Hibiscus enchiladas

March 29, 2023  •  Category: , ,

Ramadan Mubarak!

I have just returned from two weeks in Mexico, where I divided my time between Mexico city and Mazatlán in the state of Sinaloa. I wanted to take a cooking class in both places; so I joined a WhatsApp foodies group in CDMX (Mexico City) to try and ask around for a recommendation. Luckily, Chef Paulina Lara responded, sent me menus  and we settled on a date for a private class in her kitchen in Mexico City.

The title on her menu Hibiscus Enchiladas intrigued me. I had only used hibiscus (karkadeh in Arabic) to make iced or hot tea or agua fresca, the Mexican ice cold drink, sometimes adding a cinnamon stick to the flowers while boiling them.

In Mexico, hibiscus is called jamaica or flor de jamaica (pronounced ha-ma-ee-ka), and every restaurant or café sells it as a cold drink or agua fresca sweetened with sugar. This is also a popular drink in Egypt where people drink it cold especially during Ramadan.

The hibiscus is produced in Mexico, but also in Soudan and other countries in Africa and imported into Mexico for the local consumption. In fact, I had seen tubs of hibiscus leaves of various sizes and color at the giant mercado de la Merced in Mexico city, with a label showing its country of origin.   I had also read a recipe for hibiscus enchilada in a cookbook on Mexico City cuisine but never ventured to test it in my kitchen. Years prior, while living in Beirut, I had bought whole candied hibiscus leaves  imported from Thailand and they tasted delicious like a gummy candy with a bit of tang.

The method is super simple: the hibiscus flowers are boiled briefly in plenty of water, drained, (the hibiscus-flavored broth can be recycled as a tea with some sweetener later). They are then stir-fried with some previously fried onion and garlic combo, seasoned and used as a filling to some fresh tortillas, just as you would prepare any enchiladas. Once filled, the enchiladas are smothered in enchilada sauce ( made with guajillo chilies, tomatoes, onion and garlic). And as usual, the enchiladas are then garnished with a drizzle of Mexican crema and some grated Panela cheese (see Note on substitute).

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January 11, 2023  •  Category:

My world has now become enchilado (more on that in another post), so when I decided I wanted to make coleslaw, it was obvious I was going to find a way to add a chile or two somewhere.

So I did. A few jalapeños went into the processor (minus the seeds and stem). I also used a chipotle mayo and the classic garlic-lemon-olive oil  Lebanese dressing.

It was yummy and so practical to have on hand in a big bowl in the fridge, to dip into over several days  until the supply is exhausted.




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Mexican green rice

November 26, 2022  •  Category: ,

I had been wanting to try my hand at this rice for a while. It consists of making a green salsa with poblano peppers, onion, garlic then cooking the rice in it with the addition of fresh corn kernels. The rice can be served alongside a dish of beans or a protein. I did not have time to cook anything else and so to give it more sustenance I ended-up baking it (after cooking it) briefly with some shredded cheese and it was filling enough on its own, with an optional splash of hot sauce or Mexican cream on top.



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Grilled fish in saffron sauce

November 22, 2022  •  Category: ,

Grilled fish

The Iranian Bazaar comes to Lebanon once a year for a week, and I try not to miss it. First of all, it is fun, it takes place in the basement of the former Holiday Inn and gets lots of traffic. Some stands are more popular than others like the nuts and spices or the rugs, displayed in hundreds.  Last time, I saw a rug with the face of a popular pop artist (as well as one with the Virgin Mary) and when I asked I was told to just bring a photo and a rug could be produced in my image. What a great idea for a gift for the narcissist in the family!

Anyway, it was the occasion to stock-up on good quality saffron, since saffron is not that easy to find in Beirut and most often than not, comes in powder form, which is the lowest quality anyway.

This is a good Summer dish, the fish (any fish or fillet) should be seasoned lightly, oiled and grilled on Pit Boss Smoker (so that it absorbs more flavor), then brushed with the saffron marinade at regular intervals.

If saffron is not in your pantry, you can substitute sumac or turmeric or cumin. Anything works with fish.

However, if you do get a hold of good quality saffron, the best thing to do is to get a pinch of it, and transfer it to a mortar;  pound it gently until it gets powdery and then transfer it to a bowl with about 1/4 cup of warm water. It makes adding it to the sauce much easier.

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