Huevos con nopalitos (Eggs with Young Cactus Pads)

nopales con huevos

Nopal

Nopales (no-PA-les) are flat spiky cactus pads of the Nopal (no-PAUL) or prickly pear cactus. Nopalitos (no-pa-LI-tos) are the young pads suitable for eating. They can be cooked and eaten after removing the spikes.

nopal pad

You can buy nopalitos in Mexican grocery stores, de-spiked and sold whole, or chopped into little squares and tucked into a baggie. This is one instance where I go for the processed foods, although I have thought from time to time of planting a nopal in the front yard. The chopped nopalitos will last up to 3 days in the fridge. Similar to okra, nopales get gooey when cooked, while retaining a nice crunch.

ingredients

I combined the nopalitos with onions, red bell pepper and tomato for color and flavor and stirred them into scrambled eggs.

Serves 2

1 nopal pad, de-spiked (makes about 1/3 cup chopped)

¼ onion

1 tsp olive oil

1 small red bell pepper, copped

¼ large tomato, or 1 small Roma tomato, chopped

5 large eggs

¼ tsp salt

sprinkle of cayenne pepper to taste (optional)

several grinds or shakes of black pepper

several sprigs of chopped cilantro for garnish

saute vegetables

Chop onion and sauté in olive oil over medium heat a couple of minutes until it begins to soften. Add nopalitos and red bell pepper and cook about 5 minutes.

cook tomatoes with vegetables

Stir in tomatoes and cook several more minutes until the tomatoes soften. Meanwhile, beat the eggs and add salt and peppers.

Add the eggs to the vegetables and stir until the eggs are cooked to your liking.

Garnish with cilantro and top with salsa if you desire. Serve with hot tortillas or quesadillas (tortillas heated on a comal or heavy skillet and sprinkled with a bit of cheese).

Holy Mole

I once spent the better part of a day making mole (MO-le), the Mexican chocolate – chili sauce, by toasting and grinding seeds, chiles and tortillas. It was fun and adventurous and it came out well, but it was a lot of work.

But when I want an easy meal after work, I use jarred or boxed prepared mole.

Stir in 1/4 cup peanut butter to the mole.

then stir in 1/2 cup Roz’s Jewish Chicken Soup (or boxed or canned broth). Add more broth for jarred mole, as it is thicker.

Stir well over medium heat. Add cooked chicken pieces and heat in mole sauce. Garnish with cilantro if desired.

For many years I used the Dona Maria mole in the jar. You can wash out the jar afterwards and have a new drinking glass! My daughter is in college across the country and can’t find mole in the grocery stores. I discovered Rogelio Bueno mole available in boxes, which are better to ship than the breakable jars.

I served mole with warm corn tortillas, frijoles pintos and Corn Salad for dinner.

It’s easy to make mole enchiladas with this. Set aside chicken in mole sauce, and pour some mole sauce to cover a plate. Warm corn tortillas until pliable, then dip both sides in the mole sauce. Fill with the chicken. You can add frijoles pintos to the filling if desired. Place enchiladas on a baking dish coated with nonstick spray. Bake for 20 minutes or microwave for 6 minutes. Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves if desired.

You can make vegan or vegetarian enchiladas by using Roz’s Jewish vegan version Soup in the mole sauce, and filling them with frijoles pintos.

Calabacitas (Spicy Squash Casserole)

I make this every summer when squash and corn ripen. My sister Leanna grows beautiful squash in her sun soaked Southern California garden. We made calabacitas (call-ah-ba-SEE-tas) with it when she visited me.

I discovered the recipe in the children’s book Carlos and the Squash Plant / Carlos y la planta de calabaza by Jan Romero Stevens. It’s a tale of a boy who won’t wash his ears until a squash plant grows out of his ears. His mom serves him calabacitas when he finally washes the plant out.

I put my own touch on her recipe, by substituting olive oil for margarine, adding oregano, red bell pepper and tomato for color. Our friends Victor and Mary Lau Valle, who are master chefs,  brought us homegrown squash and oregano and taught me Victor’s mother’s version, using the Mexican cheeses asadero and cotija. (Victor and Mary are the authors of Recipe of Memory:Five Generations of Mexican Cuisine)

asadero cheese

 

Asadero is a Mexican mozzarella and melts wonderfully. Although it is a low-fat cheese, it has a wonderful buttery taste not usually associated with mozzarella.

 

 

 

 

Oaxaca cheese I’ve also used Oaxaca cheese with good results. The cotija we used was a powdery cheese in a bag, (not the kind that comes in a brick.) It made a nice crunchy crust on the casserole when we broiled it. I found my cheeses and chilies in the local Mexican market.

Ingredients:

IMG_3139

2 Poblano  peppers

2 jalapeños (add more jalapeños for extra heat)

2 cobs of corn

4 Tb olive oil, divided

1 onion, diced

sea salt

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tsp dried oregano or 2 tsp fresh oregano

5 small to medium summer squash  (I used sunburst and zucchini)

1 red bell pepper, diced

3 Roma tomatoes, seeds scooped out and chopped

1 1/4 cups coarsely grated or chopped Asadero or Oaxaca cheese. If you can’t find these, substitute Monterey Jack.

1/2 cup powdered cotija cheese

1/4 cup cilantro leaves to garnish

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350′

Place chilies directly on a gas flame until they char, then turn until all sides char. If you don’t have a gas stove, use the barbecue. And if you don’t have a barbecue, then char them on a heavy comal or frying pan placed over a burner on high. Place charred chilies in a small pot and cover until they are cool enough to handle. ???????????????????????????????The chilies will sweat and the skin will soften.

Cook the corn on the cob in the microwave.  Leave the husks on and run water over them, then place them on a large plate and cook for 7 minutes. Let them cook while you cook the other vegetables.

tomatoes scooped out

Cut tomatoes in quarters, lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and squeeze out as much juice as you can. Sprinkle a pinch of salt over the tomatoes and let them sit while you are cooking the other vegetables.

Chop the onion first, then chop the squash and red bell pepper while the onion cooks.

IMG_2075

Pour 2 Tb olive oil in large frying pan or wok and heat on medium until it begins to shimmer. Add onions and turn heat to low.  Cook onions about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are translucent.

Raise the heat to medium and add squash and garlic with oregano and a pinch of salt. Saute squash until it is beginning to brown on all sides and onions begin to crisp. Put them in a large bowl.

Saute red bell pepper in another Tb of oil until it begins to char. Add it to the onion and squash in the bowl.

cooking tomatoes

Squeeze out remaining juice from tomatoes and chop them. Saute the chopped tomatoes and a pinch of salt in another Tb of olive oil. Be sure to spread the tomatoes out so that they can caramelize. Add 1 tsp fresh oregano, and cook tomatoes over medium heat until they are mostly dry, Caramelizing the tomatoes concentrates their flavor – they are so delicious!

???????????????????????????????While tomatoes are cooking, remove the chilies from the pot. Put on some thin latex gloves to protect your hands. Slice the chilies open lengthwise and remove the stem and seed pod. Scrape the charred parts from the skin, then scrape the seeds and ribs from the inside. Keep some seeds if you want spicier calabacitas. Julienne the chilies into thin strips.

 

Add the chilies and cooked tomatoes to the vegetables in the bowl.

Remove the husks and ends of the corn cobs from the cooked corn. Hold the cob on a large plate and use a large knife to cut the kernels from the cob. Stir the corn in with the other vegetables.

vegetables in bowl

Stir in 1 cup of the grated Asadero, Oaxaca or Jack cheese. Spray a flat casserole or 11′ x 8″ cake pan with non-stick spray, and pour the vegetables and cheese into it.

Sprinkle the rest of the Asadero cheese on top of the calabacitas. Then sprinkle with cotija powdered cheese.

Bake at 350′ for 20 minutes.

Move a rack to the upper third of the oven and turn on the broiler.

baked calabacitas

 

Place under the broiler for 3 -5 minutes, until the cheese turns a golden brown.

serving with cilantro

Sprinkle with cilantro and serve.

Delicious served with corn tortillas to soak up the cheesy sauce. You can mix it in with Frijoles pintos (Mexican pinto beans)

Got leftovers? Add them to chilaquilas

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.

Cocido de Res – Mexican Beef Stew


After 25 years of marriage, my husband, Jesús, suddenly told me “You know my favorite food is caldo de res. My mom used to make it for me.” It took him that long to tell me! (In California it’s known more as cocido de res, so I titled the blog that.) So I called his mom, Conchita, and I got the recipe. Of course I tweaked it a bit, but he loved the results since the broth was so rich.

I used the leftover broth from making the chicken for Enchiladas Rojas for 15 Hungry Dancers. You could also go cross-cultural and use Roz’s Jewish Chicken Soup or go the easy route and use boxed or canned broth. When you add the bones and beef to broth and slow cook it, you will get an incredibly rich broth.

I went to the local Mexican market in Berkeley,  Mi Tierra, and the carnicero (butcher) cut up the meat for me on a giant band saw.

If you don’t have chilies, you can substitute 1 tsp ancho chili powder (or more if you like it spicier).

Makes about 12 servings

Ingredients:
1 gallon (16 cups)  chicken or beef broth. If not using the broth fromEnchiladas Rojas for 15 Hungry Dancers or Tamales de pollo,  add the following ingredients to Roz’s Jewish Chicken Soup  or other plain chicken or beef broth:
3 ancho chilies
1 tsp. chipotle powder
3 Tb cumin powder (comino)
2 Tb. dried oregano
 
2 chopped onions
1 sliced bell pepper
6 minced garlic cloves
 
2 cups diced Roma (plum) tomatoes or 15 oz can diced tomatoes (fire roasted is nice)
6 – oz can tomato paste
1 Tb. salt to taste
1/2 tsp black pepper
 

Boil the broth in a large pot. Toast the chilies on a heavy skillet until soft and slightly blackened.  Remove and let cool a few minutes, then place in a plastic bag. After it’s completely cool, about 20 minutes, remove the skin, stems and seeds and add to the boiling broth. If you want a spicier stew,  add some of the seeds to the broth.

Toast the chili powder, comino, and oregano on the skillet a few minutes until fragrant then add to broth.

Pour a tsp of olive oil in the skillet and add the chopped onions and bell peppers, stirring over medium flame, until softened. Add garlic and stir until fragrant, then add to broth. Add tomatoes and tomato paste, black pepper and salt.

1 pound beef chuck roast, cut into cubes against the grain

1 pound beef short ribs, cut into cubes against the grain

2 Tb olive oil.

Salt and pepper to sprinkle on beef

Vegetables:

2 bell peppers, stem, ribs and seeds removed

1 pasilla chili, stem removed.

3 large carrots, peeled and sliced in rounds

3 large red potatoes, peeled and chopped in bite-size chunks

2 large chayotes , peeled, seed area removed, and chopped in bite-size chunks

3 cobs sweet corn, cut into rounds (use a large knife)

Garnish:

cilantro leaves

avocado slices

lemon or lime juice

Heat olive oil in a heavy skillet. Sprinkle beef with salt and black pepper, and add to the skillet in batches, browning on both sides.  Then add it to broth. Pour the soup into a crock pot and cook on low for 5 hours.

Transfer the whole soup to a large pot, add vegetables to the broth and bring to a boil. Cook for 30 more minutes until vegetables are tender. Adjust salt to taste. You can skim the fat off the top of the soup and serve. Or you can transfer it to a large container and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight. The vegetables will absorb the flavors of the broth and impart their flavors as they sit in the broth all night. Remove the congealed fat from the top of the soup before serving.

Serve garnished with fresh cilantro leaves, a slice or two of avocado, and a squeeze of lemon or lime, with warm  or fresh baguette (we are in Berkeley after all).

Enchiladas Rojas for 15 Hungry Dancers

It’s dress rehearsal time again for my daughter’s dance company, and the parents are assigned to bring food for each meal. Sonia told me they needed a break from pasta, so we decided on enchiladas.

I made 21 enchiladas in a ¼ sheet baking pan. I made 10 more for the vegetarians, using pepper jack slices crumbled into Frijoles pintos along with the vegetables. You can make the broth below without the chicken for a vegetarian sauce.  I topped them with the heated sauce, more pepper jack, fresh cilantro leaves and olives after baking.

Broth ingredients:

16 cups (1 gallon) of water
2 chopped onions
8 minced garlic cloves
1 tsp. chipotle powder
3 Tb cumin powder (comino)
2 Tb. dried oregano
2 cups diced Roma (plum) tomatoes or 15 oz can diced tomatoes (fire roasted is nice)
1 sliced bell pepper
2 Tb. salt to taste
8 each pasilla and California chilies
6 – oz can tomato paste
1 whole chicken
 
Vegetables:
3 large carrots, peeled and sliced in rounds
3 large red potatoes, peeled and chopped  in bite-size chunks
3 large chayote, peeled, seed area removed, and chopped in bite-size chunks

2 Tb flour

Non-stick spray

21 corn tortillas for chicken enchiladas, plus 10 more for bean and cheese ones

1 can black olives

1 cup cotija cheese

1 bunch fresh cilantro

Avocados to garnish

Ideally the best way to make this is to make the chicken first, then let it cool enough to handle. Pour the broth into a container and refrigerate it until the fat congeals, then remove it. Make the sauce from the defatted broth. I didn’t have the time to do this, so made it all in one day. I used a fat separator cup to de-fat the broth. This nifty little gadget pours out the broth from the bottom of the cup as the grease rises; I then discard the fat.

Making the chicken: For this batch, I boiled a whole chicken with the spices, onions and other ingredients above.  Toast the chilies on a comal or heavy skillet first to maximize their flavor. Reserve 2 Tb of tomato paste for the sauce. I used pretty much the same recipe I used for Tamales de pollo Chicken  Tamales. It’s true you have to watch out for the chicken bones and you will get the grease, but the broth will be richer and  it’s more economical than boneless breasts, especially if the chicken is on sale!

After 40 minutes, I add the carrots, potatoes and chayote. After the chicken has cooked an hour, I turn off the heat and pull the chicken out of the broth into a large bowl. Since I was running out of time, I set the bowl inside a larger bowl (actually the bottom of my salad spinner) that I filled with a layer of ice cubes, to cool down the chicken. Using a fork and knife, I pulled the meat off the bones until it’s cool enough to handle.

I discard the skin, gristle and bones, and use my hands to shred the chicken. I then pour a cup or two of broth into the chicken, mixing it with my hands, so that the shredded chicken can absorb the flavors. You can cook it in a frying pan for 15 minutes to help it absorb the broth. Save the leftover broth to make sauce and   or Cocido de Res – Mexican Beef Stew

Mix some beans (Frijoles pintos) and the vegetables (carrots, potatoes and chayote) into the shredded chicken.

Making the sauce: This will make a nice spicy sauce. Pour about 4 cups of broth into a fat separator cup. Pour the defatted broth into a blender and discard the fat.  Add 2 Tb flour and 2 Tb tomato paste. Fish out the chili peppers and bell peppers from the pot and add them to the sauce. Whir in the blender a few minutes until smooth. I don’t peel the chili pods or discard the seeds. They just go into the sauce. If you don’t want such spicy sauce, you can discard the seeds and you can add more tomato paste. But remember, the sauce will taste hotter alone than it will be over the enchiladas. The tortillas are bland, as is the cheese, and the cilantro and avocado will cool it down a bit too. Heat the sauce in a medium saucepan for about 20 minutes, stirring until thickened. Adjust salt and let cool enough to handle.

Assembling the enchiladas: Preheat oven to 375’ and grease a large pan with nonstick spray. Pour a few inches of sauce into a shallow flat-bottomed bowl. Place a large plate nearby. Heat a comal or heavy griddle or skillet and place one or two tortillas on it until they are hot and softened, and barely crisp. Take out one of the tortillas and briefly immerse each side in the sauce until it is coated with the sauce, then place it on the plate.

Take a few tablespoons of the chicken mixture (double-check with your fingers that you have removed all the little rib bones) and place it inside the tortilla. Then roll it up and place it seam side down on the greased pan. Repeat. It’s nice to have a partner place the tortillas on the comal for you. When the pan is full, place it in the oven for 20 minutes, until the tortillas begin to dry out.

While enchiladas are baking, crumble cotija cheese in a small bowl, and add a few handfuls of cilantro leaves. Open a can of black olives and drain it. Heat remaining sauce to boiling. When enchiladas have baked, pour a line of sauce down the middle of the enchiladas. Sprinkle the cotija cheese – cilantro mix over them and place a black olive in the middle of each enchilada. Nice served with soft sliced avocados.

Buñuelos

My favorite New Year’s Eve memories include one spent with my in-laws in a small country town in South Texas. We went to the Knights of Columbus hall, where we joined couples of all ages dancing in a big circle to Mexican polkas and boleros. The men wore cowboy hats and the women danced in high heels. Most of the songs were about love, but I remember a few about chickens.
When we came back to the house, my mother-in-law, Conchita, fried up delicious buñuelos; orange and cinnamon scented flour tortillas rolled in cinnamon sugar. We’ve made them every New Year’s morning since.

This year I added orange zest to the dough to amp up the flavor and fried them in coconut oil instead of canola oil. They were the best ever!

Makes 15 buñuelos

Cinnamon powder, divided. 1 tsp for dough and 1 Tb for coating

Sugar, divided. 1 tsp for dough and ½ cup for coating

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 Tb baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

2 Tb butter at room temperature

½ cup orange juice from one large orange

Finely grated zest from one large orange – approximately 1/2 tsp

1 cup coconut oil for frying

Mix 1 Tb cinnamon and 1/2 cup sugar in a shallow dish for coating the buñuelos and set aside.

Sift flour, baking powder, 1 tsp cinnamon and 1 tsp sugar in a large bowl and whisk well. Mix in butter and orange zest. Mix in orange juice and knead until it forms a ball. Place on a floured board and knead for 5 minutes.

Form into small balls, cover with a warm damp dish towel. and let rest for 5 minutes.

Roll out each ball into a round tortilla shape, as thin as you can.

Heat oil in heavy skillet until hot. Place several layers of paper towels on a plate.
Carefully fry buñuelos, one at a time. Fry the first side until it puffs up, or about 8-10 seconds. Turn it over and briefly fry the other side until it stops puffing up. Using tongs, hold the buñuelo at an angle above the pan for a few seconds to drain excess oil.  Place on the paper towels to soak up oil for a few minutes,

then roll in cinnamon sugar. Excellent with coffee or Mexican hot chocolate.

¡Feliz Año Nuevo!  Happy New Year!

Ponche Navideño – Mexican Christmas Punch


My colleague Maria made this punch for a meeting at work, only she calls it a fruit tea. It was so delicious I kept coming back for more. It was fruity and not too sweet.

Ponche Navideño very popular in Mexico at Christmas time, served at posadas and on Christmas Eve. Since we are lucky to live in an area with a lot of immigrants from Mexico, the ingredients are easily found in the Mexican markets here. You can buy them jarred, but Maria says it’s better with fresh ingredients.

I went to Mi Pueblo grocery in on High Street in East Oakland after work and bought everything, including a 6 ft tall sugar cane which I barely got it in my little Toyota! The thinner parts could be snapped apart at the rings, but the thicker parts are very strong. My husband chopped it with a pick. Then I peeled the woody exterior from each section with a sharp knife. Once peeled, the soft pulp is easier to chop into 1 to 2 inch pieces.Discard the rings between the sections. You can chew on it for a sweet treat, and spit out the pulp afterward. I reserved a few sticks and sliced them lengthwise to make stirring sticks for each glass.


There are a lot of variations on fruits for ponche, but tejocotes (te- ho-CO-tes) are traditional in all ponches. They are the small orange or gold colored fruit of the hawthorn tree, known also as Hawthorne Apple. They were called texócotl by the Aztecs and grow in the highlands of Mexico and ripen in winter. Now they are grown in the US as well, since there were some legal problems in importing them. They are sometimes called manzanitas or manzanillas. I made my first batch with whole tejocotes, but I disliked getting a mouthful of seeds when I drank the ponche. So for the second batch I parboiled them to soften, then halved and seeded them.

The jamaica (ha-MY-ka) (that would be dried hibiscus blossoms, not Bob Marley’s home) lend a deep red wine color to this punch. Maria warned me not to put too many in, as they can make the punch sour. I didn’t heed her warning on my first batch, and had to add extra sugar!

Piloncillo, the raw sugar cones available at Mexican groceries, are a delicious way to add extra sweetness.

The cinnamon sticks make a wonderful aroma throughout the house as the ponche is simmering.

Makes 2 quarts ponche

1/3 cup dried jamaica blossoms

8 sections of sugar cane

1 cup water

1 pound tejocotes (15 large) make 3 cups cut up

2 quarts apple cider (I used Trader Joe’s)

6 Cinnamon sticks

5 Guavas, peeled

2 Bosc pears, cut into chunks

4 apples, cut into chunks

1/2 cup raisins

1/3 cup walnuts

About 3 small cones of piloncillo (raw sugar) to taste

jamaica tea

Bring 1 cup water to a boil in a small saucepan and add jamaica blossoms. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes, then let sit for another 20 minutes until the tea is a deep red. Strain tea into a bowl and discard jamaica blossoms.

halved tejocotesFill a small saucepan with water and boil tejocotes for 10 minutes until soft. Let cool, then trim ends, and split them in half and discard the seeds.

Wash sugar cane and fruits. Peel sugar cane, and cut into medallions. Cut apples, pears and guavas into small chunks and add to tea along with the seeded tejocotes, raisins, walnuts,  and cinnamon sticks. Add 2 quarts unfiltered apple juice or pear cider. I used the Pear Cinnamon Cider from Trader Joe’s which contains apple and pear juice or Trader Joe’s Apple Cider.

Bring to a boil, let simmer for 20 minutes. Taste, then add piloncillo to desired sweetness. Cool for about 20 minutes until you can drink it. It’s even better if you let it sit overnight or all day while you are making the rest of your meal, and the fruits break up and give it a wonderful flavor. Drink it warm with a few pieces of fruit and nuts in the cup.

ponche and Christmas cooklesFor a festive occasion, it is delicious spiked with tequila or brandy to make Ponche con Piquete  (punch with sting). We also tried red wine in it to make a sangria-like drink.

 

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.