Why do I want Mexican food when it gets hot outside?

Why do I want Mexican food when it gets hot outside? I always find myself drawn to Mexican flavors or sushi when the mercury pushes 90.  Hmm….Why do we crave the foods we crave? Is it weather, hormones, nutritional needs? Do I crave red meat when my body needs iron, greens when it needs vitamin A, dairy when it needs calcium? This morning it was orange juice. I never drink orange juice. I must have needed some vitamin C.

I was madly in love with zucchini this week and I bought massive amounts. (more vitamin C?) And it has been hot out, so I keep going back to my Rick Bayless cookbook.  Rick calls this messy concoction Tinga de Calabacitas. Of course calabacitas are apparently not really the same thing as zucchini but that is what I was able to find…

My-Short-version-recipe: toast 2 unpeeled garlic cloves on griddle, peel and add to blender with a can of fire-roasted tomatoes a couple chipotles in adobe and a healthy pinch of salt, in a skillet heat some oil and sear some zucchini chunks until nice and browned on all sides, set aside, add more oil to the now empty skillet and cook some onion slices, and chorizo sausage meat, cook until onions are soft and golden and chorizo is basically cooked through, drain fat, return to heat and add the chipotle-tomato sauce and some dried oregano, after is has heated through and thickened add the zucchini back. Serve with queso.: okay-not-as-short-as-I-thought

My substitutions 1) For chorizo – leftover grilled Hungarian bratwurst cut into pieces 2) For queso – Bulgarian sheep’s milk cheese (a mild feta in brine)

mole from scratch…what was I thinking

I like to challenge myself but really….what was I thinking?! This really was ridiculous. You need a small army of people to make mole. I started on the first few steps on Saturday and then Sunday basically spent from 8 am to 11 pm working on it. I took two meal breaks and went to yoga class. By the end the evening my legs/knees hurt, part of that was yoga, but mostly standing all day. I am 35 and a half, ya know.

So it is kind of like really complicated granola. There are 1/3 cup measures of everything but the kitchen sink. Then you have to shell, toast, fry, drain, puree, and force through a fine mesh stainer every. single. one. of. them. Simmer each individually for 45 minutes, then combine, puree and strain again…. Okay, I’m exaggerating a bit, but not much.

By the end it was pure stubbornness. It was going to be done! and I was not going to get up Monday morning to a kitchen full of pots, pans, strainers, and blenders covered in a film of orange chili oil!! nope. not going to happen.

It has been almost a week and I’m still tired just thinking about it. But I have enough homemade mole in my freezer to last…probably longer than I will want to keep eating it. And I can say I did it. I made mole from scratch, dried chilies, chocolate, nuts, seeds, berries, kitchen sink and all. (sigh)

recipe – only for the ambitious or those who can recruit a small army of sous chefs

OMG vegetarian burrito


OMG…that is all I can say, OMG. You don’t think that pureed black beans and sweet potatoes can be fantastic and yet they can. Love. It.

Make one batch of frijoles de la olla, (classic mexican “pot” beans) Recipe from Rick Bayliss. They are fantastic and I could have just eaten them plain. Onions, Beans, Water, Espazote and a little salt should not be this good.

Even better when you add a few things:

  • 5 cups of sweet potato cubes boiled (with a little salt) for about 10 minutes until tender and drained
  • Put some oil in a frying pan, fry some onion, 4 cloves of garlic and a chopped green chili (I used a very potent Serrano)
  • Add 4 tsp of coriander and 4 tsp of cumin freshly ground and toasted for a few minutes in the pan with the aromatics.
  • Put cooked sweet potatoes, 4 1/2 cups of cooked black beans, 2/3 cup of fresh cilantro, 2 tbls of fresh lemon juice, and 1 tsp of salt in a food processor and puree until smooth.
  • Add the onion/spice combo from the frying pan and mix.
  • Put in some flour tortillas, roll-up and bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.

Serve with fresh tomato salsa, lettuce and some queso.


Too Much Food

adodo de pollo, lujoI like the idea of buying a whole chicken, using everything, freezing the neck for stock….but it takes too many days for me to eat a whole chicken by myself. At the end I am really sick of it! This Red Chile-Braised Chicken with Potatoes and Greens was delicious, especially with a garnish of way too much sour cream. It was messy and wonderful. There was just a lot of it.

The  Swiss chard was totally overwhelmed here and kind of melted into the sauce. Something hardier like collard greens may have held up better. The fingerling potatoes worked really well though and as usual I was a little too skimpy on the salt. I guess that is better than it being too salty. When cooking, adding is easy but subtracting is basically impossible.

from leftovers to avocado soup

avocado soup

Avocado Soup with Orange and Tomatillo (Rick Bayliss's Mexican Kitchen)

So I actually made this with what I had in the house, no grocery shopping necessary.  I had extra tomatillos, a serrano pepper, an orange and an avocado. Then of course I always have onions, garlic, beef broth in a box,  and my sad looking but still alive cilantro plant.  This is a cold soup (okay…room temperature) so excellent summer food… the bright flavors of the cilantro and orange contrast really nicely with the rich and creamy avocado and beef broth combo…yum.

Fear of habaneros!

I fear habaneros. I distinctly remember when my grandparents moved to Arizona, for xmas that year they sent some habanero peanut brittle, needless to say I really had no idea what I was biting into! Youch! Now I eat many more spicy things and often include chili peppers in my cooking, but I still avoid the oh-so scary habanero.

Enter the Rick Bayliss’s Mexican Kitchen cookbook and a recipe for Spicy Yucatean Beef “Salad” Tacos (Tacos de Dzik), which calls for his Essential Chopped Tomato-habanero Salsa. It sounded good and I just didn’t want to be a wimp and substitute a milder pepper. I decided to go for it.

First, I had to go to 3 grocery stores before I found any at a Whole Foods, my resolve was wavering….then I realized that I really needed/wanted gloves (I told you, habaneros are scary and I once tried to sleep with my hands in a bowl of ice water after dicing serranos!) So, Whole Foods does not have disposable latex gloves… I do find big thick latex-free purple kitchen gloves. Great! They are like armor!

The thickness of the gloves does make it a little hard to mince the very small pepper but I felt really safe….Anyway, now is the the time to admit that I really am a bit of wimp, so although the recipe called for 1/2 a pepper, I only used 1/4 of one. (mistake!)

I had steamed the beef roast ahead of time and just pulled it out if the fridge and let it warm to room temp while I chopped up the salsa ingredients, then shredded the beef and mixed them all together.

This is a really nice summer meal, it is beef but actually light and refreshing, with a little crunch from the radishes in the salsa. And guess what, I was too big of a wimp! No burn at all! It was actually a little bland! I will now follow the recipes in the future and use the suggested quantities. I will continue to use the giant purple gloves when cutting peppers.