Tag Archives: World

Méx-O-Logy – Receta para Hacer Mezcalina de Pepino

 

Ya se acercan las fiestas decembrinas, y si estás pensando agasajar a tus invitados con una bebida original y deliciosa, hoy te tenemos una con mucho sabor a México.

Sirve: 12

  • 6 caballitos de mezcal
  • 1 pepino pelado
  • 1 manzana verde pelada
  • 3 limones verdes (el jugo)
  • 6 caballitos de miel de manzana o de licor de manzana
  • 1 refresco de toronja
  • 1 botella agua mineral
  • Sal de gusano de magey
  • Hielo

PROCEDIMIENTO

  1. Licúa el mezcal, el pepino, la miel o el licor de manzana, y el jugo de limón.
  2. Sirve en un vaso en las rocas con refresco y agua mineral.
  3. Escarcha el vaso con limón, y sal de gusano de maguey.

¡Salud!

Según la receta de la chef Atzimba Pérez, reproducida con el permiso de la autora.  Para más información sobre Atzimba, visíta  su página de Facebook haciendo click aquí. 

 

Méx-O-Logy – Mojito: A Prescription for Summer

Make your own raspberry mojito. Photo credit: Myrna Rodríguez
Photo credit: Myrna Rodríguez

By: Myrna Rodríguez

Did you know Mojito was created as a medicinal recipe? The original pirates of the Caribbean used to drink it to fight scurvy. While mixing lime, water and spices to hide the strong taste of unrefined rum, they stumbled upon this refreshing recipe.

Luckily for us, the production process of rum has been greatly improved. Mojitos, later popularized by Ernest Hemingway, are so sweet and refreshing, that they remain a preferred summer “elixir” around the world.

My favorite mojito recipe  combines the sweetness of rum and sugar with the acidity of raspberry and lime. The mint oils give this antidote for stress its distinctive flavor and refreshing qualities.

Are you wondering what kind of rum to use?  Available rums today hail from tropical and not so tropical destinations and feature different levels of alcohol and local flavors. At the end of the day, the best rum is really the one you like.

¡Salud!

Raspberry Mojito

Ingredients:

  • 12 peppermint leaves
  • ½ lime (cut into 4 wedges)
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 8 raspberries
  • 1 ½ oz white rum
  • 3 oz carbonated water

Process:

  1. Combine the peppermint leaves, lime, sugar and raspberries in a glass. Muddle with 10 to 15 strokes, just enough to squeeze as much juice out of the lime as possible and to puree the raspberries.
  2. Take this same glass with the mint mix at the bottom and fill it up with ice cubes.
  3. Add the rum, top the glass with the carbonated water and mix.

Tip: you can create a mix of berries to make it fun and add different flavors.

Mexican transplant Myrna Rodríguez, conjures up Latin-influenced libations.
.

A business woman by profession, and a mixologist by passion, Myrna Rodríguez holds a masters degree in business and is a certified mixologist. Inquisitive and creative, she keeps up with new techniques, while drawing inspiration from her two grandmothers (one Mexican and one Honduran). Raised and educated in Monterrey, Mexico, Myrna infuses her recipes with Latin American flavors and ingredients, and brings an exciting twist to traditional drinks.

Find Myrna sampling food around Chicago, or delighting her lucky friends and acquaintances with Mexican-influenced beverages.

Let There Be Fire! – The Universal Language of Grilling

Chimney starters help accelerate the process of getting the coal ready for grilling.  
Photo credit: Illya Samko

 

Summer is finally here, and in these latitudes, barbecue season often evokes images of sporting events and patriotic-themed cookouts. Of course, you need weather to cooperate, so as the words “barbecue” roll off your tongue, you have unconsciously summoned the idea of a picture-perfect day. Growing up in a part of the world blessed with rather benign weather year-round, it was not until I moved to Chicago that I understood why the state of the atmosphere often finds its way into the conversation or the news. Here, grilling is definitely a seasonal event and sometimes it is referred to as barbecuing.

In Mexico, barbecue or barbacoa, means something different- it is a dish that typically entails cooking meat on an open fire (usually lamb) in a hole that has been dug in the ground for this purpose. Barbecuing to us, is a parrillada or a carne asada (literally, “grilled meat”). These words immediately make me think of a Sunday spent surrounded by family and friends in Mexico. Putting the meat on the grill is the main event, and the process entails an unspoken ritual that, like any other party in Mexico, takes at least a whole day. To me, the most curious part of the custom is what is often done in hopes that the rain won’t spoil the day- scissors and knives are staked into the ground. In some instances, this is done forming specific shapes, in others, these artifacts are put outside along with ribbons or even eggs…

Last year, we asked a few suburban dads for their grilling tips right on time for Father’s Day. As I asked around, I realized that ideas were incredibly diverse-  from ingredients to techniques. Something I found particularly fascinating was that no matter who I was talking to, this conversation resonated.  The joy of grilling seemed universal.

Is it? I think it might be. I asked my friend Illya for a few grilling tips. He happens to be Ukrainian and someone who, like me, is truly passionate about food. What do we have in common? Our love for Mexico. His wife Myrna, is a Mexican transplant. What do you have in common? You speak the same language-  He is another guy who loves to grill.

Sizzling Hot: Our Primal Love for Food over Fire

 By: Illya Samko

 

Grilling in Monterrey, Mexico. Photo credit: Illya Samko
Grilling in Monterrey, Mexico. Photo credit: Illya Samko

Since man started cooking with fire, food has never been the same. There is something deeply primal about putting a piece of steak on the fire; the sound of  meat sizzling on the grill, its aroma and the divine taste of a fresh steak. I believe these images are seared into our DNA.

In the Ukraine, grilling is mainly associated with cooking pork. Pork shoulder is usually cut into cubes and marinated in mayonnaise, salt and onions. It is then skewered and cooked over charcoal slowly until it is well done.

Ukrainian grill. Photo credit: Ilya Samko
Ukrainian grill. Photo credit: Illya Samko

My greatest learning experience as far as grilling goes, took place during my first trip to Monterrey, Mexico (birthplace of my lovely wife, Myrna). Here, grilling  is a way of life to say the least. I was impressed with how Regios* know their grilling. They use a specific type of charcoal, Mesquite, which gives the meat a very smoky and distinctive flavor. The preparation process is as important as grilling itself- It takes a certain number of cheves** to get the thing going. First the fire, then the botanas*** and few hours later, when you are so hungry that you could eat just about anything, you finally hear that “magic sound” and smell the beef- you are lovestruck.

 At that point, in spite of all the beers you’ve had, your senses are heightened and the level of salivation is downright dangerous. Finally, the teasing is over and it is time to feast- the plate full of grilled goodness makes it to the table. Devour you will. Believe me. Not only is grilling a ritual that takes hours, it is also a way to celebrate anything. Mexicans seem to celebrate life if there is no other particular reason to party.

When grilling there are a few important things that you need to know. I believe these basic steps make a huge difference.

  • Never put any meat on the grill that came straight out from the fridge. Let it warm up a little. Room temperature is ideal.
  • Season your meat with kosher or sea salt and pepper. Good steak needs absolutely nothing else.
  • Be patient. You cannot rush a good burger, steak or whatever you are grilling.
  • After you take your steak off the grill, let it rest for about five minutes. This will allow all the juices to be redistributed back into the steak evenly.
  • I use a chimney starter to speed up the process of getting the coal ready for grilling. Using accelerators on the coal gives your food  a chemical taste.

Enjoy!

Born and raised in Western Ukraine, Illya Samko is a food enthusiast who loves to travel, learn about different cultures and try new cuisines. With a  degree in law, and a knack for anthropology, Illya has worked in London, New York and Chicago, where he currently lives with his Mexican wife, Myrna. 

 
*Regios short for regiomontanos, are a citizens from Monterrey, Mexico.
**Cheves is slang for cerveza or beer.
***Appetizers, snacks

Méx-O-Logy – Margarita, Señorita

We are very excited to launch our new column, Mex-O-Logy, a space dedicated to sharing recipes and tips so that you can mix your own Mexican-inspired libations.

¡Salud!

Margarita, Señorita

Mexican transplant Myrna Rodríguez, conjures up Mexican-influenced libations.
Mexican transplant Myrna Rodríguez, brings and exciting twist to traditional drinks.

By Myrna Rodríguez

Definitely a drink that makes us think of summer, and actually, one of my favorite cocktails, this Mexican classic is a crowd pleaser. Way before I knew tequila was made of agave, I already thought this cactus was fun: I remember traveling with my family to Guadalajara as a child, and being marveled at the endless fields of agave I could see in the distance.

Margaritas are perfect for your summer cookouts, and very easy to put together. Here is my favorite recipe:

Ingredients:

1 ½ oz tequila

1 oz orange liquor

1 lime juice (freshly squeezed)

¾ oz agave syrup*

* Equal parts agave syrup/boiling water. Let it rest until cold, then use.

I usually shake the margaritas with big ice cubes so that they cool faster. Strain the mix into a rock glass then fill up the glass with fresh ice. Add a wedge of lime to garnish and enjoy!

Photo credit: Myrna Rodríguez
Photo credit: Myrna Rodríguez

A business woman by profession, and a mixologist by passion, Myrna Rodríguez holds a masters degree in business and is a certified mixologist. Inquisitive and creative, she keeps up with new techniques, while drawing inspiration from her two grandmothers (one Mexican and one Honduran). Raised and educated in Monterrey, Mexico, Myrna infuses her recipes with Latin American flavors and ingredients, and brings an exciting twist to traditional drinks.

Find Myrna sampling food around Chicago, or delighting her lucky friends and acquaintances with Mexican-influenced beverages.

Nuestra Mesa – Langostinos con Hierbas y Aceite de Oliva

Foto: Manuel Rivera
Foto: Manuel Rivera

¿Listos para celebrar a papá? Esta semana, y justo para el Día del Padre. el chef Aldo Saavedra, nos trae a Nuestra Mesa un delicioso platillo de Ensenada, Baja California.

INGREDIENTES

  • 1 kg langostinos
  • 150 ml aceite olivo
  • 8 hojas laurel fresco
  • 1 rama romero fresco
  • 2 dientes de ajo picados
  • 10 ramas de tomillo fresco
  • 10 pimientas negras enteras
  • 6 chiles de árbol (opcional)
  • 6 limones partidos por mitad

PREPARACIÓN

  1. Parte los langostinos por la mitad verticalmente y límpialos con agua. Déjalos sin pelar y con cabezas.
  2. Escurre los langostinos y pónlos en el refrigerador hasta el momento de usarlos.
  3. Pon el aceite de oliva a calentar en una sartén grande y un poco hondo.
  4. Ya que esté caliente el aceite, agrégale las hierbas, el ajo y la pimienta.
  5. Pon los langostinos a freiren el aceite con hierbas, ya que estén un poco fritas.
  6. Si te gusta el picante, agrégale los chiles de árbol secos, partidos en trozos pequeños.
  7. Agrega sal al gusto y sirve en un plato hondo.
  8. Se les puede acompañar con limón.

El chef Aldo Saavedra ha cocinado para huéspedes de establecimientos como el conocido Hotel Condesa D.F. y ha contribuído con sus recetas en proyectos con marcas de la talla de Larousse y Danone. En Nuestra Mesa, el chef Saavedra comparte con los lectores de La Vitamina T, su pasión por la cocina y por México.

My Search for the Holy Grail – The Best Taco al Pastor in Chicago

A few weeks ago, I set out to find the best taco al pastor (‘shepherd-style’ taco) in Chicago. This down-to-earth, charismatic delicacy is a dietary staple of  defeños*, and despite the fact that in Mexico City taco stands abound, any local will tell you that not all tacos al pastor are made equal.  Finding the perfect taquería is almost a rite of passage, one that speaks to the way we connect with our city and beyond- a Mexican’s relationship with their pastor is emotional… personal, mystical.

The Genesis

Finding good tacos (let alone authentic ones) north-of-the-border is not so easy. Our taco al pastor story in April made me aware of the fact that I am not alone in this realization. I asked La Vitamina T readers and friends to submit their favorite al pastor destinations in Chicago. A few Facebook posts and tweets later, I had a list of 18 different establishments  endorsed by locals, among them, several Mexican transplants. Similar to how my friend Dave from New Jersey can recognize a good Philly cheesesteak, I figured recommendations from Mexicans added instant credibility to the suggestions.

This is how my search began.

Below is the final list of nominees. I visited every  establishment on this list without letting the owners or staff know my intention, as I  thought this might  influence the quality of the service:

  1. Atotonilco (I tried the tacos in both locations, Joliet and Chicago)
  2. Big Star
  3. De Cero
  4. El Pastor
  5. El Tío Luis
  6. El Solazo
  7. Indio
  8. La Ciudad
  9. Lagartija
  10. Los Comales
  11. Los Gallos
  12. L´Patrón
  13. Mercadito (tacos al pastor are only a seasonal item, so we did not get to try them)
  14. Rubi’s Market on Maxwell
  15. Taco joint
  16. Taquería Juanito
  17. Tierra Caliente
  18. Zacatacos  (Berwyn location)

Several Pepto Bismol doses and 3 extra pounds later, my wandering through the streets of Chicago and its suburbs came to an end. Dozens of tacos have been sampled and scorecards have been tallied!

 Each taco has been carefully evaluated based on criteria that we believe brings to life un taco al pastor “hecho como Dios manda.” (according to God’s orders)**

 I am now ready to “go tell it on the mountain”!

* Defeño is a Citizen of Mexico City (D.F.)

** Mexicans say something is made como Dios manda (according to God’s orders) when something is accurately accomplished.

The Exodus

If you, like me, have lived in Mexico for the great majority of your life, you will be perplexed to hear what has been smuggled into menus, and sold and passed up across the country for the real deal: some of the most popular and readily available counterfeit versions are stuffed with ground beef and covered with cheese or something resembling cheese; others are called tacos al pastor, and are served with sliced lettuce and tomatoes. Heresy!  In certain places, you might be given a choice of hardshell or softshell taco. During my search I found that even some of the taquerías in predominantly Mexican neighborhoods have lost their way- in their attempt to  to cater to a non Mexican palate, they have begun serving some of these apocryphal versions.

This leads me to provide the following word of caution: If you are visiting Mexico and you are looking for a hardshell taco, you will give yourself away as a tourist. We simply don’t have them. We have tostadas, which have a crunchy surface similar to a totopo, which is considered a completely different plate.

In the northern part of the country, flour tortillas were made popular by the Jewish settlers in the area. Still, you will find that most tacos in Mexico are made with corn tortillas.

Leviticus 

Treating oneself to tacos al pastor is an experience that entails a known ritual. Taquerías usually go from the very informal ´hole-in-the-wall’ joint, to fancier establishments featuring a more elaborate set up. The dynamics are the same across the board, and patrons know what to expect:  quick service, dinner and a show. Taqueros (half cooks, half ninjas) conjure up juicy tacos with meat and pineapple they shave off from a giant spinning skewer, to then catch the pieces in a tortilla with quick, precise movements. They do this gracefully, while keeping tallies, processing new orders, and sometimes, giving change and even interacting with the crowd.

Tacos al pastor must meet the following criteria:

1. Must be roasted vertically in a spit called trompo (top), which is clearly visible.

2. Should be made with pork meat, seasoned with a variety of chilis and achiote, which gives them their color.

3. These tacos are served in small tortillas (about 4 1/2 inches in diameter).

4. Tacos al pastor must include a chunk of grilled pineapple, chopped cilantro, raw onion and limes.

5. Salsas are very important in taquerías, and often times they become and element of differentiation.

6. Lime should be abundant and readily available.

Methodology

Each taco was evaluated using a scale of 1- 5 points for a total of 30 points in six different categories:

  • Meat quality
  • Meat flavor
  • Tortilla size and quality
  • Portion size
  • Accuracy/freshness of ingredients
  • Quality of salsa

Points were assigned using the following scale to score each taco:

1= Disappointing

2= Meh…

3= Ok

4= Really good, but not extraordinary or the real deal

5= Perfect. ¡Órale! Am I in Mexico?

Revelation

I have eaten the fruits of ¨the promised land” and I cannot honestly say that my search led me to tacos al pastor exactly like the ones I would find in Mexico City, but I uncovered some really good ones that will definitely hit the spot.  Overall, I was surprised to find that the meat in the eateries we visited was generally saucier than it is in Mexico. Also, portions are usually much more generous and, for some reason, when it comes to tacos al pastor, those with pineapple are very hard to find.
Many taquerías only take cash, so make sure you stop at an ATM ahead of your visit!

And the Winner is..!

 

De Cero – 28/30 Points

De Cero (The Loop)

Taco al pastor at De Cero,   814 West randolph St., Chicago
Find juicy, spicy tacos al pastor at De Cero, 814 West Randolph St., Chicago

Meat Quality: 5  Meat was absolutely fantastic.  We did not see the trompo, but we asked and confirmed it is indeed there.

Meat Flavor: 4    Flavor is really nice, but the meat has a bit of a kick to it.

Tortilla Size and Quality: 5  Tortillas were fantastic. Perfect size!

Portion Size: 5   Perfect ratio. This bundle of joy offers the perfect burst of flavors in each bite.

Accuracy/Freshness of the Ingredients 5 Really fresh ingredients, a check for cilantro, onion, pineapple (although cubed) and lime! The ratios were so good in each bite, I did not let the cubes deter me.

Salsas 4:  I got red salsa with my order which was really, really  good. 

Note: We attempted to get tacos al pastor at De Cero in three different instances. We were persistent and were able to understand why these tacos fly away. Every bite is perfect. The tacos are a bit spicy (and pricey), so make sure you order an horchata to wash them down and know that the meal will be well worth your money. Luckily, this taquería accepts credit cards, so the amount of cash you brought with you won’t  limit the amount of tacos you enjoy.  I am really intrigued by their tamales verdes. I can´t wait to go back!

First Runner Up

Big Star – 27/30 Points

Big Star (Wicker Park)

Taco al pastor at Big Star, 1531 N Damen Ave, Chicago
Tacos al pastor at Big Star, 1531 N Damen Ave, Chicago

 

Meat Quality: 4  Really good and not too fatty.  Meat was a bit chunky, which is why we did not rate it a 5.

Meat Flavor: 4    Flavor was really nice, maybe a bit sweet, but really good. Saucy, not dry as it should be.

Tortilla Size and Quality: 5 Perfect size. Tortillas were great.

Portion Size: 5 Perfect portion

Accuracy/Freshness of the Ingredients 5 Really fresh ingredients. I loved to see pineapple on them, which is not easy to find, so I did not allow the cubes to worry me.

Salsas 4 Salsa is good and they have chiles toreados (grilled jalapeños), as well as pickled peppers and carrots. But, you will have to order them separately, as they do not come with your order.

Note:

We waited for about 3 hours to get a table at this famous eatery, which was even more difficult considering the aroma around the restaurant teases you with a preview of what is to come. There is a walk-up window with considerably faster service.  The bar is quite a bit noisy, so if this is where you want to hang out, you will have to be prepared to forego conversation and focus on your food, which is well worth it.  Bring cash with you.  They only take cash! Service from the greeters might be a bit rough, but will improve once you sit down.

Second Runner Up 25/30 Points  (Tie)

Taquería San Juanito (Albany Park)

Taco al pastor at Taquería San Juanito 4714 N Kedzie Ave,  Chicago
Taco al pastor at Taquería San Juanito 4714 N Kedzie Ave, Chicago

San Juanito was the only place where the meat was not saucy. I found their meat flavorful, but the taco had no pineapple, which lowered-down their score. Green salsa was particularly memorable.

Zacatacos (Berwyn)

Taco al pastor at Zacataco in Berwyn.
Taco al pastor at Zacatacos 6224 Cermak Rd., Berwyn

Zacatacos in Berwyn features the most tender meat you can possibly imagine. The tacos are a bit bulky and a come in a bigger tortilla, but are still really good. Salsas are amazing.

Of Note:

Bien Trucha (Geneva)

I really liked the concept of Bien Trucha, a modern-looking Mexican restaurant that reminded me of the vibe of restaurants in Mexico City. Food, not kitsch is the focus here, and the execution of the tacos spoke to quality. Also, Bien Trucha was the only establishment that got the pineapple right, as they had just a chunk of it  vs. the cubes I found in other restaurants.  I don’t remember getting any salsa with my tacos and had to ask for lime, but if you have had enough of taco talk, try their guacamole of the day or their Pulparindo cocktail! The photo below is not the best because I did not have very good lighting inside the restaurant.

Tacos al pastor at Bien Trucha 410 W State St, Geneva
Tacos al pastor at Bien Trucha 410 W State St, Geneva

Del Seoul (Lincoln Park)

This was not a taco al pastor and definitely not on the list, but in all fairness, some of the ones I tried were not really tacos al pastor either. This grilled  pork taco, a gift from the streets of LA (where fusion happens everyday) was so incredibly delicious, I thought it deserved to be added. The name of this Lincoln Park gem is code for those who know how to read it: Spanish speakers, will  phonetically  understand “Del Seoul” as “del sol”, or “of the sun”.  Mexican cuisine allegorically represents the sun in a meal with a tortilla.
Brilliant branding, brilliant food!
FInd this taco with tangy grilled pork, onion, cilantro, slaw and sesame seeds at Del Seoul  2568 North Clark Street Chicago
Find this taco with tangy grilled pork, onion, cilantro, slaw and sesame seeds at Del Seoul 2568 North Clark Street
Chicago
De Cero is our reigning champion, but if you think there is a 30/30 taco out there, let us know. In the mean time,  ¡a taquear!

 

Hybrid Animals, Hybrid Celebrations: Mexico’s Day of the Mule

Photo credit: Lissette Storch – Mexico City, Mexico

If you find yourself in Mexico during the months of May or June, and you see mules made out of dried corn leaves being sold everywhere, you might wonder if this handcraft is part of the local charm. It is, but only seasonally. This hybrid mammal appears just in time for the Catholic celebration of Corpus Christi or Día de la Mula (Mule’s Day), and sometimes you may find them stuffed with candy.

Some attribute the association of mules with this festivity to the fact that in the 1500s, the faithful went to church carrying the best of their harvest on their mules to give thanks. This is a nod to pre-Hispanic rituals, in which gratefulness was shown to several deities through offerings.  Even today, more than 500 years later, it is easy to see pre-columbian traditions seeping through modern-day celebrations.

Others explain this whimsical tradition with legends featuring mules kneeling down in reverence. My favorite one is the story of a man who, while wondering if he should dedicate himself to a life of priesthood, asks God for a sign. When he went to church on a Corpus Christi Thursday, he found himself in the midst of a crowd of men and mules. The man said to himself that if God were present, even the mules would kneel down. The story, of course, tells that a mule did.

Curiously, the word “mule” is also used it to refer to someone who is advantageous. If someone wishes you un ‘Feliz Día de las Mulas’ it could be either friendly ribbing, or time to wonder…

Flores para Mamá – Indias Vestidas

Foto: Manuel Rivera
Foto: Manuel Rivera

Desde flores y frutos, hasta cactos e insectos, la comida mexicana es increíblemente variada. La diversidad de los ingredientes, aunado al sincretismo cultural propio de esta cocina, nos ofrece lo mejor de dos (o más) mundos en un plato.

Para celebrar el Día de las Madres, el Chef Aldo y Manuel Rivera decidieron incorporar flores en un platillo para mamá: indias vestidas. Este manjar incorpora ingredientes indígenas, en este caso la flor de calabaza, con técnicas europeas, como el capeado.

¡Demuéstrale a mamá cuánto la quieres con estas deliciosas flores!

INDIAS VESTIDAS

Rinde para 6 personas.

Ingredientes:
  • 12 piezas de flor de calabaza
  • 1 cucharada de mantequilla
  • 4 piezas de champiñones
  • 1/4 de cebolla finamente picada
  • 1 hoja de epazote
  • 1/2 chile Serrano desvenado y finamente picado
  • 1 diente de ajo finamente picado
  • 60 gramos de queso crema
  • 100 gramos de queso fresco rallado
  • 1 taza de pan molido
  • 1/2 taza de harina de trigo
  • 4 huevos
  • Sal y pimienta al guato
  • Aceite para freír
Procedimiento:
1. Lava con mucho cuidado la flor de calabaza y quítale el tallo.
2. Derrite la mantequilla en una sartén, saltea el ajo, la cebolla, el chile, el epazote y los champiñones con cuidado de no sobre cocer. Déjalo enfriar.
3. Mezcla los quesos con el recaudo de los champiñones y sazona con un poco de sal y pimienta blanca.
4. Con ayuda de una manga, rellena las flores con mucho cuidado. Rese
rva.
5. Separa las yemas y las claras de huevo. Bate las claras a punto de nieve y añade las yemas. Integra con un movimiento envolvente.
6. Pasa las flores por harina, huevo y el pan. Fríelas rápidamente para no quemarlas. Escurre el exceso de aceite.
7. Sirve sobre una salsa de chile poblano o de jitomate.
El chef Aldo Saavedra ha cocinado para huéspedes de establecimientos como el conocido Hotel Condesa D.F. y ha contribuído con sus recetas en proyectos con marcas de la talla de Larousse y Danone. En Nuestra Mesa, el chef Saavedra comparte con los lectores de La Vitamina T, su pasión por la cocina y por México.

Gefiltefish Goes Technicolor with Spanish Subtitles

Photo: Brenda Storch

The timing of this post is partly accidental, and partly intentional. I thought at first it might make sense to talk about the Lenten dishes that in an overwhelmingly Catholic Mexico, frame a series of events that culminate in Semana Santa or “Holy Week”: from the visits to the seven churches and the burning of big cardboard structures representing evil, called “Judas” (tradition which has permeated the culture to the point that the name Judas is synonymous with “traitor” when used as colloquial expression), to the reenactments of the crucifixion in the town of Iztapalapa.  What I remember the most about this season, aside from its coinciding with a nice break from school, is that somehow, every aspect of the celebration ended at the table of the family matriarch…

Matriarch!

My great-grandma, Rachel “Rae” Storch would have turned 102 this month. She died 13 years ago, a few days after my birthday, as if she were holding on just long enough to avoid it. I think of her often and I miss her dearly.

Grandma Rae was Jewish, and whether we visited during Easter or Christmas, she would always make us feel at home. I remember that one Easter Sunday she cooked picadillo-stuffed peppers for us because, she assessed, the dish showcased a bit of Latin American flair. She also had a Christmas tree if we were around during the Christmas holidays, despite the fact that this triggered a few neighbors in her all-Jewish building to knock on her door to make sure she had taken her pills.

It is not until now, that I am much older, that I realize how lucky I am to have such a diverse family; and I am incredibly grateful that grandma Rae was so embracing and open-minded. She did not speak Spanish, and I did not speak much English at the time, but we managed, and we definitely bonded over food. She loved to take us to her favorite place, “La Paloma”.

Grandma Rae in her home in Miami in 1996

The more I talk about food, the more I find it a particularly powerful element of national and religious identity. During the holidays, among many cultures, dishes often have ritualistic qualities and are charged with plenty of symbolisms. At the same time, dishes provide us with a common ground: we eat, therefore we exist.

This season, and to celebrate La Vitamin T’s first birthday, I wanted to remember one of my favorite family matriarchs with a dish from her table. But, where to start? I do not have any of my grandma’s recipes. Luckily for me, Celia, mom of one of my dearest and closest friends, makes a delicious Veracruzan gefiltefish.  Thank you, Celia for generously sharing it with me!

The concept “Veracruzan style” when referring to food,  evokes images of a fusion cuisine that blends tropical and Mediterranean flavors and ingredients.  Usually, tomatoes, olives and chili peppers are part of the meal. Putting Veracruz in this dish made me think of gefiltefish in Technicholor with Spanish subtitles!

The recipe called for carp, and I had no idea that getting it in a Chicago suburb would be so difficult, which explains the accidental part of timing of this recipe, as I was hoping to post before Passover. We also took a few creative liberties. Enjoy!

Gefiltefish a la Veracruzana (Veracruzan-Style Gefiltefish)

Inspired in a recipe generously shared by Celia Presburger –  Querétaro, México

Serves 6

Broth:

  • 12 cups of chicken stock (this helps soften the fish flavor)
  • 1/2 an onion
  • 1 carrot
  • Head and fish bones (to provide consistency and flavor)

Patties:

  • 1/3 lb of filleted carp
  • 1/3 lb of filleted sea bass
  • 1/3 lb of filleted red snapper
  • 2 bolillos (or 4 slices of bread) soaked in milk
  • 1 tbsp of salt
  • 1/2 tbsp of brown sugar
  • 1 tsp of pepper
  • 1 carrot
  • 1/2 an onion
  • 3 eggs lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup of matzo meal

Note: If you don’t find the three types of fish, use two, but make sure the carp is part of it.

Sauce:

  • 1/4 onion
  • 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp of capers
  • 1/4 cup of olives
  • 1 dried chile güero pod (available in your ethnic food aisle)

Directions:

Broth:

  1. Put the fish bones, carrot, onion and chicken stock in a pot. Bring to boil and simmer.

Patties:

  1. Cut the fish into cubes. Put in the food processor until finely ground. Put in a bowl and set aside. 
  2. Grind the onion and the carrot in the food processor. Fold into the fish along with the matzo meal, salt, sugar, pepper, bread and eggs until you achieve a pasty consistency that will allow you to make patties.
  3. Drop the patties delicately into the boiling broth, cover, reduce to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Alternatively, you can cook in boiling water alone.

Sauce:

  1. Sautée the onion, add the tomatoes and spice to taste. Incorporate the olives, the capers and the chile.

Once the patties are cooked, transfer them into the sauce along with some broth. Simmer.  Let cool and served chilled. I did not wait to eat it cold, I hope my grandma forgives me!

*We did not use ingredients considered  kosher for Passover to make this recipe.

Estampas de Mi Ciudad – When in Monterrey, Do as Regios Do

Photo: Ilya Samko - Monterrey, México
Photo: Ilya Samko – Monterrey, México

I have always said that like its people, Mexican food is mestizo- an amalgam of ingredients transformed by fire and knife into  colorful, flavorful, complex creations. Dishes are particularly hyperlocal. They vary quite a bit even within one state, and incorporate anything from vegetables and cacti to meats and insects.

In Monterrey, Mexico’s most important city to the north, the mix of European, indigenous and Middle Eastern cultures have blended into rustic delicacies such as their famous Cabrito Asado (roasted baby goat). Usually served with tacos and salsa, the meat is braised over wood or coals, and basted with a mixture of lime juice, garlic, onion, sugar and even beer.

A must try if you visit Monterrey, you should have no problem finding it- here, large skewers with cabritos leaning against windows are quite a common sight.

A Cup of Magic with a Hint of Baroque

Churros and chocolate at El Moro - Mexico, CityPhoto: Brenda Storch
Churros and chocolate at Churrería El Moro – Mexico, City, Mexico
Photo: Brenda Storch

     

RUTA MEXICANA

It was not by coincidence or like we say in Mexico, “de puro churro” * that Churrería El Moro was on my agenda as a place I had to check out this time.  I usually visit my family in Mexico City during the holiday season, which makes it almost impossible to make a stop at all the places I either want to go back to, or experience for the first time. This time around, I made sure to move this famous establishment to the top of my list.

I visited El Moro, like locals call it, on New Year’s Day, and I was particularly impressed to find quite a large group of people lined up outside. A look at the menu makes it clear- El Moro masters the alchemy of  churros con chocolate, and its simple menu has delighted guests for nearly a century.  Here you can find four types of chocolate differentiated primarily by thickness and degree of sweetness. These deliciously baroque concoctions have been simmering to perfection since this legendary café opened in 1935.

Churrería El Moro - Mexico City, Mexico Photo by: Brenda Storch
Churrería El Moro – Mexico City, Mexico
Photo by: Brenda Storch

The line moved quickly, and after a short wait, we were warmly greeted and escorted to a table by someone so cheerful to see me on a holiday, I almost felt like family.  I was delighted to have a front row seat to a performance, as churros were being charmed into delicate wheels of fried dough destined to vanish in a matter of seconds.

The city’s hustle and bustle are part of the décor and the overall experience of this urban, simple and non-pretentious locale: El Moro welcomes locals and tourists from all walks of life.

Growing up in a place like Mexico City, where you can find  a cathedral built on top of an Aztec building ( originally built on a lake that is no longer there), I anticipate magic whenever I visit. I have never been disappointed, and this time around, I drank magic in a cup.

*Literally translated as “by virtue of a churro” which means, “accidentally.”

El Moro, Mexico City- Mexico Photo by: Brenda Storch
El Moro, Mexico City- Mexico
Photo by: Brenda Storch
If you visit: 
Don’t be deterred by long lines if you encounter them, they move quickly. The area is busy, but generally safe. Exercise precautions you would observe in any major city. Consider getting your churros to go, as this is also an option.

Churrería El Moro

Eje Central Lázaro Cárdenas 42

Centro Histórico

México, D.F.

Tel. 55 12 0896

Nuestra Mesa: Pan de Camarón

Foto: Manuel Rivera - Ciudad de México, México
Foto: Manuel Rivera – Ciudad de México, México
Cocinar para Navidad a menudo significa prepararse para cocinar durante una semana.  Para que no te falten ideas, aquí incluímos esta receta como parte  de la serie de platillos navideños que el Chef Aldo Saavedra trae a Nuestra Mesa en La Vitamina T para esta temporada. ¡Que la disfruten!
Pan de Camarón 
Según la receta de la señora Andrea Delgado,  Alvarado, Veracruz
Ingredientes (para 10 personas)
Relleno
  • 1 kilo de camarón pacotilla fresco
  • 4 cebollas picada en media luna
  • 4 kilos de jitomate
  • 1 lata de rajas de chile jalapeño picado de 120 gr cada una
  • 1 frasco de alcaparras de 100 gr
  • 1 lata de aceitunas sin hueso de 350 gr
  • 4 cubos de consomé de pollo
  • Aceite al gusto
  • Laurel, tomillo, orégano al gusto
  • 1 pincel o brocha para barnizar
Masa
  • 1 kilo de harina
  • 1/2  kilo de manteca
  • Azúcar
  • Sal
  • 1/2 litro de agua caliente
  • 1 huevo
Procedimiento
Relleno
  1. Pon a acitronar la cebolla con las hierbas de olor.
  2. Lava el jitomate, pícalo en trozos grandes y licúalo con un poco de agua hasta que quede martajado
  3. Agrega el jitomate a la cebolla, los cubos de pollo, las alcaparras enjuagadas, el chile cuaresmeño con un poco de su vinagre, las aceitunas escurridas y deja hervir por una hora, hasta que se evaporen los líquidos.
  4. Añade el camarón partido a la mitad. Déjalo hervir durante 1 minuto. Rectifica sazón y retira del fuego. Déjalo enfriar perfectamente.
  5. El relleno es todavía mejor si se prepara un día antes.
Masa
  1. Derrite la manteca.
  2. Haz un volcán con la harina y  agrega una pizca de sal y 4 de azúcar. Incorporar y forma un volcán.
  3. Añade un poco del agua al centro, bate con las manos solo la parte del centro y pónla afuera del volcán.
  4. Añadir un poco de la manteca bate con las manos sólo la parte del centro, coloca la mezcla afuera del volcán.
  5. Repite  los pasos 3 y 4  hasta terminar de mezclar toda el harina.
  6. Amasa toda la mezcla hasta integrarla perfectamente.
  7. Divide la masa en dos partes.
Armado
  1. Estira una de las porciones de masa teniendo cuidado de no romperla y colócala sobre una charola.
  2. Pon el relleno dejando un márgen de unos 2 cm.
  3. Estira el resto de la masa y cubre el relleno  con ella.  Dobla las orillas, pegando ambas partes del pan.
  4. Pica la superficie con un tenedor y barnízala con el huevo.
  5. Pón el pan a hornear a 350 grados durante 45 minutos o hasta que dore.
*Nota: Puedes sustituir el camarón por cazón, jaiba o incluso pollo.

Encuentra más recetas navideñas haciendo click aquí.

El chef Aldo Saavedra ha cocinado para huéspedes de establecimientos como el conocido Hotel Condesa D.F. y ha contribuído con sus recetas en proyectos con marcas de la talla de Larousse y Danone. En Nuestra Mesa, el chef Saavedra comparte con los lectores de La Vitamina T, su pasión por la cocina y por México.

Nuestra Mesa – Recetas Típicas Navideñas: Pierna Navideña

 

Foto: Manuel Rivera – Ciudad de México, México

Esta es la segunda receta de nuestra deliciosa serie. La preparación de este platillo requiere dos días.

PIERNA NAVIDEÑA 

Según la receta de la señora Lilia Gómez Rojas, Ciudad de México, México

(20 Personas)

Ingredientes

  • 1 Pierna de cerdo de 5 kg
  • 300 ml de vino blanco
  • 6 dientes de ajo
  • Sal y pimienta al gusto
  • 250 gr de chile ancho
  • 1 cebolla
  • 1 bolillo
  • 5 tortillas
  • 1 rajita de canela
  • 2 zanahorias
  • 8 hojas espinaca
  • 15 ciruelas pasas
  • 20 nueces
  • 20 almendras
  • 200 gr de jamón en trozos grandes
  • 1 lt de refresco de cola

Preparación

Un día antes:

1. Inyecta la pierna con el vino blanco, por distintas zonas.

2. Mecha la pierna haciendo incisiones con un cuchillo,e introduce el tocino, la zanahoria, la almendra, la nuez, el jamón, la ciruela pasa y la espinaca.

3. Muele  el ajo, mézclalo con sal y pimienta y unta la pierna con esta mezcla.

4. Deja reposar toda la noche .

Para el adobo

1. Desvena y asa el chile ancho. Pónlo a remojar en agua hirviendo por 10 minutos

2. Mientras, pon a freír la canela. Muélela con el chile y su agua de remojo, las tortillas, la cebolla, sal y pimienta.

3. Unta la pierna con la mitad del adobo y báñala con 250 ml de refresco de cola

4. Mete la pierna al horno precalentado a 200° (hornea 1 hora por cada kilo)

5. Baña la pierna cada 45 minutos con el adobo y el refresco restantes.

6. Cuando ya esté cocinada déjala reposar antes de partirla para que no pierda sus jugos

Encuentra más recetas navideñas haciendo click aquí

El chef Aldo Saavedra ha cocinado para huéspedes de establecimientos como el conocido Hotel Condesa D.F. y ha contribuído con sus recetas en proyectos con marcas de la talla de Larousse y Danone. En Nuestra Mesa, el chef Saavedra comparte con los lectores de La Vitamina T, su pasión por la cocina y por México.

Nuestra Mesa – Recetas Típicas Navideñas: Ensalada de Zanahoria

Seguro que ya están pensando en qué van a servir para la Navidad y el subsecuente recalentado. Las ensaladas de frutas no pueden faltar esta temporada, y ¿qué me dicen de la pierna al horno? Pensando en los platillos típicos de nuestras celebraciones,  el chef Aldo nos trae  hoy a nuestra mesa, una serie de deliciosas recetas. Esta es la primera. ¡Qué las disfruten!

Foto: Manuel Rivera - Ciudad de México
Foto: Manuel Rivera – Ciudad de México

ENSALADA DE ZANAHORIA NAVIDEÑA 

(10 Personas)

Receta de la señora Lilia Gómez Rojas, Ciudad de México, México

Ingredientes:

1 kg  de zanahoria

½ kg de crema ácida

¼ kg de nuez pelada

¼ kg de pasas

200 gr de azúcar mascabado

2 cucharadas de jengibre en polvo

Preparación:

1. Lava y pela la zanahoria

2. Ralla la zanahoria y colócala en un recipiente hondo, añade las pasas y el azúcar

3. Pica las nueces y agrégaselas a la zanahoria

4. Agrega la crema y mezcla

5. Agrega el jengibre y mezcla

 

Encuentra aquí la segunda receta de esta serie.

El chef Aldo Saavedra ha cocinado para huéspedes de establecimientos como el conocido Hotel Condesa D.F. y ha contribuído con sus recetas en proyectos con marcas de la talla de Larousse y Danone. En Nuestra Mesa, el chef Saavedra comparte con los lectores de La Vitamina T, su pasión por la cocina y por México.

You Say Turkey, I Say Guajolote – Two Worlds, One Plate

Photo credit: Lissette Storch – Puebla, México

My great-grandma Rachel ¨Rae¨ Storch, who was born and raised in  the U.S., always called us on Thanksgiving Day. In one occasion, I visited her during the holidays in her home in Miami. To celebrate, she treated me to a very nice meal and asked me what we usually did for Thanksgiving in Mexico. “We have no Mayflower!” I remember answering. Grandma seemed stunned for a second, and then agreed that it made sense that this celebration was not part of my emotional repertoire. I also told her that with our public transportation system as it was, I was reminded to be thankful quite often, especially when getting off a ‘combi’ or ‘pesero’ (vans or shuttle buses that zigzag through the city at incredible speeds and stop at random). Without even blinking,  my great-grandma, who was always worried about my being too short or too skinny, then asked me if my parents were making me drink enough milk and if I took vitamins… I was 24.

For a while, shortly after I first moved to the U.S., and since I did not have family to celebrate with, I volunteered to be the one on call at work. Little by little, I have found myself participating in the festivity more and more often. After all, “en tierra que fueres haz lo que vieres*”. Besides, I can always make an argument for a party at the prospect of good food, and I have even added my on twist to it.

To celebrate this year, I am sharing  two turkey-centric recipes- one in English to make orange tequila turkey, and one in Spanish for those interested in recreating the delicious mole de guajolote otomí, which is usually reserved for fiestas patronales (parties to celebrate patron saints). Any of these two delicious meals will have you saying gobble, gobble in two languages!

*Popular saying equivalent to: “When in Rome do what the Romans do”.