Our friends from Oaxaca have come to see us for a few days. They own one of the best bed and breakfast places in the city of Oaxaca, Casa de los Milagros (House of Miracles). Adriana and Rene, and their two children, little Rene (5) and Diego (1), have welcomed us as a part of their family. This time they brought Adriana's mother and father, Gloria and Rogelio. Gloria cooks. Oh my God, she cooks. Bringing her parents was our gift from Oaxaca (beside the home made jams of fruit found only in Mexico) and coffee from Veracruz, which is so different from Oaxacan coffee, rich, smooth, smokey.
I have been in the kitchen with Gloria since she has arrived. In fact she has taken command of the kitchen, and is teaching me how to make some the dishes of old Oaxaca (I call it comfort food, she calls it poor people's food), but guys this is gourmet in any other venue. I have never seen salsas whipped up in seconds with ingredients that are the secrets to this area.
Last night Gloria took me through a white bean with shrimp dish. This dish is from the Isthmus of Mexico, where many of the dishes she cooks originated. This particular dish is usually served during Samana Santa (Easter week here). We cooked the beans separately, then added a salsa made of fresh tomato, two different kinds of dried chiles, thyme, cloves, and other herbs local to this area. The result was a rich bean soup, that was served with quesedillas made with local handmade tortillas, that a women makes and sells on the streets of La Crucecita. In it is quesilla, a local cheese, that is a bit like salty string cheese, and she adds a fresh epazote leaf or two (an herb that is the essence of Mexican cooking).
Brunch today, aside from some left over chocolate cake, was shrimp fritters with a salsa napole (cactus leaf) that was amazing. This is also a traditional dish from the Isthmus. Gloria is a gem. She should be made a National Treasure. She tells me she learned to cook from her grandmother, who was the private chef of a governor of Oaxaca. I want that story!
I won't even go on about what's on the plate tonight. It's a fish dish, that much I know. She has us grating cooked carrots and cooked potatoes for some Oaxacan version of mashed potatoes. Cannot wait.