This time next week, many of our tour participants will have already arrived, all set for our yummy tour of one of my favorite places in the world. You may ask, what's so great about Oaxaca? From the moderate weather to the ancient artifacts, to present day art and crafts of all sorts to the exquisite and delicious cuisine--Oaxaca has been a favorite of so many for centuries. And, the city and culture benefits from all thos who have loved its distinct and unique beauty.
Next week, I am taking a blog break and will filll you in with all the exciting and delicious times we will have had the week after. I will also share some of the recipe highlights from our tour.
The weather is amazing. Oaxaca City is in the tropic of Cancer which means that even though it is high desert, almost the exact same altitude and mountains surrounding as Albuquerque, New Mexico, the temperatures are much more moderate. While in Albuquerque, we are a sizzling 90's and dry as a bone in severe drought. In Oaxaca the highs for our trip will be in the high 70's to low 80's with a potential shower some of the late afternoons.
As for culinary, until the Spanish came and brought hogs, wheat and sugar and many other ingredients--the ancient Zapotec culture was fundamentally vegetarian with very creative uses of so many ingredients. Their food is not heavy, generally most dishes are beautifully plated, very decorative and smaller portions than many of the restaurants in the States present.
We will be taking three hands-on cooking classes where we will learn various techniques and very different flavors. In Mexico as in Europe, public markets--which we will be touring are terrific expositions of so many ingredients and baked goods, they are almost mind "blowing".
We will also tour Monte Alban, one of the wonders of the Ancient World, where they have geometric treasures, taught medical surgery and had a sophisticated water aqueduct system very similar to those of Rome. We will also tour two different pottery villages and one of the villages where they carve and make the colorful wooden alebrijes. We'll also have time to explore Oaxaca.
When I return, I will be presenting a Creative Grilling class the evening of June 30 and the Take a Tortilla and... class July 21--both at 5 PM. More to be announced very soon. Our weekend classes are September 16-18 and November 4 to 6.
Here's a couple of typical Oaxacan recipes for you to enjoy until we return with more.
LEGUMBRES EN PIPIAN, OAXACA STYLE
(Vegetables in Oaxacan Pumpkin Seed Sauce)
Steamed vegetables, usually green ones are frequently served with Green Pipian Sauce, a delightfully spiced sauce thickened with ground, green pumpkin seeds. Sometimes the vegetables are cooked with epazote or avocado leaf to lend a slightly anise flavor or a small amount of ground anise can be used if desired when steaming the vegetables.
Yield: 6 servings
1 teaspoon salt
1 pound small green zucchini, thinly sliced or nopales, cut in thin strips
12 small red potatoes, halved and cooked until tender
2 cups fresh spinach or swiss chard
Pipian sauce, recipe follows
2 Tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted until lightly brown
Few sprigs fresh cilantro, optional
1. In a vegetable steamer or in a small amount of salted boiling water, add the zucchini or nopales and potatoes and cook until tender, about 6 to 10 minutes. Add spinach and steam another two minutes.
2. Then toss each vegetable in about a Tablespoon of pipian sauce, or enough to cover, and compose the vegetable dish by arranging each vegetable in a section or circle on the platter in an artistic arrangement and center with a bowl of pipian sauce. Serve with toasted sesame seed and cilantro garnish.
Yield: 4 1/2 cups (approximately)
1 teaspoon ground or 2 dried chipotle chiles
Water to cover
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar
1 cup green pumpkin seeds or pipian
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 cup sliced scallions, including the greens
1/2 cup cooked or canned tomatillos, drained and chopped, or salsa
2 cups chicken broth
1. For preparing the chipotles, if a microwave oven is available; combine chipotles, vinegar and water in a quart glass measuring cup. Cover and simmer on HIGH power 5 minutes. Or, combine the chipotle chiles, vinegar and water in a small saucepan and simmer 30 minutes, or until flesh and skin are soft. Set aside. Best yet, use our wonderful ground chipotles.
2. Toast the pumpkin seeds in a hot skillet until they start to brown, taking care not to let them burn.
3. Combine the chile, toasted seeds, cilantro, scallions, and tomatillos in a blender along with 2 cups of chicken broth and puree until smooth. Keeps well in the refrigerator for two weeks or three months frozen in a sealed container.
See the entire archive of Southwest and Mexican Recipes and more suggestions for cooking with chiles.
Mole sauce is a traditional combination of many flavors with chiles. This recipe is from my aunt who lived in Monterey, Mexico, and my uncle claimed that it was the best he had ever eaten.
Yield: 6 servings
1 (3 1/2 lb.) chicken, cut into serving pieces
2 quarts chicken stock
3 corn tortillas
3 tablespoons raisins
1 or 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/2 onion, quartered
1 medium-size green bell pepper, roughly chopped
1 large tomato, quartered
2 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tablespoons crushed Caribe chile
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1. Arrange chicken in a large pot. Add stock, and cook until tender but not falling apart, 1 to 1-1/2 hours. Lift chicken out of stock, removing the skin and bones and cool slightly. Reserve stock.
2. Process tortillas, raisins, chocolate, almonds, onion, bell pepper, tomato, and garlic in a food processor or blender until finely ground. Add enough stock to make a thick gravy-like sauce. Add crushed chile and cinnamon. Pour sauce into a large pot. Add chicken pieces and simmer 30 minutes. If mixture becomes too dry, add more stock. Serve hot with rice.
Reprinted with permission from Jane Butel’s "Southwestern Kitchen".