I'm lucky enough to live in an area where even modest neighborhood cafes get their produce from local farms and change their menus often to reflect whatever their farmers are harvesting that week. I recently had my first taste of sweet summer corn at one such cafe, in a dish that combined chunks of shaved corn with tangy little cherry tomatoes and a creamy cilantro dressing. Sweet, crunchy and bursting with pure summer flavor, it was so good I knew I had to recreate it. In my kitchen somewhere along the way the combination transformed into a crispy, black-bean-speckled tostada — no complaints here.
Q: Last summer I made a ton of green enchilada sauce for my freezer. Turns out, I don't make enchiladas that often. I'm making an effort to clear out my freezer for this summer's bounty. What else can I do with green enchilada sauce besides enchiladas?
I grew up in LA with a slight touch of Mexican blood in my family, and a neighbor from Guadalajara named Lupe who taught me about Mexican cooking. It was her guacamole method that my mom picked up and passed to me through culinary osmosis. As with most dishes that are passed through generations, this one, I believed for years, was the best. Throughout the years, friends and family have supported me in my belief. Then, a few years ago a neighbor brought her "best" guacamole to a gathering and like two girls wearing the same prom dress, it got really awkward. Hers might have been better.
That's when I started thinking a little more openly about guacamole.
One of the most refreshing ways to enjoy fresh fruit is in an agua fresca, a beverage made with pureed fruit, water, a touch of sugar and maybe some lime juice or herbs. Here in Los Angeles, every taco stand worth its salt has a big jar or three of the brightly-colored drinks standing by, but you don't have to be eating a drippy carnitas taco to enjoy the thirst-quenching, pure fruit flavor of aguas frescas. Especially not when they are this easy to make at home.
There are many ways to heat a tortilla: my friends of Mexican heritage wrap them in a damp cloth and pop them in the microwave. Other people use the oven (but that can feel wasteful unless the oven is already being used for another dish) or pan fry them in a skillet. But I have another strategy which I believe is the most fun and flavorful way to accomplish this task. Hint: see picture above!
Q: Hola! With one week left in Mexico City, I'm thinking about what food and cookware items I should bring back. I want to bring items that are safe and legal to transport, much less expensive here or not available in the US, and that I will actually use. Do you have any suggestions?
Q: Tortilla chips are one of my guilty pleasures. Any suggestions for all those broken chips at the bottom of the bag? I use them to add crunch on salads and soups, but I am looking for more creative uses. I buy the organic, blue corn, unsalted varieties. Thanks!
I'm still catching my breath from a quick trip (my first!) to Mexico last weekend. I went to learn about avocados and came back with an intense hunger, not for food — there was plenty of that — but to return and drink in more of this stunning place, using every sense.
Cumin and chili powder, lime and cilantro, spicy hot salsas and cool sour cream: these are the flavors of my favorite kind of feast. Find some good music and turn on the sparkly outdoor lights. Mexican food is on the menu and you're all invited.
Q: I'm hosting an Easter dinner this coming weekend with a Mexican theme. I'm working half of the day on the day of the dinner so I need some fresh ideas for Mexican food where a lot of the prep can be done ahead of time. Ideally, the entire menu would stick to the theme, from appetizers to dessert. Any suggestions?