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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Manzanas con Cajeta y Nuez
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!