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
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. ;)
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.
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
5 almonds, blanched
4 black peppercorns
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
and Recipe courtesy of CasaQ - A Culture.
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