My friend Gwyneth Doland writes in her book, Tantalizing Tamales: Although we don’t know for sure the exact origin of tamales we can see from pots and carvings that, for the ancient Mayans, tamales were their daily bread. (The word comes from the Nahuatl tamalii and tamal is the correct singular form, but tamale is more common.) Researchers believe it is likely that tamales originated in Mesoamerica and eventually spread throughout Latin America and beyond. As an ancient precursor to fast food, the supremely portable tamale provided satisfying and nutritious meal for people on the go—and it still does. Tamales are a popular menu item in Latin American and Mexican restaurants and market stalls, but for most home cooks, the effort required to prepare tamales (as opposed to tacos or burritos) means they are mostly made on celebration days. Christmas, New Year’s, the Day of the Dead, weddings, birthdays and baptisms are often celebrated with a feast of tamales.
MexGrocer.com is totally on top of the tamale situation, so see their special Tamale Section, here.
Grilled Green Chile Cheese Tamales with Avocado Cream
Grilled Tamales Awaiting the Avocado Cream
Here’s one of the most unusual tamale recipes you will ever find, and your first thought will be: Oh no, not a grilled tamale! But it works–if you can keep the corn husks from burning. And for that, be armed with a spray bottle filled with water. These tamales can be served as an entree or as a side dish. You can tie the tamales together with string or with a thin strip of corn husk. Serve with Mexican rice, squash with tomatoes and green chile, and flan for dessert.
15 dried corn husks
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/3 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon instant masa mix
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup whole kernel corn
Green Chile Cheese Filling:
6 to 8 green New Mexican chiles, roasted, peeled, stems and seeds removed, cut in strips
1/3 cup finely chopped onions
6 ounces asadero cheese, coarsely grated or substitute Monterey Jack cheese
1/3 cup chopped black olives
2 medium avocados, peeled and chopped
2 jalapeño chiles, stems and seeds removed, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped onions
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
Sour cream, chopped fresh cilantro for garnish
Place the corn husks in water in a large bowl, weigh down with a plate and soak for 30 minutes or until soft.
Combine the cornmeal, milk, butter, masa, sugar and salt in a saucepan and simmer for a couple of minutes. Cool and add the corn.
Drain the husks, pat dry with paper towels, and lay on a flat surface. Place two together, overlapping a little. Spread some of the cornmeal mixture on a husk, cover with chile strips, then onions, olives, and cheese. Place another layer of the cornmeal on top, pull the husks over the top and tie at both ends. Repeat until you have 6 packets.
Arrange the tamales around the edge of a high heat grill. Cook until the filling sets, turning occasionally, spraying with water to keep the husks from burning. It will take 45 to 60 minutes.
Place all the ingredients for the avocado cream in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth
To serve, slice open the tamale, spoon in the avocado cream, top with a dollop of sour cream and sprinkle with the cilantro.
Yield: 6 tamales
Heat Scale: Medium
When people think of Mexican moles they usually conjure up the chocolate-laced moles of the state of Puebla. But Puebla is not the only state in Mexico with a reputation for moles. Oaxaca, in the south, lays claim to seven unique moles–and dozens and dozens of variations. Susana Trilling, who owns the Seasons of My Heart cooking school located outside of Oaxaca city at Rancho Aurora, was our guide to the moles of Oaxaca. During a trip to her school, I was given lessons on preparing the famous mole negro Oaxaqueño, while Susana described her experiences with the seven famous moles. She later wrote about the moles in a Chile Pepper magazine article entitled: “My Search for the Seventh Mole.”
Susana wondered about the number seven, because there are seven regions in the state of Oaxaca, and, of course, seven days in the week. But then she read Tradiciones Gastronómicas Oaxaqueñas, in which the author, Ana Maria Guzmán de Vasquez Colmenares, noted: “There must be something magical in the number seven, for the number of Oaxacan moles coincides with the wonders of the world, the theological virtues, the wise men of Athens–and for their wisdom which elected the number seven to represent justice.”
“There may be seven moles,” say the locals, “but of the thousands and thousands of cooks, each has their own private version of all of the moles, so how many does that make?” One magazine writer suggested: “Oaxaca should be the land of 200 moles!”
For the record, the seven moles are: mole negro, mole coloradito, mole verde, mole amarillo, mole rojo, manchas manteles (“tablecloth stainer”), and mole chichilo. They are all descendants of clemole, believed to be the original moleof Oaxaca. It was quite simple, being composed of ancho and pasilla chiles, garlic, cloves, cinnamon, and coriander.
The Oaxacan moles are characterized by unusual chiles that are unique to the region. In a discussion with chile vendor Eliseo Ramirez, I learned that there are sixty chiles grown only in the state of Oaxaca and nowhere else in Mexico. Of those sixty, he carried about ten. Some of these unusal chiles in clude chiles de agua, which grow erect and are pointed at the end. The chiles chilhuacle, which are short and fat, come in two varieties, black and red. The red variety is called “the saffron of the poor” because a small amount of ground chilhuacle rojo gives are similar coloring to foods. Other unique chiles are the red-orange chiles onzas, the yellow costeño, and the pasilla Oaxaqueña (sometimes called pasilla Mexicana), a smoked pasilla that adds a chipotle-like flavor to moles.
In the market, I also learned an easy way to make moles. Instead of tediously grinding all the ingredients on a metate, the cooks would go to the Benito Juárez market, buy all their chiles, nuts, and seeds, and have them custom-ground in the special molinos, or mills in another section of the market. The result is a dark paste which is later converted into amole sauce.
Susana Trilling describes the more tedious process: “The chiles are toasted black, soaked and ground, and blended with fried tomatoes, tomatillos, and roasted garlic and onions. Then come nuts and seeds–some toasted, some fried. Almonds, peanuts, pecans, chile seeds, and sesame seeds. There are almost always more sesame seeds than any other seed or nut. They have to be fried slowly and carefully, with lots of love and attention. Hence the affectionate Mexican dicho (saying): “You are the sesame seed of my mole.”
Mole Verde goes great with chicken or pork.
There are other special ingredients which characterize the different Oaxacan moles. Avocado leaves, difficult to find in the U.S. and Canado, are used in mole negro. Fresh green herbs such as epazote and parsley are the source of the green color of mole verde. Pineapple and banana are added to manchas manteles, while string beans, chayote and chiles costeños are ingredients in mole amarillo.
Many different meats are added to moles, from chicken to beef to fish, but by far the most common meat served is turkey. In fact, turkey is so important in mole negro, that Mexican writer Manuel Toussaint noted that the turkey in the mole was as important as the eagle in the Mexican flag, and another writer suggested that to refuse to eat mole negro was a crime of treason against the homeland!
What would you do if someone invited you to a fiesta in a graveyard? Would you go? Or does the mere idea of it give you a major case of the creeps?! Well, you’re not alone, amigo. In the USA we try to deny, cheat and minimize death.
Not so in Mexico. In Mexico, the symbol of death is a grinning, fleshless beauty called La Muerte-Lady Death (La Catrina). An elegantly and colorfully clad skeleton wearing a flower-laden hat, created by press artist José Guadalupe Posada (1853-1913), she’s an amazing metaphor of life embracing death. You can feel this in her name, for she goes by La Catrina-Fancy Lady, La Flaca-Skinny, La Huesuda-Bony and La Pelona-Baldy. There’s humor here, not fear. What’s up with that?!
The renowned Mexican poet, Octavio Paz put it this way back in 1959:
“The word death is not spoken aloud in New York, in Paris, in London, because it burns the lips. The Mexican, in contrast, is familiar with death, chases after it, mocks it, courts it, hugs it, sleeps with it; it is his favorite toy and his most lasting love.”
How did nextdoor neighbors-the US and Mexico-develop such wildly divergent attitudes toward death? And how did what was originally a pagan holiday survive the invasion of Catholicism? History holds the answer to those questions. Día de Muertos has its roots in pre-Columbian tradition where the people felt deeply connected to and lived harmoniously with the Earth. They viewed the cycle of life-conception, birth, growth, maturity, decline and death as part of a great and mysterious whole. Spiritually, rather than materialistically grounded, they felt themselves to be one with all that had ever existed or would exist-on this planet and in our universe. For these reasons, death didn’t scare them, nor did they try to outsmart it.
Although the holiday’s exact origin is uncertain, it’s believed that it began with the Olmecs about 3000 years ago. They saw life as an illusion and believed that in dying, human beings truly awakened and their souls were set free. The Olmecs transmitted their ideas to the Toltecs and Mayans in Central America, who later shared them with the Aztecs, Tlaxcaltec, Chichimec, Tecpanec and other Indians native to Mexico.
When the Spaniards defeated the Aztecs in the 1500′s, they converted the Indians to Catholicism. However, they encountered resistence when attempting to eradicate all native religious traditions. In a compromise sanctioned by the Church, Día de Muertos was merged with two Christian holidays-All Saints Day on November first and All Souls Day on November second. This makes it a thoroughly unique, cross-cultural holiday, effectively blending two very different traditions. In that regard, it is symbolic of the Mexican people, for they are also a synthesis of the brown-skinned “people of the earth” and their white-skinned conquerors, the “people of the “sky”-as the Spanish were initially called.
True to its roots, Día de Muertos or Day of the Dead is a celebration, not of death but of the continuum of life. It consists of prayerful reflection, joy and revelry honoring those who came before. In a culture without written family trees, parents and grandparents pass stories on to their children. These aren’t boring lists of names, facts and dates, but lively, humorous tales about those who came before. Their favorite foods, passions and possessions are discussed, along with their triumphs, their foibles and all sorts of other anecdotal details about their lives-forging a tangible, emotional link between the past and the present.
So now that we have a little background on the holiday-onward-to the graveyard fiestas, amigo! One more thing before we go. Be advised that there’s no connection between Día de los Muertos and Halloween whatsoever. This holiday is as important to Mexicans as Thanksgiving is to us. It’s a time when people travel long distances to be with their families, some coming from as far away as the northern US.
So-here we go! It’s the last week in October in a rural Mexican village. Along the sides of the roads and in the open-air marketplace, homemade stands pop up. They’re filled with pan de muerto – a special sweet bread with crossed bones on top (recipe follows article), amaranth seed skulls with raisin eyes and peanut teeth, candied Marzipan and chocolate skulls called calaveras, roasted corn or elotes, dancing skeletons or calacas carrying cardboard coffins, votive candles, and mountains of golden yellow marigolds-the flowers used to summon the spirits of the departed.
By October thirty-first, we see altars springing up in every home. As we stroll down the cobblestone streets, we notice that the front doors are wide open. We see entire families joining together in decorating tables topped with wooden crates and lace table cloths. They’re covered with marigolds or zenpasuchitl, along with the purchases from the street vendors. There’s an abundances of candles, pictures of saints and photos of the deceased. In homes where there have been children who died, we see toys, balloons, piñatas. Even clothing and tiny pairs of shoes. Suspended from the ceilings are rectangular sheets of yellow, pink, Orange, blue and green papel picado-tissue paper with cutouts-that impart an airy feeling reminiscent of the sky at sunset. We inhale pungent, delicious aromas. The smell of the marigolds. The strong odor of copal incense, mixed with the chocolate-nut-and-chile aroma of mole and the earthy, meaty smell of tamales. We see pottery urns of mescal or pulque (native drinks made from cactus) and bottles of tequila. Our attention is momentarily diverted by a band of mariachis strolling down the middle of the sidewalk, playing, singing and laughing, followed by a troop of children.
November first, All Saints Day is reserved for honoring the children, or angelitos. Early in the morning we head toward the local graveyard, where the family members are cutting down weeds, raking, touching up chipped plaster and repainting the tombs. Decorations are springing up here too. We see crosses made from marigold petals, elaborate multi-colored floral wreaths and artificial flower arrangements, along with more of the fruits, vegetables, goodies, photos, personal mementos and statues we saw in the homes. It’s colorful. It’s powerful. It’s noisy. At 2:00 p.m. a hush falls over the crowd as the priest appears to conduct an open-air mass. Relatives huddle together, mourning their dead with la llorada-the weeping. It chokes every one of us up. At sunset, hundreds of candles are lit, mingling with the powerful scents of the food, incense and flowers. At midnight, the church bells begin to toll, summoning the dead. Many families will spend the entire night here, remembering their loved ones with recitations of the Rosary and praying that they will come and partake of the aromas of their favorite foods.
On November second the entire village gathers in the cemetery for the big fiesta. It’s packed. Every family has a picnic basket, plus beer and tequila for toasting the departed. Street vendors are selling tacos, tamales, shrimp and fruit cocktails, drinks and fireworks. Mariachis compete with one another and with the occasional radio blasting Mexican Ranchero music. At the close of the all-day festivities, multi-colored explosions light up the sky. Then the ancestors return to heaven and it’s over until next year.
To celebrate Día de Muertos in your own home, try making an altar to honor and remember your ancestors. Then cook up some Pan de Muerto, some colorful Sugar Skulls and serve after a luscious, soulful, authentic meal consisting of Mole and Tamales. Some real Mexican tequila for slow, thoughtful sipping with this feast just might be in order too!
October is finally here and it’s time to make sugar skulls! You can learn how to make them right at home and decorate them yourself, or you can buy them pre-made. This fun and festive Mexican folk art is a Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) tradition. The decorated sugar skulls are used to adorn the altars of loved ones along with marigolds, papel picado and candles. It is not a somber holiday but one of remembrance and joy. For more information about Dia de los Muertos and more about Mexican Cooking, visit Mexican Food at About.com
El 16 de Septiembre de 1810 fue el día en el que se consumó la independencia de México, la cual puso final al dominio Español. A consecuencia de éste acto que desencadenó una gran pasión mexicana se celebra la noche de el 15 de Septiembre el famoso “Grito de Independencia”. Esta celebración por lo general viene acompañana de un grande festejo entre los estados Mexicanos. La fiesta consiste en el establecimiento de las “Fiestas Patrias” las cuales son constituídas por juegos mecánicos, comidas típicas mexicanas, grupos musicales y presentaciones folklóricas.
El “Grito de Dolores” según la tradición mexicana es un llamado que el cura Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla dio la noche del 15 de Septiembre. A lado de el cura Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla venia el Capitán de el Ejército Realista Mexicano Ignacio Allende y el Insurgente Mexicano partícipe en el proceso de independencia Juan Aldama. El “Grito” consistió en tocar las campanas de la parroquia de Dolores ubicada en el estado de Guanajuato proclamando el inicio de la guerra de Independencia. La tradición consiste en tocar las campanas de dicha parroquia mencionando o proclamando las siguientes frases:
¡Vivan los héroes que nos dieron Patria!
¡Viva Josefa Ortíz de Domínguez!
¡Viva Aldama y Matamoros!
¡Viva la Independencia Nacional!
¡Viva México! Viva México! Viva México!
Toca la campana y ondea la bandera Mexicana.
El pueblo entusiasta responde con gran pasión “Viva Mexico!” y celebra con fiestas y cantos mexicanos. Es la tradición más pasional que tiene México. Cada estado de la República Mexicana tiene sus respectivos y muy esperados festejos. Esta fecha conmemora el esfuerzo de el pueblo mexicano contra la conquista Española. Es asi como la celebración se lleva a cabo. !Esperemos con mucho orgullo nuestro 16 de Septiembre! ¡Viva México!
This magnificent dish of Stuffed Poblano Chiles in Walnut Sauce, was created in the city of Puebla by the nuns of the Santa Monica Convent in honour of the triumphant arrival of General Agustin de Iturbide, when independence from Spain was finally attained in 1821 after some not so easy negotiations with General Vicente Guerrero who was then at the head of the Insurgentes army.
Agustín de Iturbide
Agustin de Iturbide (1782-1824), a criollo (born in Mexico of Spanish parents), having been fighting for a few years against the rebels of Insurgentes, first against José Maria Morelos y Pavon (another hero of the independence) who was captured and executed at the end of a ferocious battle, and then against General Guerrero.
Several years had passed before Iturbide realized that the royalists would never win this war and as a result, decided to present General Guerrero with a plan (Plan of Iguala) through which an independent Mexico with himself as Emperor, could be established. General Guerrero agreed to meet with him in Acatempan (The Embrace of Acatempan), in order to discuss the plan drawn out by General Iturbide.
The Plan of Iguala (March 1821) became very popular mainly due to the fact that it satisfied both parties, the Insurgentes by implementing Independence from Spain and the Peninsulares (Spaniards living in Mexico) for avoiding attacks on them and their properties.
On September 17, 1821 (Iturbide’s birthday), he marched triumphantly into Mexico City with his Ejército Trigarante (Army of the Three Guarantees). The following day Mexico was declared an independent empire and General Iturbide was crowned on July 21, 1822. He ruled as Agustin I (1822-1823), over a large territory which was bordered by Panama in the south, and by the Oregon territory in the north, including the present countries of Central America and the U.S. states of California, Texas, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico. Less than a year later, Agustin de Iturbide was forced to abdicate his reign by a General Santa Ana who announced the birth of a Republic.
During his reign as Emperor of Mexico, he lived in what used to be known as the Palacio de Iturbide now Museo Palacio Cultural Banamex, a true jewel of Baroque architecture with marked Italian influence. This magnificent building was built by the Count of San Mateo Valparaiso as a wedding present for his daughter whose fiancé was of Italian descent. The building is currently a museum that holds the vast Mexican art collection of Banamex (the National Bank of Mexico) and is located in downtown Mexico City, or the Centro Histórico, just a few blocks from the Zócalo and the Cathedral where General Iturbide is buried.
Historic Mexican Flags
During his brief Empire, Iturbide was responsible among other things, for the creation of the modern Mexican flag with its three colours, green, white and red. These colors representing the three guarantees and to honour the legacy of the Aztecs, the emblem of the cactus with the perching eagle.
The decoration of the Stuffed Poblano Chiles in Walnut Sauce (Chiles en Nogada) was clearly a political move. If there is something that gives a unique character to Mexican cuisine in my opinion, is most definitely all its sauces and moles with key ingredients such as peanuts, almonds, walnuts, and of course chiles. In fact, poblano chiles are sometimes identified outside of Mexico as the ‘stuffing’ chile, so the uniqueness of this particular dish is clearly due to its attractive decoration and the history behind it.
In Mexico, this wonderful dish is traditionally served in the fall, when the walnuts for the creamy nogada sauce are harvested in northern Mexico. The combination of the pulled pork, the sweetness of the raisins, almonds and candied fruit, with the spicy heat of the chiles, is bound to conquer refined palates anywhere.
Stuffed Poblano Chiles in Walnut Sauce
Chiles en Nogada
For the filling
1 lb (500 g) pork loin
1 to 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 large cloves garlic, chopped
½ cup chopped onion
3 large ripe tomatoes, seeded and chopped
½ cup canned tomato sauce
Dash each of cinnamon, cumin, cloves
½ cup chopped cooked ham
¼ cup chopped almonds
¼ cup raisins, soaked in water
½ cup chopped, candied citron or
¼ cup each, peeled and chopped fresh apple, pear, and peach
Dash each of salt, sugar
Cook the pork loin in boiling salted water for 12 to 15 minutes or until tender. Drain and reserve the broth. When the pork is cool enough to handle, shred it with your fingers and set aside.
In a saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat and sauté the garlic and onion until the onion is transparent. Add the chopped tomatoes and tomato sauce, and continue cooking for a few minutes longer. Stir in the pork, ½ to 1 cup of the reserved broth, the cinnamon, cumin, cloves, ham, almonds, drained raisins, and citron. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 to 8 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened and the fruit is tender. Set aside to cool.
For the Sauce
1 slice of bread
½ cup milk
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 (4 oz/125 g) package cream cheese or
125 g. Mexican Queso Fresco
Dash each of cinnamon, sugar
1 teaspoon dry sherry
Soak the bread in the milk. In a blender or food processor, half an hour before serving the chiles, blend the walnuts with the cheese, soaked bread, sherry, cinnamon and sugar. The nogada sauce should be thick. Keep at room temperature until ready to serve.
For the chiles
10 small Poblano chiles, roasted, peeled and seeded
1 to 2 pomegranate(s) or
1 (2 oz/60 g) jar red pimientos
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
Fill each chile with a spoonful of the pork mixture and carefully place each stuffed chile on a serving platter. Cover the chiles with the nogada sauce and garnish with pomegranate seeds and parsley.
Serve this festive dish at room temperature with good French bread on the side and celebrate the Mexican Independence.
Note: In later years, cooks wanting a smoother creamy sauce for the nogada, introduced cream cheese, but the original recipe called for queso fresco (fresh cheese), which fortunately, is now available anywhere in English North America where Mexican products are sold.
Here is another colourful dish that can be served as an appetizer with small corn tortillas or as a salad.
ENSALADA DE NOPALES (Cactus Leaves Salad)
Serves 4-6 as an appetizer
4-6 cactus leaves/pads, fresh or
1 (825g) jar Nopalitos or Tender Cactus,*
1 tsp. salt
4-6 tbsp. finely chopped onion
2-4 Serrano chiles, chopped
4 sprigs fresh cilantro, washed and chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
Salt & pepper
1 large fresh tomato, sliced
1/2 cup Feta cheese, crumbled
Peel cactus leaves and remove thorns, if any. Wash with running water and slice into strips. Transfer cactus strips to a dry saucepan and cook at very low temperature stirring occasionally, for approximately 6 to 8 minutes or until the sap is gone completely and nopalitos are tender. Depending on the altitude, they might need to be cooked in water beforehand. Drain and cool.
In a salad bowl, mix nopales with the onion, chile, cilantro, oregano and olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Top salad with the tomato slices and the cheese.
*Cooked nopalitos would still need to be placed on a dry saucepan for a few minutes to remove the sap completely. I recommend La Costeña brand.
I hope you’ve enjoyed a little more on history of Mexico, the history of the Mexican Independence, Chiles en Nogada, and a simple but delicious Nopalitos Salad recipe. Please comment below your thoughts, and what you’d like me to write about if you have any suggestions. I’d love to hear them!
Mexican Culinary Treasures: Recipes From Maria Elena's Kitchen
Maria Elena Cuervo-Lorens is the author of Mexican Culinary Treasures cookbook. She takes you back to her childhood, spent around her grandmother’s table on a shopping expedition with her mother to Mercado La Merced, and for a merienda (snack) of café con leche and bizcochos (Mexican sweet rolls) at a bakery in downtown Mexico City. The authentic Mexican recipes she shares with us include tacos, quesadillas and enchiladas. The nouvelle cuisine of cosmopolitan Mexico City, such as cuitlacoche (huitlacohe) crepes, oysters with chipotle chile.
Chiles in Nogada are very popular in Mexico during the month of August and September a Mexican tradition coming from Puebla. The name comes from the word Nogal meaning walnut. This Mexican recipe is made with poblano chiles filled with picadillo (ground beef with spices), topped with a walnut based cream sauce and garnish with pomegranate seeds, this 3 colors combined are the Mexican flag colors: green for the chile pepper, white for the walnut sauce and red for the pomegranate seeds.
This famous dish, native to Puebla commemorates Independence Day and the colors are those of the Mexican flag: green, white and red.
Chiles en Nogada – Stuffed Chiles in Waltnut Sauce recipe by Patricia Quintana
Recipe Ingredients for Stuffing
1/2 cup butter
1 cup olive oil
12 cloves garlic, peeled, plus 10 cloves garlic minced
2 large white onions, grated
1 lb ground pork
1 lb ground veal
1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground ham
1 cup raisins or currants
2 1/2 cups prunes, pitted and finely chopped
1 1/2 cups candied citron, finely chopped
1 cup dried apricots, finely chopped
6 large pears, finely chopped
6 peaches, finely chopped
4 apples, finely chopped
2 cups pineapple, finely chopped
1 plantain, finely chopped
6 large tomatoes finely chopped
1 tbs ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
10 bay leaves
6 sprigs thyme
6 sprigs marjoram
1 1/2 tbs freshly ground pepper
1 cup dry sherry
1 cup dry white wine
Salt to taste
Recipe Ingredients for the Chiles
32 medium chiles poblanos (green fresh ancho peppers), roasted, seeded, deveined and soaked in salted water and vinegar for 6 hrs.
2 cups flour
4 cups walnuts
1 1/2 cups skinned almonds
14 oz cream cheese
7 oz goat cheese
3 oz fresh cheese, such as feta
1 slice bread trimmed and soaked in milk
2 cups heavy cream or 1 cup heavy cream mixed with 1 cup half and half
1 cup milk
1 tbs grated white onion
2 tbs ground cinnamon
1/2 cup dry sherry
Salt to taste
Recipe Ingredients for the Garnish
Seeds from 6 pomegranates
1 bunch of parsley, chopped
Prepare the stuffing: Heat butter and oil in a saucepan. Brown 12 garlic cloves and discard. Brown minced garlic with onion. Add ground meats and saute until no longer red. Stir in raisins, prunes, citron, apricots, pears, peaches, apples, pineapple, plantain and tomatoes. cook until mixture begins to thicken, about 30 minutes.
Add cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, bay leaves, thyme, marjoram, pepper, sherry and white wine. SALT to taste. Simmer, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens, abut 1 1/4 hours. Cool
Fill prepared chiles with cooled stuffing. Put flour on a piece of waxed paper. Roll chiles in flour and place on a tray. Cover and refrigerate.
Prepare the batter: Make batter in 3 batches, as needed or it will not remain fluffy. Beat 1/3 of egg whites with a little salt until stiff. Lightly beat 1/3 of egg yolks and yolds and 2 tbs flour to whites, folding in carefully.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a deep frying pan. Dip flour coated chiles in batter, one at a time and fry over medium heat. Do not crowed pan. Remove and drain on paper towels.
Prepare the sauce: boil walnuts in water to cover for 5 minutes. Remove from water. Peel skins. Boil almonds in water to cover for 25 minutes and soak in cold water. Peel skins. Grind walnuts and almonds in a blender or food processor, adding cream cheese, goat cheese, feta cheese, bread, cream, milk onion, sugar, cinnamon, sherry and salt. the mixture will be very thick. Refrigerate.
If you are using packaged nuts, wash walnuts and almonds and follow the procedure for fresh nuts.
To serve: Place cold fried chiles on a platter. Ladle walnut sauce on top. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and garnish with parsley. (Chiles Rellenos en Nogada)
Serves 16 persons
Chiles en Nogada with the World’s Premier Culinary College
Beyond being delicious, Avocado (the main ingredient in guacamole, in case you didn’t know) is pretty nutritious. It packs a lot of calories, but eaten in moderation, it can be a healthy, and lip-licking delicious, eat! Check out just a few of the health benefits below:
Avocado is a rich source of healthy fat. What is healthy fat, you ask? Healthy fats are monounsaturated fats which, according to the American Heart Association, decrease harmful LDL cholesterol, raise beneficial HDL cholesterol and last but not least, lower your risk of stroke and heart disease. One-half cup of guacamole contains 15 grams of fat. The majority, about 10 grams of the 15, is monounsaturated fat, the California Avocado Commission says. There are only 2 g of saturated fat, and no cholesterol.
Finally, the avocado is an excellent source of vitamins B-6,C, K and Folate, and the minerals: copper and potassium. Folate is necessary for your body’s production of red blood cells, and it decreases your risk for cardiovascular disease. Vitamin C aids in healing by increasing the absorption of calcium and iron,and maintains healthy teeth, bones, gums and blood vessels. Vitamin B-6 is vital for the normal function of your neurological system, and potassium is necessary to maintain normal heartbeat and blood pressure. Avocado is high in oleic acid, which has been shown to prevent breast cancer in numerous studies.
One-half cup serving of avocado also provides about 8 grams of Fiber, too. Fiber is found in all plant-based foods, and promotes normal bowel function, reduces the risk for heart disease (a healthy heart is a happy heart!) and diabetes by lowering your glucose and cholesterol levels, according to MayoClinic.com.
According to Livestrong.com, “Avocados have more of the carotenoid lutein than any other commonly consumed fruit. Lutein protects against macular degeneration and cataracts, two disabling age-related eye diseases.”
All in all, sounds like every day should be guacamole day!
P.S. – This is a really cool website you should check out for tips, recipes, and facts about the amazing avocado.
This time I would like to elaborate more on the positive side that such an intervention left on the country and in the lives of its people during the span of just a few years. Mexican cuisine was greatly influenced by French Cuisine which, as we all know, is one of the best cuisines in the world. The French left a legacy of cream, mustard, cheese sauces and crepes that become a part of the everyday menu.
Just recently, UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), named Mexican Cuisine an ‘intangible cultural patrimony of humanity,’ along with French gastronomy. Its creative use and the variety of native ingredients, not only chiles, but many distinct vegetables such as cuitlacoche, flor de calabaza (zucchini blossoms), nopales (cactus leaves/pads), quelites, huauzontles, chilacayotes, epazote, etc., blended with the Spanish and French influence, has resulted in a very complex cuisine recognized all over the world.
According to Bernal Díaz del Castillo‘s book La Verdadera Historia de la Conquista de la Nueva España (The True History of the Conquest of New Spain), the existing diet in Pre-Hispanic times was balanced and diverse. Díaz del Castillo described small green and red vegetables that the Aztecs included with all their meals, some of which were fresh and others were left to dry in the sun for several days. It is safe to assume that he was referring to the mighty chile. The Spaniards very quickly incorporated the tasty chiles into their diets, combining them with ingredients they brought from the Old Country, such as oil and garlic.
At the beginning of the 20th. century and well into the l930′s during el porfiriato (the thirty years when President Porfirio Díaz was in power), the Mexican aristocracy fully embraced French cuisine. Carmelita Díaz, the president’s wife hired a French chef, after which the President who was born in Oaxaca, had to talk to their old cook on the side in order to get some Mexican antojitos and mole from Oaxaca once in a while!
A corn fungus also spelled huitlacoche, had been around since the days of the Aztecs and was only considered a delicacy after it was served as a crepe filling to the deposed Shah of Iran and his wife Farah Dibba, during a state visit to Mexico City in the 1970′s. In fact, when the menu was published in the newspaper the President’s wife, Doña Esther as she was often called, was highly criticized for offering our distinguished guests something considered more appropriate for peasants than for such dignitaries.
Zucchini blossoms are widely used in Italy where they are cooked in many different ways. They are usually big enough that can be filled with other vegetables, breaded and then fried. In Mexico, they are smaller in size and are usually served in soups, quesadillas, budines (casseroles), and crepes.
As it turned out, the state dinner was quite a success and Doña Esther Echevarría was ultimately commended for the superb use of native ingredients, such as cuitlacoche and zucchini flowers, throughout the menu.
As is often the case, people then began to cook cuitlacoche more and more. Chefs in expensive restaurants devised new ways of serving it and now it is widely considered a delicacy of the highest order. Thus, resurrecting these wonderful indigenous ingredients.
Crepes with Cuitlacoche
Crepes Filled with Cuitlacoche (Crepas Rellenas de Cuitlacoche)
1 (13 oz/380 g) can prepared cuitlacoche
2 tbsp. butter
1 tsp. flour
1 cup 2% milk
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup grated Manchego or Chihuahuacheese
In a small saucepan, heat the cuitlacoche and keep warm. In a separate saucepan, melt the butter, stir in the flour, and add the milk. Bring to a boil, season with salt and pepper, and simmer for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the sauce starts to thicken.
Remove from the heat. Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Fill each crepe with 2 tablespoons of the prepared cuitlacoche, then roll up and place in an 8 x 12-inch rectangular baking dish.
Pour the white sauce over the crepes and top with a generous amount of cheese. Bake for about 8 minutes, or until the cheese melts and the crepes are heated through. Keep in mind that milk and cheese sauces tend to dry out very quickly, so be careful not to overbake the crepes.
Zucchini Blossom Soup (Sopa de Flor de Calabaza)
1 poblano chile, roasted, peeled and seeded
12 fresh zucchini blossoms or
1 (7 oz/220 g) can
2 tbsps. butter
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/3 cup chopped onion
4 cups chicken broth
1 zucchini, chopped
1 cup fresh or canned and drained corn kernels
Salt and pepper
1 cup Chihuahua or Monterey Jack cheese, cubed
Cut the chiles into 1/2 inch strips and set aside. Carefully remove and discard the pistil from the zucchini blossoms and, under running water gently wash the blossoms. Pat dry with paper towels and chop.
In a saucepan, melt the butter and sauté the garlic, onion, poblano strips, and zucchini blossoms until the vegetables are cooked and the onion is translucent. Add the chicken broth, zucchini, corn, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 5 to 8 minutes, or until the vegetables are cooked but still firm.
Divide the soup among four bowls and top each one with cubed cheese. Serve hot.
I hope you’ve enjoyed a little more on history of Mexico, the legacy of the French, as well as the cuitlacoche and zucchini blossoms. Please comment below your thoughts, and what you’d like me to write about if you have any suggestions. I’d love to hear them!
Mexican Culinary Treasures: Recipes From Maria Elena's Kitchen
Maria Elena Cuervo-Lorens is the author of Mexican Culinary Treasures cookbook. She takes you back to her childhood, spent around her grandmother’s table on a shopping expedition with her mother to Mercado La Merced, and for a merienda (snack) of café con leche and biscochos (Mexican sweet rolls) at a bakery in downtown Mexico City. The authentic Mexican recipes she shares with us include tacos, quesadillas and enchiladas. The nouvelle cuisine of cosmopolitan Mexico City, such as cuitlacoche (huitlacohe) crepes, oysters with chipotle chile.
Few people in English North America are aware that the celebration of CINCO de Mayo commemorates the Battle of Puebla against the French, and not the Mexican Independence from Spain. Although a celebration in its own right, it is definitely not as important for Mexicans as the celebration of Las Fiestas Patrias in September.
Some of you might be wondering how the French came to invade Mexico and how, in just a few years, left their mark in our cuisine. It is always a surprise when in my cooking classes, I sometimes include crepes as part of the menu. It is hard to associate the very French crepes with Mexican food, until I mention that I grew up having savory or sweet crepes as part of our meals.
It all began with napoleon III, Napoleon Bonaparte’s nephew who as soon as he was settled in his role as Emperor of France, began to dream about creating an empire in Mexico. That exotic and far away country seemed like the perfect place to appoint a catholic European prince.
In Europe at the time, according to many Mexicans living there in exile, the current Mexican government had not been functioning well as a republic, proof of which was the civil war that had devastated Mexico for almost 40 years. In their mind Mexico needed a change and a monarchy appeared to be the perfect solution to end the war. After all, Spain had ruled Mexico for more than 300 years.
It was not only the French who had their eyes set in Mexico, but the English and the Spaniards as well. They all had their own reasons to invade Mexico and in January of 1862, the first naval squadron landed in the port of Veracruz, only to find the Spanish flag in the fortress of San Juan de Ulúa.
Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte (Napoleon III)
Meanwhile back in France, it was not very difficult for Napoleon III to find a suitable regent for the soon to be conquered Mexico. Ferdinand Maximilian of Hapsburg, the younger brother of Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria, whom simply seemed to be a liability to his brother and did not have an appropriate position in the courts, was the perfect candidate.
The Archduke Maximilian was married to Charlotte, daughter of King Leopold of Belgium who had her own dreams of becoming an empress herself. Their idle life in the castle of Miramar had become boring and they both began to entertain the idea of ruling a country, far away from the intrigues of the European courts.
Soon after, Spain realized that her hopes of recovering their former colony was starting to vanish pretty quickly, and the English who were merely trying to collect a debt, had lost interest as well. The French army was at this point, free to invade Mexico, but as soon as they started to trek into the hills, the tropical climate of the state of Veracruz began claiming the lives of the soldiers. The beautiful city of Orizaba, a beautiful hill town between Veracruz and Mexico City, with its coffee plantations, tropical gardens and the majestic Pico de Orizaba, proved to be a most welcome sight. However, along with the warm climate came malaria and other illnesses that were not part of their master plan.
Battle of Puebla on Cinco de Mayo
Nevertheless, the army continued its incursion into Mexican soil, arriving at the city of Puebla where each church had become a fort and where more that 4,000 Mexicans in shabby uniforms fighting with obsolete guns, defeated the finest European soldiers on the famous battle of CINCO de Mayo, 1862. Unfortunately, this glorious moment was short lived, and the French army continued towards Mexico City where President Juárez had already fled the capital.
The French army commanded by General Achilles Bazaine entered Mexico City on June 7, 1863. By this time the people were tired of the uncertainty prevalent in those days and welcomed the French troops with marked enthusiasm. Soon after, in August of 1863, the Mexicans accepted an empire, and the following year Maximilian and Charlotte landed in Veracruz in May of 1864. Maximilian and his 23 year old wife Charlotte ruled Mexico until February of 1867, when Maximilian fled the capital for Querétaro, and was later executed as a foreign usurper, on June 19, 1867.
The events that led to this tragic moment in the history of Mexico are too long to tell in this article and should be told in greater detail.
The French intervention had a strong influence on everyday life. It created a new and enriched cuisine, especially in the capital of the country. Many years passed before people went back to serving indigenous ingredients such as the very Mexican nopalitos (cactus pads). This cactus leaf is nothing short of a miracle plant, as nutritionists and scientists have since discovered astounding characteristics in this unpretentious vegetable. Extensively and imaginatively used in prehispanic and contemporary Mexican cuisine, there are now more than 150 different ways of cooking nopalitos. Please see the recipe below for a delicious
In a blender or food processor, combine the tomatoes, onion, garlic, and process until puréed. In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat and add the tomato mixture, tomato sauce, and chicken boullion. Bring the sauce to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 5 to 8 minutes, or until the sauce thickens slightly.
Add the broth to the tomato sauce and correct seasoning. Add the cactus pads, corn kernels, chipotle chiles, and the adobo. Simmer for 3 to 4 minutes, and serve hot with the cubed cheese.
Mexican Culinary Treasures: Recipes From Maria Elena's Kitchen
Maria Elena Cuervo-Lorens is the author of Mexican Culinary Treasures cookbook. She takes you back to her childhood, spent around her grandmother’s table on a shopping expedition with her mother to Mercado La Merced, and for a merienda (snack) of café con leche and biscochos (Mexican sweet rolls) at a bakery in downtown Mexico City. The authentic Mexican recipes she shares with us include tacos, quesadillas and enchiladas. The nouvelle cuisine of cosmopolitan Mexico City, such as cuitlacoche (huitlacohe) crepes, oysters with chipotle chile,
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