Tag Archives: tabasco

Mexico – Guess I’ll have to go

4 Jun

Oh, Mexico
It sounds so sweet with the sun sinking low
Moon’s so bright like to light up the night
Make everything all right

(Mexico, James Taylor)

The year of  1974 marks one of the most important events of my life:  I went to the US as an exchange student.  The experiences I had the opportunity to live in the small and wonderful town of Carthage/MO with the Ross family (Larry, Gail, Don, Shellie and Billy), and where I got my high school degree at the class of ’75, have left permanent marks on my personality and abilities.

I’d like here to mention two of these experiences:

First – I was introduced to the music of James Taylor, of whom I became a huge fan.  Playing his songs on my guitar after I’ve returned to Brazil made me score some extra points with the local girls, including with my actual wife Maristela.  The few words at the beginning of this post are from “Mexico”, a song from his 1975 album “Gorilla” (my favorite one is “Sweet Baby James”, from 1970).

Second – I had my first contact with Mexican food.  My wonderful and unforgettable American mother (Gail) prepared a very nice “chili con carne”, which we would eat with hard shelled tortillas, lettuce, tomatoes and cheese.  To this day we still prepare a variation of that dish, which has been incorporated in our regular menus at home.  I say it’s a variation because I have changed the original recipe along the time, incorporating new spices and changing proportions to better suit my personal taste.  In fact I don´t even know if  Gail´s recipe was really Mexican.

Nachos, chilli con carne, lettuce, tomatoes and cheese. Don't forget the hot sauce.

My “chili con carne” recipe you can find at Foodista (see the link below).

As hot sauce I use a very simple mixture of tomato sauce and a pepper sauce (like Tabasco or Chili Willy).

When I have this dish my memories of Carthage and of the James Taylor’s song just seem to come alive and, as he says, “make everything alright“.

How authentic is this dish when compared to the real Mexican deal?  I have no idea, as I’ve never been to Mexico, nor to any respectable Mexican restaurant.  That’s one of the reasons I’m preparing myself to make a trip to Mexico, probably next October or November.

As James Taylor says in his song:

Oh, down in Mexico
I never really been so I don’t really know
Oh, Mexico
I guess I’ll have to go.

My Chili con Carne

The oysters didn’t come alone

11 Sep

Another post related to Florianópolis, but that’s only because I’ve just spent the last weekend there (and it was an extended one, since September, 7th is a holiday – Independence Day).

On our first night, so I’ve told you, we had some fresh oysters for dinner.  But no, that was not all. Considering the variety of seafood you can find in the city, it’s an island after all, oysters alone wouldn’t be enough.  Thus, Manuela (my sister-in-law) prepared an extra treat for us:

Bugatini with prawns, octopuses (octopi?) and mussels

Bugatini with prawns, octopuses (octopi?) and mussels

The shellfish were cooked on a garlic, onion, tomato base to which some chopped scallion and parsley were added.  Pasta was boiled until “al dente” and the shellfish generously placed on top.  Simple to prepare and delicious, after all you don’t need much with fresh sea food.

One extra kick though – red pepper. Peppers of the genus Capsicum, even though spread all over the world, and an integral part of the so called “traditional” cooking of several countries (like Thailand, for example), originated in fact from the tropical areas of Latin America.  Another Latin contribution to the world cooking during the first globalization wave, which occurred after the discovery of the Americas. They belong to the family Solenaceae, along with tomatoes and potatoes, which, not by chance, are also of Latin American origin.  There are several species and varieties of peppers, with different shapes, colors and degrees of burning potential. In Brazil, they were the main seasoning agent employed by the native population before the arrival of the Portuguese colonizers.  Among the most known and cultivated species is Capsicum  baccatum, around here called ladies’ finger.  The burning sensation of a pepper is given by the presence of  capsaicin, which is usually evaluated using the so-called Scoville scale. C. baccatum has na Scoville index between 30,000-50,000, just like the Tabasco pepper, not very high if you consider that a Naga Jolokia can have an index of 1,000,000.

In Brazil such peppers are usually prepared by macerating (or finely chopping) a couple of them, which are then left to mature for a few weeks in olive oil.  A flavoring agent, like garlic or rosemary, may be added.  Whole peppers may also be present, both for flavor as well as for decoration.

Red peppers in olive oil with rosemary

Red peppers in olive oil with rosemary

A few drops of this mixture over your seafood dish will bring up a whole new dimension.  But be careful, one or two extra drops and you may literally spoil your dish.

Just in case, keep a bucket of cold water, or of beer, or of white wine, or of whatever you like to use to extinguish a fire, around.

Know Your Chili Peppers on Foodista

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