After a near two week journey across the lower U.S. and crossing New Mexico twice, I was inspired to bring a piece of my journey home to my family. Anyone can pick up souvenirs along the road, but few will take on a new cuisine after being inspired.
I have always enjoyed cooking, it is a form of communication without words that shares feelings and can capture a single memory and bring it to those not able to experience the same.
I learned about New Mexican cuisine while traveling and had the amazing experience of tasting the manipulation of the peppers and vegetables, which was unlike anything I had previously tasted. I had to bring it home and master it along with the twists of ingredients to which it contained.
New Mexican is unlike that of typically known Mexican or Tex-Mex food. It is a fusion of the cultural cooking of the Pueblo Native Americans, Mediterranean, Mexican, Traditional Spanish and Chuckwagon Style cooking. Using green and red peppers in a very different way than other cuisines ingredients are slow cooked to capitalize on the absolute most flavor. Beans and whole kernel corn are a staple within the cuisine and are used in such a variety of manipulations, many times also integrating cactus into their preparation.
I decided for my meal to prepare Calabacitas, a typically green and yellow squash mix served alone or on corn tortillas as a vegetarian taco options, and black beans infused with cactus. Using medium chipotle pepper puree, poblano peppers and a three squash blend I looked to bring a little different flavor home to share.
In the black beans I would debarb and pan fry cacti leaves and use a chili spice combo to infuse those New Mexican flavors which had impressed me so much.
Onion, lime and cilantro would finish out the dishes with unique zesty flavors.
I have attached a video of the experience of cooking this new cuisine and a few tid-bits about preparing some of the more difficult ingredients.
Tips For Preparing:
Keep in consideration who you are cooking for, certain peppers are more spicy than others, plan according to your audience otherwise your amazing food won’t be able to be consumed if to spicy.
Removing the barbs of the cactus is a bit tricky! Always remember to point the knife away and if your hands are sensitive you might consider cooking gloves.
Sautee cactus at a medium heat setting to avoid charring the outer skin. As it cooks it will start to sweat a sticky liquid, if the pan is to hot it will make for a char instead of a nice olive tone on the cactus.