I’d love to be able to say that I know all there is to know about food and cooking, but that statement just wouldn’t be true. And, truthfully, if I did know everything there was to know about food, I wouldn’t like my job anymore. Learning about new foods, flavours and ingredients is what makes being a food writer interesting.
Even before I really knew that the food I called Mexican was really an American derivation, I was on my way to loving the flavours of Mexican food. Later, after visiting Mexico, my appreciation of that country’s cuisine only deepened.
Regrettably, until recently, authentic Mexican ingredients weren’t readily available in Canada. Fortunately that problem is starting to abate as more Canadians learn about authentic Mexican flavours. Recently I purchased three new ingredients that I’m looking forward to experimenting with in my own kitchen.
1. Avocado Leaves: Similar in texture to a dry bay leaf, dried avocado leaves are quite different from the succulent, rich fruit Canadians are used to eating as guacamole and as a filling for maki style sushi. These leaves are best toasted to release their subtle hazelnut and anise flavours. Books I’ve consulted say they should be ground with a mortar and pestle and then added to moles, fish and chicken dishes.
2. Achiote: Also called annoto seed, this red, musky scented seed is the colour of the Middle Eastern spice zaatar. These hard seeds are used as a base seasoning for pastes used for grilled meats and fish.
3. Epazote: Apparently this herb is considered essential in Mexican bean dishes by some people since it helps to relieve gassiness. Epazote has a bit of a bitter flavour that is vaguely citrusy. It makes me a bit nervous, though since it carries a warning not to be eaten or handled by pregnant women and is also called wormseed (yuck!).
If any of you have experience using these ingredients, please share your tips and insights. I’m sure you can teach me and other readers a lot!
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