Taping of El Sinfin Live at the Mercury Cafe, May 13th 2011

Hi Readers,

 

Wanted to share with you this link for a set we played at the Mercury for the Pink Hawks CD release (which if you haven’t heard yet, you can download or stream at http://www.pinkhawks.bandcamp.com)

http://www.theflatresponse.com/2011/05/el-sinfin-5-13-2011-mercury-cafe/

 

Hope you Enjoy!

M

Published in: on May 30, 2011 at 3:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

El Sinfin #8: Cooking at La Serrana

Beloved Readers,

A few recipes from a dinner I did at La Serrana Hostal, in Salento, Quindio, Colombia.  They are in a quick sort of format, ( ie no yield, no specific measurements at all, in fact) so let me know if you have any questions. The whole point of this meal is making a six-course meal for twenty people on a tight budget, with the food available in a small mountain town in Colombia.  If you don´t have something, just try using something else. Above all else, have fun. –Thanks to Miin for the sushi supplies–

Assortment of  “New Sushi” Rolls:  Mango/Avocado Criollo; Caramelized Banana Macadamia Nut; Trout Ceviche

You don´t have to stick to these rolls if you don´t want to.  Put whatever you want in there.  Just do it.  Tell me how it comes out.

Sushi rice

Rice Vinegar

Sugar

Nori (sheet seaweed for rolling)

Black and White sesame, lightly toasted

Mango

Avocado

Bananas

Butter

Macadamia Nuts, toasted

1 trout, gutted and cleaned

Limes

Red Onion

1 Chile

Cilantro

Ginger

Garlic

For the rice:

Wash rice until rinse water runs clear.  This takes a bit.  Cook 1 part rice to 2 parts water, standard steam procedure (bring to a boil, cover and simmer, or cook in a rice cooker.  Put cooked rice in a non-metallic bowl, add 3/4 teaspoon vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon sugar per cup of rice and toss once.  Let cool to room temp before using.  Rice goes a long way when making rolls, so don´t get overzealous.  Estimate 1/4 cup cooked rice per roll.  Add toasted sesame seeds if you like.

For the ceviche:

Juice a bunch of limes into a bowl.  Whack a thumb´s worth of ginger in a blender with a splash of water unitl it becomes a sauce.  Do the same with a bit of cilantro.  Julienne the red onion as thin as possible. Filet the trout with a boning knife, then slice into thin strips, taking care to avoid bones.   Put the cut fish into the lime juice. Add a bit of cilantro and ginger, minced garlic, minced chile and onions.  The onions should be the last thing to go in, right before serving, ideally.  If you want, add a bit of diced mango or avocado, or both.

For the Caramelized Banana:

Put some butter into a heated pan.  Cut banana in vertical slices.  Brown on all sides.  Add diced macadamias.

To make rolls:

Have a bowl of clean water and all ingredients, including cooled rice at hand.  Put Nori on flat, clean, dry surface.  Wet your hands, and sprinkle the excess water on the nori.  Take a half-handful of rice and spread an even, horizontal band across the  side of the nori closest to you, leaving 1 /2 inch clear.  Using a spoon, put whichever filling in an even manner on top of the rice.  Roll by closing the end of the nori over the rice and filling, keeping it tight and rolling all the way up. If it doesn´t stick, sprinkle a little extra water on the edge.

Curried  Carrot Soup with Green Tomato Chutney

Carrots

Oil or butter

Ginger

Onions

Garlic

Good curry powder (jazzed up with garam masala, turmeric, clove, cumin, cardamom, red chiles, brown mustard or whatever else sounds right)

Green Tomatoes

Sugar

Vinegar

Veggie stock (if none on hand, make a quickie with the carrot stubs and onion peels, a bay leaf and a few cloves of garlic.)

Rough chop all the veggies.  Sautee them in oil or butter until slightly softened.  Add curry and toast, stirring frequently so it doesn´t scorch. Add the veg stock.  Bring to a boil, strain solids and blend in batches, adding stock when needed to make it smooth.  Bring back to a boil, season with salt.  Garnish with a blob of yogurt and a spoonful of chutney.

For the chutney:

Rough chop tomatoe s and onions, a bit of ginger.  Add water, a healthy splash of vinegar, two or three big spoonfuls of sugar, a pinch of salt and any spices you got handy, especially clove, cinammon, cardamom, allspice, star anise.  Cook down until thickened, like a jam.  Adust seasoning.  If too spicy, a splash of vinegar.  If too vinegary, a bit more salt and sugar.

Seared Queso Campesino with Caramelized Pineapple (Queso Campesino Salteado con Piña)

This is a super simple cheese available widely in Colombia.  It could be easily substituted with any soft, creamy, slightly sweet cheese.

Cut pineapple and cheese into 1/2 inch slices.  Put butter into a hot pan.  Place cheese first, leaving until nicely browned.  Flip and repeat.  Do the same with pineapple.  If you feel really crazy, deglaze with a bit of rum at the end to make a little sauce.  How nice.  Garnish with chopped toasted pecans.

Oxtail Stew a la Provencia (Estofado)

Flour oxtail and beef ribs with a bit of salt and pepper.  Sear in the bottom of a big soup pot, browning on all sides.  Add onions, garlic, carrots, and bay leaf, and a big pinch of salt.  Sweat veg for ten minutes or so.  Add chopped tomatoes, mashing as they cook with a wooden spoon.  Add red wine and a lot of water.  Simmer over low heat, for like, ever.  Seriously. Like, half of your day.  Get up, start this dish, get on with it.  Don´t let it scorch.  Cook it some more.  Put some water in there. Colombians make this on a really slow wood fire, buried in the ground and the flavor of the smoke gets in there.  If you have that kind of thing,  that would be really nice.  Cook some more.  It´s done when the broth is really thick and rich and the meat falls off the bone.   Adjust salt and pepper.  Garnish with some toasted garlic breadcrumbs.

Cilantro Criollo Potato Cakes

Cut potatoes into like-sized chunks and put to boil in salted water until they fall off the edge of a knife.  Roast a couple of red bell peppers on open flame until charred, put in a covered bowl to steam a bit, and then clean the char and seeds with a knife.  Chop into 1/2 bits.  Finely chop a small red onion, a bunch of cilantro, a few cloves of garlic.  Let potatoes cool to room temp.  Combine all ingredients plus a couple of eggs, a big pinch of salt and pepper, and maybe a sprinkle of flour. Mix, leaving some potatoes chunky and others mashed.  Form into  hockey-puck sized cakes and shallow fry in 1/4 in of vegetable oil.  If too wet, add a little flour.  If sticking to the pan, dust the cakes in flour before frying.  Alternately, you can bake these in a bit of oil in a sheet pan ina  400° oven if you like.

Mango Cinammon Frozen Custard with Hibiscus Syrup

For the custard:

6 egg yolks

1 cup cream

1 1/2 cup milk

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 stick cinnamon, or 1 tsp. ground cinammon

1 tsp orange zest, very finely chopped

2 big mangoes, peeled and chopped into 1/2 cubes

1 1/2 cup milk

For the Syrup:

Handful of dried hibiscus flowers

1 cup sugar

1 cinammon stick

2 cups water

Combine milk, cream, cinammon and orange zest in a large saucepan and place over medium heat.  Bring to a low simmer without letting it scorch.  Remove from heat.   In a large bowl combine egg yolks and sugar and whisk until creamy and pale.  Temper the yolks with a little stream of the cream mixture, stirring constantly so the yolks don’t scramble.   Slowly add tempered yolks into cream mixture in a seperate bowl.  Remove cinammon stick.  Distribute chopped mango evenly between 8 4oz. ramekins (or plastic cups or coffee cups if you don’t have ramekins.)  Pour custard evenly into prepared ramekins.  Freeze for at least 4 hours before serving.

For the syrup:

Toss all ingredients into a small saucepan and let reduce over high heat until it coats the back of a spoon. Strain out flowers and cinammon.

To serve:

Release the custard with a knife around the edge, and put on a plate.  Spoon hibiscus syrup on top, and garnish with flowers.

Thanks to Neil & Leif for photos.  More to come.

Published in: on May 8, 2011 at 6:53 pm  Leave a Comment  

Concrete Jungle/ Actual Jungle; Photo Slideshow

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Please check out these images taken in Bogota, Medellin, Rio Claro, and Villa de Leyva, Colombia.  Thanks to Jordan for the food and Carnaval pics!

Published in: on April 28, 2011 at 1:52 am  Leave a Comment  

El Sinfin #7: More Coastal Hijinks & Carnaval

 

 

 

 

Howdy Dear Readers,

Welcome to the latest edition of my blog, discovering the world by the mouthful. I realize I am not a very consistent blogger, but it is hard hole up all morning in an internet café when you`re having so much fun! Seriously though I hope you enjoy this installment, with guest photo editor and photographer Jordan Kleinman.

 

When we last left off, we had just departed the wilds of Tayrona and returned to the very slow pace of Taganga.  There, we witnessed two consecutive Saturday nights as the locals prepared for their own version of Carnaval, the debaucherous final hurrah before the beginning of Lent that Latin Americans seem to enjoy with great gusto.  The whole  town turned out in droves to witness the ramshackle parade, with dancers of all ages, makeshift costumes and lots and lots of projectile foam and aguardiente.  Aguardiente, colloquially referred to as Guaro is liquor distilled from cane spirits and flavored with anise.  It is the official drink of Carnaval and Colombia, and Colombians aren´t shy about keeping your glass quite full, as I soon found out.

Cartagena by Night

Leaving Taganga,we headed straight for Barranquilla for the famous Carnaval, the main event, the second biggest celebration of its kind in Latin America, after that of Rio de Janeiro.  After a bit of bumpy ride checking in to our “hostal” (really just a student house where the owners thought they would make a quick buck), we were quickly enveloped into four straight days of aguardiente-fueled merriment and mayhem.   After the elaborate street parades by day, the streets filled with revellers flocking around anywhere with a sound-system (usually just a store with some tables outside), which pumped out beats ranging from reggaeton, salsa and cumbia to vallenato (a coastal Colombian favorite, sort of Mexican Norteño music with a tropical rhythm).  This was supplemented by wandering musicians posting up on the sides of  these parties,and blasting papayero,cumbia,vallenato or any other highly rhythmic Colombian music.  These makeshift parties lasted well into the next morning, stopping only when everyone finally wanders home or to another club.   After four straight days of this madness, a lot of guaro, street food and dancing,  souls cleansed of mischief, clothes sullied with the cornstarch everyone pitches in each other´s faces, and eager for the next adventure, we crawled on a bus and headed to Cartagena.

Cartagena was the main departure point for Spanish galleons loaded with New World gold, and thus is among the best-preserved colonial walled towns in the Americas.  Unfortunately, that also makes it well-trodden upon tourist territory, complete with Prada boutiques and the like within the elegantly-manicured city-in-the-wall.  However, outside the wall is a culture lively as you would expect anywhere else on the coast, with families hurling dominoes and drinking beer, loud music booming out of well, everywhere, and things getting seedy as soon as night falls.  Below, please find a couple of really great seafood recipes inspired by my time on the coast, and hopefully by later this week I will have an addendum showing the ten-course meal we were served by a three-star Michelin chef in a hostal in Medellin, as well as some audio and video from the spectacular last night of Carnaval. Ciao, until then!

 

The famous Chi Chi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Robalo al Cilantro (Bass in Cilantro Sauce)

Serves 4

24 oz. Sea Bass filets, or equivalent in whole fish, or butterflied for grilling

1 bunch cilantro

2 Cloves Garlic

4 Tbs. Vegetable or Light Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper

Fresh limes

1/4 cup water

Prepare fish to your liking, either sautéing  or pan roasting in a very hot pan with a bit of oil, seasoning with salt and pepper and finishing with a squeeze of lime.  If grilling, rub whole, butterflied (or whole) fish with cut garlic, salt, pepper and oil.   Place skin side down on hot grill about 3-5 minutes per side, depending on size.   To make the cilantro sauce, put entire bunch of cilantro in blender (removing any really fibrous stems) with 1 clove of garlic, 2 Tbs. of oil, a big pinch of salt and 1/4 cup water.  Blend until smooth.   This sauce also make an excellent salad dressing.  The acidity of the cilantro makes a nice alternative to viniagrette-style dressings.  Spoon the sauce over the filet or pooled beneath the whole fish and serve.

Arroz con Mariscos (Seafood Rice)

Serves 8

This is a variation on a classic Colombian coastal recipe.  It came about when I bought 5 lbs. of mixed shellfish from a local fisherman in Taganga and then spent two nights making dinner for everyone at the hostal.  Needless to say, I made a lot of friends that week.   This recipe highlights the necessity of creative cooking when in severely under-equipped hostal kitchens in small towns where only the most basic foods are available.   For example, the only pot big enough to make this dish didn’t have a lid, so I ended up making it risotto-style, adding the stock little by little.  Even though I couldn’t get arborio rice, (which any fancy cookbook will tell you is the only way to make risotto) the rice came out with a nice bite, and a fantastic shellfish flavor.   I hope if you can take anything from this blog, and my cooking philosophy in general, its that you don’t need a bunch of fancy kitchen gadgets or pots and pans nor do you need expensive imported foods to make a dynamite meal, just some ultra fresh, quality products, some friends and a lot of wine and beer!

1 lb. Fresh Octopus, excess cartilage and skin removed, chopped in 1/4 in. slices

1lb. Fresh Snails, shells removed, chopped into 1/4 in. pieces

1 lb. Shrimp

1 Large white onion, finely chopped

5-6 Tomatoes, 1/4 in dice

2 lbs. Rice (Arborio would be the official choice, but I used plain old long-grain)

1 cup White Wine

2 Tbs. Butter

1 Tb. Chopped Parsley

4-5 Cloves garlic

Salt and White Pepper

2 tbs. Red crushed pepper

Bay Leaf

Put octopus and snails in a pressure cooker, cover with water, add bay leaf and put on to boil.   They should take about 45 minutes to cook fully.  Meanwhile, prep the other vegetables.  When octopus and snails are tender, remove the pressure cooker from the heat, put raw shrimp into the same water  and leave them to poach gently.  When they are pink throughout, remove all shellfish, reserving the stock.  In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, put the butter and oil over medium-high heat.   Add chopped onion and garlic, sauteeing until translucent.  Add chopped tomatoes, stirring constantly to break them up.   Add  rice, toasting slowly and letting flavors infuse until slightly golden.  Deglaze with white wine.    Slowly add ladles full hot seafood stock while stirring the rice.  This process will likely take about 45 minutes.  Relax-have a beer.  If the rice starts to stick, add more stock. If it still sticks, turn down the heat a bit.   The rice is done when full of seafood flavor, and still has a nice al dente bite.   Add cooked seafood to the rice.   Season with salt, pepper and chopped parsley, and maybe a squeeze of lime for good measure.

Published in: on April 13, 2011 at 4:12 pm  Comments (1)  

El SINFIN #6: From Colorado to the Colombian Highlands; The Journey Continues…

Ahh…Welcome Back to the World



Welcome dear readers to the first ESF of 2011, brought to you from the sweet tropical heat of Taganga.  As you can tell, I have once again decided to saddle up and see what the world has to offer.  This time, I am traveling with my long time friend Jordan, who has been traveling for five months through the wilds of Central America since we said goodbye not so long ago in Tulum.

First off, I’d like to thank you all for bearing with my lack of posts the last 5 months as I pit-stopped in Colorado.  Was there anything to post about? Not really.  As this is a travel blog I’d rather not bore you with the tawdry details of my life in my hometown.   They are not even that tawdry, to be frank.  I would like to share however, the last recipe I collected before leaving Tulum, a classic roadside stand grilled chicken that’s worth its weight in well, delicious chicken goodness.

Roadside Grilled Chicken

1 chicken, butterflied the standard way (cut through the backbone) or the Mexican way (cut through the breastbone), or quartered.

1/2 cup pineapple juice

1/2 cup bitter orange ( for the vast majority that can’t get this  Yucatecan fruit, 1/4 cup each of lemon juice and orange juice will suffice)

4-5 cloves garlic, minced

2 tsp. ground cumin

2 tsp. Achiote powder ( a.k.a. Ground annato)

2 tsp. black pepper

1 Tb salt

Blend all ingredients and marinate chicken 1/2 hour before grilling over medium-hot grill, allow to blacken on the edges but not burn.   Serve with Salsa Verde, pickled onions and fresh tortillas or rice.

Finally Leaving (or at least it seemed that way).

Due to the monster storm seemingly enveloping the entire USA on the day I was ticketed to leave, I was forced to push my trip back a couple days.  I finally made it to a frigid although largely unobstructed New York City with a layover sufficient to call everyone I knew there and have an excellent Chinese New Year’s dinner at Nonya, a Malaysian/Indonesian spot in Chinatown.  Highlights include this salad, which included strips of dried along with candied grapefruit, jellyfish, crispy noodles, cabbage and other mysterious goodies. Also, Shrimp with Eggplant, Crab with Malaysian seasoning.  Wish we had some rabbit…(this year in the Chinese calendar is that of the rabbit, probably bad luck though).  Also- Everyone giving me their cheesiest grins and hugs  for the road, and a steamy noodle kitchen in Chinatown.

Brooklyn- Bogotá

I got into Bogotá in the afternoon after a near miss with my car service at 4:30 am and a fairly seamless travel the rest of the day.  Colombia’s capital city was overcast, though the drizzle and my combined 3 1/2 hours of sleep the two nights previous could not conspire to overshadow my enthusiasm.  The verdant Andes loom mockingly over the high rises that triumphantly mark Bogotá’s string of neighborhoods running chiefly in a North-South grid.  I was immediately taken by the orderliness and cleanliness of the capital city of 8 million, which to me seemed far more European in its architecture and wide avenues then Latin American.  After my taxi got lost and got a flat on the way to the hostal, (which by the way was right next to perhaps the city’s first and probably most famous square el Chorro de Quevedo) I finally arrived to the hostal, ringed by college kids playing music, talking and hanging out.  Bogotá has an extremely vibrant youth culture, with kids reaching a critical mass on weekend nights, and basically taking over the streets of districts  Candelaria (the colonial “old town”) and La Zona Rosa (the nightclub district), as well as numerous other neighborhoods.  Sunday the city hosts Ciclo Via, where La Septima, one of the city’s main throughfares is closed to cars and open to bikes and pedestrians.   A shot of the author enjoying a ride around the city:

Wheeeee!

Had this very delicious and typical Colombian dish at a little place near the Hotel Buenavista.  It consisted of braised oxtail, accompanied by rice, a simple salad of greens with sesame seeds and mango dressing,  fried potato and stewed lentils, served with Caldo and guava juice.

Colombian food is typically quite good and fresh, although can depend greatly according to location.  Breakfast is simple, usually an Arepa (a thick corn patty formed by hand or purchased and pan or deep fried) or bread, or Huevos Pericos (eggs with onion and tomato), which are at their best served a la Cazuela, or frittata style in an heated iron pan, accompanied by Tinto or Café con Leche (coffee black or with milk) or Chocolate, and sometimes accompanied with Caldo. Lunch is the biggest meal of the day, and is usually started with a Caldo, usually a chicken stock thickened with potato or Yuca (a staple of Colombian cuisine, also known as manioc or cassava) and seasoned with scallions, Guasca (an herb ubiquitous in Colombian cooking, with a flavor somewhere between cilantro and parsley), accompanied by chunks of plantain, yuca, or sweet potato.  The typical dish of Bogotá is Ajiaco, a thickened Caldo with chicken meat, sausages and at least two different potatoes, and capers.   All meals are accompanied by Ají, the Colombian version of salsa, usually consisting of tomato, chili, vinegar, sugar, and scallions.  Lunch is served at typical cafés as a “Comida Corriente” or quick lunch,with a meat or chicken main is accompanied by salad, caldo, rice, and bread or Arepas, as well as sometimes by desert.  Dinner is treated more as a glorified snack, and often consists of street foods such as Empanadas (dough made with boiled yuca, thickened with corn flour, stuffed with rice, meat, eggs or fish and fried), Papa rellenas (a mashed potato dumpling usually filled with ground meat and fried), or grilled meats on stick with roasted, salted potatoes, fried chorizos, or Patacones (plantains rolled into a sort of pancake and griddled or fried).

Overwhelmed

by the chaos of the city and not quite ready for the critical mass of youth energy in Bogotá, we decided to head for the calm of nearby Villa de Leyva, a quiet colonial town about two hours north of the capital. Some shots from Renacer (rebirth), the beautiful hostel where we stayed.

After relaxing and hiking the nearby countryside for a few days, maximizing our time in the cool climate and forested hills, we headed for San Gil, the so-called extreme sports capital of Colombia in the state of Santander, a few hours to the south.  There, we explored nearby swimming hole and waterfalls at Pozo Azul, as well as going paragliding.  This consists of a double seated harness which is attached to a parachute which is controlled by a pilot via a system of pulleys and handles.  The passenger (me) is hoisted into the air via an updraft, and the sport is done atop a very windy hill.  It is not as quite as dangerous as it sounds, because, worst case scenario, you are still strapped into a parachute.  The sensation of climbing slowly up on updrafts while taking in the birds-eye view of the canopied forests below only to spiral down at breakneck g-forces towards the ground can only be described as dreamlike.    Later I met some musicians who urged me to strum a bit in an after-hours sort of way, who then invited me to play with them the following night at a cafe nearby, which ultimately led to a late night jam at Cafe Con-Verso with this really wonderful old man who played the accordion  and was thrilled to see my guitar and hear me play the blues. Fun.

Day-tripped to the nearby colonial town of Barichara, where we had this tremendous assortment of meats, all roasted, dripping with juice and finished with butter bread crumbs.  The highlight was the Cuaro, the slow roasted neck vertebrae of the cow, which was tender and flavorful.  Another common dish in the highlands is Carne Horeada, which is thinly sliced meat which is salted and left in the sun a few hours to cure before grilling, which lends some depth to the flavor and is quite good when done correctly (sort of like crash-aged beef).  Before/After:


The official food of the state of Santander is the Hormiga Culona (or big-bootied ant.  Seriously.) , which are queen ants with the wings and legs removed, boiled until soft and then flame roasted with salt.   Some cool shots of the sunset from the cliffs atop Barichara.


All the Way to the Beach

Suddenly had an urge to shed my five-month anti-tan complexion and we made a bee-line for  the beach after a quick stay in Bucaramanga.   We have been hanging out here in the fishing town of Taganga where we are sitting pretty at a hammock hotel where we are paying about $2 a night to sling our swinging beds, and heading down to the beach for the catch of the day.  I’ll leave you with some choice shots of our romp in nearby Parque Nacional Natural de Tayrona (Tayrona National Park) where we spent a few days swimming, hiking and exploring the vast and ancient humid forests, rivers and terraced ancient cities of El Pueblito.

-Thanks to Jordan for the photos and lessons-


Published in: on February 26, 2011 at 10:17 pm  Comments (4)  

El Sinfín at Pepenero´s in Tulum

This was a wild show we played last weekend at Pepenero´s in Tulum

Enjoy!

Published in: on September 1, 2010 at 5:33 pm  Comments (2)  

Adiós, San Cristóbal

Well faithful readers, after three long moths of waiting here is the next update of El Sinfin.  

 To make up the delay, dear readers, here is the link to our first full length album, available for free to stream and download at http://soundcloud.com/search?q%5Bfulltext%5D=el+sinfin.  Hope you enjoy!

Iglesia de la Merced, San Cristóbal

In late June, we returned to San Cristóbal to begin work on recording our self-titled album, El Sinfín.  A mere two weeks before we were to begin, we were introduced to what would become the support band for the record and got busy teaching them the songs and rehearsing for our release show which took place July 9th.  We managed to record, mix, and master the album with the help of our friend Tom Martin, of Dubworks Studio, in less than a week.  For those who have never had the experience of  training musicians to play your music, laying down tracks, overdubbing, and mixing/ mastering, getting it done in less than a week is quite the feat.  Special thanks to Tom for his incredible efforts, without which we surely would not have met our deadline!   We are quite pleased with the results, however, and we have managed to nearly sell out the first run of two hundred copies since  releasing it!  Sales of the record along with the money we receive for playing shows has completely financed our travels for the last three months, which begins an exciting new stage in our lives, being professional traveling musicians!

Robert recording guitar

  The rest of July (after the  week-long party that followed the CD release) was spent playing shows in San Cristobal, doing a bit of travel with our friends from the Soulfire Project (http://www.soulfireproject.net/lang/en-us/photos/) , moving from our apartment and moving in for our last week with our friend and neighbor, Mac.   Here are a few photos of our two homes in San Cristóbal, firstly our apartment and Mac´s beautiful house right next door.
Andy, Harmony and Mac

After nearly four months of making the city of San Cristóbal our home, we packed it in and headed to warmer climes in Tulum, on the Caribbean coast.    We have been here for the last month, performing nearly every night and living in a cabaña on the beach in a funky and beautiful little resort called the Diamante K  http://diamantek.com/After paying to stay there for a couple of days, we proposed to perform in the bar a few times a week in exchange for the room, and after a brief audition they  graciously accepted.   Since then, we have been happily living the dream on the spectacular beach of Tulum, spending our nights performing in several local bars and restaurants.  Our long, lazy days are spent working on new music, swimming in the clear turquoise waters of the Caribbean and visiting cenotes, which are the surface caverns and lagoons of the worlds´s largest underground river system.   
 We are currently planning on returning to Colorado for a few weeks to visit family and friends, and resume our travels towards South America in October.  In the meantime, I plan to continue updating with some pics of Tulum, as well as some of our visit to Colorado.  A couple of special recipes to enjoy in the meantime:
 
Chiles en Nogada
This is a recipe traditionally prepared around Christmas in various parts of Mexico.  It is basically a variation of the Chile Relleno recipe, a roasted, skinned poblano chile stuffed with a meat, fruit and nut combination, served with a creamy sauce made of almonds and pecans and milk.  Traditionally it is garnished with pomegranate, but since they were out of season, we used local blackberries.  The combination of meat, sweet and savory flavors, as well as the sour blackberries contrasting with the creamy sauce was a flavor explosion, and many of the guests who tried it counted it among the best meals they had ever eaten!  The recipe takes a while to prepare, so it is really for special occasions.  We made it to commemorate our friend Lorena´s birthday, as well as the gathering of good friends!   This version of the recipe was created by combining my friend Paco´s  memories of his mother´s recipe, a couple recipes we found on the internet, as well as some personal and seasonal touches.   It is best to get the almonds and pecans for the sauce soaking the day before, but we did it just   a few hours beforehand, and it came out just fine. 
Chiles:
8 Large Poblano chiles, roasted over open flame or BBQ until blackened, cooled, stems, charred skin and seeds removed (the easiest way to do this is cut the top off carefully and remove the seeds with a paring knife)
Stuffing:
1 lb. ground beef
1  lb. ground pork
4. oz. butter
1 onion, diced
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup raisins
1 cup tomatoes, diced
1 cup pineapples (or oranges), diced
3 big cloves garlic, minced
1 8 oz. can peaches in syrup (NOT drained, Paco was insistent the syrup is necessary to complete the dish!)
Salt to Season
 Sauce:
1 cup almonds
1 cup Pecans
1 qt. whole milk
8 oz. Queso Doble Crema, (or other sharp, creamy cheese like feta)
1 cup heavy cream
2 tsp.  ground cinammon
1/2 tsp ground clove
 Salt to season
For the stuffing:
Sautee both beef and pork with butter in large pan over high heat until fully browned, remove from pan and set aside.  Sautee onions, garlic and a pinch of salt in the same pan until onions are translucent.  Add chopped pecans and sautee three minutes.  Add fresh and canned fruit, as well as tomatoes, raisins and the cooked beef and pork.  Bring to a low boil and let simmer until flavors meld, and season with salt and black pepper.
For the Sauce:
Place the almonds and pecans and milk and let soak overnight (or at least a few hours in the refrigerator).  Drain milk from nuts, reserving milk, and blend nuts in blender, slowly adding milk until nuts have been processed into a smooth paste.  Blend with all remaining ingredients in batches  and place in a large bowl.  Depending on how thick the cream you are using is, don´t add all the milk until you are sure you need it.   Season with salt.
When the meat and sauce mixture are done, stuff the prepared chiles with the meat mixture and drizzle with the sauce.  Garnish with fresh blackberries and a pinch of cinammon.  The recipe is meant to be eaten at room temperature!
 
Rice with Black Corn and Forest Mushrooms
1 cup long grain rice
1 tomato, diced
1 small onion, diced
2 ears black corn (seasonal), kernels sliced from the cob
1/2 lb forest mushrooms (oyster, lobster or tree), roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 cup vegetable or chicken stock
1 1/2 tsp oil
Sautee black corn kernels along with onion and garlic 1 minute over high heat in medium saucepan with tight fitting lid.  Add forest mushrooms and sautee until they have lost most of their liquid.  Adding a pinch of salt expedites this process greatly.  Add rice and  sautee until slightly toasted.  Add tomatoes and stock and bring to a low boil, replace lid and simmer until done, about 20 minutes.  Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes before seasoning with salt.
Thats all until next time.  Hope you enjoy the music and the food!
Published in: on August 31, 2010 at 11:29 pm  Comments (2)  

El Sin Fin #5: Cooking With Friends

Greetings Fair Readers,

Since we left off, we have been living in the fine city of San Cristobal, in the state of Chiapas, in southern Mexico.  San Cristobal is a charming colonial town set in the Sierra Madre del Sur, ringed by verdant hills and illumed by the crisp high altitude sun.  Since making it our home at the beginning of April, we´ve been dedicated to working on our act as musicians, as well as spending a lot of time making art.  We´ve gotten to the point where we can live off the profits of playing on the street and in clubs, so in a certain sense, we are professional musicians for the time being, which is kind of cool.   If you want to see what we are up to musically, check out some of the (albeit limited quality) videos:

A friend in San Cristobal took some better videos of a concert we played in a club there called Perfidia, so I´ll try and have those up as soon as possible.

I originally meant for this post to be an art special, to let you guys know what we´ve been up to artistically.  However, because my camera went missing with all the pictures of the artwork, I decided to put up some recipes I have created with friends as well as some that I have learned  from cooking with others.

Spectacular Salsas

Here are a couple salsas I learned from some friends from Oaxaca, as well as a couple of my own creation.  They are all dynamtite!

Chile Seco

One big handful dried Chile de Arbol, or Chile Sureño, stems removed and seeds partially removed

One Small Handful Raw, Unpeeled Garlic Cloves

2 Cups Vegetable Oil

In a heavy sauteé pan or skillet, heat oil over medium heat about seven minutes.  Place all ingredients in the oil, frying for about 7-10 minutes, or until garlic cloves are nicely browned.  Remove pan from heat, and let cool.  When fairly cool, place contents of pan in a blender, and blend in batches until you get a nice, emulsified paste.  This salsa is excellent for meats or quesadillas, but would also be really excellent with pasta and a nice sharp white cheese, like manchego or doble crema.

Guacachile

This salsa is so named because the end result looks a lot like guacamole, but it doesn´t have any avocado in it, just a huge flavor!

6 large Jalapeños or equivalent mass of other hot chiles, stems removed and partially de-seeded.

1 large onion roughly chopped

5-6 Cloves of garlic

Salt to season

2 cups vegetable oil

1 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped

Heat oil in a heavy sauteé pan or skillet 7 minutes. Place all ingredients except cilantro in the pan and fry until the onions are nicely golden.  Remove from heat and let cool.  When cool, place contents of pan as well as cilantro in blender and blend until smooth and creamy.  Salt to taste.

Mango Salsa

I served this with a marinated pork loin at a parrillada (barbecue) at our neighbor´s house.  It was a big hit!  I sliced the pork loin thinly and marinated it in a  bit of white vinegar, onions, garlic and a touch of Mexican oregano. This salsa would also go well with fish, chicken, or just tortilla chips.

2 cups mango, peeled, de-seeded and roughly chopped

2 Jalapeños, or 4 serrano chiles, burnt on open flame, stems removed, roughly chopped

1 red onion, thinly chopped

4 limes

1 bunch Cilantro, roughly chopped

Combine all ingredients, and let sit 1/2 hour.

If you want, you can substitute mashed bananas for the mango, add a touch of cumin and chile ancho powder, and voila! Bananamole! ( I got the idea for this from Kenny Shopsins amazing cookbook Eat Me: The Food and Philosophy of Kenny Shopsin.)

Chipotle Peanut Salsa

1 Can Chipotle chiles in adobo, seeds removed depending on spiciness preference

1 large onion, roughly chopped

5-6 cloves of garlic, whole

1 cup of peanuts

1 cup of vegetable oil

2 Tbs. Honey

Heat vegetable oil in large sauteé pan 5-6 minutes.  When  hot, add onions and garlic to pan, frying until they are golden.  Toast peanuts in another pan over low heat, moving constantly, until they are slightly golden and aromatic.  Remove pans from heat, and allow to cool. When they are cool, add all ingredients into the blender and blend until liquified and creamy. Add salt to taste.

Verduras en Escabeche (pickled vegetables)

Although this is really more of a condiment than a salsa, I decided to include it here.  I got the recipe from Rosi, the lady who owns our local corner store, who is a wealth of knowledge about Mexican cooking as well as the neighborhood gossip!

1 head of cauliflower, cut into 1 inch chunks

3 carrots, peeles and cut diagonally into 1/4 slices

1 lb potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4 slices

1 lb zucchini, grey or other summer squash cut into 1/4 inch slices

1 lb Jalapeños, cut into 1/4 slices

1/2 cup white vinegar

1 Tb Olive Oil

1 Tb dried Thyme

1 Tb dried Oregano

1/4 cup Sugar

2 Tbs salt

2 cups water

1 Bay Leaf

1 tbs Whole Black Pepper

10 cloves garlic

Place all ingredients in a large pot with a lid.  Over high heat, steam until the potatoes and carrots are tender.  It is not necessary that the liquid cover the vegetables.  Cool and use as a condiment to compliment meats, pasta, sandwiches or quesadillas.

Amazing Mains!

These are some dishes I have invented recently to serve to friends.

Camarones Empanizados de Chicharron con Crema de Tomatillo (shrimp breaded in chicharron with tomatillo cream sauce) Or Piña a la Tequila

For those not in the know, chicharron is fried pork skin, a favorite snack and main dish in Mexico.  This is an extravagantly rich dish, but the opposing sweetness of the shrimp, saltiness and crispiness of the chicharron, creaminess and acidity of the sauce make for a really dynamic flavor combination!  I recommend using the bagged chicharron, as opposed to the real deal you get at the market. It is much less greasy, and hence easier to turn into a breading.

Wow! I forgot to include this in the original post, but when I actually made this dish, it was slightly different.  I actually turned the tomatillo cream into a soup, and served the shrimp with Piña a la Tequila, which I´ll briefly describe here:

Piña a la Tequila (Tequila Pineapples)

These are a super simple, delicious and lovely accompaniment to the shrimp in place of the tomatillo cream.

1 Pineapple, peeled and cut into 1 inch slices

2 Tbs butter

1 cup tequila

Heat the butter in a sauteé pan until it browns slightly.  Place the pineapple rounds until they caramelize on one side, and then turn.  When they are caramelized on both sides, deglaze with the tequila, but just about an ounce at a time, so the alcohol cooks off before the pineapple soaks it all up.  Move the pan so the pineapple soaks up all the delicious deglazed syrup, and repeat with the rest of  pineapple.  Serve the shrimp on top of the pineapple rounds, 4-5 to a plate.

2 lbs. large shrimp, butterflied, de-veined and peeled

3 eggs

1 large bag chicharron (approximately 1/2 lb)

Flour for dusting, approximately 1 cup

Vegetable oil sufficient for shallow frying

For the Salsa:

1 lb tomatillos, papery skins removed, roughly chopped

1 large onion, finely chopped

5-6 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 1/2 cups heavy cream ( I used the real deal, full fat cream for this recipe, so you might have to adjust the amount slightly)

1 bunch cilantro, finely chopped

3 Tbs vegetable oil

Heat 3 Tbs vegetable oil in a large saucepan or sauteé pan over medium-high heat.  Sauteé onion and garlic until slightly browned.  Add tomatilloes and reduce heat slightly, simmering to let the liquid reduce slightly.  Temper cream by slowly adding spoonfuls of the tomatillo mixture to the cream in a seperate bowl and whisking.  When the cream is warm, slowly add to tomatillo mixture in the pan, while whisking briskly. Turn the pan to low heat. If it heats too quickly, the acidity of the tomatillo will break the cream.  Leave over very low heat, but  keep a sharp eye while you prepare the shrimp.

For the shrimp, blend the chicharron in a blender until you have a even consistency.  There should not be any large chunks.  Set a heavy sauteé or skilet to heat along with sufficient oil to shallow fry, approximately 1/2 inch, over medium heat until very hot.  Whisk the eggs along with a splash of water and set aside.   Dredge the shrimp in the flour, coating entirely, then dip in the egg, and then the chicharron crumbs.  You might have to massage the shrimp a bit to get the breading to stick all the way. If you need to check if the oil is ready, drop a crumb of the chicharron in the oil, if it bubbles, it is ready. Slowly set the shrimp  in the pan.  These will burn really quickly, due to the high fat content of the breading, so pay close attention.  When golden on the bottom, flip with a tongs, and fry another minute or so.  Drain on a plate lined with paper towel or newspaper.   Check the seasoning of the tomatillo sauce, add a little salt if necessary, and serve the shrimp in a small pool of the sauce on the  plate, so as not to get the breading soggy.

This should be served with a rice dish and a nice, light slaw or salad.

Tortitas de Platano Macho con Salsa de Moras (Plantain fritters with blackberry sauce)

4-5 Ripe plantains

1 large onion, finely chopped

3-4 Jalapeñoes, burnt over open flame, stems removed

Big pinch of Ground Cumin

1/2 cup toasted sesame seeds

Big Pinch of Salt

Vegetable oil sufficient for shallow frying

for the salsa:

1 quart ripe blackberries

1-2 Chile Güero or Habanero, stems and seeds removed, finely chopped

3 Tbs butter

Salt to season

(if the berries aren´t very sweet, you might add a pinch of sugar or honey)

Peel and mash the plantains in large bowl.   Burn the jalapeñoes over open flame, remove seeds and stems and chop finely.  Add chiles and onions to the bowl, as well as the rest of the ingredients.  Depending on the consistency of the plantains, you might have to add a little flour, but you basically want the batter to hold together enough so that you can fry it.

In a saucepan, sauteé the chiles for the sauce in butter1-2 minutes over high heat, and add the blackberries.  Turn the heat to medium, and depending on the juiciness of the berries, you can add a little water.   Mash slightly with a spoon to break the berries open, but you want a chunky consistency.   Let reduce a bit, and then remove from heat.

Heat oil sufficient for shallow frying about 1/2 inch over medium heat.  Using a tablespoon, spoon the batter into the oil, frying until golden and turning with a spatula.  When golden and crispy, remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a plate lined with paper towels.  Serve the fritters with a drizzle of the sauce.

Rolos de Bistec  con Salsa de Setas (Beef loin rolls stuffed with chard and raisins with Oyster mushroom sauce)

2 lbs. Beef loin or skirt steak, very thinly sliced

1 bunch chard, washed, trimmed and cut into 1/2 pieces

1 1/2 cup raisins

1 Onion, thinly sliced

5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

2 Tbs red wine vinegar

1/2 pound thinly sliced white cheese such as gouda or edam

Salt and pepper to season

For the sauce:

1 lb Oyster Mushrooms

4 Shallots, peeled and finely chopped

4 Cloves garlic

2 Tbs Butter

2 cups Cabernet Sauvignon

Salt and Pepper

Season the beef loin well with salt and pepper, and rube them with a crushed clove of garlic.   Preheat oven to 375°.  In a large sauteé pan, heat 2 tbs of olive oil.  Sauteé onions and garlic until golden.  Add raisins and chard, as well as vinegar, steaming with a lid until the chard is slightly wilted. Set aside to cool.  Lay out the beef, one slice at a time, placing the sliced cheese on it, as well as a good amount of the chard mixture.  Roll the beef around the filling, making sure there is enough meat in contact so that it holds together.   Brown the rolls on all sides in a hot sauteé pan with a bit of oil.  Place on a cookie sheet and place in the oven.

Chop the oyster mushrooms in 1/2 chunks.  Sauteé the shallots and garlic in butter until translucent.  Add the mushrooms and sauteé until all excess moisture has been drawn from them, and they are browning slightly.  Deglaze with wine and reduce until the sauce thickens slightly, about 3-4 minutes. Adjust seasoning.  Check the rolls to determine if they are cooked in the middle.  Serve with roasted or mashed potatoes, spooning the sauce over the rolls.

Well, that´s all for now faithful readers.  I hope you have enjoyed this edition of El Sin Fin and feel free to contact me via the blog for any cooking or traveling questions!

Published in: on June 5, 2010 at 12:32 am  Comments (4)  

El Sin Fin #4: Guatemala and Back in 23 days

 
Lago de Atitlán

 

 Firstly, apologies in taking so long to get this edition of ESF out to you.  I admit it was a combination of lack of patience for extremely slow upload speeds combined with an adoption of mañana work ethic to blame.   Hope you enjoy.

When we left off, we were in Oaxaca, generally reveling in the seaside life in Puerto Escondido.    We left the spirtual homeland of the Taco for the wilds of Guatemala the second week of March, our new friend Jamie in tow, on a mission to meet up with Charles and Anna, who were headed down from the US to meet up with us for a Spring Break-like getaway.   After reuniting in the charming colonial city of Antigua and appropriately enjoying beers on the roof of the Posada we were staying at, watching the volcano puffing smoke and ash in the distance, we carefully weighed our options and decided on a plan of action. The next morning we headed off for the Lago de Atitlán.   Atitlán is a spectacular high-altitude lake ringed by mostly small indigenous village, as well as the slightly larger  town of Panajachel.  Supposedly,  Aldous Huxley visited the lake and called it one of the most beautiful places on earth, and that description  is not an exageration.     The curvy descent down the steep valley walls  slowly reveals the spectacular expanse of cobalt-blue water that is Atitlán, dramatically placed in a ring of huge volcanoes and almost perpetually shrouded in mist.  The sub-tropical vegetation that fill the small valleys, impossibly placed crops on the steep ridges, and presence of colorfully dressed indigenous peoples give Atitlan an otherwordly feel .    After spending a relaxing few days exploring the lake and its surrounding towns,  swimming and hiking, we said farewell to the lake  and headed back through Antigua on the way back north to Lanquín, a town near Semuc Champey, a nature reserve known for its underground caves and spring-fed grottoes.

  Unfortunately, my camera ran out of batteries the day we were at Semuc Champey, but you can see some good pictures from the Lanquín website here: http://www.semucchampey.com/es/semuc-champey.html

We spent an unforgettable afternoon swimming in the pools, and then dined on a characteristically Guatemalan lunch of fried chicken, cold spaghetti in ketchup, really bland cole slaw and stale tortillas.   We didn´t, in fact receive an excellent (or even passable) meal in Guatemala until we arrived late one night to Cobán, on the way to Semuc Champey, and ate Churrascos at a late night cart.  The Churrasco is sort of the Guatemalan take on the taco.  You get a few tortillas, a grilled piece of meat, some really bland coleslaw with too much mayonnaise, and you sort of are on your own to negotiate the gristly slab of meat into the tortillas.  If you ask for salsa, the result is almost never spicy enough, and often sweet.   

The only really good meals we ate in Guatemala were eaten during our last two days as  a traveling posse, on the Río Lampara, a tributary of the Río dulce between the town of Río Dulce and the port of Livingston.   Arriving at the tiny, cozy, Hotelito Perdido just before sunset, we were told that we were too late to eat dinner at the hotel, but if we wanted we could take kayaks to the nearby restaurant “El Remanso”.  Arriving at the darkened docks, we briefly panicked, fearing a long night with only the snacks in our backpacks to sustain us.  But after making a bit of noise on the docks, a smiling woman emerged from behind the house and fired up the generator to turn on the lights for us.   We ordered a round of beers, ceviche and a couple whole fish to share.   We knew we were finally in good hands when she brought out a warm basket of Pan de Coco (coconut bread) with the beers and proceded to retreat to the kitchen to prepare the ceviche from freshly caught shrimp.   The ceviche was perfect; the shrimp still sweet with sea water, with lime, red onion, tomato and cilantro.  The fish was squirmingly fresh, simply prepared with garlic and served with lime and salt.  Elegance incarnate.  After eating over-salted, deep-fried, greasy and bland food for the past two weeks, tasting fresh food skillfully prepared was a rare pleasure.  We thanked our hostess profusely and promised to return the next day.    And return we did, to sample the restaurant´s specialty, the recipe for which you can find below.   We knew it was to be an unforgettable meal,  for as we arrived, the teenage daughter of the family was pulling the jaibas (fresh water crabs) out of the traps to give to her grandmother to put in our meal.   And unforgettable it was.  After sharing another huge bowl of ceviche, the main course arrived and took its place as the finest meal of the trip, single-handedly redeeming Guatemalan cuisine for the moment ( but not for long).

Tapado

We had this dish two different times prepared in two different restaurants, and this recipe was by far the better of the two.   It was generally agreed upon by the group that it was the best food we had eaten in Guatemala, by far.  Tapado is the delicious result of a unique cultural area  in the Caribbean lowlands of Guatemala, where the cuisine is influenced by the Garifuna people,  who are of  African descent and inhabit the coastal areas  of Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. 

Special thanks to the ladies at “El Remanso”, on the Río Lampara, near Río Dulce, Guatemala.  You can only get there by boat from Livingston or Río Dulce, but if you are lucky enough to be staying at the Hotelito Perdido,  you can take a quick ten minute kayak cruise at sunset to get there.

The success of this recipe ultimately rests on the freshness of the seafood.  If you can`t get fresh coconuts (most can`t) you can substitute a can of  coconut milk for every two fresh coconuts.

Serves 4

8 young coconuts ( or 4 16oz. cans of coconut milk)

1 cup onion, chopped finely

2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and finely chopped

1 small chile dulce, although a serrano or small jalapeño will suffice

1 Tbl. Achiote, ground or in paste

4-5 bay leafs

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

2 tsps. dried thyme

1tsp. ground coriander

4 Hand-sized, river crabs or blue crabs, or two large dungeness cut in half

4 Medium size whole Tilapia, Redfish or Snapper ( approx. 4-4 1/2 lbs.)

1 lb.  Shrimp

4-5 Tbs. Vegetable, blended olive or tropical (coco or avocado) oil

Salt to season

Flour for breading

If using whole coconuts, halve and scoop out flesh and separate from milk.  In a blender, liquefy coconut meat, adding milk if necessary to achieve the consistency of  heavy cream.  Set aside.  If using canned, just open the cans and take a breath.  In….Out…Good.  Meditate upon how good the soup is going to be.    In a large pot over medium heat,  pour sufficient oil to cover the bottom of the pot and  sautee onions,  garlic, and chiles for 4-5 minutes, add bay leaf, thyme, coriander and achiote,  sautee one more minute until the spices become fragrant, and then add tomatoes.     Turn heat to very low, and add coconut to the pot.   Slowly bring to a very low simmer.  This is essential, as if the coconut liquid breaks, all is lost!  Add all shellfish to the broth and poach slowly.  Don’t hurry! They will cook.   Meanwhile,  Make sure the whole fish  are cleaned and de-scaled, put a heavy pan on high heat with enough oil to shallow fry (1/4 inch).   Heat until very hot, dredge the  fish in flour lightly, and fry approximately 3 minutes, until golden and slightly crispy, and flip.  A good trick for whole fish is to cut three vertical or diagonal slits through the lateral sides of the body, and when the flesh in these slits is white to the center, the fish is done on that side.  If you want to get really fancy here, you can stuff the fish with lemon, sliced onion and cilantro and grill it on a barbecue with a little oil and salt.   Keeping a keen eye on the soup, finish frying up the fish.  Just make sure it doesn’t go above a low simmer and it should be fine.    When the largest pieces of shellfish are pink and firm, it is done.  Season with salt.    No single flavor should overwhelm this dish, it should be sweet, spicy, creamy and the shellfish flavor should really shine through. The achiote gives a nice golden color.  In the  States, it is also sometimes called annato.

To serve, dole out the shellfish equally between 4 bowls, cover with broth, and serve the whole fish on the side with a little lime or lemon garnish.   Serve with white rice, tortilla or if you really want to get crazy, coconut bread.    I couldn’t get a recipe for the coco bread, but any Caribbean bakery serves it.  For those of you on the East coast, it shouldn’t be hard to get.

 

Published in: on May 3, 2010 at 8:38 pm  Comments (2)  

El Sin Fin #3; Sun Worship, Food Consolations and Other Strange Occurences

Pyramid of the Sun, Teotihuacán. México. for more of my photos see http://picasaweb.google.com/manalive303

When we left off, we were in modern, bustling, crazy Mexico City, trying to make sense of the chaos by pounding down tacos and meditating on the tranquil,  ancient calm of the pyramid complex at Teotihuacán.   After saying goodbye to our busy pop star friends in Mexico City, we boarded a bus for the relative calm of nearby Cuernavaca, “The City of Eternal Spring”.  There we were met by José, another couchsurfer who invited us to share his lovely home with two other American backpackers.  They were fresh from a volunteering bout in Guatemala and had good things to say about Guatemala, but complained about the food to no end.   I felt a pang in my heart as I realized I would soon have to leave my spiritual homeland of México and venture into unknown eating territory.   They quipped ominously; “Everything is fried and salty.  And I hope you like rice and beans…”.  On the other hand, they had nothing but good things to say about the rest of their stay.  They were just thrilled to be somewhere where everything they ate tasted amazing, a feeling I readily identify with.   Somehow the idea of a good old fashioned barbecue emerged and I was happy to take charge of the proceedings, here´s a sample of the results.  I´d post the recipe, but really its disgustingly simple, chicken marinated in some day old chilaquiles salsa (see ESF#2, ed.) and thrown on the grill with veggies tossed in oil and salt, and an entire eggplant shoved in the coals until soft.   Thats all, really.

Barbecue sin fin!

I did however have a recipe request a while back from my buddy Zack, who wanted to know how to make the famous rice drink, horchata.  To be honest, I´ve never made it, but have a recipe on good faith from my good friend Soleta, who told me this when I asked; Take some rice (one cup) and some sugar (half cup-ish) and some nice Mexican cinnamon (the papery, really fragrant stuff, 2 or 3 finger sized chunks), put it all in some water ( enough to cover) overnight.  When you wake up, take the whole mixture and put it in the blender.  The rice should be soft.  (If not, wait longer for this step.) Liquify 5 minutes or so until all the rice and chunks have disappeared.  Strain.  The result should be creamy like milk, slightly sweet and spicy.  If too thick, add water.   Serve over ice on a hot day.

While I´m thinking of it, another classic Mexican beverage everyone should know is Café de Olla, or coffee a lá pot.  This is really common all over Mexico, served all day but especially nice with breakfast.  To make it, you bring water to a boil with a couple chunks of the good cinnamon in it, bring to a boil, add a couple thumb-sized chunks of piloncillo (cane sugar usually sold in cones)  add in coffee relative to desired strength (for me a half cup of coffee per 4 cups of water does pretty well), and remove from heat.  Let steep 5 minutes and strain.  Mmmmmmm….coffee.

We spent a day exploring Tepoztlan, a neighbor of Cuernavaca ringed by dramatic forests and sandstone bluffs.  We hiked up the sheer canyon to visit the Tepozteco ruins, but they didn´t  look too impressive for the entry fee, so we opted to hang out a bit and observe the mischievous marsupials called “tejones” molest the tourists by stealing their water bottles and entering their backpacks looking for food, and then we walked back down to the town for a lunch of quesadillas with huitlacoche, a black mold that grows on corn around the end of their season, which is quite the delicacy.  I would put it up against any type of exotic tree mushroom, with an earthy taste and slightly chewy texture.

Canyon near Tepoztlan, Morelos, Mexico.

The Notorious Tejon

Sunset in Tepoztlan

Craving beach time, we left Cuernavaca headed for the coast of Oaxaca, to the beach town of Puerto Escondido.   After a lengthy bus journey, we were pleased to be reunited with my old friend from Denver, Dave, at his new hotelito “La Osa Mariposa”, in the sleepy, sweet neighborhood Brisas de Zicatela.   Dave was a little surprised to see me at his door in the hazy early hours of morning, but quickly invited us in and put us on some coffee.    We ended up staying for about a week, relaxing in the laid back beachside ambiance of the Oaxaca coast, going swimming and not much else.  Dave and his mellow, helpful staff did do their best to keep our cups well stocked with café mezcal, a local specialty crafted by a fellow Coloradan in town.    Here are some pictures of Puerto Escondido, and our daytrip to the nearby hot springs at San Jose Manialtepec.    The market pictures are taken in Puerto Escondido.  For those who have never had the pleasure of exploring a Mexican market, they are a dazzling array of sights, sounds, smells and tastes.  They are often the best place in town to get the freshest and most locally procured produce, meat, fish, herbs, spices, dried goods and prepared foods- in other words a foodie´s heaven on earth.  The friendly vendors will typically give you samples of whatever they are selling, which is  agreat way to try exotic new fruits such as mamey, zapote negro, chinco, guanabana and chinese pomegranate (just of the fe we´ve been sampling of late).

Rio Manialtepec

Robert and Jamie at the market

The girls of Osa Mariposa

Dave Paco, vegetarian.

REAL tomatoes!

Jamie

Jealous?

The heart of Mexico, the chile.

Near the hot springs, San José Manialtepec, Oaxaca

To leave you with, I have one more recipe, for the classic Mexican dish Posole.  It is literally eaten everywhere in Mexico and is a real treasure.  This is an amalgamation of two different recipes given by two different women in different areas:

POSOLE

2lbs Chicken, pork or beef (cuts for stewing, ie shoulder or butt)

2 onions, finely chopped

1 lb inflated hominy (the package will say “for posole”), cooked according to the instructions 1 day prior, and then rinsed until water turns clear

5-6 cloves garlic, minced

5 chiles “guajillo”

3-4 chiles “del arbol”, or “sureño”

Bay leaf

4 or 5 cloves, ground

Tostadas, sliced radish, dried oregano, limes and diced onion for garnish

Put meat to boil, covered with water until done.   Extract the meat and set aside to cool.  Meanwhile, add the chiles, onion, garlic, bay leaf and cloves and simmer in the broth.  If necessary, skim any excess fat from the broth.   When the meat is cool enough to handle, shred it using two forks in each hand, or if it is chicken, the classic preparation is to leave it in quarters.  Set aside.  Extract the chiles from the broth when they look tender, remove stems and blend them in the blender using just enough broth to liquify into a salsa.  Add this to broth, bring to a boil and season with salt.  Spoon hominy into bowls, topped with broth and finally the shredded meat or chicken on top.  Serve with garnishes. YUM!

Next El Sin Fin will be brought to you from the wilds of Guatemala! Until then, happy spoonfuls!

Published in: on March 22, 2010 at 11:07 pm  Comments (2)  
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