Hope for a Beleaguered Planet....

Our book Milpa: From Seed to Salsa - Ancient Ingredients for a Sustainable Future explores through a blend of essays, recipes and documentary photography how the ancient agricultural knowledge and the wealth of 1000 year-old seeds and planting practices still in use among the Mixtec peoples of southern Mexico can help us to meet the ecological and food crises of today.

The essays, written in conjunction with campesino farmers, serve as a warning about the complicated dangerous effects inherent in the rapidly expanding distribution of GMO (genetically modified organism) seeds in Mexico, the birthplace of corn. Our documentary cookbook discusses alternatives for campesino farmers across the world and gardeners and consumers who care about food safety. Using the example of the Milpa planting system in the Mixteca Alta region of Southern Mexico just north of Oazaxa City, the book supports recent studies by UN investigators that show that small plots of land, heritage seeds and sustainable practices can in fact feed the world while enriching the soils on which we all depend for life…….

Milpa contains the traditional recipes lovingly shared by the local indigenous Mixtec women, allowing readers to re-create the culinary magic that flows from this ancient agricultural system. Recipes are painstakingly tested and photographed in traditional indigenous kitchens as well as in a professional modern test kitchen. Please purchase the book, below.....

All Rights Reserved: © Phil-Dahl Bredine, © Kathy Dahl-Bredine © Judith Cooper Haden Photography, © Susana Trilling SOMH.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Zaragoza Tilantongo, Oaxaca- Señora Epifania Palacios and Rosario Santiago Santos

Rosario Santiago Santos is a pretty goat herder and campesina and the young, gregarious granddaughter of Epifania Palacios, a village cook in the mountain pueblo of Zaragoza Tilantongo.  We arrived at their brick home about sunset after a breathtaking ride up the side of a mountain on a one lane road with a sheer drop off both sides, praying all the while we wouldn’t meet a car coming down in the opposite direction! After that little surge of adrenaline, I was happy to get out of the driver’s seat and walk down the pine tree lined path to their house, stretch my legs and slow down my beating heart!

As we arrived, they were just finishing the Mole Amarillo de Frijol Blanco and Nopales for the annual Feria de la Milpa to be held the following day. The kitchen was the standard Mixtec country kitchen in a separate building with a stone table set up to build a fire on, with a molded adobe ring to hold the flat unglazed disk called the comal. Next to that was her metate, where she massaged the dough and made little thick masa cakes that were pressed into large very thin tortillas on a big iron press.  Rosario amused us with stories while she made countless fresh tortillas on the comal. 

Nearby were two more molded rings to rest the round ollas where she had cooked beans, and the nixtamal, which is dried corn boiled in water and calcium oxide (cal) to soften. Lots of firewood was stacked in a corner. The large cazuela they were stirring held enough mole to serve small bowls to about 200 people. True to tradition, the people in the Mixteca are very generous and they insisted on giving us some to try. It was delicious, very filling with the beans and cactus pieces immersed in a tasty mole sauce bursting with the flavor of chile guajillos, cooked in combination with corn masa and herbs, and ever so picante! The belief in their household is that if the food isn’t “hot” or picante, it can make you ill! 

It is said that this dish or some rendition of this recipe is the traditional food to make when the family and others in the community come to plant corn.  Very appropriate to make for the Feria de la Milpa, where everyone in CEDICAM gathers to exchange seeds of corn, beans and squash! 

YIELDS 12 - 14
For the beans:
I pound white beans
½ medium white onion, finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 hierba santa leaves, torn into big pieces
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 pound nopales, grilled, then cut into pieces

For the mole:
1 head garlic, peeled
1 white onion, in thick slices to grill
3-4 ounces chile guajillo, depending on how “hot” you want it
2 tablespoons Oaxacan oregano, or marjoram, dried
2 teaspoons cumin seed
3 whole allspice berries
6 oz.  prepared masa OR  (2/3 C. masa harina mixed with 1/3  C + 2 TBS water)
 sea salt, to taste
For the beans:
In a olla or clay pot with a lid, heat 3 quarts of water to boil.  Add onion and garlic and cook 15 minutes. Add the beans, lower the heat and cook 45 minutes or until almost soft.  Add the hierba (hoja) santa leaves and 2 teaspoons sea salt, continue cooking five minutes and add the nopales.  Remove from heat. 
For the mole:
On a comal, griddle or dry frying pan, roast the garlic and onion until translucent.  In a small pot heat 1 quart of water to boil.  Pour over the chiles and soak for 15 minutes, or until soft.
With tongs, remove chiles from soaking water and grind in the blender with, the roasted onion and garlic, oregano, cumin, and allspice until very smooth. Place puree in a food mill and strain.
Add the puree to the bean mixture and heat through about 10 minutes.
Place the masa in a blender with one cup of water and blend until smooth.  Add this mixture to the mole and cook for 15 minutes more.  Add salt to taste and serve with limes.

©Susana Trilling SOMH Sept.2011 Oaxaca
Photography @ Judith Cooper Haden All Rights Reserved



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