Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Mexico: Uno

La Comida (The Food)

Since this is Kitchen Tip Tuesday I thought I'd tell you about the food I experienced on my recent trip to Mexico and leave you with a recipe too.

First let me say that Mexican food is not spicy. Salsas of varying degrees of heat are served alongside every meal...but the food itself is just well seasoned, not hot. Unlike Panama where I had pretty much nothing but chicken and rice for 3 weeks straight, we had mostly beef in Mexico. We did have beans at almost every meal and rice pretty often too. When the week was over I realized that I had eaten sour cream on practically every meal while I was there. (Mexican sour cream is runny and more like yogurt than our sour cream. It is a really great flavor.)

Of course the fresh fruit there is amazing and so delicious. One day we had nothing but fruit for our "snack". We ate mango, pineapple, apples, bananas, grapes, oranges and cantloupe that we had purchased fresh from the market the day before. Which brings up two topics of interest; #1 the market and #2 the "snack".

The open air market in San Vicente was quite the experience. It was loaded down with fresh produce of all types....including fresh meat. There was no shortage of animal apendages and organs. There were mountains of fresh chiles and fruits. There was a knife sharpener and a flower girl trying to make a living. It was noisy and smelly and everything you would expect from a market in Mexico. I loved it. The pictures scattered throughout this post are all from the market.

The "snack" is a small meal eaten at noon everyday. In Mexico you eat breakfast in the morning and then a "snack" at noon. Then around 3:30 you eat lunch and around 7:30 you eat supper. On our first full work day there we were all hungry at noon so we chowed down on our "snack" of tuna salad and crackers. So when lunch rolled around at 3:30 we were not really all that hungry for the plates full of tostadas topped with refried beans and italian beef and Sopa Codojito (macaroni noodles in a tomato broth) on the side. Of course Victoria, the sweet little cook, had been so nice as to fix us this feast that we had to eat it. After that we learned that no matter how much food was offered at "snack" we needed to eat just a little of it. There was a whole lot of eatin' goin' on down there.

I liked absolutely everything I ate while I was in Mexico. The Mexican oregano that we used was especially delicious. You dump a little of it in your hand and then you grind it between your palms and let it fall on your food. It was so good that I brought a bottle of it home with me. It is a lot more flavorful than our dried oregano. I also brought home Tajin Salsa En Polvo (which bascially means 'salsa powder'). It tastes a lot like seasoning salt and they eat it on their fruit, especially on fresh pineapple. It was very good but a little too salty for fruit in my opinion.

I can't say that I really tried anything new (except cactus, which tastes like asparagus kind of), but everything was cooked or combined in a different way. One day we had tuna salad....but their tuna salad has fresh cilantro, tomato, and onion in it. It was super delicious. We also ate "Alambra", which is shredded beef, bell peppers, carrots, and onion all baked with cheese on top then served over beans. Of course we also ate the standard tacos, burritos and quesadillas too.

My three favorite meals were Tamales, Cilachiques and Picadillo. I'm not normally much of a tamale fan but these were really good. We purchased them from a local pedaller and ate them for breakfast. I had a strawberry and a pineapple tamale. They were excellent. If I can ever find a recipe and way to make them I definitely will. Chilaciques is shredded chickened (very well seasoned) over homemade tortilla chips and rice and covered with cheese, green salsa (made from tomatillos) and sour cream. Picadillo is basically a beef stew without the broth served over rice. Beans were offered as a side dish with both of these meals.

As a matter of fact beans were served in some form or another with every meal. And if we had them one day we had the leftovers "refried" the next day. Literally you throw the beans into a skillet of hot grease and fry them as you smash them with a big spoon. I actually got to do this when it was my turn for breakfast duty.

We all took turns cooking breakfast for our team. Sometimes it was Mexican food and sometimes it was french toast and bacon. No matter what we always had yogurt on the side. (The bacteria in the yogurt helps keep your stomach on the straight and narrow.) The day I cooked we made Molletes. They were very good but they seemed like more of a lunch food than a breakfast food to me. Here is the recipe I promised you.


hoagie rolls
leftover beans
butter, melted
swiss cheese
Cut rolls in half and brush insides of each piece with melted butter. In the meantime "refry" the beans in a hot skillet. Then spread beans generously over rolls and top with a slice of cheese. Bake in a 350 oven until hot all the way through and cheese is melted. Serve with salsa and of course, sour cream.

Que te gustes! (I hope you like it!)

More in my Mexico series tomorrow. Stay tuned!!

1 comment:

Michele said...

Oh, yum. I loved the authentic Mexican food when I was on mission trips in Mexico as a teenager. That food sounds so good right now! :) Your recipe sounds like a fun breakfast!