BaltimOregon to Maine

Locavore Cooking with Southern Efficiency and Northern Charm

Posts Tagged ‘Oaxaca

Oaxacan Chileatole De Elote (Chileatole Of Fresh Corn)

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Diana Kennedy's Oaxacan soup, with sweet corn from Luke Beene's organic Southtown Corvallis urban farm.

For some reason, I thought the local sweet corn season was over. Or that it never really happened, with all the poor weather we’ve had this year. So I was happy to find delicate fresh ears of corn at Luke Beene’s stand at the farmers’ market today. I arrived at closing time (as usual), rushing around in a panic to buy this sweet end-of-season produce (corn and raspberries) before it’s too late.

Had a corn revelation today. Cut the cob into chunks and only then slice off the kernels. That way they don't spray everywhere. Your knife stays closer to the cutting board.

Finding the corn meant I could make Diana Kennedy’s Chileatole De Elote (Chileatole Of Fresh Corn) soup. I knew Mexicans made soups with floating chunks of corn still on the cob, but I’ve hardly tried them. This recipe is from Kennedy’s beautiful-sounding new love letter to Oaxaca cuisine. The recent NPR piece set in her lush vegetable garden and kitchen cast a spell on me. There’s just something about Oaxaca. Of course, it’s the only place in Mexico we’ve been, but we’re not alone in believing the cuisine, with its moles, is among the best in Mexico. That’s where we did the Seasons of My Heart cooking school. And we continue to enjoy Oaxaquena comida here in Corvallis, as a majority of our Mexican immigrant population hails from that state.

Written by baltimoregon

October 7, 2010 at 1:03 am

Food as Poison, Garlic as Medicine

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Garlic from the garden, harvested before we left on the 4th of July: delicious, antiseptic medicine.

The offending Kani Salad with Heart of Palm and Mango. I mean, who orders that? Can't you just see the vomit-inducing bacteria on the pink, less-than-fresh pieces of imitation crab?

During this second summer hiatus, there’s so much food I consumed and want to tell you about: smokey barbecued ribs and craft beers in Asheville, N.C.; farm fresh micro-greens and local fruit juice pops at the tiny Penn Park market in Charlottesville, Va.; corned beef and pickled tongue sandwiches with health salad (kosher slaw) and half-sour pickles at Ben’s Deli in Queens; and most memorably the alluring foods we encountered on our recent trip to Brazil: the pillowy, ubiquitous pao de quiejo, the tropical fruit sucos, the pork part-studded feijoada chased by candy sweet-tart capirinhas; the melt-in-your-mouth rare rounds of rump roast (picanha) carved table side at a fine churrascaria steakhouse; the cold agua de coco sipped from machete-lopped young green coconuts along the wide beaches in Rio.

Sopa De Ajo (Con Flor De Calabaza if you have them): Mexican version of Jewish "penicillin" soup, a soothing and light dinner on the night we returned.

When has garlic, like this soft-neck bulb from my garden, ever let you down?

But unfortunately food poisoned me that final afternoon in Rio. To make matters worse, the offending meal wasn’t even memorable. I should have realized the imitation crab sticks in my salad (which I don’t even much care for) tasted less than fresh. After a trip of magical meals, the restaurant in question was forgettable, a nondescript Portuguese-Italian cafe with a yellow awning on Avenida Ataulfo de Paiva whose name I can’t remember, just down the road from the excellent Jobi (if only we’d lunched there one more time instead!). The draw of this nameless cafe on our last day was the outdoor seating. And after a week of heavy eating, I craved salad, even though some members of our party avoided raw veggies, given they chance they were washed in less than perfect water. Two salads with “kani” and that ubiquitous heart of palm caught my attention. “What’s ‘kani’?,” we asked the waiter, in butchered Portuguese. He returned with a pathetic-looking crab stick on a plate. So why did I spring for the “Salada de Kani com Manga”? The other ingredients appealed to me. Heart of palm, mango, buffalo mozzarella from the water buffalo they actually have in Brazil (not as good as the Italian variety, though), lettuce, corn, peas. The salad was unfortunately bland, with a plan olive oil and white vinegar dressing. I ate most of it anyway. Dan ate a tad of it, but avoided the now-suspect kani. Why didn’t I trust my instincts?

The poisonous salad, before tossing.

A little over an hour later, my stomach cramped up. I didn’t even connect the pain with the salad at first. I had a spot of lichi-flavored, probiotic-rich frozen yogurt (the stands are popular on Rio’s trendy streets). Then we shared just one last acai shake (blended with banana) while Dan ordered a sandwich for the airplane. Little did I know I would soon throw this all up in the bathroom of Rio de Janeiro’s surprisingly sparse international airport. That evening there, as we waited several hours for our overnight flight out to Atlanta, the stabbing cramps came in painful waves. I doubled over and squatted to contain the pain, as if almost in labor. Clutching the toilet, I whimpered on the floor of the public restroom, unaware of my surroundings. Luckily, I seemed to get much of the poison out just before our flight. I drank Coca Cola and gulped down some Pepto, ibuprofen and against my better judgment, some anti-biotic Flagyl given to Dan as a last resort from some upstanding Continental Airlines pilots. I discontinued the meds after three doses, per my father-in-law’s recommendation, but they seemed to help at the time. Hell, I would have taken morphine or heroin or anything that wouldn’t kill me, as delusional as I was with pain at that point.

Given my symptoms the Delta crew didn’t want to let me on the flight, but the prospect of spending the night in a grungy hotel (or worse, hospital) near the airport seemed unbearable. I somehow rallied just before the flight. I held a hot water bottle against my sore belly and Dan soothingly massaged it throughout the flight. In about 24 hours, I was mostly better, with some residual soreness/trapped gas deep buried deep in my abdomen. When we returned home, I made a cleansing Sopa de Ajo recipe with two heads of fresh garlic from my garden, a recipe we learned from the excellent Seasons of My Heart cooking school in Oaxaca. It’s rumored to protect against stomach trouble:) I’ll make it again with flor de calabanza if I find these zucchini blossoms at the market!

I returned home to uncover carrots and new potatoes in the garden: simple, trustworthy foods for a burned stomach.

How thankful I am for my health. And once again, this adventurous eater is chastened. The acrid horse chestnuts, the rabbit kidneys and now this suspect salad. When will BaltimOregon learn her lesson? Food, which is such a vehicle for pleasure for me, can also be poisonous. I now vow to eat more cautiously (but no less enthusiastically)  in the coming year. Eating isn’t sport. Maybe this new mindset will help me finally shed that weight I’ve accumulated these past few years as well. How to diet without really “dieting”? Portion control, I suspect. Stay tuned.

Written by baltimoregon

July 31, 2010 at 11:58 am

Oaxaquenas en Oregon

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Juices at Oaxaca market (by Michael R. Swigart/Flickr/Creative Commons

Open-air market in Oaxaca (by nunavut/Flickr/Creative Commons












Last night I learned that among Oregon’s predominantly Mexican farm workers, some 70 percent hail from the indigenous state of Oaxaca, the one state we’ve visited in Mexico. Half of those Oacaquenas speak languages other than Spanish, like Zapotec. That makes organizing the workers to stand up for their rights quite the logistical challenge, said Ramon Ramirez, president of PCUN, Oregon’s only farmworkers union, during this talk sponsored by Slow Food Portland and Ecotrust (scroll down).

Sure, organic labels ensure an absence of pesticides but they don’t reveal labor conditions under which the produce was grown: whether the farmworkers were paid legal wages, for overtime and under safe conditions. The movement is just now starting to push for fair trade or union-approved agricultural products in the U.S. We will have to pay more for this. But what about the indigent farmworkers, who then ironically can’t afford to purchase the wholesome produce they themselves help grow? And what about the small farmers who often barely make minimum wage themselves and live in fear that an immigration raid will shut their livelihood down.

You can read more about these weighty issues that the food community is just now starting to wrestle with, even here in oh-so-progressive Portland. See “Hand Picked, Row by Row, Day After Day” in the  Summer 2008 issue of Edible Portland.

Written by baltimoregon

November 21, 2008 at 3:02 pm

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