Monday, August 30, 2010

First Days In Mexico City and Tequisquiapan, Querétaro


On a whim I decided to come visit my family in Mexico. I was born in Mexico City, D.F., but lived in Tequisquiapan, Querétaro until I was about 3. This is a city about an hr and a half north of Mexico City in the state of Querétaro. My dad is 1 of 10 and the only one living in the US so you can imagine how much family I still have here.

I arrived on Thurdsay and was picked up my my aunt Mari Luz and went straight to my grandmothers house. I don't think there is anywhere in this world where people can eat better than at my grandmothers house. After she re-introduced me to a 90 year old nanny I had when I was a littler girl, who is still working for my family by the way, we sat around on the couch talking and eating our apitizers of cheetos, cheese and nuts. We then sit down, at 2:30, for luch and begin with a soup I always eat there and no where else, they call it simply pasta soup because its a tomato/chicken broth with tiny round balls of pasta. We eat it with lime and Jugo Maggie. Then our main course is Budin Azteca or Puddin Azteca which is a traditional mexican dish in which they lightly fry some corn tortillas and layer them flat with cheese and chicken. The whole dish is about 3 inches tall and bathed in a delish green salsa. We ate this with white rice flavored with cuilantro and refried beans.

This is one from a restaurant because I did not have my phone. Imagine this dish, but taller and made by your Mexican grandmother...

Of course dessert was my favorite but I have no idea what it was! When it came out it looked like a large creme brulee... What looked to me like the carmalized sugar was in fact mango and inside was a sort of vanilla ice cream with coockie pieces at the bottom. WOW and YUM! I'm not even a huge fan of mango!

I had a similar dessert dish at my cousin Fernandas house that was plain yogurt with a jelly pack added to make the yogurt like a jello or mouse. It was then placed in a beautiful mold and when it came out it was topped with a sauce made solely from Mango. Talk about the new healthy dessert I am going to play around with when I get home...

Now that I have told you about how amazing the food is at my grandmothers house I want to talk about the way people here eat, because I love it! Breakfast is almost always 3 courses; first fruit, then some sort of eggs with tortillas and beans (I have been eating these cactus tortillas or, tortillas de nopal, my cousin Ana Luz is eating while shes dieting and they are AWESOME!).

Here are Quesadillas with Tortillas de Nopal. You can add anything you want to your quesadillas, we eat them here with queso (cheese) panela or Oaxaca. If you really want to eat authentic try them with squash blossems or huitlacoche (corn smut). You can find it in any grocery store that sells Mexican goods, the canned ones are very good in quesadillas.
Papaya, my favorite fruit to eat here in Mexico. Try it by itself or with some lime and sugar.

Then there is always some sort of bread with fruit jelly. When we were at the ranch just outside of  Tequisquiapan the jelly is made from the fruit they grow there. Lunch, as I have demonstrated when explaining the food prepared at my grandmothers, is also three courses almost always starting with soup and ending with dessert. Here in Mexico lunch is not until 2 or 3 pm so a big breakfast is always eaten. Lunch is the biggest meal of the day and is when most people get together. Dinner then is usually pretty late, 9 or 10 pm and is small, perhaps some quesadillas and fruit or some tacos.


I could not have picked a better time to come to Mexico, especially Tequisquiapan. The weather is beautiful here! We swam in the pool during the day and had to wear a light sweater at night.

 And not to mention all the fruit was falling right off the trees. They have peaches, grapes, pomegranates, asparagos, artichokes (they werent ready yet but I saw the plants), strawberries, figs, apricots, feilds of sqash, cactus or nopales filled with fruit or tunas, and those are just what I can remember.


Squash with blossoms



Freshley picked grapes


Ana Luz, my cousin, her boyfriend Ricardo and I rode horses for hours and picked tiney peaches off the trees along the road as well as got off and ate beautiful green tunas off the cactus. They also have corn that is taller than the trees. I've never seen corn so tall and we grow it at my ranch in Texas!

Me (left) and Ana Luz  holding all the horses in front of the squash field with the mountains in the background. That little pony im holding on my right was my valient steed for the weekend and Ana's big grey horse is her new one. Let me tell ya, its not easy trying to arrange a pregnant mare and a pony for a picture in a field of grass that green.

Nopales are one of my favorite foods in the world. If you can get past the thorns and the slime they are well worth the effort. Here in mexico they eat them countless ways, in sauces with meat, as tortillas and in tacos to simply name a few. My favorite way is for breakfast with beans and eggs in a taco. I really really recommend you try them. Also the tunas or frut are delish also. Even though the red ones are shown here the best are the green. And don't mind the seeds, just dig in but don't bite down too hard.

Although the town has grown the market in Tequisquiapan is just as I rememerd. We bought fresh huitlacoche (corn smut) from an Indian woman in the food market and then walked through the market for handmade crafts that were packed full of bread and tortilla baskets. I bought some huaraches, or hand made Indian sandals, for me and my 11 year old sister Sallie Jane. We then made our way into the town square where all of the 100+ year old Indian woman sat in the shade with their blankts filled with handmade dolls, dresses and other arts. As a college graduation girft my aunt Lola bought me a beautiful shirt and I bought myself a dress with birds and flowers. We also bought my dad, Alberto, some cajeta and candies made with cajeta. Cajeta is like a mexican caramel sauce but typically made with goats milk.

(You can make cajeta at home by taking a can of sweetened condensed milk and placing it in boiling water for 2 hrs. I recommend eating it warm on vailla ice cream or on bread.)

I'm saving the best for last, CHONGOS. Chongos is a dessert made here in Mexico that got its origon in Zamora de Hidalgo, Michoacán. It is fresh milk heated up then you add the tablets that cut the milk or allow it to separagte. Then once it has separated and hardened you cut it, add plain sugar and mexican cinnomon (the best in the world) and  boil it. It then becomes sort of balls with its own sauce. I MEAN WOW! (this is also a vague description of how you make it that my grandmothe and aunts told me so I may not have gotten it quite right.. PLEASE look it up and TRY IT if you ever have the chance! Here is a picture.



Tuesday, August 3, 2010


Hey fellow food lovers! My name is Catherine Manterola, I am 23, I just graduated College and the only thing I know is I'm hungry! I worked in a kitchen for a little while and I realized that although I do love to cook I love to eat more. So in order to eat good food I go out, I travel and I cook. What I would like to do with this blog is talk about my adventures in the kitchen as well as out in the world. So let get started...

I was at the grocery store the other day and I love to see what's on sale, I get a lot of inspiration that way. Well what I found was really exciting! Cornish Game Hens! I have never had them and I am a bit weird about eating poltury off the bone but seeing 2 individually sized birds packaged together for $4.99 lb HOW COULD I REFUSE?!?!
I have always had this thought that it would be really great to have a pre-thanksgiving dinner party with friends and serve either duck or hens v turkey, so I decided I would cook them like I do my Thanksgiving turkey. First they went into a brine of water, salt (the 2 key componants to a brine), sugar, garlic, bay leaves, and juniper berries. I left them for about 6 hrs, then took them out and whiped them down with a paper towl. Then, super easy, put them on a rack in a raosting pan (I added a bit of water to the pan so the drippings would not burn and send nasty steam up to my hends) rubbed them down with butter, olive oil, herbes de provence and thyme. 375 for 1 hr, then about 5 min under the broiler to crisp the skin.
I served them whole with mashed potatos and lima beans. THEY WERE AWESOME! I didn't even mind the bones...