Ingredients of Mexican and Southwestern Cooking - 1
ACHIOTE SEED: The dried reddish seeds of the annatto tree give food a bright orange-yellow tint when they are cooked first in hot fat; then, the seeds themselves are discarded. Sometimes they are ground to a powder and stirred into such foods as butter for color. They impart a flavor that is gentle and hard to describe; like that of saffron, it has an earthy quality.
ADOBO: A piquant sauce of tomato, vinegar and spices.
ANISE SEED: This small, elongated seed tastes sharply of licorice.
ATOLE BLUE CORNMEAL: This is blue corn that has been dried, roasted, and ground specifically to be used in make ATOLE, a cornmeal gruel. Blue corn, unlike ordinary field corn, is always dried and ground before use. Cornmeal, blue, yellow, or white, can be used as a thickener.
AVOCADO: This fruit is ripe when the flesh under the leathery skin yields to light pressure. A hard avocado will ripen if left at room temperature for two or three days. The Haas or California type is smaller and darker green than the emerald type grown in Florida, and some say it is more flavorful as well. Keep avocado flesh from discoloring by brushing it with lemon juice as it is peeled.
BEANS: It takes time to prepare dried beans, but the result is a tender bean that is still firm. Canned beans are sometimes mushy, but they are convenient to keep on hand and are packed in liquid that adds flavor to many recipes. Dried beans keep almost indefinitely. Before cooking dried beans, rinse them well and pick them over for stones or inferior beans.
TYPES OF BEANS:
BLACK BEANS: (frijoles negros, turtle beans) though small, have a hearty flavor. South American cooking makes great use of them.
With their dramatic dark purple-blue color, they lend themselves nicely to garnishes.
BLACK-EYED PEAS: (cowpeas) are the seeds of the cowpea, an annual vine. They are tan with a blackish stain, hence "black-eyed".
GARBANZO BEANS: (chickpeas) are Spanish in origin. These rounded beige beans have a nutty flavor.
NORTHERN BEANS: are white, relatively large and mild.
PINTO BEANS: (frijoles) are charmingly speckled with brown on a pale or pinkish background.
RED BEANS: are favorites in the southern states. Pinto beans may be substituted.
BUFFALO: This commercially raised red meat is lower in cholesterol and fat than beef. Unlike beef, it isn't marbled with fat. Accustomed as we are today to tender cuts of meat, buffalo is best enjoyed ground rather than steaks.
CAPERS: These are the pickled, green buds from the prickly caper bush. They are somewhat smaller than raisins and are bottled in brine.
CAYENNE: See Chile.
CHAYOTE: (christophine, mirliton, vegetable pear): Related to gourds, chayote squash have none of their brilliant decoration. Light green skin encases firm flesh of an even paler green. Chayote may be baked, steamed, stuffed and sauteed. A 1 lb Chayote makes a nice serving for two or three people.
CHEESE: Traditional Mexican cheeses were mad with goat's or sheep's milk. The following cheeses are used in this style of cooking:
CHEDDAR: is a mild firm cheese of English origin that becomes more sharp with age. It melts beautifully.
CHIHUAHUA: (Asadero Or Oaxaca) is white, creamy and tangy. Sometimes it is sold braided. Mozzarella or Monterey Jack may be substituted.
CO-JACK: is an American invention. Block cheese marbled with Colby and Monterey Jack.
COLBY: is a slightly sharp cheese with a flavor similar to that of Cheddar. This American cheese has a rather soft open texture.
MONTEREY JACK: is a mild cheese usually sold in blocks. It softens at room temperature.
QUESO ANEJO: is an aged, hard grating cheese. It ranges from pale cream to white in color and is quite salty. Romano or Parmesan may be substituted.
QUESO FRESCO: (Ranchero seco) can be compared to a very salty farmer's cheese. A reasonable substitute for this crumbly cheese is Feta Cheese.
SIERRA: is another rather dry sharp cheese that grates easily. Romano or Parmesan may be substituted.