Cooking - A Taste of Mexico

Mexican cuisine, a style of food that originates in Mexico, is known for its varied flavors, colourful decoration and variety of spices and ingredients, most of which are native to the country. The cuisine of Mexico has evolved through thousands of years of blending indigenous cultures, with later European elements added after the 16th century. The pre-Columbian history of the territory now within the contemporary nation of Mexico is known through the work of archaeologists and epigraphers, and through the accounts of the conquistadors, clergymen, and indigenous chroniclers of the immediate post-conquest period. While relatively few documents (or codices) of the Mixtec and Aztec cultures of the Post-Classic period survived the Spanish conquest, more progress has been made in the area of Mayan archaeology and epigraphy. Human presence in the Mexican region once thought to date back 40,000 years based upon what were believed to be ancient human footprints discovered in the Valley of Mexico, but after further investigation using radioactive dating, it appears this is untrue. It is currently unclear whether 21,000 year old campfire remains found in the Valley of Mexico are the earliest human remains in Mexico. Indigenous peoples began to selectively breed maize plants around 8000 BC. Evidence shows a marked increase in pottery working by 2300 B.C. and the beginning of intensive corn farming between 1800 and 1500 B.C.Between 1800 and 300 BC, complex cultures began to form. Many matured into advanced pre-Columbian Mesoamerican civilizations such as the: Olmec, Izapa, Teotihuacan, Maya, Zapotec, Mixtec, Huastec, Purepecha, Totonac, Tarascan, "Toltec" and Aztec, which flourished for nearly 4,000 years before the first contact with Europeans.
Mexico is a Megadiverse country. As such, many ingredients commonly consumed by today's people worldwide originate from Mexico. The names of the various foods are originally from Nahuatl. Examples of such ingredients are: Chocolate, Tomato, Maize and Corn, Vanilla, Avocado, Guava, Chayote, Epazote, Camote, Jícama, Tejocote, Nopal, Huitlacoche, Zapote, Mamey zapote, many varieties of modern Beans.
The majority of Mexico's cuisine are of indigenous origins and are based on the ingredients listed above:
*corn enters in the composition of tortillas, tamales, pozole, enchiladas
*avocado is the principal ingredient of guacamole
*chocolate is used in mole and atole
These foods continue to make up the core of Mexican cuisine today.
Corn:Maize known in many English-speaking countries as corn or mielie/mealie, is a grain domesticated by indigenous peoples in Mesoamerica in prehistoric times. The leafy stalk produces ears which contain seeds called kernels. Though technically a grain, maize kernels are used in cooking as a vegetable or starch. The Olmec and Mayans cultivated it in numerous varieties throughout central and southern Mexico, cooked, ground or processed through nixtamalization. Between 1700 and 1250 BCE, the crop spread through much of the Americas. The region developed a trade network based on surplus and varieties of maize crops. After European contact with the Americas in the late 15th and early 16th centuries, explorers and traders carried maize back to Europe and introduced it to other countries. Maize spread to the rest of the world due to its ability to grow in diverse climates. Sugar-rich varieties called sweet corn are usually grown for human consumption, while field corn varieties are used for animal feed and as chemical feedstocks.
Tortilla: means "little torta" or "little cake" in Spanish; the Spanish word applies to several different foods eaten in various Spanish-speaking countries. The Spanish word is used in English for a more restricted range of foods, mainly a potato-based omelet originating in Spain, and for a flatbread made from corn or wheat originally made by Mesoamerican peoples.
Flatbread tortillas have been eaten for many centuries in Mexico, where they are a staple. More recently, other countries have begun producing them to serve the expatriate Mexican market and the growing demand for Mexican food, particularly in North America, Europe and Eastern Asia. Mexican tortillas are commonly prepared with meat to make dishes such as tacos, burritos, and enchiladas.
Tamales:A tamale (Spanish: tamal, from Nahuatl: tamalli) — or more correctly tamal — is a traditional Latin American dish made of masa (a starchy dough, usually corn-based), which is steamed or boiled in a leaf wrapper. The wrapping is discarded before eating. Tamales can themselves be filled with meats, cheese, fruits, vegetables, chilies or any preparation according to taste, and both the filling and the cooking liquid may be seasoned. Tamales have been traced back to the Ancient Mayans, who prepared them for feasts as early as the Preclassic period (1200-250 BC). Tamales originated in Mesoamerica as early as 8000 to 5000 BC. Aztec and Maya civilizations, as well as the Olmeca and Tolteca before them, used tamales as portable food, often to support their armies, but also for hunters and travelers. There have also been reports of tamal use in the Inca Empire long before the Spanish visited the New World.
Pozole: is a ritually significant, traditional pre-Columbian soup or stew from Mexico. Pozole was mentioned in Fray Bernardino de Sahagún's "General History of the Things of New Spain" circa 1500 CE. It is made from nixtamalized cacahuazintle corn, with meat, usually pork, chicken, turkey, pork rinds, chili peppers, and other seasonings and garnish. Vegetarian and vegan versions also exist. After colonization by the Spaniards, the ingredients of pozole changed, but the staple corn remained. It is a typical dish in various states such as Sinaloa, Michoacán, Guerrero, Jalisco, Morelos, México and Distrito Federal. Pozole is often served in Mexican restaurants in the American Southwest.
Ritual significance:Since corn was a sacred plant for the Aztecs and other inhabitants of Mesoamerica, pozole was made to be consumed on special occasions. The conjunction of corn (usually whole hominy kernels) and meat in a single dish is of particular interest to scholars because the ancient Mexicans believed the gods made humans out of masa (cornmeal dough). According to research by the National Institute of Anthropology and History and the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, on these special occasions, the meat used in the pozole was human. After the prisoners were killed by having their hearts torn out in a ritual sacrifice, the rest of the body was chopped and cooked with corn. The meal was shared among the whole community as an act of religious communion. After the conquest, when cannibalism was banned, pork became the staple meat as it "tasted very similar", according to a Spanish priest.

Enchilada: is a corn tortilla rolled around a filling and covered with a chili pepper sauce. Enchiladas can be filled with a variety of ingredients, including meat, cheese, beans, potatoes, vegetables, seafood or combinations. The Real Academia Española defines the word enchilada, as used in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and Nicaragua, as a rolled maize tortilla stuffed with meat and covered with a tomato and chile sauce. Enchilada is the past participle of Spanish enchilar, "to add chile pepper to", literally to "season (or decorate) with chile."Enchiladas originated in Mexico, where the practice of rolling tortillas around other food dates back at least to Mayan times. The people living in the lake region of the Valley of Mexico traditionally ate corn tortillas folded or rolled around small fish. Writing at the time of the Spanish conquistadors, Bernal Díaz del Castillo documented a feast enjoyed by Europeans hosted by Hernán Cortés in Coyoacán, which included foods served in corn tortillas. (Note that the native Nahuatl name for the flat corn bread used was tlaxcalli; the Spanish give it the name tortilla.) In the 19th century, as Mexican cuisine was being memorialized, enchiladas were mentioned in the first Mexican cookbook, El cocinero mexicano ("The Mexican Chef"), published in 1831, and in Mariano Galvan Rivera's Diccionario de Cocina, published in 1845.

Avokado:The avocado (Persea americana) is a tree native to Central Mexico, classified in the flowering plant family Lauraceae along with cinnamon, camphor and bay laurel. Avocado or alligator pear also refers to the fruit (botanically a large berry that contains a single seed) of the tree, which may be pear-shaped, egg-shaped or spherical.Avocados are commercially valuable and are cultivated in tropical and Mediterranean climates throughout the world. They have a green-skinned, pear-shaped fleshy body that ripens after harvesting. Trees are partially self-pollinating and often are propagated through grafting to maintain a predictable quality and quantity of the fruit.

Guacamole: is an avocado-based sauce that originated with the Aztecs in Mexico. In addition to it's use in modern Mexican cuisine it has also become part of American cuisine as a dip, condiment and salad ingredient. It is traditionally made by mashing ripe avocados with a molcajete (mortar and pestle) with sea salt. Some recipes call for tomato, onion, lime juice, chili, yogurt and/or additional seasonings.

Chocolate: is a raw or processed food produced from the seed of the tropical Theobroma cacao tree. Cacao has been cultivated for at least three millennia in Mexico, Central and South America. Its earliest documented use is around 1100 BC. The majority of the Mesoamerican people made chocolate beverages, including the Aztecs, who made it into a beverage known as xocolātl, a Nahuatl word meaning "bitter water". The seeds of the cacao tree have an intense bitter taste, and must be fermented to develop the flavor.After fermentation, the beans are dried, then cleaned, and then roasted, and the shell is removed to produce cacao nibs. The nibs are then ground to cocoa mass, pure chocolate in rough form. Because this cocoa mass usually is liquefied then molded with or without other ingredients, it is called chocolate liquor. The liquor also may be processed into two components: cocoa solids and cocoa butter. Unsweetened baking chocolate (bitter chocolate) contains primarily cocoa solids and cocoa butter in varying proportions. Much of the chocolate consumed today is in the form of sweet chocolate, combining cocoa solids, cocoa butter or other fat, and sugar. Milk chocolate is sweet chocolate that additionally contains milk powder or condensed milk. White chocolate contains cocoa butter, sugar, and milk but no cocoa solids.

Mole (sauce) : is the generic name for a number of sauces used in Mexican cuisine, as well as for dishes based on these sauces. Outside of Mexico, it often refers to a specific sauce which is known in Spanish by the more specific name mole poblano. In contemporary Mexico, the term is used for a number of sauces, some quite dissimilar to one another, including black, red, yellow, colorado, green, almendrado, and pipián. The sauce is most popular in the central and southern regions of the country with those from Puebla and Oaxaca the best known, but 60% of the mole eaten in the country comes from San Pedro Atocpan near Mexico City. The popularity of the sauce, especially at major celebrations, is such that 99% of all Mexicans have tried at least one version of it. It is sometimes in English spelled "molé".
Atole :Atole (Mexican Spanish, from Nahuatl atolli) is a traditional masa-based Mexican and Central American (where it is known as atol) hot drink. Chocolate atole is known as champurrado or atole. It is typically accompanied with tamales, and very popular during the Christmas holiday season (Las Posadas). The drink typically includes masa (corn hominy flour), water, piloncillo (unrefined cane sugar), cinnamon, vanilla and optional chocolate or fruit. The mixture is blended and heated before serving. Atole is made by toasting masa on a comal (griddle), then adding water that was boiled with cinnamon sticks. The resulting blends vary in texture, ranging from a porridge to a very thin liquid consistency. Atole can also be prepared with rice flour or oatmeal in place of masa. In northern Mexico, there is also a variation using pinole (sweetened toasted corn meal). Although atole is one of the traditional drinks of the Mexican holiday Day of the Dead, it is very common during breakfast and dinnertime at any time of year. It is usually sold as street food. In Northern Mexico and South Texas, Atole is a traditional comfort food. It is often eaten as a breakfast or an after dinner snack on cold days. Other derivations exist. In New Mexico, blue corn atole is finely ground cornmeal toasted for cooking, consumed as a grainy porridge-style drink served warm, usually sweetened with sugar and/or thinned with milk. It is usually served at breakfast like cream of wheat or oatmeal. It is said that elders would drink Atole because it gave them energy and if a mother is nursing it gives her more milk. Salvadoran varieties include atol shuco ("dirty" atol, a reference to its darker color), particularly popular in the Cabañas region. The Nicaraguan homologue is pinolillo. In some parts of Honduras, fresh corn is ground and the expressed liquid is used as the base (instead of masa flour).

Arroz con Pollo

1 Tablespoon Vegetable oil
1 Pound Chicken breasts, (boneless, skinless), cut into thick strips
1 Medium Onion; chopped
1 Medium Green pepper; chopped1 Medium Red pepper; chopped1 Garlic clove; minced
1 Teaspoon Chili powder
1/2 Teaspoon Ground cumin
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 Teaspoon Ground black pepper
1/4 Teaspoon Turmeric
1 Cup Uncooked rice
1 Medium Tomato; seeded & chopped
2 Cup Chicken broth

Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Cook chicken 8 to 10 minutes or until brown on all sides. Remove from pan. Add onion, green pepper, red pepper, garlic, chili powder, cumin, salt, pepper and turmeric. Cook 2 to 3 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Add rice and tomatoes; stir until rice is lightly browned. Add broth; bring mixture to a boil, place chickenpieces on top of mixture. Cover and simmer 20 minutes. To serve, fluff withfork stirring in chicken pieces.

Baked Chimichangas

Almond Red Sauce; *(see note)
1 Pound Ground Beef
1 Clove Garlic; Finely Chopped
1/4 Cup Raisins
1 Teaspoon Red Chiles; Ground
1/4 Teaspoon Cinnamon; Ground
4 Ounce Green Chiles; Chopped, 1 can
8 Flour Tortillas; *(see note)
2 Teaspoon Margarine Or Butter;Softened
Habanero Pepper Sauce *(see note)
1/4 Cup Onion; Finely Chopped, 1 sm.
1/4 Cup Almonds; Slivered
1 Teaspoon Red Wine Vinegar
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/8 Teaspoon Cloves; Ground
1 Cup Tomato; Chopped, 1 medium
1 Egg; Large, Beaten

Tortillas should be 10−inches in diameter and be warmed. Prepare Almond Red Sauce and Habanero Pepper Sauce; reserve. Cook and stir ground beef, onion and garlic in 10−inch skillet over medium heat until beef is brown; drain. Stir in remaining ingredients except tortillas, egg and margarine. Heat to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer uncovered for 20 minutes; stir occasionally. Heat oven to 500 Degrees F. Spoon about 1/2 cup of beef mixture onto the center of each tortilla. Fold one end of the tortilla up about 1 inch over the beef mixture; fold right and lift sides over folded end, overlapping. Fold remaining end down; brush edges with egg to seal brush each chimichanga with margarine. Place seam sides down in ungreased jelly roll pan, 15 1/2 X 10 1/2 X 1−inch. Bake until tortillas begin to brown and filling is hot, 8 to 10 minutes. Serve with Almond Red Sauce and Habanero Pepper Sauce.
FRIED CHIMICHANGAS: Omit 2 T Butter Or Margarine. Heat vegetable oil (about 1 inch) to 365 degrees F. Fry chimichangas 2 to 3 at a time in hot oil, turning once, until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Keep warm in 300 degree F Oven.

*Note:Almond Red Sauce

1/2 Cup Slivered Almonds; Toasted
1 Cup Onion; Finely Chopped
1 Clove Garlic; Crushed
2 Teaspoon Vegetable Oil
8 Ounce Tomato Sauce; 1 can
2 Teaspoon Paprika
1 Teaspoon Red Chiles; Ground
1/4 Teaspoon Red Pepper; Ground Place almonds in food processor workbowl fitted with steel blade or in blender container; cover and process until finely ground. Cook onion and garlic in oil over medium heat, stirring frequently, until onion is tender. Stir in remaining ingredients except almonds. Heat to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer 1 minute stirring constantly; stir in almonds. Serve hot. Makes about 1 3/4 cups of sauce

*Note:Habanero Pepper Sauce

2 Cup Cups
12 Habanero chiles, stems removed, chopped
1/2 Cup Chopped onion
2 Cloves garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon Vegetable oil
1/2 Cup Chopped carrots
1/2 Cup Distilled vinegar
1/4 Cup Lime juice
Sauté the onion and garlic in the oil until soft. Add the carrots with a small amount of water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until the carrots are soft. Place the mixture and the chiles in a blender, and puree the mixture until smooth. Combine the puree with the vinegar and lime juice and simmer for 5 minutes to combine the flavors. Strain the mixture into sterilized bottles and seal.
*Note:Flour Tortillas

4 Cup All purpose flour
1−1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1−1/2 Teaspoon Baking powder
4 Teaspoon Lard or shortening
1−1/2 Cup Warm Water
Combine dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Cut in shortening. Make a well in the center and add water, a small amount at a time, to form a dough. Knead dough in bowl until smooth and elastic. Cover and wet aside for ten minutes. Form dough into egg sized balls and flatter between palms. With rolling pin, roll each ball into a 6 inch circle, about 1/8 inch thick. Cook on preheated ungreased skillet over medium high heat, approx. two min. per side, until tortilla looks slightly speckled. Cover with a clean towel to keep warm and soft until served. The tortillas may be cooled and stored in plastic bags in the freezer for later use.

Baked Tamales
2 Pound Ground beef
1 Can Tomatoes (14 oz)
2 Tablespoon Chili powder OR
5 Teaspoon Ground ancho (pasilla) chile PLUS
1 Teaspoon Cumin AND
1/4 Teaspoon Cinnamon
1 Garlic clove, crushed
1 Teaspoon Salt
1 Cup Black olives
4 Cup Corn meal
2 Teaspoon Salt
8 Cup Water
2 Eggs, well beaten
4 Tablespoon Butter

In skillet, sauté beef in pan until brown. Add tomatoes, chili powder, garlic, salt and olives. Cook 15 minutes.
Grease 9x13" baking dish and line bottom with 1/2 Corn Meal Dough. Add meat mixture and cover with remaining 1/2 Corn Meal Dough. Bake 20 minutes at 325'F. or until browned.
CORN MEAL DOUGH: Add corn meal and salt to water in pot. Bring to boil and cook over medium heat until thick, 5−10 minutes. Add eggs and butter. Stir well.

Bananas Fritas
4 Firm Bananas
2 Cup Beer Batter
Oil For Deep−Frying
1/2 Lemon, Juice of
1/2 Cup Honey
1 Pint Vanilla Ice Cream or
1 Cup Flavored Whipped Cream

Peel bananas & split each into 3 sections lengthwise. Dip the sections into beer batter, shake off excess batter, and slip the bananas into 350 degree cooking oil. Cook on all sides, turning carefully, until batter is crisp and golden. Arrange fried bananas on 4 dessert plates and sprinkle with lemon juice and honey. Top with ice cream or flavored whipped cream and serve immediately. If you use whipped cream as a topping flavor it with a little sugar and almond extract.

Burritos Con Huevos
1−1/2 pounds flank steak, * see note
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
2 cups hot water
3 yellow onions
1 large bell pepper
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped
2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
10 large eggs
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
8 flour tortillas
*Note:Use another cut of meat if flank steak is unavailable.
1. To prepare steak, cut into 3−4 pieces and sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Heat a very heavy pan with tight fitting lid. Add 1 tablespoon oil and brown the meat on each side.
2. Add hot water and cover tightly. Simmer on low heat for 2 to 2−1/2 hours or until meat shreds easily. Add more water during cooking if necessary. When meat is tender, shred into small bite sized pieces.
3. Cut the onions into thin slices, separate the slices into individual rings. Julienne the green pepper. Mince the jalapeno pepper (use a canned one if necessary).
4. In a large heavy skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil; add the onions and green peppers. Sauté until onions are translucent and limp. Add the chopped fresh tomato and the minced jalapeno and continuecooking for 3 minutes more.
5. Add the shredded meat, 10 eggs which have been lightly beaten, and the shredded cheese. Proceed as though you were scrambling eggs.
6. Warm the flour tortillas while cooking the filling, or quickly run each tortilla over the flame on a gas stove, just to soften. Fill each tortilla with 1/8th of the mixture. Roll the tortillas by turning one side up and folding the edges inward. Wrap the lower third in foil or waxed paper and serve immediately. Serve with sour cream and avocado.


8 Ounce Bag tortilla chips
1/2 Cup Refried beans
1/2 Cup Cheese sauce
1/4 Cup Jalapeno peppers, sliced
1/2 Cup Sliced black olives
1/2 Cup Onion, diced
1/2 Cup Tomatoes, diced
2 Cup Cheddar cheese, shredded
2 Cup Jack cheese, shredded
1/2 Cup Scallions, chopped
1/2 Cup Sour cream
1/2 Cup GUACAMOLE, favorite
1/2 Cup SALSA, favorite

Preheat oven 400 F. In 9" baking dish, spread an even layer of chips. Pour cheese sauce and beans evenly over chips. Sprinkle with jalapenos, olives,onions, and tomatoes. Top with cheese; bake 5 minutes or until cheese melts. Garnish with scallions. Serve with sour cream, guacamole and salsa.

Tacos De Machaca

1 lb. boneless beef chuck
1 cup water
6 peppercorns
1/4 medium onion
1 garlic clove
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 California chile or 1 poblano chile, roasted and peeled
OR 1 canned whole green chile
2 small tomatoes, peeled and chopped (1/2 lb.)
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
Freshly ground pepper
6 to 8 corn tortillas
1 avocado
Juice of ½ lime
1 onion, chopped
Cilantro leaves, chopped
Place meat in a large saucepan. Add water, peppercorns, ¼ onion and salt to taste. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Cover and simmer until meat is very tender, about 1−1/2 hours. Cool meat in broth. Drain, reserving 1/3 cup broth. Shred meat with 2 forks. Set aside. Mash garlic with ¼ teaspoon salt to make a paste. Heat oil in a large skillet. Add chopped onion and garlic paste. Cook until onion is tender. Cut chile into short strips. Add chile strips and tomatoes to cooked onion. Cook 3 to 4 minutes. Add meat, cumin and freshly ground pepper to taste. Cook and stir until meat is heated through. Stir in reserved broth. Taste and add salt if needed. Keep warm. Preheat oven to 350 F (175 C). Wrap tortillas in foil and place in oven until softened, about 15 minutes. Prepare salsa if making fresh. Mash avocado in a small bowl. Stir in lime juice and salt to taste. Beat until smooth. Place avocado mixture, onion, cilantro and salsa in separate bowls and set aside. For each taco, place spoonful of Machaca on a warm tortilla. Top with avocado mixture, onion, cilantro and salsa to taste. Fold tortilla around filling. Serve immediately.

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