Joan of FOODalogue is starting the year off with another armchair travel adventure with her Culinary Tour 2010 - South of the Border . I really enjoyed travelling with Joan last year and you will too!!!! This year she will feature the cuisines of 10 of our south-of-the-border neighbors beginning in Mexico and moving from there to El Salvador, Nicaragua, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Jamaica, Haiti, Cuba and Puerto Rico. Each one of these destinations challenges you to create a dish outside of your comfort zone and experience new taste and food sensations. You can also do a little armchair travelling and daydreaming through your tastebuds. Check out her blog on January 11th for the round-up!!
We begin our armchair journey in: Mexico
If you are just beginning your foray into Mexican Cuisine, it is important to remember that Mexican food is always evolving. The first staples were corn and beans, and new ingredients and spices have slowly been introduced over the last 600 years to make "Mexican Food" what it is today."Mexican cuisine is known for its intense and varied flavours, colourful decoration, and the variety of spices. Mexican gastronomy, in terms of diversity of appealing tastes and textures, is one of the richest in the world, rich in proteins, vitamins, and minerals."
I still believe that the best way to travel is to immerse yourself in the culture and what better way to start than to stay with the locals and have a weeklong culinary vacation. Cooking holidays are often thought of as being in Italy or France but Mexican cuisine is every bit as interesting. I have travelled to the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico and explored countless Mayan ruins such as Coba, Tulum and Chitzen Itza. This time around I want to explore the area of Oaxaca on the west coast. South of Mexico City, Oaxaca is a state that celebrates its indigenous cultures. This is one of the best places to find Mexican folk art and ceramics. Oaxaca is also known as “the land of the seven moles". They come in all colors here from spring green to jet black.
I decided to spend a week virtually at Casada Sagrada. Casa Sagrada is located 16 miles outside the city of Oaxaca above the rural craft village of Teotitlan del Valle. Perched on a hill top overlooking the town, it is serene and vibrant at the same time; you can relax in a hammock on the wide bouganvilla-lined verandas after a fabulous meal or discover one of the world's most diverse ecosystems by taking backcountry hikes, biking tours, cooking classes or guided horseback rides with Mary Jane (or do all four!) and, of course, shop for the incredible rugs that have made Teotitlan famous.
For a really in-depth exploration of Oaxacan cuisine, I virtually joined Reina and her staff at Casa Sagrada for a week-long culinary immersion program. Their love for their heritage and extensive knowledge of the area surrounding Oaxaca will bring a unique aspect to your Oaxacan experience. You'll get the chance to sample real Hispanic culture and cooking which has similarities to Spanish cuisine due to the Hispanic influence. You will have access to many of the ingredients that you have only read about, make instant friendships and have the opportunity to immerse yourself in a unique vacation. I learned hands-on in Casa Sagrada's spacious teaching kitchens, and visited village homes for demonstrations ranging from Chorizo sausage-making to baking meats in the underground barbacoa technique, to making mezcal. You will tour regional food markets and explore unspoiled mountain hamlets.
In nearby Cuajimaloyas, our new friend Don Guadalupe invited us virtually into his traditional two-story adobe home to see his old-fashioned kitchen and medicinal herb garden. We also visited new village friends and cooks in their quaint mountain homes and dined on their unique high country specialties. The climate is completely different from the valley floor and we prepared savoury dishes featuring fresh-from-the-stream trout, wild watercress and heirloom potatoes.
To start Joan's culinary journey off right I started with a Lime Margarita which offers a perfect balance with this spicy tinga dish. The Homesick Texan says, "Tinga is a lively, tangy stew made up of pork, chorizo, tomatoes and chipotles.It is a perfect party dish because it can feed many and be made a day or so ahead of time. Traditionally it’s served on crisp tostadas but it can also be wrapped in warm tortillas, piled on tortilla chips, or even eaten with a spoon out of a bowl. Some may make it with chicken or veal, but my favorite style is tinga de puerco. The tender, toothsome strings of pork coupled with the piquant and vinegary chorizo, bright tomatoes and smoky chipotles makes for a complex, hearty dish. And when you add some cotija (that crumbly Mexican white cheese), cilantro, avocado and a squirt of lime, you've not only created a delectable dish, but you've also paid homage to the colours of the Mexican flag."
This particular recipe comes from renowned award-winning chef-restaurateur, cookbook author, and television personality Rick Bayless who is a frequent visitor to the Oaxaca region and my inspiration for wanting to travel to this ranch. Rick has done more than any other culinary star to introduce us to authentic Mexican cuisine and to change the image of Mexican food outside of Mexico. At home I have tried tostadas ("toasted") wannabe-incarnations of seasoned ground beef or refried beans spread on a flat, fried corn tortilla, then covered with diced tomato, shredded lettuce, cheese, and salsa. When in Mexico I want to become a locovore and try local ingredients and authentic preparations. The tostadas below are perfect on a hot summer day or for sharing an evening with friends.
I hauled my crock pot out from the deep recesses of my cupboards and set to work. Using this method has many advantages since the dish practically prepares itself while you are enjoying your company all day long. It also eliminates heating up the kitchen. If I were in Mexico right now this would be a bonus!!!!You will make this recipe over and over again winter or summer! The only change I made was to add some shredded lettuce for colour and for a nice fresh taste to reduce the heat slightly. You could also top your tostadas with some sour cream thinned with milk if you like.
Another tip I read somewhere is to spray your tortillas with cooking spray instead of frying them directly in oil. You can find olive oil cooking spray these days in your local market so save some calories and fat from your diet. This method turns out deliciously crisp tostadas!!! This was amazing!!!!I want to get out of my armchair and head on a plane to Oaxaca right NOW!!!!!!
Rick says, "Of all the personalities you find in the street-side snacks of Mexico, tostadas can be the raciest. They have a way of tingling the tongue, tangling the nostrils, even racing the pulse. I've most often found myself nibbling a tostada as I've ambled away from the jangling, glaring street stalls that stand cheek-by-jowl, each piled high with towers of wavy, not-quite-flat tortilla disks. These humble little spots entice shamelessly. They etch their presence in the impatient, pungent exhaust of traffic with their dangling, naked bulbs, and the biting, vinegary chili perfume they exude. You have to be pretty uptight not to succumb, knowing that any topping will take you on a ride with surprise twists and sharp-edged turns."
I hope you have enjoyed my culinary foray into Mexican cuisine...next stop on this whirlwind tour......El Salvador!!!
1 oz tequila
1/2 oz Triple Sec
1 oz lime juice, fresh squeezed
1/2 teaspoon sugar
kosher salt (optional)
lime wedge (optional)
crushed ice or ice cubes
If you're going to salt the glass, take your lime wedge or a bit of triple sec and rub around edge of glass. Turn upside down and press rim into salt.
For the drink- Shake the tequila, triple sec, lime juice and sugar in a shaker (or stir vigorously with a spoon) and pour over ice. Or you can blend it in a blender if you prefer it. Garnish with lime wedge and enjoy!
** Pork Tinga with Potatoes, Avocado and Fresh Cheese**
Recipe from Season 7 "Mexico One Plate at a Time"
1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil
1 pound lean, boneless pork shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
4 ounces chorizo sausage, removed from its casing
4 to 5 medium (about 3/4 pound total) red-skinned potatoes, quartered
1 large white onion, sliced 1/4–inch thick
1 garlic clove, minced
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, in juice (preferably fire-roasted)
2 to 3 canned chipotle chiles, en adobo, finely chopped
4 teaspoons chipotle canning sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
About 1/2 cup crumbled Mexican queso fresco or other fresh cheese like salted pressed farmers cheese
1 ripe avocado, pitted, flesh scooped from the skin and diced
Warm corn tortillas
Heat the oil in a stovetop-rated slow cooker liner over medium-high heat. (If your slow cooker liner isn’t made from a material that can be used on a stovetop, use a very large (12-inch) non-stick skillet.) Once the oil is very hot, add the pork and chorizo in a single layer and cook, stirring until the meat has browned, about 6 to 8 minutes. Turn off the heat and if you’re using a skillet, transfer the meat and its juices into the slow cooker. Add the potatoes.
In a large bowl, combine the onions, garlic, tomatoes, chipotles, adobo sauce, Worcestershire, oregano and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Pour mixture into the slow cooker and stir to mix thoroughly. Cook for 6 hours at the highest temperature.
Serves 4 -6