My first experience with Mexican food was in New Orleans in 1981 at a place called Mexicali Rose, where I was exposed to a large buffet of brightly coloured, heavenly smelling foods, appetizers and dips that I had never eaten before. Several years later on a trip to Mexico I discovered mole, ceviche, the bold taste of coriander, aromatic cumin and the cool refreshing crunch of jicama, and who can pass up a great flan or churros filled with dulce de leche for dessert?
I have countless cook books and recipes that I have collected since that time and every now and again I will try a new recipe, but my favourite things to make are enchiladas and empanadas. Back in the ’80s finding ready made tortillas or frozen empanada dough in any Canadian city was a bit like the quest for the Holy Grail. Given this challenge, my Mexican cooking was pretty limited to making some amazing chiles and stews, but being the obsessed over-achiever that I am when it comes to food, I handmade dozens of tortillas with nothing but a rolling pin and some sweat – no tortilla press for this girl! These marathon dough rolling sessions often resulted in my forearms and shoulders being sore for several days after the meal, but it was always worth it.
Today, my love for Mexican and Latin food has grown even more since a lot of Latin Americans moved north to Canada. Toronto has seen wonderful growth in it’s Latin American population in the last decade, with that comes more restaurants and more grocery stores filled with authentic foodstuffs from Mexico and Latin America. So today, I felt like making chicken empanadas. It was with a lightness in my step that I made my way to Kensington Market to buy ready made tortillas.
Delight is the only word to describe how I felt seeing the variety of sizes, brands and types of tortillas now readily available. There’s your white tortillas and then you have your masa tortillas made from corn and tastes best, in my opinion, with beef dishes. Yes, I could’ve bought tortillas in the local grocery store – yeah, those things they make wraps with, but when things become popularized and marketers feel the need to add ingredients like pesto and sun-dried tomato, it just sucks the authenticity right out of the item for me.
Recently I’ve been following http://www.hispanickitchen.com, it’s a great site and they have a wonderful page on Facebook which features a very flavourful dish every day from a different Latin American country. The listing of recipes is extensive and has all the different regional variations of empanadas one could imagine across the Americas. It’s just all so easy now, the global marketplace enables all of us to try new foods and change-up those foods we’ve eaten for years. In a large multi-cultural city like Toronto, and a great marketplace like Kensington it’s easy to get all the ingredients you need to make any dish from any where in the world. Mexican food is wonderfully flavourful and it’s not all chiles and hot spicy, so Google a new recipe and shake up your taste buds. There’s so much I still need to eat! I hope you’ll join me.