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Vibrant Cancun: Street Art to Du Mexique Restaurant

In Nancy's Articles On February 22, 2018 0 Comments

When thinking of Cancun in Quintana Roo, Mexico, this is the image that comes to mind, right? After all, Cancun is renown for its great beaches and luxurious resorts.
Image.CancunBeachCancun Beach View, Photograph ©2018 Nancy DeLucia Real

In January, I celebrated my birthday in Cancun. And although, we woke up to this spectacular view every morning, my husband and I were anxious to see the culture of the locals in other parts of town.

Braced with our adventurous spirits and a rental car, we drove onto Bonampak Boulevard, a commercial and residential area of the city. We immediately noticed the vibrant architectural scene.
Image.CancunArtHouseMural on Boulevard Bonampak, Photograph ©2018 Nancy DeLucia Real

In Cancun and all of Mexico, you are surrounded by vibrant colors every day. They appear in paintings, sculpture, decorative arts and in glass-domed ceilings such as this one at Kukulkan Galleria Shopping Mall.
Image.CancunGlassDomeGlass Dome, Kukulkan Galleria Shopping Center, Photograph ©2018 Nancy DeLucia Real

Thanks to the great Mexican muralists of the early 20th century (Diego Rivera, David Alvaro Siqueiros, José Clemente Orozco, and others), the art of murals (wall paintings) lives on. Here are some murals made by Cancun’s talented artists:
Image.CancunMuralLadyIndigenousMural on Boulevard Bonampak, Photograph ©2018 Nancy DeLucia Real

This mural is inspired by symbolism related to Middle Eastern cultures. The Hamsa Hand or Hand of Fatima is an ancient Middle Eastern symbol with an eye at center. Native American cultures also used this hand symbol. People believe this talisman protects them from the evil eye and brings them goodness, abundance, fertility, luck and good health. Here, the artist transferred the eye from both hands and placed one eye at the center of what appears to be a heart.
Image.CancunMuralBlvd.KukulkanMural on Boulevard Kukulkan, Cancun, Photograph ©2018 Nancy DeLucia Real

The snakes could represent the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl, also known as Kukulkan in the Maya culture. The native Maya culture thrived in Quintana Roo and Yucatan from the 9th to the 12th centuries.
Image.DetailMuralBlvd.KukulkanMural Detail on Boulevard Kukulkan, Cancun, Photograph ©2018 Nancy DeLucia Real

The mural’s brilliant snake relates to the serpent god Kukulkan (see its heads at base of pyramid (below). It is called El Castillo and is located at Chichen Itza, a large city built by the Maya people. This city thrived from 600 AD. until 1221. You can visit Chichen Itza by driving 2 hours via an impressive toll road.
Image.ChichenItzaKukulkanHeadsEl Castillo Pyramid, Chichen Itza, Yucatan (detail); Photograph ©2018 Nancy DeLucia Real

After driving all over Cancun, our hunger pangs led us to Puerto Juarez where we enjoyed guacamole and beer on the beach:
Image.GuacamoleGuacamole Photograph ©2018 Nancy DeLucia Real

However, the most gourmet meal we had in Cancun was at Du Mexique Restaurant on Bonampak Boulevard. It is owned by Mexican entrepreneur Sonya Grimond and French Chef Benjamin Ferra y Castel.
Image.DuMexiqueOwners
As soon as you meet Sonya and Benjamin, you feel as though you are at home. Their warmth and meticulous attention to detail are astounding. Both Sonya and Chef Benjamin serve you personally.

For his foie gras, Chef Benjamin innovatively lays the flavors of both France and Mexico side-by-side on his canvas – the plate. The foie gras (made from fattened duck liver) is complemented by hibiscus sauce and coconut – Mexican ingredients.

Image.FoieGrasHibiscusFoie Gras Torchon, Coconut & Hibiscus, Toasted Brioche Photograph ©2018 Nancy DeLucia Real

Did you know that in 2010, UNESCO (The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) added the traditional and gastronomic French and Mexican cuisines to the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage?

This Ocean Terrine with Mexican Flavors combines fresh seafood with vegetables from local, private farms.
Image.DuMexiqueTerrine Terrine Photograph ©2018 Nancy DeLucia Real

The Red Mullet couldn’t have been any fresher. Its flesh was still glistening – it truly went from the dock to the table! The Ixnipec sauce tasted of Habanero chile and lime/citrus juices!

Since I eat gluten-free foods, this dish was perfect for me. Notice the French bread. Yes, Chef Benjamin makes bread, too. Surprised?
Image.DuMexiqueFishFilet de Rouget/Red Mullet with Olive Oil & Ixnipec Sauce Photograph ©2018 Nancy DeLucia Real

Image.DuMexiqueNR&OwnersChef Benjamin, Nancy DeLucia Real & Sonya Grimond

Clearly, this was one of the best meals that I have had in a high-end restaurant! Sonya and Chef Benjamin, merci/gracias for a delectable dining experience and your personal attention. We can’t wait to come back to your fabulous restaurant and the exciting city of Cancun!

Text & Photographs ©2018 Nancy DeLucia Real

Valentine’s Day Tuna Tartare Rolls

In Appetizers / Starters, Fish & Shellfish, Fun Foods, Holidays On February 2, 2018 0 Comments

If you want to stay in on Valentine’s Day, make this tuna tartare appetizer. It’ll pair well with the bubbly. And – you’ll have fun in the kitchen!

Prep time: 15 minutes
Makes: 12 to 14 bite-size starters

Ingredients:
One 5 to 6-ounce sushi-grade tuna filet, chopped in 1/4-inch pieces
2 tablespoons finely-chopped chives or stems from green onions
1/2 teaspoon grated, fresh ginger
juice from 1 lime
1 tablespoon olive oil
dried, crushed red chili pepper, to taste
salt, to taste (1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt)
4 Persian cucumbers, peeled and tips cut & discarded

Directions:
1. In a 4-cup mixing bowl, combine the chopped tuna filet, chives or green onions, ginger, lime juice, olive oil, chili pepper and salt.

2. Taste the tuna tartare and, if needed, adjust seasoning and olive oil levels.

3. Cover the tuna tartare and set aside.

4. Meanwhile, using a sharp knife or mandolin, take one cucumber and make paper-thin slices lengthwise.

5. Repeat slicing remaining cucumber.

6. Working with one cucumber slice at a time, place scant 3/4 teaspoon tuna tartare at one end.

7. Gently and tightly roll up the cucumber slice; secure the tuna tartare roll with a toothpick.

8. Set each tuna tartare roll on a serving plate.

9. When all rolls have been assembled, serve them immediately.
Wine Pairing: Champagne, Prosecco or Sauvignon Blanc wine
Text & Photograph ©2018 Nancy DeLucia Real

Orecchiette with Rapini & Sausage

In Pastas, Rice & Legumes (Beans & Grains) On January 3, 2018 0 Comments

This pasta dish with rapini and sausage will comfort you all year round! Its main ingredient is rapini. Rapini are a green vegetable. The leaves, buds and stems are totally edible. Although the buds resemble broccoli, they do not form a large head. Rapini have a slightly bitter taste and we Italians use them in all sorts of recipes. However, this one is a big hit with all who sit around us at our dinner table!

Note: Call your local specialty supermarket and ask them if they carry rapini.

Prep time: 30 minutes (rapini & sausage) & 10 minutes (pasta)
Serves: 4 to 6

For the Rapini:
3 to 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, peeled & whole
1 bunch fresh Rapini (found at Erewhon, Gelson’s & Vicente Foods supermarkets in Los Angeles), rinsed, drained and cut into 1-inch pieces
Salt, to taste

Directions:
1. In a 4-quart saucepot, heat 3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil.

2. When oil is hot, add the whole garlic cloves and stir-fry on medium high until they turn golden brown.

3. Immediately remove saucepot from hot burner; let cool for about 3 minutes.

4. After 3 minutes, add the rapini and cover the saucepot.

5. Cook the rapini on medium-high heat for 5 minutes, using tongs to stir them occasionally.

6. After 5 minutes, add salt to taste. Taste some rapini – they should be crunchy-tender. Set aside, covered.

For the Sausage:
3 to 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 turkey or pork sausage links (mild or hot)

Directions:
1. In a 6-quart saucepot, heat the oil.

2. When oil is hot, add the sausage links – be careful to avoid splatters by covering the saucepot.

3. Sauce the sausage links on medium-high heat, covered, for 2 to 3 minutes.

4. After 2 to 3 minutes, carefully uncover the saucepot and, using a fork, poke holes in the sausage links. STAND AWAY FROM STOVE TO AVOID SPLATTERS.

5. Turn the sausage links over and cover on the other side for 3 to 4 minutes.

6. Repeat turning the sausage links over and cooking until they are 3/4 cooked.

7. When sausages are 3/4 cooked, lower heat.

8. Using shears and standing over skillet or saucepot, carefully cut the sausage links into 1-inch circles.

9. Cut circles in half and continue cooking sausage pieces for 1 minutes.

10. After 1 minute, stir in the rapini. Cover and set aside.

For the Orecchiette Pasta & Assembly:
1 pound orecchiette pasta
salt, to taste
3/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese, as garnish
Crushed red pepper, as garnish

Directions:
1. Bring a separate 6-quart saucepot of water to a boil.

2. Add the orecchiette pasta and salt; cook over medium-high heat for 8 to 10 minutes or until pasta is “al dente” (crunchy-tender).

3. Meanwhile, heat the sausage-rapini mixture through.

4. Drain the orecchiette pasta in a colander set over a sink.

5. Transfer the drained orecchiette pasta to the sausage-rapini mixture in saucepot; stir and heat through.

6. Taste the pasta mixture, adding more olive oil and salt, if desired.

7. Serve immediately in separate bowls, asking guests to add their own grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese and/or crushed red pepper.

Wine Pairing: Sauvignon Blanc or Cabinet Sauvignon
Text & Photograph ©2017 Nancy DeLucia Real

Nancy’s Lebkuchen (German Spice Cookies)

In Cookies, Candies & Sweets, Holidays On December 12, 2017 0 Comments

Lebkuchen are sweet, spicy cookies that pop up during Christmastime. These cookies derive from a honey cake dating back to ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome.

Today’s lebkuchen were invented by monks in 13th-century Franconia, Germany. Image.Lebkuchner1520WikipediaA Lebküchner from a manuscript c. 1520, in the Stadtbibliothek Nürnberg

Although lebkuchen are baked in a variety of shapes, round is most common. These cookies are made with honey, molasses and spices, including nuts (almonds, hazelnuts and walnuts) or candied fruit. They are then frosted with a lemon glaze and decorated in a festive manner.

The coolest thing about my recipe is that it contains no white sugar & you can prepare the dough a day ahead and refrigerate it. The next day, just cut and bake! Enjoy the lebkuchen with coffee, tea or eggnog during the Holidays!

Note: Lebkuchen in photograph are made without almonds and candied fruit.

Active Prep time: 20 minutes
Inactive Prep time: 2 hours to overnight (refrigeration of dough)
Bake time: 12 to 14 minutes
Makes: 20 cookies

Ingredients for the Cookies:
3-1/4 cups sifted all-purpose, unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1-1/4 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1-1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup molasses
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup slivered almonds (optional)
1/2 cup candied fruit, finely chopped (optional)
vegetable oil, to coat dough prior to refrigeration

Ingredients for the Lemon Glaze:
1 large egg white, beaten
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1-1/2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar

Directions for the Cookies:
1. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, allspice and salt; set aside.

2. In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, brown sugar, molasses, butter. If using the almonds and candied fruit, stir them into batter and beat together.

3. On a lightly-floured board or surface, gather the dough into a smooth ball and dust off the excess flour.

4. Lightly oil the dough, cover and seal in plastic wrap and refrigerate it from 2 hours to overnight.

5. After dough has chilled, preheat oven to 400°F.

6. Grease and flour two baking sheets measuring 12 X 18 inches. Alternatively, line the sheets with parchment paper; set aside.

7. On a lightly-floured surface, roll out the dough to 1-4-inch thickness.

8. Using a 2-inch, round cookie cutter (or other shape), cut out rounds from the dough. If you do not have a cookie cutter, use the rim of a glass, turned upside down.

9. Place the cut rounds of dough onto the baking sheets, spaced 1-1/2 inches apart.

10. Bake the cookies for 12 minutes or until firm to the touch.

11. After 12 minutes if lebkuchen are too soft, bake for an additional 2 to 3 minutes.

12. Cool lebkuchen to room temperature.

Directions for the Lemon Glaze:
1. In a small bowl, stir together the beaten egg white and lemon juice.

2. Stir in the confectioners’ sugar and beat until smooth.

3. Lightly brush the glaze over lebkuchen and immediately decorate with green and red crystal sugars.
Text & Green/Red Lebkuchen Photograph ©2017 Nancy DeLucia Real

Roasted Butternut Squash, Parsnips & Shishito Peppers

In Meats On November 21, 2017 0 Comments

This side dish of roasted butternut squash, parsnips and shishitos is perfect for Turkey Day!

Prep time: 10 minutes
Bake time: 30 minutes
Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:
12 ounces butternut squash, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 large parsnips, peeled & cut into 1-inch pieces
8 Shishito peppers, sliced lengthwise, seeds discarded & flesh cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 to 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 425°F.

2. In a large bowl, toss all ingredients together.

3. Transfer tossed ingredients to a 16 X 12-inch rectangular baking pan.

4. Bake/roast for 30 minutes.

5. After 30 minutes, toss all ingredients.

6. Place roasting pan with ingredients 6 inches away from top oven broiler element.

7. Broil for approximately 5 minutes or until roasted vegetables look golden brown.

8. Serve immediately.
Text & Photograph ©2017 Nancy DeLucia Real