Pily and Cosas Bellas de Mexico

There is no one better than Pily to show las cosas bellas de México. She has a blog called La Cocina Mexicana de Pily in which she delights us with authentic Mexican food recipes. The photographs she posts to show us her dishes are spectacular. And the way she shares her love of Mexican cuisine and  the love she has for our México are unmatched. Pily definitely makes me proud to be Mexican!

In this patriotic month, Pily invites us once again to help her show the beauty of México. It is a very original and beautiful way to share our recipes. Follow the link to Pily's blog. I know you are going to like it.

So, here is my recipe for honeyed figs. They are in season now but I prepared this preserve so I can continue enjoying them when the fig tree stops bearing fruit.

Honeyed Figs

3 pounds fresh figs
5 cups light brown sugar
5 cups water
1 lime, peeled and thinly sliced
4-6 green cardamom pods
1 stick of cinnamon
4 whole cloves

Wash figs leaving part of the stems intact. Place figs in a big pot with a heavy bottom, add sugar and cover with water. Add lime and spices. Let simmer over low heat until syrup thinkens and it can coat the back of a spoon, about 60-90 minutes. Place figs with syrup in previously sterilized jars and seal. You can store this in a dark cool place but I like them cold so I keep mine in the refrigerator.

If you ask me, the most beautiful thing in México is its people. So, I will leave you with some pictures of my people.


The Enlightened Bharata / La Iluminada Bharata

Temples in Agra - Picture from National Geographic

Indian food is different from that of the rest of the world. The taste and method of cooking is extraordinary and very distinctive.  Indian people are masters in the use of spices and aromatics.  When cooking Indian food, the layers of flavors and aromas are intoxicating. The use of spices like cumin, cardamom, nutmeg and mace impregnate the kitchen and transports you to distant and ancient places where you can experience the romance and satisfaction of a home cooked meal full of exotic flavors. Mmm, I love Indian food!

During the time I spent with my friend Monica, learning how to cook some Indian dishes, I learned some recipes but I also learned some other things -  Religion, region, state, language and caste are what differentiate Indians from one another. Each group has its own unique way of cooking. This is why Indian food is one of the most diverse in the world and there is no specific national dish in India. The food of North India is not as spicy compared to the South. More than 60% of the people in West India are vegetarians while in the East, vegetarianism is not a common practice. The ancient name for India was  Aja Nabha Varsha but another name is Bharata, which means light and knowledge. I like this name a lot, it reminds me of my brother-in-law, Bodhi Ray, who lived in India for many years and was a follower of the enlightened Osho. Some day I will write something about Bodhi Ray and his journey but now, let's continue with my discoveries about India.

I also learned that most Indian people living in the United State have two kitchens - one for western meals and another one they call a spice kitchen. In this kitchen they prepared their Indian food. If they don't have a second kitchen, they cook their spices in a make-shift kitchen in the garage or in an outdoors grill. They do this to avoid the aroma of the spices penetrating around the house. Monica and I discovered that, although in Mexico, we use some of the same spices used in India - cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, cumin, coriander and many more, the food doesn't come out tasting the same. However, we concluded that both cuisines are intricate and delicious in their own way. 

Monica took me to an Indian supermarket in San Diego and I was introduced to fresh fenugreek. I knew fenugreek seeds. my mom uses them in a beverage she prepares, like an iced tea. But I've never seen the plant or knew you can cook with it. That day at the Indian market was a day of discovery for me. I found many new spices and learned how to of cook familiar ingredients in a different way; the Indian way. Monica is vegetarian and she told me that when she wants to have the flavor of fried fish, she steams taro roots, smashes them down with the palm of her hand and then she fries them in a little olive oil. "They taste like fish",  she said. I haven't tried this but I bought some taro roots and will try them soon; I think this will be a good treat for my vegetarian husband. I also bought some fresh fenugreek. Monica told me how to cook this in a delicious rice which is the recipe I'm sharing here. It is called methi or fenugreek rice. 

Methi Rice

1 tablespoon oil
1 bay leaf
2 cloves
3/4 inch cinnamon stick
2 green cardamom pods
1 black cardamom pod
1/2 inch fresh ginger plus 2 garlic cloves, passed through a garlic press
1/2 cup onion, chopped (I used red onion but you can use any kind)
1/2 cup green bell pepper, chopped (you can use a spicy pepper like jalapeño or serrano)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons ground coriander seeds
1 teaspoon red chili powder
Salt to taste
2 cups fresh fenugreek leaves, washed and chopped
3 cups cooked rice (I used basmati but you can use any long grain rice)

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Once hot, add whole spices (bay leaf, cloves, cinnamon stick and cardamom), cook until they release their aroma. Add ginger and garlic paste and let it cook for about 30 seconds. Then add the chopped onion and bell pepper. Stir and let it cook until they become a little brown. Stir in the ground spices (cumin, turmeric, coriander and red chili) and cook for about 30 seconds. Then add the fenugreek leaves and salt to taste. Cook for another minute. Add the cook rice and gently mix to combine all the ingredients. Cook until rice heats through. Serve hot.

I have enjoyed exploring the food of the subcontinent and experiencing India in my kitchen. I hope you too are inspired to cook recipes from the enlightened Bharata.