Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Creamy Mamey Smoothie - Licuado de Mamey

I found several fresh mamey fruits at a market on Mission Street this week! Mamey is a tree that grows in Southern Mexico and the Caribbean, and it is a popular ingredient for drinks called licuados, often drank for breakfast. As you can see from the photo, the name of the fruit is some times written as "Mamey Sapote", and the names are used interchangeably. To my understanding, the sapote (or zapote, as it is known in Mexico) is a different fruit altogether. Zapotes come in different hues and varieties (zapote negro, zapote blanco, chico zapote) and are round, as opposed to the elongated egg shape of the mamey. Mamey's flesh is always brick red, and it has a black shiny pit.

In Mexico, the word "mamey" is also slang for "sucker". Maybe it is the shape of this fruit that produces such picaresque associations, or the common conception that mamey is a powerful aprhodisiac. The taste of mamey is difficult to describe. The flavor resembles a combination of papaya, sweet potatoes and a hint of cocoa. To make a rich and creamy licuado de mamey you'll need to choose ripe fruits, similar in texture to ripe avocadoes. This vegan version makes two servings:

  • One large, ripe mamey fruit
  • Four cups of vanilla soy milk
  • One cup of crushed ice
  • Powdered cinnamon, cloves or nutmeg (optional)

Process all the ingredients in a blender. You may need to mix in small batches. Pour in a pitcher and chill for a few minutes. Serve in individual glasses and dust with cinnamon, cloves or nutmeg, or a combination of all. You can also add a sweetener of your choice, but I find the mamey is often sweet enough. Enjoy!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Contemporary Mexican design, and tropical fruit

Recent cold summer weather in San Francisco made me long for the beach and the casual, relaxed pace of Mexican coastside towns. These photos from Dupuis, a contemporary Mexican design firm illustrate an ideal spot for a perfect Summer vacation!

These two homes, Villa Tortuga and Villa Ceiba have wonderful living spaces that are open to the outdoors. The feeling is luxurious, clean, spacious and incredibly inviting.

I also noticed that the Dupuis designers incorporated tropical fruit into all living spaces of these amazing villas. Not too long ago I shared one of my favorite recipes for plaintains, and some memories of my grandfather's banana plantation in Chiapas. The airy comedor at Villa Ceiba remined me of my mother's description of her childhood home. The space is decorated with hanging bunches of green bananas, and more bananas are displayed in wooden trays reminescent of rustic bateas, or large containers generally used for washing and storage. I think my grandparents would have felt right at home at Villa Ceiba.

Villa Torguga's comedor is decorated in a coconut theme. The massive table and painting keep with the scale of the space and crate a grand, yet relaxed feeling. Displaying plastic grapes would not feel quite appropriate. I really like how the folks at Dupuis took something that could be considered extremely trite (fruit in Mexican design) and came up with something fresh and original.

Recently I also posted about the subliminal power of displaying fruit. Go on, place some apples by your bedstand, some limes in your bathroom and some pineapples on your dining room table. Even if we don't have grand beach homes, we can visually enjoy the bounty of the farmer's market before eating it...while we long for warm weather!

Visit Dupuis for more contemporary Mexican design ideas.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Gazpacho con fruta - fruity gazpacho

This soup is only as good as the ingredients you use. Choose summer fresh, ripe juicy fruits and tomatoes, the best you can find. I chose my fruit and veggies at the farmer's market, the supermarket produce pales by comparison. I used ripe nectarines and pears, but you can also use peaches, strawberries and other seasonal fruits. For tomatoes I chose early girls and zebra green varieties.

Tomatoes are absolutely fascinating! The word "Tomato" comes from the original "Xitomatl", a combination of Nahuatl words alluding to the fruit's roundness, Tomatl, and the fruit's round marking resembling a belly button, Xictli. In some ancient American cultures the word for belly button also alludes to round, universal "centers", like the center of the earth or the center of the universe. I'm sure the ancient people of the Americas really thought highly of this fruit! The Nahuatl word Xitomatl later evolved to Jitomate (pronounced Hee-Toh-Mah-Teh in Spanish) and finally to Tomato, in English.

Gazpacho, the original Spanish chilled soup didn't contain tomatoes. This wonderful fruit was first cultivated in Mexico, and didn't make it to Europe until the 1500's, where it was originally believed to be poisonous. My version of this delicious summer soup is reminiscent of gazpacho and Mexican "salsa cruda", or a raw vegetable sauce that uses a variety of raw vegetables, and some times fruit. This soup recipe makes two servings and it can be doubled. You'll need the following ingredients:

  • Two cups of roughly chopped tomatoes, previously peeled and seeded
  • One cup of cubed cucumber, previously peeled and seeded
  • One ripe nectarine, sliced
  • One ripe pear, sliced
  • One cup of sliced red bell pepper
  • One tablespoon of chopped red onion
  • One quarter cup of seasoned Japanese rice vinegar, or more, as needed
  • Two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, or more, to emulsify
  • About two tablespoons of chopped fruit and veggies, to garnish
Prepare the tomatoes by scoring the skin with a knife in the shape of an "X". Dunk them in rapildy boiling water, then in iced water. Start removing the skins where you scored them. Squeeze the tomatoes on a strainer, save the juice but discard the seeds. Blend the tomatoes with the remaining ingredients, adding the vinegar and oil slowly. You may need to process all the fruits and veggies in batches, adding more oil and vinegar as you blend. Chill your gazpacho for a few minutes, then serve and garnish as desired. The fruits and veggies in this soup are so sweet and lucious it doesn't need any other seasoning!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Para Mi Amante: Strawberry Infused Tequila

I made this bottle of strawberry infused tequila as a gift for my boyfriend on his birthday. This beverage traditionally known as Por Mi Amante* can be made with a variety of fruits, but strawberries are a favorite since they give the tequila a nice pink color and a delicate flavor. A similar drink called PiƱa Borracha can be made using very ripe pineapple. To make this gift you'll need the following materials and ingredients:

  • One small bottle of silver tequila (about one pint)
  • One cup of ripe, sliced strawberries
  • Fabric of your choice (here I'm using a piece of leather)
  • Black raffia, or ribbon
  • Self stick label
  • Rubber stamps

Empty the tequila in a clean, desinfected mason's jar together with the strawberries and refrigerate for up to three weeks. Clean the tequila bottle and save for later. Putting the bottle inside the dishwashing machine will help you remove the labels. When you are ready to present your gift strain the tequila and discard the strawberries. Using a funnel pour the tequila inside the original bottle with a few fresh strawberry slivers. Decorate the bottle with the fabric and create a new label as desired.

*In 1939, Charles H. Baker, Jr. misspelled the name of this beverage as Por mi amante in his book "The Gentleman's Companion", and it stuck since then. My hand made label uses the correct Spanish grammar to spell "For my lover" using para (for) as opposed to por (because of). Then again, who knows? Maybe Mr. Baker had a lover that drove him to drink....and he really meant to say "Because of my lover". Of course, you can decorate your label as you wish! I used red self-adhesive labels available at Paper Source and rubber stamps.