Category Archives: Food & Recipes

Masterpiece of Mexican Cuisine and Symbol of Independence: Chile en Nogada

It’s a Chile en Nogada kind of day here in Puebla, Mexico, where it was first prepared by Augustinian nuns, so they say, to honor the birthday of General Augustin Iturbide on August 28, 1821, who orchestrated Mexico’s independence from Spain on the same date.

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I ate one Chile en Nogada today here at El Mural de Los Poblanos. One s not enough. But, lo, I won’t be here long enough, gone by the time you read this! No second day for a second helping.

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History notes that it took Iturbide less than a year to secure independence after he put together a three-part coalition of liberal insurgents, landed nobility and the church who had been in-fighting for ten years. He formulated The Three Guarantees: Freedom from Spain, Religion (Catholicism only) and  Union (all Mexicans treated as equals).

Iturbide translated The Three Guarantees into the Tri-Color Mexican flag — green, red and white —  and added the Aztec symbol of the eagle perched on a cactus to build upon the past. The city is decorated to honor the occasion and the Chile en Nogada season.

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The nuns created the Chile en Nogada to honor the man who created the first Mexican independence.  The dish is tri-color:  A beautiful poblano chile stuffed with minced pork, fresh fruit, pine nuts and savory spices (green), topped with a fresh walnut and cream sauce (white) and garnished with fresh pomegranate seeds (red).

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Today, chile en nogada is THE seasonal dish in Puebla. It is a culinary masterpiece along with the other masterpiece of Puebla origins, mole poblano. Every restaurant tries to capitalize on the popularity of this famous dish.

Chile en Nogada is available fresh only from July to September when pomegranates are ripe, peaches and apples are in season, and mild poblano peppers are prolific.

No restaurant does it better than El Mural de Los Poblanos.  I’ve been coming here for years and the preparation, presentation and taste never wavers from excellent. Paired with Casa Madero 3V red wine from Coahuila, Mexico, this meal was cien percento (one hundred percent) Mexicano.

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Chef Lisette Galicia’s Chile en Nogada is stuffed with a picadillo of pears, apples, pine nuts, raisins and ground pork, seasoned with hints of North African spices that point to Spain’s Moorish history. It is a perfect combination of sweet and savory.  The version here is a sweeter nogada sauce, a counter-point to what I tasted the week before at Mexico City’s Azul Historico, where two sauce versions, one sweet, the other savory, were available on the menu.

Now, it’s off to El Norte for a while. Hasta pronto. I’ll be dreaming of you, Mexico.

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Dinner with Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera at Casa Azul

Guadalupe Rivera Marin remembers the elaborate meals served at Casa Azul, home of her father Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo.  Lupe lived with them for a few years and claims to have taught Frida how to cook. Evidently, Frida loved to entertain but didn’t take much to the preparation. I wouldn’t either if it required grinding the masa by hand on a metate to make tortillas over a smokey charcoal fire! The lore around Diego and Frida continues.

Looking for Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo Art History Tour                     July 2014

In this Washington Post interview about Diego Rivera’s favorite foods, Lupe recalls tables set with flair, abundant meals featuring Oaxaca’s mole negro, and table conversation with famous guests. DSC_8739 Now age 90, Lupe Rivera authored a 1994 cookbook Frida’s Fiestas that replicates many of the recipes served at the Casa Azul dinner table.  Lupe learned these recipes from her mother Guadalupe Marin, Rivera’s second wife and a subject of both Rivera’s and Kahlo’s paintings. EatMexico72013-41 During our art history tour, we visit Casa Azul where these foods were prepared and served, eat some of these favorites at some great restaurants, and explore the paintings of both Rivera and Kahlo with in-depth narrative by a Mexico City art historian who speaks fluent English.

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We invite you to join us!

Special thanks to Bruce K. Anderson for sharing the Washington Post article with us!

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Baking the Improvised Cheesecake: More Art Than Science

Cheesecake is becoming more popular in Oaxaca, Mexico.  Though it’s difficult to find springform pans here that are used to bake the traditional New York-style cheesecake.  I know one store, Pastigel on Calle Rayon near the Periferico that sells pastry baking supplies where you can buy one.  Called moldes, they are very expensive, about thirty-five dollars.  There are plenty of low-cost aluminum cake pans, though.  Line one with buttered parchment paper and it’s easy to improvise.

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Everyone here loves cake.  And, cheese.  RequesonQuesillo.  Queso fresco. Cream cheese, known as Philadelphia, can easily be bought but it’s also costly. More than two dollars a package at our corner tienda in Teotitlan del Valle.  So, we make the best of it and improvise once more.

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To prepare for our cheesecake cooking class, I gave Janet and Diana a shopping list in advance.  Six eggs, one cup of sugar, real butter, a large container of sour cream, four packages of Philadelphia, and one lemon for each cake.  In Spanish, lemons are called limas.  That makes me think of Lima, Peru, which I just realize is named for a citrus. Diana arrives with six ripe lemons picked this morning from the tree in her garden.  It’s not even February.  

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Janet needed my pan and forgot eggs.  I used a deep dish casserole, also buttered, lined with a parchment paper circle partly cut into pie wedges and overlapped.  Improvise, I say.  We redistributed the thirteen eggs between us, so they used five each.  I used three.  Another improvisation. I had two packages of Philadelphia, so I added a cup of Requeson and creamed it along with the cheese and sugar. Then, I added one cup of sour cream and reserved the rest for the topping, which we later adorned with a flor de jamaica (hibiscus flower).  I told the girls that cooking is more of an art than a science for me.

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It took us four-and-a-half hours to make and bake three cheesecakes. As we prepped, Janet translated the steps into Spanish for her family.  Most importantly, we had a lot of fun.

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Many, many years ago, when I owned a gourmet cooking school and cookware shop in Indiana, I baked and sold whole New York-style cheesecakes for twenty-five dollars, three dollars a slice.   I had commercial equipment. Today’s lesson employed a hand-mixer and a food processor (lucky to have them here), which we used to make a cookie crumb crust with Marias instead of graham crackers.

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We are at six thousand feet altitude, so baking is slow.  What usually takes forty-five to sixty minutes in North Carolina is closer to an hour-and-a-half here.  I had to bump up the Celsius temperature on my oven to get a cooked cheesecake.  Translated here: 400 degrees F. instead of 350. Another improvisation.

For the Oaxaca Cheesecake Recipe, click here.

Feliz Año Nuevo — Happy New Year 2014 — Oaxaca Cheesecake Recipe

For the past week I’ve gone market shopping, both at the Sunday Tlacolula market and at the smaller, though equally satisfying Teotitlan del Valle market where I live.  It’s easier now that I have LaTuga — a market trip can be spontaneous.

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As the invitation list for my New Year’s Eve house warming birthday party dessert open house grew to over thirty, I realized I might not have enough pastries and wine.  So, I made multiple trips to Amado’s tienda to stock up on red wine and mezcal.

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At the market I bought flowers, queso fresco, sweet bread, goat cheese, and the ingredients to make tomato ginger chutney.  I usually do this in the North Carolina summer when there is a two week window for ripe tomatoes.  Here in Oaxaca, they are ripe year round.  The chutney is great warmed and poured on top of the goat cheese, then spread on bread slices.

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I made the fruit salad recipe I shared with you last week, but added mandarin oranges and poached, spiced crab apples.  Eloisa baked me three giant Chocoflan cakes, and on impulse I bought a big homemade, layered jello extravaganza at the village market.  It was a dessert buffet.

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Yesterday morning, I decided on the spur of the moment to make a New York style cheesecake when I saw Amado had two pounds of Philadelphia cream cheese in his case along with Alpura brand sour cream and a tube of Maria’s cookies.  My friend Ani gave me a gift of butter earlier, and I picked up a few extra eggs.  Instead of liquid vanilla, I used fresh squeezed lemon juice (called lima here) and zest.  I augmented the cream cheese with mashed and pureed queso fresco.  When it didn’t look like I would have enough cookie crumbs for the crust, I added some of the sweet bread to the Maria crumbs.  Adaptation is an important element for living in Mexico.

Lupe came to help me get the house ready and we prepared the cheesecake together.  Her son Daniel hung the papel picado flags and the piñata filled with candies for the children to dismantle with a stick at the end of the party.   Our village is party central.  On December 30, I was at Janet and Jan’s home for her birthday celebration. The flowers were abundant and the food delicious.

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I was too busy greeting, serving and schmoozing to take photos of my birthday accoutrements and friends.  The cheesecake disappeared before I could stage a photo shoot. Maybe those who did take photos will share them!  After everyone left, the rockets, firecrackers and band played on into the night to welcome the procession of the baby Jesus to Las Cuevitas.  Even my ear plugs didn’t help. We will join that celebration later today.

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Meanwhile, I am wishing you a very satisfying, joyous, content, and healthful new year.  May peace and fulfillment be yours for 2014.

Norma’s Pie de Queso — Mexican Style Cheesecake Recipe —

Disfruta!  Enjoy!

The Crust:

  • 1 package Maria cookies
  • 1 slice of sweet bread or any sweet roll
  • 4 T. sugar
  • 4 T.  melted butter

In a food processor, add the cookies and sweet roll, process until fine crumbs.  Add sugar.  Pulse until completely mixed.  Add melted butter.  Combine until butter is mixed throughout.  Pour out into a parchment paper lined 8-10″ springform pan.  Press crumbs firmly on bottom and up sides of pan about 1/4-1/2 inch.  Set aside.

The Filling:

  • 2 lbs. Philadelphia cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 lb. queso fresco (Oaxaca crumble cheese)
  • 1 C. sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • juice of 1/2 large lemon
  • 1 T. lemon zest
  • 1 C. sour cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In large mixing bowl with electric beaters on high speed, blend the cheeses until smooth and creamy.  Add the sugar and mix until white and smooth.  Add eggs one at a time until completely mixed.  Add lemon.  Beat for about 30 seconds.  Add sour cream and blend in on low speed until just stirred in.  Stir in lemon zest.

Pour into a buttered springform pan (line with parchment to make clean-up easier).  Put into preheated 350 degree oven.  Bake for 45-60 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center.  Turn oven off. Leave cake in oven to cool for 30 minutes or more before removing.

The Topping:

  • 1/2 C. sour cream
  • 3 T. sugar
  • 2 T. lemon juice
  • 1/2 t. lemon zest

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Stir all ingredients together.  Pour over top of cooled cheesecake and spread evenly over top with spoon or spatula.  Put into hot oven. Bake for 5-7 minutes.  Watch that topping does not brown or burn.   Remove and cool.

Strawberry Fruit Topping (optional)

  • 1/2 c. mashed berries
  • 3 T. sugar
  • 1/4 c. Cointreau (or Controy here in Mexico)

In a stainless steel pan, mix together the berries, sugar and liqueur.  Cook over high heat for 2 minutes until berries are mascerated, juice begins to form and the sugar is melted.  Remove and cool for about 2 minutes.  Pour over the sour cream topping of the cheesecake.

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If you cut a circle in the center and then make the slices from this circle, the cake will yield 16-20 servings.  The remaining center circle can then be cut in 4-6 wedges.

 

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And another sunset from the terraza to celebrate life’s infinite beauty.

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Merry Christmas Oaxaca, Mexico Fruit Salad Recipe

Merry Christmas and happiest holidays to you and your family!  My gift to you is this delicious recipe for easy fruit salad Mexican style, using red and green skin apples and pears for festive color of Mexico to decorate your table.  Seasoned with lime juice, organic honey, and mixed with yogurt, it is a healthy holiday treat as a dessert or side accompaniment to your dinner.  I have made this multiple times recently, adapting a recipe I learned from my neighbor Ernestina, who uses whipping cream instead of yogurt. Let’s save the calories. Enjoy! From my Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, kitchen to yours.

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Ingredients 

  • 2 red-skinned apples, Delicious, MacIntosh or Gala
  • 1 green-skinned apple, Green Delicious
  • 2 pears, ripe
  • 2 small red-skinned Mexican bananas, peeled
  • 1/4 c. chopped pecans
  • juice of one medium lime
  • 1/4 c. organic honey
  • 1 c. natural yogurt (or more to taste)

Core and cut apples and pears into 1/4″ pieces.  Add to mixing bowl.  Slice bananas into 1/2″ pieces.  Add to bowl.  Add pecans.  Mix well.  Combine honey and lime juice.  Pour into fruit mixture.  Toss well.   Add yogurt.  Stir.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Serves 6-8.

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Optional:  Add small pieces of diced candied ginger and/or 2 T. golden raisins plumped in hot water (drained).  You can also mix in 2 T. of your favorite preserves.  Kumquat, maybe?