Chocolate was the ancient Aztec
“food of the gods” drink—only the
royal court and high priests indulged. Aztecs dissolved hand-ground
cacao beans in water flavored with chiles. Today’s Mexican
hot chocolate is still a rustic drink made with sweetened
water or milk and retains a coarsely stone ground, earthy
Makes 1 quart (4 to 6 servings):
1 quart water or milk (whole, low-fat or nonfat)
3 Mexican chocolate tablets, such as Ibarra or La
(3 ounces each),
coarsely chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
In a medium saucepan, warm one cup of the water or
milk with the chocolate over low-medium heat to melt the chocolate.
Stir in the remaining liquid and bring the water to boil,
or the milk to simmer.
2. Off heat, pour the chocolate into a jarro
de barro (Mexican clay pot with a rounded bottom
half and narrow top section to keep chocolate from splashing
out) and beat the liquid vigorously with a traditional molinillo
(Mexican hand-carved wooden chocolate foamer). Or, foam the
hot chocolate in a deep saucepan off the heat with a whisk,
hand mixer, or electric hand mixer until the top is covered
3. Ladel into
mugs and serve immediately while bubbles remain on top.
Add canela (pure Ceylon cinnamon),
pure vanilla, powdered almonds or mild chile powder to the
chocolate along with the one cup liquid in step 1.
Elevate classic rice pilaf
with flavor layers of toasted garlic and pepitas (shelled,
green pumpkin seeds), fresh herbs and lime. Try this
recipe anytime you want a flavorful rice dish with seafood
For 6 Servings :
1 1/2 cups long-grain white
3 cups canned low-salt chicken broth
1 lime, zested then juiced
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons chopped garlic
1/4 cup toasted pepitas (shelled, green pumpkin seeds)
1 cup chopped, mixed fresh herbs, a combination of at
least two: cilantro, flat-leaf parsley,
and slightly anise-flavored tarragon
1. Place rice in a
strainer. Rinse under cold water until the water runs clear,
then drain thoroughly.
2. Heat broth and lime juice (reserve the
zest) to boil in a saucepan.
3. Heat the oil in another saucepan over
medium heat. Add the garlic, sauté until golden brown
and sticky. Stir in the rice to coat each grain with oil.
Pour the hot broth over the rice, add the salt, then bring
back to boil. Cover, reduce the heat to the lowest simmer,
and simmer 25 minutes. Turn off the heat and do not remove
the lid for 15 minutes. Fluff the rice with a fork while adding
the crunchy pepitas, herbs and lime zest.
An ancho chile is a dried poblano
chile, the large, mild, thick-skinned green chile typically
stuffed as chiles rellenos (it looks like a bell pepper with
a pointed bottom). To confuse matters, sometimes
an ancho chile is called a pasilla chile in California. Dry
anchos, dark red-black in color with a wrinkled skin, should
be pliable with a texture like fruit leather. Old, brittle
ancho chiles are still good but preparation is difficult because
they shatter when cutting off the stem end and opening out
flat to remove seeds. A guajillo chile is also large, as long
as an ancho but thinner, with firmer, smoother, terracotta
colored skin. The earthy flavored chile is generally spicier
than the ancho. These two chiles are some of the most popular
of all dried chiles in the U.S.A. and can be found in any
Mexican market and in most city supermarkets.
Makes about 3 cups:
4 dried ancho chiles
4 dried guajillo chiles
1 pound fresh tomatillos, papery coverings removed
(fresh red-ripe tomatoes may be substituted)
1 white onion, unpeeled and quartered lengthwise
2 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
(leaves and some stems)
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon sea or kosher salt
1. Clean the chiles
by wiping off all dust and any grit. Cut off the stems and
seed clumps just below the stems with scissors. Shake out
seeds. Cut a slit from the stem to point of each. Open out
flat and scrape off remaining seeds and veins running lengthwise.
2. Heat a griddle or heavy skillet and toast
the chiles until their color changes, about 15 seconds. Turn
and lightly toast the other side, pressing down with a spatula.
Immediately transfer to a saucepan, cover with hot water and
bring to a simmer. Turn off the heat and soak for 5 minutes,
longer if the chiles were old and brittle. Strain and discard
the water. Grind the chiles in a molcajete y mano
(Mexican lava rock mortar and pestle), or pulse in a blender
3. Place the tomatillos, onion and garlic
on the hot griddle. Toast, turning with tongs until black
spots appear all over the vegetables. Remove from the heat
and cool enough to handle.
4. Cut the stem ends out of the tomatillos,
keeping the blackened skin intact for a rustic taste and appearance.
Grind with a molcajete y mano or
pulse in a blender or processor. Remove the root ends and
skin from the onion and garlic. Chop coarsely and add with
the cilantro, sugar and salt to the grinder and grind or pulse
to a rustic textured table salsa. May be made a day ahead
and refrigerated, but always serve at room temperature.
|| Ceviche Appetizer with Creamy
Avocado & Crispy Tortilla Chips
Like all raw fish dishes, this
luxuriously textured ceviche from Puerto Vallarta requires
the freshest fish at the market. Almost any saltwater fish
will do, and the appetizer is best with a mixture of two
seafood varieties for superb taste and texture.
1 pound very fresh fish. Choose
2 varieties with different textures,
such as 1/2 pound
halibut, snapper or bass combines well
with 1/2 pound firmer
yellowtail, tuna, shrimp or scallops
1/2 cup lime juice (12 limes) made from Mexican limes
(a.k.a. Key limes) if possible
1 white onion, finely chopped
3 stemmed jalapeño or serrano chiles, finely chopped
(do not seed)
2 red-ripe plum tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
1/4 teaspoon sea or kosher salt
8 grinds of black pepper
2 Hass avocados, ripe but not soft, diced into 1/2-inch
1 head butter lettuce, leaves separated, washed and dried
1 bag bought or homemade salted, corn tortilla chips
1 bottle Mexican hot sauce, such as Cholula, Tapatio
or Bufalo brands
1. Cut the seafood
into 1/2-inch cubes and put into a non-aluminum bowl. Pour
the lime juice over and stir gently. Cover the bowl with
plastic wrap. Marinate for 1 hour in the refrigerator, depending
on the density of the fish, until barely translucent when
a piece is cut open.
2. Drain the fish in a large strainer and
discard juices. Return to the bowl.
Note: The fish can be refrigerated an additional 30 minutes after the juice is
drained off, tightly covered with plastic wrap.
3. Mix in the onion, half the chopped chiles,
tomatoes, cilantro, salt and pepper. Gently fold in the avocados.
Taste for seasoning, adding more chiles as desired.
To serve: Center an attractive lettuce leaf on each plate or in each stemmed dessert dish.
Top with a portion of ceviche. Surround with crisp tortilla chips and pass a bottle of your favorite Mexican hot sauce.