Cuaresma means Lent

I’ve been meaning to write here since Ash Wednesday, which begins the Catholic season of Cuaresma, or Lent. For the non-Catholics visiting who need a primer, Lent lasts for 40 days beginning Ash Wednesday and ending Easter Sunday. And if you’re doing a little math in your head right now and have figured out that there are actually 46 days, here’s why we say Lent is only 40 days: Sundays don’t count according to the church’s calendar.

In Mexico, as well as in many other countries, it’s common for Catholics to abstain from eating meat on Ash Wednesday and Fridays throughout Lent, though some observe meatless Fridays year-round. Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are also supposed to be fasting days, during which Catholic adults eat only one full meal. Though, depending on who you ask, you might find some who fast on all Fridays during Lent. You may also be familiar with the practice of Catholics giving things up for Lent – and perhaps you’ve wondered what that’s all about. Fasting and giving up vices during Lent are a way for Catholics to connect to Jesus, making a sacrifice that is supposed to help us understand his suffering. Ideally, we aren’t just giving up sin during Lent, but abstaining from sin after Lent as well. For example, giving up your favorite dulces (a particularly popular item for children to give up) but then going back to eating them after Lent is over is not really how it’s supposed to work…. 

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Feliz Día del Amor y la Amistad

Today in some parts of the world, it’s Valentine’s Day. But in Mexico, it’s called Día del Amor y la Amistad. While Valentine’s Day is mostly a celebration of romantic love, Día del Amor y la Amistad encompasses love and friendship.

We don’t really celebrate Valentine’s Day in our house, and in fact, this past weekend we sort of forgot about the fact that all the restaurants were going to be full of people celebrating Valentine’s Day when we called to see if we could get last-minute reservations at one of our favorite places. Of course, we couldn’t get a table, so instead we cooked dinner together at home. If you ask me, as much as I love eating at restaurants, there’s something special about cooking together that makes a meal truly enjoyable.

And as any of my friends and family will tell you: a home-cooked meal is how I show my love best. Whether it’s rajas con crema for José, salsa de tres chiles (video recipe coming soon!) for my mom or Crock-Pot cochinita pibil for my best girlfriends, I love cooking for the special people in my life.

Take a few minutes today to remind your friends and family how much you love them. Whether it’s a hug in person, a phone call, an email or a big ol’ batch of Mexican comfort food like papas gratinadas to go with dinner, there’s no better feeling than to know how much others care about you, so don’t forget to spread the love as liberally as you’d add queso to those papas!

If you’ve got escuincles, check out these adorable print-and-color valentine cards from our friends at Spanglish Baby and Viva Greetings.

And head over to our Facebook fan page if you have a chance – today we’ll be talking about the foods we love – including non-Mexican foods, just for one day – including linky love to recipes from some of our favorite food blogs.

From our home to yours, ¡Feliz Día del Amor y la Amistad a todos! We’ll be celebrating by reminiscing about our recent trip to the beach in Oaxaca (pictured above) over a home-cooked meal.

  • I’d love if you’d leave a comment below to let me know which recipe from The Other Side of The Tortilla you’ve served to your family to show them how much you love them or what your favorite recipe is that you’ve seen here and why.

CROCK-POT FRIJOLES DE OLLA

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I love, love, love the little community we’ve grown on our Facebook fan page. A week or two ago, I posted a question asking fans what their favorite Mexican recipes are that they’ve adapted for crock-pot cooking. Overwhelmed with the number of delicious suggestions, I decided to whip up a batch of slow-cooked frijoles as my final tribute to National Slow-Cooking Month. (Thanks to Tortilla fan Annette for giving us the basic cooking instructions she uses.)

The results were tremendous, so I recorded a video recipe to show you just how I did it. As we’re preparing for a blizzard here in Chicago this week, I’m glad to have leftovers of this hearty, warm bean dish that is great as a snack, a side dish, or a main dish…. 

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Best of The Tortilla from 2010

Today we’re headed back to Chicago and la vida diaria, but so we don’t skip a beat while traveling, we’ve prepared a few lists, based on you, the readers, and what you loved most on The Other Side of The Tortilla in 2010. Click on the photos below to visit each recipe or story.

And don’t forget, for more homemade Tortilla goodness, a glimpse at what’s cooking in the Tortilla Test Kitchen and exclusive giveaways for fans, LIKE us on Facebook!

TOP 3 BEVERAGES/BEBIDAS

TOP 3 RECIPES/RECETAS

TOP 3 TRAVEL STORIES/CUENTOS DE VIAJE

TOP 3 VIDEOS

  • We hope you’ll find something new that you may have missed or that you rediscover a recipe or story you may have already read. If your favorite post isn’t listed here, let us know in the comments what you liked best. Also, please feel free to leave a comment with what you’d like to see in 2011!

Cooking Combat at the Kenmore Live Studio: Chilaquiles

Back in November, I did a cooking show with a live studio audience at the Kenmore Live Studio in Chicago. It was so much fun, I can’t wait to do another! For those who may have missed the show in person or couldn’t watch the live stream online, Kenmore was kind enough to put the show on YouTube so I could share with all of you.

¡Buen provecho!

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Mexique: Celebrating Mexican Cuisine with a French Twist

A few weeks ago I attended a dinner given by the Mexico Tourism Board and Chef Carlos Gaytan at his restaurant, Mexique, in honor of the recent UNESCO designation of Mexican cuisine as an Intangible Cultural Heritage. The Tourism Board over the last several weeks has hosted authentic Mexican dinners in a number of major North American cities to celebrate, including Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Miami, Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver, so I was thrilled to receive the invitation.

Did you know that French recipes and cooking techniques during the French occupation of Mexico in the 1860s became an important element in the evolution of modern Mexican gastronomy?

Gaytan’s concept behind Mexique is modern Mexican food with French influence. Hailing from Huitzuco, Guerrero, Gaytan’s love of food helped him rise from pantry cook to executive chef. He trained with French chef Dominique Tougne of Bistro 110 (Gold Coast) and has also spent time in the kitchens at Bistrot Margo (Old Town) and the Union League Club (Loop), all in Chicago. If you live in Chicago or are visiting, I highly recommend you visit Mexique for a meal.

One thing that left an impression on me at the dinner was when Carlos explained why he doesn’t serve mixed drinks in his restaurant: they take away from the palate and so instead, he serves wine and tequila. And God bless him for telling everyone in the dining room that tequila should be sipped. Someone at a table near me chimed in that “only heathens drink tequila shooters,” which caused an eruption of laughter at my table.

And I can’t end without showing you what we ate. It was a lovely four-course tasting meal with excellent wines and ended with tequila. I can’t wait to return to Mexique for another meal!

PRIMERO: Ceviche

Ahi tuna, avocado mousse, chipotle aioli, mango habanero galette… 

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