Day One in Mexico: Hospicio Cabanas

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If it seems like I’ve abandoned my blog, I haven’t. The past few weeks have been incredibly hectic, with a trip to the state of Jalisco, Mexico sandwiched right in between. I had been planning for a few months, and though my passport renewal hadn’t yet arrived (thank God for the temporary lift on passport requirements to the region), I took a red-eye flight to Guadalajara anticipating nine jam-packed days of musueums, distilleries, mercados, futbol, and the ocassional adventure or two. I’ll be documenting the trip here, so the cooking entries will be postponed for a bit. But don’t despair – I took plenty of food photos in Mexico!

I was starving after the flight, long line through customs, and cab ride to the hotel, but my first meal was pretty disappointing. Exhausted and groggy, I stumbled a few doors down my hotel to Restaurant Bar Familiar, a dimly-lit space with more liquor options on its menu than food. Perhaps I should have taken that as a sign, as my camarones al mojo de ajo was more like a plate of overcooked shrimp with bacon bits and mushy, unpleasantly sweet rice on the side:

Resturant Bar Familiar

After lunch I walked back to where I was staying, Hotel Frances. Built in 1610, it is Guadajalara’s oldest hotel and a national monument. Despite the noise from the street and the late-night mariachi music from the downstairs bar, its charm was worth the stay:

Hotel Frances

And the views weren’t bad either. Directly across the street from the balcony was the Palacio del Gobierno (Government Palace), hence the police cars parked outside every day:

View from our window

After a short nap, I started exploring the city, starting with a walk through Plaza Tapatia. The plaza, like so many others throughout the Centro Historico, boasts a number of beautiful fountains, not to mention lots of mariachi, since I happened to be in town for the annual International Mariachi Festival.

Plaza Tapatia

Plaza Tapatia

I ended up at Hospicio Cabanas, or Cabanas Cultural Institute, one of the oldest and largest hospital complexes in Latin America, founded in 1791. Today, it houses a wealth of art, including Jose Clemente Orozco’s allegory of The Man on Fire, a series of huge frescoes created during 1936-39. Painted following the Mexican Revolution, Orozco’s socially-charged murals are all over Guadalajara’s public places.

Hospicio Cabanas

Hospicio Cabanas

Hospicio Cabanas

Hospicio Cabanas

I was hungry after all that exploring, so I stopped for dinner at El Mexicano Restaurant Bar. It looked promising, I swear. I was dreaming of grilled beef, burned ever so slightly at the tips for that perfect charred flavor. Instead I got a sorry, withered plate of what looked like steak:

El Mexicano Resturant Bar

I may have had some trouble finding good eats on our first day in Guadalajara, but our search eventually unearthed some gems. It turned out to be a pretty delicious trip after all.

Oven-Roasted Snow Crab

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One of the best things about living in the Bay Area is the multitude of Asian grocers boasting an abundant and varied supply of seafood. (I’ve even seen soft-shell crabs and razor clams around!) When I visited recently, they were out of the Dungeness that I was looking for, so I bought snow crab claws instead for my oven roasted crab recipe. I was thrilled with the results – delicious and oh so simple to make!

Oven-roasted snow crab

Ingredients:

2 T butter
2 T olive oil
1 T minced garlic
1/2 T minced shallot
1 t dried crushed red pepper
1 lb snow crab claws
1 T chopped fresh thyme
2 T chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup orange juice
1 t finely grated orange peel

1. Preheat oven to 500F. Melt butter with oil in large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in garlic, shallot and red pepper. Add crab; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sprinkle thyme and parsley over crab. Stir to combine. Place skillet in oven and roast crab until heated through, about 10 minutes.

2. Transfer crab to platter. Add orange juice and peel to same skillet; boil until sauce is reduced by about half, about 5 minutes. Spoon sauce over crabs and serve.

Crepes with Carmelized Apples, Rum Sauce and Vanilla Ice Cream

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i don’t make desserts often, partially because i don’t have much of a sweet tooth and partially because i usually second guess my method if i’m baking. but every once in a while, i stumble across a recipe that instantly becomes a favorite, one of those i know i’ll turn back to time and time again. crepes with carmelized apples, rum sauce, and vanilla ice cream is one of those:

also:

spaghetti with scallops, white wine and chile-butter sauce


steamed asparagus with anchovy butter


calamari, papaya and cashew salad

here’s the recipe for the crepes:

3 eggs
1 cup milk
5 T dark rum
6 T butter
1 T sugar
1/2 t salt
1 1/2 t ground cinnamon
1 c flour
3 lbs medium golden delicious apples, peeled, quartered, each quarter cut into 3 wedges
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup apple juice
2 T lemon juice
1 t grated lemon peel
vanilla ice cream

1. mix eggs, milk, 2 tablespoons of the rum, 2 tablespoons of the butter, sugar, salt and 1/2 teaspoon of the cinnamon in a blender until smooth. add flour in 2 additions, blending until smooth after each and scraping down sides of the container. let batter stand at room temperature for an hour.

2. heat nonstick skillet with 7-inch diameter bottom over medium-high heat. brush with melted butter. pour in 3 tablespoonfuls of crepe batter, rotating and shaking pan so batter covers bottom evenly. cook crepe until golden on bottom, about 45 seconds. turn crepe over and cook until light brown in spots, about 30 seconds. turn crepe out onto paper towel. repeat with remaining batter, brushing pan with butter before making each crepe.

3. melt remaining 4 tablespoons butter in large skillet over high heat. add apples, saute until deep golden and tender, tossing often, about 15 minutes. add sugar, apple juice, lemon juice, lemon peel, and remaining 1 teaspoon cinamon. simmer until juices thicken and apples are very tender, turning with spatula, about 3 minutes. remove from heat.

4. butter large ovenproof rimmed platter. arrange crepes on work surface and spoon apples into center of crepes, dividing equally and leaving sauce in skillet. fold 1 side of crepes over filling; roll up, enclosing filling. arrange on platter, seam side down. stir ru into sauce in skillet. bring to boil, stirring.

5. preheat oven to 350F. spoon sauce over crepes. bake until warm, about 10 minutes. serve with ice cream.

Baja Fish Tacos

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I’ve long searched for the perfect recipe to recreate the first fish tacos I ever had as a kid, and I’ve finally found it. The sauce is creamy, the fish are fried in a light batter, and the slaw is slightly tangy.


baja fish tacos

Ingredients:

1 cup dark beer
1 cup flour
1 t salt, plus more to taste
1 lb boned, skinned tilapia fillet
vegetable oil
10 corn tortillas, warmed
2 cups shredded red cabbage
3 T lime juice
1/4 t hot chile flakes
1 1/2 T canned chipotle chiles, seeded and minced
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sweet pickle relish
1/4 cup chopped onion

1. in a large bowl, mix cabbage, lime juice, 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, hot chile flakes and salt to taste. set cabbage slaw aside.

2. in a bowl, mix the chiles with the mayonnaise, sweet pickle relish and onion until until well blended. set chipotle tartar sauce aside.

3. in a bowl, whisk beer, flour, and salt until well blended.

2. rinse fish and pat dry; cut into 1-inch-wide strips.

3. pour 1 inch of oil into a large nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat. dip each piece of fish into beer batter; lift out and let drain briefly. slide fish into oil, a few pieces at a time, and cook until golden, turning if necessary to brown on all sides, 2 to 4 minutes per batch. with a slotted spoon, transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.

4. to assemble each taco, stack two tortillas and top with a couple of pieces of fish, then a spoonful each of cabbage slaw and chipotle tartar sauce.

Cheesy Zucchini and Red Onion Flatbread

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this recipe was almost a disaster, as i accidentally placed all the toppings before transferring it to the baking sheet, and in the process of trying to move it made a huge mess. in the end, i resurrected it and it came out wonderfully.

Ingredients:

nonstick spray
1 lb pizza dough
3/4 cup garlic and herb cheese spread
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
3 T chopped parsley
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
2 thinly sliced zucchinis
olive oil
red pepper flakes

1. preheat oven to 400 degrees and spray baking sheet with nonstick spray.
2. roll out dough to 1/2 inch thick. spread half of herb cheese over 1 long half of dough, leaving 1/2 inch border. sprinkle with half of parmesan and 2 tablespoons parsley.
3. fold plain half of dough over filled half. spread remaining herb cheese over top; sprinkle with remaining parmesan.
4. arrange 1 row of zucchini down 1 long side of the dough. arrange onion slices in row alongside zucchini. repeat with zucchini and onion until surface of dough is covered. brush vegetables with oil; sprinkle with salt and red pepper.
5. bake bread until puffed and deep brown at edges, about 24 minutes. sprinkle with 1 tablespoon parsley.

in other news, i finished reading christopher de bellaigue’s in the rose garden of the martyrs: a memoir of iran. considering that most iranian memoirs are written by iranians, it was a fresh look into a european’s take on modern iran, and namely how the revolution and iran-iraq war has shaped it. and with all the headlines about iran lately, i highly recommend rageh omaar’s bbc documentary inside iran. it’s easily one of the best documentaries i’ve seen on the subject.