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Mexican Bonanza! ~ Zoe’s Birthday!

June 19, 2010

Last year, my friend Artist Zoe Grice and I were talking about food and we were on about how much she enjoys Mexican cuisine and — as far as proteins go — chicken!  So, considering we’re so far apart at the moment (she lives in North-East Scotland with her adorable little girl, Annie WHO IS HAVING HER 6th BIRTHDAY TODAY!), I decided to throw a serious spread here and photograph it for her! Pictured below are the results!

I had to take a picture of the black beans I prepared BEFORE they were soaked or cooked. Organic black beans here and so gorgeous! Kinda looks like gold! :p

Full spread of what I prepared for Zoe! Arroz con Pollo (Chicken with Rice), Calabacita con Pollo (a recipe of squash, onions, corn & tomatoes stewed with chicken but one can use any protein one desires, or none at all), frijoles negros, lemon wedges, fresh flour tortillas, guacamole, salsa rojo (red salsa). All prettied up with some festive decor! :p

This salsa was smooshed up in a Molcajete. It’s a fantastic little tool I grew up using like my great grandmother (from Guadalajara, Mexico) and grandmother before me.

Salsa Rojo Recipe

2-6 Serrano or Jalapeno Peppers (I personally use Serrano but you can use any pepper you enjoy, depending on the flavor and heat desired. Serrano is hotter than Jalapeno. I also enjoy using Chile Pequin, which is fabulous to grow quite wildly at home. You just have to watch the birds. The birds LOVE eating up all my peppers so I have to be quick to harvest! :p ).
1/2 white or yellow or red onion (I prefer red because it’s a bit sweeter)
1 Tomato (pick a good sized, plump Heirloom or use 2-3 Roma or half a pint of cherry tomatoes)
6 cloves garlic
1/2 cup water (or vegetable stock, or any stock you wish if you’d like to experiment with various salsa flavors to accompany certain dishes)
2-3 tbsp. rough chopped cilantro
1/2 tsp cumin (or to taste)
Kosher or Sea Salt & Fresh Ground Black Pepper (to taste)

Begin by preparing your tomato(es) for easy peeling in this fashion. Mind you, we’re not concerned with mushy tomatoes because they’re going to get pulverized in the Molcajete anyway.
In a sauce pan, bring water or stock, peppers, tomato(es), onion and garlic to a boil till quite soft, 15-20 minutes.

Remove from heat. Peel tomato by gingerly lifting up from the perforations you made in the beginning.
Transfer items to your Molcajete with a slotted spoon, bit by bit so that not TOO MUCH water comes with. There will be enough liquid souping around in the veggies/fruits as it is. You have to mash in batches because, as you mash, volume will increase and it all could overflow. Mash in small batches till desired texture. Personally, I enjoy a few good chunks but you can entirely devastate it all if you like. By the nature of this procedure, you will remain with some chunkage, regardless. Periodically add chopped cilantro and mash along with the rest till a good mix is made.

Deposit batches in a ceramic or plastic vessel till all done. Now, we can season! Amp it up with salt, pepper and cumin to taste. Return some to Molcajete for presentation’s sake and serve immediately. Reserve the rest in the refrigerator for up to seven days.

This is a general, base recipe. Now, it’s up to YOU to get creative and mash up any and all kinds of salsas your heart desires. I even make fruit vinaigrettes  in my Molcajete, like that Raspberry one I posted a bit back. 🙂

Calabacita Con Pollo

A traditional dish here usually prepared with pork but Zoe prefers chicken so that’s what I went with! You can also make this entirely vegan as the vegetables are more than substantial.

1lb Chicken Tenders (boneless/skinless duh)
1 Onion (your choice. Here, I used White), halved and sliced thinly.
1 Large Tomato, halved and sliced thinly
4-6 Mexican Baby Squash (can also use yellow and green zucchini for prettiness), cut into thin rounds, (quarter-inch or so).
2 cups Fresh corn, shaved off the cob (Frozen is fine as those products are flash frozen at the peak of their quality but if you use canned, it’s our secret! Promise! ^_~ )
1-2 Cups stock (Used Chicken stock for this particular round of cooking but you can use whatever you want. Vegetable stock would work in a vegan preparation. Also, no harm in using water).
2-4 cloves minced garlic
1/2 cup roughly chopped cilantro
1 tbsp Azafran
1 tsp cumin, or to taste
Salt & Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste

First, combine stock and Azafran to constitute the herb and allow its color to permeate the liquid. If you want to get all haute cuisine, use saffron. :p

Add oil to stew pot. Heat on med-low. Season chicken tenders with your favorite spice. Nothing too full of sodium and careful not to over-season  or the stew will be too assertive. Personally, I make a House Seasoning of Sea Salt, Freshly Ground Black pepper, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder & dried Mexican oregano.
Gently brown chicken tenders in oil, minding not to cook fully and certainly not burn. We just want to get some color on each side and seal those seasonings on the outside.  About 3 minutes per side.
Remove and set aside under foil to keep warm.
Next, add onions and tomatoes, stir around a bit and cover. Allow to sweat out on med-low for about 4-6 minutes. Check it half way to assure no sticking. Give it a stir if need-be.
Add a splash of the stock and stir.
Uncover and add the squash rounds, pinwheeling them all around in a bit of a pattern. Cover. Allow to stew for 8 minutes or so.
Meanwhile chop chicken tenders in half-inch pieces.
Uncover pot. Add garlic and stir together with squash, onions and tomatoes. Careful not to destroy the squash! It’s getting delicate but it’s entirely fragile yet. Just be gentle.
Layer chicken over all that, then corn. Cover and allow to stew in own juices for 8-10 minutes over the same med-low heat. Check occasionally to assure no sticking but all that steam and condensation we’re creating is helping amp all those natural juices.
Uncover. Add Remaining stock if you like this dish more soupy. Add half if you prefer it more stewy. Cover and allow to simmer for an additional 20 minutes.
Uncover. Check for seasoning. Re-season if need-be. Add cilantro, stir. Allow cilantro to steep for a good 3-5 minutes or so and serve immediately. Use a slotted spoon for primary solids on a plate or a ladle or serving spoon for serving a more soupy dish in bowls. Goes excellent with warm tortillas! Or even tortilla chips. :p
Serves 4-6. Adjust ingredient quantities based on guests.

Guacamole!

6 Organic Haas Avocadoes (yes, I spell it in accordance with other words of the English language like “potatoes” and “tomatoes.” Apparently, both “avocados” and “avocadoes” are acceptable but considering this is where the “proper” spelling originates, I’d prefer to stick to English rules and go with the “~oes.” Additionally, I suppose I could just fall back on “Ahuacate”.)
1/2 Diced Red Onion (less if you really aren’t into raw onion.
1 Tomato, diced
1-2 tbsp. cilantro, roughly chopped
Salt, Pepper & cumin to taste
Juice of half a lemon, (less if you find the acid to assertive)

This needs to go quick! First, split, seed and scoop all your avocado into a huge bowl. Immediately add lemon juice and get to mashing it all up. The acid in the lemon juice will prevent oxidation! That means your guacamole won’t turn brown!
Add diced onion, tomato, cilantro, salt, pepper and cumin, stir to combine and serve or reserve for later use.

Chalupas!

I did these on the fly but here’s how I enjoy a crisp, refreshing chalupa. They’re even better with guacamole instead of beans but here I fried some corn tortillas in oil till crispy and smothered them with mashed pinto beans. Topped with ensalada (chopped romaine lettuce & diced tomatoes) and finished with grated Manchego cheese.

Dessert! Happy Birthday Zoe Lava Kake Kaplosion!

I wish these had come out more lava-y but ce la vie! They were yummy! :p I baked a of couple chocolate lava cakes from scratch, dressed them with drizzled powdered sugar, pipes of home made whipped cream, orange/lemon/lime zest & ribbons, blackberries and a huge carved mandarin orange with Zoe’s name carved into it!

Getting our drink on! Strawberry & Mexican Tuna Margarita (not the fish! The fruit of a cactus, the prickly pear)! :p

Margarita made w/ Gran Patron tequila & a splash of Moet White Star champagne. Strawberry & Lime garnish w/ lime zest. It was soooooo good! Just blend the strawberry, prickly pear, crushed ice and tequila together then add a splash of champagne on the top and stir GENTLY to incorporate. Garnish and have at it!

That last pic is the Prickly Pear, split. It really recalls a pomegranate. Here’s all about it. And how to peel them.

As you can see, there’s a price to pay for being my friend! I’m in the habit of spoiling people I care about so if we’re at all on good terms, chances are you will end up being stuffed to the point of forfeit! At least you’ll die happy. And full! :p

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