Around the World at Home Part 1

We thought when we retired from running a bed and breakfast that we would enjoy some traveling at last.  Well, like many of you, 2020 and Covid changed those plans dramatically.  However, instead of sitting home and feeling sorry for ourselves (well, we did do some of that), we decided to cook up some traveling right at home.

I love to cook and set a pretty table and it may seem strange to do that for just ourselves, but why not?  So one day each week, we are having a “travel holiday” imagining that we are staying somewhere nice and eating the food and enjoying the customs of a new country or region.

Since it’s winter here in the North, we’re going to start with warm places.  One that is very familiar to most of us is Mexico–so that’s where we will begin:

Mexico, of course, is a large country and each region of Mexico has a little different style of food and customs similar to our country.  Mexico City is the largest city and has the greatest diversity, so we will begin our journey there.  However, a sampling of food from the different states would be more fun.

Mexicans eat as many as five meals a day.  Usually the day begins with desayuno, an early breakfast of rolls and coffee.  Later in the morning comes almuerzo, the main breakfast which usually includes eggs with meat, bread, beans and fresh fruit.

The most elaborate and filling meal of the day is around 1:00 or 2:00 in the afternoon.  Comida usually entails several courses–appetizer, soup, a starchy casserole (sopa seca), fish, main course, salad or vegetable, beans, dessert and coffee.  This elaborate meal has been cut back in more modern days as the nap (siesta) is not permitted in a modern business day.

Merienda is the “tea” equivalent for Mexico and is usually rolls and chocolate or a light snack.

Last is the very late cena and might be served as late as midnight.  It might be a simple soup, bread and dessert.

Breakfast:

The classic Mexican Breakfast is Huevos Rancheros served with avocado slices and a hot sauce of tomatoes and chilies, as well as tortillas, kidney beans and chili peppers.  To complement this meal, a cup of hot chocolate rather than coffee. There are many versions of this dish and many of us are familiar with it.  I am choosing a simplified version since there are so many delicious prepared Mexican foods from which to choose.  Also a store-bought salsa can be purchased in different grades of heat.  We like our sauces on the mild side.

Salsa of your choice
vegetable oil for frying
6 corn tortillas
12 eggs

Heat salsa; Pour oil 12/4 inch deep into a medium skillet.  Heat to 365 F.  Fry tortillas until crisp and lightly browned.  Drain on paper towels; keep warm.  Remove all but a little oil fro skillet.  Fry eggs sunny-side up.  Place 2 eggs on each tortilla.  Top with 1/3 cup salsa.  Serve immediately.  Makes 6 servings.  You may serve guacamole, sour cream and refried beans with cheese melted on top on the side for a very hearty breakfast.

For our main meal I chose a Tex-Mex dish that everyone likes:  Tamale Pie.  I have yet to find anyone, adult or kid who doesn’t like this dish.

Tamale Pie

1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped green pepper
3/4 pound ground beef
2 8-oz cans seasoned tomato sauce
1 12-oz can whole kernel corn. drained
1 cup chopped ripe olives
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp. salt
2-3 tsp. chili powder
Dash pepper
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp process cheese

Corn-meal topper:

3/4 cup yellow corn meal
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups cold water
1 Tbsp. butter

Cook onion and green pepper in a little hot fat till just tender.  Add eat; brown lightly.  Add next 8 ingredients.  Simmer 20-25 minutes, until thick.  Add cheese; stir till ,melted.  {pie omit greased 10x6x1-1/2 inch baking dish.  Make topper:  Stir corn meal and salt into cold water.  Cook and stir till thick.  Add butter; mix well.  Spoon over hot meat mixture and spread evenly.  Bake at 375 about 40 minutes.  Makes 6 servings.

In the afternoon, around 4 many people have “tea” without the tea.  In the interest of our figures we are going to skip this meal and go to the evening repast which is lighter than the midday meal.  The choice:  Mexican Chicken Soup with Crispy Tortilla Strips and Lime.  The dessert?  Coconut pudding. I found my Ecuadoran tablecloth (a little further south, I know) in the South and Central American style, and the most colorful dishes for the table.  Look around your house for the decorations–most people can find something suitable for every cuisine–and what fun!

Lime and Tortilla Soup

2 corn tortillas
Oil for frying
2 tsp. vegetable oil
1/3 cup chopped onion
1 small can chopped green chiles
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup shredded cooked chicken
salt
1 tomato, chopped
2 Tbsp. lime juice
4 large lime slices

Cut tortillas in strips.  Pour oil into skillet.  Heat to 365 degrees.  Fry tortilla strips in hot oil until browned and crisp.  Drain on paper towels.  Heat 2 tsp oil in large saucepan.  Add onion and chiles.  Sauté until onion is tender.  Add broth, chicken and salt to taste.  Cover and simmer 20 minutes.  Add tomato; simmer 5 minutes longer.  Stir in lime juice.  Taste and add more lime juice if desired.  To serve, ladle soup into bowls and add some fried tortilla strips.  Float a lime slice in the center of each serving .

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