Luz’s Early Summer Potato Salad with Verdolagas

A seasonal salad for late spring when verdolgas (purslane) are popping up and new potatoes are plentiful. This salad is combined with radishes, shallot, and pumpkin seeds and then dressed with an herbaceous lemon vinaigrette. Perfect picnic salad.  For those that eat eggs, I think this salad would be nice with a few chopped hardboiled eggs.

Ingredients

Ingredients

Ingredients

10-12 small yukon gold potatoes, boiled and quartered (“new” potatoes, if possible)

1 cup purslane, leaves only

5-8 radishes, thinly sliced

2 shallots, minced

1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted

Vinaigrette

1 small handful chives, roughly chopped

1 small handful of parsley, roughly chopped

1 clove garlic, chopped

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 lemon, juiced

Salt and pepper to taste

Garnish

Chive blossoms, if available

Combine salad ingredients in a large salad bowl.  Combine vinaigrette ingredients in a blender or food processor and pulse to combine until herbs are small even flecks distributed in the dressing. Toss dressing with salad. Taste and adjust salt and pepper levels, if needed.   Refrigerate for 2 hours.  Serve garnished with chive blossoms.

Potato Salad with Purslane

Potato Salad with Purslane

 

Tropical Fruit Vinegars

For millenia, fermentation has been a primary method of preserving foods and of introducing nutrients.

Throughout the Americas, there is a strong tradition of making fruit vinegars, using either pineapples or bananas. These fruit vinegars make a delicious condiment and have many of the health giving properties widely attributed to raw apple cider vinegars.

Health Benefits:

  • Fermented beverages and fruit vinegars have healthful properties similar to kombucha. They are rich in probiotics that promote a healthy immune system, acting as a natural antibiotic.
  • Fermented products promote healthy bacteria in the stomach, which aids digestion.

Francisco Jiménez, a food artisan from Costa Rica, prepares and sells his raw vinegars at the Phat Beets farmer’s market in North Oakland. Phat Beets is a justice-centered farmer’s market, bringing real food to working people and providing space for workshops on sustainable food for all. We attended one of Francisco’s workshops, where he taught how to make traditional fruit vinegars only the ripe fruit—no added sugars. We’ll share methods for making vinegar from ripe bananas. Note that bananas were present in the Americas before colonization, although most of the bananas we consume today are of the type that originated in Asia. Francisco describes small red bananas as making the most exquisite vinegar.

Francisco is featured in this article as a “fruit hacker.”

Francisco-2Phat-beets-Ad-Francisco'sVinegars1

Ad for one of Francisco’s workshops. He presents regularly on heritage fermentation.

You can purchase Francisco’s vinegars at the

  • North Oakland Farmers Market @Destiny Arts Center Grace @Lowell St, Oakland Ca. 94608
  • Every Saturday from 9:30am to 2:30pm
  • Still on SALE! Francisco’s Paradiso Raw Fresh Vinegars ONLY $11!
  • Francisco’s Paradiso Raw Fresh Vinegars! Made from all-natural ingredients from local fruit trees and farmers market produce, these delicious Costa Rican Vinegars come in Pineapple, Banana, Red Onion & Garlic and Sauerkraut! Only $11 each bottle!

Banana Vinegar

Bananas must be ripe, ideally overripe: that is, no green on skin. Bananas that are mostly brown are perfect. 2 cups of peeled and cut bananas will yield 1 cup of delicious vinegar.

Ingredients:

  • •Two bunches of very ripe bananas
  • •Time (3-6 months)

Peel bananas. (Compost the skins.)  Mash or puree the fruit.  Put in a glass or ceramic jar. Fill jar about ¾ of the way. Cover jar with cheesecloth. Place the jar in a large bowl, because the vinegar may foam up and overflow the jar. You don’t want to lose the overflow.  Just pour it from the bowl back into the jar.

The fruit will start to separate into liquid and solids. We started this vinegar on July 27. Here it is after just two weeks.

banana-vinegar3

Over the course of the fermentation, the brew change colors. the fruit pulp will looks strange and funky.Don’t be concerned: it’s all part of the process.The fermenting vinegar will draw fruit flies, and some may even get through the cheesecloth in to the vinegar itself. Some vinegars may even have larvae among the fruit pulp. Don’t worry about them. Fruit flies are very clean – they only go from fruit to fruit. When it comes time to harvest it, you’ll just strain that all out.

You can harvest the banana vinegar at four months, but it’s better at six months.

When you harvest it, strain out all the fruit pulp. The first straining may seems a bit chaotic: all kinds of crazy stuff will be strained out. Don’t worry. Compost the solids. Strain your vinegar again. Francisco strains his vinegar seven times to make the finest, clearest medicinal quality vinegar. It is potent for about a year and then it starts to lose its potency and will turn to water. You can refrigerate it to stop the fermentation process.

How to use the vinegar: You can take this vinegar as a tonic, as it is alive and full of beneficial properties, similar to apple cider vinegar or kombucha. This vinegar brings its bright flavor to salad dressings or drizzled over vegetables. You can also use these vinegars to make a quick curtido: add chopped garlic, sliced onions, grated carrots, slivered cabbage, chile, and oregano.

Flavoring: After the vinegar is done, you can flavor it with herbs. We like to add some yerbanis (pericón, Mexican mint marigold) to the vinegar and allow it to set for one week and then strain.

Bebida de Tibicos: Water Kefir

Here at Decolonize Your Diet, we look at the health benefits provided by the preColumbian foods of the Americas. We’ve recently started looking at traditional beverages.

There are more than 200 fermented beverages in Latin America that pre-date European contact.  These include pulque (fermented from agave honey), pozol (fermented corn porridge), atole agrio (fermented atole with chile), tesgüino (fermented water from germinated corn), chicha (beer made from corn, quinoa, amaranth, yuca, or palm fruit), colonche (fermented prickly pear juice), chorote (fermented drink made from corn and roasted cacao beans), native fruit wines (capulin, jocote, chirimoya, guanábana, pitahaya, timbiriche) and tepache (fermented pineapple).

These fermented drinks range from fizzy and fruity to alcoholic, and from clear to porridge-like.  Some had spiritual significance, others were for everyday consumption, some were for medicinal purposes, and others for general health and well-being.

Today we’d like to focus on bebida de tibicos, or water kefir, a fermented, naturally fizzy drink that originates in Mexico. As with kombucha, fermentation is initiated by a microorganism culture, in this case the tibicos granillos or hard granules that grow on cactus paddles. Tibicos is traditionally brewed at home in Mexico, Ecuador, and Brazil using a sugar solution with figs. Note: One species of figs, amate figs are indigenous to the Americas.

Health Benefits
  • Fermented beverages and fruit vinegars are rich in probiotics which promote a healthy immune system, acting as a natural antibiotic.
  • Fermented products promote healthy bacteria in the stomach, which aids digestion.
  • Research suggests that kombucha is beneficial to diabetics, promoting insulin production and protecting the liver against damage (Srihari 2013, Aloulou 2012, Bhattacharya 2011, 2013). Preliminary animal studies involving water kefir suggest that tibicos also lowers glucose levels. (Alsayadi 2014)
  • Tibicos is very safe to ferment at home, under non-sterile conditions because it creates a specific environment in which pathogens cannot survive (Reiß 1990)
How to Make Bebida de Tibicos

First, you will need your starter kefir grains. They are available online or  at Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco or at Pollinate in Oakland. Once you buy them, they will last forever and reproduce. You’ll have some to give away. (I often have extras so hit me up if you can pick up in Oakland.)  I bought mine online at yemoos: http://www.yemoosmarket.com/genuine-live-water-kefir-grains.html.

Water kefir goes through two ferments.

Instructions:
  1. In a mason jar, mix 1/4 cup sugar in one quart water then add the water kefir grains to the sugar mixture. .  Add one or more of the following to help your ferment: A drizzle of molasses, a slice of lemon peel, a dried fig, a tablespoon of raisins, a few slices dried apple.  Cover jar with a clean towel and rubber band to keep out fruit flies.  Leave on the counter (preferably at 70-75 degrees) for 24-48 hours. The longer you leave it, the more sugar ferments out.  I recommend 48 hours. Don’t leave much longer than this as it can can stress the grains.
    For first ferment: sugar, molasses, brown sugar, tibicos

    For first ferment: sugar, molasses, brown sugar, tibicos

    first ferment

    first ferment

  2. After 48 hours, strain the water kefir grains through a  plastic mesh strainer  or cheesecloth (don’t use metal) pouring the liquid into another container. You can start a new batch of kefir right away with the same grains.
  3. To start the second ferment, put the strained, fermented liquid in a glass jar or bottle with a tight fitting lid. Add your flavoring (herbal tea, fruit juice, or pieces of fruit). There is no a firm rule about how much to add so experiment. I find a few small pieces of fruit are plenty but if I am adding herbal tea or juice I use a ratio of about 1:4 tea/kefir water. For additional fizz, you can add a few tablespoons of sugar to the second ferment.  Cover jar with a tight lid and allow to set for two days on the kitchen counter. After 2 or 3 days, strain and  decant into jars with a  tight lid and refrigerate. I like to refrigerate for about 24 hours before drinking to get maximum fizz.

    Second ferment with passion fruit pulp and lemon

    Second ferment with passion fruit pulp and lemon.

I grow passion fruit in my backyard. In the fall, I harvest them, scoop out the pulp and freeze for use throughout the year.

Prickly pear fruit

Prickly pear fruit

The first time I tried making the prickly pear fruit kefir, I added something like 5 or 6 fruits. That was WAY too much and produced a drink that was too thick. With water kefir, I think less is more. 1 fruit is perfect and produces a light drink with a gorgeous color.

From left to right: Bottle undergoing first ferment, second ferment w/ passion fruit, second ferment with prickly pear fruit

From left to right: Bottle undergoing first ferment, second ferment w/ passion fruit, second ferment with prickly pear fruit

 

After about a day, the prickly pear kefir gets nice and fizzy.

After about a day, the prickly pear kefir gets nice and fizzy.

 

Finished kefir is a bright magenta with light natural carbonation.

Finished kefir is a bright magenta with light natural carbonation.

Recipes for Kefir using ingredients native to the Americas

Lemon Verbena/Strawberry: Make 1 cup of lemon verbena tea by putting a small fistful of fresh lemon verbena in boiling water and allowing to steep for 30 minutes. Use tea and about three strawberries in the second ferment.

Hibiscus Flower: Put 5-6 dried hibiscus flowers along with a lemon cut in half into the second ferment.

Prickly Pear: Peel one prickly pear fruit and cut in quarters. Add fruit along with a 1/2 lemon (if desired) into the second ferment.

Passion Fruit: Scoop out the insides of two passion fruits and add to the second ferment. Add 1/2 lemon if desired.

Blackberry and Vanilla: Add 5 blackberries and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or scoop the seeds out of a vanilla pod. Will taste like blackberry creme soda!

Note: The origin of Hibiscus is up for debate. We think it was present in the Caribbean before Columbus but it was also in China, Japan, and the Pacific Islands.

Recipe: Amaranth Salad w/ Blackberry Serrano Vinaigrette

I have some beautiful amaranth growing in my garden this summer. It sowed itself from last year’s crop so it is coming up in the area where I am growing winter squash and tomatillos.  I thought the amaranth leaves would make a nice salad!

Amaranth growing in my garden

Amaranth growing in my garden

Amaranth Salad Recipe

Ingredients

  • Several large handfuls of amaranth leaves, torn into bite-sized pieces (choose the smaller leaves)
  • 2 avocados, peeled and cubed
  • 1 cup of blackberries, rinsed
  • 3/4 cup spiced pecans (recipe follows)
  • Jicama, cut in thin strips
  • Fresh herbs, snipped (I used chives and pipicha…use what you have or omit)

Optional Garnish: Edible flowers, including amaranth flowering seed heads, nasturtiums, calendula, or borage.

Toss salad ingredients with vinaigrette. Garnish with edible flowers.

Amaranth, Pecans, Avocado, Blackberries, Herbs, Flowers
Amaranth, Pecans, Avocado, Blackberries, Jicama, Herbs, Flowers

Blackberry-Serrano Vinaigrette

  • 5 blackberries
  • ½-1 serrano chile, minced
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 pink peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon pineapple vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons avocado oil
  • 1 tablespoon wild local honey

Put peppercorns in molcajete and grind into a power. Add blackberries, minced chiles, and salt, and continue grinding until a paste forms. Add honey and mix well. In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar and blackberry mixture. Slowly drizzle in oil while continuing to whisk. Run dressing through a sieve to remove seeds and any big pieces of chile.

Vinaigrette ingredients: avocado oil, blackberries, salt, serano chile, pink peppercorns, honey, pineapple vinegar
Vinaigrette ingredients: avocado oil, blackberries, salt, serrano chile, pink peppercorns, honey, pineapple vinegar

Spiced pecans

  • ¾ cup raw pecans
  • 8 allspice berries
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 pink peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon raw local honey

In a molcajete, grind together the allspice, salt, and peppercorns. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat and toast pecans for about 3-5 minutes, tossing the nuts in the skillet to make sure pecans toast evenly. Add allspice mixture to the skillet and toss to coat. Drizzle honey over mixture and continue tossing the mixture until the honey melts and covers pecans completely. Pecans should be warm, toasty, and a bit sticky. Remove from heat and separate pecans on a plate and allow to cool.

Dinner!

Dinner!

I know this recipe has a lot of ingredients. Here are some SUBSTITUTIONS: Instead of avocado oil, you can use olive oil. Instead of pineapple vinegar, use apple cider vinegar. Instead of pink peppercorns, use black pepper. Instead of allspice, use cinnamon. Instead of a serrano chile, use a jalapeño. Be inventive!

Champurrado (vegan)

Champurrado is a traditional, pre-Columbian drink that is warm, frothy, sweet, and comforting. While today many people use milk to make champurrado (and atole) the original versions used no dairy. And, really, there is no need for milk.  The masa harina provides a thickness and the chocolate gets nice and frothy, almost like a cappuccino, when you whip it up.  If you are a person that needs milk, I suggest you use organic milk (to avoid the growth hormones) and use 16 ounces water and 16 ounces milk in this recipe. Vegans and people with lactose intolerance can enjoy this recipe without any milk at all.  So yummy!

This drawing, from Mayan Codices, shows a woman pouring a chocolate drink from one vessel to another. This was done to create an exceptionally frothy drink. (No need for Starbucks’ Frappuccinos!)

Old drawing of Mayan woman pouring dark liquid from one vessel into another

Ingredients:

  • 32 ounces of water
  • 1/3 cup masa harina (organic if at all possible)
  • 1 disc of TAZA brand Mexican hot chocolate (I used their “salted almond” flavor)
  • 4 teaspoons coconut palm sugar (you could substitute honey, pilloncillo, or your favorite sweetener. I avoid refined white sugar.)
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 stick of Ceylon cinnamon (heavenly)
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla bean powder (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
  • 1 pinch sea salt
  • 1 pinch chile powder (optional, al gusto)
  • slivered almonds for garnish (optional)

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Directions: Combine all ingredients except cinnamon in a blender and process until smooth. Pour blended liquid into a pot. Add cinnamon stick and heat over medium high flame for about 15-20 minutes. Stir often. Use a molino (pictured above) or a whisk to whip up a nice froth. Serve with slivered almonds, if desired.

Serves 2 in big mugs or 4 regular sized coffee cups.

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I give thanks to the ancestors who created this cup of comfort.

Chiles Poblanos Rellenos

With a brand-new grill, Luz is grilling up autumn fruits and vegetables.

Serves 2. 

Ingredients: 

  • 1 cup quinoa, cooked
  • 4 poblano chiles
  • 1 ear corn
  • 1/2 head radicchio
  • 1/2 cup goat cheese
  • 1 pomegranate


Grill corn, poblanos, and radicchio. (Or use broiler)


Peel poblano chiles and remove seeds. 





Remove kernels from cob. Dice radicchio.

Toast pine nuts. Combine quinoa, corn, pine nuts and radicchio and season with salt and pepper. Stuff poblano chiles w/ quinoa mixture. Top with goat cheese. Pop in oven at 375 degrees for 15 minutes.


Serve topped with pomegranate seeds.

Easy Way to Bake a Whole Pumpkin or Winter Squash

It’s October so we are starting to see many beautiful winter squash at farmers’ markets. We even have a few ready to harvest in our backyard. 

Don’t be afraid to buy a whole big squash. You don’t need a power saw to butcher the squash, you can bake it whole and then cut it (SO MUCH EASIER!)  Once baked, the squash is easy to cut into chunks for use in soups, stews, empanadas, pies, etc. 

Check out this gorgeous pumpkin! It would have been pretty difficult to cut it into chucks. It had a thick hard skin. 

To begin, you do want to puncture the pumpkin or squash with a sharp knife. Create 4-5 cuts. This will allow steam to escape. (Even this is challenging with some pumpkins so use your sturdiest knife.)

Take out the middle rack in your oven. Place pumpkin on a baking sheet and put in a 375 degree oven. Bake for 60-90 minutes. You want to be able to cut into the pumpkin easily, so check by stabbing the pumpkin with knife after 60 minutes. If it is still difficult to puncture, bake for an additional 30 minutes. 

Mine came out perfectly! See the way the pumpkin meat is pulling away from the skin!?  

Gently scoop out the seeds and stringy stuff. 

Here’s what remains: 

You can use this right away or cut into chunks and put in the freezer for use throughout the winter. I know you may only have one thing in mind: pumpkin pie. But I enjoy pumpkin in savory dishes, like soups and stews. Pumpkin pairs wonderfully with chipotle or roasted green chile. Put some chunks in a white bean, green chile stew. Or add small pieces of pumpkin to pozole. Pumpkin also tastes great as a filling for tacos, quesadillas, or tamales.  

And, don’t throw away the seeds. You can roast them for snacks.

Xocolatamal – Luz’s Award-Winning Chocolate Tamalli

About a month ago, our neighbor Eric told us about a tamale cook-off and fiesta, benefiting La Clínica de La Raza.

http://oaklandfoodevents.wordpress.com/2013/08/17/tamale-guidelines/


We are expecting around 200 attendees.  Each competitor will submit 200 tasting portions (approx. 5 doz tamales). You will prepare your tamales in advance and we can provide space to do final prep on site, if needed.  Prizes will be awarded for People’s Choice and Judge’s Choice for best Meat, Vegetarian/Vegan and Wildcard (creative) tamales. This fun event will provide a great way for you to promote your business.  Each competitor will be given $50 to offset costs.


The guidelines sounded challenging, but doable, so Luz decided to give it a try.

The organizers had planned that competitors would cut their tamales into four or more bite-sized portions so that they would have enough for 200 tasters, but Luz decided to make smaller “dessert tamales” so that each person could have their own tamal/tamale/tamalli.


Side note: Mexican@s have been known to make fun of Chican@s because we use “tamale” as the singular of tamales, when the proper term should be tamal. However, the Mexican word tamales comes from the Nahuatl word tamalli (singular) and so we think that the singular “tamale” is in the spirit of the original “tamalli”


Tamale-making is pretty adventurous in our familia. Even the form is a discussion: from Luz’s families folded Sonoran Classics to Catriona’s family’s rolled-and-tied New Mexican tamales. The content varies quite a bit as well: Luz’s family has been making vegetarian green-chile-and-cheese tamales for decades, and they often make a sweet tamal: sweet bean (pinto beans, canela, piloncillo) with raisins. This latter is a smaller tamal, perfect with a cup of coffee for desayuno.

Luz wanted to introduce the festival-goers to a Mexican hot chocolate inspired tamal, with cacao, canela, almond, and chile.


http://oaklandfoodevents.wordpress.com/2013/09/07/tamales-for-all-competitor-profile/

The great thing about this tamal is that it’s not too sweet, and that the sugar is balanced out by the corn masa, so it shouldn’t cause a dramatic blood-sugar spike.

So, the Saturday before the event, Luz set out to make 200 taster tamales. By making them alone, they could portion out the masa and filling, so that size was consistent, and there was enough filling for all two hundred.

The masa included organic tazo hot chocolate tablets and canela, and the filling was nutella inspired, made with almond and hazelnut butters and cacao.

Catriona described the texture as akin to a brownie. One festival-goer said it was like a chocolate doughnut, which made us laugh because Luz started the Decolonial Cooking Club because their CSUEB Ethnic Studies students were selling krispy kreme doughnuts as a fundraiser. So we prefer to think of this xocolatamal as the anti-doughnut.

Luz’s protegeé Adilia came to Oakland on Sunday to help work the event. They served the tamal on a bed of slivered almonds, with coconut creme and a sprinkle of chile and salt.

tamale-prize2-2013-09-15-20-23.JPG

Luz’s Xocolatamal Recipe (2013 Judge’s Choice “Best Vegetarian Tamale”)

3 pounds masa para tamales (sin preparer) [Buy this from your local tortilleria]

1 cup organic coconut oil, whipped

2 circles Taza organic Mexican hot chocolate “Salted Almond,” grated

1 tablespoon Oaktown Spice Shop Ceylon Cinnamon

1 teaspoon Oaktown Spice Shop Pasilla Chile Negro

1 tablespoon Sea Salt

1 teaspoon Vanilla

1/3 cup sugar (or more to taste)

3 dozen corn husks, cleaned and soaked in warm water for at least 30 minutes

Filling

1/2 cup hazelnut butter

1/2 cup almond butter

¼ cup raw cacao powder

¼ cup coconut sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ teaspoon sea salt 
Knead masa well (for at least 15 minutes but preferably longer). Add in whipped oil and knead some more. Add flavoring and knead in until thoroughly mixed.

Put filling ingredients in a food processor (or go old school and use a molcajete) and blend into a smooth paste.

Spread about one tablespoon of masa on each corn husk.  Add 1 scant teaspoon of filling. Fold tamale as desired. For these small tamales, I like to roll them like a cigar and tie each side.

Prepare a large tamale steamer. Add boiling water and then stack the tamales above the steamer tray. Put a damp dishcloth on top of the stacked tamales and tuck it in. Close lid. Turn heat to high for 10 minutes and then lower to medium high for 50 additional minutes. Check a sample tamal. If the tamal is done, it should be firm enough to hold its shape and come off the husk without sticking. If it seems raw, continue cooking in 30 minute increments until done. Many factors affect cooking time. Sometime my tamales cook in 1 hour, sometimes they take 2 hours or more! In general, small sized tamales take less time to cook.

Optional: Garnish with coconut cream, sliced almonds, or salt combined with chile (or all three). 



Nopales al Vapor Estilo Otumba

Last night I tested a recipe for steamed cactus and I must say it was damn tasty. The flavor of the nopales was bold and the texture a perfect “al dente.” No hint of slime. 


The recipe, “Nopales al Vapor Estilo Otumba,” comes from Diana Kennedy’s 1978 book, Recipes from the Regional Cooks of Mexico. 

Kennedy, born in England, has lived in Mexico since 1957 and is considered by many to be the “Julia Child” of  Mexican cuisine. She has even received the Order of the Aztec Eagle from the Mexican government in recognition of her cultural work in honoring Mexican cuisine. Of course, Kennedy is not the only Anglo person who has positioned themselves as an expert in this field: In the US, Rick Bayless is arguably the best known chef of Mexican cuisine. 

On the one hand, I have a lot of respect for both Kennedy and Bayless and their broad knowledge of the range and complexity of Mexican cuisine. In some ways, they have used their privilege to study and promote Mexican cuisine, eating and gathering recipes from all corners of Mexico. In an ironic twist, Kennedy and Bayless become a resource to US Chicanos/as/oas as we try to decolonize our diets by reclaiming the food of our ancestors. Many of us did not receive these lesson from our parents or grandparents; so we are forced to investigate on our own and learn by combing through cookbooks and websites, in addition to talking to friends and elders in our communities. Such cookbooks are valuable sources of knowledge. 

However, I can’t help but feel some sense of injustice in the fact that Bayless and Kennedy are the ones to have achieved such expertise (not to mention fame and fortune) when so many Chicanos/as/oas have been deprived of this knowledge. It is important to acknowledge that many of Bayless’s and Kennedy’s recipes come directly from home cooks across Mexico. These women and men freely shared their cultural knowledge. Sometimes these cooks are acknowledged by name and other times they are nameless. Either way, their life circumstances become the “colorful story” that lends authenticity to the Anglo-penned cookbook. 


That said, giving acknowledgement of recipes is a tricky business. Most recipes are passed from one cook to the next, with each cook giving a slight twist. A 100% new recipe or technique is rare. In Mexican cuisine, many recipes date back thousands of years. How does anyone (including us) properly acknowledge their provenance? It’s tricky. 

In the case of this Nopales al Vapor recipe, Kennedy writes that she learned of this method of cooking nopales from an unnamed bus driver in Otumba, a village near the pyramids of Teotihuacán. Apparently this driver was also a cook who enjoyed making the noon meal for his fellow bus drivers in the bus garage where they gathered to eat. We never learn his name. 

Nopales al Vapor Estilo Otumba: A Diana Kennedy  Bus Driver’s Recipe

2 tablespoons oil 
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 pound prepared nopales, cut into small chunks
1/4 white onion, thinly sliced
2 jalapeños, diced
2 large sprigs epazote (I didn’t have so I used papaloquelite. YUM.)
1 teaspoon salt



Heat the oil in a heavy pan, then lower the flame and and saute the garlic, without browning, for a few seconds. Add the rest of the ingredients, cover the pan and cook over a low flame, stirring the mixture form time to time, until the nopales are almost tender: they should be very “juicy” [read: "babosos"] at this stage. 



Remove the lid from the pan and continue cooking over a slightly higher flame until all the sticky liquid from the nopales has dried up—about 20 minutes, depending on how tender the nopales are. The babas/slime totally evaporates leaving perfect nopalitos!



Kennedy suggests your serve these nopales in a hot corn tortilla with some queso fresco. I’m sure that would be delicious. You could also mix these nopales with scrambled eggs or chill them to use them in a salad. I added mine to freshly cooked frijoles (see below) and then served them with fresh corn tortillas, avocado slices, and some queso fresco. They got rave reviews. 


The tangy taste of the nopales was much bolder in this steaming method than when the nopales are boiled. In my rendition, the tang of the nopal paired especially nicely with the creaminess of the pinto beans.  I think the method of twice boiling nopales is great for beginners who are really not so sure about the taste and texture of nopales.  But for you nopales lovers out there, try the bus driver’s method!  It won’t disappoint. 

FOOD IS MEDICINE! 

Plum Paletas con Yerbanís

It’s plum season again! And this year, our own little Santa Rosa plum tree is producing more plums than we can handle (and that’s not even mentioning the neighbor’s plums that will be ripe next week.)

We made one batch of plum chutney. tangysaltysweetpicante!

Luz has a batch of plums dehydrating in the oven and I’ve got a small pot stewing with yerbanís with which I plan to make some very unusual paletas.

I was a little grouchy from the heat (as usual) and paletas are my usual treatment for the grouchies, but we were out. And then I remembered the paleta molds.

I cut the pits out of the plums. Put them in a pot (skins and all). tied together several springs of yerbanís (mexican mint marigold, mexican tarragon) and added it to the pot. Heated it gently until the plums started to break down. Added a couple of tablespoons of honey (still very tangy), covered teh pot, removed from heat and let it sit about twenty minutes. Took out the herbs. pureed the plums. poured into popsicle molds.

The yellow flecks are flower petals.
The color is even more intense, but in the time it took me to snap the photograph, it frosted over.