Food: Fish Tacos

Making fish tacos is the closest I feel to being at the beach in Mexico. 

fishtacos1 Because some of my best food memories is eating fish tacos on the beach in Mexico.

Somebody said that it’s not the food itself but all the bonds and memories the food represents.

But I never follow a set recipe for tacos because there are so many variations.  These are closest to typical baja style with a little twist and without the sauce. Okay, maybe they’re just my own version.

Buy small street tortillas (they’re easily found in many supermarkets now – I prefer corn to flour) and make pico de gallo from scratch.

Pico de Gallofishtacos2

  • Chopped fresh red + yellow grape tomatoes, jalapeño, sweet maui onion, handful of cilantro, sea salt + squeeze of fresh key lime.
  • Sprinkle chili/lime seasoning blend on both sides of fish (I used Mexican seabass but you can substitute any white fish). Grill until done – a couple minutes per side. Divide fish among warmed tortillas and add pico de gallo, shredded purple cabbage, extra salsa if you like, top with more cilantro, sliced avocado, squeeze of lime & fold in half.  Add a side of chopped mango for added sweetness.

Buen apetito!

They’re fairly fast and fun to make and definitely delish!

Photos: d. king

 

 

 

Food – slow cooked Mexican Mole

Aside from Tamales, Mole (MOH-lay) is one of my favourite Mexican dishes. 

my mole sauce. Plate brought back from a day trip from San Diego to Ensenada (pretty coastal city in Mexico, the third-largest in Baja California.)

my mole sauce on one of the plates I brought back from a day trip from San Diego to Ensenada (a pretty coastal city in Mexico, the third-largest in Baja California) for great Mexican seafood

Mole is Mexico’s national dish although many Mexican restaurants don’t even have it on their menu.  It may simply be a sauce but one that is not so simple to make. 

 NEVER say NEVER!  I said I’d never make it again but I did, just the other day.  I made the most delicious Mexican Mole with chicken in my slow cooker.  I have to brag about it because it was really as good as any I’ve had before.  Wow…what a statement to make.  I’m good with it though because it really was.  The only other time I made mole was when a Mexican friend came to my house and instructed me how to.  It was a lengthy process that I wasn’t prepared for with too many ingredients, too much assembling, washing, soaking, chopping, frying, blending, mess and cleanup involved.  When I told another Mexican friend that I recently made mole she was surprised.  She said, “hell, I just open up a can of  DOÑA MARÍA®  and serve it over chicken and riceToo much work to make it from scratch.” 

 but then;

I found a recipe that intrigued me because it involved making it in a slow cooker.  My slow cooker has made it out of the garage and occupies priority space on my countertop now as I’ve re-discovered some fantastic flavourful dishes to make in it.  Anyway, I adapted the original recipe slightly (see my notes, it helps to be resourceful) using only what I had in house.  I didn’t go out to pick up any ingredients as I had pretty much everything on hand including the chicken breasts and I felt lazy.  I was ready to attempt it again.  It was worth it. Here goes:

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 12) *my notes: (I used a package of 8 skinless, boneless chicken breasts cut in half but gave one of them to my dog sans chipotle, so actually 7)
  • Coarse salt
  • 1 can (28 ounces) whole tomatoes
  • 1 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped *my notes (I used good quality dehydrated chopped onion instead which worked well when rubbed onto the chicken).
  • 2 dried ancho chiles, stemmed *my notes (didn’t have ancho – used extra chipotle chile in adobo sauce instead – you can find the cans in the exotic food section of almost any store and once you open it, it tends to keep a long time refrigerated).
  • 1 large chipotle chile in adobo sauce *my notes (see above – I used less than half a can in total).
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • 1/4 cup raisins

3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (1/2 cup)  *my notes (I only had unsweetened, semi-sweet and 70% so I used semi-sweet chocolate chips but just a bit less than ½ cup since they’re sweeter).  Later I added a small handful of the 70% (melted first in the microwave) to make the colour darker & add richness.  “I prefer my men, chocolate, and coffee to be rich.”  Ha, couldn’t resist saying that.

  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled *my notes (I used good quality minced garlic from California – also rubbed on the chicken).
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Fresh cilantro leaves, for serving *my notes (I used chopped green onion)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Recipe says to first season chicken with salt *My Notes (I rubbed coarse kosher salt, minced garlic, chopped dehydrated onion and a bit of *McCormick Cocoa Chili Blend “great new find” on the chicken pieces) and place in a 5-to-6-quart slow cooker.20150925_115629
  2. In a blender (or preferably food processor), puree tomatoes, onion, ancho and chipotle chiles, almonds, raisins, chocolate, garlic, oil, cumin, and cinnamon until smooth.mole2
  3. Add tomato mixture to slow cooker, cover, and cook on high until chicken is tender, 4 hours (or 8 hours on low). *my notes (I started 2 hours on high, and switched to low for 4 hours). I added extra dry garlic & onion sprinkles to the mix to make up for the lack of fresh.  This coming from someone who just finished using fresh garlic braids from Gilroy, the garlic capital of California.
  4. Serve chicken and sauce over rice, topped with cilantro. Tortillas optional.mole1

COOK’S NOTES

As you can see, i adapted the recipe quite a bit for what I had on hand – but it worked out fabulously.  be careful to use the *right chocolate though.  you can substitute semi-sweet for bittersweet but only if you must, never with unsweetened or milk chocolate. I served it over rice with tiny tortillas (warmed up in the oven) on the side.  You may want to try the original knowing that you can do either.

*Substituting Chocolate

The good news is this: bittersweet and semisweet are very similar. Bittersweet chocolate is often now labeled “dark chocolate” and clearly lists the percentage of chocolate. That percentage tells you how sweet the chocolate will be: chocolate labeled “70% chocolate” contains 30% sugar, “60% chocolate” contains 40% sugar, and so on.  Semisweet chocolate tends to be higher in sugar than bittersweet or dark chocolate, but there can be overlap.

The bottom line: if your recipe calls for bittersweet chocolate, you can use dark or semisweet, and when using semisweet, you can go just a little light on the sugar (for baking purposes that is).

Have you made Mole?

Original recipe: Martha Stewart

Food – Oaxacan classic Red Mole Sauce

Oaxaca, to Mexican food lovers and cooks is to perhaps what Florence is to Art Aficionados. 

laolla2This classic dish (served with rice) is from the restaurant La Olla, in Oaxaca.  Each family recipe is slightly different but we think you’ll really like their version.

La Olla

La Olla

Oaxacan Red Mole Sauce (Mole Coloradito)

This is a lot of work (see notes below) but well worth the effort.  For taste and overall outcome, most would rate this recipe overall 5 out of 5 stars.  But you be the judge!

Ingredients:

  • 4 skinless chicken breasts, bone-in.
  • 1/2 medium white onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 5 *guajillo chilies
  • 10 red ancho chilies
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 2 bread rolls, sliced
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1tablespoon thyme
  • 1 tablespoon marjoram (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 1/2 cup chocolate, cut in pieces
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable shortening, divided
  • 10 almonds
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 3 medium tomatoes, cooked
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • cooked rice(optional)

Directions:

1. Chicken: Cook in just enough water to cover the breasts (approx. 4-6 cups), with garlic, onion and salt on medium heat for 45 minutes. Check to make sure that the chicken is cooked through.

2.  Mole sauce: 

3. Wash the chiles with a damp cloth, remove the stems of the chiles, slit open with a knife and remove the seeds and veins. Toast the chiles on both sides in large frying pan over high heat, making sure that they do not burn.

4. Soak the chiles in boiling water to soften them for about 10 minute Meanwhile, fry the almonds in 3 tbls. of the shortening on medium heat for 5 min., or until they are a golden color. Take them out and set aside.

5. Next fry the raisins until they puff up and the skin browns a bit, then remove and strain in a sieve. Turn the heat down a bit, and fry the sesame seeds in the same oil, adding a little salt to prevent them from jumping from pan.

6. Once golden, remove and store on an absorbent paper towel. Still in the same oil, fry the slices of bread, until they are golden. Remove and put on an absorbent paper towel. On a dry pan or skittle roast the garlic, onion and tomato until they are nicely toasted with black spots.

7. In a blender, grind the chiles with a half cup of water, and add more water as necessary to blend. Once the mixture is smooth, pour into a saucepan and fry with one tbsp of the shortening for 10 minute on medium heat. Stirring occasionally to ensure that it does not stick to the pan.

8. Next, blend both the roasted and fried ingredients together, until smooth. Blend the tomatoes and strain through a colander and add into the chile mixture. Now add the cinnamon sick, thyme, marjoram(if using) and the oregano. Cook for 5 more minutes. Add the chicken broth, salt, sugar and chocolate on medium heat, stirring occasionally. Remove cinnamon stick. Cool for 15 minutes. Pour the chicken in a serving dish, serve with rice.laolla4

For the chocolate:

The chocolate mentioned as an ingredient is Oaxacan chocolate not unsweetened or semi-sweet chocolate. Oaxacan chocolate is a mix of Cacao, sugar, cinnamon, and sometimes vanilla so substituting with semi-sweet, unsweetened or similar chocolates will not produce the desired flavor.

If you can get it one of the best is *Chocolate Mayordomo which is excellent but a bit pricey. A distant second would be Chocolate Ibarra or Chocolate La Abuelita both readily available at most large supermarkets in the Latin food sections.

*Guajillo dried chiles, a must for the Mexican pantry. This sweet, thick fleshed chile is used in salsas, chile sauces, soups and stews. Guajillo chiles are available whole, dried or ground. You can substitute 1 teaspoon ground gaujillo for 1 whole chile.

Since this is a lot of work why not double the recipe and save the extra mole for other occasions. Mole freezes exceedingly well.  Make a large batch, divide into single servings and freeze them on a tray before packing in freezer bags.

Good luck. Let me know how it turns out.

Spinach salad with hearts of watermelon and jicama

Spinach salad with hearts of watermelon and jicama