MEXICAN FOOD AND ITS FLAVORS
There is nothing like a good old Mexico. Many foods that we consider "Mexican" actually have a lot of American influence. Like any good family recipe, everyone is eager to give it their own personal touch. The same can be said of Mexican food in the United States! In Margaritas we are proud to keep our old recipes as they taught us in our childhood. using only fresh ingredients and other unique species that give it that authentic flavor that brings us old memories of our grandparents. There are many species that are used in most Mexican dishes such as cumin, oregano, garlic, marjoram, epazote, Mexican cinnamon, clove, bay leaf, avocado leaves, anise, allspice, coriander, achiote. Here we are going to know a little more about the great variety of species we use in our dishes.
* CUMIN- is a flowering plant in the family Apiaceae, native to a territory including the Middle East and stretching east to India. It has a strong distinctive earthy flavor with bitter undertones, and it pairs well with garlic and dried chiles. In Mexico it is used in sauces and stews.
* MEJORANA - Marjoram is a somewhat cold-sensitive perennial herb or under-shrub with sweet pine and citrus flavors. In some Middle Eastern countries, marjoram is synonymous with oregano, and there is the names sweet marjoram and knotted marjoram are used to distinguish it from other plants of the genus. In Mexican food it is common to be used in soups, marinades and roasted meats.
* GARLIC - Garlic is among the most common flavors you will find in Mexican food. It comes fresh, in a jar, or in powdered form and is used in many recipes. Salsa, taco seasoning, and Spanish rice, meats, soups and stews are just a few recipes that rely heavily on garlic.
* EPAZOTE - while technically an herb, epazote in its dry form is used as spice. The plant is native to Mexico and central America. its flavor is unique with notes of anise, oregano, citrus and mint. it is used primarily to flavor Black beans in most parts of Mexico, but also can be used in sauces.
* AVOCADO LEAVES - Like bay leaves, avocado leaves may be used whole, but they are also sometimes broken up or used in ground form. They are used to season stocks, soups, and moles, as well as to flavor tamales, or grilled meats. In Oaxaca, they are often used to flavor black beans.
* MEXICAN BAY LEAVES - It's a fragrant herb with a pungent bitter taste, which is why it must be used in moderate quantities. The leaves can be used either whole or ground to flavor a great variety of Mexican dishes. commonly used in stews and meats.
* Clove -The clove is the dried flower bud of an evergreen tree native to Indonesia. Cloves are similar to cinnamon, but have a slightly smokier flavor and more pungent aroma. It's often used to add depth to sauces (like mole) and other dishes.
* MEXICAN OREGANO -Mexican Oregano is from a different plant, indigenous to Mexico, and maintains a more woodsy, earthy flavor than Mediterranean Oregano. Mediterranean Oregano is part of the mint family. Mexican Oregano is more closely related to the vervain family than to mint. Its taste is bit citrusy and anisey, which complements well to chilies and cumin. You can either use this herb to make an herbal tea or use sparingly on a variety of dishes, which includes stews, enchiladas, and chicken marinades.
* Allspice: ( Tabasco Pepper )Found in abundance in the Sierra Norte region of Puebla, allspice is used extensively in adobo and pipian as well as desserts. It is usually sold as a dried berry, resembling a peppercorn, from which it gets its name in Spanish. Add it to stews, soups, cakes and cookies.
* ANISE - The seed of an herb in the parsley family, anise is distinguished by its licorice-like flavor and aroma, and is used in dessert cakes and especially cookies. It is a characteristic flavor in pan de muertos, Day of the Dead bread. The star anise is the small, dried fruit of an evergreen native to Asia. It is used in moles, especially mole poblano, and as a stomach remedy. In Mexico, a tea made from star anise is often given to colicky babies.
* CINNAMON - This cinnamon, sometimes called "true cinnamon" or Ceylon cinnamon, is the one most often used in Mexico, as opposed to cassia (Cinnamomum cassia) also known as "false cinnamon." While cassia is sold and used as cinnamon in the United States, Mexican cooks prefer true cinnamon. Both are the dried inner bark of evergreen trees and are used in the same way for flavoring. In Mexican cuisine, use cinnamon everywhere from café de olla, or sweet spiced coffee, to moles and desserts. It is equally at home in both sweet and savory dishes.
*CORIANDER - Coriandrum sativum (semilla de cilantro) A star in Mexican cooking, this plant was used in the ancient world as early as 1550 BC in Egypt. Its leaves are the herb cilantro and its seeds the spice coriander. While use of the leaves is more widespread in Mexico, the seeds are ground and used in chorizo. Use coriander with cumin to intensify the spice flavor of Latin American dishes.
SAFFRON - Crocus sativus (azafran) The dried stigma of a crocus flower, saffron is the most expensive spice in the world. Both the English and Spanish words for the spice come from the Arabic za'faran, meaning yellow. Saffron does indeed impart a bright, yellow orange color, as well as a distinctive flavor, to food. In Mexico, it is highly appreciated in rice dishes, a very traditional Spanish way of using it. Add it to garbanzo bean stew and to Mexican yellow rice. To use less of this pricy ingredient, try steeping it in hot water overnight to get bigger flavor from a small amount.
* ACHIOTE - The seeds of a subtropical tree native to the Yucatan, annatto is used chiefly for its coloring, giving food a bright, reddish orange hue. Its scent is slightly sweet and peppery and its flavor subtle. Achiote is sold either as whole seeds or ground. Use it ground in Yucatecan dishes such as cochinita pibil, and mix it with other ground spices to make a rub for grilled meat, poultry or fish.
SESAME - Sesamum indicum (ajonjolí) Said to be the oldest condiment known to man, sesame was cultivated in the Tigris and Euphrates valleys as early as 1600 BC. In Mexico, sesame is important in both cooking and agriculture, and is crucial in many moles and pipians. It is the traditional garnish for mole poblano, in addition to being ground in the sauce itself. The candy called pepitoria is made with sesame seeds, and they also adorn an array of sweet rolls. In the mountain region of western Veracruz state, the seeds are used — along with pumpkin seeds and chiles — to make tlatonile, a savory paste something like mole paste, which can be diluted to make a sauce, or added as a flavoring to soups and stews.
VANILLA - Vanilla planifolia (vainilla) This Mexican native, originally cultivated by the Totonac people of eastern Mexico, is the cured pod of a flowering vine in the orchid family. For several centuries, Mexico remained the only vanilla producing country, until European botanists developed a method for pollination that did not depend upon the Mexican bees and hummingbirds that were crucial for its pollination in eastern Mexico's misty, semitropical highlands. Use vanilla extract in baking and in poaching shellfish, especially shrimp and crawfish, as done in the Papantla region of Veracruz. Use the seeds scraped from the pod in chicken and vegetable dishes and in flan. It is worth it to buy pure vanilla extract and avoid the artificial version, a poor substitute.
NUTMEG - Myristica fragrans (nuez moscada)
The nutmeg tree of the East Indian archipelago produces two spices — the oily seed that is the spice called nutmeg, and the membrane that surrounds it, known as mace, a much less common spice. Nutmeg is often found in Mexican style hot chocolate and, on the savory side, is good in a sauce for chicken, as found in Marge Poore's book 1,000 Mexican Recipes. Add nutmeg to sweet breads and muffins that call for cinnamon and allspice. Grinding nutmeg on a grater, such as a Microplane, is far superior to using pre-ground nutmeg.
PEPPER - Piper nigrum (pimienta) Often called the world's most important spice, peppercorns are the small, round berries of a climbing vine native to southwestern India. Use whole peppercorns in making stock and ground pepper to season the outside of meat, poultry and fish. Invest in a decent pepper grinder and throw away the pre-ground stuff in the tin. Whole peppercorns are an essential ingredient in Mexican pickled chiles.
PEPPERS - (chile) Mexican chiles are just some of the many members of the capsicum family, which includes paprika, red pepper and cayenne. They cross the sometimes hazy line from fresh produce to spice when they are dried. If using whole, dried chiles, lightly toast and soak them first to soften, after which they need to be pureed in a blender with other ingredients. Ground versions, such as ancho or chipotle powder, are good in meat rubs.