Some people get motion sickness when they travel. Some people get hungry. I am among the latter. The minute I step on whatever will transport me from one place to another, my mind swims through related food memories… and I just have to eat. So since I know I will have a craving for something other than a moist, soggy, chewy and never-ever crunchy baguette from the Amtrak train, and after being so spoiled with the food from El Chepe Train, I am packing my own Torta.
Jícamas are one of the many Mexican ingredients that luckily, have become readily available outside of the country. Also known as Mexican yams or turnips, they are also a root vegetable. But they are far from the latter in flavor, texture or cooking uses.
I am so surprised tostadas haven’t become wildly popular in the US. Here are some reasons for my surprise…They can be assembled in a couple minutes, as ingredients can be prepared beforehand or store-bought.
Tostadas and chips are very versatile ingredients to have in the kitchen. If you don’t want to make them at home, you can buy good quality already made tostadas and chips in the stores these days.
“Bandido!” My late grandfather would scream, with his wide smile and the most endearing eyes, to my youngest son, if he were here to see how Julian messes up the kitchen. As soon as a thought of cooking appears in my head, he drags a chair, climbs on top, asks what are WE going to make, and without waiting for an answer announces that it is “yo, yo, YO…,” who will cook and experiment. I shall be of assistance.
One way to add a nice rustic feel to a dish is to char, or roast, a few of the ingredients. Charring concentrates and deepens the flavor of an ingredient and brings out a subtle sweetness.
The molcajete is a cooking tool that although not absolutely necessary this day in age, it does have its uses, benefits and looks. Mexico’s version of the mortar and pestle (the pestle being called tejolote) it has been used for thousands of years to pound, smash, grind and mix ingredients such as herbs, spices and chiles, create rubs, pastes and sauces.
Yes, you can buy them already made at the store… but there are few things that can compare to the nurturing and filling sensation of homemade corn tortillas. And the great thing is: We can buy the premade corn tortilla flour of extraordinary quality in the US these days.
Chipotles in adobo sauce are one of my favorite Mexican ingredients. They are ready to be spooned on top or inside of almost anything: quesadillas, tacos, sandwiches, grilled meats… Yet, they are also a wonderful cooking ingredient to use for making a wide range of dishes, from soups to moles, from salsas to stews and even mashed potatoes. Chipotles have truly unique layers of flavor that come together in a most wonderful way: smoky, sweet, deep, rich and pleasantly spicy.
In Mexican cooking, corn is eaten and drank, in just about every possible way… Esquites, freshly shaved corn usually cooked in a buttery broth with epazote leaves and Serrano chile, is one of the most popular takes. So much so, that my boys counted eight Esquite street carts in the small down town square of Chihuahua, when we were there last month.