Pickled Mexican Vegetables

Pickled Veg

I don’t know if any dinner featuring the tastes of Mexico would be complete without this dish … in Mexico it is often found sitting on tables just waiting for you to nibble.

This keeps for weeks in your fridge and is a great accompaniment to sandwiches or burgers and always perfect for tacos.

Like many pickled recipes, this is just a guide.  Use whatever vegetables are fresh and ready at hand.  Today’s version included garden fresh cauliflower, zucchini, green & yellow beans, carrots and sweet Walla Walla onions.  Prepare vegetables in bite size portions, i.e., cauliflower florets, wedges of zucchini, carrots sliced on diagonal … you get the idea.  I like to prepare everything ahead of time, and have them ready on the cutting board so I can see the colours and shapes together to make sure it is a pretty picture.  (yep, I’m that weirdo)  If you like a bit of spicy kick, slice up a jalapeño or two as well.

Start by heating up some good olive oil, (a generous portion – more than you would normally use to sauce) sauté onions until soft.  Add garlic, carrot, and any veg you think might take a while to soften.  You are only looking for crisp tender as your finished product, not soft and overcooked veg.

Add:

2 1/2 cups white vinegar

1 tbsp salt

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp peppercorns

1 tbsp dried mexican oregano

4 bay leaves

Simmer just until heated through and remove from heat.  Store in glass jar (or non reactive container) in the fridge for weeks!

 

 

 

 

Chicken Flautas with Tomatillo Sauce

You never know where you will find a mouth watering bite in Mexico City.  These chicken flautas, crispy and crunchy on the outside with tender tasty chicken inside, were served out of a spotlessly clean corner of a car wash!!

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Keep it simple, just the way it should be.  Using cooked, shredded chicken put a small amount on a tortilla and roll it up.  Secure with a toothpick – don’t skip this step otherwise the moment you put it into the hot oil it will want to unravel.

Flautas 1

Cook in heated oil (350 degrees) turning gently, just until the tortilla is browned & crispy.  Do not overcrowd the pan or the temperature will drop.   As they are finished, set aside in a warm oven until you are finished.

Flautas 2

Garnish with slivered lettuce, and serve with mexican crema, alongside a dish of tomatillo sauce.

(I made my tomatillo sauce by heating the tomatillo sauce and adding enough chicken broth to make a light consistency)  Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed.

…….an easy cheat on the crema is to add a bit of lime juice to sour cream….

Mexico City, revisited!

Mexico itself is a country full of contrasts, and truly evident in the city.  Grandiose architecture and magnificent art galleries alongside signs of poverty.  In that I am sure every major city in the world is similar.  What is very different are the smells – walking down any given street you have the contrast of delicious meat grilling, fresh cucumber being sliced or …….sewage.

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The contrasts between old church spires, modern buildings and electrical mayhem are everywhere!

If you haven’t been to Museo Soumaya yet, then please try to get there.  Built by Mexico’s wealthy Carlos Slim in honour of his wife the entire structure is amazing itself, but once you get in and have the opportunity to view the largest collection of art work you simply won’t believe it.  His son in law designed the place and it is as elaborate inside as out.  The different floors wind up along inside the building so you are either slanting in or out, depending on which floor you are on.  The displays change somewhat too, the last time we were here an entire floor was devoted to Sophia Loren.  Better still, it is free admission!

Sculptures by Rodin, paintings by Van Gogh, Renoir & Matisse to name a few, you can wander here for hours.

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The “Gates of Hell” was a particularly masterful piece, and just huge.

We were pretty fortunate to be in the city for longer than we have before so thoroughly enjoyed both eating out and touring art galleries and museums.  It is literally impossible to not eat well in Mexico City.  From spending mere pesos for a street taco to dining in one of the more elegant restaurants it is always less than we would spend at home and the food is fantastic.

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Try a roadside tostada, in this case shrimp ceviche.

Or – if you are fortunate enough to have a cozy place like we did, just pick up a rotisserie chicken for dinner.  This Columbian chicken dinner was 110 pesos, and fed us for 2 nights.  Not only that, it was incredibly delicious.  Under the skin they had rubbed an amazing herb blend and that skin was something Auntie Brigitte would have fought for ….

If you can’t find what you need at a mercado, then you either don’t need it, or you aren’t in the right mercado.  Smiling vendors are raring to sell you whatever you need, at a very reasonable price and guaranteed to make you smile too.

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In case you haven’t tried it ….. these large sheets below are pork fat.  Yep, pure pork fat fried up in all its goodness.  Mexicans eat it by the sheet, and as tasty as it is, we find a few crumbles on guacamole or in a soup are enough to hit the spot.

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Palacio de Bellas Artes – or the Fine Arts building.  Inside it is even more impressive with murals and incredible art galleries.  We have yet to make it to one of the traditional folk ballets they feature here, but one day ….

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Viewed from what was at one time the tallest building in the Americas, the Latin America building:

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Take the elevator to the top of the Latin America building and you just won’t believe how far you can see – particularly on a clear enough day when the smog isn’t too troublesome.

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Is there anything better than travel with family?  We think not!  Our youngest granddaughter Liv is already loving Mexico City as much as we do…

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Take some time at Chapultepec Park and Castle, well worth it to wander around, enjoy both the park and the walk up to the castle.

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These little guys are everywhere, hoping to catch the popcorn or peanut you drop.

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At the top of Chapultepec Park is the  Castle, as you can see not an especially brilliant day – smog combined with cool cloudy weather.

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Not sure if I was meant to live in a more elegant time or not, but I sure could have become accustomed to my bedroom and bathroom looking like this ….. Who am I kidding though, I would have been one of the servants!!  ha ha

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Imagine playing hopscotch or soccer inside these hallways … the stained glass is just incredible.

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Museum of Anthropology …… take a day.  In just over 3 hours we managed to view one side of the 3 you see here…. it is a touch overwhelming, but absolutely amazing and a must see.

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The reproductions of actual structures of ancient cities are so well done it is easy to imagine civilization as it was.  Just love the colours – and can picture how vivid the homes were.

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Amazing murals everywhere telling the stories of each civilization.

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And …. once you are worn out from walking your feet off (on this particular day we walked 13.3 kms….) it is entirely justified to stop and have a pastry … our favourite is La Boheme, situated next to Mercado Roma and serving up the most amazing pastries along with a perfectly Vivian size mug of hot chocolate.

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In Mexican culture, the mid day meal is very important … they linger over it, usually taking hours, and they certainly enjoy their alcoholic beverages along with it.  In fact, in a busy lunch spot like this, I think we were the only table without!

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Hungry for a light lunch or just a snack?  This tuna tostada is light, refreshing, and absolutely delicious. Contramar is one of the seafood restaurants in Mexico City that you must try to get in to.  Like many great places, they are only open for the main meal of the day, from noonish until 6ish.  Yes, that is how long lunch can be ….

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Oyster Bar in Mexico City?  Definitely!!  La Docena Oyster Bar has an impressive array of seafood choices and these oysters were so fresh and sweet we had 2 plates.  Incredibly delightful and this plate of raw oysters probably cost about the same as a small plate of chicken wings at home.  The crunchy oysters on top of the salad were a perfect crouton, and the sandwich a treat.

oyster-bar

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Reforma is one of the busiest streets, and yet every Sunday morning they close it to vehicle traffic and it is full of Mexican families out exercising, bike riding, roller blading or doing dance classes.  Such a great idea, and I just wish we thought to do that in some of our major cities as well.

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Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera are much loved in all of Mexico, and the museums dedicated to their lives and art are plentiful.  This particular one is in San Angel, which is a beautiful neighbourhood in the city, very artsy and upscale.  Saturday market holds some of the most tempting pieces you will find anywhere.

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Every neighbourhood has a spot like this to sit and enjoy peace and quiet.

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The Frida and Diego museum is actually one of their former homes- in this case they each had their own home, created by an architect friend.  See the walkway above to join the two?  Small bedrooms but huge art studios! (Frida’s house was the blue one, no surprise there, given the Blue House Museum in Coyoacan)

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Diego’s art studio sits as he left it …..fullsizeoutput_476a

Time for another snack in the park ….

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Well, it’s taken me some time to get this blog on Mexico City completed, but it is time to move on to the beach at Puerto Escondido.  We always seem to find a lot to do in DF, so I’m sure we will be back.

Barbacoa por la desayuna .. .. ?? Si! si! More on Mexico City!

Barbacoa por la desayuna?? Si … Si!!

Our flight to Mexico City was a bit bumpier than usual, but nothing too bad. Arriving at Hotel Puebla around midnight we settled in to a familiar neighbourhood – Roma Norte.

In the morning we were up and on the streets before Mexico City (DF) really came alive. In Grant’s usual fashion we were walking to breakfast about 5 blocks away …. Really I am not sure how many increments of those 5 blocks we walked … maybe 45 minutes? We found El Hidalguense Barbacoa … .this place is only open on the weekends, Friday through Sunday, and usually sells out by noon to 2 ish.

Barbacoa La Higuedense - this lamb pit roasted all night resting on maguey leaves - mouth waveringly tender and delicious.

Barbacoa La Higuedense – this lamb pit roasted all night resting on maguey leaves – mouth waveringly tender and delicious.

The only thing on the menu is barbecued lamb and its accompaniments. Many of them ….
The lamb is butchered and put into a pit to roast and steam on top of maguey leaves (the plant that produces mescal or tequila). The entire lamb is put into this, along with seasonings. There is no testing for seasoning through the cooking process, once it is sealed up with the ingredients and covered with yet more maguey leaves the pit is sealed and the lamb allowed to barbecue roast overnight. In the early hours of the morning the lamb is removed from the pit, juices are poured off to create the soup, and the lamb pieces (included the stomach) removed to another maguey leaf lined wooden crate to keep warm. This is then sold in the restaurant along with all the accompaniments, or sold by the kg to go. This place is busy! With good reason too, the lamb was delicious, and those blue corn tortillas so perfect for serving.

el Hidalguense lamb barbacoa (incorrectly spelled on previous photo!)

el Hidalguense lamb barbacoa (incorrectly spelled on previous photo!)

Our appetites are not used to such a meat fest early in the morning though so we were not really able to do it justice in the form of eating a lot of it, but what we did eat we thought was fantastic. The broth of that soup was unbelievable.

We set out to walk it off and we found a new market – Roma Norte Mercado Organico. This place takes the usual Mexican Mercado to another whole level. What a beautiful building! Such tiny little spots sell a variety of amazing food and beverages. In this market we finally found the sea salt from Cuyutlan that we had walked blocks in search of on our last trip here … Wilson wanted that blog called “Salt of the Earth” ….

Just 1 shot of the magnificent interior of the newest market, in Roma Norte - Mexico City.  Amazing food.

Just 1 shot of the magnificent interior of the newest market, in Roma Norte – Mexico City. Amazing food.

Grant had read about the Mercado, and about the amazing Portuguese tart sold there … naturally we had to try it – yes breakfast dessert following barbecue … I’m still dreaming of the delicious crispy flakiness of the pastry combined with the luscious cream filling.

Exterior of Carlos Slim Gallery (dedicated to his wife), like a shimmering mirror.

Exterior of Carlos Slim Gallery (dedicated to his wife), like a shimmering mirror.

Next was a taxi to a swanky neighbourhood – Polanco. Definitely easy to tell just how swanky by the size of the Saks 5th Ave store ….. Our destination was an art museum built by an individual that was once the wealthiest man in the world – the owner of Telcel, Carlos Slim. Hard to even describe this building, looking like a mirror of unusual proportions … inside is an even harder to describe art gallery – totally round interior in white with wooden floors.

Interior - the entire upper floor filled with the most incredible sculptors work.

Interior – the entire upper floor filled with the most incredible sculptors work.


The first painting to greet us was a Van Gogh! In order to ascend the building, you walk up a sloped ramp along the outside perimeter. Not only are the walls sloping towards you (stay away from the outside edge or you’ll bonk your head) the floors have a slight slope as well. Totally disconcerting, and yes – a little vertiginous. The art housed in the gallery is just beyond belief – Salvador Dali, Monet, Renoir, and Rodin and on and on and on.

Renoir landscapes

Renoir landscapes

One of the many Salvador Dali pieces “Alice in Wonderland”

Italian sculptor - B. Lombardi created this phenomenal lady with a veil

Italian sculptor – B. Lombardi created this phenomenal lady with a veil


It is just wonderful that all this artwork is free to view, and not only that – not behind any type of glass or protective barrier aside from a few of the sculptures that are just to delicate to risk. Alongside all this prestigious artwork is an entire floor dedicated to Sophia Loren – her clothing worn in movies, as well as clothing worn on a daily basis. Again – none of this behind any type of barrier. The Oscar however was in a glass case.

One of the many Sophia Loren outfits from her movies.

One of the many Sophia Loren outfits from her movies.

Lunch was street tacos – pretty much guaranteed to be fabulous in Mexico – and for the grand prize of less than $5.00 we enjoyed shrimp, pork, and chicken tacos with some nice cold water. Served up in a jiffy you – feeling somewhat like you were at Subway – you chose your own toppings for the owner/chef to heap on.

Tacos la Hola - another favourite taco joint on the streets of Mexico city.

Tacos la Hola – another favourite taco joint on the streets of Mexico city.


Salsas and lime available for your own final seasoning and the whole thing was mouth watering, finger licking good. On our way back to Hotel Puebla we stopped at La Ceverceria for a drink – Grant got a cerveca and I got a gin – you should have seen Grant’s eyes pop at the amount of gin he watched the bartender free hand pour in – I was hardly able to get much soda water in there!

Siesta time for a bit – so nice to stretch out after walking a number of 5 block increments.

Dinner was at Yuban – we had been there with Hayley and the girls shortly after they opened a year ago. The place was a lot busier, and with a new team of staff members they are executing Oaxacan cuisine even better than previously.

Yuban Restaurant - absolutely fabulous Oaxacan cuisine.

Yuban Restaurant – absolutely fabulous Oaxacan cuisine.

Venison @ Yuban

Venison @ Yuban


My only concern was the price of a glass of wine – 150 pesos, which is hugely pricey when a top end meal is 236 pesos. Did I splurge anyway? You bet – twice. I’m worth it. We aren’t sure if they thought I was a famous blogger or not with all the photos I was taking but we sure were treated well, including a complimentary house cocktail at the end of the meal – without question the best mescal cocktail I have ever had.

Pretty darn impossible to not love a mescal cocktail that tastes as good as it looks!

Pretty darn impossible to not love a mescal cocktail that tastes as good as it looks!

Smoky mescal combined with refreshing cucumber is a great combo. The new house manager – a young guy, also offered to take us on a 4 hour drive to the smaller village in Oaxaca were they source all their ingredients to make their cuisine. I would have jumped at the chance but Grant remembers those roads better than I ……….. In the end, he also gave me his email and said that if I was ever coming back to be sure to let him know so that he was able to take good care of us … hmm – I’m quite sure he has never heard of http://www.chattykathychatsandcooks.com but you just never know.

After a good night’s sleep we had a quick 5 block walk (translate about 30 minutes) to Monica Patina’s deli – we’ve been there before with the family and you will all know right away how good it was.

Back to the hotel to catch a taxi to the airport and an Interjet flight to Zihuatenajo. Sunshine here we come.