Mojo de Ajo and What to Do With It

Since returning from Mexico I’ve been enjoying Jason Wyrick’s book Vegan Mexico, which offers lots of interesting and authentic recipes. One of them is for a very useful item: mojo de ajo – olive oil infused with garlic and citrus. I made a small batch a week ago and have been keeping it in the fridge. I don’t use a lot of oil these days, and usually prefer to cook using vegetable broth, but once in a while it’s a nice change. Here’s the basic recipe, followed by two of many dishes you could use it for:

Mojo de Ajo

1 cup olive oil
1/2 cup peeled whole garlic cloves
1/2 tsp salt
juice from one lime, orange, or lemon

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place olive oil in a baking dish and add garlic and salt. Bake for about 45 minutes. Carefully retrieve from oven and add citrus juice. Bake for another 20 mins or so. Remove from oven, let cool a bit, and, with the back of a wooden spoon, mash the garlic inside the olive oil. Keep in fridge and use where scented olive oil is appropriate.

White Beans, Zucchini, and Tomato

1/2 tsp mojo de ajo
1/2 small white onion, diced
1 medium-sized zucchini, sliced into thin rings
1 medium-sized tomato, diced
1 cup cooked white beans (cannellini, navy, or similar)
big handful of herbs: I like rosemary and oregano for this, but be creative

Heat mojo de ajo in pan. Add vegetables, beans, and herbs, and toss about for 7-10 minutes until fragrant.

Roasted Vegetables

1 tsp mojo de ajo
2-3 sweet potatoes, sliced
1/2 small white onion, diced
3-4 heads bok choy, separated into leaves
6 garlic cloves
1-2 cups assorted mushrooms
big handful of herbs
2 corn cobs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut a piece of parchment paper double the size of your baking sheet. Place the bottom half of the paper on the sheet and rub mojo de ajo on it. Arrange vegetables and herbs on the baking sheet, then fold other side of parchment on top of them and put in oven for approximately 40 minutes.

Make Thine Own Tortillas!

I’m back from two weeks of travel, the first of which was spent in beautiful Mexico City. What a treat! Art everywhere, delightful and interesting people, lots to see, and lots to eat! It’s extremely easy to eat vegan in Mexico City. There are several vegan businesses: Gatorta, a vegan taco and torta stand at the corner of Puebla and Insurgentes, and Viko, a vegan taqueria-susheria in the Chapultepec underpass serving delicious soy horchata. I also had excellent vegan dishes with friends at Paramo on Avenida Yucatan – they made us ceviche from hearts of palm, tacos with roasted mushrooms, and a beautiful lentil salad.

But everywhere you go, even if the menu appears meat-heavy, just ask them for vegetables and they’ll prepare them for you. I had tacos with rajas (roasted poblano pepper strips), nopales (cooked cactus fruit) and champiniones (cooked mushrooms), with heaping bowls of frijoles de olla (cooked beans served in their fragrant pot liquor.) The cheese-and-cream-on-tacos thing is, thankfully, not a feature of authentic Mexican cuisine, at least where I went, so everything was vegan and delicious.

My main takeaway from all this is that homemade tortillas are way better than purchased ones. So, when I bought groceries this morning at Casa Lucaz I picked up a fresh bag of masa. I rolled a little ball, about an inch and a half in diameter, and placed it in my new cast iron tortilla press, between two layers of parchment paper. It turned out a perfect disc, and I then popped it on a hot cast-iron pan for about a minute on one side, then 30 seconds on the other. It came out perfect and terrific – fluffy, flexible, full of corn flavor – and was a great base for a tofu and greens taco.

Making my own tortillas is absolutely worthwhile from the flavor perspective and also quick and easy, so I’m never looking back – it’s all about the press and the pan from now on. I’m planning a nice Mexican mini-feast this evening using my new Talavera dishes – check out the pictures. In the blue dish: two pico-de-gallo salads (we like these!), some fresh spinach, guacamole, and tomatillo hot sauce. In the red dish: baked winter squash, Rancho Gordo beans, sauteed mushrooms with onion and a drop of whiskey, and sauteed kale in orange juice. Not all of these are traditional, of course–and you’ll note that the rajas and nopales are missing–but they will be so tasty with the fresh tortillas!