Friday, November 5, 2010

Cuitlacoche & Calabacitas

Late summer and early fall is when you see young girls and women from the campo (countryside) in San Miguel de Allende going door to door selling Cuitlacoche and Calabacitas from their colorful plastic buckets. 
In the red bucket is Cuitlacoche (or Huitlacoche), a corn fungus.  Pronounced whee-tla-KO-cheh. The name comes from the Nathuatl words cuitlatl (excrement) and cochtli (asleep).   
Also known as a Mexican truffle, it has an earthy, mushroom taste.  Farmers in Mexico jump with joy when this fungus invades their fields because is it a popular delicacy where as in the states, a farmer would fall down crying that his crops had been ruined.  In 1989, James Beard hosted a high profile Cuitlacoche dinner with hope in raising its popularity.  It is a good source of protein and is a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.  The Zuni Indians of the American south-west used it to induce labor.
The small squash in the green bucket, known in Mexico as Calabacita (not to be confused with the zucchini found is the States), is picked when it is young before they become too big.  Calabacitas are used year round in soups and are also stuffed with meat, cheese, rice or corn.  They have such a wonderful, right out of the garden flavor.
Here I am, out at Rancho Casa Luna teaching a cooking class to my last group.  My assistant Reyna (in the middle) is the cook from Casa Luna B & B where my group stays.  Next to Reyna on the left, is Dianne, my friend and owner of the Rancho and the B & B.
We had a wonderful day of cooking.  One of the recipes we prepared was Quesadillas with Cuitlacoche.    Chopped onions and garlic were sauteed until translucent in olive oil (or vegetable oil).  Fresh Cuitlacoche was added and cooked over medium heat for about 10 minutes.  The Cuitlacoche should be moist and tender, but not mushy.  Add to the quesadillas with your choice of cheese and heat them on a comal until the cheese has melted.  My group was not quite sure what to think about this strange looking corn fungus until they tried the finished product.  It was a hit!
Join me on my next trip where I will be introducing you to new and different cuisines of Mexico.  Buen Provecho!

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