Tag Archive | "caldo"

Ask a Foodie: What Is Epazote?

Epazote flavors this Caldo de Hongos (Clear Mushroom Soup)

Q. What is epazote?


A, Epazote (eh-pah-ZOH-tay) is a Mexican herb that has people almost as divided in their opinions as cilantro. Some people love its aromatic qualities, others think its taste reminds them of gasoline, slightly off geranium leaves or camphor.

It’s used in a host of Mexican dishes. In fact, Rick Bayless thinks it’s an indispensable part of Mexican black beans. It is also used in soups, salads and moles.

It goes by a list of other names you may know better: wormseed, Jesuit’s tea, Mexican tea, and herba sancti Maria. Some have also said skunkweed and pigweed are names for epazote, but both are used to describe many plants, including those weeds that are likely making you sneeze this time of year.

According to, “Although epazote is poisonous in large quantities, it has been used in moderation to help relieve abdominal discomfort (gassiness) that can come from eating beans.

Fresh epazote is always best, and it can be found at most Mexican markets. Central Market, 4821 Broadway, has it on occasion, as does Whole Foods in the Quarry, 255 E. Basse Road. Or you can plant your own. Seeds can be ordered from

There really is no substitute for epazote in cooking, because it’s flavor is so unique, chef and instructor Iliana de la Vega said at the recent Culinary Institute of America’s Latin Flavors, American Kitchens symposium.

But if you don’t have any on hand, try another herb like cilantro or culantro. That rule certainly applies to the Caldo de Hongos (Clear Mushroom Soup) recipe, which epazote. When I made it, I didn’t have any on hand, so I used cilantro instead. The flavor was different, but the soup was still delicious.

Posted in Ask A FoodieComments Off on Ask a Foodie: What Is Epazote?

Substitution Is the Name of the Game

caldoverdeI wanted to make some Portuguese caldo verde the other day, but I didn’t have a few of the major ingredients on hand. For one, it’s hard finding Portuguese-style sausage at your neighborhood grocery (yes, Central Market often carries it, but, again, it wasn’t nearby). Also, I didn’t have kale or collard greens in the refrigerator.

What to do? Substitute, of course. I used kielbasa instead of chouriço; both are garlicky and complement the greens and potatoes well. Then I cut up strips of green cabbage instead of collards. I had new potatoes on hand, not Maine or Eastern potatoes.

The end result was slightly different from the traditional recipe, but it was still satisfying on a cold winter evening.

The following is the basic recipe I followed. Make it your own with what you have in your pantry and refrigerator.

Caldo Verde (Green Soup)

1 large yellow onion, peeled and minced fine
1 large garlic clove, peeled and minced
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided use
6 Maine or Eastern potatoes, peeled and sliced thin
2 quarts cold water
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
6 ounces chouriço (Portuguese-style sausage) or garlicky kielbasa, sliced thin
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound collard greens or kale, washed, trimmed of coarse stems and veins, then sliced thin. (The easiest way is to stack 6 to 8 leaves, roll crosswise into a firm, tight roll, then slice with a very sharp knife.)

Sauté the onion and garlic in 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large heavy saucepan 2 to 3 minutes over moderate heat until they begin to color and turn glassy; do not brown or they will turn bitter. Add the potatoes and sauté, stirring constantly, 2 to 3 minutes, until they begin to color also. Add the water and salt, cover and boil gently over moderate heat 20 to 25 minutes until the potatoes are mushy. Meanwhile, fry the sausage in a medium-size heavy skillet over low heat 10 to 12 minutes until most of the fat has cooked out; drain well and reserve.

[amazon-product]0688134157[/amazon-product]When the potatoes are soft, remove the pan from the stove and with a potato masher, mash the potatoes right in the pan in the soup mixture. Add the black pepper, sausage and greens and simmer uncovered 5 minutes until tender and the color of jade. Mix in the remaining tablespoon olive oil and taste the soup for salt and pepper. Ladle into large soup plates and serve as a main course accompanied by chunks of rustic bread.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Adapted from “The Food of Portugal” by Jean Anderson

Posted in RecipesComments (3)

Mi Pueblo: Mexican Home-Cooking

MiPueblo2Readers and friends can be the best sources for restaurant recommendations. There are countless places I’ve passed by without a second thought until someone has raved about a particular dish or a two. Such was the case with Mi Pueblo Mexican Restaurant, a family-owned place on Nacogdoches Road near O’Connor.

A fellow member of my bell choir insisted it was the real deal, and he kept talking in terms I could understand. When he said it was like having Patty’s Tacos on the northeast side, I was sold.

So, I ventured in. And I went back. And I went back again and again. On most of those trips, the timing was a little off. I wanted a snack in mid-afternoon or I wanted dinner after 8 p.m.

Food: 3.5
Service: 3.0
Value: 4.5

Rating scale:
5: Extraordinary
4: Excellent
3: Good
2: Fair
1: Poor

I’m saying this because the traffic was light each time – certainly nothing as busy as the swarms at Patty’s – and the service quick and efficient. Who knows what a rush of people could do, but I urge you to rush there.

That’s because the food tastes like something out of a family kitchen. The handmade corn tortillas, just a little thicker than those pressed flat, have a freshness about them that makes you want to squeeze a touch of lime on them. The salsa has its own distinctive edge from a touch of cilantro that keeps you reaching for more chips.

The taco al pastor, with a definite pineapple tang, was so good that I couldn’t set it down after the first bite. In fact, I had most of it eaten before the waiter could bring around the cilantro and onion meant to garnish it. No problem; I just used it to crown the vibrant, crunchy chalupa and to garnish the pork-filled red tamal.

MiPueblo1The caldo de res arrived with a pile of bones in the bowl. That may seem odd to some, but each was filled with so much marrow that I found myself obsessively picking every last one clean. (I’m glad no one else was there to watch me). The soup itself had a hearty stock made bright with a squeeze of lime juice while the vegetables were soft without being overcooked.

Perhaps my favorite dish sampled so far, and the one that keeps me returning for more, was the plate of shrimp enchiladas. Again, the corn tortillas were handmade. The shrimp inside tasted freshly cooked and just-peeled, firm, not mealy or soggy. The tomatillo salsa on top was zesty and rich in both acidity and flavor.

Mi Pueblo’s interior is colorful and spacious with several flat screen TVs broadcasting the news. (I remember on my first visit being somewhat distracted by coverage of the Fort Hood shootings. Most of which later turned out to be false, but there was something reassuring in the comfort of those shrimp enchiladas.)

Now you know about Mi Pueblo.  Now, it’s your turn to tell someone else.

Mi Pueblo Mexican Restaurant Bar & Grill
13860 Nacogdoches Road
(210) 967-6700
Breakfast: Saturday-Sunday; lunch-dinner: Tuesday-Sunday

Posted in RestaurantsComments (5)