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Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

While visiting el norte, one of my “musts” is taking advantage of the ethnically diverse dining options on the west and east coasts. To date, twice I’ve eaten Japanese at my younger son’s favorite restaurant, had Chinese twice, and dined on Indian twice. However, I’ve now been away from Oaxaca for a month and I’m dreaming Oaxaca dining dreams. Until my return next week, photos from three recent meals I’ve eaten in Oaxaca will have to suffice.

Garnachas – Maguey y Maíz
Ensalada pulquera – Maguey y Maíz
Mole de Caderas – Las Quince Letras
Chocolate tamal – Las Quince Letras
Roasted beets with fermented lentils – Barrio de Jalatlaco Restaurante
Grilled octopus – Barrio de Jalatlaco Restaurante

Then there is the street food… tacos, empanadas, tlayudas, oh my!

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Last Thursday my BFF took me on an out-of-the-city birthday excursion. She hired a by-the-hour driver, picked me up a little after 9:00 AM, and off we went. Our first stop was Ocotlán de Morelos and besides wandering through the mercado, we stopped at the Municipal Palace to take in the magnificent murals painted by Rodolfo Morales in 1955 celebrating the four hundredth anniversary of the founding of Ocotlán. The murals, which honor its beauty, bounty, and people take up the entire room, including the ceiling.

Main entrance to the mercado in Ocotlán de Morelos.
Doorway murals by Rodolfo Morales in the Ex-Sala del Cabildo, Ocotlán de Morelos.
Murals by Rodolfo Morales in the Ex-Sala del Cabildo, Ocotlán de Morelos.

Next on the day’s agenda was San Antonino Castillo Velasco. As its murals remind one, this is a town famous for its floral embroidery and empanadas de amarillo. I should add, it is also known for Taller Manos Que Ven, the home and workshop of clay sculpture Don José Garcia Antonio (aka, the Blind Potter) and his lovely wife and inspiration, Doña Teresita de Jesús. We did a little clothes shopping (thank you, Miriam Campos), ate empanadas, and stopped in to say “hola” to the aforementioned, Don José and Doña Teresita — where we also made a couple of purchases.

Empanadas de amarillo, San Antonino Castillo Velasco.
Mural in San Antonino Castillo Velasco.
Mural in San Antonino Castillo Velasco.

Our final stop of the day was for comida at the new open air restaurant and vivero (nursery), Almú, set in a reforestation campo (field) in San Martín Tilcajete. Murals throughout the town reflect a village celebrated for its woodcarving and colorful painting of masks and alebrije and where moto taxis (tuk-tuks) are a common form of transportation for locals.

Dining area of Almú restaurant in San Martín Tilcajete.
Mural in San Martín Tilcajete.
Mural in San Martín Tilcajete.

It was a delightful, delicious, and art filled day!

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I’m home in Barrio de Jalatlaco — rested, recovered, and caught-up — after a three-day fiesta at the home of my compadres in Teotitlán del Valle. Tranquil before photos…

Dried corn husks in waiting.
Shadows on the wall.
Nixtamalizing dried corn kernels.
Courtyard art of the arrangement.
Dried corn: To be cleaned, rejected, and keepers (top to bottom).

Three days of breakfasts, lunches, and dinners with 20 to 160 family members and compadres, formal presentations, and a ritual ceremony — all to acknowledge and celebrate the promise of marriage between the youngest daughter and her intended. More from the celebrations to come.

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Thursday is market day in Villa de Zaachila. Thus, once we turned off the carretera, we crawled our way into town joining scores of other cars, trucks, tuk tuks, motorcycles, bicycles, pedestrians, dogs, and the occasional goat. The scenes were pure country village. Once parked, we meandered our way along the street stalls, stopping to examine their wares and chat with vendors.

However, our stomachs were grumbling and our trajectory was set — Zaachila’s mouthwatering barbacoa de chivo (goat) beckoned!

Once sated, we went in search of Zaachila’s beautifully decorated pan de muerto (Day of the Dead bread). It was still a little early in the season but, zigzagging up and down the bread aisles, we eventually found a couple of vendors and bought a few to be placed on our ofrendas.

Being members of the “clean plate club” and needing to walk off our very filling lunch, we walked toward the Templo de Santa Maria de la Natividad to begin the Muertos mural walk to the Panteón. However, before even reaching the church, we were stopped in our tracks by this massive and incredibly moving mural dedicated to the victims of Covid-19.

New Day of the Dead murals had been painted along calle Coquiza since I was last in Zaachila two years ago and I will post pictures later. In the meantime, next stop — a mezcal palenque in Zimatlán de Álvarez.

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Feliz Día Nacional del Maíz (Happy National Day of Corn).

Mi orgullo es mi raiz, el maíz (My pride is my root, the corn).

But what would corn be without the hands that have cared for it for hundreds of years.CONABIO (National Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity)

Sin Maíz No Hay País (Without corn there is no country)!

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If it’s Friday, in addition to flowers, it is the day a produce stand sets up just a few blocks away. Mi amiga Kalisa and I stumbled on it during one of our Friday morning walks and little did I know that eight months later I would move nearby and it would become my weekly fruit and veggie vendor.

Weekly produce stand on Privada Lic. Primo Verdad.

The stand has both imported and local fruits and veggies. Three weeks ago I couldn’t resist some of the freshest looking huitlacoche I’ve seen.

Huitlacoche sauteed with onions, garlic, dried chiles, and verdolaga (purslane) — the latter from my garden.

For the uninitiated, huitlacoche (aka, corn smut) is a fungus (Ustilago maydis) that can attack ears of corn during the rainy season. Here in Mexico it is a delicacy. I sauteed it with some other goodies (see above photo) and used it, along with quesillo (Oaxacan string cheese), to fill an omelette.

Quesillo and huitlacoche omelette garnished with sliced avocado.

One would never guess that, as a child, I was a picky eater!

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I know, the recent blog posts have been few and far between — and they will continue to be so for a couple of weeks. After twelve years, I am moving across town to a new-to-me, but old to the city, neighborhood. In the meantime, enjoy photos from our recent comida at the Tierra Antigua cocina de humo (traditional outdoor kitchen).

Tierra Antigua cocinera, Carina Santiago
Sopa de guías
Tortillas hot off the comal
Mole almendrado
Kalisa and the sheep
Nieve de mango

Stay tuned for news from the new Casita Colibrí neighborhood and home.

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As I mentioned in my last blog post, I’m alive and well and, at long last, in California — my childhood home, to be exact. While I’m loving spending time with family, seeing friends, and happily able being able to wash my clothes in my own washer and dryer, it also means I’m having to cook. Looking back with envy at the meals prepared by my amiga, vecina, and cocinera extraordinaire, Kalisa.

February 12 2021 – Vegetables, queso panela, and basmati rice.
February 15 2021 – Codillo, mole, beans, and salsa.
February 24, 2021 – Eggplant and spinach lasagne.
February 28, 2021 – Duck pozole.
March 2, 2021 – Duck tostada.
March 7, 2021 – Leftovers of chard, broccolini, potatoes, and black beans.
March 8, 2021 – Chicken mole.
March 12, 2021 – Salad of Pochote bounty.
March 25, 2021 – Marinated chicken, green salad, basmati rice, and green salsa.
April 7, 2021 – Michoacán tacos with flores de frijol.
April 10, 2021 – Michoacán las corundas.
April 11, 2021 – Chicken tacos.

As you will note, the occasional vegetarian meal popped up over the past couple of months on Kalisa’s menu, along with inspiration from the recent visit to Oaxaca by Cynthia Martínez, chef owner of La Conspiración 1809 in Morelia, Michoacán. All delicious and works of art!

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For the first time since February 25, 2020, I ventured out of Oaxaca city. The pull of my fully vaccinated family in el norte and with no word regarding when the second Pfizer vaccine would be given in Oaxaca, I booked a flight up to California for April 15 (five weeks after my first jab) and a 10:00 AM vaccination appointment at CVS for the next day. Needless to say, I was very grateful to not have to stand in line for hours. However, I am already missing my weekly Friday morning hike up to Pochote Xochimilco Mercado Orgánico y Artesanal.

Click HERE for close-ups of the art in the last photo. Nothing like a little culture to add to the shopping and dining experience!

By the way, the city began offering the second dose of the vaccine the day I left.

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Easter Sunday, Peter Cottontail, with a little help from his friends, hippity hopped his way to Casita Colibrí, bringing platters full of Easter joy.

Easter eggs dyed with hibiscus, chili, turmeric, and beets with designs imprinted by cilantro, parsley, epazote and bougainvillea.
Marinated and roasted pork shoulder with organic baby carrots, potatoes, and shallots from the Sierra Norte.
Peter Cottontail’s favorite salad of radishes, cucumber, bell peppers, onions, and lettuce.
Choux pastry filled with creamy coffee with caramelized peanut cream.

A muchisimas gracias to my many-times-mentioned friend, neighbor, and talented cocinera, Kalisa, who dyed the eggs and prepared all but the dessert. The latter yummy decadent delight was purchased from Masea Trigo y Maíz. To quote another rabbit, “That’s all folks!”

(ps) My alebrije rabbit is by Bertha Cruz from San Antonio Arrazola, Oaxaca.

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It’s been a whole month, so I figured it’s about time to again showcase the culinary creations by my friend, neighbor, and cocinera extraordinaire, Kalisa. If you can’t take the mouthwatering temptation, I advise you to step away from the blog post now.

January 4, 2021 – Flor de Frijolón salad.
January 4, 2021 – Pork pozole.
January 10, 2021 – Quiche Lorraine.
January 10, 2021 – Chicken wings.
January 17, 2021 – Cassoulet with duck, sausage, pork, and organic French Tarbais beans.
January 23, 2021 – Picadillo stuffed cabbage leaves.
February 3, 2021 – Pan seared Norwegian salmon in brown butter lemon sauce accompanied by baby new potatoes and carrots.
February 3, 2021 – Mixed berry tart.

Just so you know, the last two are not everyday fare — they were for my birthday. (Please, don’t ask.) I think Kalisa outdid herself!

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Today, besides being Groundhog Day, it is the Christian holy day, Día de la Candelaria (aka, Candlemas, Presentation of Jesus at/in the Temple, and Feast of the Purification of the Virgin). In Mexico, tradition calls for families to bring their Niño Dios (baby Jesus), decked out in new clothes, to the church to be blessed. Alas, in the time of Covid-19, the Servicios de Salud de Oaxaca (health department) has called upon Oaxaqueños not to gather this year and, while the doors of the Cathedral will be open, the faithful are asked to stay home if their Niño Dios was blessed in previous years.

Tamales from Levadura de Olla Restaurante: Tamal Adobo, Tamal Chile Ajo, Tamal Mole Negro, Chancleta Guajolote, and Tamal de Fiesta (not in order)

Custom also calls for the person who bit into the baby Jesus figurine hidden in the Rosca de Reyes (3 Kings Cake) during Día de los Reyes Magos to host a tamalada on Candelaria. As I write, tamales are steaming all over the state. The virus will not stop the cocineras of Oaxaca from rising before the crack of dawn to make and serve tamales. As I previously mentioned, I munched down on a figurine. And I wasn’t the only one — my neighbor and friend Kalisa also had the “pleasure.” I must confess, we took the easy way out and pre-ordered our tamales from Levadura de Olla Restaurante. I can’t wait to eat them!

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Feliz Día de los Reyes Magos / Happy Three Kings day! Today is the day Gaspar, Melchor, and Baltazar bring gifts to the children of Mexico. In normal, non Covid-19 times, the municipal DIF (Desarrollo Integral de la Familia) agency and private organizations sponsored a toy drive. Toys filled the Alameda to be given to the city’s disadvantaged children, along with milk and juice. Crafts, games, and music were set up to entertain. I haven’t seen or heard of any evidence it is happening this year. Let’s hope these children have not been forgotten.

In addition to kings bringing kids gifts, January 6 also calls for a special cake — the wreath shaped Rosca de Reyes (Three Kings bread). This morning, I walked up to Pan con Madre bakery to buy mine to share with apartment staff and friends.

And, surprise, there is a plastic Niño Dios figurine hidden in each Rosca de Reyes, remembering Mary and Joseph concealing baby Jesus from King Herod. If you are the “lucky” person to bite into it, you must host a tamales and atole party on February 2 — Candelaria (Candlemas).

Guess who the lucky person was? Yes, it was me!

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Kalisa, my many times mentioned friend, neighbor, and cook extraordinaire, outdid herself in December.

December 4, 2020 – Chicken cutlets
December 12, 2020 – Honoring Hanukkah with sweet and savory latkes and rugelach
December 24, 2020 – Shrimp fettuccine on Christmas Eve
December 25, 2020 – Socially distanced Christmas dining on the terrace
December 25, 2020 – Pork loin for Christmas dinner
December 25, 2020 – Glazed carrots with mint
December 25, 2020 – Polenta
December 25, 2020 – My contribution of a garden greens salad
December 25, 2020 – The piece de resistance, Kalisa’s poached pear and frangipane tart
December 31, 2020 – New Year’s Eve dinner of paella with shrimp, chicken, sausage, asparagus, and fresh peas

It was a challenging but definitely delicious year!

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What an unusual yet lovely (and delicious) Thanksgiving 2020 was.

Cranberry/pear relish bubbling on the stove.

After the fact, I realized this was only the second Thanksgiving I’ve shared with just one other person. Childhood dinners were filled with parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Even the Thanksgiving I spent in Denmark, the international school I attended prepared a turkey with all the fixin’s dinner — to the delight of the American students and curiosity of the other international students and Danes. Once married, we hosted or joined family and/or friends — and that has been my tradition ever since, even here in Oaxaca.

Sage dressing with whole wheat bread, celery, onions, and carrots.

Keeping Covid-19 protocols in mind, Kalisa, my (now famous) friend, neighbor, and cocinera extraordinaire and I decided we would persevere in an attempt to carry on with an albeit downsized celebration of just the two of us on my terrace. For the main course, we ruled out turkey, discarded chicken as not special, and settled on repeating the success of rabbit — concluding it would go well with my cranberry/pear relish and sage dressing. And, who knows? The indigenous peoples may have proffered rabbit to the starving and clueless foreigners.

Roast rabbit à la Kalisa.

So, we made our own pilgrimage up to Pochote Mercado Orgánico in Colonia Reforma to again purchase the criollo rabbit Kalisa would be preparing. A couple of days later, at Mercado IV Centenario, we happened upon camotes/sweet potatoes to be used for her “pumpkin” cheesecake. Unlike my first several Thanksgivings here, when bags of fresh cranberries could only be found at Mercado Hidalgo, I was able to purchase all the ingredients for my cranberry/pear relish at Mercado Benito Juárez. As for the dressing, I still had some Bell’s Seasoning brought from the USA a couple of years ago, and the rest was easily found. Looking at our menu, it occurred to me that perhaps we needed something green. That was easily solved with some baby lettuce from my garden (alas, no photo).

Pumpkin cheesecake with caramel topping.

And so it was, a Thanksgiving where two friends gave thanks for our very present blessings — friendship, health, abundance, and being welcomed into the beautiful and loving arms of Oaxaca.

Two friends giving thanks on a rooftop terrace in Oaxaca.

By the way, the place settings were for photo-op purposes only. We retired with filled plates and glasses of wine to the south end of the terrace where we could sit and eat 8 feet apart.

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