Author Archives: lavitaminat

La Vitamina T Joins Documentalist Crew in a Sampling of Mexico in Chicago

The With a Smile Films Team with La Diosa´s chef Martínez and Mauri Ortega.

The With a Smile Films Team with La Diosa´s chef Martínez and Mauri Ortega.

A few days ago,  La Vitamina T was thrilled to participate in the project of Mexican documentalist crew, With a Smile Films. The group is working on an initiative that strongly resonated with our mission to harness the power of food to, among other goals,  invoke memories, overcome distances and bridge cultures. La Vitamina T had the good fortune to spend a  day with producer Alex Aguilar, director Danky Sáenz and tech wiz Santiago Casillas. The schedule, which was thoughtfully secured by our team, featured a tour of Chicago and included a few of the innumerable stops that highlight the pride,  passion and talent of food experts and enthusiasts who bring a little bit of Mexico to our hearts and tables in Chicago.

It is easy to see that Sophie´s Ron Aleman cooks with a Mexican heart.

It is easy to see that Sophie´s Ron Aleman cooks with a Mexican soul.

 

It is a good thing we walked so much, because we were generously fed everywhere we went! Stay tuned for more information on this documentary as it’s being “baked”.  It promises to be delicious!

 

María Molina proudly speaks about the passion behind "Don Churro".

María Molina proudly speaks about the passion behind “Don Churro” in Pilsen.

 

Receta: Sopa de Guías – Nuestra Mesa

Foto: Manuel Rivera para La Vitamina T

Foto: Manuel Rivera para La Vitamina T

Esta semana en Nuestra Mesa, el chef Aldo Saavedra nos trae una receta típica de la temporada de lluvias de Oaxaca. La receta llegó cargada de emoción: “este platillo es muy hogareño y de sabor cálido, de esos que recuerdan un abrazo de mamá.” ¡Que lo disfruten!

 

Rinde para 10 personas

Ingredientes

  • 5 elotes tiernos
  • 1 cebolla mediana picada
  • 1 diente de ajo picado
  • 1 cucharada de aceite de maíz
  • 8 guías de calabaza tiernas cortadas en trocitos
  • 20 flores de calabaza bien limpias y picadas
  • 6 calabacitas tiernas rebanadas en cuartos
  • 4 cucharadas de hojitas de chepil (esta hierba generalmente no se encuentra fuera de México, pero tiene un sabor delicado, similar al de la espinaca tierna)
  • Sal al gusto

Para los chochoyotes:

  • 250 gramos de masa fina para tortillas
  • 2 cucharadas de manteca de cerdo
  • Sal al gusto

Proceso: 

  1. Rebana tres de los elotes en rodajas. Parte los otros dos a la mitad y cuécelos en aproximadamente tres litros de agua. Añade sal al gusto.
  2. Acitrona la cebolla y el ajo en el aceite. Añade el agua donde se cocieron los elotes, las guías de calabaza, las flores, las calabacitas, las hojas de chepil, los elotes en rodajas y sal al gusto.
  3. Desgrana y muele los dos elotes restantes con un poco del caldo anterior, cuélalos añádelos a la sopa para que espese.
  4. Prepara los chochoyotes mezclando la manteca y la sal.  Haz bolitas. Después,  con el dedo índice hazles un ombligo en el centro.y añádelos poco a poco a la sopa.
  5. Deja cocer a fuego lento.

El chef Aldo Saavedra ha cocinado para huéspedes de establecimientos como el conocido Hotel Condesa D.F. y ha contribuído con sus recetas en proyectos con marcas de la talla de Larousse y Danone. En Nuestra Mesa, el chef Saavedra comparte con los lectores de La Vitamina T, su pasión por la cocina y por México. Encuentra más información sobre el chef Saavedra en México de mis Sabores.

Soraya Rendón’s Shaman: The Superpower of Will

Shaman and Chilam Balam´s owner, Soraya Rendón. Photo courtesy of Soraya Rendón

Shaman and Chilam Balam´s owner, Soraya Rendón. Photo courtesy of Soraya Rendón

Underneath the supernatural halo that surrounds the concept “Shaman”, you will find  the fascinating meaning of a cross-culturally relevant word that some say can be traced back to Sanskrit: survivor.

Fittingly, Soraya Rendón, the owner of Chicago’s “Shaman” and “Chilam Balam” is that and more.  Just like the concept, she has crossed countries and cultures. Beyond surviving, she has thrived. She has conquered.

Leaving her native Mexico in her teens, Soraya remembers how she was passed up for a job as a receptionist because she did not speak English. Unfazed, she told the hiring manager she would learn the language and then come back. A few months later,  and faithful to her promise, she returned to land the job. Actually, Soraya negotiated a higher-paying position with a better title because, as she explained,  she “was now bilingual.”

Consistently fearless, Soraya soon opened Chilam Balam, a Mexican restaurant focused on sustainable cuisine. “It survived, so we decided to open Shaman,” Soraya said about her second “child” as she calls each one of her establishments. “The name made perfect sense to me.”

True to form, Soraya would continue to challenge convention and predictability. Her BYOB eatery treats patrons to a dynamic menu featuring Mexican-inspired small plates. The dishes are a creative take on traditional recipes, and are thoughtfully brought to life by none other than chef Natalie Oswald, an Ohio-born chef who brace yourself, happens to cook fluently “in Spanish”.

But what is absolutely certain is that when you visit Shaman, you will be charmed by a fascinating out-of-country atmosphere that you could very well find in a restaurant in Coyoacán.  The food is a reflection of the story behind it: bold, creative, passionate… Delightful.


Glorious porkbelly tacos at Chicago´s "Shaman"

Glorious porkbelly tacos at Chicago´s “Shaman”

What we loved: If you visit,  try the porkbelly tacos. I was impressed by the balance of textures and flavors packed in a small bite. The tortillas, by the way, were perfect.

Shaman by Chilam Balam

1438 W Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60642

(312) 226-4175

BYOB

Hours: Tue-Thu: 5pm-10pm Fri-Sat: 5pm-11pm. 

 

 

5 Tips de 5 Papás para la Parrillada Perfecta

 

Hasta aquí en las latitudes más septentrionales, desafiando el clima que no se decide completamente a cambiar de estación,  las parrillas ya están a todo lo que dan. Para ayudarlos a prepararse para el Día del Padre, hemos consultado con varios papás expertos en parrilladas. Aquí les compartimos cinco de los tips que más nos gustaron para que usted los ponga en práctica.

Tip 1.  Los mejores cortes de carne para asar son los cortes  marmoleados con o sin hueso. Es decir, aquellos en los que la grasa se encuentra distribuida en la carne. Fíjese que este sea el caso cuando la compre, o pídale a su carnicero que le ayude.  Uno de nuestros papás, carnicero por más de 60 años, nos recomienda que asemos cortes como el rib eye, el porterhouse y el T-bone. Ahora que si la fiesta va a estar concurrida y necesita estrechar el presupuesto, pida tri-tip, un corte muy famoso en California. Este corte es bueno, bonito y barato.  Sí va a asar este tipo de carne,  aunque parezca abundante, no lo corte hasta que esté listo para servirse.

Tip 2. Los cortes más delgados quedan menos suaves al asar. Considere marinarlos antes de ponerlos a la parrilla. Esto aplica también para el pollo.

Tip 3. Si tiene una parrilla de carbón, cree dos áreas con dos intensidades diferentes. Entre más alta la pila de carbón, más intenso el fuego y más fácil será quemar la comida. Puede usar el área de mayor intensidad para sellar la carne. Gire la carne 45 grados para hacerle marcas en a parrilla. Cocine la carne a término en el área de menor intensidad.

Tip 4. Espere a asar su comida hasta que el carbón esté blanco. Si comienza a cocinar antes de que el fuego alcance su mayor intensidad, su comida sabrá a combustible.

Tip 5. Si cocina su carne en brochetas, considere alternarla con fruta como piña o manzanas. Las mejores manzanas para asar son las Granny Smith por su sabor y textura. Otra idea que nos encantó es la de poner tomates cherry al final de sus brochetas. Cuando la piel del tomate empieza a pelarse, es un buen indicador de que la carne está lista.

Pasa a visitar nuestra tienda en línea si quieres cocinar con una sal mexicana deliciosa la Sal de San Felipe

¡Feliz Día del Padre!

 

 

Receta: Salpicón de Res – Nuestra Mesa (Video)

Esta semana, el chef Aldo Saavedra nos trae a Nuestra Mesa una fácil y deliciosa receta para preparar salpicón de res. Esta receta incluye un video para que no se pierdan. ¡Que la disfruten!

INGREDIENTES

Salpicón

  • ½ kg de falda de res cocida y deshebrada
  • 100 gr chicharrón en trozos pequeños
  • ¼ lechuga romana u orejona fileteada
  • 1 aguacate cortado en cubos
  • 2 rábanos
  • 1 jitomate en cubos
  • ½ cebolla finamente picada
  • Chile serrano al gusto
  • 6 varas de cilantro
  • Tostadas para servir
  • Queso fresco (opcional)

PROCESO

  1. Pon a cocer la carne en agua con un poco de sal y hierbas de olor
  2. Una vez cocida, deshebra la carne
  3. Corta el chicharrón en pedazos pequeños de alrededor de 2 centímetros
  4. Lava, desinfecta y seca la lechuga. Después, filetéala.
  5. Corta el aguacate en cubos.
  6. Rebana los rábanos finamente conservando su forma
  7. Corta los jitomates en cubos pequeños
  8. Pica la cebolla, el cilantro y los chiles finamente
  9. Mezcla los ingredientes anteriores en un recipiente grande
  10. Agrega la vinagreta y vuelve a mezclar

Sirve sobre las tostadas, y si quieres, agrega un poco de queso.

Vinagreta

  • El jugo de una naranja
  • 2 cdtas de vinagre blanco
  • ½ tz aceite olivo
  • 1 pizca de sal

PROCESO

  1. Mezcla todos los ingredientes
  2. Vierte la mezcla en el salpicón y asegúrate de integrarla

El chef Aldo Saavedra ha cocinado para huéspedes de establecimientos como el conocido Hotel Condesa D.F. y ha contribuído con sus recetas en proyectos con marcas de la talla de Larousse y Danone. En Nuestra Mesa, el chef Saavedra comparte con los lectores de La Vitamina T, su pasión por la cocina y por México. Encuentra más información sobre el chef Saavedra en México de mis Sabores.

Let There Be Fire! – The Universal Language of Grilling

Chimney starters help accelerate the process of getting the coal ready for grilling.  
Photo credit: Illya Samko

 

Summer is finally here, and in these latitudes, barbecue season often evokes images of sporting events and patriotic-themed cookouts. Of course, you need weather to cooperate, so as the words “barbecue” roll off your tongue, you have unconsciously summoned the idea of a picture-perfect day. Growing up in a part of the world blessed with rather benign weather year-round, it was not until I moved to Chicago that I understood why the state of the atmosphere often finds its way into the conversation or the news. Here, grilling is definitely a seasonal event and sometimes it is referred to as barbecuing.

In Mexico, barbecue or barbacoa, means something different- it is a dish that typically entails cooking meat on an open fire (usually lamb) in a hole that has been dug in the ground for this purpose. Barbecuing to us, is a parrillada or a carne asada (literally, “grilled meat”). These words immediately make me think of a Sunday spent surrounded by family and friends in Mexico. Putting the meat on the grill is the main event, and the process entails an unspoken ritual that, like any other party in Mexico, takes at least a whole day. To me, the most curious part of the custom is what is often done in hopes that the rain won’t spoil the day- scissors and knives are staked into the ground. In some instances, this is done forming specific shapes, in others, these artifacts are put outside along with ribbons or even eggs…

Last year, we asked a few suburban dads for their grilling tips right on time for Father’s Day. As I asked around, I realized that ideas were incredibly diverse-  from ingredients to techniques. Something I found particularly fascinating was that no matter who I was talking to, this conversation resonated.  The joy of grilling seemed universal.

Is it? I think it might be. I asked my friend Illya for a few grilling tips. He happens to be Ukrainian and someone who, like me, is truly passionate about food. What do we have in common? Our love for Mexico. His wife Myrna, is a Mexican transplant. What do you have in common? You speak the same language-  He is another guy who loves to grill.

Sizzling Hot: Our Primal Love for Food over Fire

 By: Illya Samko

 

Grilling in Monterrey, Mexico. Photo credit: Illya Samko

Grilling in Monterrey, Mexico. Photo credit: Illya Samko

Since man started cooking with fire, food has never been the same. There is something deeply primal about putting a piece of steak on the fire; the sound of  meat sizzling on the grill, its aroma and the divine taste of a fresh steak. I believe these images are seared into our DNA.

In the Ukraine, grilling is mainly associated with cooking pork. Pork shoulder is usually cut into cubes and marinated in mayonnaise, salt and onions. It is then skewered and cooked over charcoal slowly until it is well done.

Ukrainian grill. Photo credit: Ilya Samko

Ukrainian grill. Photo credit: Illya Samko

My greatest learning experience as far as grilling goes, took place during my first trip to Monterrey, Mexico (birthplace of my lovely wife, Myrna). Here, grilling  is a way of life to say the least. I was impressed with how Regios* know their grilling. They use a specific type of charcoal, Mesquite, which gives the meat a very smoky and distinctive flavor. The preparation process is as important as grilling itself- It takes a certain number of cheves** to get the thing going. First the fire, then the botanas*** and few hours later, when you are so hungry that you could eat just about anything, you finally hear that “magic sound” and smell the beef- you are lovestruck.

 At that point, in spite of all the beers you’ve had, your senses are heightened and the level of salivation is downright dangerous. Finally, the teasing is over and it is time to feast- the plate full of grilled goodness makes it to the table. Devour you will. Believe me. Not only is grilling a ritual that takes hours, it is also a way to celebrate anything. Mexicans seem to celebrate life if there is no other particular reason to party.

When grilling there are a few important things that you need to know. I believe these basic steps make a huge difference.

  • Never put any meat on the grill that came straight out from the fridge. Let it warm up a little. Room temperature is ideal.
  • Season your meat with kosher or sea salt and pepper. Good steak needs absolutely nothing else.
  • Be patient. You cannot rush a good burger, steak or whatever you are grilling.
  • After you take your steak off the grill, let it rest for about five minutes. This will allow all the juices to be redistributed back into the steak evenly.
  • I use a chimney starter to speed up the process of getting the coal ready for grilling. Using accelerators on the coal gives your food  a chemical taste.

Enjoy!

Born and raised in Western Ukraine, Illya Samko is a food enthusiast who loves to travel, learn about different cultures and try new cuisines. With a  degree in law, and a knack for anthropology, Illya has worked in London, New York and Chicago, where he currently lives with his Mexican wife, Myrna. 

 
*Regios short for regiomontanos, are a citizens from Monterrey, Mexico.
**Cheves is slang for cerveza or beer.
***Appetizers, snacks
 
Originally published 6-23-2013 www.lavitaminat.com 

Laura Martínez, First Blind Chef to Open a Restaurant in the US

La Diosa's chef and owner, Luisa Martínez. Photo: Brenda Storch

La Diosa’s chef and owner, Luisa Martínez. Photo: Brenda Storch

I  accidentally stumbled upon La Diosa (Spanish for “goddess”), a little café in Lincoln Park that I did not remember having seen before. I was first curious about the name, and since we had already had lunch, we decided to go in for dessert.

I had no idea that I was really in for a treat.

We were greeted by La Diosa‘s owner Laura Martínez, a young Mexican chef trained  at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts. We exchanged pleasantries in Spanish (the restaurant had just opened in January). The pictures on the wall prompted more questions. I learned that Martínez honed her cooking skills while interning, and later working for Charlie Trotter. 

As if these accomplishments were not already impressive, Laura Martínez happens to be the first blind chef to open a restaurant in the US.

The entire concept behind La Diosa, from the menu to the name, are both her idea and her dream.  Losing her eyesight as a baby, Martínez is convinced that her condition pushed her to succeed. “Being a chef was not the easiest path for anyone in my situation, and I did not want anybody to tell me that I was not able to do something. I am the only one in my family with a degree,” she said.

Her kitchen is completely open and pristine, and watching her prepare empanadas with great precision, is nothing short of amazing. Her husband,  Maurilio, doubles as both Martínez’s eyes and her sous chef. “Sometimes it can get frustrating, you wish you could see when it gets busy so that you can move faster,” she added.

Why La Diosa? Martínez said the name is a nod to her faith. As she spoke, I could not help but be reminded of her strength and resolve. Plus, if I could ever imagine of anyone embodying supernatural powers, it is her: Martínez  masterfully wields a knife without sight.

Tequila pie is to die for a La Diosa in Lincoln Park

Tequila pie is to die for a La Diosa in Lincoln Park

If you visit La Diosa, please say hi to chef Martínez from us. We recommend that you try her tequila-cheese pie or the flan. The hot chocolate is heavenly indeed.

La Diosa

2308 N. Clark St.

773-372-5559

Open hours:

8 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday

9 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday and Saturday

11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday  

 

 

Mexico’s Day of the Mule: Hybrid Animals, Hybrid Celebrations:

Photo credit: Lissette Storch – Mexico City, Mexico

If you find yourself in Mexico during the months of May or June, and you see mules made out of dried corn leaves being sold everywhere, you might wonder if this handcraft is part of the local charm. It is, but only seasonally. This hybrid mammal appears just in time for the Catholic celebration of Corpus Christi or Día de la Mula (Mule’s Day), and sometimes you may find them stuffed with candy.

Some attribute the association of mules with this festivity to the fact that in the 1500s, the faithful went to church carrying the best of their harvest on their mules to give thanks. This is a nod to pre-Hispanic rituals, in which gratefulness was shown to several deities through offerings.  Even today, more than 500 years later, it is easy to see pre-columbian traditions seeping through modern-day celebrations.

Others explain this whimsical tradition with legends featuring mules kneeling down in reverence. My favorite one is the story of a man who, while wondering if he should dedicate himself to a life of priesthood, asks God for a sign. When he went to church on a Corpus Christi Thursday, he found himself in the midst of a crowd of men and mules. The man said to himself that if God were present, even the mules would kneel down. The story, of course, tells that a mule did.

Curiously, the word “mule” is also used it to refer to someone who is advantageous. If someone wishes you un ‘Feliz Día de las Mulas’ it could be either friendly ribbing, or time to wonder…

Nuestra Mesa: Receta para Hacer Flan de Queso (Video)

Con mucha emoción aquí les tenemos la receta del chef Aldo Saavedra para preparar un delicioso flan de queso. ¡Con todo y video!

 

INGREDIENTES

  •  4 huevos
  • 700 ml leche
  • 300 ml crema de leche
  • 250 gr requesón o queso doble crema
  • 200 gr azúcar
  • 1 vaina de vainilla o 2 cdas de extracto de vainilla
  • caramelo líquido para el/los moldes.

PROCESO

  1. Pon a hervir la leche y la vaina de vainilla abierta por la mitad y con la semillas sumergidas para que suelten todo el sabor. Pon a fuego lento durante 15 min.
  2. Tapa la cacerola y deja enfriar.
  3. Una vez que la leche esté fría, licúala junto con los huevos, la crema, el requesón y el azúcar.
  4. Vierte la mezcla en un recipiente de plástico y deja que se disuelva la espuma que se formó.
  5. Pon el caramelo al molde o a los moldes donde se va a preparar el flan
  6. Ya con el caramelo en los moldes, y una vez que la espuma se ha desvanecido de la mezcla, tapa los moldes con aluminio y pónlos a baño María.
  7. Precalienta el horno a 150ºC y mételos ya en baño María al horno y dejar hornear por  al menos una hora y media.
  8. Saca del horno y deja enfriar sobre una rejilla.
  9. Ya frío, meter al refrigerador durante al menos 3 horas.
  10. Pasar un cuchillo por la orilla del molde,  voltea sobre un platón y sirve.

El chef Aldo Saavedra ha cocinado para huéspedes de establecimientos como el conocido Hotel Condesa D.F. y ha contribuído con sus recetas en proyectos con marcas de la talla de Larousse y Danone. En Nuestra Mesa, el chef Saavedra comparte con los lectores de La Vitamina T, su pasión por la cocina y por México. Encuentra más información sobre el chef Saavedra en México de mis Sabores.

Speaking Mexican (and What it Really Means)

Phyllis Marquitz is a food-industry professional. Born and raised in Pennsylvania, her job relocated her and her family to Mexico City, where she had the opportunity to enjoy, understand and appreciate the local culture and flavors first hand. These gracious guests were in turn, a gift to Mexico- they are vocal Mexico enthusiasts, even to the point that Phyllis’ husband is the editor of soccer blog, soccer mexicanaPhyllis is also a long-time reader of La Vitamina T. Earlier this year, I had the privilege to meet her personally during one of her business trips to Chicago.

Although zapote,  the fruit Phyllis talks about in her post, is also available in Central and South America, she associates this fruit to the time she spent in Mexico.

By: Phyllis Marquitz

 

Photo credits: Manuel Rivera

Photo credits: Manuel Rivera

This morning I was yapping with my son (he is four, so we usually weave in an out of subject matter and  season the “conversation” with silly-sounding words).  We were discussing colors and fruits and how to make juices of different hues.  We eventually settled on green and used some fading, very ripe kiwi to bring it to life.  Along the way, giggling and thinking he had stumped me,  he asked, “what about BLACK  juice?”  “Zapote!” I immediately responded. But, “how do you say it in English?,” he said.  Since there isn’t an English translation,  he filled in impatiently, “do you mean, the name is only in español?”

I’ve been dwelling on it all morning.  Because to me, the name is not only in español, the name is in… Mexican.

Today I miss Distrito Federal and the genius chilango with a little stand that would mix zapote with citrus to balance it out.  I miss drinking pudding and sweet orange nectar.  I miss real jugo verde, even though the kiwi juice is pretty good.

If you don’t know black Zapote, this seasonal fruit is apparently a distant relative to the persimmon.  It has a pulpy middle that gets squeezed into an amazing pudding texture.  People say it is like dark chocolate pudding, but I get light hints of anise too.

Photo Credits: Luisa López

Photo Credits: Luisa López

When I was growing up, saying that someone was “talking Mexican” could be taken as a snide or as an ignorant remark about someone speaking Spanish, whether or not they were from Mexico.  This went along with all the assumptions people make about immigrants.  This resonated, with me, as my mother was an immigrant, even when she wasn´t Latin American.

I always associated the idea that people used the term “Mexican” to describe the language, with ignorance. Just like everything else, now I know it is much more complex than that.  Years later, here I am, wanting to tell my son (I didn’t because we had moved on to talk about snails and chess) that Zapote wasn’t only Spanish, it was much more specific and loaded with memories:

It was, well, Mexican.