Tag Archives: recipe

Gossip and Morning Refreshment: Following the Abuelitas

This morning I arrive at the daily market early, by 9 a.m. I had chicken soup on my mind and want to make some, so I first stop at a stall where I know that cooking teacher Reyna Mendoza buys her pollo. Criollo, advises the woman standing next to me in the aisle as she points to the small whole, white chicken, saying pollo, es pollo, (chicken, it’s chicken) a Spanish lesson for the güera. I smile and nod.

Buying roses, $2.50 a dozen . I always have fresh flowers.

Buying roses, $2.50 a dozen . I always have fresh flowers.

Criollo means natural or wild or organic. They eat maize, she says. She then points to the big, plump yellow chickens sitting with their big breasts, proud birds, twice the size of the criollos, and says, these came from Oaxaca and they eat commercial grain (in Spanish, of course). Then, the vendor and the shopper move into Zapotec, a language I don’t understand. Some chismes (gossip), I’m sure.

Mango vendor with an abundant supply.

Mango vendor with an abundant supply.

I love following the little grandmothers, the abuelitas, through the market, with their wool checked faldas (skirts) folded around their waist and tied with a handwoven red wool cinturon (belt) with tassle ends. In the old days, these belts were dyed with cochineal. Some still are.

Plaid wool skirt tied with a cummberbund, floral top, shawl for sun protection, basket to hold market goodies.

Plaid wool skirt, floral top, shawl for sun protection, basket for market shopping.

Plaid skirts, flowered blouses, sometimes aprons, always a traditional handwoven reed shopping basket balanced on the crook of the left arm, long hair braided with colored ribbons and tied together at the end or piled on top of the head like a crown, a rebozo (shawl) covering shoulders or head, sometimes the shopping basket. This is a passing generation.

Village tuk-tuk carries shoppers who don't carry baskets on their heads.

Village tuk-tuk carries shoppers who don’t carry baskets on their heads.

This was not meant to be a long shopping trip. I left the house gate open because I intended to return immediately.  A quick pass through the market for organic chicken, chard, a dozen fresh long-stem roses (40 pesos a dozen, that’s about $2.50 USD), criollo eggs from the gallina (hen), a couple of squash and mangos (it’s the season).

Following the abuelitas as they take a respite

Following the abuelitas as they take a respite

As I was loading my car I noticed a stream of abuelitas entering the doorway of the convenience store across the street. Such a good picture, so I decided to hang out. A few more entered, one at a time.

Inside, a congregation of about six grandmothers. Good for the stomach, they say.

Inside the inner sanctum, a congregation of about six grandmothers.

More than coca-cola inside

More than coca-cola here. Time for a chat and refreshment.

It was by now 10 o’clock in the morning. I waited for them to emerge but they didn’t. And, I remember that this is the ladies’ social hour and the convenience store is where they congregate before going back home to work, prepare meals, do laundry and take care of the grandchildren. So, I decided I was done waiting and would join them!

It's dark inside with obscure lighting. In the shadows I can barely see faces.

It’s dark inside with obscure lighting. In the shadows I can barely see faces.

Believe me! A shot of mezcal at 10:30 a.m. can really get you moving. As I sidle up to the counter cum bar to join the ladies, they welcome me with warm smiles, ask where I live, how long I’ve been here, and admire my filigree Zapotec-style earrings and embroidered apron, sign that I am surely one of them. Or at least a trying hard wannabe. Then, invite me to take photos.

I get a Zapotec lesson, Xa-Yu (how are you?) and chichi-bay-oh (salud) as we raise the cup. I already know Zakchi! (hello, good afternoon). This is really a foreign language.

A convenient stop across the street from the market

A convenient stop across the street from the market

Rosa, as she introduced herself, buys my first drink. Good for the panza, she says, patting her belly. I agree. Mezcal is a medicinal when not abused! She offers me another. I smile and decline, realizing I need to drive home without bumping into any burros.

Next time, my turn to buy.

And, that’s village life in Oaxaca.

For sale, fresh cornhusks for tamales, anyone?

This is, too. Fresh native corn and husks for tamales, anyone?

Norma’s Simple Chicken Soup Recipe

  • 1 small, white organic chicken, cut up, skin removed
  • include neck and gizzards and egg sack
  • 1-2 chicken feet (just like grandma used to make)
  • 4-6 cups water
  • salt to taste
  • 1 serrano pepper, dried
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 2 whole onions, peeled
  • 1/2″ fresh turmeric, peeled

Add chicken and all other ingredients to 6 qt. stockpot. Bring to simmer on stovetop, cover and cook for 4-6 hours*. Chill. Remove fat. Muy rico.

These local, skinny free-range chickens are pretty tough, so to get the meat very tender, it needs to good for a really long time! It’ the feet that give the flavor.

Oaxaca Tropical Fruit + Tomato Ginger Chutney Recipe: With Some Heat!

Tropical Fruit + Tomato Ginger Chutney atop Boulanc's walnut infused rye bread

Tropical Fruit + Tomato Ginger Chutney atop Boulanc’s walnut infused rye bread

I’ve been sequestered in my Teotitlan del Valle casita for some days now (without internet connection), more out of choice than anything. Best to hide from the heat of the day under the ceiling fan with a sewing or cooking project.

Saucepan with fruit and spices before taking the heat

Saucepan with fruit and spices before taking the heat

So, after a trip to the Tlacolula market on Sunday where I saw an overabundance of fresh mango and papaya piled to the rooftops, I had to have some.  Then, there were the tomatoes, everywhere.  Did you know that tomatoes are one of Mexico’s gifts to the world?

A full pot before the cooking begins!

A full pot as the cooking gets underway!

I went home and made up this recipe for a chutney jam that is great on toast or to accompany meat, poultry fish or top on steamed veggies and rice.

Lime juice and zest makes this recipe tangy sweet a la Oaxaca

Lime juice and zest makes this recipe tangy sweet a la Oaxaca

Ingredients:

  • 1 large, ripe mango, peeled and cubed (1/2″ cubes)
  • 1 small, ripe papaya, peeled, seeded, cubed (1/2″ cubes)
  • 1 small, ripe pineapple, peeled, cored and cubed (1/2″ cubes)
  • 8 plum tomatoes, peeled (score top, immerse in boiling water for 30 seconds until skin can be removed), and quartered
  • 2 medium white onions, peeled, julienne cut
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled, whole
  • 3 sticks cinnamon
  • 2 hot red peppers (see example)
  • 6 cubes of candied ginger, diced fine (can substitute candied kumquat)
  • juice of six small limes to equal 1/2 c. liquid
  • zest from 2 limes
  • 3 cups granulated natural cane sugar
I grow these peppers in a pot on my rooftop terrace. They add the heat!

I grow these peppers in a pot on my rooftop terrace. They add the heat! They are either Fresno or Serrano peppers. Not exactly sure!

Put all fruit and spices together into a six quart saucepan. Add lime juice and zest. Stir in sugar. Stir well. Put saucepan on a heat diffuser over low heat for temperature control and so bottom of pan doesn’t burn. Sugar and juices will dissolve together into a thin syrup with fruit floating around. Bring to simmer.

Note: Remove the peppers mid-way through the cooking process if you don’t like spicy.

Continue cooking on simmer, stirring frequently, until liquid reduces by 50% and thickens to a jam consistency. You can use a thermometer or test for doneness if liquid drops in thick globules from a metal spoon raised about 12″ above the sauce pan.

When it's done, it looks like this. Of course you can always sample for thickness.

When it’s done, it looks like this. Of course you can always sample for thickness.

We live at 6,000 feet altitude here in Oaxaca, so cooking takes time. The chutney jam was ready after about 2 hours on the burner. Patience here is a virtue!

The lowest flame on my stove. Note the heat diffuser.

The lowest flame on my stove. Note the heat diffuser.

Refrigerate to eat within the next week or two. Or, process for 10 minutes in canning jars in a water bath until the tops seal.

I'll freeze a small batch and eat the rest. Maybe you'll come for dinner?

I’ll freeze a small batch and eat the rest. Maybe you’ll come for dinner?

Tips: Last week I used cantaloupe and did not use tomatoes or pineapple. I also substituted kumquat for ginger. You could also add thin slices of oranges and lemons instead of the lime and use 1/4 c. vinegar. Muy sabroso!

Candied ginger, my stash from Pittsboro, North Carolina, used with consideration.

Candied ginger, my stash from Pittsboro, North Carolina, used with consideration.

I want to acknowledge two friends who gave me recipe inspiration:  Natalie Klein from South Bend, Indiana, and David Levin from Oaxaca and Toronto. Natalie is a friend of 40+ years who shared her tomato ginger chutney recipe with me and I have adapted it many times, even canning and selling it.

Close-up of the fruit and spice medley

Close-up of the fruit and spice medley

David (and friend Carol Lynne) returned from Southeast Asia a few months ago where they took cooking classes. David has made chutney ever since. He inspired me to try my own hand at the concoction.

Lime zest sits on pile of julienned white onions

Lime zest sits on pile of julienne white onions

More years ago than I care to count, I owned and operated a gourmet cookware shop, cooking school, and cafe. It’s in my DNA.

Oaxaca Blue Corn Flakes: Organic, Sugar and Gluten Free

Hollie was here visiting for ten days and we went to the Pochote-Xochimilco organic market that is held every Friday and Saturday in the district just beyond Oaxaca’s historic center.

BlueCornFlakes

I was captivated by the color of the organic blue corn crunchy tortillas, and the ones made from beets, a deep red, were truly spectacular.  Hollie is on a gluten-free diet, so this was just perfect to use for chips to dunk into the guacamole — salt and sugar-free, made with sesame seeds and amaranth.

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One morning, I thought, Why not break them up and use them for corn flakes? So, I did, adding sunflower seeds. One could also use toasted pumpkin seeds or nuts, too.

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I had on hand fresh fruit:  the fruit of the nopal cactus called tuna, guava, bananas, and a pear given to me by David on our trip to Capulalpam picked from his tree.

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I cut these up into diced pieces, added the fruit to the dried mix, poured natural, unflavored yogurt on top, and there was breakfast.

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Martha is visiting today and I prepared it again this morning.  Muy rico!  Try it.  Sugar free, gluten-free, organic. Adapt your own version from available ingredients wherever you live.

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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