Cheese producers at the organic market in San Miguel, Mexico.
The Locavore Way Goes South
Join me in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico for the rest of the month…
Quesadillas with Cilantro Pesto
It’s morning in our little apartment, sweater weather, and I’ve woken up late for me, 9 am. The sound track is soft, but persistent — humming refrigerator , crowing roosters, barking pups.
I’m sanitizing green garbanzos in their husks in a sink full of water. Later I’ll pile them high, tossed in fresh lime juice with a touch of hot sauce as a New Year’s appetizer. (See picture)
There’s no serious colander, no grater, no big pots and pans here, but I want to cook something with a local flavor, of course, to bring to the pot luck we’ve been invited to by fellow New Englanders here in San Miguel.
The market cilantro is vigorous and dependable here, never anemic, so I’ll start with cilantro pesto. Shiny poblano chilies capture my eye, so I’ll add them. Wrap the pesto in a tortilla, hot off the press and still fragrant with corn, sprinkle with fresh Oaxacan cheese and maybe a little Mexican manchego. Sprinkle with roasted poblanos for both kick and flavor. Then fold and toast: Voilà, another simple market creation is born.
Blend a big handful of chopped pecans with a small bunch of cilantro and a clove (or two) of garlic in just enough olive oil to make a chunky mix. Roast a poblano chili (or two) over a gas flame, broiler or grill until charred.
Cover with a kitchen towel until cool, then rub off off the skin. Dice the flesh.
To assemble, you can be easy going about quantities but don’t overstuff.
Spread a big dollop of cilantro pesto on half of a corn tortilla. Sprinkle with the diced poblano chili (scallion greens if you like) and grated local cheese of your choice. Fold in half. (If you are using an American corn tortilla, use tongs or tough hands, heating it over a flame for a few seconds on each side to soften, using wet hands if it is stale) Optional: Add diced avocado if you like.
To cook, heat a skillet with a tiny bit oil and saute on both sides, over medium high heat until crisp on the outside, melty in the side. (Or cook them in a very hot over on a well oiled pan, turning once.) Cut into halves or thirds and serve as appetizers with a wedge of lime.
Chopped Mexican Market Salad
Our cobblestone street is lined ochre and pink homes, each spread with brightly colored bougenvilla vines. We arrived on Christmas day when most of San Miguel was shut tight. It’s quiet and empty, reminding me of when I first came here in the 80’s, before NAFTA brought an influx of cars.
Happily, I find a few produce stands open, so I buy what’s around. On a street of mostly closed shops, I spot my favorite chicken place with a line forming. And so I wait, watching the racks of chicken rotate through the flame. It’s a greasy operation, and I’m always careful not to look too carefully at the walls, which are covered with generations of chicken fat. Still the smell, the seasoning on the chickens, the wooden block where they hack up the birds, and the memory of their succulent flavor reels me in. Little birds they are, 2 pounds perhaps. Great to dismantle and serve rolled into fresh tortillas with tomatillo salsa, which I’ll make when I’m rested from our trip.
To prepare: Dice avocado, red pepper, sweet onion, seeded tomatoes, rotisserie chicken (if you are meat eater). Toss with chopped iceberg lettuce (yes!) and a large handful of cilantro leaves. Dress with garlic, salt, chopped jalapanos, olive oil and lime juice. Pile high. Accompany with a large slice of papaya with a squeeze of lime juice.
Next Day Tortilla Soup
My daughter Emma arrives on Christmas day, the first day of our one month stay here. It’s cold at night here and she’s chilled, even with the little gas heater running full blast. And so left-overs from the salad the night before (see above) turn into soup. Pretty, satisfying.
Boil the bones from the rotisserie chicken in water to cover for 2 hours. Strain and chill. Skim fat. Heat. Drop in chopped tomatoes, avocado, onion, jalapeno, cilantro leaves, chicken if you’re a meat eater. Optional: grated cheese, crisp tortilla chips.
Who knew a pineapple would have so much depth of flavor?