Restaurants - Mexican Cuisine
Restaurants - Mexican Cuisine
When looking for Mexican food in Westchester County, select from The Westchester Restaurant Guide's list of Mexican and Tex-Mex restaurants.
The Conquest of Mexico in 1521 gave rise to one of the richest culinary revolutions in history. When the Spanish explorer Cortez and his followers came to the new world in search of fortune, they found a wealth of culinary specialties such as chocolate, peanuts, vanilla, beans, squash, avocados, coconuts, corn and tomatoes. In turn the Spanish brought to the Americas products such as pork, beef, lamb, citrus fruits, garlic, cheese, milk, wheat, vinegar and wine.
Montezuma, the great Aztec emperor, was previously warned that one day bearded men mounted on animals like giant deer would come to take over his domain, so when Montezuma heard that men had landed at Vera Cruz he was not surprised. He made every effort to keep them in Vera Cruz by offering them great riches, but after seeing the riches it spurred them on to see where the riches came from. On November 8, 1519, Cortez entered Montezuma's capitol along with seven thousand native soldiers he had recruited along the way. He was received by Montezuma and given a great feast, but the cordial relations between the Spanish captain and the Aztec emperor were short lived. After many bloody battles, on August 13th 1521, Cortez claimed the capitol. The conquerors systematically destroyed the Aztec empire and replaced it with Spanish structures and Institutions, but they never succeeded in extinguishing the native culture and traditions, which are still part of Mexico today.
Mexican cuisine was constantly enriched from many different countries. Recipes and ingredients from Africa, South America, Caribbean, France and the orient found there way through the Spanish - Mexico conduit.
Early Methods of Mexican Cooking
Traditional Mexican Cooking Tools
A mortar is a bowl shaped container made of a hard wood, marble, pottery, or stone. The pestle is a bat shaped tool that is used to grind inside the mortar (bowl) and pulverize grains, herbs, and other food substances as well as medicines.
Italian frescoes of the 15th Century show Mortars and Pestles in use by Apothecaries (ancient Pharmacists). The Molcajete, or Mexican version of the mortar and pestle appears in Mexican pre-history in the Tehuacán Valley, as early as the discovery of our hybridized present-day corn, 6,000 years ago.
Mano or "Metate y Mano"
The traditional Aztec metate was a slanted slab with three short legs. The Mayan version sits flat on the ground with a slightly indented top grinding surface. Metates are rarely used today and have been replaced in the home by hand corn grinders and electric blenders.
Mexican Pottery Cooking Pots
Popular Mexican Dishes
Guacamole dates back to the Aztecs. The Aztecs referred to guacamole as ahuaca-mulli which translates roughly to avocado sauce or avocado mixture. Avocado is the main ingredient in guacamole that became very popular with the Spaniards. It is said the Spaniards liked their avocados three ways, with salt, with sugar or both. Although actual guacamole recipes were not well document, the Spaniards did document their partiality for the avocado fruit. The Aztecs believed the avocado to be an aphrodisiac. Another reason for the popularity of the fruit is the fact that the avocado has the highest fat content of any fruit. The Aztecs had a very low fat diet compared with today's standards, therefore a fruit that contained life sustaining fats and protein were very important to their diet.
Guacamole is a sauce made primarily of avocado with various additions depending on the region of Mexico where the guacamole is made. Guacamole is traditionally made from avocado, white onion, serrano chiles, tomatoes, sea salt and cilantro. First of course is the avocado, then onion, chiles, and fresh tomatoes and salt.
Flan is commonly used as a term to describe the Spanish, Portuguese or Mexican version of Creme Caramel. Flan is typically baked in a water bath and turned out of its mold onto a plate for serving. In England the term usually refers to a crust with either a sweet or savory filling. The crust is formed and baked in a flan ring, cooled and filled. The sweet filling frequently includes a custard. Flan is common in Spain, Mexico as well as Europe and U.S. In many countries such as Mexico, Spain, and Cuba it is customary to make flan in a special pan (mold) over a bain marie (water bath). The molds are fitted with a lid that clips on securely. The custard can be prepared on the cooktop or in the oven.
"Quesadillas are one of the Mexicans' favorite simple snacks. They are, in fact, uncooked tortillas stuffed with one of various fillings and folded over to make a "turnover." They are then toasted on a hot griddle or fried until golden. In many parts of Mexico they are filled with strips of Chihuahua cheese, which melts and "strings". Quesadillas become more complicated as you move farther south. For instance, in central Mexico the simplest ones are filled with some of the braided Oaxaca cheese, a few fresh leaves of epazote and strips of peeled chile poblano. Potato and chorizo filling is also a favorite version, while the most highly esteemed of all are those of sauteed squash blossoms (flor de calabaza) or the ambrosial fungus that grows on the corn blossoms (huitlachoche), both of which are at their best during the rainy months of summer and early fall."
A quesadilla is a 'turnover' made by folding a fresh tortilla in half around a simple filling such as cheese, epazote (a pungent herb), and pepper, or potatoes and chorizo, and deep frying it" "The Oxford Companion To Food", Alan Davidson
Tortilla is a round, thin unleavened bread made from ground maize and is a basic food of Mesoamerica. It is not known how many millennia this has been a staple; but when the conquistadores arrived in the New World in the late 15th century, they discovered that the inhabitants made flat corn breads. The native Nahuatl name for these was tlaxcalli and the Spanish gave them the name tortilla. Fresh tortillas are eaten as bread, used as plate and spoon, or filled to make composite dishes such as tacos and enchiladas. "The Tortilla Book", Diana Kennedy [Harper & Row: New York] 1975
"Refried beans. A Mexican-American dish of mashed cooked pinto beans, usually served as a side dish or as a filling for various tortilla preparations. The term "refried" is actually a mistranslation from the Mexican "frijoles refritos," which means "well-fried beans," a distinction first mentioned in Erna Fergusson's Mexican Cookbook (1934), but "refried" has remained in common parlance with regard to this dish.""Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink", John F. Mariani [Lebhar-Friedman] 1999
Another explanation for "refried beans" is: "Refried beans is the misleading translation of a term very familiar in Spanish-speaking countries of Central and South America; frijoles refritos. This refers to beans which have first been cooked in water and are subsequently fried. There is no question of their being fried twice.
History of Salsa
The Spanish first encountered the tomato after their conquest of Mexico in 1519-1521, yet few references to tomatoes have been located in Spanish colonial documents. Sahagun was the first European to make written note of tomatoes. According to Sahagun, Aztec lords combined them with chile peppers and ground squash seeds and consumed them mainly as a condiment served on turkey, venison, lobster, and fish. This combination was subsequently called "salsa" by Alonso de Molina in 1571. "The Story of America's Favorite Food", Andrew F. Smith
The Natives claimed that Chilies are of value warding off fevers and other maladies due to their ability to stimulate the digestive organs, especially the liver.
Tamales were made of tender corn, like the uchepos of Michoiacan today. Tamales come in an enormous variety, from the smallest norteno to the three-foot sacahuil from the Huastec countury. Tamales can be filled with the usual pork and tomato sauce, but added to it are all sorts of vegetables cut into little strips, such as: zucchini, potatoes, green beans, plantains, and chiles serranos.
"To most people in the United States, a taco is a tortilla bent in half to form a deep U shape, then fried crisp and stuffed to overflowing with ground beef, shredded iceberg lettuce, sliced tomato, and grated cheese. Throughout Mexico, however the simple taco consumed by millions of people daily is a fresh, hot tortilla rolled around some shredded meat or mashed beans and liberally doused with any one of the endless variety of sauces for which Mexico is justly famed, but which are sadly misrepresented this side of the border. Tacos are usually eaten as a snack between meals, in the evening with a bowl of soup for supper, or as an appetizer before the main meal of the day.""The Tortilla Book", Diana Kennedy [Harper & Row: New York] 1975
México is a country located in North America, bordered by the United States to the north, and Belize and Guatemala to the Southeast. Mexico is divided into 31 states and a federal district. Each state has its own constitution and its citizens elect a governor as well as representatives to their respective state congresses. The Federal District is a special political division in Mexico, where the national capital, Mexico City, is located. Much of Mexico’s countryside remains unspoiled by development and a unique style of architecture can be found throughout Mexico. Mexico’s history is reflected in the ancient Mayan temples, ruins of Aztec civilizations, rural indigenous villages, Spanish colonial cities, silver and gold mining towns, and traditional Mexican ports.verde (green), de frijol (with beans), and elopozole.
Brief History of Mexico
The American continent was isolated during many centuries, which explains the originality of its civilization. Northern México was populated by peoples who lived from hunting and collecting in a desert or semi-desert geographical environment. The South was populated by agricultural societies.
In the vast Mesoamerica region, many different peoples with their own ethnic and linguistic differences coexisted, they had a cultural homogeneity. For instance they cultivated corn, they have a singular structure of government, they used the 365 day calendar, they built pyramids, they used similar rituals and worshiped the same gods and goddesses of the sky, of nature, of fertility and of war. The same concept of cosmic duality - the beginning and the end - appears in the religion and art of all Mesoamerican cultures.
While there were many native cultures in México, these are six that are considered to be the most influential. Each developed in a different epoch of the history of ancient México: the Olmecs, Teotihuacans, the Toltecs, the Mayans, the Zapotec and Mixtec, and the Aztecs.