The last couple of weeks have been a bit hectic, so I'm just now getting around to posting about the dinner party I hosted. The theme was kosher-style Mexican food.
I studied in Mexico as a college student, and have traveled there many times since. Mexico is one of my favorite places, and it holds a very special place in my heart.
As a concept, kosher-style Mexican food may seem like an implausible idea. However, in researching the theme, I learned there is a sizable, old Jewish community in Mexico whose roots go back to the Sephardic communities of Spain, Portugal, and Turkey (the former Ottoman Empire).
(An interesting note for those like me who are interested in linguistics: The Jews of the Iberian Peninsula and the Ottoman Empire used a language known as Ladino. I am very excited to be receiving a siddur (prayer book) in Ladino from an acquaintance in the near future.)
One of the watershed moments in Jewish history was the expulsion of the Jews (and Muslims) from Spain and Portugal during the Spanish Inquisition. Jews and Muslims were forced to convert to Catholicism, flee, or die. Many Jews chose to convert to Catholicism but continued to live observant Jewish lives in secret. These Jews were known as "marranos", or "conversos".
The first conversos came to Mexico with the Conquistadors, and were among the earliest European colonizers. Now, the Jewish community in Mexico is estimated at about 40,000 people. Unfortunately, this is not a side of Mexico I have experienced in my travels there, but it will definitely be on the itinerary of my next trip.
Now, on to the food and drink!
Drink: Red Wine Sangria
- Five (5) apples
- Four (4) oranges
- Two (2) cups brandy
- One (1) cup orange liqueur
- Four (4) bottles of red wine
- One (1) 20 oz. bottle of chilled sparkling water
1. Cut the fruit into wedges (I did quarters). Put them in a large pitcher. (I was making this for a group of folks, so I multiplied a basic recipe and made the sangria in a 2-gallon glass canister.)
2. Add the brandy, orange liqueur, and wine to the fruit in the pitcher, and stir. Let it sit in the refrigerator (covered) overnight.
3. Before serving, add the sparkling water and stir to mix. Add some fruit to the glasses when serving.
(After the party, I tried making jam from the leftover fruit ... It didn't turn out. Boo.)
Appetizer: Salmon Ceviche from "Jewish Cooking in America"
- One (1) pound of boneless, skinless salmon fillet
- Juice of three (3) limes
- One (1) cup peeled, seeded tomatoes, drained and cut into small cubes
- One or two (1 or 2) serrano chilies, seeded and chopped
- 1/2 cup of finely chopped scallions
- One (1) Tbsp. olive oil
- Two (2) tsps. finely chopped fresh cilantro
- One (1) tsp. fresh oregano
- One (1) cup avocado, cut into small cubes
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Grated rind of one (1) lime
1. Cut the fish into 1/2-inch cubes. Put in a bowl, add the lime juice and some salt, and stir to make sure the juice soaks through all of the fish. Cover and refrigerate overnight (at least 12 hours), stirring occasionally.
2. Add the remaining ingredients, toss together, and keep chilled until ready to serve.
3. Serve with corn tortilla chips.
Note: I used a whole avocado, which is more than the original recipe called for.
Soup Course: Masa Ball Soup
Instead of matzoh meal, this recipe uses masa harina for tamales for the dumplings.
- Four (4) large eggs, beaten
- 1/2 cup seltzer or filtered water
- 1/4 cup chicken schmaltz (rendered chicken fat) or a neutral oil like vegetable or canola oil
- One (1) cup masa harina para tamales
- One (1) tsp. baking powder
- One (1) tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Three (3) qts. chicken stock
- One (1) medium carrot, cut into 1/4" dice
- One (1) stalk of celery, cut into 1/4" dice
- 3/4 cup 1/4"-diced butternut squash
- 1/4 cup cilantro (leaves and stems)
- One jalapeno or Serrano pepper, thinly sliced
- One (1) lime cut into wedges, for serving
1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the eggs, seltzer, and schmaltz (or oil). In a separate, small bowl, mix the masa harina with the baking powder, salt, and pepper. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix thoroughly. Refrigerate uncovered for 30 minutes.
2. While the masa dough is setting in the fridge, divide the stock evenly between two pots, season both with salt to taste and bring both to a simmer. Add the carrot, celery, and squash to one of the pots, and simmer until they are tender. Remove this pot from the heat and leave aside.
3. Remove the dough from the fridge and, using wet hands, form the dough into 1 - 1.5" balls, and place in the pot of stock that is still simmering on the stove. Once you've added all of the balls, cover the pot and simmer until they are cooked through, about 30 to 45 minutes. The balls can be kept warm in the broth until ready to serve.
4. Reheat both pots and, using a slotted spoon, place two to three balls in each serving bowl. Strain the broth from the pot that had the balls in it through a fine mesh strainer into the pot with the broth and vegetables. Ladle the broth and vegetables into the serving bowls and garnish with cilantro, jalapeno/Serrano peppers, and lime wedges.
Entree: Crockpot Brisket Tacos
- Five (5) lbs. brisket with most of the fat removed
- Two (2) onions, each cut into 1/8th wedges
- Four (4) cloves garlic, crushed
- 1/2 cup of water
- One (1) jalapeno, cut in half
- For the dry rub:
- Four (4) tsps. chili powder
- Two (2) tsps. salt
- Two (2) tsps. onion powder
- Two (2) . cumin
- One (1) tsp. chipotle chili powder
- One (1) tsp. ground coriander
- One (1) tsp. garlic powder
- One (1) tsp. crushed Mexican oregano
1. Mix the dry rub ingredients together in a Ziploc bag.
2. Rub both sides of the brisket with half of the dry rub. Set the other half aside for later.
3. Cut the brisket in half, crosswise, so it will fit in the crockpot.
4. Cover the bottom of the crockpot with some of the onion and garlic. Lay the brisket on top. Scatter the remaining onion and garlic over the brisket, and add the two jalapeno halves.
5. Pour 1/2 cup of water around the edges. Put the lid on the crockpot and cook for 8 - 10 hours.
6. After the brisket is fully cooked, remove it from the crockpot, let sit for a few minutes to cool, then shred with a couple of forks.
7. Remove the onions, garlic, and jalapeno from the crockpot and set aside in a small bowl. Reduce the amount of juice in the crockpot to two (2) cups.
8. Return the meat to the crockpot and sprinkle with the remaining half of the dry rub. toss it to coat well, then turn the heat up to high. You can also adjust the seasoning of the meat at this point.
9. Serve in warmed corn tortillas.Top with the onion, garlic, and whatever other toppings you'd like. (Because this was a kosher-style meal, there was no sour cream, which is a personal favorite.)
Dessert: Vegan Tres Leches Cake
I was skeptical about this recipe - we all were, really - but it was fantastic. It was rich but not too heavy, and the fruit from the sangria were a nice (but dangerous) complement.
- For the cake:
- 1 3/4 cups pastry flour
- One (1) tsp. baking powder
- One (1) tsp. baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. sea salt
- 1/3 cup Earth Balance whipped spread
- One (1) cup sugar
- 2/3 cup filtered water
- Two (2) tsps. real vanilla extract
- One (1) tsp. unfiltered cider vinegar
- For the milk mixture:
- Two (2) Tbsps. cream of coconut
- Two (2) Tbsps. coconut milk
- Two (2) cups plain soy milk
- Two (2) Tbsps. vegan whipped topping
- Two (2) tsps. lime juice
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Grease and flour an 8" cake pan. Line the pan with parchment.
3. In a medium bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, and baking soda.
4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the salt, whipped spread, sugar, water, vanilla, and vinegar until blended.
5. Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture, whisking until smooth. Pour the batter into the cake pan. Bake for 30 - 40 minutes, or until you can insert a toothpick into the center and remove it cleanly.
6. Remove from the oven and let sit for several minutes, then remove the cake from the pan and let it cool on a rack. Cut the cake in half horizontally, then place the bottom half back in the pan.
7. In a bowl, mix the cream of coconut and coconut milk until they are about the consistency of condensed milk.
8. In a medium saucepan, whisk together the coconut mixture, soy milk, and vegan whipping cream until smooth.
9. If using, add the lime juice and bring the mixture to a boil.
10. The milk mixture has to come to a boil in order to soak through the cake.
11. Pour the milk mixture over the bottom half of the cake and press with a spatula until all of the milk mixture has been absorbed.
12. Add some more milk, then replace the top layer of the cake. Pour more of the milk mixture over the cake, and press with a spatula until it has all been absorbed. Let the milk mixture soak into the cake for at least 30 minutes, then refrigerate until you are ready to serve.
13. Serve with fruit and vegan whipped topping(if using).
This meal was fantastic, and I will make all of these dishes again.