Pollo pibil – Achiote chicken

DSC01318Achiote paste is used in Mayan Yucatán cusine, the most famous dish being cochinita pibil (literally pork cooked in a pit). The deep red paste is made with ground annatto seed. Friends from tropical countries have told me that they just went to their achiote tree and broke open the pods to use the seeds for a fresh flavor. For the rest of us, buy it in a  3 ½ ounce brick in a small paper box at a Mexican market.

Yucatán cooks use sour oranges, called su’uts’ pak’áal in the Mayan language, which are also known as Seville oranges. I found some at the San Francisco Heart of the City Farmer’s Market in UN Plaza. If they are hard to find in the your area, you can substitute juices from one orange, one lime, one lemon and one grapefruit.

The chicken is traditionally served with red onions which have been pickled with salt and lime juice.

Lorena del Carmen, a Mayan woman I know here in Berkeley, inspired me with her recipe. She made her chicken a bit differently though. She first boiled it, then split it in half and painted the achiote mixture on the inside of the chicken. She then baked it. But I’m following her recipe for the onions. Although she didn’t measure the ingredients, I estimated the amounts from watching her make them.

Ingredients:

ingredients for achiote chicken w grapefruit, lime, lemon, orange and achiote del MayaMarinade:

one pack of chicken breast halves (about 5 or 6 halves)

1/2 brick achiote paste

1 Tb olive oil

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp or more to taste Tapatio sauce

2 tsp sea salt

several grinds black pepper

Juice of 3 large Seville Oranges

OR

1 1/2 Tb  juice from one lime

2 Tb juice from one lemon

1/3   cup  juice from one orange

1/3 cup juice from one small grapefruit

red onionsPickled onions:

1 red onion

1 Tb salt (I like to use sea salt)

Juice from 3 limes

Make the marinade:

Mix achiote paste with olive oil, using a fork to make a smooth paste, then add the juices, oregano and salt, and stir well until no lumps remain.

Trim fat off breast halves and cut each into about 3 pieces, about 3 x 4 inches. Stab the pieces a few times to let the marinade permeate them. Submerge in marinade so that all sides of the meat are covered. Marinade several hours.

onions sliced, salted and w lime juice marinadeAfter you put the chicken in the marinade, make the pickled onions. . Slice a red onion thinly.  Put a layer of onions in a ceramic bowl and sprinkle salt  over it, and continue to layer with salt, using  a total of 1 Tb salt. Squeeze 3 limes over the onions.  mix with your fingers, and then cover with plastic wrap and set aside to marinate until chicken is cooked. The onions will soften when pickled. Stir every so often while the onions are pickling. Serve with the chicken.

Grill meat on barbecue over medium flame.

If you’re not up for barbecuing, you can place the chicken in a shallow baking pan under the broiler for 15 minutes until they brown.

serving with onionsGarnish with fresh cilantro and serve with pickled onions and  fresh tortillas. Or make tacos with them.

Camarones al Mojo de Ajo – Garlic Shrimp

On our first date, my husband and I cooked Camarones al mojo de ajo. We’ve been in love ever since.

I love the Spanish word for garlic clove: diente, which also means tooth. And there is some resemblance, come to think about it.

serves 4

1 ½ lbs large raw shrimp
1 head of garlic
¼ cup dry white wine  such as Chardonnay
2 Tb olive oil
sea salt to taste

Defrost shrimp in a colander under cold running water for 7 minutes.

Smash the garlic head in a molcajete (mortar and pestle made of volcanic rock). This will loosen the peel, separate the dientes, and smash the garlic to release the flavor. Discard the garlic peel and finely mince the garlic.

Heat olive oil in a wok or large heavy frying pan.  Add garlic and the shrimp. Squeeze in a large lime and add wine. Stir until the shrimp turn completely pink. Salt to taste. I used a few grinds of smoked sea salt.

Serve with Rainbow Roasted Vegetables, tortillas and .

Mango, Que Rico El Mango

(with apologies to Perez Prado)

Summertime brings fresh ripe mangoes at low prices to the produce markets.

Peel them with a sharp knife or vegetable peeler, cut the firm yet soft fruit.

Eat them as is, and let the juice run down your chin as you suck the last bit of goodness from the pit.

Sprinkle the slices with lime juice, sea salt, and chili powder or cayenne to highlight the flavor. You can use Tajín (ta-HEEN), a condiment with chili powder, dried lime and salt, which can be purchased at Mexican grocers.

Put fresh slices in a frosty Mango Lassi

Mix with barbecued shrimp for

or make Sticky Rice with Mango with sweet coconut milk for dessert.

However you enjoy it, you will agree, “¡Que rico es!”

Did you ever seen a (Mango) Lassi?

This thick and sweet Indian smoothie is a refreshing treat on a hot summer’s day. It’s low in fat and sugar. The yogurt and lime juice give it a nice tang. I sprinkle a little Tajín, (chili powder with dried lime and salt), on top for zing and added complexity. (I buy Tajín at Mexican grocery stores). For a special treat, take a bite of dark chocolate and hold it in your mouth while sipping the lassi.

Right now there are ripe mangoes at a good price at the corner markets and produce stores. When I can’t find them I use frozen mangoes from Trader Joe’s. You can substitute sugar for the agave if you prefer.

I prefer the lassi made with dairy products, but since I’m lactose intolerant, I have to use lactose-free milk. I couldn’t find that at work the other day, so made it from coconut water and coconut milk. It was pretty good. Here are both recipes:

Use 2 ripe, soft (but not mushy) mangoes. Refrigerate ingredients before using, or add ice to cool down the drink.

Dairy Lassi:
2 cups fresh or frozen mango (2 medium or one large mango)
¼ banana (¼ cup)
½ cup 1 % milk
½ cup nonfat plain Greek or Mediterranean yogurt (I buy Karoun brand at Middle Eastern markets)
½ tsp lime juice
2 tsp agave nectar

 Combine ingredients in blender. Pulse until fruit breaks up, and then liquefy Lassi. If using fresh mango, add some ice until desired coldness is reached. If it is too thick, add more milk. Sprinkle a bit of Tajín on top.

Because the coconut water I buy has sugar in it, I don’t add any more sugar to this lassi. Drink the rest of the can for a refreshing treat!

Coconut Mango Lassi (vegan)

2 cups fresh or frozen mango (2 medium or one large mango)
¼ banana (¼ cup)
½ cup coconut water (I use canned coconut water with added pulp)
½ cup coconut milk (use low-fat for fewer calories)
½ tsp lime juice

 Combine ingredients in blender. Pulse until fruit breaks up, and then liquefy lassi. If using fresh mango, add some ice until it reaches desired coldness. If it is too thick, add more coconut water. Sprinkle a bit of Tajín on top.

Summer Corn Salad

Today’s the first official day of summer, and it’s a scorcher! I made a corn salad to cool  off.

I’ve had a version of  this with black beans, but I like pintos better.  My husband Jesus says leave out the beans altogether. You do what you want.

Use a ripe yet firm avocado and stir gently unless you want a guacamole texture. The lime and Tajín chili powder add zing.

Eat as a salad or as a dip with tortilla chips.
Serves 3:

3 cobs of corn

1 avocado – ripe yet firm

1 red bell pepper

3 Tb (to taste salsa), such as salsa casera

¼ cup Frijoles pintos (Mexican pinto beans) (optional)

½ tsp (to taste) sea salt

2 Tb (to taste) fresh cilantro leaves

Juice of one lime

chili powder or Tajín (chili powder with salt and lime)

Boil corn until done, about 10 minutes. Let cool. You can do this ahead of time. Using a large sharp knife on a cutting board, strip the kernels off the cobs.

Chop red pepper, and cilantro leaves and stir into corn. Stir in beans, salsa, salt and lime juice. Slice the avocado and gently stir in or it will smoosh! Sprinkle with Tajín or chili powder.

Twice Cooked Fajitas

For Cinco de Mayo I am making fajitas: spicy from two kinds of chili,  fragrant with lime, and tipsy on beer.  This recipe was inspired by my late brother-in-law and Texas barbecue master, Larry Luna. The juicy and flavorful chicken is twice cooked, first on the grill, then braised in the oven with its marinade.  I made  chicken fajitas  here, but you can also make them with skirt steak. Marinade the steak for at least 3 hours, grill it whole, then cut across the grain into strips before braising it in the marinade.


Serves 4

¼ cup boiling water

3 dried chilies such as Chile California, stems removed

2 jalapeños

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp salt

1 cup light-colored beer such as Tecate

2 limes, juiced; zest peeled in long strips

1 whole boneless, skinless chicken breast fat trimmed and sliced,  or  2-3 lb skirt steak.

1 small onion, sliced

4 bell peppers (1 red and 3 green), seeded and cut into strips

2 Tb olive oil

If using skirt steak, slice against the grain and cut into strips. Trim off the fat. Using a tenderizing mallet, pound each strip so that the tenderizing marks show. This is a good way to work out your frustrations and aggressions.

Add chilies to boiling water and let soak for at least 15 minutes. Peel lime zest with vegetable peeler into a long strip, then juice limes. Pour beer, 1 Tb olive oil, and lime juice in blender. Add chilies, jalapeños, soaking water and other seasonings to beer mixture. Whir in blender. Trim fat off of breast, cut into strips, and marinate for an hour or more.


Place chicken on grill, reserving marinade. Put bell peppers and onion in a grill wok and toss with a tablespoon of olive oil.  Grill over medium heat until chicken and onions and bell peppers begin to char. (You can also use a wok or heavy pan over the stove).

Heat oven to 300’ Pour marinade into a casserole or clay pot. Add cooked chicken, peppers and onions and lime zest. Bake for 20 minutes. Garnish with cilantro leaves and avocado slices. Serve with tortillas, Frijoles pintos (Mexican pinto beans) and  Sonia’s guacamole.

Spicy Salmon Steaks with greens

This easy fish dinner is a bit spicy, moist and colorful. I made it first with spinach and the second time with red Swiss chard. If using chard, add it with the other vegetables. Spinach can be added at the last few minutes, since it only needs to wilt. You could even use both!

1 lb salmon steaks – 2 steaks

2 cloves garlic, crushed and diced

1 tsp fresh rosemary needles

¼ tsp red chili pepper flakes

several grinds of black pepper

several shakes sea salt

½ lime or lemon

1 red bell pepper, chopped

5 mushrooms, sliced

1 bunch Swiss Chard, both stems and leaves, chopped

OR /and one bunch spinach, de-stemmed

1 tsp olive oil


Heat olive oil in heavy skillet. Add rosemary and garlic. Wash salmon and sprinkle both sides with salt and chili and black pepper. Squeeze lime or lemon on both sides. Place in pan on top of herbs on medium flame. Add chopped red bell pepper, mushrooms, and chopped red chard on the sides of the fish. Cook about 8 minutes, until fish browns. Turn fish over. If using spinach, add it to cover fish, and cover pan. Cook for 5 minutes.

I served this with red Quinoa in a heart shape for Valentine’s Day