(In case you missed it…Cozumel Cooking Class Part 1: Meet Mrs. Josephina)
Along our walk back from the “mercado,” Josephina stopped to ask us all if we wanted a beer before our dinner…but of course! We stopped in a little beer store and picked up a six-pack of Cerveza Barrilito. Josefina recommended this particular Mexican beer because of it’s flavor and that it is made with very pure water. Once back at the house, we watched as Josefina assembled “a good snack before our beer.” It was then when we were introduced to Tajin and the Mango Cucumber Salad. Tajin is a common Mexican snack seasoning that is used on all sorts of fruits and vegetables. It solely consists of ground chiles, salt and dehydrated lime juice.
During the entire time of the instruction and demonstration, Josefina’s kitchen helpers were constantly bringing us food. Our next “snack” consisted of a cheese board filled with Queso Fresco and Oaxaca cheese. Queso Oaxaca is a white, semi hard cheese from Mexico, similar to un-aged Monterey Jack, but with a mozzarella-like string cheese texture. It is named after the state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico, where it was first made. It is also known as quesillo Oaxaca or thread cheese when shaped like a ball. Shaped in bricks for slicing, it is called asadero (meaning “roaster” or “broiler”) or queso quesadilla. The production process is complicated and involves stretching the cheese into long ribbons and rolling it up like a ball of yarn. Queso Oaxaca is used in Mexican cuisine, especially in quesadillas and empanadas. Queso Fresco is a traditional Mexican fresh cheese, similar to paneer or a mild feta. It is soft and moist but easily crumbles, making it ideal to sprinkle over salads, beans or enchiladas. To make queso fresco, milk is curdled, salted, and lightly pressed. The aging process for the cheese is very brief, usually no more than a few days, and then the cheese is sent to market. Traditional queso freso is good for around five days. (Info found on Wikipedia and WiseGeek)
The next snack plate consisted of sliced Guava fruit, Mandarin orange wedges and thinly sliced Jicama…all topped with…*can you guess?*…Tajin. The oranges were my favorite because the salty v/s citrus flavors went so well with the Cerveza Barrilito! If you are not familiar with Jicama (pronounced HIC-cuh-muh), pick one up the next time you are at the store. It is a crispy, sweet edible root that has been cultivated in South America for centuries. Mainly eaten raw, it reminds me of water chestnut meets raw potato. When choosing jicama at the store, look for medium sized, firm tubers with dry roots. Do not purchase jicama that has wet or soft spots, which may indicate rot. Also, be sure to peel off the coarse, brown outer layer before eating. High in vitamin C and naturally fat free, jicama makes for a fantastic snack.
At this point, we were all starting to become amazed at the amount of food we were about to be served. We’ve only been here for a short while and already, we are having to limit our intake to ensure room for the “heart” of the meal. As we’re noshing on cheese and fruit, we soon realize that we still have SIX more dishes to assemble and eat.
Good thing we had a light breakfast…