Monday, March 29, 2010

The Roundup–”Like Water For Chocolate”

Time to round up the wonderful dishes inspired by the classic foodie novel: “Like Water for Chocolate” by Laura Esquivel. There were varying reactions to the book, some loved it, some liked it and for others it just wasn’t their cup of tea (or hot chocolate!). Regardless of how our members reacted to the fanciful fairy tale-like plot, it certainly sparked creativity and inspired some delicious Mexican dishes!
The talented Claudia of Honey From Rock was inspired to research the elusiveChampandongo, a layered meat casserole from the book. Claudia says, “It reminded me a bit of an ancient Greek tragedy, only with more sex and magic, besides recipes, which is usually fun. So, for a strange tale, I thought an unusual concoction was called for here.  Something not seen on the ordinary Mexican restaurant menu, and, one I’d never made or heard of.  My research didn’t turn up very much on the origin of, or alternate recipes for Champandongo. This dish has also been called a Mexican Lasagna, as it layers meats, sauce and cheese with tortillas, rather than pasta.” Her family enjoyed the dish and ate multiple servings!
Ty’s Mommy, from The Seventh Level of Boredom found the book a too fanciful in the story and the recipes for her tastes, but that didn’t stop her from turning out a batch of spicy Aztec Chili Truffles. She says, “So, I thought about the book; its name obviously had some inspiration lying in it (I mean, really, its CHOCOLATE….) and the burning desires that Tita felt throughout the book reminded me of one of my favorite candy recipes. Aztec Chile Truffles. Yep, if you’ve ever had Mexican hot chocolate, you’re going to be all over this one. You can make these chocolates as mild or as spicy as you want (yes, that’s right, I used ‘chocolate’ and ‘spicy’ in the same sentence.) Don’t judge, just give it a try. …Now we can all feel the burn, just like Tita. Enjoy!
Rachel, The Crispy Cook, one of my wonderful co-hosts for Cook the Books says, “I was delighted to transport myself back to the early 20th century Mexican ranch belonging to the de la Garza family. Ultimately I settled on making a treat of cookies and hot chocolate for my family on a blustery weekend afternoon. followed my usual scratch recipe for hot chocolate from the back of the cocoa powder container (cocoa, dash of salt, warm milk and a bit of vanilla), spiced up with a hint of cinnamon. For accompaniment, I hit a bunch of cookbooks for Mexican baking recipes and chose to make a gluten-free version of Polvorones de Canela (Cinnamon Cookies) from The Moosewood Collective’s cookbook “Sundays at the Moosewood Restaurant”. These are terrific served warm with hot chocolate to dunk them in. They also pair well with coffee.”

Foodycat remembers loving the book when it first came out but not so much when she reread it–finding Tita’s true love Pedro to be a “waste of space” (a sentiment shared by many CTB members in varying degrees!;-) However it didn’t stop her from coming up with an amazing dish. She says, “The description of Tita’s painstaking preparation of the chorizo drew me in, and I was very keen to make some – although in a much smaller quantity and without nearly as much chilli! Of course, once I had my batch of chorizo, I had to decide what to do with it. I made a Sunday breakfast of chorizo con huevos – eggs scrambled with chorizo. I served it on a warm tortilla, topped with grated cheese, quartered cherry tomatoes and chopped coriander. I think Mexican chorizo is going to become a much-favoured ingredient around our house!
My other wonderful co-host Johanna, of Food Junkie Not Junk Food found inspiration from “Like Water for Chocolate” as well as the movie version of another foodie novel,“Chocolat” for her Chicken Mole. She says, “The recipe for mole describe in that part of the book sounded delicious, but complicated at the same time, so I decided to follow another recipe instead which, coincidentally was inspired by the book as well. The recipe for chicken mole I cooked up comes from the book Unwrapped: Green & Black’s Chocolate Recipes: From the Cacao Pod to Muffins, Mousses and Moles.It is a very easy recipe that has amazing results. Even M. who was very skeptical at first as he doesn’t like chocolate very much, absolutely loved it. What is there not to love anyway? The meat falls off the bone, the sauce is rich, spicy and succulent and the chocolate just gives an extra layer of flavour without becoming too obvious. Plus it is dead easy to make. We enjoyed it with some tortillas the first day and as a sauce on orzo the second. I would definitely be making it again!
Another take on mole, this time as a sauce for enchiladas from Kim from Stirring The Pot. She enjoyed the book and says  “A tragic love story with magical food, Like Water For Chocolate, was a great read. Inspired to make a recipe containing chocolate, I had my heart set on making Mole. I found the perfect recipe while watching the new Food Network show, Mexican Made Easy with Marcela Valladolid. Her Easiest Ever Chicken Mole Enchiladas looked amazing and take only one hour. I was instantly sold on making this recipe.” Although she found the recipe easy, it did take time. effort and lots of pots and pans. Still Kim says, “I enjoyed making this recipe. I love the chance to cook with new ingredients and explore in the kitchen. The Mexican chocolate is literally delicious and I can see myself using it for many other recipes.
Mole proved to be a popular idea for this CTB round but it was amazingly different in each dish. Joanne, from Eats Well With Others and certified squash lover, added pumpkin to her mole sauce, for this Spicy Grilled Chicken with Creamy Pumpkin Mole Sauce. Joanne says she loved the  ultimate message  of the book and agrees “That food holds more power over us than we would ever think or could ever know. It is linked to emotion. To memory. To love. It can make or break our day. The right meal. At the right time. With the right combination of ingredients. Is worth a thousand words. Or more. …And so while I would love a little magic in my life. There’s always the danger that it won’t be the magic of fairy tales and happy endings. But that of a little village in Mexico where nightmares as well as dreams can come true.Instead. I’ll just take the food. Which elicits a safer kind of magic. In its own right.
Natashya from Living in the Kitchen with Puppies made a colorful  Mexican-Style Breakfast as her entry. She says, “I liked the idea of the story but I found that the reader is always kept at a distance. It is hard to identify with the characters and ultimately care about them. The book was made into a movie in 1992 and I would like to see it, just to see how on earth they translated it to the screen. The tale is larger than life, fantastical in its telling. I have some trouble finding Mexican ingredients in suburban Canada and had no idea what to make until my friend Foodycat made a Mexican style breakfast. Perfect. I can do that! warm up the tortillas. Spread with refried beans and heat through. Top with grated cheese, chopped tomatoes and avocados. Add a sunnyside-up egg and garnish with sliced green onions (and cilantro if you have some). Dot with sour cream mixed to taste with puréed chipotle peppers in adobo. Voila! Tasty and healthy Mexican-style breakfast.
Polpette di Fagioli or Bean Cakes were the dish Simona from briciole selected. She says, “When I first read the book, I was not into cooking, so I viewed the recipes only as a literary device. This time, I was more sensitive to how skillfully they are woven into the narrative: “for Tita the joy of living was wrapped up in the delights of food.” Much as I admire the recipes in their context, though, I had a hard time fitting them into my kitchen and my personal taste. So I decided I would prepare a Mexican-style bean dish, since I like beans and “Putting the beans on to cook was the first thing Tita did when she got up at five in the morning.” But no recipe I looked at caught my eye. What did catch my eye last fall were these organic, locally grown Flor de Mayo beans: aren’t they pretty? I saw a recipe that intrigued me in my beloved Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, by Deborah Madison: Black Bean Cakes. I know that Flor de Mayo beans are not the same as black beans, but that did not prevent me from wanting to use the pretty beans to make bean cakes. I realized that, at this point, I was quite removed from the book and its atmosphere, but what could I do? That’s where inspiration had brought me.
Finally, here at Kahakai Kitchen I made a simple dish from Mexican cooking authority Diana Kennedy, Shrimps in Pumpkin Seed Sauce and served it with some Classic Mexican Rice from Rick Bayless. (although not too classic because I subbed in brown rice!). “Like Water for Chocolate” is probably the first foodie book I read many years ago and I still admire the way the food and recipes were woven into the story and how much it made me want to go into the kitchen and cook Mexican food. Both dishes were simple, flavorful and I loved the color of the bright pink shrimps in their bright green sauce.
Hold the presses!
We do have one late entry from Glennis from Cantbelieveweate’s Weblog who got delayed because of a death of a co-worker’s spouse in her work family. I wanted all of you to be able to see her dish so I am adding it to the round-up. Glennis found the book entertaining, although the characters frustrating, and she had a hard time deciding on one dish so ended up with an entire Mexican Dinner Plate. She says, “I put together my sopa seca de fideo, refried beans, a sope filled with beans and shredded beef topped with shredded cheese, floutas and mini tacos.  It didn’t look like that much food until I sat down to eat it!  There’s a light dusting of parmesan cheese over the entire plate, and there’s shredded lettuce with tomato and avocado slices for a working garnish.  Hot pico de gallo was served at the table.  Oh my.  We each had to taste a bit of everything…and both of us decided the flautas and mini tacos will reheat!
A fabulous group of really delicious dishes. If only we could bring them together for one big Mexican food-themed party and all get a chance to taste and enjoy them! It will be a difficult decision for our esteemed judge for this round the talented blogger, cook and photographer Ben Herrera from What’s Cooking? Growing up in his parent’s restaurant kitchen, Ben really knows his Mexican cuisine and is a big fan of the book, so he is the perfect person to pick our winning dish. Once Ben has made his decision, I’ll be back to announce it and then hand over the reins to Johanna from Food Junkie Not Junk Food and our journey to Great Britain for “Eating for England” by chef and author Nigel Slater.