Tag Archives: mexican food

Salsa Macha

salsa macha

Salsa Macha

This salsa is from the state of Veracruz on the Gulf of Mexico, a gateway for immigrants since the 16th century. In fact, this is where Hernan Cortes landed in 1519 and this is also where African slaves arrived in Mexico to work on sugar plantations, gold and silver mines, or to become domestic servants in Mexico City.

Africans introduced, among other foods, their native sesame seeds and peanuts, which are native to Brazil but brought into Mexico via African slave ships. 

Salsa Macha is a marriage of Mexican chiles with African sesame seeds and Spanish olive oil. True fusion cuisine, which is what Mexican food is. 

This sauce is amazing on eggs, steak, or just plain baguette. FYI: Macha is the feminine version of the word macho. If you’re a woman and you grow hairs on your chest after eating it, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

3 ounces combination of dried morita and guajillo chiles
2 1/2 cups olive oil
1/3 cup roasted and salted peanuts
5 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
3 tablespoons roated sesame seeds
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
2 tablespoons piloncillo or brown sugar
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Stem the chilies, then break or cut them open and remove the seeds. Tear into pieces and set aside.

Set a saucepan over medium-high heat and add the oil. Once the oil is hot, but not smoking, add the garlic cloves. Stir and fry for one to two minutes, until they start to gain color.

Add the chiles, peanuts, and sesame seeds fry for about two minutes. Remove from heat. Let cool then carefully transfer all the contents from the saucepan into a blender.

In a small bowl, mix the vinegar, salt and brown sugar, then add to the blender. Process until everything is chopped into finely chopped, but not pureed. Pour into a jar and refrigerate until ready to use.

Makes about 3 cups

Adapted from Pati’s Mexican Table

Cochinita Pibil

cochinita pipil

Cochinita Pibil

A traditional slow-roasted dish from the Yucatan peninsula, Cochinita Pibil is a combination of Mayan and European influences. For many years, the Peninsula was isolated from the rest of Mexico but its ports were in constant exchange with Europe. This mix resulted in dishes such as this one which combines pork introduced from Spain with pre-Hispanic condiments and cooking techniques.

Traditionally cooked underground over hot stones (the word pibil is Mayan for “pit”), its main seasoning is achiote or annatto, a tree native to Central America and Mexico which was known for its therapeutic properties as an anti-inflammatory and healing agent. Its was used also used by the ancient Mayans as a dye for textiles and for body paint.

For the pork:
3 pounds pork butt
2 tablespoons seasoned achiote paste
1 cup bitter orange juice (you can substitute ½ cup orange juice and ½ cup lime juice)
5 garlic cloves
2 teaspoons dried oregano
salt and pepper
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 large banana leaf, about 4 feet long

To make the marinate, mix the achiote paste with the bitter orange, oregano, salt and pepper and set aside.

Cut the pork into pieces and place in a large Ziploc bag or glass bowl. Pour the marinade over the meat, making sure it is all bathed. Add the chopped onion and refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight.

Prepare the banana leaf. Remove the center core from the banana leaf, rinse, dry, and cut the leaf into two 2-foot sections. Toast on a skillet and use the leaves to line a slow-cooker – lay one down the length, the other across the width.

Lay the meat and onions over the banana leaves and pour in the marinade. Fold up the banana leaves to cover everything, roughly encasing the meat. If it doesn’t encase the meat completely, add a few more leaves.

Place the lid on the slow-cooker, turn to low, and cook for 6 hours. (If you don’t have a slower-cooker, cook the meat in a Dutch oven at 300° F for 2 1/2 to 3 hours.)

Remove from the meat from the slow cooker and shred. Place in a large serving dish. Spoon off any rendered fat from the juices and add 1 cup of sauce to the shredded meat. Mix well. Discard the onions and the banana leaves. Serve warm with corn tortillas and pickled red onion.

Though not entirely authentic, I love it with Pineapple Habanero Pico de Gallo, but leave out the red onion if you’re serving the pickled kind.

Here’s a quick and easy version for the pickled red onion (cebolla en escabeche):
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 red onion, thinly sliced

Whisk the water, vinegar, sugar and salt in a small bowl until the sugar and salt dissolve. Thinly slice the onion and place in a glass jar. Pour the vinegar mixture over the onions and let sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour before refrigeration. Drain before serving.

Serves 6

Picture courtesy of my amazing cousin, Boni Carmona.

Tamales, Tortillas and Time

cover

Tamales, Tortillas and Time

This article was first featured in Life & Thyme.

My fascination with cookbooks began when my mom gave me a copy of Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse Cookbook: Favorite Recipes from Mickey and His Friends when I was six years old. Through food, I would get closer to my favorite characters. Tinker Bell’s Spaghetti Sauce? I loved spaghetti too! Cinderella’s Grilled Cheese Sandwich? Yes, please! Bambi’s Garden Salad, Pluto’s Hot Dogs, and Mickey’s Sugar Cookies were a few of my other favorites. (Unbeknownst to me at the time, Peter Pan’s Pasta and Caterpillar’s Corn on the Cob are quite possibly where I learned my love of alliteration.)

Although I graduated from Mickey long ago, it was at that young age when my voracious appetite for cookbooks—and for reading in general—began. But it wasn’t until many years later that I started to make the connection between food and history. Most recently, I’ve spent countless hours perusing the Huntington Library’s collection of rare cookbooks to gain a deeper understanding of history. Through the language of food, cookbooks give us insight into a culture and a time period that bring us way beyond a recipe, ingredient or trend; they add personal insight—“personal” because we each have our own relationship with food.

One such cookbook, and the subject of my most recent obsession, is Mexico’s first, El Cocinero Mexicano (The Mexican Cook), published in 1831. Yes, the first Mexican cookbook doesn’t appear until the nineteenth century. Crazy to think, given the fact that the roots of Mexican food go back way beyond modernity. The reason for this involves colonialism, politics and identity.

cookbook
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Pozole

pozole

Pozole

The dish has its roots in ceremonial pre-Hispanic Mexico and was mentioned in Friar Bernardino de Sahagun’s General History of all the Things of New Spain ca 1500. The original version was made with human flesh. What? Yes. Read about it here.

3 pounds chicken combination breasts, legs and thighs
water
1 head garlic, peeled
1 large white onion, quartered
handful dried oregano
5 dried ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded
5 dried pasilla or guajillo chiles, stemmed and seeded
4 cups hominy, rinsed and drained
salt

4 limes, cut into wedges
6 cups thinly sliced lettuce
15 radishes, thinly sliced
1 avocado, diced
6 tablespoons dried Mexican oregano
tostadas

Bring the chicken with enough water to cover to a boil in a large pot, skimming froth, then reduce heat to a simmer. Add 2 tablespoons salt, onion, garlic and oregano. Partially cover and simmer over medium-low heat until the meat is tender. Remove the meat from the broth, let cool, shred and set aside.

Strain broth and return to the pot. Transfer the cooked onion and garlic to a blender with 1 ½ cups of the broth. Puree until smooth and add to broth.

While the meat is cooking, stem and seed the chiles and rehydrate them in enough hot water to cover – keeping them submerged – for about 20 minutes. Puree the chiles with 1 ½ cup water.

Add the pureed chiles, shredded meat and hominy to the broth and simmer for about 5 minutes. Taste, adjust seasoning and serve hot with tostadas, shredded lettuce, radishes, oregano and lime wedges.

Serves 8 to 10