Category Archives: latin america

Recipe of the Week

Alegrías

Alegrías

In the Aztec diet, amaranth was second in importance only to corn. In festivals to honor the gods, toasted amaranth grain was mixed with maize, honey, and sometimes blood and shaped into idols of gods before being paraded through the streets, “sacrificed” into pieces, and distributed among the crowd to be eaten.

The conquistadors regarded this practice as a blasphemous parody of the Christian communion and outlawed its cultivation. Today these honeyed sweets, called tzoalli in Nahuatl by the ancient Aztecs, are known as alegrías, the Spanish word for happiness.

¼ cup amaranth seeds
¼ cup pumpkin seeds, toasted
2 tablespoons raisins
3 tablespoons honey
½ teaspoon lime juice
pinch salt

Pop the amaranth. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Place a tablespoon of amaranth into the bottom of the dry pan, and cover with a lid. Turn off the heat and shake pot vigorously to keep the amaranth from sticking. After 20 seconds or so the amaranth should be popped. It’s ok if there are some un-popped grains. Pour the popped amaranth into a bowl. Repeat until all the amaranth is popped.

Mix the pumpkin seeds and raisins with the popped amaranth.

Place the honey in a saucepan. Heat over medium, mixing well, until a syrup forms. Mix in the lime juice and salt. Turn off heat.

Pour the amaranth mixture into the syrup and mix quickly so that the mixture absorbs the syrup. Pour onto a pan lined with parchment paper and press to flatten. Place another sheet of parchment over the amaranth and flatten to smooth the surface.

Let cool until firm and cut into rounds or rectangles.

Makes about 4 pieces

Chocolate Avocado Pudding

Chocolate Avocado Pudding

Native to subtropical America, avocados have been cultivated in Mexico since antiquity; the fruit’s seeds that have been found in archaeological sites in modern day Puebla dating to 8000 BC. Avocado was part of the ancient daily diet along with maize, beans, and squash. The Nahuatl (Aztec language) word for the fruit is ahuacatl, meaning testicle, because of its shape. Naturally it was believed to have properties of virility.

Learn about the history of chocolate in Chocolate Unwrapped: From a Mesoamerican Drink to the Modern Bon Bon, on Life & Thyme.

1 cup water
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt
2 large ripe avocados (8 ounces each), halved and pitted
1 cup 70% dark chocolate chips

cacao nibs for garnish

Combine water, sugar, cocoa, vanilla, and salt in small saucepan. Bring to simmer over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar and cocoa dissolve, about 2 minutes. Remove saucepan from heat and cover to keep warm.

Scoop flesh of avocados into food processor bowl and process until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. With processor running, slowly add warm cocoa mixture until completely incorporated and mixture is smooth and glossy. (This can also be done in a bowl using a fork and a whisk.)

Melt the chocolate. Place it in a wide shallow bowl and microwave. Heat on medium high for about 1 minute to start with. Remove and stir. Repeat, heating at 15-second intervals stirring in between, until melted and smooth. You can also melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Heat a small pot with several inches of water. Place the chocolate in a bowl and set over the pot, making sure the surface of the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl. Stir occasionally until completely melted.

Add the melted chocolate to the avocado mixture and process until well incorporated, about 1 minute. Evenly transfer pudding to 8 ramekins, cover, and refrigerate until chilled and set, at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours. Garnish with cacao nibs and serve.

Serves 8

Rompope

Rompope

The first rompope was made in the 17th century in the Santa Clara convent of Puebla, Mexico. It was a derivation of the Spanish ponche de huevo. At the time, the Catholic Church was prominent in government and society so convents developed innovative sweet and savor dishes for visiting officials and religious dignitaries.

This boozy and creamy drink that is one of them. It is still sold by nuns outside of churches in Mexico.

6 cups whole milk
2 cinnamon sticks
6 whole cloves
pinch nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
8 large egg yolks
1 ¼ cup white rum

Bring milk, cinnamon, cloves, pinch nutmeg, vanilla, and baking soda to a boil over medium-high heat in a large heavy-bottom saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat.

In a large bowl, whisk egg yolks,and sugar until thick and pale.

Remove cinnamon and clove from the milk and discard.

Whisking constantly, slowly add the milk to the yolk mixture.

Return mixture to pan and cook over low heat, constantly stirring and scraping the bottom and sides of the pan, until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, 5 to 7 minutes. Set aside to cool completely.

When cool, stir in rum and serve.

Serves 6 to 8

(recipe adapted from Epicurious)

Chipotle Pork Tenderloin

chipotle pork tenderloinJPG

Chipotle Pork Tenderloin

We made this spicy pork tenderloin in my last class of 2016 and it could very well be my favorite dish of last year. 

There are three species of cultivated chiles in ancient America, one of which was found in Mexico, wild, in cultural deposits in the Tehuacan valley dating from 7200 to 5200 BC. The use of chiles in the New World was not confined to food. Chile smoke was used as a fumigant, as a means of chemical warfare, and the Aztecs disciplined their children with it!

Christopher Columbus introduced chiles to Europe after his first trip to the Caribbean and called them peppers because he likened them to the peppercorns he was familiar with, though they are from a different family. Shortly thereafter they were cultivated around the globe and were quickly assimilated into the foods of other cultures, including those of Asia and the Middle East.

For the pork:
1 ½ pounds pork tenderloin
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, crushed

For the chipotle sauce:
½ cup chicken stock
½ cup apple juice
6 black peppercorns
3 tablespoons chipotle puree, or more to taste (I prefer La Morena brand, available at Ralph’s)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons creme fraiche

Preheat oven to 350°F and place rack in middle of the oven.

Make the sauce by whisking all of the ingredients together in a bowl. Set aside.

Pat pork dry and season with salt and pepper.

Heat oil in a 12-inch ovenproof heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Brown pork on all sides, about 6 minutes total, then transfer to a plate.

Sauté garlic in skillet until it starts to caramelize. Add the chipotle sauce, stirring and scraping up brown bits. Return the pork to the skillet and roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into center of pork registers 145 to 150° F, about 20 minutes. Transfer pork to a cutting board and let rest 10 minutes before slicing.

Thinly slice the pork and pour the sauce over it.

Serves 6