martes, 17 de febrero de 2009
¡ACHIOTE! bless you?
Achiote Seeds: nothing to sneeze at.
This beautiful red seed grows in abundance on our farm and is a staple in many latin american dishes. Here's a link to the seed pod on the achiote bush: http://people.tribe.net/transkryptome/photos/fa1a507c-f243-4599-b724-581987f03f27
The fantastic bright color of achiote (pronounced AHH-CHO-TAY) is easily recognized in a paste sold here in el mercado, to be used as a starting point in preparing various meat dishes. A paste is created by grinding the achiote seeds with black pepper, garlic, spicy peppers, maybe vinegar, etc. and is then rubbed into fish, pork, or at our house, even carne de soya.
Achiote has an unusual aroma, kinda spicy, warm, but not the eye-stinging sharp scent of a hot pepper. That's what confuses me. The color is gorgeous, no doubt about it. The flavor? weelll, it's subtle. it doesn't live up to the vibrancy its color announces. And yet in the market, little squishy bags of achiote paste are referred to as "chile." For my first foray with the stuff, I donned gloves and protective eye wear, hyperconscious of the possibility of burning my skin with this powerful, potent, PASTE OF PUNGENCY! Turns out, it's a little bland. ok, there, i said it. but it's PRETTY?
Nicas are not big on spicy. In lieu of chile- or tomatillo-based salsas that liven the hell out of mexican cuisine, Nicas opt for a pickled cabbage ensalada, with maybe a couple of jalapeños tossed in. It's good, i like it. very tangy. just not.... spicy.
However, with 4 billion pounds of the stuff sitting patiently in our kitchen, I am more than willing to incorporate achiote into some recipes. Primeramente,
Hummus de Achiote!!
With color like this, how could I go wrong?
Granted, my blender now sports a red badge of courage that insinuates an unfortunate run-in with Chester Cheetah....but the hummus was a hit!