Wednesday, April 27, 2011

This little piggy went to market

When I was at my home in San Miguel de Allende, I went over to Patzcuaro for a few days. The first morning we drove a short half hour over to Santa Clare de Cobre.  After a delicious breakfast at the Camino Real (no relationship with the big chain in Mexico), we were headed back to the center of town to check out one of the stores noted for their copper.  I slowed the car down and shot this photo of this cute little girl in a butcher shop.
The next day I was over in Cocucho, a town known for its huge clay pots.  It had just finished raining and I could not have positioned this "cerdo" between the two colorful doors any better.  He did not seem to mind having his picture taken.  I find pigs interesting.  I must be influenced by my Mom's pig collection she has on display in a funky, antique blue cabinet that she has hanging in her laundry room.
I may be the only one in the family who is fascinated by the pig heads that are sale in the market.  This particular one was in the open market in Patzcuaro.
This guy (or girl) was on display with some Spanish chorizo in the market in Santiago de Compastella in the northern state of Galicia in Spain.   Spanish cuisine has influenced my cooking tremendously.  My husband, Len and I love to dine on Cochinillo (roasted suckling pig) and also Cabrito (roasted suckling goat). 
Due to FDA regulations in the states, you can not purchase suckling pigs (piglets that are still nursing).  Unfortunately I am not friendly with any local farmer that raises pigs.  I did how ever order a small pig from an outfit north of Phoenix which weighed 14 pounds.  I really would have preferred an eight pounder but I guess that would entail  another trip to Spain.  I had the piglet in a salt water brine for 24 hours before roasting it.  It was a bit strange to open the refrigerator.  He took up the entire shelf and he seemed to be giving me the evil eye.  I had to buy a roasting pan to accommodate the length of the piglet and to fit in my Thermador range which thankfully has a huge oven.  It was a perfect fit with not much room to spare.  It turned out perfectly cooked, nice and tender but the flavor was a bit too gamy for my taste, not as delicious as the Cohinillos in Spain.  Oh well, it's just another reason to make another trip back to Barcelona.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Braised Oxtail

OK, I know it was Easter weekend but I am really not into ham, Jamon Iberico yes, but not ham, and I know my friends would have thought is kinda weird if I served braised rabbit (bunny) for dinner.  So I decided to do something really different.  I bought about 7 pounds of fresh oxtail at HMart, a Asian grocery store where I can find things Safeway and even Whole Foods do not carry.  My first encounter with the store was when I had read an article about various grocery stores around Denver.  The article wrote that HMart carried fresh eel.  I have had grilled eel in Venice, loved it and I thought, great, I am going to buy some and throw it on the grill.  Well... when I located it in the store, the snake like appearance gave me the creeps big time.  Obviously I scratched that idea.  But I do shop here for rabbit, duck, soft shell crabs, pot stickers, pickled ginger and sometimes their produce. 
Back to the Oxtail...  One recipe that I really like is from Mario Batali's cookbook, Molto Italiano.  The oxtail is simmered in a pot of water before it is browned in olive oil along with pancetta, chopped onions, minced garlic and chopped carrots.  White wine is added and reduced by half.  Then tomato paste and some of the broth mixture is added to the pot.  Cover the pot and simmer for three hours.  Towards the end, chopped celery is added.
The oxtail is removed from the pot and set aside.  Once cool to the touch, remove the meat from the bones and put it back into the pot.  Bring to a boil and reduce the sauce some.  Plate the oxtail and garnish with a mixture of chopped celery leaves, thinly sliced red pepper and red onion and red pepper flakes dressed with a little olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. 
It is a delicious and very rich entree.
Bon Appetit!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter everyone!

I shot this from the back side of the Virgin Mary as she was heading up to the Parroquia Church in San Miguel de Allende.  It was such a beautiful day.
I hope everyone is having a wonderful Easter.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday

Good Friday is a busy time in San Miguel de Allende.  I particularly like to duck into the San Rafael church and watch the men and women decorate the Saints for the procession later in the day.  All the pews had been pushed to the side and there was a lot of activity going on.
There are flowers everywhere: lilies, purple statice, mums, lisianthus, roses, carnations, daisies... what a colorful sight.
People were getting dressed in deep purple gowns with their heads adorned with a crown of thorns.
This statue of San Roque is one of my favorites.  When he is not part of a procession, he can be found in the Parroquia Church,  just past the baptismal fountain on the left.  He is identified by his plague sore on his leg.  San Roque, after nursing plague victims in his native town was driven into the countryside when he himself had contracted the plague.  He survived because a little dog (the symbol of fidelity) brought him bread everyday. The sculpted dog is along side the saint and because this is Mexico, he has a bolillo which is the typical Mexican roll in his mouth. Since plagues have come to a halt, his contribution box sits empty.

He is replaced in admiration by San Martin of Charity, a black saint from Peru, also known as the “Saint of the Broom” because of devotion to work, no matter how menial. Many miraculous cures were attributed to him.  After the Virgin de Guadalupe, he ranks second in devotion to the Mexican people.
I had the best time talking with this little guy.  He was so adorable.  A little Mexican lady was sitting next to me on one of the pews and she asked me if he was my son.  I politely said no but I had a good laugh with myself since I am a blond with blue eyes.  It was a great morning.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Way of the Cross

Semana Santa or Easter week is a colorful and busy one is San Miguel de Allende.  Today, Holy Wednesday, is a major celebration in town .  There are 14 stations of the cross (stone niches marked with stone crosses in the walls) found on Calles Mesones, Juarez, Nunez and San Francisco.  The stations represents Christ's path to martyrdom.  Each one is decorated for the occasion.  The man above was just starting to assemble his.
Some of the stations of the cross are decorated rather simply.
Others are rather elaborate.
The "over the top" displays were on Calle Mesones.
Numerous processions will start at the Oratorio Church around five. 
Many of the town's people participate in the procession from angles, mourners, pallbearers...
I love the altar boy with his moused hair.
Some men are dressed as Roman soldiers.
One of the altars depicting Christ carrying the cross.  Today is one of my favorites during Semana Santa.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday (Domingo de Ramos) is the first day of Holy week (Semana Santa).  It is a colorful and happy occasion.  I was intrigued by the artistry of the woven palms and this lady in Uruapan had her own particular style.
Special masses are held which includes blessing of the intricately woven palm fronds, crosses and other figures woven from palms and wheat.
 Men and women lined the courtyard of the church in hopes of selling their works of art.
All were busy weaving the palms into their own unique design.
This lady was coming out of the Oratorio Church in San Miguel de Allende.
Such artistic people and what a beautiful site!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Our Lady of Sorrows

Today in San Miguel de Allende and Patzcuaro, Our Lady of Sorrows (Nuestra Senora de los Dolores) is observed.  It is a colonial tradition which commemorates the suffering of the Virgin Mary.  You will find the decorated "altars of Dolores" in many homes, businesses and public spaces.  The altars range from simple to very elaborate that might take up the entire entry of a home.
The use of purple, white and green is used to decorate the altars.
This home altar was very impressive and I can not imagine all the creativity and effort that went into putting this together.  This altar is decorated with flowers, oranges, sprouting wheat, corn, grains, corn, chamomile, sand...
Some hotels have created small altars.
The homes open their doors at night to the town folk.  The visitors are offered fruit drinks, ice cream and treats by the hosts.
Many of the Virgin Mary's were just beautiful.
An elaborate altar was constructed under the arcade off the Don Vasco Plaza in Patzcuaro.  I was overwhelmed by the creativity and all the different elements that went into making this altar: the papel picado (cut tissue paper), ceramics, pewter, mercury balls.  Just beautiful!
At the front of the last altar, this "plaque" at the base of the display was all made out of different colored corn kernels and dried flowers.  It is sight not to be missed, it is the Friday before Palm Sunday.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

More of Day Four of my Artisan & Architecture Tour

Totally refreshed from a scrumptious lunch, we climbed into our big van for the scenic half hour drive through the pine and oak forests over to Santa Clara de Cobre.  This town is famous for its production of copper pieces from etched vases, huge cauldrons (cazos), trays to sinks.  The majority of the town's population revolves around the copper industry.  Over the years I have bought from the owner above.  He gave us a tremendous tour and explanation of the whole copper process while some of his employees demonstrated their craftsmanship.
Judy and Bonnie were busy pumping the bellows (hechizo) which keeps the flames going and heats the chunk of copper.
 As you saw above with the photo of Judy, Nancy, Gail and Liz were sporting such lovely copper crowns that we were given to model during the demonstrations.  How goofy is that? But what fun!
There were five men standing around the wood stump that had a hot piece of copper on it.  In an orchestrated rhythm, they all hammered the chunk of copper as the man sitting on the stool rotated it.  It is a sign of great craftsmanship when only one piece of copper is used to make the desired piece.  Here Debra is trying her skill with the hammer.  She hammered away. I think the man sitting there was rather brave.  Stand back, there she goes again. 
I think Debra and Yvonne make good looking "Queens of Santa Clara de Cobre."  After all the demonstrations, many bought a vase, pot or tray.  I have quite a few in my home in Denver and in San Miguel de Allende.   In San Miguel, I love putting Gladiolas in the one in the living room.  In Denver, the pot graces my Carrera marble counter top in my kitchen.
Not far from the copper taller (workshop), we met Guillermo at his home and taller.  There were about four looms in his courtyard with one gentleman weaving a beautiful rug.  Using all wool in the weft and the warp, handsome rugs and ponchos are woven by Guillermo and his workers.
Being in the interior design business, I am crazy about rugs.  The rugs that Guillermo showed us were beautifully woven and the colors they used would work most everywhere.  I wanted  to buy one but I already have two kilims folded up and sitting on a trunk in my guest bedroom that I had bought in Istanbul.  Oh well, maybe next time...
Back in Patzcuaro, we stopped in the main plaza and bought a few things before heading back to the hotel.  I picked up some wine for our tomorrow's picnic lunch in the countryside.
 It was such a pleasant evening and the walk over to the restaurant for dinner was great.  When I set up the dinner with the owner, Susi, of the Restaurant Mistongo, I made sure that we had the guitar player there to serenade out group.
Susi always has a rotating art show of paintings from local artists in her restaurant.  This is a typical scene with my group, laughing and having fun.
Some of us walked back to the hotel through the Don Vasco Plaza.  After just a few days with the ladies, it looks like I have them pretty well trained.  Another end to a perfect day.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Day Four of My Artisan & Architecture Tour

It seemed like a week ago that we had left San Miguel de Allende and headed over to Patzcuaro for part of my Artisan & Architecture tour.  We actually just arrived into Patzcuaro the day before.  The breakfasts that we were served at our hotel was a great way to start the day off.  Every morning we had coffee, tea or hot chocolate, freshly squeezed orange juice, individual servings of fresh fruit, baskets of delicious pastries and breads finished off by a hearty entree.  The chilaquiles above were delicious.  Each state in Mexico has their own version of Chilaqules.  This particular one consisted of fried tortillas, a salsa of pasilla chiles, onions, queso fresco and creme fraiche.  I love how the refried beans were garnished so beautifully with fried strips of tortillas.  It was like a birds nest.

 After breakfast we headed out for the day and the morning was a walking tour of Patzcuaro.  One of my favorite things to do in Patzcuaro is to go to the market.  It was bustling that morning.  People buying, people selling, peole visiting...
These two men were having a great time.  The food looked as good as it smelt.  And the place was spotless.
Formerly the San Augustin Monastery, today it is the Gertudis Bocanegra library named after a heroine of the War of Independence.  This mural, painted Juan O'Gorman in 1941, depicts the history of the state of Michoacan.   At the top of the mural, he painted an erupting volcano.  A year after the mural was completed, the nearby Paricutin volcano erupted.
On the far left is O'Gorman and his wife holding a scroll which proclaims the future day of redemption for the Mexican Indians and the release of a "great force which will explode like a gigantic volcano to produce extraordinary art and culture."  There is a small jester at their side with a scroll reading, "That's life."
 We walked around the beautiful Don Vasco Plaza.
 Another stop was in a shop and taller (workshop) noted for their lacquer work and Cristo de Cana.   We were given a demonstration and explanation on the lacquer along with one on the Cristo de Cana.  Cristo de Cana is a light weight processional crucifix made out of corn pith and orchid glue.   This is a process that was introduced by Don Vasco in the mid 1500's and many of the churchs in the area have Cristo de Canas dating back to that era.
We toured another taller and shop noted for their woven napkins, tablecloths and bedspreads in a variety of colors. 

A block away we toured the Folk Art Museum which was formerly the original site of the oldest college the Americas.  The Museum showcased ancient weapons, furniture, crafts, clothing, weavings and art from the state of Michoacan.  I just love the kitchen above.
We toured the Basilica de la Salud which was recently restored a few years ago.  I particularly love the beautiful stain glass windows.  The big rose window is pretty impressvie too.
After a lot of sightseeing, we had lunch in this quaint interior courtyard before we headed over to Santa Clara de Cobre for the rest of the afternoon.  What a great day we have had so far!