09 Feb

Homemade Queso Fresco

homade_cheese

homade_cheese

Update: I am sending this picture to Click, a monthly event dedicated to food photography. Check it out here.

For a long time I’ve been wanting to make my own cheese, but for several reasons I had never done it. All that changed last week when I made my first batch of queso fresco. My friend Darrin made it a couple of months ago and told me that it was a very easy cheese to make. He gave me the link to the recipe and realizing that all I needed was milk and vinegar I decided I didn’t want to wait any longer to start making my own cheese.

It was one of the easiest recipes I have followed. The whole process took about 25 minutes (not including the time that it took the cheese to dry and harden). From now on I will make my own queso fresco and save a lot of money in the process. A gallon of milk costs around $2.50 and makes 24 oz of cheese while 10 oz of queso fresco at the store cost around $4.

There are many reasons to make your own cheese, maybe you want to save money, have more control of the ingredients that go into your food or just for the satisfaction of saying you did it. Whatever the reason is I think it is a good idea to share challenges like this with other foodies. That’s why I decided to create a food event where people would be challenged to make their own homemade products. In times like these when people are looking for ways to save, homemade products are a great idea. Unfortunately, many times we don’t know where to start or we don’t have the peer support to do it. That’s why I think this event will be very helpful for everybody who wants to venture into the Made at Home territory.

The food event is called Homemade and every month I will challenge myself to make an staple food at home. I hope you join me in this adventure. Here are the guidelines for this event:

  • This food event will take place in my almost forgotten forum.
  • Every month a challenge (either a theme or recipe) will be selected and participants will cook/bake/make that particular item. This month’s challenge is cheese, any kind. It just has to be homemade by you.
  • Post completed challenges on your blog. Please include pictures (if possible) and a link to the forum (http://whatscookingmexico.com/forum). You can use the event badge on your posts.
  • When your challenge has been posted on your blog, leave the link to it on this discussion in the forum so I can include it in the roundup at the end of the month. The deadline to receive entries is Friday, February 27th and the roundup will be posted March 2nd.

The forum will be open to ask questions, share ideas and recipes about the current challenge. Feel free to participate. We all can benefit from our collective knowledge about homemade cheese. I believe that in harsh times like these the best of people and communities comes out. Let’s show to the world that the foodie community is healthy and strong.

¡Buen provecho!

homemade1_cheese

05 Feb

Spaghetti with Brown Butter

brownbutter_pasta

brownbutter_pasta

Every meal of the day is important. Maybe breakfast is the most important one, but lunch is not far behind. Lunch is what gives you energy to finish the second part of the workday and get you through traffic on your way back home and even maybe a workout. That’s why it’s important to balance it according to your level of activity.

As important as this meal is, many times we find ourselves wondering what to have for lunch. I am the first one to accept that thinking about lunch is not a priority and when lunchtime comes around many times I find myself in the kitchen chasing my own tail. Leftovers are always good, but when you don’t have any or don’t want to eat the same thing than the night before, what do you do?

I had this dilemma yesterday right around lunchtime. Fortunately, Peter of Kalofagas saved the day. I was browsing my Google Reader when I came across his Spaghetti with Brown Butter and Feta Cheese. The moment I saw the pictures and read the recipe I knew that was going to be lunch for me, and 30 minutes later I was enjoying that delicious dish you see in the picture above.

My spaghetti didn’t turn out as brown as Peter’s. I think I didn’t burn the butter enough and I used queso doble crema (double cream cheese, my favorite Mexican cheese) instead of feta, but still the spaghetti was delicious. Once again I have to thank the blog-o-sphere and the amazing people behind it for another delicious meal.

¡Buen provecho!

I am sending this post to the following events, please click on the badges to learn more about them:

This week’s Bookmarked Recipes roundup is hosted by Chris of Mele Cotte

12 Sep

Fried Quesadillas (Coyoacan Style)

fried_quesadillas

fried_quesadillas.jpg

One of the very first places we visited in Mexico City when Jon and I moved there in 2004 was Coyoacan. Coyoacan (which means place where they have coyotes in Nahuatl) is a colonial neighborhood in the south of modern Mexico City. Coyoacan was originally a vassel state of the Aztec empire that sit on the shores of the Lake Texcoco. When Hernan Cortez conquered Tenochtitlan, the capital city of the empire, he felt in love with the beautiful town and the forest that surrounded it and settled there with his lover La Malinche.

Ever since pre-Hispanic times Coyoacan has been an important center for trade and culture. Coyoacan has been the residence to characters like Diego Rivera, Frida Khalo and Leon Trotsky. Its churches, bookstores, cafes, markets, plazas, gardens, schools, festivals, street performers, architecture, museums and history make Coyoacan one of the most beautiful, vibrant and bohemian neighborhood of Mexico City. No wonder it is considered the cultural heart of the gigantic city.

I love Coyoacan for all those reasons, but what does that have to do with food? Food is everywhere in Coyoacan. Around the main plaza there are several restaurants and cafes that serve all kinds of food. Throughout the year local, regional, national and international fesivals are held in Hidalgo square where you can sample foods from around the country and the world.

My favorite places to eat in Mexico, however, are the markets. Borges wrote that the best way to know Mexico is through its markets. That first time Jon and I visited Coyoacan we ate fried quesadillas at La Conchita market. He loved them. After that we walked to nieves el Tepozteco for ice cream (many people claim they have the best ice creams in the city) and sat next to Los Coyotes fountain to watch people walk by. That became our favorite spot to hang out.

Coyoacan Church

Every once in a while I make fried quesadillas to remember those evenings. Mine don’t taste as good (must be the smog) as the ones in Coyoacan, though, and I don’t make them as often because of the “fried” factor. But they make a tasty snack or even a dinner, like these ones. Quesadillas can be filled with anything you like. Jon’s favorite filling is pollo con queso, chicken and cheese (might be the first words in Spanish he learned) so that’s what I always try to make. My favorite kinds, besides chicken, are mushroom, picadillo (when I used to eat beef) and huitlacoche.

Since this post is too long already I will leave you with the pictures of the process. The only difference between fried quesadillas and the quesadillas you might know is that these are made from tortilla masa (corn) instead of flour tortillas. This means that you should make them from scratch. Get tortilla masa at your local grocery store and follow the directions to make the mix. Another note is that queso Oaxaca, Oaxaca cheese, is the preferred cheese to make quesadillas in central and southern Mexico. This string cheese is similar to mozarella cheese. If you can’t find it you can use your favorite cheese for your quesadillas.

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¡Buen provecho!

Update: I completely forgot that I made this recipe for Frugal Fridays. Don’t forget that every Friday we cook dinner for 4 trying to spend $10 or less. Cool concept, right?

22 Jul

Cassata and a Bakeanistas Party

cassata


First of all, I want to pay my respects to Sher’s family. I didn’t have the opportunity to come across Sher’s blog until after the unfortunate event of last Sunday. But while reading her posts I can understand why her death was a big blow to the food blog-o-sphere. A lovely tribute was written by Glenna, one of her closest friends. If you didn’t know Sher, I am sure that post will show you a little bit of the great person and friend she was. Bon voyage, Sher.

Isn’t that illustration amazing? We have to thank Ximena (I don’t have her link, please help!) for that. But what the heck is Bakeanistas, you might be wondering. Well, we are a group of friends (very informal) who like to get together online to bake tasty treats. Have you ever tried to type and make cake icing at the same time? You should try it sometime, it’s a lot of fun.  This month, after a gazillion emails back and forth, we decided to make Cassata alia Sicilian. But before I continue, let me introduce you to the crazy brave members of our little group:

The bakeanistas that got together this month were Mary (she couldn’t join us in the baking, but she gave us moral support all the way through), John, Marce, Helen, Kelly, Chris, Ivonne, Stephanie, Lisa and me. Unfortunately, Sara, Laura, and Tanna couldn’t join us this time. We also had a special guest, Halley of King Arthur Flour’s Test Kitchen, she was a lot of fun to bake with too.

On with the cake! I am getting there, don’t despair. Like I mentioned before we made Cassata alia Siciliana, a gorgeous cheese filled and rum soaked cake that tasted even better. You can get the recipe with pictures of the process on Chris’ blog. This is how mine ended up looking:

Isn’t that gorgeous? I love the rustic look of the cake, actually any rustic food is fine with me. The cake is made with 2 sponge cakes cut in half (so you get 4 layers), a ricotta cheese, orange zest, pistachio and chocolate filling, a rum syrup (probably my favorite part) and a kind of royal icing. The recipe suggests to garnish it with sliced roasted almonds, maraschino cherries and candied orange zest, but since I didn’t have any of them I topped it with fresh strawberries and roasted peanuts.

But how did it taste? A lot better than it looks, believe me. I had friends over Sunday night (we get together every once in a while to cook, but that’s another story) and even the ones who are lactose intolerant couldn’t say no to a piece of the cake. I still have some leftovers in my fridge that I am not planning on eating, would you like a piece?

Buen provecho!