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Chocolate - Food of the Gods

The scientific name for the cacao tree is Theobroma cacao -'food of the gods.' The cacao tree is strictly a tropical plant thriving only in hot, rainy climates. Thus, its cultivation is confined to the lands not more than 20 degrees north and south of the equator.

Archeologists tell us the Olmecs, the oldest civilization of the Americas (1500-400 BC), were probably the first users of cacao, followed by other Mesoamerican (Central American) peoples like the Mayans (600 BC) and then the Aztecs (400 AD).

For these civilizations, cacao was a symbol of abundance. It was used in religious rituals dedicated to Quetzalcoatl, the Aztec god responsible for bringing the cocoa tree to man, to Chak ek Chuah, the Mayan patron saint of cocoa and as an offering at the funerals of noblemen. It was also important as a currency and has been used as such, in certain parts of South America, right up to the beginning of the 20th century.

Originally consumed in the form of a drink, they crushed the cacao beans, mixed them with water and added spices, chilies and herbs. Christopher Columbus was the first European to taste the drink and quickly spit out the bitter concoction. The Aztec emperor Montezuma offered it to Hernando Cortes who then brought it back to Spain in 1528. The Spanish court soon fell under the spell of this exotic elixir and adapted it to their taste, adding cane sugar, vanilla and cinnamon.

One final note: Montezuma, believing in its aphrodisiac properties, became renowned for the vast quantities of foaming 'xocolatl' he used to drink before visiting his harem of wives. So, you might want to get your sweetie a box of chocolate for Valentine's Day, if you know what I mean. ;) 

Chocolate Quiz  Read more... 


Recipe - Mole Manchamanteles

El Naranjo is a world famous restaurant in Mexico that features the 7 moles of Oaxaca. The name Mole Manchamanteles (pronounced Moe-Ley) is derived from the fact that this sweet light sauce spills easy and stains tablecloths. I must pre- warn you that mole is a very time-consuming, complicated recipe. If you want to try traditional chocolate mole without the hassle, buy a jar of Doña Maria or Corona Real sauce from the grocery store and pour it over your favorite meat. ¡Buen Provecho! 

Cut chiles open, remove stems and seeds, and spread flat on a baking sheet. Roast at 250° for 15 minutes or until chiles shrivel and turn slightly darker. Soak toasted chiles in hot water for about 20 minutes. In a heavy skillet, sauté onion, unpeeled garlic and tomatoes until charred around the edges. Remove garlic cloves and peel. To another pan add 1 tablespoon oil and fry the almonds, peppercorns, cloves, oregano, thyme and cinnamon until heated through and the spices release their aroma. Remove cinnamon stick and puree in a blender. Press mixture through a sieve. Transfer soaked chiles to a blender, process with just enough of the soaking water to form a thick paste. Press through a sieve. In a heavy skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil, add the chile mixture and sauté. Add pureed onion, garlic, tomatoes,almonds, herbs and spices. Simmer the mole, adding water to achieve the correct consistency: It should coat the back of a spoon. Add salt and parsley. Cook the chicken. To a stockpot add chicken, 1 quart water, onion, garlic and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and poach the chicken until tender, about 30 minutes. To finish the dish, heat the oil and butter in a skillet and sauté the pineapple chunks. Remove and set aside. Sauté the plantain slices until golden, add plantains and pineapple to the prepared mole, along with the chicken and parsley sprigs, and simmer for 10 more minutes.

5 ancho chiles
1/2 medium onion, peeled and chopped
3 medium garlic cloves, unpeeled
3 medium tomatoes
Vegetable oil
5 almonds, blanched
4 black peppercorns
4 cloves
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 medium cinnamon stick
3 sprigs parsley
Stock or water, as needed
8 pieces chicken or pork
1 quart water
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
3 medium garlic cloves
1 tablespoon salt
1-1/2 tablespoons oil
4 tablespoons butter
1 slice fresh pineapple, chunked
2 ripe plantains, sliced


Article and Recipe courtesy of CasaQ - A Culture. A Lifestyle.
CasaQ is dedicated to presenting unique products that reflect our culture and heritage blending modern with traditional, and old with new. CasaQ is dedicated to providing opportunities to our consultants and customers to enrich their family values and lifestyles. CasaQ celebrates life!
408 280-1065, info@casaq.com

 

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