Posted on April 20th
Mexican Aztec: Vegetarian Mexican Class
Last Thursday, Nibble Chef Estela Calzada taught a vegetarian Mexican cooking class. The second of our four part spring class series. The menu included authentic Mexican ingredients such as: fresh yam bean (jicama), huitlacoche, a corn fungus that has a mushroom like texture with woody, savory, and sweet flavors, and nopales (cactus). We learned how to prepare a traditional pre hispanic salad, handmade quesadillas, a cake with tequila, and a healthy water made with nopal!
When we arrived at the kitchen, we found a beautiful table full of color with our first taste of the evening, jicama salad. Made with carrots, beets, and cucumber, was the perfect Mexican nibble before the class started. “To have a refreshing flavor in the salad, dress the salad with lime juice and spicy chili piquin” explained Estela. I couldn’t agree more, that’s how we eat jicama in Mexico. Mexicans love to add lime and chili piquin to a lot of things including fruits and raw vegetables like carrots, and cucumbers.
Let’s clean the nopales!
Once we all had our bandanas and aprons on, Estela started the show. “If you want to cook nopales, you have to clean them first by taking off their spines” she said. Estela showed us how to take off the spines by scraping the edge of a knife against the spines to remove them. A professional nopal cleaner, Estela made it look easy. After Estela’s demonstration, we had a try at cleaning the nopals, and realized it was harder than it looked. After a couple of minutes, we had the nopales ready to cook. In Mexico you can buy the nopales already chopped and ready to cook without spines,or already cooked and ready to eat. You can add cilantro and queso fresco for a quick and delicious cactus salad.
We cooked some of the nopales to make a salad and decorate our cake, and used others raw to prepare the water. After we whipped up our cake and put it in the oven, we cooked the huitlacoche to fill our quesadillas with. Known throughout Mexico as the “caviar of the Aztecs”, the Aztecs were the first to enjoy hongo de maiz, and today the price of huitlacoche is more expensive than unaffected corn.
Estela also taught us how to make tortillas. “The secret is to properly mix the flour with a little bit of water” she said. “The dough can’t be too dry or it will crack, or too wet and it won’t crisp.” We used the tortilla press to make our quesadillas, but there were people, including me, who did a handmade quesadilla. The shape wasn’t perfect, but the taste was the same: really good! – by Maria F. Martinez
Try Estela’s food!
One of the best parts of the class was the end, when we all sat down to the table to share this plato tipico, created for the vegetariano/a in mind. If you want to try Estela’s food, don’t miss the Cultural Cinco de Mayo Celebration in Union Square next Thursday May 5th. In addition to Mexican food, we will have music, dance, and Mexican crafts.