Mexico City bites

We arrive in Mexico City late, and won’t even be there for 24 hours before flying out to Tuxtla ….. this presents a real dilemma for us, requiring us to narrow down the places we eat.  We’ve eaten our way through CDMX more than a few times, and on a restricted time frame, but this will be the shortest eating walking, walking in order to eat stop.  EEK.  I’m already dreaming of the places to quickly stop for a bite.

cdmx churro

Churros are a natural start for us!  This place, El Morro, is one of the oldest Churreria spots in the city, and they are delicious.  It is usually easy to get a table early in the day, but you should see the lineups late afternoon and into the night!

cdmx el morro churro

Next head to a mercado – the food is always amazing in the markets, and once we’ve had our coffee and churro it is time for a savoury bite ….. how about carnitas?  These tacos are mouth watering pork goodness.

cdmx carnitas 2

Every bit of the pork is waiting to be chopped up and served in a taco.  We loved the tortillas they made at this stand, they have fresh herbs in the tortilla masa and added so much flavour.

cdmx carnitas 1

No shortage of amazing toppings for your taco.

cdmx carnitas

It’s hard to only eat a couple of tacos at this place, but so many more steps and bites to come …

cdmx fruit

Time to lighten things up a bit …. how about some fruit?  These cups of fruit and vegetables are available everywhere and bursting with freshness.

cdmx fruit 2

Look for these vendors on the streets – you can choose whatever you want in your cup!

cdmx mango

Don’t miss the mango!

cdmx peruvian ceviche

How about a little ceviche next?  So refreshing and absolutely delicious.

cdmx walk

When you walk this much, your little 5 year old legs need a boost from big sister …..

cdmx la docena

La Docena – our favourite oyster bar.  These blue crab tostada’s with habanero foam are the bomb!  Served with a crisp white from the Baja region its a perfect bite.

cdmx la docena 1

cdmx la docena 2

Crunchy oyster croutons served with fresh greens and creamy avocado – love this salad.

cdmx dessert

Save room for dessert – these pastries are a great way to finish off a day.

Less than a day to eat, so many bites waiting …… we will get off that plane with an appetite and start walking!

 

Halibut Veracruzana

halibut veracruzana

This is one of those recipes that is more a guideline.  Inspired by the flavours of fish we’ve had served in the style of Veracruz in Mexico, this is so easy to prepare at home, and if you have a good source of fish, give it a try!

You will need:

  • enough fish to feed your family (I’ve used halibut here but any white fish will work)
  • green olives
  • fresh tomatoes
  • black olives
  • capers
  • roasted red peppers
  • fresh red peppers
  • your best olive oil
  • lemon
  • sea salt & pepper

Generously butter a baking dish (extra points for using a pretty one that you can also serve this dish in!)

Lay in your fish, cut in serving size.

Chop the olives, peppers and fresh tomato, and then cover your fish with all the toppings.  Again, be generous with seasoning – liberally sprinkling salt and pepper over it all.  Then – squeeze a whole lemon and drizzle olive oil over the top.

Roast at 375 just until fish flakes nicely.  This will entirely depend on the thickness of your fish, so watch it carefully and check after 10 minutes.

Serve over rice, with a bright, crunchy salad on the side.  Add crusty bread to soak up those juicy drippings and you’ve got a quick easy dinner good enough for company.

Tossed Salad

Gram’s Shortbread Cookies

shortbread 4

Sprinkle with a little coloured sugar, or mini decorations, to fit the season, but don’t overload these delicate little gems.  They really don’t need much of anything.

This is an age old recipe, probably handed down for generations, and all from a box of cornstarch.  I started looking for this recipe as a way to honour Gram Shirley Goldie, and posting it today, on the first anniversary of her passing, seems fitting.  What I didn’t expect in my search through recipes to find her special recipe, is that it was also my mom’s recipe, another much loved and very much missed Gram.  Our very dear Auntie Elsie used the same recipe.  This year when I made the cookies, I felt the need to work the dough by hand, no mixer needed here.  As I watched my hands in the dough, I saw the hands of my mother.  I saw the hands of my mother in law Shirley, and I saw Auntie Elsie’s hands.  I’m posting the recipe to honour them all, and in the hopes that for generations to come, this will be the “go to” Christmas shortbread recipe.

  • 1 cup Canada corn starch (really, you can use any corn starch)
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 2 cups sifted all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups butter (softened)

Sift cornstarch, flour & icing sugar together.  Use your fingers and work in the butter until a soft dough is formed.

shortbread

Maybe it was the Christmas season, but I found myself lost in watching my hands and thinking of the hands that taught me so much in the kitchen.

shortbread 2

Once the dough is held together nicely it should be soft and supple.  Either put in the fridge to rest at this point, or carry on with simple dough balls.

Shape into 1 inch balls and place on an uncreased cookie sheet.  Flatten lightly with a fork in a crosshatch pattern.

shortbread 3

Bake the cookies at 325 for 10 min or so – watch them, every oven is different.  Remove them the minute they show any colour.  They are very soft when they come out, so I recommend allowing them to cool on the pan so they don’t break.

It is possible to allow the dough to set up in the fridge after forming it into a ball, and use it to roll out and cut shapes.  This is a pretty delicate dough though, so don’t expect it to be as easy as sugar cookie dough.

How easy is this?

Naan Bread

Soft and supple, yet crunchy bits.  Homemade naan can never be totally authentic without a tandoori oven, but you can come pretty close!  I love the feel of this dough, and always make enough for leftovers, they heat up really well.

onion naan 3

naan 5

Just look at the way they puff up in my cast iron pan!

INGREDIENTS

For Dough

  • 2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup water lukewarm
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg large
  • 1/4 cup yogurt plain
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder

Other

  • 12 tsp olive oil
  • 4 tbsp butter melted
  • 2 tbsp parsley chopped

 

  • Heat the oven to 200 F degrees.
  • In a medium bowl, combine the yeast, sugar and water. Lightly whisk it all together, then let it sit for about 5 to 10 minutes or until the yeast dissolves and starts to foam.
  • To the same bowl, add the oil, yogurt, egg and whisk well. Set aside.
  • To the bowl of your mixer, combine the flour with the salt and garlic powder. Add the yeast mixture and mix for a couple minutes, until the dough comes clean from the sides of the bowl. If the dough is too wet, add a bit more flour, starting with a tablespoon at a time. The dough should be nice and soft but not sticky.
naan

Your dough should feel soft and smooth, but not too sticky.

  • Place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover it with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap. Turn OFF your oven, place the bowl inside and allow to rise for about 30 minutes to 1 hour or until doubled in size. I use this trick all the time to speed up the rising time. Mine only took about 40 minutes, so the time depends on your yeast and your environment.
  • After it rises, cut the dough into 12 equal pieces and shape each piece into a small ball.

naan 1

naan 2

These little dough balls are so soft and supple, they roll out beautifully.

naan 4

onion naan 1

This variation included slivered green onions, we loved it.  Don’t worry about the making the dough balls round, as long as it fits in your pan, and you can handle it, it works!

 

  • Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat and add about 1 tsp of olive oil. Roll out one ball at a time until it’s about 1/3 inch thick and about 5 inches in diameter. Add the piece of rolled dough to the hot skillet and cook for about 1 minute, the skillet should be very hot, so you’ll see bubbles forming as you cook the dough on the first side. Flip the dough and cook the other side until the bottom is golden.

onion naan 2

naan 3

  • Repeat with remaining dough until all of the pieces are cooked. Keep the naan covered in a towel so that it doesn’t dry out. When all of them are cooked, brush each one with the melted butter and garnish with some parsley.
naan 6

Keep these covered and warm until ready for service.

Have you checked out the website “Jo Cooks” ??  She has some amazing recipes, and this is where I got this one from, I felt the texture was amazing, but I added just a bit more salt and some garlic powder.

Spanakopita

spanakopita

These little pockets are a great addition to a Greek dinner, or perfect served as appetizers.

 

I loved making these little pockets of deliciousness.  Once I got into the rhythm of the folding and rolling it went quite quickly and they were fantastic.  The recipe came from Food Network, Mary Sue Millikin and Susan Feniger.  My only addition was the fresh dill.

 

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 pounds spinach, washed and drained
  • 1 bunch scallions, white and green parts, chopped
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 2 tbsp fresh dill
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 pound feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 to 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 pound filo pastry sheets
  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large saute pan, add half of the spinach and saute until spinach wilts, tossing with tongs, about 2 minutes. Remove spinach and squeeze out excess liquid, then chop roughly. Repeat with remaining spinach, using 1 more tablespoon of olive oil. Pour off any liquid from the pan, and add remaining olive oil. Add scallions and saute until soft, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the spinach to the scallions, along with the parsley, dill, salt and pepper. Cook over low heat for 1 to 2 minutes, then remove from heat to cool. (This part can be done ahead and kept refrigerated).
  2. Stir the feta and as much beaten egg  as needed to moisten the cooled spinach mixture.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Brush a baking sheet with some of the melted butter.
  4. Unroll the filo dough on a flat surface and keep it covered with waxed paper and a damp towel so it doesn’t dry out and become brittle. Using a sharp knife, cut the filo into 3 by 11 inch strips, and recover with the towel. Use a pastry brush to brush a strip of filo with melted butter. Place a small spoonful of spinach filling 1 inch from the end of the pastry. Fold the end over the filling to form a triangle, then continue to fold up the strip in triangles, like folding up a flag. Continue with remaining strips of dough, placing filled triangles on the baking sheet and keeping them covered with a towel until all are ready to bake.
  5. Brush the triangles lightly with butter, then bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden and crisp. Serve hot. (These may be frozen before baking, layering waxed paper between layers of triangles to keep them from sticking. Bake frozen triangles an extra 10 minutes.)
spanakopita 1

Start with a healthy “dollop” of the spinach mixture, then start folding over into triangles.

spanakopita 3

I quickly discovered that using a healthy amount of the filling made better triangles.

spanakopita 4

spanakopita 5

Ready for baking or at this point you can freeze them for serving later.  Bake from frozen.

Cook’s Note

Variation: Butter a 9 by 13 inch baking pan, and spread 6 sheets of filo, brushing each with butter, on the bottom. Spoon the spinach filling over the filo, then cover with 6 more sheets of filo, buttering each sheet. Score the top 3 sheets with a sharp knife. Bake 40 to 45 minutes, or until top is golden, let stand 15 minutes, then cut into squares and serve warm.

Irresistible Turtle Cheesecake

turtle cheesecake 4

Not sure how a cheesecake can be creamy, delectable and somehow light at the same time.  As an added bonus, it’s easy to make.

 

3 cups cups finely crushed chocolate wafers (or use a combo of graham and chocolate wafers)

3 Tbsp. butter, melted – use your judgement, may take a little more to get the crumbs to stick together
1/4 cup caramel sauce (plus more for drizzle)
1/4 cup chocolate sauce (plus more for drizzle)
1 cup chopped and roasted pecans
3 pkg. (8 oz. each) Cream Cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. vanilla
3 eggs
I used a 9 1/2″ springform pan for this cake – depending on the size of your pan, you may need to adjust slightly for the amount of crumb.
Heat oven to 325°F.
Combine cookie crumbs and butter; press onto bottom and 1-1/2 inches up side of 9 1/2 inch springform pan.
Sprinkle toasted and chopped pecans over crust layer, and top with the caramel sauce.
turtle cheesecake 1

I used a combination of chocolate and graham crumbs and really loved the way it turned out,

Beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla in large bowl with mixer until blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing on low speed after each one, until really smooth.  Pour over caramel layer in crust.  With an offset spatula smooth the top.
I always like to bake my cheesecakes in a water bath – this makes them even smoother and creamier, as well as less likely to crack on top.
turtle cheesecake 2
TIP – Double wrap your cheesecake pan with foil, then set in large roasting pan.  Put this in your preheated oven, and ONLY THEN fill with hot water until about 1/2 way up the sides of the springform pan.
Bake 1 hour 5 min. to 1 hour 10 min. or until center is almost set. Run knife around rim of pan to loosen cake; cool before removing rim. Refrigerate 4 hours.
turtle cheesecake 3
When the cake is completely cooled, remove from springform pan and sprinkle reserved pecans over.  Then drizzle with both caramel and chocolate sauces.  Irresistible.
turtle cheesecake 5
You can be as creative as you like with both the caramel and chocolate sauces.  They are easy enough to make, but if you are inclined to take it easy on yourself, just buy them.

Creamiest Hummous

Hummus 1

Drizzle the finished hummus with your best olive oil and a sprinkling of paprika.  A few toasted sesame seeds would be a great addition also. (I just didn’t think of it until I looked at my photos!)

  • 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas or 1 1/2 cups (250 grams) cooked chickpeas
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) fresh lemon juice (1 large lemon)
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) well-stirred tahini
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons (30 to 45 ml) water
  • Dash ground paprika, for serving

 

DIRECTIONS

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the tahini and lemon juice and process for 1 minute, scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl then process for 30 seconds more. This extra time helps “whip” or “cream” the tahini, making the hummus smooth and creamy.

Add the olive oil, minced garlic, cumin, and a 1/2 teaspoon of salt to the whipped tahini and lemon juice. Process for 30 seconds, scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl then process another 30 seconds or until well blended.

Open, drain, and rinse the chickpeas. Add half of the chickpeas to the food processor and process for 1 minute. Scrape sides and bottom of the bowl, then add remaining chickpeas and process until thick and quite smooth; 1 to 2 minutes.

peeled chickpeas

I know, you are thinking “what goof peels chickpeas?”  Me.  Especially after Stella raved about the creamiest hummus she’d ever had.  At 5 years old, this girl knows food.  After that, how could I not peel my hummus.  After all, even if it takes you 20 min to peel that can of chickpeas, haven’t you ever wasted 20 min on something less interesting??

Most likely the hummus will be too thick or still have tiny bits of chickpea. To fix this, with the food processor turned on, slowly add 2 to 3 tablespoons of water until you reach the perfect consistency.

Taste for salt and adjust as needed. Serve hummus with a drizzle of olive oil and dash of paprika. Store homemade hummus in an airtight container and refrigerate up to one week.

Hummus 2

We served the hummus today with fresh vegetables as well as                                                            lightly seasoned and toasted pita wedges.

 

I heard a rumour that hummus made at home could be creamy, dreamy & simple, but every time I tried it I was less than satisfied.  Sure, it was tasty …. but dreamy?  No.  So I hit the blogs looking for a trick, and “inspired taste” provided it.  Look up the blog – Adam and Joanne have some amazing photos and descriptions, plus tips for cooking your own chickpeas and many other great ideas.  I’ve made this recipe a few times now, exactly as written (except that I am that weirdo that doesn’t mind a 10 minute mindless activity like skinning chickpeas).

Hummus 3

A few days later, my grand daughters Sloan and Stella were here, asking for a snack …. when I produced the vegetables I got a look ….. “Well Nana ……..do you have any of that amazing peeled chickpea hummus left?  Could we please have some of that too?”                                                       That, my friends, is how foodies are born.