Cravings are the mother of culinary invention. When, with very little effort you have a creamy, chocolate-y mousse based on a vitamin-rich fruit… Why hold back?
A ripe mamey more than sweet enough to make this dessert. But if you do want it a little sweeter, try agave syrup or maple syrup. Never use an under-ripe mamey.
- 2 cups mamey pulp
- 3/4 cup unsweetened pure cacao
- 3/4 cup milk, or a creamy non-dairy beverage*
- 1 Tbsp chia seeds + 2 tbsp water– let sit for 5 minutes
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Combine the ingredients together in a food processor or blender*, and whir on medium speed, stopping the motor every so often to scrape the sides. An immersion blender is preferred, if you have one. The mixture gets quite thick and can strain a jar blender.
For a richer chocolate taste, add more cacao. If you are finding it too thick, gradually add more liquid in small amounts.
As you can see, I removed some of the mamey mixture before adding cacao to the rest. The flavor of the mamey was a lovely counterpoint to the rich chocolate.
Transfer the mixture to small glasses, layering if desired, and refrigerate for about an hour. The chia will help it set more firmly as it chills.
* I used Silk unsweetened coconut milk, but you could use Almond, Rice, Hemp or whatever you like.
Several months ago, when I had decided I was going to commit to this project, I reached out to a few online groups where expats get their information. There is a big Yahoo Group in Michoacan and another in San Miguel de Allende. (Both, incidentally, are resources worth plugging into if you are exploring the possibility of moving to either of those areas. I’ll include the links at the bottom of this post.)
My post described that I was working on decoding the mysteries of the fruits and vegetables here in Mexico that are most foreign to most of us expats– that with this information, I would build a practical field guide and make it publicly available.
I immediately got an email from Linda, who was living outside Pátzcuaro at the time. She had come across a tuber that she said was the root of the chayote. It was no surprise that if the chayote yielded a tuber, or that if it was edible, then it was eaten. However, here in San Miguel, I had never come across it.
She sent me photos and described how she and her husband had prepared it. I was so thrilled, not just to know about this new vegetable, but that it affirmed for me that when we share information – as I wanted to do on a larger scale– it could lead others to feel safer to experiment with foods they were curious about.
Trouble was, I hadn’t been able to get my own hands on this raiz de chayote. The second hand information was great, but of course I wanted to be able to try it myself!
Recently, I was talking to a friend who lives in La Manzanilla, on the west coast of Mexico, but spends some time in San Miguel. Eileen teaches cooking in La Manzanilla, so, as a kindred foodie-spirit, when she mentioned she was going to Patzcuaro, I told her the story of Linda and the Raiz de Chayote. (AKA Chayocamote, chinchayote, chayotestle and probably other names).
So when Eileen was in Patzcuaro, she tracked it down and brought me back a whopping big tuber. Finally, a chance to try it out (that post coming soon), but what was most rewarding was Eileen thanking ME for sending her out on this mission… I know for myself what fun it is to search and discover!
SO LET’S SHARE!
How I’d love to see this work: You’re at the Tianguis, or in the Mercado and a vendor presents something– you don’t know what the heck it is, or what to do with it…
Buy it, and try it, or just take a photo of it with your phone, and share it with me here :
I’ll write a post here and will also be able to add this to the content for my upcoming eBook…because you are not the only one who’d come across that very same food and had the same conundrum– the more we share, the better it is for the community, and for the indigenous farmers from whose culture we are gaining so much… When we explore more those foods that are ancient and unmodified, we help preserve them for generations to come.
Take that, Monsanto!
The Michoacan Net – Yahoo Group: (also has a page on Facebook under same name)
A refreshing way to get a ton of Vitamin C!
Squash flower fritters stuffed with huitlacoche and goat cheese
also: cuitlacoche or xuitlacoche
When the milpas become ready for harvest… the corn (maiz), the vines of beans that have wound around the corn stalks, the squashes that weave through the fields at the base, and the volunteer greens like verdolagas and quelites, that help keep the soil moist under the hot sun… so does the bastard child of the corn come ready for harvest too. Those cobs plagued with disease, a pathogenic fungus that invades the corn, replacing the normal kernels of the cobs with large bloated silvery silvery-grey tumors: call it Corn smut, or ‘Devil’s Corn’… either way, in the North, it’s not been looked upon fondly.
Nothing short of a blight for corn farmers, in fact, often rendering 10% of a US harvest useless. But in Mexico, the Aztecs had long been enjoying this as a food. They call it huitlacoche (or cuitlacoche). Etymologically, there’s several possible meanings for this Nahuatl word, and the one that has had the most ‘hook’ is ‘raven’s excrement’, which may explain its dark mystique.
It’s amazing what a little re-branding can do; in the past 5 years or so, huitlacoche has been introduced to the gourmet market in the US, as the ‘Mexican Truffle’ – it’s a fungus, so that’s appropriate enough.. and it sure sounds better than ‘smut’ or ‘excrement’. But now that the vocabulary around Mexican cuisine is improving North of the Border, ‘huitlacoche’ is claiming its right to be named as such in the food-lovers’ syntax.
How good can sticky black goo taste?
You’re asking me? I love it. The flavor is earthy, a little smoky (if you add a dash or two of mescal while it’s cooking, that brings out the smokiness). … at the same time, there are smooth undertones of vanilla and a bright fruitiness a bit like cherries. And there’s no denying its visual appearance, so dark and wicked. Texturally it’s interesting because where the galls have separated from the cob, you’ll get that chewy nuttiness like a kernel of corn has. Under heat, when the silvery membrane breaks open, the black spores start to soften, break down, almost liquify into a slick, smooth, almost oily mass of black goo.
Even though it’s delicious, it’s oddly difficult to describe it in a way that is conventionally appetizing. Perhaps that’s best… we wouldn’t want Chipotle’s to get too excited about it!
It’s not difficult to cook, and it doesn’t need much in the way of seasoning; like mushrooms, the flavor is best left to stand on its own.
Sautéed finely chopped onion until translucent, then add the huitlacoche. Be sure to pick the threads of corn silk out first! The key is to cook it long and slow on a low simmer adding as little liquid as possible as it cooks and allowing the spores to break down fully and unify into a nice, lumpy black puddle…perhaps dry white wine or mescal to deglaze the pan if you want to get fancy.
How to serve it without scaring anyone…
Yes, some people are funny about what they eat. Fussy. Let them miss out on this delicious experience… leaves more for you and me.
Traditionally, it’s at home in a taco. For heat, strips of roasted poblano chiles (rajas) , chipotle or another smokey cooked salsa. As a quesadilla or filling in any other corn masa based snack: sope, tlacoyo, huarache…
But there’s no reason to be restricted to tradition!
Try using the huitlacoche as you might use mushrooms….
… over pasta, even in lasagna
…stuffing for chicken breasts
…as a sauce to accompany a steak (adding some smokey chile and pureeing it to a smooth creamy texture)
My most recent effort, here, takes a hollowed out calabacita (you can use regular zucchini) which I baked til it was tender, then filled it with the cooked huitlacoche I topped it with a creamy avocado guacamole which I seasoned with hoja santa) and that’s a pasilla salsa finishing it off. It was nice, and used up some of those calabacitas that ramble through the same milpas.
But where can I find it outside of Mexico?
First of all, I recommend you come to Mexico. Let a señora serve it to you atop a handmade tortilla that’s been cooked over a big metal barrel-cum-griddle…
Failing that, canned huitlacoche is really not a bad substitute for the fresh stuff and most authentic Latin markets will sell it. It’s not cheap, but it is intense, and goes a long way.
Or, you can see what happens if you grow your own corn… maybe you’ll get lucky and wind up with some smut instead, like my friend Steev did… read about that here, along with a recipe for his Squash blossom fritters stuffed with huitlacoche.
The quince is not native to Mexico, nor is it widely cultivated here. Its native origin is in Central to Southwest Asia: Turkey, Iran and into Morocco where it is a popular ingredient in tajines. From there, it would have entered Spain, which is likely how its seed was transported to Mexico. It grows on woody hillsides and orchards, so wherever you might find an apple tree there might also be a quince growing wild. The fruit comes into season in mid-late August into October, and here in Mexico it’s more likely you will find it through the local vendors who bring in produce from small orchards or the countryside, rather than from the larger vendors who bring in cultivated fruits and vegetables.
Generally, the fresh fruit is not eaten. The pulp is hard, somewhat woody. Its tartness mellows with cooking and floral aroma is released. Canning in syrup is a popular way to prepare and preserve it as well as jams, jellies, candies and liqueurs. It’s a nice addition to apple or pear compotes with its rosy-pink colour and firm texture. Having a high pectin content helps in gelling.
In Mexico, as well as other parts of South and Central America the membrillo is cooked, using plenty of sugar, into a pin block of firm jelly, called ate (AH-tay), or a darkish pink paste known as dulce de membrillo. The pectin level in the fruit along with the sugar, ensure that it holds up firmly. It’s delicious served with cheese, especially nutty Manchego, or soft curds spread on toasted bread or crackers and is classic Spanish tapas… A handful of almonds along with this, and a glass of sherry, or Jeréz, of course in Mexico, is exactly how I want to spend the rest of my evening…
Avocado for dessert – it’s a fruit after all.
We all know by now why we love avocados, right? They are high in monounsaturated fats in the form of oleic acid. Monounsaturated fat is considered to be a “good fat” which reduces levels of bad cholesterol in your blood (by raising the ‘good’ cholesterol) which lowers your risk of stroke and heart disease
One avocado contains about 4grams of protein, and 11 grams of fibre– close to half of the daily recommended minimum intake (fibre? in something so buttery-smooth? Amazing!), and more potassium than a banana!
The recipe is very loose; if you prefer your chocolate very dark, add more cocoa. If you start with a large avocado, you will need more cocoa; watch the color of the mixture: a greenish tinge means add more cocoa. You’ll know when the color is right because it will look like the best chocolate pudding you ever had. When mixing, your blender will need a little help– don’t keep adding more and more liquid on top. Instead, stop the motor occasionally, and push the contents back down toward the blade with a spatula, giving it a bit of a mix. Only add enough liquid to make it a teeny-tiny bit thinner than a perfect pudding consistency.
You really can’t go wrong with this one…Taste as you go, and play with add-ins to give it your own signature touch.
Then, find a secret place and spoon every last dollop into your mouth. This isn’t sinful decadence– it’s healthy, virtuous ecstasy.
- 1 medium-large avocado, fully ripened
- 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (best quality you can afford: Ghiradelli is widely available, Callebaut would send this into the stratosphere)
- 1/4 cup of your favorite natural sweetener in syrup form: agave or darker maguey syrup, honey or maple syrup all work well
- 1/4 cup liquid. Try almond milk (if sweetened, reduce your sweetener), coconut milk, or other ‘milk’. Use a tablespoon of strong coffee or orange juice if you like, in place of some of the ‘milk’.
- 1/2 tsp pure, natural vanilla essence or a scraping from vanilla pod
- a pinch of salt
- Garnish of your choice such as : chopped nuts, flaked salt, candied ginger or citrus, toasted coconut, fresh berries or crumbled raw cacao as seen here.
- Cut the avocado in half lengthwise and remove the pit. Scoop the flesh out with a spoon and put it in the blender jar.
- Add the cocoa, sweetener, and whatever ‘milk’ (and other liquid) you have chosen. Blend, starting on low and then moving to high speed until it is smooth.
- If the avocado is larger, you will need a bit more of each ingredient. If it is too thick, drizzle in a bit more almond milk. Add more cocoa or honey or agave to taste.
- Portion into 4 small cups–it’s rich, so the servings are small. Refrigerate about one hour to allow it to firm up.
- Garnish, and serve with a flourish.