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Thursday, June 30, 2011

The art of Mexican Cooking

Upon arriving in Cancun, I got out of there as fast as possible and made a dash for the Maroma Resort and Spa by Orient Express in Playa del Carmen. Formally an old coconut plantation, it is now the best hotel in the area, and a truly spectacular place to call home.

Nestled right on the beach, it also boasts the best spa in Mexico, the friendliest staff imaginable, and food that is so delicious that mealtimes become much anticipated events. This is largely due to the hotel's talented, charming chef, Juan Pablo Loza, who in 2005 won the award for best chef in Mexico.

Much to my amazement, my tour group was given the opportunity to learn the art of Mexican cooking from the master himself! Plus, a tequila expert was on hand to show us the art of drinking, in between courses.

Today, we learned to make a tomato salad with cactus, shrimp ceviche, red snapper ceviche, and perfect guacamole. I am somewhat of a guacamole junky so I was excited to see how his would compare.

What surprised all of us the most was how fresh, light, healthy and uncomplicated the dishes were. The tomato salad was mainly red wine vinegar, garlic, and tomatoes that were allowed to marinate for 15 minutes. The result was the most flavorful tomatoes I have ever had.
The ceviches were equally uncomplicated, and it was fascinating to watch the fish "cook" and literally change color and texture after just five minutes in lime juice!

Then the guacamole....oh, the guacamole. It was so good that if I found a way to make sweet love to it, I would have. We learned that the key to good guacamole is to never mash it, but simply stir it with the lime juice, salt, and herbs, yielding delicious junks bathed in creamy green. We enjoyed our guacamole on homemade chips, and those more daring tried it with fried grasshoppers. As gross as this may sound, they were unbelievably tasty, and I found myself sprinkling Them on subsequent guac scoop-fulls. the guacamole went perfectly with the ceviches too!

Four courses and 8 glasses of tequila later, we were ready for a night on the town in Playa del Carmen, having learned mouthful!

Try these recipes out for yourself, and cook like a Mexican superstar!

Ceviche Zihuatanejo
4 to 6 People

½ Red Onion Sliced
1 or 2 Serrano Pepper Finely Chopped
1 tbsp Salt
½ cup Lime Juice
1 lb Fresh Fish Cut in Strips (Snapper, Tilapia, Sea bass, Sole, etc.)

Mix the Onion with the Pepper and the Salt, and leave to rest for one minute
Add the Lime juice and put the fish in to the Juice and marinate for 5 minutes
Serve accompanied with Tortilla Chips

Tomato Salad “Like Grandma used to make”
4 to 6 People

1 piece Garlic Clove
1 tbsp Salt
¼ cup Red Wine Vinegar
2 Roma Tomatoes
12 Cherry Tomatoes
¼ cup Corn Oil or Olive Oil

Crush the Garlic and Make a Purée with the help of the Salt
Add the Vinegar and Mix well
Marinate the Chopped Tomatoes in to the Garlic Vinegar for at least 15 minutes
Add the Oil and Rectify the Seasoning
Serve and decorate with Herbs, Cheese or any other Salad Ingredients

4 to 6 People

½ White Onion Finely Chopped
1 Serrano Pepper Finely Chopped
1 tbsp Salt
2 tbsp Cilantro Chopped
2 Limes
4 Ripe Avocados

Mix the Onion with the Pepper and the Salt
Add the Cilantro and the Lime Juice
Mix the Avocado chopped and mix it with the rest of ingredients
Rectify Seasoning and serve

4 to 6 People

2 White Onion Sliced
3 tbsp Corn Oil
1 tsp Brown Sugar
2 tbsp Canned Chipotle Chiles Puree
1 Tomato Chopped
½ cup Shreded Chicken
Dry Oregano

Sauté the Onion in a pan with the oil, add the Sugar and caramelize it for 1 minute
Add the chipotle puree and cook it for 1 more minute
Add the tomatoes and the Chicken until became a stew.
Season the mix with a little oregano an salt

Serve it over Crispy Tortillas and decorate with Lettuce, Sour Cream and Fresh Cheese

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