Mexican Cuisine’s African Roots

As a great deal of the historical information was cut from my new book due to lack of space, I was recently asked to include some of the background on Africa’s influence on the Mexican cuisine for the University of California Press blog and though I would share it and some of the photos taken by Nacho Urquiza of an African family on Oaxaca’s Costa Chica.

Antonieta Avila Salinas's Costa Chica Family

Antonieta Avila Salinas’s Costa Chica Family
Photo by Nacho Urquiza

African Influence on Mexican Cuisine
by Marilyn Tausend

I have been traveling throughout Mexico exploring the incredibly multi-cultured cuisine of its people for the last three decades. It was, though, only since researching the history of the African presence in Mexico for my newest cookbook, La Cocina Mexicana: Many Cultures, One Cuisine, did I realize that during the many years I’ve been coming to the tree-shrouded small village of La Antigua in Veracruz, that I had often stood right in front of Mexico’s first slave market, now the site of the local school. During the seventy-five years or so after Cortés moved his small contingent of Spanish troops and other followers south in 1525 from Quiahuiztlan to this safer harbor, thousands of Africans were put on the block to be auctioned off to the highest bidder. I since have visited many places in Veracruz where these slaves were relocated, some still retaining African names such as the nearby popular resort of Mocambo which means “sorrow” in the Congo dialect.[

Some African slaves also accompanied their Spanish owners during the exploration of New Spain with apparently the first African to set foot in these new lands being on Columbus’s second expedition. Twenty years later, the first black slaves in Mexico arrived with Hernan Cortés from the West Indies.

Read the rest of the article here.

Costa Chica Fishing by Nacho Urquiza

Costa Chica Fishing
Photo by Nacho Urquiza

Barbacoa de Pescado by Nacho Urquiza

Barbacoa de Pescado (recipe page 167-168)
Photo by Nacho Urquiza

Caldo de Tichnidas, Costa Chica

Antonieta making Caldo de Tichnidas
Photo by Nacho Urquiza

A Kackar Mountain Lunch

Sannie Osborn, Kackar Mountains

One of our participants, Dan Osborn, on our recent culinary trip to Baja California, left the day after for Turkey, where he and his wife, Sannie, shared a lunch with this couple in the Kackar Mountains above the Black Sea coast in eastern Turkey. Quite a change of temperature and food, it appears.

Rest. El Bajío Anniversary

Carmen Rest. El Bajío

Carmen Ramírez Degollado
Photo by Ignacio Urquiza

Our congratulations and admiration go to our good friend Carmen “Titita” Ramírez Degollado chef/owner of Rest. El Bajío and her staff as they celebrate their 40 year anniversary. Carmen now has nine locations in Mexico City: Azcapotzalco, Parque Delta, Polanco, Parque Lindavista, Reforma 222, Santa Fe, Tezontle, Acoxpa, and Insurgentes. Although the menus are almost the same, my favorite is the orignal El Bajío in the northern part of Mexico city, in Azcapotzalco where I ate my first meal there over 30 years ago with Diana Kennedy. Like our friend Diana, Carmen is a wonderful ambassador of Mexican cuisine.

Chefs’ Trip to Valle de Guadalupe

Part Two

Hugo D'Acosta

Hugo D’Acosta

On our day to the Valle de Guadalupe, we spent several hours with Hugo D’Acosta the wine maker from the Casa de Piedre as he took us through his very innovative wine school and winery, La Esculita. It was truly an amazing experience and anyone coming to this area should make a point of visiting. They do make their own wine and quality wine for other growers, as well as teach the basic principles of wine growing to those just starting out.

This is all done in a converted olive oil factory where the additional buildings are built of recycled materials, most connected to viticulture–wine bottles, thick hoses, wood stakes and fragments of barrels.

Some of their wines as well as other Baja wineries can be obtained from Baja Wines.

It was an incredible experience.

Chefs' Trip Baja 2012

Chefs’ Trip Baja 2012

Our next Chefs’ trip will be to Mexico City and Puebla, September 22-29, 2013. More details will be forthcoming.

You can see more pictures from this year’s Chefs’ trip here.

Chefs’ Trip to Baja was a Blast!

Part One

Rick Bayless Baja Chefs' Trip

Rick Bayless and Richard James
Baja Chefs’ Trip

What a whirlwind chefs’ trip we had the end of September in Baja Norte, where in 5 days 16 food professionals coming from all across the country participated in 5 cooking classes with Chefs Rick Bayless and Ricardo Muñoz as well as with local chef Diego Hernández from Corazon de Tierra located in the center of the wine country of the Valle de Guadalupe. Javier González, director of the beautiful Culinary Arts School and his staff and students were extremely accommodating. We also had three extensive wine tastings where the owners treated us to some of their finest bottles. It was quite an honor.

Ricardo Muñoz

Ricardo Muñoz, Baja Chefs’ Trip

One day the group spent the morning on several boats off the coast of Ensenada viewing the mussel and oyster floating nurseries and enjoyed sampling them all.  And of course, we ate! From exquisite seafood tacos made from almost any living thing from the local water–shrimp, marlin, crab, abalone, octopus, sea snails, mussels and even uni, to some of Baja’s most adverturous fine dining restaurants.

We had dinner our first night at the highly acclaimed El Mision 19 where Chef Javier Plascencia prepared a special meal for us, then in Ensenada we ate at La Manzanilla, and although Chef Benito Molina was out of town, his wife Chef Solange visited with us. Probably the group’s favorite meal was at La Querencia where Chef Miguel Angel Guerrero, a hunter-gatherer-fisherman, farmer, and diver shared his passion for the local ingredients with those of us around the long table.

Caesar's Tijuana

Caesar’s Tijuana

And, of course, who can go to Tijuana without visiting Caesar’s where we watched a Caesar salad for over 20 people be tossed. Here is the recipe that they use.

Newer Version used at the Restaurant
Serves 2
1 head romaine lettuce
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tablespoon ground mustard
1 clove crushed garlic
coddled egg
1 lime, juiced
Fresh grown black pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 sliced baguette oven baked garlic croutons
6 anchovy filets

Clean lettuce thoroughly and refrigerate until crispe, at least 1 hour or more. In a wooden bowl, combine olive oil, mustard, anchoives, garlic and part of the grated parmesan, whisk with a wooden paddle until it forms a paste.

Once cooled, crack the egg and whisk yolk into dressing until thoroughly blended. Add whole romaine lettuce leaves and gently roll them into the dressing. Serve on a platter and add the rest of the grated cheese, croutons, fresh ground pepper and salt to taste.

Culinary Art School

Culinary Art School, Tijuana

The following recipe was given to us by the granddaughter of either Alex or Caesar Cardini, who I met at the Culinary Art School where she is a student.

Original Caesar’s Salad
Serves 2

3 medium heads romaine lettuce, chilled, dry, crisp
Dash Worcestershire sauce
Grated parmesan cheese, 5 or 6 tablespoons
Croutons, about 1 cup
Garlic flavored olive oil, about 1/3 cup
Wine vinegar, 1 to 2 tablespoons
Juice of 1 1/2 lemons
1 minute coddled egg
freshly ground pepper

Chefs Trip Baja 2012

Chefs Baja Norte 2012

You can see more pictures here.

Taco Bus Makes Urbanspoon’s Top 100 Cheap Eats

Urban Spoon the leading mobile restaurant discovery application and reservation management system, released its list of America’s Most Popular Cheap Eats Tuesday, spotlighting 100 restaurants across the U.S. where diners can get the tastiest bang for their buck. The list is based on a deep dive of Urbanspoon’s database of more than 1 million restaurants for those eateries that received the most coverage and reviews from professional food critics, bloggers, the Urbanspoon community, and diners, according to Yahoo.

“Urbanspoon users know that a great meal doesn’t have to end with an exorbitant check,” said Kara Nortman, SVP of Consumer Businesses, CityGrid Media. “From breakfast burritos to late night pizza, this list has something to satisfy every craving without breaking the bank.” Well, apparently people in Tampa, FL know a good thing when they eat it. Taco Bus, owned by Chef Rene Valenzuela, one of our regulars on our Chefs’ trips, made the cut. Congratulations, Rene!

Here is a quick peek at Rene and his Taco Bus.

La Vida Gallery

La Vida Gallery

La Vida Gallery Front Window
San Antonio, Texas

Matt Weissler’s La Vida Gallery’s hugely popular First Friday book signing will be held tomorrow with Marilyn, Jon Bonnell, author of Texas Favorites,and Ward Albro, author of The Day of the Dead/ Dia De Los Muertos. Event runs from 7-9 p.m. Unfortunately, Susana Trilling had a little mishap and will not be able to make it, but she will be traveling to San Antonio the first weekend in December. Have a speedy recovery, Susana, and thank you Matt for all your help.