Happy National Guacamole Day!

Is it a coincidence that National Guacamole Day happens to fall on Mexican Independence Day? We think not! But whatever the case, we love guacamole any day of the year. September 16 is National Guacamole Day, though, so here’s your free pass to enjoy this treat and celebrate both holidays at once!

If you love guacamole as much as I do, you can check out some of my guacamole recipes and tips here on The Other Side of The Tortilla (just click on the image to go to the recipe):

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Prickly pear frozen margarita

Grocery stores are typically overflowing with prickly pears—known as tunas rojas in Spanish—in August and September. You can eat them plain, use them to make agua fresca de tuna roja, watermelon and prickly pear paletas, prickly pear sorbet or even margaritas! There are so many possibilities.

prickly pear frozen margarita

Prickly pears are full of pectin, which makes them ideal for jelly and jam-making. The pectin produces a syrupy consistency that’s also perfect for blending with ice to make a frozen margarita. I’m serving this margarita for our Mexican Independence Day celebration. It’s a sophisticated representation of the Mexican flag: red from the prickly pears, white from the tequila blanco and green from the lime.

¡Viva México!… 

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¡Felices fiestas patrias!

Felices fiestas patrias to all our friends celebrating Mexican Independence Day in Mexico and beyond!

About a year ago, I did a photo essay and wrote about exploring Mexico for a photography magazine based in Singapore. It occurred to me that I’d never shared it here so I thought it was fitting to do so today. It includes photos I’ve taken on travels to Mexico City, Teotihuacán, Cancún and Aguascalientes.

Here’s an excerpt:

Mexico is my home away from home. Every corner I turn, every meal I eat and every new place I explore is a source of inspiration to me. And I never go anywhere without a camera so I can be sure to capture every experience I come across, see and feel. From the moment the plane approaches the runway and I can see the vibrant colours of the homes below to the lush, jungle-like vegetation I’ve admired in places such as Cancun and Huatulco, Mexico always takes my breath away and has me fumbling for my camera before I even touch the ground.
I’ve laid down in dirt, sand, and on a world-famous soccer field to get a shot. I’ve climbed high above the 1968 Olympic stadium and to the top of Aztec pyramids toting my cameras for an eagle’s eye view, and into the ocean, carrying my camera high above my head until the tide receded enough to safely photograph marine life. But usually the biggest thrill comes from the simplest of things: family and friends.
As we celebrate Mexican Independence Day this year in our home, we hope you’re doing the same with friends and family wherever you may be. We’ll be celebrating by eating plenty of Mexican antojitos. And of course, we’ll be watching El Grito tonight and probably tweeting about it too. If you’d like to watch El Grito from past years, click on the El Grito tag at the bottom of this post.

VIVA MÉXICO!

El mes de la patria: Few things are more Mexican than mariachi!

*Note: This post is part of a Blog Hop among the Mexico Today Ambassadors in celebration of el mes de la patria and el Día de la Independencia Mexicana. If you’ve written a tribute post for this patriotic Mexican holiday, I encourage you to leave a link in the comments on this post in addition to checking out the posts from the other ambassadors participating. The official blog hop is set to only accept entries from the ambassadors.

 

I love mariachi music like I love tacos, and if you know me well, then you know that I love tacos and mariachi music to the end of the world and back. We have a storied relationship and yes, even my iPod is full of mariachi classics.

Nothing quite stirs my soul like mariachi music. I wish I could put my finger on an exact reason, but I can’t. It’s a bit like how Mexico has always felt like home to me even though I was born in the U.S. Whenever I’m having a bad day, a little mariachi music always cheers me up. Or sometimes when I’m really missing Mexico and it’s been too long since my last visit, a few classic tunes always do the trick to make me feel better and look forward to the next visit.

Recently, I had an opportunity to attend a special dinner in Chicago hosted by the Jalisco Tourism Board. The food was fabulous, the company genuine, and the after dinner entertainment… yep, you guessed it: mariachi!

But not just any mariachi band; this group was all the way from Guadalajara! It was such a surprise and a treat and most of the people I was seated with at my table were singing along. It was the birthday of someone at my table so they even played Las Mañanitas!

YouTube Preview Image

A few weeks ago, the 18th Annual International Mariachi Conference (yes, this really exists!) took place in the state of Jalisco, and one of our cousins from Mexico City shared a link with me of a BBC World News report about a new Guinness World Record set for the most traditional Mexican dancers on the floor at the same time. To be exact, there were 457 dancers and 300 mariachi musicians from all over Mexico and other countries, including the U.S.—and some came from as far away as Colombia, Ecuador and Argentina to participate and play in the record-breaking ceremony. I was amazed watching the video. Click through to the link to watch it—I know you’ll enjoy it as much as I did!

No Mexican celebration is truly complete—especially las fiestas patrias—without mariachi music. So put on some tunes (I recommend anything by Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán), wave your Mexican flag and don’t forget to watch El Grito tonight! I’m even pulling out my papel picado to decorate. I hope to see the zócalo of Mexico City on TV, filled to the brim with people like last year and the year before.

For past years’ celebrations, check out my posts on chiles en nogada (with a video of Calderón giving El Grito), and my two posts from last year’s Mexican bicentennial: guacamole y papel picado and how I celebrate Mexico every day.

¡Viva México!

  • How are you celebrating Mexican Independence Day this year?

 

Marca País – Imagen de México, is a joint public and private sector initiative designed to help promote Mexico as a global business partner and an unrivaled tourist destination. This program is designed to shine a light on the Mexico that its people experience every day. Disclosure:  I am being compensated for my work in creating content for the México Today program. All stories, opinions and passion for all things México shared here are completely my own.

 

Classic guacamole recipe

mi papel picado bicentenario

¡Feliz Día de la Independencia, México!

Did you watch the Grito last night?

In my house, we hung papel picado and waved our Mexican flag as we watched the celebration starting in Mexico City’s zócalo. My heart was filled with emotion seeing the zócalo, where I have stood in awe many times, brimming with people from all corners of Mexico to celebrate the bicentennial of Independence from Spain and 100 years since the Revolution.

If you missed the Grito, the shout of independence honoring Mexico’s national heroes, you can watch it here:

If you want to watch last year’s Grito and attempt a very traditional Independence Day recipe, you can check out the chiles en nogada I made and posted last year here on The Other Side of The Tortilla…. 

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CHILES EN NOGADA

ChileEnNogada

chile en nogada

Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day—a statement that usually surprises my non-Mexican friends. Every September, I practically go on a two-week blitz campaign to educate my friends about the real Mexican Independence Day.

The celebration technically begins on September 15th, La Noche del Grito. People all over Mexico gather in their town squares and many watch on television as the clock strikes eleven and the president shouts “Viva Mexico,” and the crowd echoes back the same. “Viva la independencia!”

It’s a grand display of national pride; much like the Fourth of July with the fireworks, parades and parties. I always love watching it on TV, seeing the zócalo in Mexico City filled to the brim with people.

This year, I was standing in my living room with a hand full of queso fresco as I watched El Grito. I was in the middle of making a special sauce, and just as the clock struck eleven, I was about to put the cheese into the blender with milk and walnuts. I didn’t want to miss the big moment, so there I was, cheese in hand, watching my TV and trying not to drip on the floor.

If you’ve never seen El Grito before, here’s your chance:

For 2009, I decided to make my own chiles en nogada, a very typical (and somewhat labor intensive) dish served around this time of year that showcases the colors of the Mexican flag. When I told my suegra my plans weeks before, she asked if I’d be able to find all the ingredients. I had to go to a few stores in order to get everything, and actually, the only ingredient that was difficult to find was a decent-looking pomegranate.

This recipe is from a traditional Spanish-language cookbook by Susanna Palazuelos I received as a gift from my suegra a few years ago, and is adapted to our liking. The original recipe calls for some ingredients I don’t care for so I adjusted portions and some substitutions, but the core of the recipe is still the same. The results were excellent and I even shared some with a few Mexican friends here in Chicago who had never before tasted this very traditional dish.

Walnuts WEB

nueces

RECETA:

  • 10 chiles poblanos
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar
  • 1 pomegranate, seeds reserved
  • A few sprigs of parsley to decorate each chile

NOGADA

  • 1 ½ cup walnut halves
  • 1 ¼ cup milk (2% or whole; you will use 1 cup of the milk to soak the walnuts)
  • 1 ½ cup Mexican cream (crema de leche espesa)
  • 10-12 ounces of queso fresco
  • 2-3 tbsp cane sugar
  • a big pinch of salt

PICADILLO

  • 1 lb pork loin, cut into a few sections
  • 6 cups water
  • about 1/3 of a white onion (a big slice)
  • 7 cloves of garlic (3 whole, 2 crushed for the pork broth; 2 crushed for the picadillo)
  • 1 bunch of fresh flat parsley, divided (3/4 will go in the broth, ¼ will go in the picadillo)
  • 1 to 1 ½ tbsp salt
  • ¼ cup of vegetable oil
  • ¾ of a cup of white onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large red tomato, peeled, seeds removed and finely chopped
  • 1-2 apples, peeled and finely chopped (yields about 1 cup)
  • 1 large pear, peeled and finely chopped (yields about ¾ of a cup)
  • 1 large peach, peeled and finely chopped (yields about ½ a cup)
  • ¾ cup golden raisins
  • ¼ cup almonds, blanched, peeled and finely chopped
Picadillo WEB

picadillo

THE NIGHT BEFORE: Blanch the walnuts for about 5-7 minutes, let cool slightly and peel the skins off. This is the most important part of the recipe not to cheat on, because the skin is bitter. It will take you awhile to do it, but trust me, you don’t want to leave the skins on. Put the skinned walnuts into a measuring cup and cover with 1 cup of milk, cover with saran wrap and leave in the refrigerator overnight. It took me about 1 hour from start to finish with prepping the walnuts.

Measure out ¾ of a cup of golden raisins and rehydrate them by covering with water (room temperature). Let them rehydrate overnight. Drain the water in the morning and reserve the rehydrated raisins until you are ready to use them.

DAY OF:
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the walnuts out of the milk and into a blender. Pour about ¾ of the milk into the blender. Discard the rest. Add the Mexican cream, fresh milk, sugar and salt to the blender. Crumble the queso fresco over the ingredients in the blender so it is easier to incorporate (you want the sauce to be completely smooth with no lumps). Blend until very smooth. Pour into a container and refrigerate.

To prepare the relleno, fill a pot with 6 cups of water and add the slice of onion, 3 whole cloves of garlic (peeled but not chopped), 2 cloves of peeled and crushed garlic, the little bunch of parsley and ½ tbsp of salt. Bring to a boil and add the pork loin piece by piece. Allow it to boil gently for about 15 minutes and then let it simmer for about 40  minutes or until the pork is fork-tender. Remove the meat from the broth and let cool a bit. Shred by hand or with a fork and set aside. Reserve about 1 cup of broth. (Use the rest for another recipe like soup if you wish—you just  made pork stock.)

I suggest you chop everything for the picadillo first.

Start with the garlic: crush 2 cloves and add to a large pan. Chop ¾ of a cup of white onion and add to pan. Peel and remove the seeds from the tomato and then finely chop. Set aside in a prep dish. Chop the ¼ of a bunch of parsley left and add  to prep dish with tomatoes.

Peel and finely chop the apple, pear, peach and blanched almonds. Set aside in another prep dish.

Heat your pan on the stove with the ¼ cup of oil. Add the garlic and onion and cook for about 4-5 minutes on medium heat or until the onion is transparent, but be careful not to burn it. Add the chopped tomatoes and parsley (distribute evenly in pan) and let cook for about 5 minutes without stirring it. (That’s why you need to distribute it evenly in the pan.)

Stir the oil, garlic, tomatoes and parsley briefly. Incorporate the rest of the salt (1/2 to 1 tbsp), the apple, pear, peach, raisins and almonds and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add the shredded pork loin and the reserved broth. Continue cooking at medium heat for 7-10 minutes or until the fruit has cooked and the mixture looks thickened. Let the picadillo come to room temperature and reserve.

RoastedPoblano WEBRoast the chiles over an open flame and peel them. Make a large cut down the side of each chile, making sure to not break them or rip the skin. (I suggest using latex gloves for the next step.) Using your fingers, carefully remove the seeds from inside the chile and then use the knife to remove any large veins. If you need a full tutorial with step by step instructions on how to roast them, you can reference my post on how to roast poblano chiles.

In a large bowl, dilute 2 tbsp of sea salt and 1 tbsp of white vinegar with water to completely cover the chiles. Let them soak for 40-60 minutes. This will take a little bit of the heat out of them if they are too spicy. After soaking, rinse the chiles with cool water and pat them dry as much as possible with paper towels. With a spoon, add a little bit of the relleno to each chile, being careful not to overfill them.

While the chiles are soaking in the salt, water and vinegar solution, cut the ripe pomegranate and reserve the seeds in a prep dish. To remove the seeds without making a mess, slice the pomegranate with five cuts but don’t slice all the way through. Submerge in a bowl of cool water, pull apart the slices and remove the seeds gently by hand. Rinse gently.

Pour the nogada over the chile filled with picadillo and sprinkle the pomegranate seeds on top. Garnish each chile with parsley and serve at room temperature.

semillas de granada

semillas de granada

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