Glossary of ingredients of mexican cooking (7/7)

Yield: 1 Servings

Measure Ingredient

RABBIT: Rabbits are raised commercially. As with many uncommon meats, it is said of rabbit, that it "tastes like chicken." It doesn't; it tastes like rabbit. Large rabbits aren't as tender as the little ones; it is well to marinate or stew older ones, or make rabbit sausage. See GAME.

RED PEPPER: See Ground Red Pepper.

RED PEPPER SAUCE: This commercially bottled condiment is made from vinegar, spices and hot chilies. It adds heat but little in the way of flavor.

RICE: Mexican cooking calls for long grain or medium-grain white rice. The occasional southwestern dish uses wild rice, which really isn't rice. It is the fruit of an aquatic grass once harvested only by Native Americans who lived by the Great Lakes.

SQUASH BLOSSOMS: Contrary to poplar belief, the blossoms used in southwest cooking are those of winter squashes such as pumpkin, not zucchini. They are a perishable item and are best used the day they are bought.

TAMARIND: This is an intensely pungent, tart pod about four inches long. Tamarind is usually bought packaged in a tightly compressed, sticky plastic-wrapped lump. The flesh is riddled with fibers and seeds--not what you want in your food--and must be soaked before using. Separate the tamarind pods, pulling away and discarding as much of the pod as you reasonably can. Cover with water and let the pulp soak for at least an hour (overnight, if time permits). Then squeeze the pulp well to extract the juice or rub as much pulp as you can through a fine mesh sieve.

TEQUILA: A pale, sharp-tasting liquor distilled from the agave plant, which thrives in an arid, hot climate. The stem of the agave, known also as the "century plant," is used in making both PULQUE and tequila.

TOMATILLO: These fat little vegetables are the size of robust cherry tomatoes. They grow in papery husks reminiscent of Japanese lanterns and taste best when they are a brilliant green in color. By the time they begin to turn yellow, they have lost some of their acid freshness. This happens when they are lightly cooked too, but then, although they relinquish their vibrant color, the develop a gentler flavor and become more luscious. Uncooked, chopped tomatillos are the basis for chunky green salsas. Select tomatillos with their husks still drawn tightly around them. Husk and rinse off the sticky residue before using them.

TOMATO: Roasting tomatoes gives them a faintly mysterious flavor. It works best with truly ripe red tomatoes.

TO ROAST TOMATOES: To roast and peel tomatoes, set the oven control to broil. Arrange cored tomatoes with their top surfaces about 5 inches from the heat. Broil, turning occasionally, until the skin is blistered and evenly browned, about 5 to 8 minutes. The skins will be easy to remove. If the tomatoes are roasted on aluminum foil, the cleanup will be easy and you'll be able to save any juice they give off as they roast.

TORTILLA: Tortillas are round, flat unleavened breads made from ground wheat or corn. They are the basis of Mexican cookery.

Tortillas are rolled, folded, used as dippers, fried crisp and munched fresh. Corn tortillas are cut into wedges and fried for chips. For the best chips, fry tortillas that are at least one day old. Flour tortillas, softer than those made from corn, are more popular in northern Mexico where corn does not flourish; wheat was brought there by the Spanish. Commercially made tortillas of both kinds are best stored in the freezer until needed.

To soften tortillas, warm them on a hot ungreased skillet or griddle for about 30 seconds to 1 minute. They can be warmed in a 250 degree oven for 15 minutes. Or, wrap several in dampened microwaveable paper toweling or microwave plastic wrap and microwave on high (100% Power) for 15 to 20 seconds.

TRIPE: Usually what is meant by tripe is the line of pig and sheep stomachs. Tripe is the identifying ingredient of traditional MEMUDO, a hearty soup. Tripe needs to be thoroughly rinsed often, in three or four changes of cold water, before it can be used.

VENISON: Venison is deer meat. Because it is lean, venison needs moist heat to keep it tender. See GAME.

WALNUTS: The flavor of this nut is delicious with corn. See NUTS for toasting and grinding.


From Betty Crocker's "Southwest Cooking".


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