At last weekend's Produce Marketing Association expo in Anaheim, the Mexican section was huge, because whether you know this or not, Mexico is our backyard garden.
Sure there were chiles and banana leaves, but also mainstream produce that you might not pinpoint as Mexican, like the beautiful herbs in the photo at the top. They were grown by Greenmex in the state of Morelos. (If you've spent time in Cuernavaca, you've been in Morelos.)
Pati Jinich, author of "Pati's Mexican Table," cooked for the tasting lounge in the Mexican area. One of the treats there was guacamole (above) made, of course, with Mexican avocados. The seasonings were lime juice, cilantro, onion and pureed habanero chiles. On top is crumbled queso fresco.
These gorgeous chayotes are from Citlaltépec in the state of Veracruz. In Mexico, the spiny chayote (upper left) is called erizo, a word that usually means hedgehog or sea urchin. I don't have to tell you what these three things have in common.
If you've found spiny chayotes too daunting to buy, give them a try. Here's a recipe just for them. It was developed by Araceli Martínez Marín for Agrocosco, the distributor.
BAKED CHAYOTES WITH SPINES
6 large chayotes with spines
4 tablespoons oil
4 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup heavy cream
200 grams (almost 1/2 pound) Chihuahua cheese, grated
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Do not peel the chayotes. Cook them in boiling water until tender. Drain and cool until they can be handled. Cut the chayotes in half lengthwise and carefully scoop out the pulp.
Heat the oil and butter in a large skillet. Add the onion and fry until tender. Add the chayote pulp, cream, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Remove from heat.
Stuff the chayotes with this mixture. Top with the cheese. Place on a baking sheet and bake until the cheese is melted and browned on top. Serve warm.
Makes 6 servings.