Casa de Colores School of Traditional Mexican Cooking

A Unique Culinary Adventure in Cabo

Archive for activities for cruisers

No More Classes Until October 15!!

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It’s been a fantastic season, starting out slow on the heels of Odile… we did our first classes last October out of my home kitchen with an ice box, feeling very much like we’d slipped through a time warp back into the old Cabo,,,  Ten months and a whole bunch of construction later, the Casa de Colores is better than ever with a brand new metal structure roof and gigantic deck, plus a whole lot more.

I will be in Mexico City with Manuel as of Sunday, crawling through South Central Mexico’s legendary traditional markets like the one shown above. .  IMG_1199

It’s Tlaxcala’s thousand year old pre-Hispanic market, and these tamales are sold by ancestors of the original vendors… still made from lake fish stuffed with tiny lake fish, wrapped in the inner membrane of the cactus tequila is made from–mixiote–then charred directly in glowing coals until cooked to smoky perfection.  Such a shock to first world eyes to see not only pre-Hispanic, but pre-HISTORIC cooking still going on in Mexico, like the ancient recipe for stone soup, cooked by adding hot rocks to each bowl!

I turn 60 in October, and Manuel will be 64.  As he is a huge Beatles fan, it has to be a major celebration–we’re thinking Cuba, or possibly Chiapas/Guatemala… stay tuned.  In any case we will be crawling through markets collecting ideas and ingredients for my seventh season, which will begin on October 15th.  Hope to see you there.

Have a great summer, and keep cooking MEXICAN!

!Provecho!

Donna

Cabo’s Cooking!

everWhew!  We had a heck of a summer, and Cabo really took a hit from Odile… it was a test of everything and everybody here at the cape on a biblical scale.  I am still impressed on a daily basis with the resilience and strength of our community, putting our lives and our town back together better than before the storm.

My kitchen has a brand new roof with solid metal structure welded into the framework of the house.  I lost my old roof because the antique wooden framing  couldn’t take the strain, and I figured it would be junk once the guys got it down–it turned out to be in amazingly good condition, and wound up building a good (and very pretty) stretch of fence!

We did the first week of classes in my downstairs kitchen out of an icebox.  It reminded me of the old days in Cabo when I lived off the grid with solar panels and water was delivered by pump truck.  I will always have a special place in my heart and kitchen for those first groups of cooks who came back to Cabo regardless of conditions so soon after the storm.  I think we were all pleasantly amazed how quickly things came back together.   BusySo the roof is on, and we are back to cooking upstairs.  The inaugural week was magical.  I do not have a schedule.  The first cooks to reserve a class choose the subject, and for the first time in six years of classes, every single class that first week turned out to be… making mole!  My favorite!

I love my kitchen, and all the cooks who show up to cook, more than ever before.  Thanks to all of you for your fine sense of adventure and love of traditional Mexican food and culture that brings you to Cabo and into my home and kitchen!  I look forward to cooking with you soon.

Muchos saludos,

Donna

 

COOKING UP A STORM: LIFE AFTER ODILE

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A warm, dry greeting to all from Mexico City!

In the wee hours of September 15th our beloved Cabo community sat peacefully within the eye of a monster–the most intense hurricane to make landfall on Baja Sur during the satellite era.  The calm was not to last, as Odile hammered away at the southern tip of Baja accompanied by repeated shaking from quakes centered around San Felipe in Baja Norte registering from 4 to 5.2.  Odile even spawned tornadoes I am told by friends who were there, hanging on for dear life as a real live monster created storms within storms…

A true tale of horror!  I was spared the full trauma of the event as I breathlessly watched Odile’s progress through the window of my computer, high and dry with Manuel in Mexico City.  It would be days before I knew the extent of the damage to Baja Sur, and to my beautiful kitchen.

I lost my second story roof to pressures equal to those of Florida’s Hurricane Andrew.  I count myself lucky, because many hard working locals lost everything they own to what has been called the Odile Ordeal.  Lots of concerned cooks who have adopted Cabo as their own community have contacted me to find out how I am, how Cabo is, and how they might help.  There are many ways to support a disaster area, but I would say that without a doubt the most important thing people can do is to COME ON DOWN!  Visit Cabo, and you are helping to rebuild in the most direct way possible.

Will I be cooking?  You bet!  My first scheduled class, appropriately making Comfort Foods, will take place on October 17th.  Luckily I have a spare beautiful kitchen, and my plan is to keep on cooking downstairs as repairs go on overhead.  Considering the quality of the people who support me I don’t think it will be long before we are all cooking in my new and improved kitchen upstairs!

Manuel and I have had wonderful adventures this summer visiting more of Mexico’s magical towns and cities.  We spent a couple of weeks in Michoacán, which I have always been told is Mexico’s most beautiful state.  It is indeed a very special place–the capital city of Morelia is a city of stone, perfectly proportioned architectural gems from the 16th century onward in all directions as far as the eye can see, centered around the fabulous iconic cathedral with its twin 70m towers…  And the Lake Patzcuaro area of Day of the Dead fame is even more amazing than we had expected.  I will reluctantly leave our travels to Michoacán, Puebla, Oaxaca, Tlaxcala and the Federal District for future articles, though I am posting like crazy on Trip Advisor to help travelers find their way to these incredible destinations.

My warmest greetings and deepest thanks to all of you who have been in touch.  Your communication has meant more to me than words can express, and I look forward to this season of cooking with you all like never before!  All reports from Cabo indicate that things have come together in record time to prepare for your visit.  Manuel and I will be home on Sunday, lugging lots of wonderful freshly dried chiles and other goodies, ready to cook up a storm… in a good way, of course!

Special credit to Manuel for today’s photo.  Nice shot!

¡Buen provecho!

Donna

COMIDA CORRIDA – Cheap Eats with Deep Roots

I’ve been a baaaad blogger!  I have a bunch of cheap excuses–last season was crazily, gloriously busy!  I have acquired a new computer and new camera and because I was in the kitchen all the time I never figured out how to work them properly!  I just got back from 9 weeks in south central Mexico…  The bottom line is, it’s been a while since I have posted a proper article.

I am making use of WordPress’ amazing technology to repost this article on Mexico’s Comida Corrida not just because I haven’t put together a new article (which admittedly I haven’t) but also because I am putting together a new class entitled, rather pithily I think, COMIDA CORRIDA!  In my travels through southern Mexico this summer I was again bowled over by the availability, price and quality of this amazing culinary phenomenon.  Here’s your homework–read up prior to taking the class this season!  As ever, BUEN PROVECHO!

The gastronomic phenomenon of an inexpensive, three course, fixed price meal comes alive during the afternoon lunch hours at every “fonda” and “cocina económica” in Mexico.  This wonderful Mexican gastronomic phenomenon, the Comida Corrida, is named for the “Tres Tiempos”, the Three Parts, of a bullfight, the legendary Corrida de Toros.

These small restaurants are attended by women who own them, presiding over kitchens throughout the country with a motherly homestyle feel, feeding a nation well and very affordably every working day.  Men generally stick to more manly cheap eats like tacos and carnitas, leaving lunch to the ladies.

The Three Parts have been set in stone over the generations:  First:  The “entrada caldosa”, a brothy dish like a pasta soup or consomme.  Second:  The “plato seco”, or dry dish of rice or spaghetti, or a vegetable salad.  Third:  The “plato fuerte”, or main dish, typically featuring three or four options of Mexican homestyle dishes like beef tips in red chile sauce, pork or chicken in mole, fried or grilled fish, and perhaps a vegetarian offering like tortitas de papa, crispy potato cheese cakes served in a red sauce, particularly during Lent.  An “agua fresca”, fresh water drink made with fruit, flowers or rice will be served, but dessert is not typically included and would be considered a courtesy of the house rather than a part of the comida corrida.

My guy Manuel is back in Mexico City, where he frequently takes his main meal in fondas near his home.  He sent me this story, which he wrote for me as a birthday present the other day. This is my translation:

LA COMIDA CORRIDA.
On Saturday I went back to “Fonda Mary” for a comida corrida.  The day was chilly, and when I stepped inside the fonda was empty, which I presumed was due to the cold, but as I ate people began to arrive and the place filled up as it always does.

The comida corrida consists of three dishes–I ordered vegetable soup, adding fresh cilantro, chopped white onion, chile and lime for extra flavor.  Then I asked for rice and beans, and as a main dish I had the almendrado, a simple mole with almonds and chile cooked with pork, mopping it up with eight hot tortillas and washing it all down with agua fresca.  It was so tasty that I raised my glass to my lady in celebration of her birthday back in Cabo!

The almendrado was homemade and very tasty, and I got to wondering what part of the southern Republic Mary might be from.  Today when I went back for the comida corrida the first thing I did was ask her where she learned to cook.  It turns out she’s from Progreso National, born right here in Mexico City!  So again today I had the pasta soup, then spaghetti with cream and cheese, and finally a pipian–the famous green mole based on pumpkin seeds cooked with pork and beans, and it was delicious as always!

A worker or campesino who does hard work can eat a good comida corrida and leave well satisfied and ready to continue his work.  The same goes for a housewife with children, and for students who don’t want to live on junk food.  Professionals are just as likely to be found at fondas, eating well and saving money on Mexico’s national treasure, the comida corrida.

This Saturday I will celebrate 60 years of eating at great fondas like Mary’s–with yet another comida corrida!

Saludos a todos,

Manuel

SWEET MEMORIES OF MEXICO

For a country with so few dessert options, Mexico has a serious sweet tooth.  Desserts are more varied on the tourist strip, but at the end of many a fine meal in Mexican restaurants I have asked for the dessert selection only to have the waiter respond with a great flourish, “Hay flannnn…’ trailing off that final consonant in a hopeful tone…

So flan it is for dessert, and if it’s well made, it rivals cheesecake as a finish and isn’t nearly as rich.  It’s actually a stroke of dessert genius as it tops off a spicy Mexican meal like nothing else could.

But about that sweet tooth.  If you’re ever in a traditional Mexican market, or even a decent Mexican supermarket, take a look at the candy aisle.  The selection above is pretty typical, candy for the eye as well as that aching tooth.  So what’s behind all that day-glo display?  Here’s a short list.

Obleas con cajeta (Goat’s milk caramel wafers) – a delectable treat  made of two paper-thin flour wafers filled with Mexico’s fabled goat’s milk caramel candy, cajeta, creating a sweet sandwich that won’t stick to your fingers.  Also available as chewy caramel candies.  Top brands: Coronado, Las Sevillanas (mini or medium) and Aldama.

De La Rosa’s Mazapan (marzipan) – is a delicious and traditional peanut confection delicious with a tall glass of milk, or crumbled as a topping to enhance other desserts.

Fruit rolls – These sweet fruity treats are very popular in Mexico, made from tropical fruits like coconut, mango and guava. Cocadas are deadly sweet coconut rolls.  Popular brands include: Productos Cihuapilli and Dulces Moreliates.

Spicy spoon suckers – Yep, it’s a spicy, salty, sweet and gooey candy sold  right on a spoon in our favorite traditional tropical  fruit flavors — tamarind and mango.

Pepitorias (seed brittle) – This is a sweet and delicious confection made of  ground sesame seeds sweetened with honey, coconut, pumpkin seeds and peanuts thrown in to guild the lily.  Las Trojes is a popular brand that manufactures these succulent treats:  Mixed seed brittle, coconut brittle, peanut brittle, sesame seed brittle and pumpkin seed brittle.  Yum!

Candy skulls – Celebrate the Day of the Dead and honor your departed loved ones with these crazy creative confections fashioned from sugar, chocolate or amaranth.  This much-loved Mexican tradition has been passed down through generations.

 …and this is a short list!  Take a tour through the candy aisle and start making your own sweet memories of Mexico! 

¡Provecho!

Donna

OLD FRIEND, NEW PARTNER, HOT TOUR!

I started the Breakfast and Marketing Tour over the summer as a kind of joke.  I never thought so many people would be willing to get out in the volcano heat of Cabo’s hurricane season in search of traditional Mexico and Mexican foods!  Unlikely as it seems, it was hot hot hot — and that’s no joke!  So much so, in fact, that once I was able to get back in the kitchen lots of people wanted to do both the Tour AND a cooking class! 

Enthusiastic and energetic as I am when it comes to Mexican food, I cannot do it all!  The solution is a perfect one.  My Mexican cuisine and culture guru, Claudia Velo, has taken over this part of the Casa de Colores program.  With no further ado, I’d like her to introduce herself.  I hope you’ll get a chance to meet her in person on a Cabo visit.  She’ll give you an unforgettable, truly  Mexican experience.

Muchos saludos,

Donna

When Donna asked me to help her with the Breakfast and Marketing Tour in Cabo my heart did a triple somersault of joy because this means the universe, through my wonderful friend Donna, is giving me yet another chance to share my passion for Mexican culture and cuisine with the wonderful, adventurous people who choose to explore beyond the obvious sand-and-sun beauty of Mexico.

And so… here is my official introduction to all of you foodies that follow Donna on her culinary adventures at Casa De Colores.

I was born and raised in Mexico City, and my whole life I have had an intense love affair with Mexican traditions and cuisine which was intensified all the more when I spent time abroad and found out how precious our traditions truly are, how complex our culinary landscape really is, and how it has related to other cultures through centuries of history and exchanges from the merely commercial to the profoundly passionate.  Remind me to tell you in another participation in this blog about how the China Poblana costume was created, and I think you’ll understand what I mean. 

I believe my love affair with Mexican traditions began in my childhood when I spent endless hours at the National Museum of Anthropology and History in Mexico City where my mom worked as curator of the ethno-history exhibits.  Instead of reading fairy tales, I read about Mexico’s history and legends, and later on when I ventured into the hospitality industry in Puerto Vallarta I realized how I loved to share this knowledge with visitors who are interested in Mexico.  At that time I contributed cultural content about Mexican traditions to several tourist guides such as Frommer’s, Berlitz and Mexico’s Beach Resorts for Dummies.

When I had the chance to design and open the Cultural Center at the Four Seasons in Punta Mita I began to fully realize how fulfilling it was to share little known facts about origins and reasons behind Mexico’s traditions with visitors from near and far. 

Now, I am excited beyond words at the opportunity to share with you the wonderful culinary wealth of Mexico that has become available in Los Cabos thanks to a fortunate and rare set of circumstances…  so come and let’s explore the marvels of Mexico’s cuisine in places off the beaten path and stroll aisles filled with traditional Mexican products…  I guarantee you will have a wonderful experience and learn how to use many ingredients that I bet you had no idea what to make of before.

See you in Cabo!

Claudia

PIBIL MADNESS

It must be Fall.  I’ve been getting steady requests to do Lunch in Yucatan, featuring a modern version of the ancient Mayan classic, Pollo Pibil–and I find myself awaiting each of these occasions with my salivary glands in high gear!  Somehow, as the weather cools and the season turns over a new leaf, nothing comforts like a big, overstuffed Mayan pit-style, habanero-and-achiote spiced pulled chicken sanwich scattered with day-glo pink pickled onions…

In Yucatan, Mayans still dig pits in their yards to roast whole pigs or chickens to sell along the roadside for a spicy, smoky Sunday breakfast treat.  However, this is something we can easily create at home after a foray into a good Hispanic or Oriental market for a couple of basic ingredients–namely achiote paste made from rock-hard brick red annatto seeds ground with spices, and fresh banana leaves.  If you’re lucky enough to find (or grow) fresh epazote, be sure to pick up a bunch of that, too.

Back at the ranch, prepare the marinade for your pibil by tossing into your trusty blender 4 tablespoons of achiote paste with 1/2 c. fresh orange juice and 1/4 c. fresh lime juice, plus a splash of white vinegar for good measure.  Add a clove or two of fresh garlic,  about a half dozen whole allspice berries and 1 tsp. sea salt and whiz away to create your beautiful brick red marinade. 

Pour this fragrant sauce over about 4 lbs. of bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts or boneless pork leg, deeply scored, and allow the meat to marinate for several hours or overnight.

Get a good roasting pan with a lid, preferably pottery or stoneware, and line it with the fresh banana leaves.  Place the marinated meat lovingly in your substitute pit, pouring extra sauce over the meat.  Slice up an entire large white onion and three or four red ripe Roma tomatoes onto the meat, adding a large sprig of fresh epazote (dried will do in a pinch), and tuck in two or three fresh, bright orange habanero chiles.  Don’t worry–if you don’t open them they won’t add too much heat!

Cover your pibil with fresh banana leaves, tuck it in nicely and cover tightly.  Bake it for an hour or so in a 350 oven until the meat is tender, then remove it from the oven, shred the meat into the juice and remove the banana leaves.  Correct the seasoning–I usually wind up mashing and adding the habaneros to bring up the spice level–and put the whole shebang on a burner and continue cooking until the meat is very tender and most of the sauce has been absorbed…  Torta time!!

Ah, but I digress… you will of course have prepared a jar of southern Mexico’s famous day-glo pink pickled onions, ubiquitous throughout the south on every table.  Simply slice a dark red onion in half, then slice as thin or thick as you like.  Pour boiling water over it briefly to wilt and cut the heat, then pack in a glass jar, adding white vinegar to fill the jar halfway, plus a teaspoon of sea salt.  Tuck a flame-blackened habanero in the jar, and turn it over every time you open the fridge for a day and voila!  Day-glo pink pickled onions for your tacos or tortas!

If you have access to a Mexican bakery you’ll need a good telera, a French style flat roll perfect for making this sandwich.  Otherwise, get the best your area has available.  Pile on the pibil, scatter with vinegary onions and dive in!

PERFECT party food!  I hope you make up a big pib-full and enjoy with your foodie friends this holiday season. 

¡Provecho!

Donna