Coconut Lime Mint Paletas

Coconut-Lime-Mint-Paletas_Yes,-more-please!

Summer is here, and that Strawberry Moon was driving everybody crazy!… Like this crazy refreshing Coconut Lime Mint Paletas will drive you crazy too. Creamy, light and tangy, not overly sweet, the addition of mint make them light and fresh.

They are a breeze to make and sooooo E A S Y!…

As Cliché as it sounds: “put the lime and the Coconut…Yes, you call me in the morning, you call me in the morning
I’ll tell you what to do if you call me in the morning… Doctor!
Woo-oo-ooh, ooh-ooh-ooh
Woo-oo-ooh, ooh-ooh-ooh
Woo-oo-ooh, ooh-ooh-ooh, ooh-ooh-ooh

Enjoy the Summer, stay cool.

Coconut Lime Mint Paletas

Makes 12-14 Paletas about 2-2.5 oz each or upon how large your paleta molds are…

2 – 13.5oz cans of unsweetened Coconut Milk*
2/3 of a can “La Lechera” Condensed Milk**
1/2 cup shredded organic coconut plus a bit more to sprinkle some on the top.
8 large leaves of Mexican Hierbabuena or Spearmint.
the juice of two large limes, about 1/4 cup of juice
The zest of 1 lime
1 pinch of salt

One 12 Paleta Mold and 12-14 wood paleta sticks.

Directions:

1. Place all ingredients on a blender, blend until mint leaves are little speckles and the concoction is creamy and homogenous.

2. Poor into each paleta mold and freeze for 20 minutes, then insert wood sticks and continue freezing for about 3-4 hours.

3. Unmold, sprinkle some extra shredded coconut, lick, bite, repeatEnjoy!

*I used Chaokoh Coconut milk brand, I like it’s  fresh and creamy taste. You can usually find this brand at any Asian Market, it is worth to look for it!
** La Lechera condensed milk by Nestle,  is one of the few brands that do not use corn syrup so I like it!

Coconut-Lime-Mint-Paletas_Put-the-lime-and-the-coconut_Yes,-more-please!

Stay cool!

Music Pairing: Put the Lime and the Coconut – Harry Nilsson

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Pan de Cazón Campeche México

Pan-de-Cazon-Campechano_Yes,-more-please!

The first time I had Pan de Cazón in Campeche México it was a revelation to me.
I was traveling in Mexico with two of my best friends and architecture colleagues back in our student days, circa 1998. We were in Campeche on a very honorable mission of developing a great project for the City: The “Biblioteca Universo Maya” -“Mayan Universe Library”. The architectural dream project of every student. A constructive binomial, a Church and Monastery, from the sixteenth century that was going to hold the biggest collection of Mayan information in Mexico. I remember the first day in the city we met people and acquired information, details, measurements, and blue prints. We needed every single piece of information in order to start the project.
Between meetings and planning, the morning went fast and soon enough it was lunch time- “comida”. In the blink of an eye we were guided to a restaurant to cool down. I remember not coping well with the humid hot weather of this beautiful city. Hungry and thirsty, we sat at a restaurant and started receiving some recommendations from the waiter and the friend who brought us. They both made the same recommendation: “Pan de Cazón”.

I heard that, and started reading the description from the menu. Soon I was confused. To be honest the whole combination of ingredients sounded a little cacophonous to me. Pan means “bread” and Cazón is the “flesh from a little shark”, so “fish”. My overheated brain could not elaborate an objective idea of what this dish meant. Our friend was very enthusiastic about the idea of us trying the most iconic dishes from the city. I listened to her description and agreed to try something new.
To my pleasant surprise when the plate arrived I was hit with the most delicious aroma of the warm tomato sauce. The plate was layered with a short stack of tortillas covered with the bright aromatic and silky orange color sauce. A charred green habanero garnished the top of the stack like the cherry on top of a cake, loud and proud, and the perky steam insinuating bit me. So as I dug into it… I can see the layers of tortilla, black beans and sauteed fleshy white fish. My first bite confirmed what I suspected. This “Pan de Cazón” was a harmonious and a conspicuous ceremony of ingredients aligned in such a way that it was absolutely delicious.

Why? Well, to describe the dish in detail, imagine four freshly handmade corn tortillas slightly fried, smothered with silky herbaceous loosely refried black beans (frijoles colados), flaky, slightly smoky, juicy, and tender white fish sauteed with onions and tomato; all stacked into a four tortilla tower, and then sauced generously with probably one of the world’s earliest cooked tomato sauces. Chiltomate is a rustic sauce, made with the simplest ingredients tomato, onions, and chile. Pure pre-conquest Mayan ingredients, roasted, crushed, seasoned with sea salt and sieved until it yielded the most pure, silky, fruity, honest and yet bold tomato sauce.
For an architect and a cook this was a glorious construction of flavor. With my fist bite I understood Campeche. Pre-conquest flavors, elevated on a simple harmonious way. I think from that day and the next 10 days we stayed in the city, I ordered Pan de Cazon at least once a day. Yes, because you can have Pan de Cazón for Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner. In my Campeche, you can.

How-to-make-pan-de-Cazon,-Peceta-Pan-de-Cazon

Now, Why you would want to make this dish? I will give you one good enough reason: “People, Friends, Cooks, Foodies, Health nuts, Mommas and Papas, Students, PLEASE! Look for variety in your fish. Eating salmon, tuna, the same fish over and over can make for a monotonous cuisine and also is not healthy for our oceans. Explore other fish sizes, ranges, flavors and preparations, expect great rewards!

Fish do not have to be bland, or muted, or fried, smothered in batter, ketchup and tartar sauce, to taste good. I just have to be fresh. Campechanos have a saying “when fish smells of tastes like fish do not eat it” period. Get the freshest fish you can, search a good source in your city. If you are land locked as I am here in Texas far away from the coast, investigate local markets for the less traveled fish you can find.

Salsa-Chiltomate_Yes,-more-please

Based on this memory I tried to recreate the recipe. The way I remembered, the way I wanted it to taste. I read some recipes but the flavor profile do not resembled of what I tasted there. I had to rely on my tastebuds memory to recreate the recipe. Fifteen years have gone by since I was in Campeche, and if my memory is faithful I think I have achieved a close match. Apologies to all the amazing Campechanos Cooks, is not my intention to disrespect the recipe, it is in fact the opposite to make it as close in flavor as I can with what I have in this location, pure Genius Loci.

I have been cooking in the states for a long time, and I have found that sometimes even if you are using the correct ingredients, food, ingredients and recipes do not taste the same. And of course they don’t! they never will. Too many variables and a different locus. I have found that for example Epazote does not taste fresh and fragrant when it has been refrigerated in transport to the market. Searching for that same flavor, I have noticed that a native herb from texas “Texas Marigold” or “Mexican Mint Marigold”(as some people call it here in Texas) this herb, in combination with dry oregano, tastes very similar to fresh Mexican epazote. And that makes me happier than buying a refrigerated herb. When I taste and recognize the flavor in my taste buds memory and it translates into the food or dish I’m trying to recreate I feel like I hit the jackpot!

I have written some of the substitutions, or interchanging ingredients, just in case that like me, you are in another part of the world and in need to make those substitutions. And also the original herb to be used if you are in the right geographical place to traditionally make it.

What became of the Biblioteca Universo Maya ? Well, we worked on the project for about 6 months, prepared a presentation for the Campeche Governor, went back to Campeche and make the presentation. Proudly one of the best projects we ever made together. Unfortunately the project still on the back burner. Maybe one of these days when the state budget allows it it will be built. Could be that the best is yet to come…Right? Igor, Juan Pablo?…will see.

This recipe is fairly simple. Besides the different components, all of them are very easy to prepare. So hold on tight and get your cooking mojo going because after tasting this Pan de Cazón you are going to be having a truly Austin via Campeche dish!
Enjoy!

Pan-de-Cazon-ingredients

Pan de Cazón Campeche México

Serves 4 or 2 hungry Campechanos

16 –  4”-5” in diameter homemade corn tortillas preferable,*click here for tortilla recipe and tutorial
1 lb. Cazon, aka Dogfish, or Red Snapper, Cod or Halibut, grilled over wood or natural charco preferable, or poached as recipe follows.
2 cups black beans
3 cups Chiltomate sauce, recipe follows.

Garnish with:
Charred habaneros
Avocado slices
Pickled red onions

Originally Pan de Cazon is served with “Aguacate de Agua”. Which its fruitier and less oily. Its hard to find this type of avocado here in Texas, but I believe that avocado Haas will do great.

Preparation Method:

1. Start by preparing the quick pickled onions:

Red-Pickled-Onions-and-Habaneros

Red Pickled Onions

1 medium red onion
the juice of 1 medium lime
2 tablespoons vinegar
2 tablespoons water
½ teaspoon Sea salt
1 habanero small diced

Thinly slice the red onions, rinse them well under cold water. Place them on a small bowl add the rest of the ingredients toss well with the help of two forks, let them marinate for at least 20-30 minutes.

2. Prepare the fish:

Poaching-Fish_Pan-de-Cazon_Campeche

Poached white Fish with Texas Mexican Mint

1 lb. Pan de Cazón aka Dogfish, or Red Snapper, Cod or Halibut will work too.
1 small onion, half finely chopped, half on wedges
2 garlic cloves halved, 2 garlic cloves diced
1 medium tomato diced
6-8 Texas Marigold fresh leaves or 2-3 fresh epazote leaves.

On a small pan place the fresh fish fillet, along with ½ white onion in wedges, 2-3 Texas marigold sprigs, a pinch of oregano, one garlic, ½ teaspoon sea salt and 2 cups of water. Cover with a lid bring to a barely simmer, and cook until the flesh is white about 5-7 minutes. Remove the lid every now and then and baste the fish with its own broth. Once is cooked, carefully transfer the fish to a plate and save the broth. You will use it into the sauce and when sauteing the fish.

On a saute pan, heat up 1 tablespoon sunflower oil, add the other half diced onions. Sweat the onions,add diced garlic, add diced tomatoes, salt and the marigold leaves torn into pieces. Saute for 2-3 minutes, then add the shredded fish, toss well and add about ½ cup of the broth in which the fish was cooked in. Briefly cook for 2-3 minutes. Taste and adjust salt if necessary. Set aside.

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3. Refried Black Beans:

Re-fry 2 cups of black beans along with ½ diced white onion, and 5-6 leaves of epazote or Texas Marigold Mint. Add extra bean broth to leave the beans on a lose consistency. If you need instructions on how to make your black beans check my “Mexican Bean Manifesto”

4. For the Chiltomate Sauce:

Salsa-Chiltomate_Yes,-more-please

Chiltomate-Tomato Sauce

2 pounds Roma tomatoes
½ small white onion
1 habanero pepper
1 medium garlic clove
12-16 medium-large leaves of fresh Texas Marigold or 4-5 Fresh epazote leaves, and omit oregano.
2 pinches of dry mexican oregano, rubb it into your fingers to pulverize and unlock its aroma.
½ teaspoon to a teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoon sunflower oil

The juice of ½ an orange and 1/4 teaspoon of orange zest*optional, the original dish do not includes the orange juice or zest. The tomatoes I bought where a bit lacking in sweetness and fragrance, so I decided to enhance the fruity flavor by using some citrus. Use this ingredient upon the quality of tomatoes you are using.

Roast the tomatoes, onion, habanero on a baking pan in a 450F degree oven for about 8-12 minutes or until the tomatoes are chard and blistered, and onions have charred edges.
Using a fork and a knife de-seed and devein the habanero. Be very careful not to touch the habanero directly with your hands. This chile is extremely spicy and all the concentrated heat is on the seeds. So use a fork and a knife and dissect the chile. Leave the charred skin on.

Place the roasted tomatoes, onion, garlic, de-seeded deveined habanero and the rest of the ingredients on a blender until well pureed. Sieve the pure and add about ¾ cup of the fish stock to wash the reminders of the puree. This will produce the most silky and smooth sauce, the sieving step is very important because it will remove the tomato seeds and skins.

In a small pot heat up the sunflower oil and add the chiltomate puree. Expect splattering. Lower the heat and bring the sauce to a slow simmer. Cook and reduce liquids for about 6-8 minutes until you have a smooth silky tomato sauce. If the sauce is to watery cook it for a little longer, if is to thick add a bit more of the fish stock. Taste and correct seasoning if necessary.

Sieving-the-Chiltomate-salsa_Pan-de-Cazon

5. Quick pan fry the tortillas,

On a pan add a drizzle of sunflower or corn oil, until slightly toasty but pliable.

Assembling the Pan de Cazon:

Layers-Pan-de-Cazon_Recipe-from-Campeche

Once you have all the components prepared and warm,
Start by layering on a plate a pan fried tortilla, evenly spread a tablespoon of the refried black beans. Then add 1-2 tablespoons of the sauteed fish on an even layer. Ladle a tablespoon of the Tomato sauce over the fish, and repeat this layer sequence two more times. Finish the tower with a tortilla. You will have 4 tortilla layers total. If serving multiple plates assemble all the towers at the same time, place them in the oven to keep warm. Keep the tomato sauce warm. Right before serving baste each tower with about 1 cup of the piping hot chiltomate sauce. Garnish with avocado, pickled onions and do not forget the cherry on the top: the charred habanero!
Enjoy!

Pan-de-Cazon_Yes-more-please!

Pan de cazón_Campeche_Yes, more please!

Pan-de-Cazon_Campeche_Traditional-Mexican-Cooking_Yes,-more-please!

Buen Provecho!

Music Pairing: Jarabe Criollo – Campeche

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Radish Pineapple Mint Quinoa Salad

Candela-di-focuo-Radishes_harvest-2016_Yes,-more-please!

Back in February I started a little garden plot at the Mueller Community Gardens in my neighborhood. First months were rough. I started from seeds that my good friend Elizabeth gave me. Imagine all the possibilities when you are handed a box full of incredible heirloom seeds varieties from purple long green beans, carrots, greens, turnips, roman zucchinis, watermelon cucumbers, radishes, lipstick chili, melons you name it. . Little did I know the challenging scenarios of starting a vegetable garden from seeds. But, nothing like five buckets of patience, a couple good days of rain, plenty of steamy sunshine and a little everyday care to make it grow. Also helpful was the good pinch of serious advice from friends and the experts, like farmer extraordinaire from Boogy Creek Farm, Carol Anne. She is always willing to help and giving the greatest advice. From her I learned that planting a row of green beans beside the tomato plants will give tomatoes company and will help them grow together. She also emphasize the importance to give enough space in between tomato plants for best flavor and juicy tomatoes, and pointed that leggy tomato plants need to be transplanted deeper among many other details that have been very valuable to apply on my little, garden. Also every other good samaritan that was visiting the community gardens, like David, who gave me advice from seedling spacing to how to keep the water hose untangled! I’m very grateful for all. Thank you!

Using the best of advice, applying it, and with all my expectations tossed through the window, the garden worked its own magic on a serendipitous way.

Mueller Community Gardens

Ian-McEnroe_Yes,-more-please!

One day Ian and I arrived to our plot to water the plants and take some pictures of the vegetable progress, and all of the sudden we where harvesting our first…Radishes!
I start digging the first radishes out with the same impetus that a kid shows on christmas morning.
First radishes came out easily and they were beautiful long legged radishes that looked like ballerinas, and yogis to me. Ian went crazy on full camera mode!, then I kept digging and digging for about 15 minutes in order to pull out in one piece, what seemed to be a huge radish. When it finally came out, to our own surprise the biggest radish creature with the craziest shape I ever seen. There it was pure Wabi-Sabi Beauty!~ A gigantic Candela di Fuoco heirloom radish with an octopus syndrome, intense pinkish red top, and creamy white tips. Absolutely astonishing. I think the smile this radish put on my face lasted for 3 days. Who knew that a radish could bring you such a ridiculous amount of happiness.

Harvesting-a-radish

Mariana-McEnroe_Cooking-blog_Yes,more-please!

Candela-di-focuo-Radish_harvest-2016_Yes,-more-please!

After the radish harvest, we went home and eat a couple of them, they tasted incredibly crisp, fresh, spicy, with a clean sweet juicy ending. We took some beauty shots, and then I started to imagine on a radish recipe. Fresh, crispy, crunchy, juicy, spicy all the elements I had in that first radish bite. Thats what this salad its all about. No fuss just fresh ingredients.

I know It is a little to late for radish season, but as you can guess I’m on the learning process of timing it right. These radishes were our first and last winter mini crop of 6 radishes! from little ones to the big craziest octopus shaped radish, and we are very proud of it. Last weekend I transformed the plot to Summer vegetables. Tomato season is coming and I am thrilled. Plants are on the go and growing at a good speed.

I hope this little garden adventure brings you some garden inspiration.
I would love for you to feel encouraged to either grow your own vegetables or if that is not the way you groove, get out there on the hunt to buy the freshest Farmers Market vegetables you can, because it will always, always make the biggest difference on flavor when you are cooking.

Enjoy the rest of the radishes while you can!Shaving-Radishes_Yes,-more-please!

Radish-Pineapple-Mint-Quinoa-Salad_fresh-radishes_Yes,-more-please!

Radish Pineapple Mint Quinoa Salad

1 cup toasted, and cooked Red Quinoa
3/4 cup thinly sliced radishes any kind of spicy radish will work, cherry bells, watermelon, crimson, I used what I harvested Candela di Fuoco.
2 cups pineapple cut into small chunky wedges
1/2 small red onion thinly sliced in half moons
1-2 habaneros finely chopped
5-6 sprigs of mint, use just the leaves, and torn with your fingers
3-4 good drizzles Extra Virgin Olive Oil
the juice of one large lime
the juice of half an orange
Sea Salt to taste

A few crushed cashews, pine nuts or peanuts to garnish.*optional

Preparation Method:

1. Toast the quinoa lightly before cooking. 1/2 cup dry quinoa to 3/4-cup water. bring water to boil, add the toasted quinoa, bring to a simmer,lower down the heat, cover the pot with a lid and cook for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat, leave the pot covered for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, your quinoa will be al-dente and a bit crunchy, which is the perfect texture for this salad. Fluff quinoa with a fork and extend it on a plate to cool it down. If you have leftover quinoa from the night before , bring it on it works great!
2. Chop, chopp, chop the rest of ingredients.
3. Mix everything on a bowl drizzle with a grassy Extra Virgin Olive Oil, squeeze those citrus, season with Sea Salt, chill for a few minutes before is ready to serve.

Chopping-Vegetables_Yes,-more-please!Radish-Pineapple-Mint-Quinoa-Salad_Best-salad-for-grilled-fish

Radish-Pineapple-Mint-Quinoa-Salad_Yes,-more-please!

This Salad is best served with grilled fish, shrimp, soy marinated thick slices of extra firm tofu, pork chops, grilled chicken…
Enjoy!

Music Pairing: Bia – Mariana

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Mexican Beans Manifesto

How-to-cook-dry-Beans

Cooked, de la Olla, or Refried… I want to share with you my love for beans and how I bean.

I’m from Mexico. Along with corn, this simple food is a staple in our national diet. There are many great foods from my homeland but homemade beans have a way to my heart. The warm earthiness, texture, and flavor of a well prepared pot of beans, this is my comfort food. In fact “frijoles de la olla” boil-cooked beans are my “last supper” meal. With this said , you can imagine I’m very particular and appreciative about identifying truly great beans.

My love affair with beans’ simplicity that made me realize how many versions of “how to cook beans” are out there. They utilize many ingredients, cooking methods, pots, herbs, you name it , and yet most miss the mark for me when it comes to authentic style Mexican beans. I can not understand how something so simple to make has been so misunderstood. I feel the deep responsibility to clear this confusion and define Mexican style beans. After this you will discover an untroubled path in preparing this Mexican caviar.

Keep it simple. Slow down. When it comes to beans, It is about respecting the ingredient. Slowly and patiently cooking a pot of beans will yield the best pot of beans you ever had. Why to cook them by scratch? they taste far better than from the can, period. So lets start.

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How to chose your beans:

Type of Beans:
There are infinite possibilities when it comes to beans. From the dark black beans which have a delicious intense flavor, to the medium brown creamy Pinto Beans, to the light, creamy and more potato-ey flavor like the Peruano, Mayocoba or Flor de Mayo beans. Each of these varieties have different purposes. They pair better with different Mexican cooking styles. For example, Black Beans found in Central-East and South East of Mexico, Mexico City, Oaxaca, Chiapas, Veracruz, Campeche, Yucatan, Quintana Roo. Peruano, Flor de Mayo are more common in South Central like Jalisco, Michoacan, Zacatecas, San Luis Potosi. While Pinto beans are the beans of choice for almost all the North of Mexico, all the way from Tijuana to Monterrey.

From the traditional store bought varieties the most common kinds are Pinto Beans, Peruano, Mayocoba, Flor de Mayo, and Black Beans. These four kinds are available in most supermarkets in the USA.

Heirloom Beans: These are the caviar of beans. If you truly want to experiment and try new flavors and textures, this varieties are gonna blow your socks off.
My favorite source for heirloom beans here in the states is Rancho Gordo. Steve Sando has truly made an authentic effort and a life mission to rescue the almost lost varieties of heirloom beans in Mexico and Latin America. Thank you Steve!. My favorite Beans from Rancho Gordo: Rebosero, Rosa de Castilla, Acoyote Negro, Rio Zape, Pinto Beans, and of course me being from Guadalajara Jalisco, Flor de Mayo or Peruano for refried beans are one of my favorite beans.

Where to buy your beans?

I shop for beans at Mexican or ethnic supermarkets. Why? Well, where I live and shop they have new-er beans, since their turn-around on the dry beans purchase is bigger than in other stores. I often buy them pre-bagged. I like to make sure than the bag looks shiny, “hint”-you know how plastic bags can get a little opaque the older they are. Look for well sealed no holes or static webs on the inside corners of the bag. Usually these are more evident signs that let you know if the bag has been on the shelf for a long time. Use common sense.
When it comes to buying them from bulk sections, shiny beans are a good sign. The smell of the bean will let you know if they are fresher. Old dry beans start to smell a bit nutty and rancid. If you have your doubts ask the manager in charge of the bulk area or simply don’t buy them. You have to trust your source.

I always buy my dry beans one or two days before I cook them and I don’t usually have lots of bean bags on my pantry. I would rather cook them all at the same time and keep them in the freezer ready to go. I think this is the trick to convenience when it comes to beans.

How-to-cook-Dry-Beans_Mexican-style,-Utencils,-Clay-pots,-Wood-spoons,-Bean-Smasher

Where to cook your beans:

Bean pots make the difference when cooking beans, from flavor to cooking time, always choose what ever is best or more convenient for you.
Clay pot, the traditional way beans are cooked. I truly believe there is not a greater bean than the ones cooked on clay pots, so delicious. The Clay pot imparts great flavor to the beans. Make sure your clay pot is from a reliable source and that it is made for cooking. Both of my pots were given to me from a lady from Chihuahua ( Thank you Felipa I love my pots!) So if you know somebody from Mexico ask for a favor, its worth it. Also, It is unbelievable how fast beans cook in a clay pot.
Cooking time: 1hr and 30 minutes, to 2 hours tops.

Dutch enamel creates a great heat source, however your pot might get stained or darken a little bit.
Cooking time 3-4 hours.

Cast iron, beans will get an extra douse of iron. A slightly metallic flavor might be imparted. But if your cast iron pot is well seasoned this option is a winner!
Cooking time 2hrs and 30min.

Stainless Steel, safe and sound, it might take longer to cook, since stainless steel pots don’t retain as much heat as clay or cast iron, but it will get the job done. Clean flavor and no committing to buy a new pot. Time to cook 2hrs and 30min. to 3hrs.

Slow cooker The safest bet for people with busy schedules. I love the slow cooker results. If I choose to use the slow cooker method I cook them in my enclosed patio to avoid the cloudy smell of beans inside my house during the cooking time. It works like a charm!
Time: on high about 4 pounds of beans need 5-6 hours, depending on your slow cooker. Try to set up a timer, check on beans for doneness so next time you know how long they need.
Note: For slow cooker beans always, always salt until they are fully cooked. Let beans cool down on the pot and they will absorb the salt.

Pressure cooker: No doubt this is the reverse of slow. The fastest method to cook beans on a flash of time. If you are less romantic than me when it comes to cooking, this is your ticket to fast and efficient. Beans will be ready in 45 minutes aprox.

To soak or not to soak?

To be honest with you, I never soak my beans and I always have great results. In fact I don’t like to soak them. When I have done this my beans split and the skins separate from the bean… I just don’t have great results with soaking them. As I mentioned, my advice is to buy buys from a reliable source, and always cook them on a slow simmer. How slow? Well you barely see one or 2 bubbles coming up. Beans don’t like to be on a hurry when cooking.

How-to-cook-Dry-Beans_Yes,-more-please!

Bean Seasoning:

Very few seasonings. When cooking a basic pot of beans, I just add : ¼ of a medium size onion, one chile (fresh or dry) and water.
Experiment. I usually use a fresh chile with whiter beans, like pinto and Peruano. When it comes to Reboseros and Black beans I go for a Cascabel, Morita, Chipotle or a Guajillo. Why? Well I think that fresh chiles will complement the milder beans, and the deep rich beans like negros, acoyotes, and rebozeros, because of their color and deeper flavor will benefit from a dry or smokey chile, although there is no rule for it this is just how I bean.
When it comes to herbs and spices you can add some epazote fresco, or garlic specially when cooking black beans, which will compliment the flavor turning the broth into a liquorish herbaceous flavor.
White beans like cannelloni, will benefit from rosemary, bay, or fennel fronds. But wait a minute…this is a Mexican Bean post…rewind that..oh well.

Howto-cook-Dry-Beans_Best condiments to cook your beans

SALT matter:

Use good flavorful sea salt, or Kosher salt. Remember the recipe is just beans and a little onion and a chile, so the quality of the salt you are using is going to shine through. I use sea salt from Cuyutlan, Colima, Jalisco Mexico I love the flavor and freshness of this bright salt. Check this link if you want to know more about it. 
Always salt your beans right before you think they are done, about 30 minutes or so. If for some reason the beans are ready and you have not salted them, no worries, you still have the chance to add the salt stir carefully, cook for 5 more minutes and turn the heat off. The beans will keep absorbing some of the salty broth, its not the end of the world its just beans. The biggest mistake would be salting the beans at an early stage of cooking. This will make the skins tough, and they will not cook evenly. So restrain.

Howto-cook-Dry-Beans_Pinto-Beans

When Cooking Beans:

Sort, and rinse well your beans.this is important, sort throughly look for little stones or dry sticks from the plant. Rinse them in cold water rubbing well one or two times until water come out clear.
Slow down. Beans like to be cooked at a steady heat. Bring water to a boil, add the beans and then lower the heat to a slow simmer. Covered with a agar lid. Beans like to be tossed every now and then, but not to often. Give them time, enough water about 3 inches of water over the bean level. If water is needed during the cooking and beans look a bit dry ALWAYS add boiling water, and gently toss. The boiling water will keep the beans from splitting and skins will not fall apart. Always salt your beans a little before when they are fully cooked, and when ready let them sit on the stove to slowly cool down. If you live in warm humid weather, you might want to cool your beans faster and transfer your beans sooner to the refrigerator, since they can turn sour in a blink of an eye.

How-to-refried-beans

Fat:

Lard, Sunflower Oil, Corn Oil, Coconut Oil, Bacon, No matter what kind of fat you choose, for me the most important step when preparing refried beans is to cook and heat your oil or fat of choice properly. Place the oil or lard or a combination of both in the pan and let it warm up slowly, until is rippling hot. The color on the oil or lard must change to a deeper golden before adding your onions. This is an essential step, if you remember to heat up and cook your oil, you will always have great flavor in your beans. Authentic refried beans are made with lard there is no other way. The flavor is incomparable. But the reality is that for every day beans sunflower or corn oil is what everybody uses at home, leaving the lard-beans for holidays or special celebrations. When using Lard, I highly recommend leaf lard-pastured non-hydrogenated. If you live in Austin Tx, Salt and Time sells great quality lard on small amounts conveniently packed in their refrigerator. (Great to make amazing tamales by the way) Other brands for good quality Lard, Fatworks, or Leaf Lard are great.

A great alternative to avoid animal fat but give great flavor to your beans is Coconut Oil. I highly encourage you to give it a try, especially on black beans, with some sautéed plantains on the side…Mmm.

Freezing:

Beans can not be more noble, they freeze beautifully; freeze them whole in their broth or refried. They stay good for up to six months!!!. This is why I encourage you to cook a BIG batch of beans every time you make them. I portion out for 2-4 and I Freeze them into disposable bags, or small plastic containers that will fit my saute pan or soup pot, so I can de-frost on the stove if I forget to thaw them. (which seems to happen all the time) and since I reheat on a stovetop. These portions last me 1-2 months and they are life savers of convenience. On weekends I reheat some frijolitos and serve with tortillas and a good salsa and a couple of eggs for a breakfast of champions.

After all this information, now you might have a better grasp on the bean matter. So following there are 4 basic recipes for you to try. First one Frijoles de la olla, its the basic you need to start cooking your beans at home. no matter what kind of pot you have, apply the same recipe and concepts.

Frijoles de la Olla:

Frijoles de la olla, any type of beans can be cook in this manner, a few suggestions on what to add for different seasonings are included at the end of the recipe. A bowl of this beans, with pico de gallo salsa, a dollop of crema, queso fresco, and home made corn tortillas its all I wish for my last supper.
How-to-cook-dry-Beans_Frijoles-de-la-olla---Yes,-more-please!

Makes about 12 cups of cooked beans plus broth.

2 pounds/1 kilo of dry beans (pinto, peruano, flor de mayo, rebozero, or black beans etc..)
sorted,and rinsed.
8-10 cups water
1/3 white onion
1 dry chile like arbol, cascabel, huajillo or 1 fresh chile, like serrano, jalapeno, guero or habanero.

Sea salt about 1-2 tablespoons upon your taste.

In a clay pot, add beans,water, onion, and chile. Bring water to a boil, then lower the heat to a slow simmer. Cover with a lid. And cook for 1hr and 30 min. Stir beans once or twice using a long wood spoon. Gently stir beans from bottom to the top. Test for doneness: carefully take one bean and smash in between your fingertips. If is soft like a potato but holds it self together they are done. If they feel a little firmer in the middle they are almost there, add the sea salt and cook them for another 15-20 minutes. Check for doneness, taste and turn off the pot leave the lid on and have your self a little pre-tasting in a bowl. Correct salt if necessary.

At this point they are ready. Serve these freshly cooked beans with pico de gallo, Mexican crema, queso fresco o frijolero, warm tortillas, and a spicy salsa it all you need for a great legume dinner. Enjoy!

Once the beans have cooled down portion out your bags and containers and label with date and name. Freeze and use when ever you need them. If in need of a bigger batch, double the amounts on this recipe minus 2 cups of water and go easy on the salt. Remember you might need a bigger pot. Have fun!

The next 3 recipes are the basic of how to make refried beans. Truly re-fried beans Mexican style. Humble and simple but if you follow this little steps you will have great refried beans at home. Enjoy the recipe ride!

Refried Beans

You can make refried beans practically with any kind of bean. My favorite versions are Flor de Mayo, Pinto, Rebosero, Peruano and Frijoles negros.

How-to-make-Refried-Pinto-Beans-Mexican-Style_Yes,-more-please!

Yields about 3 cups

¼ cup Sunflower oil, corn oil, coconut oil.
¼ cup chopped white onion and pinch of salt.
4 cups cooked beans
1 cup bean broth

In a saute pan heat up the oil on a medium high heat until rippling hot. I recommend using a pan WITHOUT non-stick coating like cast iron or stainless steel. Saute onion until you get golden brown edges. Carefully add the beans and bean broth pouring away from you, to protect your hands from any splatter. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to slow simmer and start mashing up the beans until creamy*, Some visible skins are ok. Once they are smashed, start stirring constantly until they look pasty and start separating from the edges of the pan. Usually if you can shake your pan and all the beans stay together like a blanket that slides on the pan, your refried beans are ready!, Slide them onto a platter and fold like making a big oval shape. Crumble some queso fresco, or cotija anejo, some totopos and they are ready to serve, Enjoy!

Variations:
Chiles: Add one dry or fresh chile, like arbol, cascabel, or serrano to the oil and saute along with the onions to give some extra spice note to the beans. Remove the chile before smashing the beans, or smash along if you are a spicy soul.
Lard: If using lard, it is a must to cook the lard on low medium heat until it changes color to a golden light brown. This is a key step that will give the best flavor to the beans. Add onion and a chile for extra layer of flavor.
Herbs:Any addition like hoja de ahuacate, hoja santa, epazote, poblanos can be added when sauteing the onions for extra flavor. It is very important to remove the herbs before smashing the beans, to avoid the beans from getting bitter.
*Remember you can mash them up to your preference, I some times like them a little chunky, or well mashed and I add a bit more bean broth to make them more creamy and loose.

How-to-make-Refried-Pinto-Beans_Yes,-more-pleaseHow-to-make-refried-Beans_Yes,-more-pelase!

Chorizo-Arbol Refried Beans

This beans are simply scrumptious. Specially if you use a good quality chorizo. Here in Austin, Tx my favorite chorizo is made and sold by Smith and Smith Farms. It is a fresh chorizo, not cased, very meaty crumbles with just the right ratio of fat. Spices are spot on to make this delicious chorizo beans. (If you are in Austin give Colby a call and he will save a little bag for you at any of the Farmers Market on Sundays, Mueller or Domain). 

Chorizo-Refried-Beans_Yes,-more-please!

Yields 4-5 cups

2 tablespoons cup Sunflower oil, corn oil.
3 dry chiles de arbol
6 oz chorizo fresco
¼ cup chopped white onion
4 cups cooked beans
1-1/2 cups bean broth
1 teaspoon apple vinegar

In a large saute pan, heat up the oil and toast the chiles de arbol into the oil until dark mahogany red.
Remove the chiles and set them aside. Add the chorizo and crumble finely using a wooden spatula. Saute the chorizo along with the chopped onions until onions are soft. Add cooked beans, bean broth, vinegar and one of the toasted dry chiles. Bring to boil, reduce to a slow simmer. Smash the beans until creamy, some pieces of skins and the little chorizo crumbs are visible it is ok. Saute for about 3-4 more minutes until desired consistency. I like this kind of beans on the lose side, but is totally up to your preference. When ready transfer into a plater, sprinkle some queso fresco, and garnish with the rest of the toasted chiles de arbol. Serve immediately along with totopos or warm corn or flour tortillas are ideal, Enjoy!

how to make Chorizo Beans-Frijoles con chorizo

Black Refried Beans

These Black beans are one of my favorite beans. They are full of flavor, decadent and rich.
Serve them like Veracruz style with some sauteed plantains on the side, some sauteed serrano peppers or habaneros and you will have the best side dish for cochinita pibil, rice and chicken, pork tamales, chile con carne or a simple home made breakfast with two sunny side up eggs on the side.

How to make refried Black beans_Yes, more please!

Yields 4 cups

1/4 cup Sunflower oil, corn oil, lard or Coconut Oil*
¼ cup chopped white onion and pinch of salt.
2 smashed garlic cloves
4 cups cooked beans
1-1/2 cups bean broth

In a non non-stick (cast iron, stainless) saute pan heat up the oil on a medium high heat until rippling hot. Saute onion until golden brown edges, add garlic and saute for 1 minute be careful not to scorch the garlic. Carefully add the beans and bean broth pouring away from you, to protect your hands from any splatter. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to slow simmer and start mashing up the beans until creamy*, some visible skins are ok. Once they are smashed, star stirring constantly until they look pasty and start separating from the edges of the pan. Usually if you can shake your pan and all the beans stay together like a blanket that slides on the pan, your refried beans are ready!, Slide them onto a platter and fold like making a big oval shape. Garnish with some sauteed serrano peppers or habaneros, plantains, crumble some queso fresco, or cotija anejo, totopos and they are ready to serve, Enjoy!

*Traditionally these black beans are made with lard. My advise, is get the best pure lard you can get. I highly recommend leaf lard-pastured non-hydrogenated. If you live in Austin Tx, Salt and Time sells great quality leaf lard on small amounts conveniently packed in their refrigerator. Other brands Fatworks, or Leaf Lard are great too. A great alternative to avoid animal fat but give great flavor is Coconut Oil. I highly encourage you to give it a try, especially on black beans. It adds great flavor, and in combination with some plantains, its to die for.

How-to-Refried-Black-Beans_Frijoles-Negros-Fritos_Yes,-more-please!

So this is How I bean…How you bean?

How-to-cook-Beans-All-about-Refried-Beans-Yes,-more-please!

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