What better way to return to my writing than with a cooking class at at the organic farm to table restaurant, Huerte Los Tamarindos in San Jose del Cabo with my dear friend, owner and chef, Enrique Silva.
As many of you are aware, Los Cabos suffered from a devastating hurricane in September 2014 and Los Tamarindos did not escape. I was so pleased to see the progress at the farm and thrilled with how beautiful the gardens looked. The banana trees are so gorgeous, it is worth a trip just to see them. I had this crazy idea that maybe I could grow one inside my house so I gently coerced Enrique into digging up a small one for me. I planted it last night in a big pot next to a very sunny window. I will keep you posted on how it is thriving.
One cool thing about Enrique’s classes is that you can design them yourself so if there is something you have always wanted to learn how to cook, he will try to accommodate you. In this case, our group wanted to learn how to make tamales. We had an interesting mix of people in our class with a wide range of ages and occupations. We even had a young lady who worked at Google on the new head mounted wearable computer, Google Glass.
These classes are hands on and with wine and tequila flowing and everyone was ready to cook and party.
Whenever I take a cooking class, I always want to walk away with something that I will use over and over:
1. Herb oil
2. Roasted peppercorns
3. Salsa Verde
These seem simple but I am confident that they will become part of my repertoire.
Also, I now understand how to make the “dough” for the tamales with Maseca corn flour, water, salt and either oil, Crisco or the more traditional lard. Voila! Then you can get creative with the stuffings.
In this class we did a vegetarian ratatouille wrapped in hoja santa leaves (an aromatic herb with heart shaped velvety leaf)
and chicken with salsa verde (tomatillos, cilantro, garlic and onion)
which we wrapped in corn husks, but your choices our endless. Think tamales stuffed with Nutella and peanut butter for dessert.
Before you leave, you must have a look at Lulu’s Tienda with clothes, bags, shawls, jewelry, textiles and children’s clothing – all made in Oaxaca. This is one of my favorite places to shop and you can find authentic gifts to take to your friends and families or if you are like me, to proudly wear time and time again.
1 oz each of minced rosemary, thyme, sage, marjoram, basil, oregano –
1 head of garlic minced
2 Cups Olive Oil
2 Cups Grape Seed Oil
Sea salt and roasted black pepper (whole peppercorns)
Remove all the leaves from the herb stems and mince. In large container mix all herbs, minced garlic, salt, whole black pepper and oils.
The original recipe calls for sunflower oil but grapeseed is even better. If you cannot find all the fresh herbs, just use what you can – it will be fine. For example, I use dried sage leaves and fresh oregano but no marjoram.
ROASTED WHOLE BLACK PEPPERCORNS
Pour the peppercorns into a dry heavy pan over medium heat, stir the peppercorns around the pan to get an even toasting. You can also put them on a sheet pan and bake in the oven. I didn’t actually know how long to toast them, so, I used my baking sense to determine the time; when I could smell the peppery aroma, they were done. I was surprised at what a difference roasting them makes – but it makes sense because when I roast other whole spices, the flavor is much more intense.
TOMATILLO SALSA VERDE
1/2 pound small fresh tomatillos, husked and rinsed
1 large garlic clove
1 tablespoon chopped fresh Serrano or Jalapeno chile with seeds, or to taste
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons water
Coarsely chop tomatillos, purée with remaining salsa ingredients and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a blender until smooth.