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.. 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) and/or thighs

1/2 brick achiote paste

3 Tb olive oil

1 tsp dried oregano

2 tsp sea salt

several grinds black pepper

1 tsp or more to taste Tapatio sauce

Juice of 3 large Seville Oranges

OR

1 1/2 Tb  juice from one lime

1 Tb juice from half a lemon

1/3  cup  juice from 2 small juice orange

1/3 cup juice from one small grapefruit or half a large grapfruit

red onionsPickled onions:

1 red onion

1 Tb salt (I like to use sea salt)

Juice from 3 limes

Make the marinade:

achiote with olive oil oregano and salt

In a non-reactive container, mix achiote paste with olive oil, using a fork to make a smooth paste. Add oregano, salt and pepper and mix well.

Add the Tapatio sauce and  citrus juices and stir well until no lumps remain.

achiote sauceStab the chicken a few times on both sides to let the marinade permeate it. Submerge in marinade so that all sides of the meat are covered. Marinade 2 -4 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 non-reactive 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

Serve with pickled onions and  fresh tortillas. Or make tacos or tostadas with them.

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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 .

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.

Pozole

Oy vey! Nice Jewish girl learns to cook with pork products! My friend Jann made this hearty and delicious pozole with her Mexican husband, Luciano, for their  New Years Eve parties. She gave me her recipe using pork shoulder, but the second time I made it I used the leaner pork loin.

Cooked with chilies and hominy and topped with cabbage, oregano, radishes and cilantro, it makes a rich and satisfying stew.

This recipe made 10 servings, including leftovers.

Ingredients:

1 gallon chicken broth. For the cross-cultural experience, use Roz’s Jewish Chicken Soup.
4 dried red chilies, such as ancho or pasilla chili
2 fresh poblano chili peppers
2 Tb olive oil
2 onions
2 1/2 pound pork loin.
1 Tb dried oregano
1 head garlic.
3 bay leaves
1 tsp cayenne
1 Tb paprika (Spanish smoked paprika adds a nice smoky flavor)
Several grinds black pepper
1 Tb salt to taste
2 chayotes, peeled, seed area removed, and chopped
39- oz and 15-oz cans of white or purple hominy (maíz blanco o morado)

Condiments:

1 Tb dried oregano
Black pepper
1 small onion, chopped fine
1 cup cilantro leaves
1 small green cabbage, shredded
A bunch of radishes, sliced thin
1 jalapeno, sliced thinly
4 limes, sliced into wedges
 

Bring the soup stock to boil in a large pot.

Heat a heavy frying pan and toast the dried red chilies and the poblano peppers. Place them in a covered bowl to cool, and then remove the stems and seed pods. Throw them in the stock pot

Pour a tablespoon of olive oil to the frying pan and cook the sliced onions until soft. Slice the poblano chiles and fry up with the onions, then add to the soup. Smash the garlic bulb with a molcajete or mortar and pestle, chop it finely and add it to the soup. Add bay leaves, salt, paprika, black pepper and cayenne.

Cut the pork into large (about 3 x 3) chunks and trim extra fat. Pour another tablespoon of oil to the frying pan and add the pork, sprinkling salt and dried oregano on each side. Brown pork on all sides then put in the stock. After pork is browned, add  2 ladles of hot broth to the frying pan to deglaze it. Using a metal spatula, loosen all the browned bits  into the broth and then pour it back into the pot.

Simmer the soup at low-medium heat for 1 ½ hours.

Pour the soup into a large container and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, remove the congealed fat from the top of the soup. Pour the broth through a sieve into a large pot, and heat it. Pour the solids into a bowl. Remove the red chili and strip whatever skin from it that you can. Put in a blender with 2 cups of broth and run blender on high, then add to the broth in the pot, rinsing the blender with broth several times to get all the chili out.

While broth is cooking, shred or chop the meat, discarding bones and fat, and then add the shredded meat to the broth. Add chopped chayotes and hominy. Adjust salt to taste. Simmer for 30 minutes, until chayote is tender, and then scoop into bowls.

Top with condiments, squeeze a bit of lime in, roll up a few warm corn tortillas to dip in the soup, y disfrútelo.

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.

Chayote Salad



This spiny chayote reminds me of an old man who needs a shave! I bought the chayotes from an elderly Chinese woman selling them in her front yard on Fruitvale Avenue in East Oakland. They were so prickly that I had to use oven mitts to handle them at home and use a fork to steady it while I peeled it with a knife.

Chayote squash was grown by the Aztecs who named it chayotli in their Nahuatl language. I combined ingredients of Mexican and Spanish origin to make this salad. I drew inspiration for this recipe from Ensalada de chayote written by my friends and gourmet role models, Victor M. Valle and Mary Lau Valle, in their fascinating book, Recipe of Memory: Five Generations of Mexican Cuisine

Chayotes come in smooth skinned varieties as well, but Victor and I agree that the spiny ones are more flavorful. I suppose I could make some sort of analogy to life or raising kids who are hard to handle but, well I’ll let you finish that sentence.

Ingredients

1 large or 2 medium chayotes

about 10 Kalamata olives

15-oz  can drained garbanzo beans

1/2 tsp minced fresh oregano or 1/4 tsp dried oregano.

1 cucumber, peeled

1 small avocado

two radishes

¼ cup cilantro leaves

handful of fresh lettuce leaves for each bowl

Dressing:

2 Tb extra virgin olive oil

2 Tb fresh lime juice,

½ tsp salt

pinch of chipotle chili powder

Boil whole chayote with 2 cloves smashed garlic and a tsp salt for 30 minutes until tender. Let cool in refrigerator, then peel, remove pit, and slice. Add  kalamata olives, garbanzo beans, and oregano.

Dressing : Whisk 2 Tb garlic olive oil, 2 Tb lime juice, ½ tsp salt, with a pinch of chipotle powder. Pour over salad. Let sit for several hours.

Cut a peeled cucumber and a small avocado into bite sized chunks. Gently toss in salad with  two sliced and quartered radishes and ¼ cup sliced cilantro leaves.