El Molcajete~ Salsa, Guacamole and Spices

For Years I thought that the molcajete was one of those many decorations that tourist would purchase on their trips to Mexico. I did not realize that you could actually use it for preparing meals. Until one day I walked in to my abuelita’s kitchen and sat watching her grind spices for that evenings dinner. The aromas are amazing and nothing like you would ever experience from store bought spices. Every Mexican family has that special molcajete that is passed down from generation to generation. My oldest sister still uses my Mom’s molcajete in her own kitchen. Right below is a picture of my abuelitas molcajete, still in Mexico, still in use today….

El Molcajete de mi Abuelita
El Molcajete de mi Abuelita

Salsa Picante de Chile Piquin/Limon. Chile piquin, fresh, dried or pickled holds a very special place in my heart. I associate it with my many trips to Monterrey, Mexico when I was still living at home. My abuelito Ismael was a smart and succesful business man and planned for his large family. Each brother and sister had a special piece of land that was purchased for them to build their future homes on when the time came. My abuelo also owned this big ranch in Higueras, N.L. and I specifically remember the plants filled with aromatic oregano and chile pepper bushes with bright green chile piquin. Just like the salt and pepper shakers on the table, there was always a small bowl with assorted shades from bright green to deep red colored fresh chile piquin on the kitchen table. As kids we would dare one another to eat them while enjoying the wonderful homestyle dinners that my abuelita would cook for us. Perhaps this is where I first learned to love eating spicy foods. Fresh chile piquin is hard to come by, unless you live in or near Mexico or in a well stocked Hispanic market in the states. I was lucky enough to purchase several bags of the dried version on various trips I have made to Texas and North Carolina. A well seasoned and polished molcajete is one of the best tools in my Mexican kitchen.

Polishing the molcajete with some coarse sea salt
Polishing the molcajete with some coarse sea salt right before using it for this recipe. I originally polished and seasoned it with uncooked rice and that worked well too. Lightly wash in between uses.

Ingredients
For Chile Piquin /Limon Salsa
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
2 teaspoons dried chile piquin
2 cloves garlic with the skins on
1/2 teaspoon salt
juice of 2 limes
1/3 cup light olive oil

Directions

1. Heat a comal or skillet to medium/low heat. Add the peppercorns, cumin seeds, oregano, piquin and garlic. Toast, stirring often until herbs, chile and garlic become aromatic, about 5 minutes. Remove the spices and chiles and transfer to molcajete. Continue cooking the garlic for another 5 to 7 minutes until softened. Remove skins and set aside.

2. To the molcajete mixture, add in 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Using the pestle of the molcajete, grind down all of the ingredients as fine as you can. Add the garlic, another pinch of salt and grind into the mixture until a paste forms. Add the fresh lime juice, whisk in the olive oil. Taste for salt. Serve in molcajete.

3. If you do not have a molcajete, you can use a regular mortar and pestle or spice grinder to process the dry ingredients. To finish the sauce, you could whisk all together or add all ingredients to a tightly sealed mason jar and shake until well combined. The flavors will improve with time. Keep stored in the refrigerator for a longer shelf life. I like to use this salsa  to finish garnishing my favorite tacos or guacamole recipes.

Just these few, simple ingredients, chile piquin, cumin seeds, mexican oregano, peppercorns and garlic. The beginnings of something good!
Just these few, simple ingredients, chile piquin, cumin seeds, mexican oregano, peppercorns and garlic. The beginnings of something good!
I use my mexican comal, but I like lining it with easy release foil for toasting and roasting on the stove top. Makes it much easier to remove the spices.
I use my mexican comal, but I like lining it with easy release foil for toasting and roasting on the stove top. Makes it much easier to remove the spices.
Toasted Chiles, Spices and Roasted Garlic all Ready for the Molcajete
Toasted Chiles, Spices and Roasted Garlic all Ready for the Molcajete
The aromas of the ground spices and chile piquin are amazing!
The aromas of the ground spices and chile piquin are amazing!
Adding a pinch of salt helps with the grinding process. Here I am adding the garlic..
Adding  salt helps with the grinding process. Here I am adding the garlic..
Chile Piquin/Limon Salsa de Molcajete. Serve straight out of the molcajete.
Chile Piquin/Limon Salsa de Molcajete. Serve straight out of the molcajete.
Chile Piquin/Limon Salsa de Molcajete
Chile Piquin/Limon Salsa de Molcajete

 

For Guacamole
1 large ripe avocado
2 large roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/3 cup pickled red onions, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped

*Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

 For Guacamole de Molcajete: Transfer the chile piquin salsa to a serving dish. In that same molcajete(do not clean out), add chile serrano and a pinch of salt. Grind down until minced into a paste. Add the avocado and gently mash until desired consistency. Fold in the tomatoes, onions and cilantro. Serve as is or drizzle some of the chile piquin salsa on top before serving.

In that same molcajete from the chile piquin salsa, continue to build flavors for the guacamole.
In that same molcajete from the chile piquin salsa, continue to build flavors for the guacamole.
Adding a perfectly ripe avocado, a gentle smash, perfect guacamole.
Adding a perfectly ripe avocado, a gentle smash, perfect guacamole.
In many restaurants in Mexico they serve up the guacamole this way. This allows you to add in your favorite ingredients.
In many restaurants in Mexico they serve up the guacamole this way. This allows you to add in your favorite ingredients.
Guacamole de Molcajete
Guacamole de Molcajete, drizzled with Chile Piquin/Limon Salsa
Guacamole de Molcajete
Guacamole de Molcajete

 

 

Dia De Los Muertos~ Recipes Inspired by Day of the Dead

Dia de los Muertos/Day of the Dead  is a traditional holiday observed in Mexico as well as other cultures. For me, preperations for this go on through the whole month of October, building up to the days of celebration and remembrance. Special items, such as pictures, flowers, insense, candles, trinkets and foods are placed on simple and sometimes very large alters. The days of celebration and remembrance are October 31, November 1 and November 2. It is believed that the spirits of our loved ones who have passed come back at midnite on November 1 to enjoy their favorite items placed on the alter in their memory. Traditional foods, such as tamales, molé, frijoles, arroz, tortillas, candy made from pumpkin, chocolate and pan de muerto are some of the foods I like to prepare to honor my loved ones. For this blog post, I would love to share some of my favorite recipes, some old and some new like the cookie recipe for Calaveras. Don’t forget to click onto the last picture. It is a small article I was asked to write up for Que Rica Vida last year describing some of the traditions and foods of Dia De Los Muertos. I can never get through those last two sentenced without crying…..happy tears, only happy tears. Love you Mom and Dad.

My alter at night...
My alter at night…
Using a basic recipe for Polvorones I prepared these  fun Calavera cookies
Using a basic recipe for Polvorones I prepared these fun Calavera cookies

Ingredients

1 cup unsalted butter, room temp.
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon anise seeds, ground fresh
1/3 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/4 cups flour
*food coloring, optional, green, red and blue to make purple
*colored sugar crystals
*cookie stamps/cut-outs

Yields 16 cookies
Baked at 350 degrees F for 10 to 12 minutes

Dia De Los Muertos Cookie Cut-Outs
Dia De Los Muertos Cookie Cut-Outs
For me, the coloring of the cookie dough was the hardest thing to do with my bad wrist/arm. Ouch! But it was worth it.
For me, the coloring of the cookie dough was the hardest thing to do with my bad wrist/arm. Ouch! But it was worth it.

1. Cream the butter with mixer. Add in the sugar,baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, anise, salt and vanilla. Gradually add in the flour until dough forms, using your hands or a wooden spoon.

2. Separate dough into two equal balls if making more than one color of cookie. Add food coloring of choice until desired color. Cover and chill for 1 hour.

3. Preheat oven to 350 dregrees. Line two baking pans with parchment paper, set aside.

4. Roll dough onto a lightly floured surface. Gently press cookie press into dough, remove, flip over and cut out cookie shape. Transfer to baking sheet. repeat until done. You will need to lightly flour the cookie press/cut out in between so the dough does not stick. If it sticks, just be patient and start over…..

5. Decorate cookies with colored sugar crystals. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Cool completely before storing in an airtight container. This cookie press made 16 cookies.

Colored Cookie Dough For Cut-Outs
Colored Cookie Dough For Cut-Outs
Unbaked cookies ready for the oven.
Unbaked cookies ready for the oven.
Dia De Los Muertos Calavera Cookies
Dia De Los Muertos Calavera Cookies
A basic Polvorones cookie recipe worked great for this cookie.
A basic Polvorones cookie recipe worked great for this cookie.

 

Mexican Chicken Molé (Mo-Leh). Click onto picture to see full recipe @the Hispanic Kitchen.

A labor of love, low and slow traditional Mexican cooking, but so worth it!
A labor of love, low and slow traditional Mexican cooking, but so worth it!

 

Mexican Style Tamales prepared with masa harina. Click onto picture to see full recipe @the Hispanic Kitchen.

My Familiy's Mexican Style Tamales
My Familiy’s Mexican Style Tamales

 

Pan de Muerto/Day of the Dead Bread. Click onto picture to see full recipe @ Que Rica Vida.

Pan de Muerto
Pan de Muerto

 

Frijoles~ Beans~ Legume- In My Kitchen. Click onto picture to see full recipe on blog.

Frijoles Borrachos, a family favorite!
Frijoles Borrachos, a family favorite!

 

My Mom’s Mexican Red Rice. Click onto picture to see full recipe @the Hispanic Kitchen.

Mom's Mexican Red Rice
Mom’s Mexican Red Rice

 

Traditional Foods Prepared For The Day Of The Dead/Que Rica Vida. Click onto picture to read full article.

Traditional Foods Prepared For Day Of The Dead

 

 

 

Chuletas de Puerco en Salsa (Pork Chops Braised in a Fresh Tomato Salsa)

Chuletas de Puerco  en Salsa (Pork Chops Braised in a Fresh Tomato Salsa). This recipe requires minimal ingredients to prepare, but the results are delicious.  Fresh tomato, chile serrano, onion and a few spices combined with bone in, thin pork chops, is, in my opinion, old school Mexican cooking. This is one of my Mom’s quick weeknight meals that she would prepare often. It’s fairly inexpensive to prepare and was good for feeding our large family. This is one of my husband’s favorite dishes, so it’s on my meal planner at least once a month.   If you were preparing this recipe in the slow cooker, I would double the recipe. Layer the seasoned chops in between the fresh salsa from blender and top with sliced onions. Cook on low overnight and reheat for dinner the next day!

Chuletas de Puerco en Salsa
Chuletas de Puerco en Salsa (Thin Pork Chops Braised in a Fresh Tomato Salsa)

Ingredients

1 1/2 to 2 pounds, bone in thin pork chops (4 chops)
Salt
Pepper
Garlic powder
Cumin
Olive oil
3 to 4 large roma tomatoes, quartered
1 large white onion, sliced thin
2 serrano chiles, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, sliced
2 teaspoons chicken bouillon granules
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon mexican oregano, crushed
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Salt to taste
2/3 cup water
*1 medium white or sweet potato, diced and fried until crispy, optional
Cilantro for garnish, optional

Simple and Fresh Ingredients. Chuletas de Purco en Salsa
Simple and Fresh Ingredients. Chuletas de Puerco en Salsa

Directions 

1. Season the pork on both sides with salt, pepper, garlic powder and cumin, set aside.

2. In a large skillet preheat 3 tablespoons of olive oil to medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes. While pan heats up, in the blender, combine the tomatoes, 1/4 of onion, serrano peppers,  garlic, bouillon, cumin, oregano, pepper, salt to taste and water. Blend on high until smooth, set aside.

3. Sear and brown the pork for 3 to 4 minutes per side or until nicely browned. Remove pork from skillet onto a plate. In that same skillet, add the sauce from blender, reduce heat to a simmer and let sauce cook for 6 to 8 minutes. Taste for salt. Add the pork back into the sauce, top with onions and cilantro, cover partially with lid and continue cooking for 25 to 30 minutes. Before serving, fold in the cooked  potato if using, cook just until warm. You want the sauce to reduce and thicken. Serve with rice, beans and warm tortillas. Yields 4 servings.

 

Chuletas de Puerco en Salsa, Arroz y Frijol Negro (Pork Chops Braised in a Fresh Tomato Salsa)
Chuletas de Puerco en Salsa, Arroz y Frijol Negro (Pork Chops Braised in a Fresh Tomato Salsa)

Click onto the picture below for Mexican Red Rice Recipe @the Hispanic Kitchen. For Black Beans, add 2 cups blacks beans in broth to the blender. Season(to taste) with chile ancho powder, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, salt and pepper. Add 1/2 cup chicken broth and blend until smooth. Add beans to a preheated pan with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Cook to reduce  and thicken for a few minutes.

Chuletas de Puerco en Salsa
Chuletas de Puerco en Salsa