Squash blossoms are considered a true delicacy in Mexican cuisine. Available in rainy months, they fly out of the markets as soon as they are set on the floor mats and stands. No wonder they are such a hot selling ingredient: They are gorgeous looking, with orange and green Fall colors, a velvety texture, a meaty and crunchy bite and a delicate and exuberant flavor.
The poblano chile is a star in Mexican kitchens. It is used in a wide range of ways and in a wide range of dishes. Some well known examples are chiles en nogada, rajas, pickled, and stuffed with meat or cheese and bathed in a tomato sauce. But there are hundreds of other ways…
Huauzontles, also called Huazontles or Cuazontles, are a native plant to Mexico. Their scientific name is Chenopodium nuttalliae. Huauzontles gave a very thick main stem, oval leaves -that aren’t eaten- and thinner stems filled with edible green flowers that resemble broccoli or rapini, but are much more smaller and delicate.
Mexican cream is rich, thick, tangy and slightly salty. It used to be hard to find in the US, but now you can find it in Latin or International stores, but also mainstream stores! In Mexico, you can find it in any grocery store, and there are richer versions in small towns and ranches, where the cream earns its name “Crema Fresca” and I bet you would feel like me: that you can finish a whole pint in spoonfuls.
My personal favorite bean, they are lighter in color, creamier in texture and softer than black beans. In Northern states, the pinto is the most popular bean. In Sinaloa they cook them with onion, garlic, tomato and the serrano chile, those four ingredients that are the basis for many Mexican dishes. There is also a twist on Sinaloa beans called frijoles puercos or piggy style beans which is rather heavy, and served with bacon, chorizo, and cheese.
The chilacas, similar to the American Anaheim, are long, thin chiles, that sometimes twist and have a shinny light green color. Their heat goes from mild to mildly hot, but they are never very spicy. Chilacas are very meaty and are used many times as a vegetable.
Queso Fresco, which translates to Fresh Cheese, can be found throughout Mexico with slightly different variations. It is also called Queso de Pueblo, Queso de Rancho and sometimes just Queso Blanco. In some small towns it may be found sold wrapped in banana leaves and if you are lucky, in the small baskets where they are sometimes made.
The Mulato chile has similar looks to the Ancho chile but instead of a reddish black skin it has a dark black skin. You can tell the difference much better against the light! The Mulato chile also has a sweeter, fuller and more chocolaty flavor than the Ancho. No doubt they are different as they come from different chiles. The Ancho chile comes from the dried regular Poblano chile.
The Chipotle chile is the Jalapeño chile, that has been ripened, dried and smoked. Its name comes from the náhuatl Chilli or Chile, and Poctli or smoke. The process of drying and smoking Jalapeños has existed for centuries, even before the Spaniards arrived. It was considered a way to preserve chiles for long periods of time and also bring out their interesting qualities.
Chayote, also called chayote squash (it is from the squash family), choko, vegetable pear, mirliton and christophene, is a beautiful pear like shaped vegetable. Ironically, it has a texture similar to a pear that isn’t ripe, but less grainy. Yet the chayotes isn’t wholly sweet, it just has a sweet hint, barely a whisper, really. Its flavor is more neutral, like a cross between a pear and a cucumber… and zucchini. Well, you just have to give them a try.