Monday, November 18, 2013

Seasons Of My Heart - cooking class in Oaxaca

We just returned from a wonderful trip to Mexico taking in both Mexico City and Oaxaca City. Mexico City was amazing but since we were there for only 3 days it was more of dipping our toes into the water than a real excursion. We'll definitely have to return a few more times to get a real feel for it.
The trip to Oaxaca was the second one for us. In addition to a few days of sight-seeing and hanging at the Zocolo, we decided to take a class in one of the premiere cooking schools there, Susanna Trilling's Seasons of My Heart.
It was an all day affair with the bus picking us up at a hotel in the Centro at 9am and dropping us off about 8:30pm that night. The trip included a stop at a local weekly market in Etla with a wonderful docent by the name of Yolanda who patiently walked us through stalls, demonstrating the various local foods and cooking tools, and explaining their uses in the local cuisine. She also brought us to a delightful small kitchen there to have a lunch cooked up by locals with enchiladas and chocolate agua. I took plenty of photos but unfortunately couldn't keep up with all of the descriptions. Once I have them, I'll update the images with captions.

local maiz - corn

local peppers and beans

local tomatillo

local tomatoes

Sugar cane treats

Sugar cane


Spices and peppers

various piloncillos 

cinnamon and canela

cooked larvae



pork meat stall

butcher section

chili pastes

yams and sweet potatoes


preparing chocolate drinks

enchilada in coloradito mole

Local talent who serenaded us during our lunch 

Once we concluded our trip through the market, we were driven up to Susanna's school in the hills, a beautiful rustic home with an open kitchen and dining room where we had recipes packets and aprons at the ready for each of the 10 of us. (Let me say here, one of the best parts of the entire day were the other students with whom we shared the experience. Everyone was a pleasure to be with and great fun to work with. In my experience, that beats the law of averages so I took that a blessing.) Susanna sat us down for a short lecture describing the recipes and courses, the ingredients we were going to use, and the techniques and tools with which we were going to be cooking. We then split into small teams, each course being handled by 2 volunteers. During the food prep, Susanna kept an eye on everything without interfering but always ready to step in if someone had a question or if she could detect some confusion on the part of one of us. After about two hours of cooking, we sat down to enjoy the results of our work in the midst of a party atmosphere.

The whole experience was thoroughly delightful, I would highly recommend the class to anyone who is visiting Oaxaca and interested in its local cuisine, one of the more amazing ones in the world IMO.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Roasted Rock Cod with Italian Frying Peppers

Another black cod from Siren SeaSA and since I have a Italian frying pepper that is still yielding fruit in the garden, this recipe from Food And Wine seemed worthy to fit the bill. I wasn't initially impressed with the concept but thought I should at least give it a try. Very glad that I did!

Peppers in the garden

roasting the peppers on the gas stovetop flame



pounding the garlic-anchovy paster

final sauce before roasting

as usual, the best the Northern California ocean has to offer

4 mild medium red or green Italian frying peppers (about 1 pound)
4 anchovies
3 garlic cloves, peeled 
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons capers, drained and coarsely chopped
Four 1/2-pound cod fillets
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Lemon wedges, for serving

If you don't have a gas stovetop or grill
Preheat a broiler. When hot, roast the peppers as close to the heat as possible for about 10 minutes, turning, until charred and blistered all over. 
If you have a gas stovetop or grill
Place a couple of the peppers over an open gas flame (photo above) and turn a few times until they blister all over.

Once the peppers are done, put them into a paper bag and close in order to let the residual heat soften the peels. Once they have cooled, slit each one open lengthwise to remove the core and seeds then slice them into thin strips. 

Preheat the oven to 400°. 
In a mortar, pound the peppercorns to a coarse grind. Add the salt then the peeled garlic and pound into a rough paste. Add the anchovies and a bit of the olive oil to pound until fairly smooth. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the olive oil, capers and roasted peppers.

Arrange the cod on a baking sheet and spread the pepper mixture evenly over each fillet. Roast the cod for about 10 minutes, or until the flesh flakes easily. Sprinkle with the parsley and serve with the lemon wedges on the side.