Sandía Con Campari- Watermelon Campari Sorbet

Looking through my archives, found this delicious, refreshing dessert for your next dinner party.WtrmlnCampcu2

The watermelon is native to Africa.  We call  it  “sandía,” and consider it  a Texas Mexican staple, as any Mexican-American family will tell you.  Africa figures prominently in all Latina, Latino cuisines, and here in Texas our first encounter with Europeans was, simultaneously, the encounter with Africa.  One of the four shipwreck survivors rescued by Native Americans in Galveston in 1528 was an African slave, Estevanico. Although he is an important historical figure who deftly communicated and negotiated both with both Native Americans and Europeans, Estevanico is not widely known.  Historian, David La Vere, describes him, “the first great <non-native> explorer of North America was a black man — Estevan the Moor — who traveled more miles and saw more things than any other person in 16th century America.”

In this recipe the African watermelon meets up with the little beetle that lives in the Texas Mexican cactus.

“Sandía and Mexican lime are a natural blend in agua fresca, of course, but the addition of Italian Campari may give you pause.  Fear not. It harmonizes beautifully.  The right proportions and blending make this a truly complex bitter-tart-sweet, grown-up dessert.  Glazed Spearmint adds contrast both in texture and color.

Italy’s Campari was already connected to Mexico and our Texas Mexican region because when the Italian, Gaspare Campari,Cochineal1 created it in 1860, he looked to our Texas Mexican cactus, “nopal,” and the Cochineal beetle.  Campari needed that deep, beautiful red color that you get when you crush the poor little Cochineal. The beetle lives in the cactus. It is in those white powdery specs that you see in the picture.  Only in 2006 did Campari stop using Cochineal as a coloring agent.

Our ancestors, the Texas (Indians) Native Americans, had discovered and widely used the beautiful radiant red color. Until 2012 Starbucks  used it to produce the lovely hue in its “Strawberry Frappucino.” (Farnham, 2012).

This recipe is from my book, Truly Texas Mexican: A Native Culinary Heritage In Recipes, avaliable at Barnes and Noble and Amazon

Recipe: (serves 4)

4 cups watermelon cubes
2 1/2 Tbspn Mexican lime juice
1 1/2 fl oz simple syrup (make simple syrup by combining equal parts sugar and water and heating until fully dissolved)
3 oz Campari
12 Spearmint leaves
For mint glaze:
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 Tbsp corn syrup

The method is really very simple.  It’s actually the ratio/proportion and balance of the ingredients that is critical.  So, just blend all the first four ingredients until totally smooth and freeze, stirring occasionally, until the sorbet freezes completely but still remains flaky.  Scoop into sorbet dishes and garnish with the glazed Spearmint.  I love this dessert.
To glaze the Spearmint leaves, heat the three ingredients in a small pan.  Using a candy thermometer, heat gradually to the soft ball stage, 235º F, and remove from heat.  When it cools down, dip the mint leaves, shake off excess and place them on a platter until you are ready to garnish.  These add a wonderful finishing taste to the sorbet.

Farnham, A. (2012, March 26). [Web log message]. Retrieved from

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“Tortas De Camarón Molido”- powdered shrimp cakes

When the Catholic religion arrived in Texas in the 16th century, it gave rise to recipes that are in tune with the Catholic Church’s liturgical year.  Today being “Good Friday” (commemorating the ignominious torture and death of Jesus Christ) I’m making one very traditional and very delicious Lenten recipe. My amá served these little shrimp cakes regularly during Lent, especially on Good Friday because we were doing penance by not eating meat.CamaronMolidoTortasPowderedShrimpsml

When I cook dishes that have hundred-year-old histories and traditions, I think about their provenance. How did the indigenous communities negotiate the diminishment of their ancestral religion, and how does this show in our food today? Are there lessons to be learned about religious encounter?

Powdered shrimp does not require refrigeration so a bag of it is easy to store. It was in our kitchen often during Lent. The dried shrimp flavor is quite present, so you will enjoy that the little cakes soak up the tomato sauce and soften the strong shrimp flavor.  These cakes make you forget that you are doing penance.

Recipe (makes 8 cakes)


Texas Mexican Oregano is different from the Mexican Oregano that is found in central and southern México. It grows wild around San Antonio and all the way north to Austin and south to Nuevo León.

1-1/2 ounces dried shrimp powder (1/2 cup)
2 eggs, separated
1/4 cup bread crumbs
Canola oil for frying
6 fresh or canned tomatoes, diced (1-1/2 cups)
1/4 teaspoon fresh minced garlic
1 teaspoon fresh or 1/4 teaspoon dry Texas Mexican oregano


1. In a blender, purée the tomatoes with the garlic and oregano. Pour the purée into a saucepan, bring it to a boil, and then lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 20–30 minutes. Hold warm.
2. In a bowl, beat the egg yolks and then add the shrimp powder and bread crumbs and mix well. Set aside.
3. In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Add the shrimp mixture and combine well. The consistency should be that of a thick batter. Add a tablespoon of water if the mixture is too thick.
4. In a skillet, add canola oil to a depth of barely 1/8 inch and heat on medium until it shimmers slightly. Spoon the batter into the oil to make 4-inch cakes. Fry them about 2 minutes on each side until they are golden and crispy. Place them on paper towels.

Serve two tortas de camarón on each plate and top with a generous ribbon of the tomato sauce. I suggest that you serve them with cactus, roasted or sautéed.

!Provecho” and Have a Good Friday.

Recipe adapted from “Truly Texas Mexican: A Native Culinary Heritage In Recipes.”

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Hibiscus Drink, “Agua De Jamaica”

Here’s a recipe from my archives.  It’s one of our traditional aguas frescas and perhaps the most famous.  I’m re-posting it in honor of the beautiful, warmer spring weather we’re starting to enjoy here in Texas.AguaJamaicasmlIt’s simple to make and a delight when you are outdoors. It is also a health-promoting drink. Clinical tests conducted in Oaxaca in 2005 showed that the drink reduced cholesterol by 35%, with an increase in high density cholesterol (good cholesterol)  and reduction of tryglycerides, the fat that can clog arteries.¹  I drink it as often as I can because it’s delicious.

The recipe is from Truly Texas Mexican: A Native Culinary Heritage published by Texas Tech University Press.

Recipe (makes 2 quarts)

Dried hibiscus flowers, flores de jamaica.

Dried hibiscus flowers, flores de jamaica.

2 quarts filtered water
3/4 cup dried Flores de Jamaica, Hibiscus flowers
1/2 cup sugar or 1/3 cup light Agave Nectar

1.  Bring the water to a boil, add the flowers and boil for 15 minutes
2.  Turn off the heat and let the water cool to room temperature
3. Strain through a fine mesh sieve, add the sweetener, and cool in the fridge for a couple of hours.

Serve over ice.




1. “Flor De Jamaica orgánica de México (Hibiscus sabdariffa L.)

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Finalist, “Book Of The Year”- Truly Texas Mexican

Just Announced:

TrulyTexasMexican200Foreword Reviews note:

“Recipes and personal anecdotes illuminate the role that cuisine plays in identity and community.”

Texas Mexican Cookbook Is Finalist, “Book Of The Year”

Chef and author, Adán Medrano, has been named a finalist in the INDIEFAB Book of the Year Awards for his new book, “Truly Texas Mexican: A Native Culinary Heritage In Recipes.” His book is a unique combination of history book and cookbook that tells the story of Texas’ first food, the indigenous cuisine of Texas.

The news was released by Foreword Reviews Magazine, along with the notice that the final winner will be announced during a program at the American Library Association Annual Conference in San Francisco on Friday, June 26.

“Recipes and personal anecdotes illuminate the role that cuisine plays in identity and community,” says the Foreword Reviews announcement, about the finalist book, which is both a history book and a cookbook.  Published by Texas Tech University Press, the history/cookbook details the cooking techniques and ingredients of the ancestors of today’s Mexican American community.  The book is essentially about Texas’ first food.  It is also a cookbook, illustrated with beautiful color photographs of mouth-watering dishes that range from sautéed cactus to smoked trout with yerbaniz, a Mesoamerican herb.

“It’s absolutely amazing and I am honored by this recognition of my work, says the author, who received the news of the award from the publisher.” Medrano wrote the book and kitchen-tested the 100 recipes over a period of three years.

The book is available at most book stores and online.  Medrano says that he plans to attend the award ceremony in San Francisco when the winners are announced.

About the Awards
Each year, Foreword Reviews shines a light on a select group of indie publishers, university presses, and self-published authors whose work stands out from the crowd.

In the next three months, a panel of more than 100 volunteer librarians and booksellers will determine the winners in 63 categories based on their experience with readers and patrons.

“After 17 years, our awards program has become synonymous with quality because our editors set such a high bar on the finalist round, which makes it especially tough for the judges who select the winners,” said Victoria Sutherland, publisher of Foreword Reviews. “In every genre, our judges will find an interesting, high-quality selection of books culled from this year’s entries.”

Book Press Kit Online:

Foreword Reviews will celebrate the winners during a program at the American Library Association Annual Conference in San Francisco on Friday, June 26 at 6 p.m. at the POPTOP stage in the main exhibit hall.

The author wishes to thank all the supporters and readers who have been an inspiration, and especially the Mexican American, Chicano community to whom this cuisine belongs.

Adán Medrano

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Fried Chile Serrano Salsa

Chile Serrano is my favorite chile.  I eat it raw at lunch or dinner,  biting into the green chile, herbaceous and refreshing.  A large variety of salsas feature Serrano and here, it’s fried, so the taste is rustic.  The tomatoes are also cooked.ChileSerranoMolcajetesmlChile derives from the Nahuatl word, “chilli.” The European scientific name is capsicum annum and it was first domesticated in MesoAmerica. It’s origin is 9 thousand years ago (that’s a long time).OriginDomesticationOfChile

Our Texas Mexican Region (South Texas and Northeastern Mexico) features prominently in the history of this important, nutritous food.  These four maps give an interesting multi-disciplinary vew of the origin of domesticated capsicum annum.  Note that our Texas Mexican region has the strongest genetic evidence of domesticated chile.  So when you bite into that Chile Serrano, you can feel right at home because our ancestors have been doing that for thousands of years.

It just tastes good!

So, this is the recipe for frying the chile. Straightforward and robust.

1 large Chile Serrano (3 1/2″ long) or 2 small ones
1 Garlic Clove
1 1/2 Tbs White Onion
2 Roma tomatoes, diced
1 Tbs Canola oil
1/4 Cup Water
1/2 tsp Salt

1.  Heat the oil in a skillet, medium heat, and fry (sautée) the chile, onion and garlic until they turn a deep color and have black spots.  the Chile Serrano will lose of its green color.

2.  Remove all of the ingredients from the skillet, place them in a molcajete, and mash them to a fine paste.

3. Add the tomatoes to the pan and cook them for 4 minutes, until much of the juice has evaporated.  Add the tomatoes to the molcajete and incorporate them into the chile paste.

4. Add the water to the pan and scrape the pan to unstick all the browned bits.  Add this to the molcajete and mix well.

This is a salsa that’s perfect for warming up your kitchen on a wintry day.  And in a few weeks when you are cooking outdoors, it’s perfect for tacos with grilled meats. Enjoy.















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Red Enchiladas For St. Valentine’s Day

An enchilada is delicious and delicate. Perfect for romance and to say I love you.

I’ve blogged before that to understand an enchilada is to understand our history and community.  The tortilla is not a wrap for filling.  It is the thing itself. A well made corn tortilla, cooked on a comal, immersed in carefullly blended chile, accentuated by the slightest of queso fresco and onion bits. EnchiladasPlateRedTortillassml And in my family, my amá always made enchiladas with red tortillas. Always. My nephew, Adrian, once chastised me for using other than a red tortilla.  So, here’s an adaptation of our mom’s family enchilada recipe.

There is no English word that accurately translates “enchilada,” the past participle of the verb, “enchilar.”  Merriam-Webster translates enchilar: “to season with chili,” but that does not describe this dish. “Enchilar” means that the tortilla has been done up with chile, thoroughly infused and transformed.

1.  Devein and de-seed 6 Guajillo chiles.  Place them in boiling water, turn off the heat and let them re-hydrate for 20 minutes.

2.  Drain the chiles, discard the water, and place them in a blender with 2 cups of water.  Blend until you have a completely smooth, velvety purée.  Drain through a fine mesh sieve to make sure there are  no bits of chile left unblended.

3.  Add two more cups of water and set aside.

ChilePouredIntoMasasml4. In a large bowl, place 4 cups of white corn masa and add the four cups of chile, slowly incorporating it into the masa to form a moist, firm masa that looks like the picture below.
ChileMasaHandsml5.  Cover the masa with a damp cloth and let stand for 20 minutes to rehydrate the corn. (My neighbor across the street found non-GMO corn online and gave me a 5-pound bag.  I used non-GMO corn and urge you to get a neighbor like mine).ChileMasaTowelsml6.  Using a tortilla press like the one described in this previous blog, make round masa balls, flatten them with the tortilla press, and lay them gently onto a medium hot comal.
ChileTortillaHandcomalsml7. Cook for about 20 seconds. The tortilla will release and you can easily pick it up without a spatula (but be careful and use a spatula if you need it to lift up the edge).
ChileTortillasTwoOnComalCook that side for another 20 seconds and turn it over. Do this one more time.  You’ll see that the tortilla puffs up with steam.  It forms an outer leaf that is crisp and toasty while the inner masa cooks just enough so that it remains moist and meaty.
8.  Make  a batch of enchilada chile purée according to the recipe for enchiladas here, and dip a cooked, red tortilla in the chile, leaving it for about 8 seconds.  ChileTortillaDippedsml9.  Lay the “done up with chile” tortilla on a plate and add 1 Tablespoon of crumbled queso fresco and a smattering of finely diced white onion. Finely diced is important.ChileTortillaQuesoFrescoHandsml10.  Roll three of these tortillas next to each other, each immersed in the special blend of chiles.  You’ll taste the flavorful corn saturated with chile, and the combination is spectacular. Pour plenty of chile on top and then sprinkle some more queso and onion. PourChileOnTortillasmlEnjoy— that’s an enchilada!

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CIA Class: Texas Mexican Cuisine Points To The Future

In preparation for my class presentation tomorrow, I’m posting these food ideas. TexasMexicanCuisine I’ll present the class at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park.  Dr. Maureen Costura teaches the course on ancient foods and this class will deal with indigenous culinary practices of Texas and the Southwest.  The CIA newspaper,  “La Papillote,” describes the course this way:  StoneCooking“Students with interest outside of the kitchen may be attracted to this program due to its unique nature. It is intended for the intellectual students who see food for more than just its culinary purposes.”

My presentation will explain several chapters and recipes from “Truly Texas Mexican:  A Native Culinary Heritage In Recipes.”  It is a hybrid history/cookbook published by Texas Tech University Press.


Rattlesnake is a delicacy. Left:  Quail Eggs


Sotol Bulbs are a source of carbs and are cooked in earth ovens for three days

Here are a few of the ideas to be discussed during the class:IdentityandCommunityAmericas LlanoManMidlandTexas

A Contested CuisineWe will discuss the differences between Texas Mexican cuisine and Tex-Mex food:  history and flavor profile.

MolcajeteChjileOnion ComalOnionGarlicRoast









We will discuss ancient culinary tools and techniques that are also leading the way in fine dining ideas.

ChilesAreStar RootedInOurHistoryWatermelonAnd finally, we will discuss how history and memory are part of a day-by-day culinary aesthetc practice that leads the future.ManhattanMolcajeteLet’s explore our ancient roots so that we may cook with more understanding about ingredients, tools and techniques.  Everything old is new again!

This is really all about being able to taste and say:  “That’s deeeelicious!”

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Carne Con Chile, aka “Chili”

What’s Carne Con Chile you say?  It means “Meat With Chile” and it’s one of the oldest and most common Texas Mexican dishes whose technique is shared with all the other regions of Mexican cuisines. It’s sometimes made with green chiles as in the state of Jalisco where a dish, made with Chile Serrano, is called “Carne En Su Jugo.” More often it’s made with red chiles as in the state of Oaxaca where a dish made with Chile Guajillo is called “Chileajo.”  There are hundreds of creative and delicious recipes for cooking meat with chile, “Carne Con Chile.”

Here in our region we combine several red chiles to foreground the flavor of the meat, whether that be the traditional native venison, or the more recent (1500s) imported meats like beef or pork.CarneConChile

“Chili” is the anglicized word for “chile.” Anglo Texans who migrated from Europe fell in love with the various native dishes, all made with creative combinations of chiles.  In San Antonio, for example, Native Mexican business women operated open air food stands in the 1800s. They served a wide array of indigenous food: enchiladas, tamales, tortillas and carne con chile.  All these dishes used chiles as the predominant flavoring but it seems that “chili” was easier for the newly-arrived to pronounce so it stuck as the popular term. But traditional Mexican restaurants like the venerable Mi Tierra in San Antonio continue to use the term, Carne Con Chile.  Michael Cortez, son of Pete and Cruz Cortez who first opened “Mi Tierra” (My Land) in 1941, uses the original recipe and he naturally calls it “Carne Con Chile.”

It’s a cool day here in Houston and making Carne Con Chile, aka “Chili,” just feels like it’s the right thing for body and soul.  This recipe is one I hope you will like.  I use Ancho chiles as the base, Guajillo for red color, and Chipotle for a nice tang.  The other seasonings are a classic Texas Mexican combination that I think blends perfectly such that you don’t have one flavor springing up over any other.

Recipe (serves 6) Excerpted from the book: Truly Texas Mexican: A Native Culinary Heritage In Recipes

4 Chile Ancho, seeded, deveinedChileAnchoandGuajillo
2 Chile Guajillo, seeded, deveined
1 Chipotle, seeded, deveined
2  garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 medium white onion, peeled
1/2 tsp powdered cumin
1 tsp fresh Mexican Oregano
2 tsp salt
2 Tbs Canola oil
2 lbs chuck shoulder roast, cut into 1/2″ cubes
3 cups water

1. Place all the chiles in a large saucepan, cover them with water and bring to a boil.  Turn off the heat and let the chiles cook for 15 minutes.
2. Heat a comal or a cast iron skillet on high, then roast the onion and the garlic until the onion has softened and has black spots.  Peel the garlic after it has cooked and become soft.
3. Cut the the roast into 1/2″ cubes or smaller, trimming off the fat as you go. This is a time- consuming task, so if your butcher is friendly she might agree to do this for you when you buy it.
4. Add 1 Tablespoon Canola to a skillet on very high heat and quickly brown the meat for only 5 seconds or so.  Set aside.
4. In a blender, place the chiles and all the spices. Add about a cup of water and blend on high to make a very smooth purée, adding additional water as necessary.  If there are flecks in the purée, strain through a fine mesh sieve.
5. Heat a dutch oven (cast iron if you have one, but not necessary) on medium heat, add the oil and then “fry” the chile purée.  Be prepared for some splatter.  Cook for 10 minutes, stirring all the while.
6. Add the beef and 3 cups of water and bring to a very slow simmer.  By this I mean that you’ll see only small, slow bubbles on the surface. Cover and cook for 2 hours, all the while adjusting the heat so that it stays on a slow simmer and does not boil.  Uncover and cook for another 30 minutes or so to thicken. Adjust the salt.

Serve the carne con chile immediately or the next day with garnish of diced white onion, cheddar cheese and diced, pickled Jalapeños.  Make sure you make plenty because it will taste fantastic the following day.

!Buen Provecho!


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“Hoja Santa” Salad

Let’s start this new year with an innovative use of the wonderfully aromatic herb, Hoja Santa.
It’s traditionally always served cooked, but here I make it into a salad, paired with equally aromatic fennel seeds and cold-weather greens.

HojaSantaSaladFennelsmlbI think that Hoja Santa will become a big hit in the coming years, as more of us Chicanos, Latinas, enter the culinary world and share new ways of enjoying delicious food that is historically tied to this hemisphere.  The origin of Hoja Santa is tropic Mesoamerica which includes Southern México, Guatemala, Panamá and Northern Colombia.  From ancient times, we used it for medicial and spiritual healing.  Crush a leaf between your fingers and you’ll get a heady aroma of root beer.  Grow a plant in your back yard, as I do, thanks to a dear friend, Dr. Ellen Riojas Clark from San Antonio who gave me one from her garden as a Christmas gift.  It grows well in our southern US climates.
HojaSantaRemoveStemsmlRecipe (serves 8)

2 large Hoja Santa leaves, washed, patted dry
1/2 lb Frisée (curly Endive) washed, dried and torn into small pieces
3 Belgian Endives, washed, dried and sliced, crosswise, into 1/2 inch pieces
3 Celery ribs very thinly sliced, crosswise
2 tsp Fennel seeds, toasted
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 Tbs Fresh Lemon Juice
1 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Sugar
3 Tbs finely minced Shallots
1.  In a skillet, toast the fennel seeds until they turn color and release aroma.  Then crush them in a molcajete or other mortar & pestle.
2. Combine the crushed seeds and the olive oil in a bowl and allow to stand for at least 15 minutes

3. Prepare the Hoja Santa by first removing the stem, cutting both edges with a sharp knife as shown in the picture above.  Then roll the hoja into a tight little cigar and slice it very thinly into threads, ribbons.  The French call this technique, “chiffonade.” By slicing it this way, (then soaking in the dressing as described below), the coarse leaves become quite a nice raw addition.

HojaSantaRollingsml HojaSantaChiffonadesml

4. In bowl or wide-mouth jar, combine the lemon juice, salt, sugar and shallots and stir or shake until the salt and sugar dissolve.  Then add to the fennel seed olive oil and whisk or shake vigorously to emulsify.
5.  Soak the hoja santa strips in the dressing for 15 minutes, then add the other greens and toss well to coat.

¡Buen Provecho y Feliz Año Nuevo!

This salad dressing recipe is an adaptation of one that I first saw about 10 years ago in Gourmet magazine. Sad that it stopped publishing.







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Buñuelos For New Year’s Eve

Amá would make these every New Year’s eve.

buñuelosml I recall having a sense of wonder at how she made ribbons out of tortillas. When I make these now I recall happy times with amá, apá and all my brothers and sisters. These are as “party nice” today as they were then when I was a child.  I cut and shape them just like mom did.

First make flour tortillas but add 1 teaspoon sugar per cup of flour.

Then roll the tortillas on a cutting board and slice them into 2″ wide strips.

In the middle of each strip, cut a slit lengthwise with a knife, leaving 1 inch on each end uncut.

In a deep skillet, heat peanut oil to very hot, shimmering, 350 F.

Take each strip and insert one end through the slit, twisting as in the pic.  Deep fry it, turning so that both sides turn golden.  This will take about 2 minutes.

Place on paper towels and sprinkle with generous dashes of cinnamon and sugar. The cinnamon mixture should be 1/2 tsp cinnamon for every 3 tsp sugar.  Serve with chocolate caliente.

Wishing you a new year full of health, love and safe surround. ¡Feliz Año Nuevo!

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