The first time you hear that gravelly, rock-against-rock rotation of the mortar, the first time you smell the irascible aroma of crushed roasted garlic and chiles, the first time you taste the jazz band of seasoning playing through the juicy ripe tomatoes -- you've come face to face with the real Mexico. It's a simple first step, partly because it looks like what we think of as "salsa," partly because we can find the ingredients so easily.
Note: Some fish options in this recipe may be unsustainable. Check Seafood Watch for information and alternatives.
Pozole Verde (Green Pozole)
Guerrero - Señora Carmen Villalba
This type was the very first tamale I tasted in Mexico, and it has become a favorite. I always prefer a cheese, bean, or vegetable filling; meat, with few exceptions, always seems so worn-ragged with the cooking. These tamales are eaten just as they are: no adornments!
Sophie Coe, my guru when it comes to early Meso-American cooking, in her masterpiece, America's First Cuisines, tells us that the tomatillo (also known in Mexico as "miltomate," "tomate verde," or simply "tomate") was likely the most-consumed "tomatl" (Nahuatl for a general class of plump fruit) in pre-Columbian times. Yes, more than the "jitomate" or red, ripe tomato to us English speakers. That explains, I think, why a mouthful of tomatillo salsa transports you straight to Mexico. It is the gustatory essence of the country - a gleaming contour of fresh green spiciness, herbal perfume and zest.
Mole Coloradito Oaxaqueño
Empanadas De Hongos
(Tortillas Filled with Mushrooms)
Cara De Silva, food historian and ethnic food authority, shared this very different way of eating corn on the cob. Hot chile, cool tart lime, and hot sweet corn -- a wonderful combination on a hot summer night. Have the corn hot and pass a bowl of this mixture for spooning over it. Some folks then salt the corn. Use organic ingredients, if at all possible.