16 July 2008

Molcajetes & Nichos

Mole! Nopales! Salsa de Tomatillos! Jamaica Tea & Margaritas. . .

In San Miguel de Allende, I'm quick to sign up for a cooking lesson, offered by owner of La Cocina, who turns out to be from Houston. . . another member of San Miguel's very large ex-patriot population (estimated at as many as 20, 000 permanent residents) and assisted by a Mexican woman, who did most of the cooking while our host demonstrated the various dishes and tools and talked us through the preparation, including how to clean chilis and nopales and roast tomatilloes on the comal. She also gave an interesting talk on the history of chocolate, a subject on which she had done recent research.

We were greeted with cold jamaica (hibiscus) tea and platters of colorful ingredients to make mole, nopales salad, and tomatillo salsa.

The chefs had prepared most of the ingredients ahead of time, although we did chop onions and nopales (cactus pads) and ground roasted tomatillos and chilis in the molcajete to make a delicious fresh, uncooked salsa verde.

We returned a week later to the same neighborhood, Barrio San Antonio, to take a workshop on creating "nichos," collages built into tin boxes. This workshop is offered by artist Rebecca Peterson, originally from Santa Fe, New Mexico. Rebecca truly encouraged our creativity and exploration, offering a wealth of materials from which to choose, as well as clear information on what glues and paints work best for different surfaces and objects. Each of us created a very individual nicho; mine featured the Loteria card "la Garza" and a tiny cat, shells and an abundance of other objects.

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