Ingredients of Mexican and Southwestern Cooking - 4
GAME: Americans tend to consider the following animals game: Buffalo, Duck, Goose, Pheasant, Quail, Rabbit, and Venison. Generally speaking, farm-raised game animals haven't had to scratch for a living and so is meatier and has a flavor somewhat less "gamy". It is traditional to serve any game with foods upon which it feeds. For example, serve game birds with berry sauces and wild rice.
GROUND RED CHILIES: This is pure chili powder from finely ground dried red chilies. It is not blended chili powder.
GROUND RED PEPPER: From ground dried cayenne chilies, this is often called "cayenne pepper". See Chili, Cayenne.
GUAVA: These yellow-green fruits with pale faintly pink flesh are about the size of a plum. They are intensely fragrant when ripe. Guava paste is only one of the fruit pastes beloved of Hispanics, often served with cream cheese as dessert. The fruit is cooked with sugar until thick, then canned or shaped into blocks.
HOMINY: These corn kernels have been soaked and lightly cooked so that the outer coating can be removed.
INSTANT CORN FLOUR TORTILLA MIX (MASA) This commercial product is the shortcut in making fresh corn tortillas. It is fresh corn MASA that has been dried and ground.
JERUSALEM ARTICHOKE (Sunchoke) This knobbed root keeps well in the refrigerator or other cold place. Jerusalem artichokes discolor after peeling. Dip them in acidulated water as the flesh is exposed. Enjoy Jerusalem artichokes ray in salads, or broiled, sauteed, mashed or in a gratin.
JICAMA: The flesh of the jicama root is often compared to that of the water chestnut, both for flavor and crunch. Jicama is related to the sharp-tasting turnip but is so mild in flavor that, when eaten raw, it is usually sprinkled with lemon or lime juice and chili powder. After the brown fibrous skin has been pared away, jicama flesh does not discolor. Look for smallish jicama, which will be sweet and moist.
JUNIPER BERRIES: The fruit of an ever green, juniper berries give gin its distinctive flavor. They are sometimes used to flavor game dishes. These blue-green berries are purchased dried. Add them (sparingly) whole to saucy foods for subtle flavor or slightly crushed for more impact.
LARD: This has been perhaps the most frequently used cooking fat south of the boarder since it was introduced by the Spaniards. For tender, flaky pastries, lard can't be beat. It is little known that lard, for all its reputation, has approximately half the cholesterol of butter.
MANGO: The skin of this oval fruit is washed in gold, pink, red, and parrot green. The flesh is deep yellow, juicy and richly perfumed. Mangoes have flat, oval pits. To slice the fruit, free it from the pit in large pieces.
MASA: Literally "dough" in Spanish. MASA is cornmeal dough made from dried corn kernels that have been softened in a lime (calcium hydroxide) solution, then ground. Fresh MASA is commercially available in Mexico, but it is tricky to work with and dries out quickly. MASA comes finely ground, for tortillas, and coarsely ground for tamales. It is easier to use instant corn flour tortilla mix when making tortillas.
NOPALES: These leaves of the prickly pear (nopal) cactus are firm crunch pads. Let size be your guide in buying them; the smaller the pad, the more likely it is to be tender. Use tweezers to remove spines, a sharp paring knife or vegetable peeler to remove their bases. With a flavor similar to green beans, NOPALES are eaten both raw and cooked.
NUTS: In southwest cooking, nuts are sometimes ground and stirred into sauces as a thickening agent. In addition to giving the sauce more body, raw nuts add, of course, their own particular flavor. Toasted nuts are more often used as a garnish or in baking.
TOASTING NUTS: Toasting enhances the flavor of the nut. To toast nuts, spread them in a single layer in an ungreased pan; bake at 350 degrees F, stirring and checking for doneness frequently. Nuts are toasted when they are lightly browned. Let almonds, pecans and walnuts bake for 7 to 12 minutes. Pine nuts toast more rapidly, in 5 to 7 minutes.
TO GRIND NUTS: To grind nuts, place 1/3 to 1/2 cup at a time in the workbowl of a food processor or blender. Process them in short pulses just until ground (longer and you will have nut butter).
PAPAYA: A nearly oval fruit with creamy golden yellow skin, orange yellow flesh and scores of shiny black seeds conveniently packed in its center. When slightly underripe, the flesh is firm (perfect for making into relishes); When ripe, it is so juicy as to be almost melting.
PECAN: This oil-rich nut is an American native. See Nuts for toasting and grinding.