Tag Archives: recipe

Cooking Up a Storm: Oaxaca Potato Salad with Nopal Cactus

It’s the rainy season here. Thus, Cooking Up a Storm! This week I made two different traditional outdoor grills on the anafre (a Spanish word of Arabic origin, as so many are) — one day was chicken thighs, nopal paddles, potatoes, onions and garlic. A few days later, pork loin that marinated for three days in my extra special made-up, homemade marinade. Nopal is filled with health benefits. I buy my meat in the Teotitlan market from Carneceria Teoti.

You can see these photos on my Facebook page. The results, both times, were yummy. I used mesquite charcoal to give off a smoked flavor, and also local pine wood for fuel. (I learned these techniques from my neighbors.)

Meat and potatoes in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca

Yesterday was Tlacolula Market day. I bought a large bag of about 20 small, red, organic potatoes for 10 pesos. That’s 52 cents. Maybe two pounds worth. A bunch of fresh spring onions, also 10 pesos. A bag of cleaned baby nopal paddles (spines removed). Ten paddles were 10 pesos. Lots of things get sold in bunches of 10 pesos! It’s easy to eat here at home for about $35 USD per week. I had the garlic cloves at home.

Spring onions or baby onions on the comal, low heat

I was going to grill all the ingredients, but decided it would be quicker to just boil the potatoes. That’s when I decided, Why not potato salad? Some of you know that a long, long time ago in another land far away, I used to own a gourmet cookware shop and cooking school. I still carry those cooking genes and yearnings with me in an improvisational sense. I like to cook based on what’s available and what inspires me. In Oaxaca, it is a dream come true.

Nopal cactus paddles, cleaned, drained, before cooking

So, here is the RECIPE for OAXACA POTATO SALAD WITH NOPAL CACTUS

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds of small red-skinned potatoes
  • 1 garlic bulb, whole, cleaned and trimmed, stalk and roots removed
  • 2 T. salt
  • 6-8 small nopal cactus paddles, spines removed
  • bunch of spring onions, cleaned and trimmed
  • 1 to 2 T. grainy mustard
  • 1/2 C. olive oil
  • 1/4 c. Balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Cut the onions like this …

Utensils:

  • 4 quart saucepan filled with water
  • Metal comal for stove-top searing/grilling
  • Long metal tongs
  • Some bowls, a knife, a cutting board
Before combining ingredients and adding dressing

Note: If you are in Mexico, you first want to disinfect all the veggies. (Even the locals do this.) This means ALL fresh fruit and vegetables; it is essential for good gut health. That means soaking the vegetables in 8 drops of Microdyne per liter of water for at least 15 minutes. (Sometimes, with lettuces and chard, I do this process twice.) This food processing takes time and no short cuts allowed. It is not a convenient part of living here, but the quality of the food makes up for it.

Instructions:

First, soak the nopal paddles in a bowl of salt water for 30 minutes. Use enough water to cover the nopal. Use at least 2 T. salt. This pulls the slime out of the nopal. Remove and drain.

Bring water to a boil. Add salt. Add potatoes and garlic bulb. Cook until potatoes are soft. You can test this with a wood skewer or fork. Remove and drain in a colander. Cool to room temperature. Peel the garlic cloves. Skin will remove easily.

Nopal paddles on the comal turning from bright to olive green

Heat the comal on the stove top. This is dry grilling. Do not add oil. Place the onions on the comal and cook, turning at regular intervals with metal tongs until bulb is soft. Do not burn. Remove and reserve until cool. Chop green stems and cut bulbs in half.

Cuts of the nopal cactus paddle after grilling

Add nopal paddles to hot comal. As they cook and sear, they will turn from bright to olive green. They are completely cooked when the entire paddle is olive green. Remove and cool. Cut into strips and cut again into 1/4 to 1/2 inch cubes.

Olive oil, NOT Gin Mezcal, gracias a dios!

Combine potatoes, onions, and nopal cactus in a bowl.

Mix the salad dressing together: oil, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper. You can add a few tablespoons of water to thin the mixture if you like. Pour over the mixed veggies and toss all ingredients together. Correct the seasoning adding salt and pepper as needed.

Potato salad, dressed and ready to refrigerate — or eat!

Serve immediately at room temperature or refrigerate. Will keep for two days. Serves 6 to 8 people.

May Your 2019 Be Filled with Sweetness: Oaxaca Chocolate Buttercream Frosting Recipe

For the life of me, I could not find a buttercream frosting recipe that uses real, homemade Oaxaca chocolate, the kind made here in the village. Oaxaca chocolate is a dietary mainstay. The cacao beans are roasted at home and then taken to the molino (mill) to grind along with cinnamon, cane sugar, vanilla bean, almonds and perhaps chiles. Each family has their own recipe handed down by the abuelas.

During the grinding, it comes out of the mill as a warm, thick paste and is poured into pans where it solidifies, then cut into two-inch or three-inch cubes large enough to make a pot of hot chocolate (with water, of course) — an early morning and late evening staple, perfect for dipping conchas.

I decided to adapt chocolate buttercream frosting recipes I found online. Most of them call for dark semi-sweet chocolate, or cocoa powder, or chocolate chips. None included Oaxaca chocolate. I know from years of being in the kitchen that it is the cacao butter in chocolate that makes it creamy. With Oaxaca drinking chocolate, you taste the sugar granules. So, I decided to combine four cubes (about 8 ounces) of traditional Oaxaca chocolate with about four ounces of Oaxaca-made Mama Pacha artesanal chocolate for eating — the amount I had on hand. (Here’s how to buy Mama Pacha.)

Swirls of Oaxaca chocolate buttercream frosting

Making a buttercream frosting is easy. It takes about ten minutes once the chocolate is melted. You just need a hand-mixer, a spatula, a spoon, a Pyrex measuring cup and a mixing bowl. The secret is to melt all the chocolate, but cool it to the touch before adding it to the creamed butter. If the chocolate is too hot, the butter will melt and your frosting will be ruined.

Ready for chocolate cake and my homemade pumpkin pie with cornmeal crust

How to Melt the Chocolate: put all the chocolate in a 2-4 cup Pyrex measuring cup. Microwave the chocolate in 30-second increments, stirring and cooling for several minutes between each 30-second zap. The chocolate should be combined, soft and paste-like. Put a finger deep into the center to be sure the mixture is not hot.

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces of cubed Oaxaca chocolate
  • 3-4 ounces of artisanal 70% cacao semi-sweet chocolate
  • 2-1/2 cups of powdered sugar (azucar glace´)
  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 T. almond milk, plain or vanilla flavored
  • 1/4 t. pure vanilla extract
  • dash of salt (omit salt if using salted butter)

Directions:

  1. Melt chocolate as described above.
  2. Put butter into medium size mixing bowl. Cream with mixer until smooth and fluffy. Color should be a creamy beige.
  3. Add cooled chocolate and continue to combine into creamed butter with electric mixer.
  4. Add 1/2 the amount of powdered sugar and stir into the chocolate butter mix at lowest speed of hand mixer. Add remaining powdered sugar. Scrape sides of bowl until all is mixed.
  5. Add vanilla extract and almond milk. Mix in thoroughly.
  6. Chill for a few minutes.
  7. Will frost an 8-10″ layer cake or 12-18 cupcakes.

The Cake:

In Oaxaca we have a Mexican supermarket called Chedraui. The best one is in Colonia Reforma. It has a complete selection of imported products, too, including those that are gluten-free. I am experimenting with a gluten-free and milk-free diet, so I did buy a Betty Crocker gluten free chocolate cake mix and substituted almond milk for cow milk. It turned out to be delicious.

My Zapotec friends raved that this was the best frosting they ever had, too! I confess it doesn’t look like much. Not smooth as silk (because of the granulated sugar). But it is delicious.

Happy New Year.

Leftover Rosca de Reyes Bread Pudding Recipe

After about a day, Rosca de Reyes becomes more like dry cake, good for dunking into coffee or hot chocolate, but not so tasty for eating plain. What to do? Make bread pudding, of course.

I got a little carried away in the Teotitlan del Valle market and bought three Roscas. They are so pretty. After giving one away, there were still two. Friends came over for dinner last night, so I decided to use up what I had and make bread pudding.

Rosca de Reyes bread pudding, leftover deliciousness

Using a New York Times basic bread pudding recipe, I adapted it for Oaxaca flavors.

Ingredients:

  • 1 small Rosca de Reyes sweet egg bread loaf, cut into 3″ cubes (be sure to remove all the plastic Baby Jesus dolls)
  • 1/2 c. chopped pecans
  • 1/2 c. raisins
  • 4 cups milk
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 t. pure vanilla extract
  • 4 T. butter + 1 T. for greasing baking dish
  • 1/2 t. cinnamon
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1/4 c. Reposado mezcal
  1. Put the cut up bread, including candied fruit, nuts and raisins into large mixing bowl.
  2. Heat milk, butter, vanilla, and sugar in saucepan until butter is melted.
  3. Cool liquid mixture to room temp. (Put in fridge or freezer for speedy chilling.)
  4. Beat eggs in another mixing bowl. Add  liquid and beat again until combined.
  5. Add mezcal to liquid. Stir. (Note: Some recipes call for whiskey or bourbon. We’re in Oaxaca. Why not use mezcal?)
  6. Pour over cake bread. Let stand 30-40 minutes or until bread is soft.
  7. Pour into a buttered baking dish (preferably deep dish).
  8. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 45 minutes or until top is crusty and custard is completely cooked.
  9. Serve warm. Serves 6-8.

Rosca in it’s original form before it becomes pudding

Once upon a time, a long time ago, I owned a gourmet cookware shop and cooking school. Another part of my creative past life still emerges from time-to-time.

For Dia de los Muertos and Everyday: Mama Dorothy’s Apple Pie Recipe with Cornmeal Crust

In 1976, a few years before I opened a gourmet cookware shop and cooking school in South Bend, Indiana, I contributed a recipe to the first edition of the Temple Beth El cookbook. Mama Dorothy’s Apple Pie is based on one that my mother prepared on occasion. For Dia de los Muertos, I found myself consulting that cookbook yet again as I prepared to welcome her spirit back to me.

Mama Dorothy’s Apple Pie, from Muertos to Thanksgiving

Many of you asked for the recipe when I talked about it on Facebook. So, here it is:

Mama Dorothy’s Apple Pie

  • 6 tart apples, peeled, cored and sliced thin
  • 1/4 c. raisins
  • 1/4 c. coarsely chopped walnuts (you can also use pecans or almonds)
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1/2 t. ground cinnamon
  • dash of grated nutmeg
  • 2 T. cornstarch
  • juice of 1/2 Meyer lemon, size medium to large
  • 4 T. water

In a large mixing bowl, combine apples, raisins, nuts, sugar and spices. Mix. Add cornstarch, sprinkling it over the mixture. Mix so that the apples are completely coated by corn starch. Add lemon juice and water. Stir and set aside.  (You can prepare this a day in advance: seal with plastic wrap and refrigerate.)

Mama Dorothy, 1916-2015

Corn Meal Crust based on a James Beard Recipe 

I love this corn meal crust because of it’s crunch. I buy Goya brand extra coarse corn meal from the Mexican market. The egg yolk enriches the crust and binds it together.

In your Cuisinart, with the chopping blade in place, add:

  • 1-1/2 c. fine white flour
  • 1 c. coarse cornmeal
  • 1/8 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. sugar

Pulse to stir these dry ingredients together.

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 stick salted butter, cut into 8 pieces

Add egg yolk and distribute the butter pieces evenly atop the flour mixture.  Use the “on” button to mix ingredients until butter is the size of small peas.

  • about 7-10 Tb. ice water

With the machine running, add the ice water slowly through the pour spout of the lid until the flour begins to form a dough ball. Add more ice water if needed. Remove lid and test to see if the flour is combined enough to form a dough. If not, continue processing and adding a bit more water. The dough should not be sticky!

Remove dough from machine. Put it in a mixing bowl, cover and let rest for 30-45 minutes before working it. At this point, you can refrigerate dough, covered with plastic wrap or freeze it until ready to use.  I will often roll out the crust, put it into the pie plate unfilled and then refrigerate or freeze until I need it.

Put the dough between two sheets of wax paper. It should be soft enough after resting to work easily with a rolling-pin.  Roll from center out to the edges, constantly turning the wax paper in 45 degree turns so that you create an even circle.

When dough gets to 8-10′ in diameter, remove top piece of wax paper. Lift edge of bottom sheet of paper and flip onto your pie plate.

Refrigerate for 30 minutes before filling.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Put your rack in the middle of the oven.

Remove crust from the fridge. Fill it. Don’t make the apples too deep. If you have enough filling and crust, you can make two 8″ pies.

  • Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes.
  • Reduce oven heat to 325 degrees and bake 30-40 minutes until the liquid congeals and becomes bubbly. Remove. Serve warm or room temperature.
  • Serves 6-8.
  • Top with vanilla ice cream if you like.

I’m returning to Mexico on November 16, and preparing Thanksgiving with Kalisa Wells for a crowd at my Teotitlan del Valle casita on November 23. I bet this will be among the dessert offerings!

Pie on a plate. It’s also good smeared with cottage cheese on top.

 

 

Oaxaca Comal Cooking in Durham, North Carolina: Eggplant and Okra

Okra is one of my favorite southern foods, right along with shrimp and grits. I like it because it reminds me of nopal cactus paddles, the kind you eat. I’m always trying to figure out how to prepare so it’s not slimy! Grilling, not boiling, is a secret.

On this return from Oaxaca to North Carolina, I packed two cast iron comals in my luggage —  griddles, 8-inches and 11-inches in diameter. The bigger one does the heavy lifting for surface grilling all sorts of vegetables on my electric induction heat cooktop. (Okay, it’s not gas, but it works pretty well.)

Cooked and ready to eat, grilled eggplant and okra

Of course, you have to season the comal just like you would a cast iron fry pan: over a low heat with a few tablespoons of vegetable oil for a couple of hours until the pan surface is well-coated and the oil is baked on.

Healthy, Low-Fat, Nutritious!

Yesterday, on my regular 6,000 step walk around downtown Durham, I returned via Foster Street to find the Wednesday Farmer’s Market in full swing. Green tomatoes. Red onions. Cherry tomatoes. Green and purple okra. Tiny Japanese eggplant. I could not resist that okra and the eggplant.

The Farmer’s Market is only two blocks from my apartment-condo. Walkable, and I always have to think about how much weight I’m carrying (of the vegetable variety).

How to Prepare Stove-Top Grilled Eggplant and Okra on the Comal

  1. Wash veggies in a water bath with 1 Tb. vinegar
  2. Heat the comal on low temperature until surface is hot.
  3. Dry veggies and add to comal.
  4. Drizzle veggies with 1-2 Tb. olive oil.
  5. Grind pink Himalayan sea salt to taste.
  6. With tongs, turn and move veggies periodically until all sides are evenly browned. Watch to prevent burning.
  7. Eggplant should turn from purple to brown all over and be soft to the touch. Okra should be crunchy, not overcooked.
  8. Eat now, hot off the comal, or store and serve later with rice or couscous, tossed with chopped red onion and fresh diced tomatoes.

I use the comal for any grilled and mixed grill veggie preparation: asparagus, onions, peppers, tomatoes and mushrooms, for example.

Eggplant cooks first. Then add the okra.

Where to Buy a Cast Iron Comal?