Fast Slow Food

Just a little reminder (or an introduction) if you haven’t thought about the slow food movement lately.  I love that their philosophy begins with the fundamental right to pleasure and the responsibility inherent in enjoyment.

Just a little reminder (or an introduction) if you haven’t thought about the slow food movement lately. I love that their philosophy begins with the fundamental right to pleasure and the responsibility inherent in enjoyment.

Our philosophy

 

We believe that everyone has a fundamental right to pleasure and consequently the responsibility to protect the heritage of food, tradition and culture that make this pleasure possible. Our movement is founded upon this concept of eco-gastronomy – a recognition of the strong connections between plate and planet.

 

Slow Food is good, clean and fair food. We believe that the food we eat should taste good; that it should be produced in a clean way that does not harm the environment, animal welfare or our health; and that food producers should receive fair compensation for their work.

 

We consider ourselves co-producers, not consumers, because by being informed about how our food is produced and actively supporting those who produce it, we become a part of and a partner in the production process.

I  used to be a serious foodie, but after years of meals that required days of preparation, dinners out made from difficult to pronounce ingredients, let alone state their country of origin, my tongue numbed. The finest meal ceased to please; I’d had too much of a good thing.

I cleansed my palate with simplicity.  A tortilla with lime and salt. A potato baked with an egg in it, the creamy yolk stirred into its steaming flesh.

This is one of my favorite simple, fast food recipes, and I think, the best way to eat chicharron.

Chicarron Tacos vsvevg.com

Chicharron Taco

Chicharron

Tortilla

Salsa(I like salsa fresca)

Avocado

Mush a slice of avocado in a warm tortilla, top with a few pieces of chicharron and salsa. This is the hard part–wait for about a minute, just enough for the chicharron to absorb the salsa a little, but not so long the tortilla gets cold. Munch, make another.

 

My chicharron came courtesy of my friend George Anna Clark’s farm, Rancho La Troje, a pastured pig ranch near Puente de Ixtla. Her practices exemplify the premises of  the slow food philosophy. All of the animals are pastured the entirety of their lives, the butchering is done on site, sparing the pigs undue stress. The land is cultivated to meet the thier needs with various grains, legumes and native species, using healthful farming practices. She’s my hero.

Help support free range animal farming, visit and like George Anna’s  face book page. If you are in the Cuernavaca area look for her  bimonthly adds on CuernAds for the date and location of her Wednesday visits to sell pastured pork, organic oranges and limes.

Visit the slow food chapter in your area for  help finding great resources like Rancho La Troje.

Eat slow! Probecho!

What’s your favorite fast/slow food?

 

 

 

 

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How I Lost Ten Pounds…Eating Chicharron

Chicharron in the Tehuitztla market.

Chicharron in the Tehuitztla market.

Like many American women I used to be obsessed with my weight. When I moved to Mexico I lost ten pounds in six months. My diet changed from sushi, organic everything, lean meats, and mountains of salad, to beans, tortillas, sweet rolls, and caldos and moles full of lard.

My lifestyle went from a walk every day, hours on my feet waiting tables and frequent sessions of Latin dance, to laying in bed reading, sitting around the table bullshitting while eating meals of multiple carbs, and cursory gardening attempts.

I’ve effortlessly kept these ten pounds off for eight years. Though my lifestyle now is healthier that when I first arrived in Mexico, I resumed the walks and eat more vegetables, I’m not as active as I was in Chicago. When I travel to the states for a month I usually gain five pounds, and when I return to Mexico my body dutifully drops it, effortlessly, with no modification of my regular diet of beans, tortillas, Chiliquiles, cheese, eggs, whole milk and…Chicharron.

Though this seems inexplicable, the explanation is simple– I used to eat too much. Even the “healthiest” food will make you fat if you eat more than you need. Now I have no convenience food, I can’t order carry out, we seldom dine out, and I don’t have snacks, no chips, crackers, or baby carrots with “light” ranch dressing.  I eat two meals a day, and it’s plenty. I eat anything I want, I never think of fat or calories; and my weight is perfect for my age and frame. This is not health or dieting advice, just a testimony.

One thing I love to eat, that would have sent me into an anxiety attack in my previous life, is chicharron. If you’re an omnivore and a bacon lover chicharron is for you.

How to buy it: If your local Latin grocery has a large meat section, as they often do, they probably make their own chicharron. Ask for a taste. I don’t recommend the prepackage product, though Dianna Kennedy says there are good ones I couldn’t tell you the brands, and often it is not pig skin, but deep fried wheat, so if you want to investigate read the package carefully.   Chicharron should be absolutely crispy and have no aluminum, or lardy flavor. It should taste salty(though there is unsalted chicharron)  and mildly meaty .  It comes without or without meat. The belly is scored and cubes of meat or fat left attached, or it is cleaned to a thin sheet of skin only. Both are delicious. If it is rendered properly it is almost pure protein.

The classic preparation is chicharron in salsa verde or chilito, though it’s not my favorite because the chicharron gets mushy and takes on a menudo (tripey) flavor. And I wonder, why lose the crunch? My solution is to make it in the traditional way for Felipe, and I eat salsa verde, beans and tortillas with a side of Chicharron.

salsa verde de molcajete

salsa verde de molcajete

 

Salsa Verde (the quick version)

1 pd. tomatillos

1 clove garlic

½ a medium onion

½ cup chopped cilantro

Serrano chili to taste, I usually use four

Salt

1-2 Tbles Vegetable oil or lard

 

Clean the tomatillos of their husks and sticky coating. Just cover in water and bring to a boil. Cook until they turn a grey green and are soft to the touch, but not breaking up. Blend them with the rest of the ingredients to the texture you prefer, I like mine a little chunky.

Heat the oil to medium high and fry the salsa for about three minutes. Add serving, or bite sized pieces of chicharron. Be careful when salting the salsa because the chicharron will release a lot of salt into it. Serve with tortillas and some stiff refried beans.

Probecho!

 

 

 

 

 

Good and Good for You

Havesting Nopales

Nopales are a super food.  We have a stand in our garden and I prepare them as a side dish, a salad and a taco filling. Nopales can be purchased ready to cook in most latin groceries both here and in the U.S.  Lucky you, because cleaning them is sort of a pain, but I don’t mind because they’re easy to grow, delicious and free!

Nopales al Vapor (this recipe is roughly from Dianna Kennedy’s Essential Cuisines of México)

2 Tbles vegetable oil

2 cloves of garlic chopped

1 pound nopales, cleaned and cut in strips or cubes (I prefer strips)

2 Tbles chopped onion

1-2 serranoes thinly sliced

Salt

2 large sprigs epazote or cilantro, roughly chopped

2 eggs

Heat the oil, fry the garlic until translucent and then add everything but the epazote. Cover the pan and cook over low heat, stirring from time to time until the nopales are almost tender: their viscose juices will exude.

Uncover and raise the heat a bit cooking until the sticky liquid has dried up.  At this point I like to whisk in a couple of eggs, though it’s not traditional. They make the nopales hang together and easier to eat, also the richness offsets the acidity of the cactus paddles.  Add the herb in the last couple of minutes, stir, and fill your tortillas.

Nopal Tacos

I chose machine made tortillas this time. The traditional condiments are queso fresco, and a dollop of sour cream. I also added Salsa de chili Arbol, which I buy because it’s brutal to make. The frying and blending of chili arbol chokes the air with capsicum!  But the tacos don’t really need salsa, I was just in the mood for major heat.

Probecho!

 

 

 

The Importance of Rabbits

Many years ago I bought Joseph Keller’s The French Laundry cookbook, a massive, five pound coffee table book with gorgeous photos of fabulous food I would never make. Mr. Keller’s methods are seldom very simple or easy, and I have to imagine that ‘very good’ doesn’t do his cuisine justice. But I learned a lot from reading the book, in particular the chapter, The Importance of Rabbits.

In this chapter Mr. Keller talks about his belief that it was important for him, as a chef, to have the ability to kill an animal if he was going to serve them. He tells of his struggle to learn swift and humane methods, of his failure and final success.

I clutched at the first rabbit. I had a hard time killing it, it screamed. Rabbits scream and this one screamed loudly. Then it broke its leg trying to get away. It was terrible.

The next ten rabbits didn’t scream, and I was quick with the kill, but the first screaming rabbit not only gave me a lesson in butchering, it also taught me about waste. Because killing those rabbits had been such an awful experience, I would not squander them. I would use all my powers as a chef to ensure those rabbits were beautiful. It is very easy to go a grocery store and buy meat, then accidentally overlook it and throw it away. A cook sauteing a rabbit loin, working on the line on a Saturday night, a million pans going, plates going out the door, who took that loin a little too far, doesn’t hesitate, just dumps it in the garbage and fires another. Would that cook, I wonder, let his attention stray from that loin had he killed the rabbit himself? No. Should a cook squander anything, ever?

It was a simple lesson.

Likely at home, we don’t throw out a piece of meat because we slighty overcooked it, but blithely discarding the skin of a chicken is common practice. After I read Mr. Keller’s book I  started keeping all my scraps to make a broth for myself or my pets, but it was many years before I had an opportunituy to honor my conviction, that if I was going to eat meat I should experience what it meant to kill an animal. Continue reading