El Restaurante Mexicano March/April 2011 : Page 17

SPECIALREPORT&#1a;-EXICO IT’S BERRY SEASON: A Healthy Ingredient Wakes Up Flavor BY KAREN HURSH GRABER, WRITINGFROM-EXICO B erries have not always been common ingredients in the Mexican kitchen. Until re-cently, their use was limited to traditional berry-producing re-gions, such as the Sierra de Puebla, where berry preserves, liqueurs, and atoles made from locally grown berries have long been part of the culinary repertoire. However, Mexico has recognized its potential for berry export could one day rival that of Chile. Conse-quently, berries are grown com-mercially during most of the year, especially in Jalisco and Michoacán. Mexican chefs also have begun to incorporate a variety of berries into the dishes featured on restaurant menus. Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries now appear regularly in Mexican mercados and supermarkets. Early morning shoppers can usually spot chefs in their white jackets selecting berries at Mexico City’s gourmet produce market, Mercado San Juan. These will be included on breakfast menus and used in salads, poultry dishes, desserts, MARCHsAPRIL
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It’s Berry Season

Karen Hursh Graber

Special Report :Maxico<br /> <br /> IT'S BERRY SEASON: A Healthy Ingredient Wakes Up Flavor<br /> <br /> Berries have not always been common ingredients in the Mexican kitchen. Until recently, their use was limited to traditional berry-producing regions, such as the Sierra de Puebla, where berry preserves, liqueurs, and atoles made from locally grown berries have long been part of the culinary repertoire.<br /> <br /> However, Mexico has recognized its potential for berry export could one day rival that of Chile. Consequently, berries are grown commercially during most of the year, especially in Jalisco and Michoacán. Mexican chefs also have begun to incorporate a variety of berries into the dishes featured on restaurant menus.<br /> <br /> Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries now appear regularly in Mexican mercados and supermarkets. Early morning shoppers can usually spot chefs in their white jackets selecting berries at Mexico City's gourmet produce market, Mercado San Juan. These will be included on breakfast menus and used in salads, poultry dishes, desserts, Beverages, and as garnishes.<br /> <br /> Blackberries have probably appeared on menus longer than most other berries, not only in the small restaurants of Puebla's Sierra region, but also in fi ne dining establishments in Mexico City. At the Hacienda de los Morales, in business as a restaurant for more than 40 years, pato a la zarzamora- duck in blackberry sauce- Has become a signature dish. At Fonda Garufa, also in the capital city, blackberries with cheese are part of the dessert menu.<br /> <br /> Other than blackberries, the only other berries customarily used in Mexican cooking were the strawberries that garnished cakes in the French-infl uenced pastelerias, or cake shops. Strawberries were also found served with cream at roadside stands in Guanajuato, and with rompope cream in Puebla's upscale restaurants And homes. All that has changed, and today strawberries appear in a variety of ways on menus.<br /> <br /> Berry dishes<br /> <br /> At La Fonda de San Miguel in Guadalajara, a strawberry and tomato salad is served with hierba buena, or mint, dressing and at Mexico City's Les Moustaches, the rollos de pato consist of duck baked in phyllo dough and topped with strawberry sauce. At Puerto Vallarta's River Café, a strawberry and cheese tart is served with kiwi sauce, and strawberries are also used in smoothies or with waffl es.<br /> <br /> Perhaps the most popular of the berries Mexican chefs currently favor is the raspberry, typically used in dressings for salads and sauces for poultry. At Santo Coyote in Guadalajara, the ensalada arantxa is a spinach and goat cheese salad with pecans, grapes, and raspberry dressing. The grilled apple salad with mixed greens and camembert cheese at the River Café also features raspberry dressing, and a raspberry sauce is served with the baked duck leg and breast.<br /> <br /> Mexico City's Restaurant D. O. (Denominacion de Origen) serves duck hams with raspberry sauce, and also prepares a raspberry and goat cheese gratin. At Puerto Vallarta's La Palapa, a raspberry coulis accompanies the brioche French toast. And a combination that has become quite popular in Mexico is raspberries and chipotles, blended to make a sauce served with cream cheese or as a meat or poultry glaze.<br /> <br /> Blueberries also appear on menus, most frequently at breakfast and in desserts. They are always included in the berry selection available with all breakfasts at the Four Seasons in Mexico City, and as part of the marinated mixed berries that customers can order with morning meals at La Palapa. Mixed berries are also incorporated into the tres leches bread pudding at Ketsi in Nayarit.<br /> <br /> Healthy and versatile<br /> <br /> Today's diners are more nutrition-savvy than ever, and look for healthy ingredients. The inclusion of berries on the menu, with their much-touted antioxidant and fi ber content, goes a long way toward dispelling the notion that Mexican food is unhealthy fare. Berries are considered a "superfood," and menus could have a small symbol next to items that contain any of the superfoods as ingredients.<br /> <br /> Including berries in salad dressings, sauces, desserts and beverages is not difficult. Adding chile To a raspberry dressing or sauce, pureed to a smooth consistency, makes a simple glaze for all types of poultry.<br /> <br /> Berries also enhance myriad desserts, either incorporated into a pudding or as garnish atop flan or ice cream. Any kind of berries can be added to a green or fruit salad for an instant burst of flavor and a bright touch of color. A reduction of tequila, orange liqueur, lime juice and sugar makes a sophisticated "margarita" dressing for fruit salad, and goes particularly well with one that includes strawberries. Berries do not continue to ripen after picking, so look for plump ones with good color, and check orders carefully to avoid crushed or moldy berries. Do not rinse them until just before using, unless they are to be frozen for later use, in which case they should be carefully rinsed and dried before freezing. And for sauces, don't rule out buying already frozen berries, which have improved tremendously in quality. Frozen raspberries and blackberries, in particular, make good sauces and reductions for either sweet or savory dishes.<br /> <br /> See recipes for Graber's Pato en Zarzamora: Duck Breast in Blackberry Sauce, Salsa de Frambuesa y Chipotle: Raspberry Chipotle Sauce, Budin de Tres Leches con Mora Azul: Tres Leches Bread Pudding with Blueberries and Fresas al Rompope: Strawberries with Rompope Cream on page 28

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