Like a painting, I call it arte de comer. Carina Santiago Bautista cooks from her heart. For years, Cari prepared food and sold it daily at the village market for carry out. Now, she has a brand-spanking-new kitchen in her new casita on Av. Juarez and operates the restaurant La Tierra Antigua. I organize special dinners there for workshop participants so we can savor the flavors that come from Cari’s kitchen. Usually, I pre-order a menu but the last time I asked Cari to use her judgment and create a menu that would express the ingredients available locally in season. Frequently, I prefer to eat my meals there with a big soup spoon. The bowl of the spoon is wide and deep enough to scoop up the thick, fragrant sauces that spill over the food and puddle on the plate.
Carina Santiago’s Early Spring Menu
- Salad/Ensalada: a chopped mix of avocado, onion, tomato, cilantro, lime juice and salt.
- Soup/Sopa: spinach (espinace) flavored with oregano and cilantro
- Bread/Pan: slices of Oaxaca sourdough bread slathered with olive oil, butter, mustard and topped with ground pepper, then put under the broiler to brown and crisp
- Main Course/Plato Principal: pollo la plancha (chicken breast) sautéed with onions and green peppers, and accompanied by enchiladas with mole coloradito, steamed choyote squash and brown or white rice
- Postres/Dessert: pan de queso–cheesecake with dark chocolate sauce
For the chicken breast, Cari pounds the breast to tenderize it, then marinates it in milk, pepper, oregano, garlic and salt for 6 hours before cooking it. Delicioso.
For the cheesecake, Cari uses Philadelphia cream cheese, light evaporated milk, eggs and no sugar. I might mix the cream cheese with ricotta, local goat cheese or queso fresco for an earthier flavor. Below, the cheesecake is adorned with fresh pear slices and banana, with a dollop of chocolate — on a hand-painted plate from Dolores Hidalgo.
Restaurante Tierra Antigua, Av. Juarez #175, Teotitlan del Valle, (951) 166 6160 or cell phone 044 (951) 199 7884. Carina Santiago Bautista and her husband Pedro Montano Lorenzo. To reserve, contact Cari at firstname.lastname@example.org