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Another Summer is Almost Gone

As another summer comes to a close, nature offers us new and ingenious ways to prepare meals. Quinoa, Potato, and Nova Salmon Salad is a recipe that was inspired by a  salad enjoyed in the countries of the Andes, where the potato origi­nated. It is a very versatile salad that goes well with a wide range of proteins, such as cooked chicken, turkey, or shrimp. However, it is especially colorful with the Nova salmon. This salad is rich in vita­mins C and A, and has good amounts of potassium, iron, vitamins B1 and B6, folate, and niacin. Click here for the recipe.

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Grilling on the 4th!

This is the time of the year when people enjoy grilling steaks, chicken, salmon, and hot dogs. I thought of my raw tomatillo and avocado dip with chia from my book Cooking with Ancient Grains (published by Adams Media) would with perfect choice for your grilling meats, and fish. This sauce serves dual purpose, it can be used as a sauce on top of the meats or as a dip with you favorite dipper.

Reyna, a lovely, young Mexican woman who works for me in the kitchen, shared this recipe, which she learned from her mother. It is a staple in their home. In this dish, the tomatillos are not cooked, just blended to a coarse purée and then mixed with other raw ingredients, making this an ideal dish for people who wish to add more raw foods to their diets. This dip is a great source of vitamin C, and potassium. Click here for the recipe.

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Father's day.

For father’s day I couldn’t think of anything better than my quinoa and shrimp recipe from my Cooking with Ancient Grains book (published by Adams Media). Quinoa is a great alternative to rice, so it wasn’t a surprise to me when, in my last trip to Argentina, I found quinoa risotto. When I made it, the only problem I found was that quinoa does not have the starch that gives the creamy texture to risotto like risotto rices (such as arborio or carnar­oli) do. I decided to add some rice flour to make up for the lack of starch in quinoa. As an alternative, you can do as the French do and add a few spoonfuls of cream instead. Click here for the recipe.

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Happy mother's day!

For this special occasion, I would like to share with you a recipe from my book Cooking with Ancient Grains (published by Adam's Media) which was inspired by the African and Middle Eastern Cookbook. In Morocco, this dish is usually severed as part of a celebration meal, as you will find in my book (pg. 83) and I use quinoa instead in couscous, click here for the recipe.

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For the Summer

The wife of a Mexican doctor gave me the recipe for beef tacos many years ago. She said this is the way her mother and grandmother made their beef tacos. What I love about them is the potato, which not only lends a special texture but also serves as an extender, especially for people who don’t want to eat too much meat. A great filling to make ahead, double the recipe and you will have some extra to freeze. Beef tacos are not only a great meal for any occasion, click here for the recipe.

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EASTER – PASCUA

With Easter approaching I thought I would share my special recipe for Sopa Paraguaya from Paraguay, which is the only country in South America that has had two official languages – Spanish and Guarani – and 90% of the people speak both, click here for the recipe.

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New Latin American Christmas

Christmas is a time when Christians around the world gather to celebrate God’s greatest gift to the world – the birth of his only son, Christ. For Latin Americans it is, above all, a religious holiday, a time to be with family and friends, to give and share from the heart. More than any other holiday, Christmas brings families together in a celebration of deep-seated traditions.  For Latin Americans it is a time of rejoicing at the triumph of light over darkness, a promise of hope and of peace on earth, good will among men. It is a time of giving and of sharing in the special foods and customs of the season. Christmas holidays were very special times for my family and I; memories of the commotion and excitement of preparing for the holidays are still vivid in my mind.  My mother and aunt Michita were accomplished cooks, and each mastered the preparation of breads, tamales, and cookies and chocolates to fill the paper bags that were put on the Christmas tree. I like to offer friends that come to visit during the holidays a cup of hot chocolate with chipotle, and one of my favorite cookies, butter crescents.

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Summer

I can’t think of better dishes for entertaining than ceviches. They are light, refreshing and can be made the day before or a few hours ahead. It is the ideal first course or snack.

Ceviches (also spelled as cebiches and seviches) are marinated foods that can be found in most Latin American countries, but the ceviches from Ecuador and Peru are justly the most famous in South America, definitely the most varied and unusual. Ceviches made with fish and shellfish are the most popular, but in Ecuador and Peru a variety of vegetables are also used to make different variations of ceviches. The fish must be absolutely fresh in order to make fish ceviches. The raw fish is “cooked” in the marinade and some shellfish like scallops are also used raw. Shrimp, chicken, mushrooms and other vegetables have to be pre-cooked before adding to the marinade. The ceviches from Ecuador are soupy because they are served with the marinade, while the Peruvian are more like a salad. Ceviches from Mexico are also famous and better known in the U.S. This is one kind of specialty that captures the heart and the palate of anybody who has traveled to the Latin America countries. Click here for my famous marinated shrimp & hearts of palm ceviche.

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Easter

Empanadas de hongos (mushroom turnovers) were one of my mother’s favorite first courses for dinner parties. Of course, the puff pastry was always made at home. I remember my younger sister Ximena loved to make puff pastry, I think she was 10 years old when she learned how to make this dough. These empanadas were also a favorite of my cooking class students, and they are always a treat for family and friends, whether they are made in the large size for lunch or the hors d’oeuvre size. The bonus—they freeze beautifully. To accommodate today’s busy schedules, I often rely on ready-made puff pastry, as in this version of the dish. Click here for the recipe.

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Christmas In Latin America

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Christmas In Latin America

Christmas is a time when Christians around the world gather to celebrate God’s greatest gift to the world – the birth of his only son, Christ. For Latin Americans it is, above all, a religious holiday, a time to be with family and friends, to give and share from the heart. It is a celebration of deep-seated traditions, of the triumph of light over darkness, of the promise of hope, peace on earth and of good will among people.

            More than any other holiday, Christmas evokes childhood memories, locked in our heart, of family and friends sharing the special foods and customs of the holiday season.  I still remember fondly the hustle and bustle prior to Christmas. The men helping set up the manger and the Christmas tree, the women fussing in the kitchen preparing the delicious sweets that would be shared, not only with the family and friends but also with the needy. I can never forget the aromas drifting from the kitchen.

            The Latin American Yuletide traditions reflect our heritage. Most of our customs were brought by the Spaniards, German and Italians and adapted to the local conditions. The celebrations in many countries, especially in the rural areas, embody the folklore of each country, such as the famous “posadas” in Mexico and Guatemala, or the pageants, tableaux and dances in Brazil. And no celebration would be complete without the traditional foods served during the holiday season – tamales, all sorts of fritters (buñuelos, pristiños), sweet breads (pan dulces) and the tremendous variety of drinks that go with them, such as hot chocolate, atoles and fruit punches.

            Let us share with our friends some of the Latin American traditions by inviting them for the classic hot chocolate and our favorite fritters, and of course music; the  villancicos (Christmas songs) will get you in the spirit of the season. Click hear for my famous pristiños recipe. FELIZ NAVIDAD to all.

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Summer Bounty

Tomato and onion salads are especially good at this time of the year. Use any kind of tomatoes, diced or sliced, and take advantage of the summer bounty by using a variety of colorful tomatoes. Cherry or grape tomatoes come in different colors.  Simply halve them and enjoy them dressed with a little olive oil and vinegar or lemon juice and your favorite fresh herbs. (click here for recipe)

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Collisions of Food and Culture

I was asked the other day why we celebrate Columbus Day in the United States when it is essentially a Latin American holiday. Of course, I know why—it’s because in finding land on the far side of the Atlantic Ocean, Columbus opened up the whole New World. But I also realized she had a point—the initial impact was largely in what we now know as Latin America.

It all began in 1492, when Columbus landed on Hispaniola and encountered a world that was nothing like what he had expected. From the moment he arrived, Columbus and his men were fed by their hosts, and everything they ate was new, unfamiliar, and, on the whole, wonderful. On his second voyage, Columbus brought with him a wide range of seeds, plants, and food animals from Europe. The meeting of the two cuisines would have as big an impact as the meeting of the two cultures. Entirely new cuisines were about to develop.

In the beginning the cuisine was rather rudimentary. The diet of the Indian population in the Caribbean, Mexico, and South America was mainly vegetarian, with only occasional fish or wild game, depending on their location. The Indians seemed to have had a folk wisdom about dietary needs that we now recognize, thanks to scientific research. In order to supplement the lack of protein and other nutrients in maize, the Incas planted kidney beans in the same fields as maize, while the Aztecs grew tomatoes instead. This seemed to help regenerate the soil, in addition to providing needed nutrients. Along with corn the Indians ate peppers, beans, tomatoes and squash to achieve a balanced diet. Unfortunately, while the Spanish adopted many of the local foods, they rejected some foods that were essential to the Indian diet in some regions, destroying fields of quinoa of the Incas and amaranth of the Aztecs, mainly to replace them with the less nourishing wheat.

Unlike the Pilgrims who settled Massachusetts a century later, the Spanish and Portuguese did not bring women with them. As a result, they relied heavily on Indians for cooking, which led to the blending of European and American foods, as Indian women would have done most of the food preparation. In addition, because they came without wives, the Spanish and Portuguese also blended with the population, as they took Indian women as wives.

When Spanish women finally arrived in the 17th century, Creole cuisine really began to flourish. By this time, some of the American ingredients that had been carried to Europe had already gone through the process of “creolization.” The Spanish women brought sofrito, the perfect Creole sauce made with Spanish onions and garlic, sautéed in olive oil, and adding  Indian tomatoes and peppers. This condiment came to season just about every savory dish in the Latin cuisine. The Spanish women also brought the cacao beans converted into one of the most delicious drinks, hot chocolate that became a favorite of colonial hostesses and eventually of the masses.

AREPAS

Arepas are simple corn cakes first made by the Indians of Colombia and Venezuela. They were an important part of their diet, like corn tortillas were to the Aztecs. Over the centuries, the poor people of Colombia and Venezuela continued to use arepas as an inexpensive, easy-to- prepare source of nourishment. Today, these humble corn cakes are a comfort food for rich and poor alike, a heart-warming tribute to simplicity, tradition, versatility, and good taste.

Originally, arepas were made from dried corn kernels, which were soaked overnight in water and lime to remove the skins and then cooked, drained and ground to make into masa (dough), a process very similar to the one used to make the dough for Mexican tortillas. Thanks to modern technology, pre-cooked flour (masa al instante—but note that this is different from the Mexican masa harina) is now available at most Latin American markets. An instant masa can be made by simply mixing this corn flour (either white or yellow) with a little salt and enough hot water to make a stiff dough. The dough is then shaped into flat, round cakes of varying thicknesses depending on the intended use, and cooked on the griddle or deep-fried. In the old days, in Colombia, arepas were cooked on top of a laja, a special flagstone slab, which was first heated and then brushed with fat. The Venezuelan Indians used the aripo, a cooking utensil from which the name arepa was probably derived. Arepas de chócolo are made from fresh corn and cooked on top of banana leaves.

Colombian arepas are generally thinner than their Venezuelan counterparts. The standard Venezuelan arepa looks somewhat like a flat bread roll, crispy on the outside and doughy on the inside. They can be split open and buttered, or spread with cream cheese or fresh goat cheese. Made this way, they are served for breakfast or as an accompaniment for grilled fowl, fish, meat stews, or sausages. A popular snack in Colombia consists of arepas served with fresh cheese and fried chorizo (sausage). Some cooks also make them very thin, like Mexican tortillas; these are wonderful just spread with a little butter. In Venezuela, the doughy inside is sometimes scooped out, and the shell is then filled with savory mixtures of ground or chopped pork, beef, ham, chicken, seafood, vegetables or beans. Prepared in this fashion, they make excellent first courses. The uses are generally limited only by the cook's imagination . Venezuelan mandocas, for example, consist of cheese arepa dough shaped into rings and deep-fried. Another specialty is bollos pelones —balls of arepa dough stuffed with seasoned ground meat, either fried or poached in water, then served with tomato sauce. Colombians and Venezuelans also make tasty soups and dumplings using fresh masa dough or leftover arepas. And finally, let us not forget arepitas dulces (sweet arepas), which are served for dessert.

The versatile arepa indeed proves that unpretentious foods can be not only satisfying, but delicious as well. The recipes for the most popular versions in both countries follow. Click here for the Arepas recipe.

           

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CARNIVALS IN Latin-America

Carnival is one of the most beloved celebrations in Latin America. It has its roots in Italy as a celebration observed by the Roman Catholic Church before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. From Italy it spread across Europe and then to the New World. It was introduced to New Orleans by the French and Latin American countries by the Spanish and Portuguese.

The way Carnival is celebrated varies from country to country, and even from city to city, but all celebrations have some things in common. Carnival is a time to party, to let go, and to enjoy life; to sing and to dance and to eat for a few days before the fasting and deprivations of the 40 days of Lent. Celebrations usually start at the beginning of February and last anywhere from 3 days to a month, as in Paraguay.

According to Fodor's and The Argentina Independent, Rio de Janeiro 's Carnival is one of the largest and perhaps the best known throughout the world. The Samba Schools lead the parades with people dressed in fabulously elaborate costumes that have been worked on all year.

Bolivia's Carnival, called Oruro, is also a large event that, unlike Brazil, is not celebrated in one place. It takes place in La Paz at an altitude of 3700 meters above sea level. It celebrates the three different climatic and cultural regions of the Andes, spreading over 400 square miles on the Bolivian Altiplano. Each region is represented by their traditional dress and dances. The carnival has been celebrated for more than 200 years. The UNESCO, in 2001, proclaimed this carnival one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

Barranquilla Carnival in Colombia is also among the largest in Latin America. It lasts for 4 days and has roots in European, African, and Indian traditions. UNESCO also named the Barranquilla Carnival a "World Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity."

Another important Carnival is in Veracruz, Mexico. This event has been called the most joyful festival in the world. It starts with bonfires to kill the bad moods and ends with the funeral of "Juan Carnaval".

The Carnaval Encarnaceno in Paraguay takes place in the city of Encarnacion. It is the longest lasting festival in Latin America, with 22 days of drinking, dancing and partying. It attracts an estimated 60,000 tourist every year.   

The food served at each Carnival varies, with each country serving favorite, local specialties.

CARNIVAL MEMORIES

Margarida Nogueira shares her memories on how her family spent the Carnivals. For them Carnival is the most beloved of all traditional holidays.  It is the time of the year when Brazilians express their happiness and joie de vivre three days before Lent. The Escolas de Samba (Samba Schools) lead the parades with people dressed in those amazing and colorful costumes that are crafted throughout the year – from devils and angels, to queens and pirates, Indians and beautiful Bahianas; it is a time of joy and good will, of simply letting go.

When we were teenagers, my parents preferred to leave Rio de Janeiro and go to our country home in a small town up on the hills. They knew that the Carnival there was still celebrated as a big party, in a smaller, healthier environment, where we could dance, have fun or just, as we like to say in Brazil, brincar o Carnival (horse around) and go to the parades. Besides, my brothers and I were free to bring as many friends as we could fit in the house.

I can still taste and remember all the good food my mother used to prepare with the help of the maids, who also enjoyed having all the young people around. The guests always brought special treats – cakes, cookies and preserves. For Saturday, Sábado de Carnaval, Feijoada Completa (Bean and Meat Stew) was a must. Moqueca, Picadinho, Vatapá and many other Creole dishes were prepared during those magical days.

On Mardi Gras (Terça-feira Gorda) we generally had my mother’s special Roast Loin of Pork with Farofa de Banana and a most anticipated dessert, Pudim Quero Mais (I want more pudding).

Over the years things have changed and, although the Carnival parade is still fantastic, for me it looks more like a Broadway musical. Regardless, the memories of those days are always present in my mind and in the pudding I prepare for my grandchildren who say: quero mas, quero mas!

By Margarida Nogueira.

 

 Margarida's grand children helping with the pudding.

LOMBO DE PORCO (Roast Loin of Pork)

MARINADE
1 cup white wine
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup basil leaves
1/2 cup parsley leaves
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
6 black peppercorns
1 garlic clove
1 tablespoon olive oil
2-1/2 to 3 pounds loin of pork boneless
1 cup sliced onions
Juicie from 1 orange
1 tablespoon orange zest

1.  Place all the ingredients for the marinade in the blender and process until pureed. Place pork in a glass container, or plastic bag, add marinade, cover and leave it in the refrigerator overnight.
2.  Remove pork from the marinade and reserve marinade. Put pork over a bed of sliced onions in a baking pan and bake in a preheated 425° F oven for 20 minutes; reduce the heat to 375ºF and continue baking for about 40 minutes or until golden brown, basting from time to time with the marinade. Remove roast from the pan and let it rest for a few minutes while finishing the sauce. 
3.  Degrease juices in the pan, add remaining marinade and the juice of 1 orange and bring it to a boil, simmer for a few minutes, stirring, season with salt and pepper to taste and add orange zest.
4.  To serve, slice the pork and serve with some of the sauce on top, either with farofa de banana or mashed potatoes.

PUDIM QUERO MAIS (I want more Pudding) 

Brazilian sweets are generally very sweet.  I have cut down the amount of sugar in this recipe and even so, for some palates, it is still too sweet. I have also made this dessert without the caramel and found it to be just as delicious. I sprinkle some dry coconut on top and serve either warm or at room temperature.

CARAMEL
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

PUDDING
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 tablespoon butter
6 whole eggs
1-1/2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 cup coconut milk (Brazilian coconut milk is thin)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1.  In a small heavy saucepan, mix all caramel ingredients. Cook over medium heat without stirring, for about 13 to 14 minutes or till you get a golden caramel. Immediately pour caramel into a 4-6 cup ring mold and turn in all directions to film the bottom and sides.
2.  In a medium size saucepan mix sugar and water to prepare a sugar syrup; when it reaches a medium density, remove from the heat, add butter and let it cool.
3.  In a large bowl beat the whole eggs till they begin to foam; add coconut milk, grated cheese mixed with the flour and finally the sugar syrup. Mix well and pour into the caramelized mold.
Bake in water bath in a pre-heated 375ºF oven for 1 hour approximately. Let it cool for 20 minutes before unmolding.

Notes

1. Obs Receita da minha mãe, Luisa Nogueira e que sempre fez muito sucesso na família. (This is my mother’s recipe that was always a hit with the family).
2. Margarida Nogueira lives and works in Rio de Janeiro. She is a food writer, culinary historian, cooking teacher and restaurant consultant. She has worked as a consultant with cookbook writers in the United States.

 

 

 

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LATIN AMERICAN CHRISTMAS

Christmas is a time when Christians around the world gather to celebrate God’s greatest gift to the world – the birth of his only son, Christ. For Latin Americans it is, above all, a religious holiday, a time to be with family and friends, to give and share from the heart. It is a celebration of deep-seated traditions, of the triumph of light over darkness, of the promise of hope, peace on earth and of good will among people.

More than any other holiday, Christmas evokes childhood memories, locked in our heart, of family and friends sharing the special foods and customs of the holiday season.  I still remember fondly the hustle and bustle prior to Christmas. The men helping set up the manger and the Christmas tree, the women fussing in the kitchen preparing the delicious sweets that would be shared, not only with the family and friends but also with the needy. I can never forget the aromas drifting from the kitchen.

The Latin American Yuletide traditions reflect our heritage. Most of our customs were brought by the Spaniards, German and Italians and adapted to the local conditions. The celebrations in many countries, especially in the rural areas, embody the folklore of each country, such as the famous “posadas” in Mexico and Guatemala, or the pageants, tableaux and dances in Brazil. And no celebration would be complete without the traditional foods served during the holiday season – tamales, all sorts of fritters (buñuelos, pristiños), sweet breads (pan dulces) and the tremendous variety of drinks that go with them, such as hot chocolate, atoles and fruit punches. Let us share with our friends some of the Latin American traditions by inviting them for the classic hot chocolate and our favorite fritters, and of course music; the villancicos (Christmas songs) will get you in the spirit of the season. FELIZ NAVIDAD to all.


PRISTIÑOS DE NOCHE BUENA (Crullers)
These fritters are the classic Christmas dessert in Ecuador. Similar fritters are found in other Latin American countries under different names such as sopapillas, picarones, depending on the country. Some are made with yeast instead of baking powder and are mixed with pureed squash.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 ounces (4 tablespoons) butter or shortening, room temperature, cut up in 4 pieces
3 eggs lightly beaten
1 tablespoon anise liqueur

Place flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in the bowl of the food processor, and pulse to mix. Add butter, pulse until it looks like coarse meal. Add eggs and liqueur, and process until it forms a ball. (If preparing by hand mix the flour with baking powder, sugar and salt. Mix with butter, eggs and liqueur, kneading until dough forms bubbles.)

Cover dough with plastic wrap and let it rest for 30 minutes at room temperature. Roll dough into a cylinder, cut in two, then cut each half cylinder into eight pieces. Roll each piece into a strip about 2 x 6 inches. With scissors, make diagonal cuts on one side about halfway across the strip—about four cuts. Press ends together to form a wreath.

Heat about 1-inch of oil in a frying pan to 360°F. Drop 2 or 3 wreaths at a time and fry swishing the oil with a large slotted spoon over the wreaths. Fry on both sides until golden, then drain on paper towels. They are best served right away with Miel de Panela. Otherwise serve them at room temperature.

MIEL DE PANELA (Brown Sugar Syrup)

1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar or ground panela
1/2 cup water
2 whole cloves
1 small cinnamon stick
2 strips lemon peel

Place all ingredients in a heavy 4-quart saucepan and simmer over low heat, stirring
occasionally, until it forms a heavy syrup. Strain through a medium sieve, and serve, or cool and refrigerate. It lasts for several months refrigerated. Makes 16 pastries
Adapted from “The South American Table” published in 2003 by Harvard Common
Press.


CHOCOLATE CALIENTE (Hot Chocolate)
Chocolate is one of the most delicious foods the Latin American Indians gave the world. There is hardly any country around the world that doesn’t enjoy chocolate, whether it is made into drinks or fabulous confections. At this time of the year in Latin America, hot chocolate is the indispensable accompaniment to tamales during the holidays. When people drop by to visit friends or relatives, you can be sure the hostess will be ready to offer them a cup of hot chocolate and a tamale. There are different types of chocolate that varies with the country. The common denominator is that it should be thick and foamy. According to a saying “For a cup of chocolate to be perfect, it must be hot, sweet, thick and made by the h ands of a woman.”
Unfortunately, in the last few years hot chocolate has lost some of its glamour and coffee and tea are replacing this very special drink. I prefer to use whole milk but you can use any type of milk you like, the texture will be different depending on what type of milk you use.

4 cups milk ( 2% or whole milk, almond or soy milk)
3-4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, cut up in small pieces
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Whipped cream, optional

In a heavy 2-quart saucepan, mix milk, chocolate pieces. Bring to a boil over very
low heat, whisking often so it doesn’t stick to the bottom.  When the chocolate has
completely melted, increase the heat to medium and bring to a quick boil, whisking all the time. After a couple of minutes the foam will start rising. Remove pan from the heat before it reaches the top of the saucepan and continue beating.  If you are lucky, you will be able to get the foam to stay. Mexican cooks are famous for serving their hot chocolate with a lot of foam. Stir in vanilla extract.
Serve immediately in small coffee cups or mugs; if you are serving 8-ounce portions, top with a dollop of whipped cream if desired. As the chocolate cools it will thicken. Serves 4 to 6 (More information about the history of chocolate can be found in the South American Table.)

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