AGUA FRESCA: Agua de fresa y mango

Although May is National Strawberry Month, the grocery stores seem to suddenly be overflowing with ripe strawberries in the last week or so. We love strawberries in our house, but when you buy a few pounds of them at once because they’re inexpensive, what can you do with them other than eat them? Turn them into an agua fresca, of course! You want to be sure that your strawberries are red, ripe and fragrant to use them for this recipe. If they’re super sweet, you may want to decrease the amount of sugar in the simple syrup in the recipe; it’s a matter of personal taste how sweet you like the agua to be. Mango adds a sweet and summery twist to this classic agua de fresa recipe. If you don’t like mango, you can leave it out and increase the amount of strawberries by about one-third of a pound.

recipe_agua_de_fresa_y_mango_TOSOTT

A few notes about this recipe: This particular agua fresca is a little bit thicker consistency than others due to the mango flesh. You can dilute it with additional water if you like, but the consistency of the recipe written here makes it more Colima-style. You should use yellow mangoes rather than the green and magenta-colored ones (a variety called Tommy Atkins, mostly grown in Florida, and known in Spanish as petacón because of the big-bottomed shape) usually available in most grocery stores.

The yellow mangoes you’ll find in the U.S. are mostly Ataulfo mangoes and are very similar to Manila mangoes in taste and look, and both have very thin seeds, meaning you’ll get more mango flesh. (Manila are the yellow variety most commonly available in Mexico City that we’re used to eating when we’re there.) Both Ataulfo and Manila mangoes have sweet, creamy flesh that practically melts in your mouth and are not fibrous like the Tommy Atkins variety, which can be tough if not ripe or stringy due to the fibers. Ataulfo mangoes are in season from March to July; they should be yellow to yellow-orange in color with no black spots, and they’re perfectly ripe when the flesh gives a little (just like with a peach) and the skin starts to wrinkle just a bit…. 

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Siempre junto a mi corazón/Always near my heart

Over the weekend I posted a photo online of a locket that I wear often that always seems to get compliments from strangers. It’s got a vintage map of Mexico City on the outside (er, as close to the heart of Mexico City as they could get with the maps they had available), and on the inside, a tiny photo of the home where my suegros live.

If you’re a geography whiz, you’ll notice that the map on my locket is not quite accurate. But no matter. I love it anyhow.

I seem to have developed an eye for finding these kinds of unique pieces. I found and purchased this necklace at Chicago’s annual Renegade Craft Fair two years ago, from a little booth called The Weekend Store. You can purchase one here with a map of anywhere you like.

When I wear it, I somehow feel like I’m never really that far away from my México lindo y querido.

  • Do you have any special jewelry or trinkets that remind you of Mexico that you keep close to your heart?

HOW TO: Make molletes

Great for a quick, easy meal or a snack made from leftovers, molletes are very popular in Mexico. You can typically find them at any coffee shop and in many casual restaurants around the country as well. They can be eaten for any meal and you probably have all of the ingredients without knowing it!

A few notes: Day old bread is best, but you can use fresh bread just fine if you toast it well. There aren’t really exact proportions here in this guide. I typically make refried beans at the beginning of each week and just use them until they’re gone. If you don’t do the same, a small can of refried beans will do just fine here, and you’ll still have some left over. Here, I’ve used pinto beans. You can also use frijoles bayos refritos (a cousin in taste and texture to the pinto bean) or refried black beans. You can also add as much or as little cheese as you’d like; the point is that you cover the beans.

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • For each serving  of two molletes, you’ll need one bolillo roll. If you don’t have those, you can substitute with a loaf of soft French bread cut into sections.
  • A little bit of butter or margarine
  • A few tablespoons of refried beans (frijoles refritos) for each piece of bread
  • Shredded cheese (I recommend: Chihuahua, Oaxaca, Monterrey Jack. Note: In Mexico, I prefer what they call manchego, which is not the same as Spanish manchego, but they don’t sell Mexican manchego in the U.S. to my knowledge.)
  • Salsa mexicana (here’s my recipe for 2 servings, which can be doubled or tripled for however many you’re feeding)

Keep reading for step-by-step photos to help you assemble your molletes.… 

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Honoring La Virgen de Guadalupe

December 12th is a very important day in Mexico for faithful Catholics—El día de la Virgen de Guadalupe. If you’re not familiar with the story, here’s the very abbreviated version: in 1531, the Virgin Mary appeared to a poor Aztec man named Juan Diego, who had converted to Christianity several years before. He was so poor that he wore no shoes, and his mantle was coarsely woven of cactus cloth as he could not afford cotton. He often traveled hours to make his way from his home to the nearest church, and during one of his journeys, the Virgin Mary appeared to him and asked him to build a temple there in her honor. She appeared to him a total of four times before the miracle occurred when her image appeared on his cloak. The bishop requested that Juan Diego bring him a sign to prove what he had seen; after telling La Virgen that they requested physical proof of what he’d told them, she revealed to him several varieties of fresh, blooming Castilla roses (which were out of season), that he brought as proof and which amazed the bishop. When he unfolded his cloak (called a tilma), the roses scattered and the image of the Virgen de Guadalupe appeared, just as it exists on the tilma hanging in the Nueva Basílica de Santa María de Guadalupe today. The sanctuary that stands at the location where Juan Diego revealed the roses to the bishop is called La Capilla del Cerrito.

In the 1730s, La Virgen (also sometimes referred to as La Morenita) was adopted as the patroness of Mexico City. This is why her image can be found just about everywhere—from churches to market stalls to homes and even on quirky trinkets. She is beloved by all and today, the basilica in Mexico City is one of the most-visited Catholic shrines in the world. She is credited for performing many miracles to those who pray to her to watch over them…. 

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MexMonday: What I’m reading

While I catch up from being away for a long weekend in Acapulco, I’m sharing my reading list with you of things I’ve enjoyed reading over the last few weeks.

English:

Español:

Know of other recent good reads floating around the internet about Mexican cuisine, culture or travel destinations? Please feel free to share them in the comments below.

Visiting the ex hacienda de Apanquetzalco in Yautepec

In October, I traveled to Mexico for a cousin’s wedding. It wasn’t your typical church wedding followed by a reception at a banquet hall. Instead, it was held at a beautiful ex hacienda in the town of Yautepec, located in the state of Morelos. Not far from Cuernavaca, Yautepec is a short trip (about an hour and a half drive) from Mexico City. If you go, I recommend a stay at the very hospitable Villa Iyautli, where our family often stays. This area is incredibly rich with history and I was thrilled to visit and learn all about it.

THE HISTORY OF THE AREA AND EX HACIENDA APANQUETZALCO… 

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