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Mexican Cooking Tips (4 of 6)

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Category: Mexican, Cheese

 Ingredients List

  • Dictionary of MEXICAN Cookin
  • (This is part 4 of 6)


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
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.
PEPITA: See Pumpkin Seed PEPPER: There is PIPER NIGRUM, Peppercorn, and
the CAPSICUM FRUTECENS and CASPSICUM ANNUUM, the family of vegetables know
variously as peppers and chilies. Peppercorns came to the Western world
originally from Madagascar. The success of medieval spice traders made
black pepper more widely available and only a little less precious than it
had previously been.
Representing the FRUTESCENS contingent, bell peppers are related to
chilies but lack the capsaicin (the compound that makes them hot), Bell
peppers are therefore known as "sweet". Until recently, bell peppers of any
color than green were an oddity at many markets; today, there is a
profusion of yellow, red and purple ones. Red and yellow are acknowledged
to be the sweetest. Roast bell peppers as for chilies.

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