Appetizers

A National Public Television Series and an Avocado Chop Chop Salad: Take a Peek!

I’ve been wanting to write this post for days. Every time I try, it feels like hundreds of flowers bloom in my head, clouding my thoughts. My tongue gets tied too. Which is not common. I usually don’t hesitate to express my thoughts.

So, pushing aside the flowers and the thing with the tongue…

Dearest friends, here’s the news: if you like Mexican food, if you like Public Television, if you like my approach to cooking, then… I hope you’ll like to hear that Pati’s Mexican Table is premiering on National Public Television, this spring.

I can tell you so many things about how the series came together and why I am so passionate about it. It’s been a fascinating journey: radically switching careers, launching the Culinary Program at the Institute, starting the blog, and now, embarking on the TV series.

What a wild zigzag. But with each turn I’ve confirmed that I want to keep on sharing and exploring Mexican food and all that surrounds it for as long as I can.

Avocado Chop Chop Salad 1

It pleases me to no end to watch my students devour the food at the Institute’s events, and more so when they write to say they’ve made the recipes at home. I love the stories you’ve shared in the blog’s comments and your requests for different cravings. I try to give you the most reliable recipe for that special cookie, dish, soup, or drink that brings you good memories or that you’ve been dying to try. Your filled and happy tummies, stories and requests, fuel my appetite to cook and share more.

See… there is a side of Mexican cuisine that is yet to be fully savored and appreciated: home-style Mexican food.  And for that, thankfully, many preconceptions become broken.

Take this Avocado, Tomato, Corn and Hearts of Palm Chop Chop Salad. One of the first recipes I thought of including in the series.

Avocado Chop Chop Salad 2

The buttery and luxurious Mexican avocados, the plump and fresh tomatoes, the sweet and crunchy corn, are all native Mexican ingredients. The hearts of palm are not, but its an ingredient that has been popular in Mexican kitchens for ages. Called palmitos, or little palm trees, when I was growing up in Mexico city, my grandmother and mother used to pair Palmitos and avocado for special occasions, just like many restaurants do.

See the mix! It is colorful, it is fresh, it is wholesome. Not many adjectives given to Mexican food outside of Mexico.

This salad is not laborious, as many consider good Mexican food to be. Ingredients here have to be simply, roughly chopped. Just like that!

Avocado Chop Chop Salad 3

The vinaigrette has crisp and clear ingredients: olive and safflower oils, the always straight forward apple cider vinegar, the lively fresh squeezed lime juice, salt, pepper, oregano (commonly used to season Mexican food, though not that well known) and brown sugar to help all of those flavors shine.

Simple, but layered flavors that feel so smooth when you take a bite.

And no. This salad isn’t spicy. Though I am wild about fresh and dried chiles, like most Mexicans (we need them! we do! there is sooo much one can do with each different kind!), and they are a staple in Mexican cooking (you will see some of my favorite ones in the series…) not all Mexican food is spicy nor has chiles.

What gives this salad a bit of pungency is a bit of chopped red onion.

Avocado Chop Chop Salad 4

There is nothing here battered or fried. Nor is this salad stuffed inside a giant tortilla with a gazillion other ingredients (OK, my boys do like U.S.-style burritos and I have come to appreciate them, but we also love Mexican-style ones… which I share in one of the show’s episodes).

Avocado Chop Chop Salad 5

What tops the salad, and gives it a healthy, crunchy and lightly nutty flavored bite are the toasted pumpkin seeds. An ingredient that since long before the time of the Aztecs, has been the base of moles, stews, sauces and pastes. They are used for all that, and for this too.

Avocado Chop Chop Salad 6

So of course I will share traditional dishes that have been passed down in families for generations, the pepitos, the soups, the tacos, the stews, the salsas, the practical moles, the flans and the panes dulces. But I will also share some of the modern spins made within the genuine boundaries of Mexican cooking: so you can explore along with me, a cuisine that keeps on evolving, inside and outside of Mexico.

Avocado Chop Chop Salad 7

So tune in!! And please, keep on sharing what you like and what you don’t, and mostly: send me your requests, I will try to keep on honoring them all.

p.s. The series premieres on WETA TV 26 Saturday April 2nd at 11:30 am in DC/MD/VA. Check your local public television station for their schedule this Spring!

Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

Avocado and Hearts of Palm Chop Chop Salad

The buttery and luxurious Mexican avocados, the plump and fresh tomatoes, the sweet and crunchy corn, are all native Mexican ingredients. The hearts of palm are not, but its an ingredient that has been popular in Mexican kitchens for ages. Called palmitos, or little palm trees, when I was growing up in Mexico city, my grandmother and mother used to pair Palmitos and avocado for special occasions, just like many restaurants do.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time5 mins
Course: Salad
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: apple cider vinegar, Avocado, Corn, hearts of palm, lime, pumpkin seeds, Recipe, red onion, salad, Tomatoes, Vegetarian, vinaigrette
Servings: 4 to 6 servings
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

For the salad:

  • 3 ripe Mexican avocados about 2 pounds, pulp cut into large chunks
  • 14 ounces hearts of palm drained, rinsed and thickly sliced, about 1 1/3 cups
  • 1 cup corn kernels from freshly cooked ears of corn or thawed and cooked from frozen
  • 1 tablespoon red onion chopped
  • 6 ounces cherry tomatoes or about 1 cup, whole or halved according to your preference
  • 3 tablespoons pumpkin seeds toasted

For the vinaigrette:

  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon oregano
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons safflower oil

Instructions

To make the vinaigrette:

  • Pour the vinegar and lime juice in a small bowl. Add oregano, salt sugar and black pepper. Pour the oils in a slow stream, whisking with a whisk or fork to emulsify. The vinaigrette can be made a day ahead of time, just emulsify before using.

To toast the pumpkin seeds:

  • Place the pumpkin seeds in an already hot small saute pan, set over medium heat. Stir often, being careful not to burn them, until you start to hear popping sounds (similar to pop corn), and they begin to acquire a nice tanned color, about 4 to 5 minutes later. Remove from heat and place in a bowl.

To make the salad:

  • In a separate bowl, gently mix the avocado chunks, hearts of palm slices, corn kernels, cherry tomatoes and red onion with the vinaigrette. Sprinkle with the toasted pumpkin seeds and serve.
  • This salad can be served as a main salad with a side of toast or pita bread, or it can be served as a side salad to grilled chicken, fish or meat.

Notes

Ensalada de Aguacate y Palmitos

On a Soup and a Book

It is partly because of a soup like this, that I want to write a cookbook.

A soup that makes me feel all warm inside when I spoon it into my mouth.

A soup that has the earthiness and simplicity that grounds me.

A soup that, aside from having a comforting base, has layers of surprising life and color and crunch.

A soup that makes me want to eat nothing else for an entire week.

A soup that speaks of centennial traditions and is passed down through generations recipes.

A soup that is a pleasure to think about, to write about, to talk about, to prepare and to savor.

It is mostly because I want to share a soup like this with you, dear friends, that I am jumping to write this cookbook.

So with great news to share: I will be working with the delightful Rux Martin, editor at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, to make this cookbook come to life.

In this book, I will write about -and tell you how to make- all of those foods that make me want to scream out of joy, along with the stories that revolve around them.

for tomato and bean soup-thumb-510x342-1527

So here you go, for this Fall season, which has already galloped in front of me as I was barely putting away my monsters’ bathing suits: The Sopa Tarasca. One of my favorite soups in the whole entire world.

As with many Mexican dishes, it has a base of tomato, onion and a bit of garlic.

Tarascan Soup 2
But it also has the addition of the prune like, exuberant flavor of the Ancho chile.

After those ingredients are cooked, pureed and seasoned, they are mixed with a bean puree

Tarascan Soup 3
and chicken broth…

Queso Fresco A1-thumb-510x342-1933
As if that earth shattering base wasn’t enough, this soup is garnished, to your liking with Queso Fresco

Tarascan Soup 5
Tortilla crisps.

Tarascan Soup 6
Ripe Mexican avocado chunks…

Tarascan Soup 7
And the tangy and salty notes from Mexican cream

Of course you can toss in some Chile crisps in there too…

Tarascan Soup 8
From the Purépechas -also known as Tarascos- who inhabit the mountainous regions of the soulful state of Michoacán, and after whom this soup was named in its colonial capital of Morelia where I have eaten it one too many times, to the city of Washington DC in the United States of America, where I make it regularly for my Mexican American family: and hopefully it will find a place at your table too.

I lost my breath in that sentence…

Enjoy!

p.s. If you have any Mexican food craving, just name the dish, I will try to make a page for it in that cookbook.

Print Recipe
5 from 2 votes

Tarascan Bean and Tomato Soup

So here you go, for this Fall season, which has already galloped in front of me as I was barely putting away my monsters’ bathing suits: The Sopa Tarasca. One of my favorite soups in the whole entire world. As with many Mexican dishes, it has a base of tomato, onion and a bit of garlic.
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Course: Soup
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: ancho chiles, beans, chile, corn tortillas, cotija cheese, garlic, mexican crema, onion, pati's mexican table, queso fresco, Recipe, refried beans, soup, Tomatoes, Vegetarian
Servings: 6 to 8 servings
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

For the soup:

  • 6 cups of bean puree
  • 1 pound ripe plum or roma tomatoes
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 ancho chile steam and seeds removed
  • 1/2 cup white onion roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons safflower or corn oil
  • 3 cups chicken broth vegetable broth or water

For the garnishes:

  • 4 Corn tortillas cut in half and into strips, fried until lightly golden or toasted
  • 1/2 cup cotija or queso fresco cheese crumbled (farmers cheese, ricotta salata, mild feta or shredded mozzarella cheese may be substituted)
  • 1/2 cup fresh Mexican cream heavy cream or cream fraiche may by substituted
  • 1 ancho chile stem and seeds removed, cut into thin strips, flash fried (optional)
  • 1 Mexican avocado peeled, seeded, flesh scooped out and diced

Instructions

  • Place the tomatoes, garlic, and the seeded and stemmed ancho chile in a saucepan, cover with water and simmer over medium-high heat for 10 to 12 minutes or until tomatoes are completely cooked through. Once the tomato mix cools down, place it in a blender or food processor with a cup of the cooking liquid, the raw white onion and a teaspoon of the salt; puree until smooth.
  • Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the tomato puree and cook for 5 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it darkens in color and thickens in consistency. Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the bean puree and broth or water, simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the soup has seasoned and has a creamy consistency. Taste for salt and add more if needed. Turn off the heat as it thickens quickly.
  • The soup without the added garnishes may be cooled and stored in a closed container and refrigerated for up to 4 days. Since it thickens a bit as it cools, you may need to add some chicken broth or water to thin it out when you reheat it.
  • Ladle the soup into bowls and drizzle on top a tablespoon each of cream and cheese, a handful of tortilla strips, a few fried chile strips and some diced avocado. You can also place garnishes in bowls on the table to let your guests garnish to their liking.

Notes

Sopa Tarasca

Avocado Soup with Queso Fresco

Though there are many kinds of avocado soups, this is my favorite. I tried it at the Mexican Ambassador’s residence a couple months ago. As Doña Rosita, the cook,  heard me mmm, and mmm, and mmmmmmm all over again, she came out of the kitchen with a pen and a piece of paper ready to dictate her recipe.

What a surprise for such a tasty soup: just a handful of ingredients! Seems that what matters, again, is how you use them.

Doña Rosita told me she has tweaked her recipe through time. Also, she sometimes tops it with tortilla crisps, and sometimes with fresh croutons. Depends on the mood. But she always serves it with crumbled Queso Fresco. There you go! Another thing you can do with that Mexican Fresh Cheese, aside from a Green Salad and Enfrijoladas.

It is easy, tasty and sounds oh… so… fancy. Plus, it is wholesome. The only thing I added to Doña Rosita’s recipe, is some fresh lime juice. I couldn’t help it. So check it out, this is how it goes:

Chop a cupful of onion and add it to the already melted butter and hot oil. Cook the onion over low heat, for 12 to 15 minutes, or until it has gone from white, to translucent, to starting to brown around the edges. See the onion down here, it is rendering and deepening its flavors…

Avocado Soup 2

Add some fresh cilantro. Or if you are one of those people that can’t stand cilantro, add another green herb of your choice: parsley, chives, tarragon or a combination, time to play!

Cook the cilantro just until it has begun to wilt. It will be under a minute, just a stir here and there. We don’t want it to brown. 

Then, scoop the fresh Mexican avocado meat out. A main tip to making this recipe be as delicious as it can be, is to use ripe, meaty avocados. So if that avocado is not giving in to your hold as you gently squeeze, it is not ready for you. Let it ripen some more. Make the soup another day.

If you have ripe avocados, cut in half, remove the seed, scoop the meat out and push it into the blender. You could add a bit of Chile too, Jalapeño, or Serrano. Though Doña Rosita doesn’t.Avocado Soup 5

Now go ahead and add all that almost sweetened and browned onion, along with the wilted cilantro into the blender. Yep, along with whatever oil and butter remains too…

Avocado Soup 6
Pour in some chicken broth. Home made or store bought. You can substitute for vegetable broth as well… Though I always go for the former. 

Avocado Soup 7

For my spin, take out your lime squeezer and add some fresh lime juice right in there too. You can try it without as well and then you get Doña Rosita’s take on the soup.

Avocado Soup 8

Sprinkle some Kosher or Sea salt… and puree it all.

If you want the soup “al tiempo”, or lukewarm, pour it right into your bowls. If you want to serve it cold, cover and refrigerate for a couple hours. Now, if you want it hot, you can as well! Just puree it with some hot chicken broth in the prior step… Talk about an accommodating soup.

Avocado Soup 9Sprinkle a few, or a ton, corn tortilla crisps.

Avocado Soup 10I guess I went for a ton.

Sprinkle some tangy and salty Queso Fresco…and why not? You can decorate it with a slice of creamy and ripe avocado right on top.

 If you do, sprinkle a bit of salt on it… Fresh avocado always seems to beg for a little salt…

Avocado Soup 11

There you go… A smooth, fresh, wholesome and tasty soup, with some crunchy tortilla crisps and a tangy bite from the Queso Fresco in every bite.

Avocado Soup 12I already had some…

Avocado Soup 13

Print Recipe
3.67 from 3 votes

Avocado Soup

Though there are many kinds of avocado soups, this is my favorite. I tried it at the Mexican Ambassador’s residence a couple months ago. As Doña Rosita, the cook,  heard me mmm, and mmm, and mmmmmmm all over again, she came out of the kitchen with a pen and a piece of paper ready to dictate her recipe. What a surprise for such a tasty soup: just a handful of ingredients! Seems that what matters, again, is how you use them.
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Course: Soup
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: Avocado, chicken broth, cilantro, feta, jalapeno, lime, onion, queso fresco, tortilla chips
Servings: 4 to 6 servings
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon corn or safflower oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cup white onion roughly chopped
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves rinsed and loosely packed
  • 1 jalapeno chile sliced in half, seeding optional if less heat is desired
  • 3 large ripe Mexican avocados cut in half, seed removed, flesh spooned out, about 3 cups ripe avocado flesh
  • 6 cups chicken broth can substitute vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt more or less to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups tortilla crisps
  • 1 cup queso fresco crumbled, may substitute farmers cheese or a mild feta

Instructions

  • In a medium skillet, set over medium-low heat and add the butter and oil. Once the butter dissolves, stir in the onion and jalapeno. Let them cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion has softened. Its color will become translucent and the edges will begin to turn light brown, about 12 to 15 minutes. Incorporate the cilantro leaves and mix them in with the onions and jalapeno. Once the cilantro has wilted, 30 seconds to a minute later, turn off the heat.
  • Place the peeled and seeded avocados in the blender or food processor along with the cooked onion, jalapeno, cilantro, chicken broth, lime or lima juice and salt. Puree until smooth, taste for salt and add more if need be.
  • You may serve bowls garnished with tortilla crisps and cheese, or let your guests garnish to their liking.

Notes

Sopa de Aguacate