I figure it’s safe to post a pumpkin recipe now. For a while there (all of October and November) I thought I was going to drown in pumpkin-flavored products. Is it just me, or are they becoming more and more prominent every year? Regardless, pumpkin soup is a hearty, warming way to enjoy the cold months of fall and winter, and I didn’t want to let spring hit me before sharing this recipe.
Like many foods we enjoy today, pumpkins are a product of the New World, and entered Europe in the 15th century. Most foods introduced during that time took a while to gain momentum in Europe – sometimes hundreds of years – but not the pumpkin. Because they resembled gourds and squashes common in the Old World, pumpkins were readily adopted and prized for their robust flavor and easy cultivation. It was quickly made into various soups, and mixed with honey and spices as early as the 17th century – a precursor to pumpkin pie.
For today’s recipe I wanted to keep pumpkin closer to its place of origin – North America – so I decided to focus on a Mexican soup commonly referred to as Sopa de Calabaza, often flavored with cumin and chorizo sausage. I really like the cyclical nature of this dish. Cumin was first cultivated in India and introduced to the Americas by the Portuguese and Spanish. Chorizo is the best of both worlds: Old World sausage flavored with paprika made by New World peppers, and later re-introduced to the Americas. So this dish is the product of the unique culinary marriage of these two continents and cultures.
While pre-roasting a whole pumpkin inevitably lends more depth of flavor, using canned pumpkin puree drastically cuts down on your cooking time and effectively turns this dish into a 30-minute meal. Continue reading
With spring upon us, I’ve been looking to expand my grilling options. The idea of cooking and eating a cactus might sound intimidating, but the reality is much simpler than you’d think. All you have to do is scrape off their thorns, and grill them – it’s that easy.
Nopales are the paddles of oputina (prickly pear) cactus, commonly found in Mexico. They are a common vegetable in Mexico, and taste a little like green beans, but slightly more acidic. They are a great addition to grilled meat dishes, or tasty just on their own. They are also often sliced/diced and served with eggs or in salads.
NOTE: An updated version of this recipe appears in my cookbook, The Ancestral Table.
You know what doesn’t get enough credit? White rice. It helps feed a large portion of the world, and is a relatively safe starch. Sure, it doesn’t have a lot of nutritional value, but it can easily become a vessel for other nutrients. Enter my Mexican rice recipe, which is chock-full of tasty and healthy stuff like grass-fed butter/ghee, tomato sauce, and homemade chicken stock.
Although it’s often called “Spanish rice” here in the US as well Mexican rice, no such thing exists in Spain. I’ve been making this side dish for several years, well before switching my diet. For this dish I like to simulate your standard Mexican restaurant rice – tangy, slightly salty, and with a tiny hint of chicken thanks to its use of broth/stock.
Hands down, the worst thing about switching to a strict Paleo diet is its systematic eradication of all good Mexican food. No tortillas (corn or flour), no beans, no rice, and no cheese? Sheesh. Even with our adjusted version of the diet (which includes dairy and rice), Mexican food still doesn’t seem as tantalizing. I’ve been experimenting a bit and have finally come up with a tortilla-free recipe that it worth sharing – despite the fact that it looks alarmingly like a casserole.
This recipe liberally uses queso fresco, which you should be able to find in any international food market. It’s a mild white cheese that’s used in most authentic Mexican dishes.