Friday, July 31, 2009

Courage and Protection

"As soon as there is life there is danger"

"He has not learned the lesson of life who does not every day surmount a fear"

"There is always safety in valor"

Ralph Waldo Emerson US essayist & poet (1803 - 1882)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Sopa de Flor de Calabaza - Squash Blossom Soup

Squash blossoms are the "holy grail" of the farmer's market. The season for squash blossoms is brief, so I was so happy when I saw big golden bunches selling for just five dollars! Cooking with flowers is wonderful. These particular flowers are very versatile; you can toss them in salad, use them in stir fry, or prepare them as a stuffing for quesadillas. You can also make this classic "Flor de Calabaza" soup. My personal recipe uses seasonal veggies for a perfect Summer treat. It is no wonder the delicate squash taste of this dish has been enjoyed in Mexico for more than five hundred years! To prepare the blossoms get rid of the stems and pistils, wash and use only the beautiful golden petals. This is a vegan recipe, but you can substitute butter for the vegetable oil if you wish. Makes four servings. You'll need the following ingredients:

  • Two bunches of squash blossoms (approximately four cups of blossoms, when chopped)
  • Half of a small white onion, chopped
  • One ripe tomato peeled, seeded and chopped
  • Kernels of two fresh ears of corn
  • One cup of fresh green beans, chopped
  • Two medium white potatoes (or four small creamers) peeled and cubed
  • Four cups of vegetable broth, or filtered water
  • One corn tortilla, cut in strips
  • Two tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • Dash of white pepper
  • Salt to taste

In a large pot saute the chopped onion with oil until it becomes transparent. Add the chopped tomato and stir until it starts to release its juices. Add the cubed potatoes, chopped green beans and kernels of corn. Make sure you scrape inside the pot what remains on the ears of corn, using a blunt knife to release the juices. Cook for another 3 to 4 minutes and then add the flowers. Add the broth or water and simmer for about 15 - 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Puree half of the soup in a blender and return to the pot for a creamier consistency. Garnish with tortilla strips that have been toasted in a pan with a little bit of oil, or crisped in a 350-degree oven.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Sew Op - Sew Cool!

I recently had a chance to attend one of Galeria de la Raza's Sew-Op workshops! The instructors, Joe and Audra are talented with the needle and patient enough to teach the very basics of sewing to complete newbies like me. I enjoyed learning basic stitches and how a sewing machine works.

This is not your abuelita's sewing class! You listen to music while learning in a very relaxed setting. The next class will show students how to make a hoodie. If you are interested in getting your stitch on, visit Galeria de la Raza and download the class pricing and class schedule. The last class is on Monday, July the 27th!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Hongos al Jerez - Sherry Mushrooms

This easy stew makes a wonderful filling for empanadas and tacos. You can also serve it with morisqueta (steamed rice). I prefer not using cooking sherry, since it has vinegar and would give this recipe an acid, tangy flavor. It is worth hunting for a good Spanish "Jerez", I used and imported Amontillado. The sherry and epazote give the mushrooms a robust, earthy flavor. . . a great marriage of Mexican and Spanish ingredients. To make this recipe you'll need the following ingredients:

  • 1 large ripe, juicy heirloom tomato, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 pound of mushrooms of your choice. I use a combination of baby shiitakes and brown mushrooms.
  • 1/2 of a white onion, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 spring of fresh epazote
  • 1/2 cup of Spanish sherry
  • 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Chopped cilantro or parsley (optional)

Clean and brush the mushrooms and chop coarsely. In a large pan saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil until it becomes transparent. Add the chopped mushrooms and cook for a couple of minutes until they glisten, but don't let them brown. Add the chopped tomato and salt and pepper, cook until the tomato starts to release its juices, then add the sherry and the epazote. Stir, lower the heat and cover. Let the mushrooms simmer under low heat until they are tender, about 5 minutes. Top with chopped parsley or cilantro and serve. This recipe serves two, it can be doubled.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Cactus Salad - Ensalada de Nopalitos

This fresh, summery salad is perfect for a warm day. Buy your tender cactus (nopales) at a Mexican grocery store, remove the needles by running a sharp knife sideways over the suface of the cactus paddle. Cooked tender cactus has a consistency somehow similar to green beans, but it has a slippery "roping" like okra. Boil your cactus in plenty of water for about 10 minutes. Once cooked, place in a colander and rinse under plenty of water to remove the slippery residue. Cactus is said to be a blood sugar stabilizer, in Mexico it is used as a home remedy for diabetes. To make this salad you'll need the following ingredients:

  • 4 to 5 tender cactus paddles, cubed and boiled
  • 1 large tomato, seeded and chopped
  • half of a white onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup of chopped cilantro
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • One lime
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 serrano chile, chopped (optional)
Cut the garlic clove in half and flavor the inside of a salad bowl with it - rub it generously over the entire surface. Save the remaining garlic for another recipe. Combine the cactus, tomato, onion, cilantro and serrano chile in the seasoned salad bowl, and chill well. When ready to serve toss the salad and season with lime juice, salt and olive oil. You can also garnish the salad with radishes and avocado.