Tag Archives: eat

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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Mexican Flag Nopal Cactus Salad or Nopal Ceviche Recipe

Here in southern Mexico nopal cactus is part of the landscape.  It is good to eat, too.  Very nutritious, high in vitamin C, experts say it has other health benefits like reducing cholesterol, controlling diabetes, and preventing hangovers.

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Plus, it’s that stunning visual treat of Green, White and Red, symbolic of Mexico and her flag.

Since I live in the campo, nopal cactus is abundant.  A friend brings me a small package of baby-size paddles periodically and I also buy them in the village market.  I just planted some Opuntia ficus-indica next to the casita.  You stick the mature paddle about 2″ into the earth and it becomes a fence or sustenance.

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I sometimes add Julienne or diced nopal to a vegetable soup stock for flavor and thickening.  It has a consistency like okra.  The process I use below gets rid of the slime.

I call this Nopal Ceviche because the cactus is “cooked” in salt and lime juice. No heat necessary.  In fact, this way, the nopal retains its crunchiness and healthfulness.  Believe me, you will love it.  The trick is to find small nopal paddles in the U.S.  I’m lucky.  I get mine already de-spined and cleaned.

Mexican Flag Nopal Cactus Salad or Nopal Ceviche

  • 15-20 small cactus paddles, about 4″ long and 2″ wide
  • 3 large plum tomatoes
  • 4-6 young onions, small
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 T. sea salt
  • juice of one large lime
  • 1/4 c. EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
  • optional:  3 T. diced cilantro and the flesh of 1 small avocado, diced

Nopal cactus paddles:  First slice the paddles lengthwise into approx. 1/2″ cuts. Then, cut crosswise into 3/8″ to 1/2″ dices.  You should have about 1-1/2 C. of diced nopal. Put into bowl.  Sprinkle with sea salt.  Set aside for 20-30 minutes.

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Tomatoes, Onions, Garlic:  Wash and clean the tomatoes.  (Here in Oaxaca, I clean tomatoes, and all vegetables, by immersing them in a bowl of purified water into which I have added three sprays of biodegradable anti-bacterial disinfectant.) Dice tomatoes using a serrated knife into 3/8 to 1/2″ pieces.  Add to a second bowl. Keep the juice.  Dice onions to same size. Add to tomatoes.  Gently smash the garlic cloves with side of a chef’s knife or Chinese cleaver.  Peel skin.  Dice into 1/8″ cuts. Add to this tomato/onion mixture.  Set aside.

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Rinsing the Nopal:  Here in Oaxaca, in fact all of Mexico, we use purified bottled water.  I use this to rinse the nopal after it has “cooked” in the salt.  You won’t have to do this in the U.S.  I add water to the nopal, stir, and pour the water out through a colander.  I do this 4 times until the thick, mucous-like water begins to run clear and thin.  Shake the colander to release all the liquid.  If you wish, pat the nopal dry with a paper towel.

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Combining Ingredients:  In a large bowl, combine the rinsed nopal with the tomatoes, onions, and garlic.  Toss.  Add the fresh squeezed lime juice.  If you want it less tart, reduce the amount of juice.  Taste.  Add more salt if needed.  Add olive oil, and stir.  Now, you can add the cilantro and avocado, if you like.

Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Will hold for 24 hours covered in the refrigerator.

Serve with fresh tortillas or crispy tortilla chips.

Serves 6.

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Eat Like a Mexican: Tasting Mexico City Street Food with Eat Mexico Culinary Tour

Forbes Magazine says Mexico City is the hottest place for food.  They are not talking temperature.  Mexico City has it all — from gourmet cheeses and meats found in pricey restaurants to humble street food like tacos and tlacoyos. Today, I focus on eating on the street where people consume complete meals or snacks, sitting on stools or standing at the curb. This is Mexico’s version of fast food and is something I have shied away from.  But my secret yearning to sample was finally realized because I want to eat like a Mexican, too!  Thanks goes to Lesley Tellez who started an off-the-beaten-path, non-touristy culinary walking tour called Eat Mexico (see below for contact information).   

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This is real food, homemade by women and men who work at portable cook stoves at street corners or at little stationery stands who continue home-style family traditions.  We discover, however, that humble is a misnomer and what we taste rivals any high-end restaurant for quality if not for presentation. Lesley has done her research well.  All the food is delicious, and the preparation is safe and clean.

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Our guide Natalia and guide-in-training Arturo, meet us at the designated spot, then lead us down a side street to a corner seafood taco stand that has been in business for over forty years.  We belly up to the outdoor bar, gaze at the selection of fresh crab, shrimp, lobster, fish, and octopus through the protective clean glass that separated us from the cooks.  We choose either the blue crab tostada or a deep fried mixed seafood quesadilla. Luckily, Debbie and I can share so we choose one of each, drizzled with lots fresh lime and Valentina sauce.  YUMMY and AMAZING after first bites.

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After a block or two, we turn the corner near the San Juan artisans market and come upon a stall that is operated by a third generation cook.  Right on this corner, whole turkeys are cut up on the seat of a plastic chair, then deep-fried in a giant cauldron filled with oil until done.  The meat is then sliced, layered on a toasted roll (torta), slathered with homemade chipotle chili salsa (another OOOH, AAAAH here), and topped with avocado.  We are invited to add a papalo leaf to the ingredients before closing up the sandwich to eat.  This is a minty herb with a sharp, flavorful taste unlike anything I’ve ever eaten before.  We each get a half-sandwich to sample.  What I notice while I inhale this treat is how the plastic plates are wiped with a cloth only used for this purpose.  The plate is covered with a clean piece of paper before the sandwich finds its resting place.  I have no concerns about sanitation here.

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It’s the middle of July and the rainy season in Mexico.  As we enter San Juan market, boxes are filled with just-delivered mushrooms, varieties of which I have not seen before.  This market offers a gourmet food experience and many top chefs shop here for exotic meats (like ostrich, lion, and kangaroo), fruit and vegetables.  We sample fresh rambutan, chico zapote, mango, jackfruit, figs, nectarines.  The mamey tastes like a creamy sweet potato and I love it.  Eat it solo for dessert or try it as an ice cream.

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Coffee, anyone?  The barista grinds beans from Veracruz and brews me a cup of Americano from the espresso machine.  MMMMM, good.

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Next, is a tasting of fruit jams and jellies, tapenades, and honey.  I walk away with a jar of jalapeno jelly and rose petal jam.  Next door is the cheese purveyor who puts out a sampling plate of world-class varieties like smoked gouda, pistachio infused manchego cheese, brie, and a mozzarella, all made in Mexico.  He offers us cups of red wine to sip along with the tasting.  Baguettes of fresh, crusty French bread hang from the overhead rack above his stall, ready to take home.

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By now, I am full, but we press on.  Our guide Natalia explains the history of the market dating from pre-Hispanic Aztec times.  Mexico, she says, gave the world three gifts:  chocolate, chiles, and vanilla.  At the next intersection is the chile vendor where some of us buy mole rojo and vanilla beans at 20 pesos each (that’s about $1.50).  Natalia recommends we put a vanilla bean in the sugar jar for a great taste.

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At the Oaxaca specialty food stand, we pop chapulines (grasshoppers) into our mouths.  No one is reticent.  The big ones are the females.  The little ones are males.  They are roasted with salt and chiles, crunchy and tasty.  I say no to another taste of Oaxaca quesillo.  No more space in my stomach.  Debbie buys a bag of peanuts roasted with chile, salt and lime juice.  I watch her pop a few!

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We move out onto the street in the direction of the common people’s market Arcos de Belen.  On the way, we stop at a molina to see how the corn is ground. Next door is the tortilleria where the masa dough is formed and cooked by machine. (In Teotitlan del Valle, we can still get handmade tortillas!)  Natalia gives us a history of corn as part of the cultural identity of Mexico, where it was first hybridized eight thousand years ago in the Oaxaca valley close to where I live.

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After we tour the market food courts, we all pass on a taste at the fresh juice bar (estoy lleno–I am full) and move on to the corner where a woman sits making blue corn tlacoyos.

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The finish is at the pulque bar, where the double swinging doors look like a saloon entrance.  The décor is decidedly neo-Aztec with bright figures painted on walls and ceilings.  We cozy up to a side bar where the owner brings us a sampler tray of flavored pulques – pineapple, celery, coconut, oatmeal, guayaba plus au natural (a viscous, sour taste).  The sweetness helps mask the milkiness. Natalia tells us the Aztec history of the drink and explains that it is fermented, not distilled, from the agave plant and must be served fresh.  It is cheap, gives a nice buzz, and is favored by university students who represent most of the clientele this day.  I take a liking to the celery and pineapple.

University students at the pulqueria

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We say our goodbyes at the next street corner.  What a great adventure, very fun, educational, and gastronomically delightful. I have a map but I’m not going to share it with you!

I recommend you sign up for Eat Mexico Culinary Tours and discover this great food experience for yourself!

P.S. The cost of $85 per person includes guide services, map, a bottle of water, and all food and drink along the way.  We sign up in advance and pay online.  Very easy.  Eat Mexico sends lots of email communication to tell us where to meet, what to wear that would be comfortable, and a little bit about our guide so we recognize her.  Be sure to check out Lesley Tellez’ The Mija Chronicles blog, too.

More Than 36 Hours: Oaxaca, Mexico–Favorite Restaurants

The list that I sent to Freda Moon, The New York Times travel writer who created the feature 36 Hours: Oaxaca, Mexico, included some of my favorite places to eat in two categories:  1) Where to eat that won’t break your budget, and 2) The GaGa Dining Experience.

Where to Eat That Won’t Break Your Budget

El Gran Gourmet, Av. Independencia #1104, between Juarez and Pino Suarez, clean, quick, delicious local food joint, 3-4 course lunch about 50-60 pesos, including beverage.  This doesn’t look like much from the street, but believe me, the food is delicious and a definite bargain.  If you are watching your pesos, this is the place! Can’t find it in any guidebook.  Where my pals from the Museo Textil de Oaxaca eat lunch.

Casa del Tio Guero, 55 pesos for a fixed-price, 3-course lunch.  Offers vegetarian, typical Oaxaqueña comida (lunch), sandwiches.  Av. Garcia Virgil #715, continue uphill 2-3 blocks past the corner of  Av.Jose Carranza. Tel. 951-516-9584; known for Puebla’s  quintessential treat–chiles en nogada (available as vegetarian). Incredible flan.  Great folk art plasters the walls.  Lots of visuals to keep you occupied.

   

Café Los Cuiles — Cafe with a Conscience! Av. Abasolo between Alcala and 5 de Mayo, across from the outdoor artisan market. Plazuela La Bastida #115.  Ex-pat heaven with locals who love it, too! Comfy little spot with great omelets, waffles, and traditional Mexican fare, free Wi-Fi, which means that sometimes it’s difficult to find a table.  50-80 pesos.  Office away from home.

La Zandunga, Av. Garcia Virgil at the corner of Jesus Carranza, cater-corner to La Biznaga, traditional Isthmus of Tehuantepec cooking, delicious mole negro, tamales steamed in banana leaves, moderate $$ 80-120 pesos; maybe 10 tables; extensive mescal tasting assortment; Aurora Toledo owner is from Juchitan. Telephone: 951/516-2265

Terranova on the Zocalo, outdoor café, moderately priced. Excellent tortas made with whole grain rolls and great people-watching.  There are many restaurants that ring the Zocalo where you can dine alfresco.  I particularly like the Micheladas here — made with spicy tomato and lime juice and beer of your choice.

Where to Eat for the GaGa Oaxaca Dining Experience

Pitiona—Cocina de Autor, NEW Calle 5 de Mayo #311, (951) 514-4707,  across from swank Camino Real Hotel. Try the sea bass with ginger crystallized sugar, red chard, spinach, salsa Amarillo and fresh blue corn tortillas.  When I had dinner here soon after they opened, the wait staff was warm and friendly, and the culinary masters of the kitchen loved having their picture taken!

            

Los Danzantes:  Even though The New York Times mentioned Los Danzantes in their 2007 36 Hours: Oaxaca, Mexico feature, the restaurant has staying power.  The food is still extraordinary.  The coconut shrimp I had recently was over the top, adorned with “tuna,” the fruit of the agave cactus, peeled pink grapefruit and orange sections, and cucumber, topped with a pineapple salsa with candied ginger and red pepper flakes. Macedonio Alcala#403 Interior Courtyard #4. Telephone: (951) 501-1184, (951) 501-1187.  Enter next to El Oro de Monte Alban.  Also, they distill their own mescal.  Muy rico!

 

 

La Biznaga, Ave. Gargia Virgil, #512, between Allende and J. Carranza, eclectic atmosphere with open sky dining and great recorded jazz on a good sound system, innovative food preparation and presentation. Try the black bean soup and anything with squash blossoms.  I especially love the salmon salad and trust the lettuce-washing here.  Quintessential SLOW FOOD, which says more about how quickly it comes out of the kitchen than its origins.  The red Malbec wine from Argentina is especially delicious.  You can dine here for between $7-25 USD, depending upon your menu choices.

Please feel free to add your own recommendations for your favorite eating spots in Oaxaca in the comments section.