat for the dish. Either one is fine.  For the chicken filled casserole, I bought a whole chicken and made a broth from scratch, along with some carrots, onions, celery, and aromatics.  I then shredded the cooked chicken to use as the filling, and used the broth to flavor the masa as well.  All of these little steps might seem trivial, but they make a really big difference in flavor.  The recipe that I used for the party was from Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen.   If you want another good recipe, check out last year’s Kitchen Caravan episode.

 

Apples with Cajeta and Pecans

Manzanas con Cajeta y Nuez

Apples with Cajeta and Pecans

Apples with Cajeta and Pecans

This is not so much a recipe, but a simple preparation that makes for a delicious Autumn dessert.  Pecans and cajeta go so well together.  I was first introduced to the combination when Emma and I were in Valle de Bravo last January.  My aunt Lupita (whose new nickname is Guadalajira) taught us a simple dessert, which was just campechanas topped with vanilla ice cream, cajeta, and pecans. Campechanas in Valle are flaky and crunchy pastries similar in texture to a baked puffed pastry or phyllo.  The word “campechana” is used for other foods in other areas.  Although it is so easy to put together, the dish feels like one of the most indulgent things you can allow yourself.  And you should indeed allow yourself!

Because I don’t want to put together such an indulgent dessert if I am eating alone, I came up with something a little lighter, but to the same effect.  All this preparation requires is thinly sliced apples (I prefer green varieties like Ginger Golds or Granny Smiths) topped with cajeta and toasted pecans.  You will need 1 apple for 2 people, 2 tablespoons of cajeta (max!), and 2 tablespoons of nuts.  Each ingredient goes a long way.  It is as simple as it looks, but there are a few things I should mention.  Apples turn brown if they are cut and left out.  So if you are going to make this for anyone but yourself, be sure to slice them right before serving, or keep them in water with a few squeezes of lemon juice in the fridge.  Toast the pecans an allow them to cool before chopping them up.  They will not be as crunchy and provide a nice textural difference to the cajeta if you chop them right after toasting, or if you don’t toast at all.

I love the crunch of the fresh apples, which is slightly sweet and slightly sour.  The cajeta is what makes this dessert, as it is rich and indulgent, but a little goes a long way.  And the nuts add more crunch and depth to this.  You will love this simple preparation with Fall’s favorite fruit!