We had company this weekend. They are the very first and most likely the only people brave enough to come visit us and to stay overnight.
Victor Vazquez is a first cousin and friend of ours, and he brought his two kids, Alex, eight years old, and Aria, thirteen. Victor became a single dad a little over three years ago, and moved with the kids to his family home in Mexico City where he grew up. The house ownership is in dispute among 13 siblings. They live there, though, pretty much avoiding the others who also live there. The kids have grown since we’ve seen them. Alex spent quite a bit of time using our big watering can that leaks (fun!), and Aria was a bit shy at first but became more confident as the hours went by.
When we heard that they were coming down from San Diego and San Julian we requested that they bring us birria, a favorite dish we haven’t had for quite some time. They not only brought birria, they brought other delectables the area is famous for. There was tequila almendrado, dark, sweet, and flavored with almond, and cajeta!
From Wikipedia: Cajeta is a Mexican confection of thickened syrup usually made of sweetened caramelised goat’s milk. it arrived in medium-sized plastic buckets with lids, and it was absolutely delicious! I didn’t read the label, but I’m almost certain that this cajeta is made of cow’s milk. I was a dairy goat farmer for years, and can tell the difference easily. This morning we spooned some on yesterday’s bollios, the rolls we ate with the birria.
They arrived yesterday before noon, and we ate the birria right away, then settled down to visit, which is always interesting. Victor is widely read, and has a lot of knowledge about many subjects, and of course there was the ever-fascinating family gossip.
As they came in from the street Victor commented on the many large flowers our squash plants had, and said “We should make ratitas (that’s little rats, an unlovely name for a delectable dish). And in the afternoon when we got hungry again, we did. Chon had cut the flowers before they closed for the day, leaving 5- 6″ stems, the “tails” of the ratitas. At about 5 p.m. it was a team effort in the kitchen. Please excuse me if I write the recipe here, as choreographed by Victor. I want to remember, and perhaps entertain any cooks out there. Preparing stuffed flowers is very much like preparing chiles rellenos. A team effort makes it so much easier! When I make chiles rellenos I make a big, big mess in the kitchen.
Flores De Calabazas Rellenas A La Victor Vazquez
25 large flowers
5 medium eggs (we had enough left over to make a small omelette)
small package of bread crumbs
one-half pound of cheese, cut into slices, then strips (We looked for panela in the small store, and settled for asadero. Recipes I looked at on line suggested Mozzarella, goat cheese, ricotta, Parmesan, and others, and included herbs like basil and parsley.
Boil the clean, drained calabazas for a few, minutes, about 3-5, drain and place on paper towels
- Beat 5 whites until they form peaks
- Fold in 5 yolks
- Sprinkle in a “handful” of salt. (granted, it was a child’s hand, but it was more salt than I expected, and it maybe should even have been a little more).
- Gently open a flower (it’s quite a bit like separating two pieces of wet tissues, but they’re stronger than they look) and push a piece of the cheese inside as far as you can, folding the petals back over the cheese as well as you can
- Roll the flower in the bread crumbs to cover
- Dip the flower into the egg to cover
- Place the flower into a frying pan with hot oil, turning it as it browns and cook carefully until evenly browned
- Remove from pan and place on paper towel
Serve with flour or corn tortillas and salsa.
When you bite into one of these ratitas it’s like having a cloud in your mouth. They’re just wonderful! Tender, with a delicate flavor. I’ve never read it, or heard anyone else say it, but the flowers have a very light flavor of anise.
As the afternoon and evening wore on, it was entertaining to hear the talk flowing, and the kids were funny as they served up many riddles and jokes They know lots of them, all rapid-fire. Alex gets so amused that he laughs and laughs as he asks the riddles, which is infectious. They decided not to head to nearby San Francisco to stay with Victor’s brother there, and we prepared a bed for the kids and a couch for Victor.
This morning I prepared an adequate breakfast of black beans, rice, salsa, zucchinis from the garden, and carnitas prepared right across the street, a Sunday treat. Along with bolillos, it was quite satisfying.
Both of us enjoyed ourselves and I hope they did too.