Puerto Escondido – Salsa Verde con Piña

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There are certain meals that slap you out of a waking sleep. I remember the exact moment I first tasted this salsa verde con piña. I was in Sayulita, a sleepy little surf town with an easy break, just close enough to California for ex-pats to drive down and just far enough to keep away the droves of tourists. I had only been drifting around Mexico for a few months, my Spanish was barely passable, and I was living out of a backpack. After hitchhiking to the Pacific coast with a girl from landlocked Guanajuato, we had been lazing on the beach, licking the salt off each other’s napes, and drinking long-necked Pacificos for a week.

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Sayulita is not the culinary capital of Mexico; it’s not even the culinary capital of Nayarit. We walked up from the beach to the main drag in a haze of heat and humidity, and plunked ourselves down on stools under the surfboard awning at another one of the beach-themed taquerias that you find everywhere from San Diego to Puerto Escondido. We ordered the classic deep fried white fish tacos  served with a ‘crema’ that is usually watered down mayonnaise. Our expectations were low.

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A day earlier, we had smoked mota and walked through a forest so thick with mangoes that they were plunking into the soil around our bare feet., then lay down on the black sand beach and scooped the dripping flesh from the fruit with our bare hands. The rich, pregnant taste of the mangoes had been ethereal.  So when I reached for an American style squirt bottle of a yellowish salsa verde at a sidewalk taco stand, I was not expecting a life-changing bite. What I got was the sharp burn of serrano chiles, the acidic nip of tomatillos and the incredibly layered caramelized sweetness of charred pineapple. It was then, and remains now, one of the most incredible salsa I have ever tasted.

Enjoy. Provecho!

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Salsa Verde con Piña – Green Salsa with Pineapple

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Makes roughly 500ml

Ingredients

  • 6-8 tomatillos, peeled, rinsed and halved
  • 2 serrano chile peppers
  • 2 limes, juice only
  • 1 clove of garlic, preferably a small one
  • 1 fresh pineapple, peeled and sliced into wedges
  • 4 sprigs of cilantro, chopped
  • sea salt

Instructions:

  1. Grill tomatillos, garlic, serrano peppers and 1/2 of the pineapple wedges until charred.
  2. Blend in a food processor, then bring mixture to a boil in a pot. Simmer for ten minutes, season with salt.
  3. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Blend in the remaining pineapple, cilantro and lime juice. Taste and season again, if necessary.
  4. Eat on everything. It is sweet, sour and spicy amazing.

Nota: Dime si la no esta riquisimo.

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Roasted Squash Soup with Chilli Oil

This simple squash soup recipe is great for anytime in autumn or winter, and can be served chilled in warmer months. My mother, sister and other half have all made various versions of this recipe, which feature a roasted and then pureed squash. The spice combinations are endless, but I prefer to keep the additions to a minimum and let the star of the dish speak for itself. Keeping the recipe simple, and not mucking it up with a bunch of “pumpkin spices”, let’s each of your guests control the flavour with the meal time addition (or not) of a complex, smokey and garlicky chilli oil.

I do, on the other hand, love to mix and match different combinations of squash, pumpkin or any other gourd available to layer different flavours in each spoonful. My only recommendation for technique, if you’re experimenting with different gourds is to make sure you strain or sieve your finished soup because you don’t want to end up with any of the woody or stringy textures that accompany certain types of squash.

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Roasted Squash Soup with Chilli Oil

Prep time: 50 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

Makes enough for 8-10 servings, lasts for a week, and will freeze and reheat well

Ingredients:

  • 1 acorn squash
  • 1 butternut squash
  • 45ml/3 tbsp olive oil
  • 500ml/2C chicken stock (substitute vegetable stock if you’re vegan)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 15ml/1 tbsp of freshly grated ginger (half if using ginger powder)
  • Salt
  • Chilli oil (if you don’t want to make chilli oil, buy some for your pantry)

Instructions:

Prep:

  1. Preheat oven to 400F/200C. Line a baking sheet with parchment or aluminum foil.
  2. Half each squash lengthwise, then cut again into quarters. Slice each quarter into four segments, and lay out slices flat on baking sheet.
  3. Drizzle with 15ml/1 tbsp of olive oil and sprinkle to coat with salt.
  4. Roast in oven for 45 minutes.

Note: If you are uneasy about cutting into a squash, or don’t have a truly sharp knife in your kitchen, watch this video on how to cut a squash with a bread knife. If you still can’t figure it out, ask someone for help.

Cook:

  1. Bring stock to a rolling boil in a large pot.
  2. Scoop out the flesh of your squashes, reserving seeds for a snack. Discard the skin, unless you make your own stock. In which case, freeze the skin in your stock bag. If freezer scrap stock is a new concept to you, prepare to have your mind blown.
  3. Add squash, garlic clove, and grated ginger to your stock and stir until the temperature comes back to a boil.
  4. Turn down the stove to a low flame and cover with a lid. Think 20% of your stove’s maximum energy output. Simmer for at least ten minutes, and up to an hour to let the flavours marry.
  5. Remove from heat and blend the soup using an immersion blender, or food processor. If you don’t have one, please buy one. Seriously though, if you’re in a pinch, or cooking in a dormitory or at a friend’s who is incompetent in a kitchen, make sure the squash simmers for an hour, then mush out any chunks with the back of a spoon and strain through a fine sieve. Your soup should still be silky, smooth and delicious.

Note: This is a versatile soup, and the recipe can be played with a lot. If you want a rich, luscious version, use half stock and half cream, then serve with a monte au beurre, which is French for “put lots of butter in at the end”. If you’re a food nerd, read this explanation from Thomas Keller.

Prints of all the illustrations on this website are available for purchase, please use the Contact page form to contact me directly for pricing, sizing and shipping information.

Wontons in Sichuan Chili Oil

Wontons are on the menu of almost every Chinese restaurant around the world, from Los Angeles to Paris. They are an incredibly adaptable dish: steamed, boiled, deep fried or floating in soup, they are a bite-sized package of delicious meat. My first introduction to ‘Chinese ravioli’ was in the classic Wonton Soup, a bowl of clear broth filled with a pile of hearty dumplings.

Wontons are popular in the street stalls and restaurants of Southern China, running the gamut from one yuan orders served on styrofoam and noshed on while perched at stools on the sidewalk, to daintily pleated upper crust versions served on silver platters at five star hotels. I have two favourite versions I ate while traveling in China. First,  at the Michelin recognized Mak’s Wonton Noodles in Hong Kong, they serve a perfect, tiny bowl of shrimp and pork broth with thin noodles topped by delicate wontons. Second is the inspiration for this recipe, the Wontons in Sichuan Chili Oil doled out in the markets of Chengdu. They also serve a mouth-watering version of Spicy Won Tons at Tim Ho Wan.

FYI: You need a blender, food processor or bad ass knife skills to make this recipe well.

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Wontons in Sichuan Chili Oil

Prep time: 1-2 hour

Cook time: 10 minutes

Makes 50 wontons; chili oil to last for 1-2 months

Ingredients:

  • 1 package wonton wrappers.
Note: bend wrappers at the corner in package, like a sheaf of paper, to make sure they are pliable and don’t stick to each other.
Pork filling:
  • 500g/1.1lbs ground pork, roughly 30% fat, well chilled
  • 300ml/1 1/4C pork/chicken stock
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 scallions, finely chopped
  • 30ml/2 tbsp fresh ginger, diced
  • 30ml/2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 30ml/2 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine
  • 30ml/2 tbsp white sugar
  • 15ml/1 tbsp sesame oil
Sichuan Chili oil:
  • 250ml/1C peanut or vegetable oil
  • 20 whole dried chili peppers, hunan, thai or a similar small red chili pepper
  • 45ml/3 tbsp coarse salt
  • 30ml/2 tbsp fresh ginger, diced
  • 30ml/2 tbsp sichuan peppers, crushed or chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, diced
  • 15ml/1 tbsp sesame oil

Instructions:

Prep:

Pork filling:
  1. This recipe is easiest with a food processor, if you have one throw everything in their and pulse until it forms a ball. If not chop everything finely and evenly, then toss together in a mixing bowl using a fork or spatula. If you use your hands, you’ll melt with body heat everything, which you don’t want.

Note: The only way you can mess this up is if you don’t chill the filling before you fold your wontons, which will quickly turn into a sticky, messy disaster.

Sichuan Chili Oil:
  1. Heat a wok or frying pan and add the peanut/vegetable oil. Just before oil reaches smoking point, add garlic and ginger. Fry until golden in colour. Add half of the chilis and fry until they begin to turn a dark, crimson red.
  2. Remove from heat. Add remaining chili peppers and let cool for a few minutes.
  3. Once the mixture is a safe temperature, pour into a blender, add salt and pulse until chunky but uniform.
  4. Stir in sesame oil and put in a sealed container.

Note: This Sichuan chili oil lasts for months because the moisture has been cooked out of the garlic and ginger. It tastes ridiculously delicious on everything, adding a round numbing spice to any dish, and a depth of flavour to even simple soups and sauces.

Wontons:
  1. Before you wrap the wontons (choose a folding style, there’s great Youtube videos), line a baking sheet with parchment or aluminum foil, soak a tea towel in water to cover finished wontons while you’re working, and fill a bowl with cold water to rinse your fingers. You may want an additional tea towel to wipe your hands.
  2. Take your time folding the wontons, if they’re sealed properly the juice will stay locked inside and you’ll get that incredible soup dumpling explosion of juicy flavour when you bite into them.

Note: I fold wontons while I’m watching Netflix, or Mind of a Chef or whatever, so I get a whole folding station setup on my coffee table. Also, the wontons will keep for a week, if frozen on a baking sheet and properly sealed. So you can fold them ahead of time.

Cooking:

  1. Add enough water to cover wontons to a wide pan or pot and bring to a rolling boil. Add a pinch of salt, then place in a layer of wontons. Make sure they do not touch each other.
  2. Cover and cook for 5-7 minutes, until the wrappers are completely translucent.
  3. Serve wontons immediately, while they’re still bursting with juicy filling, drenched in the mala Sichuan chili oil.
  4. Alternatively, you can steam these wontons in a bamboo basket, or deep fry them in crock pot or any deep stock pot.

Note: These wontons are insanely addictive, scalding hot.

Prints of all the illustrations on this website are available for purchase, please use the Contact page form to contact me directly for pricing, sizing and shipping information.

Country Cornbread with Black Beans

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This country cornbread incorporates black beans to add some sustenance to a quick and easy recipe that can be thrown together last minute, or in the morning before work. It is a versatile batter that can be baked in a cake pan, loaf pan or muffins to grab and go for the rest of the week. It is also a favourite in my house to make for cornbread dressing for a holiday dinner.

This cornbread batter can easily be adapted to add whatever flavours or ingredients with accompany your meal. If you’re going southwest, toss some jalapeno slices into the batter, stir in shredded cheese, or add peach slices to give it some sweet appeal.

cornbread-with-kidney-beans-sliced

Country Cornbread with Black Beans

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 20-30 minutes

Makes one loaf, cake or 10 muffins

Ingredients:

Dry:
  • 250ml/1C cornmeal
  • 250ml/1C all purpose flour
  • 30ml/2 tbsp sugar
  • 15ml/1 tbsp baking powder
  • 5ml/1 tsp salt
  • 2.5ml/1/2 tsp baking soda
Wet:
  • 295ml/1 1/4C buttermilk
  • 30ml/2 tbsp melted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk, separated
  • 250ml/1 C black beans (or substitute of your choice)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 225C/425F.
  2. Mix together dry ingredients and create a well in the middle.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat together ingredients, then incorporate into dry ingredients.
  4. Butter cake pan or muffin tins and spoon in batter.
  5. Bake until golden brown on the bottom, and a knife slipped into the middle comes out clean of any wet batter. Eat it while it’s hot, lathered in butter.

Prints of all the illustrations on this website are available for purchase, please use the Contact page form to contact me directly for pricing, sizing and shipping information.