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green olives in Mexican cooking


scottie
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I'm having a debate with a colleague about this. I maintain that green olives are an authentic, though not indigenous, ingredient in some Mexican dishes, particularly from Veracruz.

He says I'm nuts and green olives don't belong anywhere in Mexican cuisine, that the presence of green olives in a Mexican-style dish would make it Spanish.

But if olive oil is used so much in Veracruz, why not green olives? I'm sure I've heard about this before, but of course I can't think of any particular Mexican dishes right now that would include green olives.

Whaddaya think?

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" I'm having a debate with a colleague about this. I maintain that green olives are an authentic, though not indigenous, ingredient in some Mexican dishes, particularly from Veracruz. He says I'm nuts and green olives don't belong anywhere in Mexican cuisine, that the presence of green olives in a Mexican-style dish would make it Spanish."

You win! Although you'll see it's win with an asterisk if you read on.

Below, you'll find a recipe from Veracruz that I've been cooking since the early 1980s. I originally got it from GOURMET or BON APPETIT.

A quick search in Epicurious.com yields Shrimp Veracruz which includes olives as an ingredient, along with the instructions to serve with cold Mexican beer. However, two other web site post the recipe for Fish Veracruz with the comment that the use of capers, olives, and wine reflects the Spanish influence in the Veracruz region.

Indy 67

Mexican Chicken in Orange Sauce

3 whole skinless, boneless chicken breasts, halved

olive oil

2 medium onions, diced

4 tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and diced

12 large pitted olives, sliced

2 1/2 tablespoons raisins

2 1/2 tablespoons capers

2 cups orange juice

1 seedless orange, peeled and diced

1/2 cup sliced almonds

Cook the onion in olive oil in a covered saute pan over low

heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove

cover and continue cooking over low heat until limp, translucent

and golden, approximately 20 minutes. Add tomatoes, olives,

raisins, and capers.

Bring sauce to a boil, reduce heat and simmer over medium heat

for approximately 10 minutes until some of the liquid has

evaporated. Add orange juice and stir until well blended and

any brown bits are loosened from the pan. Stir in orange bits.

Set aside.

In a large saute pan, cook chicken breasts in olive oil until

brown on both sides. Pour orange-olive sauce over the chicken.

Bring sauce to a boil. Cover chicken and simmer for 20 minutes.

Alternatively: Place chicken in shallow baking dish; pour sauce

over chicken breasts. Cover and bake in 350 dgree oven for

15-20 minutes. Remove cover and bake additional 10 minutes.

Optional: Sprinkle with almonds before serving.

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Olives are not indigenous to Mexico but an ingredient brought over by the "conquerors".

You will find it as an essential ingredient in the classic, ala Veracruzana but often olives are an addition in a picadillo.

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I'm having a debate with a colleague about this. I maintain that green olives are an authentic, though not indigenous, ingredient in some Mexican dishes, particularly from Veracruz. 

He says I'm nuts and green olives don't belong anywhere in Mexican cuisine, that the presence of green olives in a Mexican-style dish would make it Spanish.

But if olive oil is used so much in Veracruz, why not green olives? I'm sure I've heard about this before, but of course I can't think of any particular Mexican dishes right now that would include green olives.

Whaddaya think?

Authentic, not indigenous, is probably pretty accurate. Some of the largest concentrations of olive trees in the world are in the beautiful and remote Guadalupe Valley in Northern Baja California (between Tecate and Ensenada-also the home of a couple of huge wineries). You see them for sale in stands all over the place and, in fact, the place that I worked for a few years in Tecate had about 60 trees on the property that were well over 150 years old. They produced some really, really good olives which a couple of our employees processed and jarred in big jars. They were delicious. I still have a jar, just for the memory, and it would be interesting to see how they taste now, though they are 8 years old or so (they still look great).

This is a really good area for a long drive if you are ever in San Diego looking for a long day trip. Much to do, very, very beautiful in a desolate way, and a really fun drive if you have some nerve, a fast car, and some diapers (you'll need them, believe me, it's Mexican rural driving at it's most casual-coming around a corner and finding a brick truck laboring up a hill at 5 kph while you are going 120 kph is an exciting event everytime that it happens).

All kinds of people have moved to this part of the country for all kinds of reasons

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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Authentic, not indigenous, is probably pretty accurate.

While it would be an interesting exercise to track down exactly what constituted Mexican cuisine before the arrival of Europeans, I suspect much of what you would come up with would hardly be recognized as what is commonly thought of as "Mexican" food today.

They had agave, chiles, corn, beans, and chocolate, however, I believe the largest mammal (aside from people) was a (now extinct) bird similar to a turkey. No beef, no chicken, no lamb, no pork.

Likewise, would you say that chiles are not "authentic" in Thai, Chinese, or African cuisine, because they are not indigenous?

edit - forgot a mammal or two.

Edited by eje (log)

---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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Or even better, tell your friend that any Spanish food that involves Pimenton de la Vera automatically becomes Mexican!

:biggrin:

---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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While it would be an interesting exercise to track down exactly what constituted Mexican cuisine before the arrival of Europeans, I suspect much of what you would come up with would hardly be recognized as what is commonly thought of as "Mexican" food today.

They had agave, chiles, corn, beans, and chocolate, however, I believe the largest mammal (aside from people) was a (now extinct) bird similar to a turkey.  No beef, no chicken, no lamb, no pork.

Nor would the Pre-Columbian European diet look much like it does today either, although it isn't really that difficult to find the pre-European roots in a lot of traditional Mexican cuisine, i.e. tortillas and other masa based foods, moles/pipians, abundant fruits/vegetables, fish/shellfish/turtles, and the consumption of insects. Back in 1991 Raymond Sokolov wrote an interesting little book about why we eat what we eat, which takes a look at the impact New and Old World foods had on each other and how the interchange of foods between the continents changed the way the world ate.

As to the olives, that was mostly a church thing. Olives - along with grapes - were planted by the various religious orders as a source for holy oil and sacramental wine. Both crops proved to be extremely productive in Mexico, so much so they threatened the economic dominance of both grapes and olives in Spain. The crown eventually prohibited the church from continuing to plant and grow grapes and olives, although it did allow continued production for religious conversion purposes. With that revenue stream curtailed, the church had no real reason to persue grape and olive growing with any gusto, so both eventually faded in importance. Had the olive industry not been artifically repressed, it is probably not unfeasible that they would have developed a more prominent role in traditional Mexican cooking.

Tzintzuntzan was the original seat of Purepecha power in Michoacan. When Vasco de Quiroga arrived in that part of the new world, around 1533, his goal was to create a version of Utopia. He began building a new church and included a slew of olive trees. The church is still standing, still in use and a good portion of these 450+ year old trees are still alive and healthy. I think some of them are still producing fruit, but I am not 100% sure. Father Junipero Serra repeated the same process at each of the 17 Missions he established here in California. Each Mission was planted with it's own olive trees, grape vines and orange orchards so that it could provide for all it's needs and be self sustaining. Interestingly, both men are on the sainthood track, tho' not for their role(s) in promoting and developing sustainable agriculture in the New World :wink:

Edited by kalypso (log)
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While it would be an interesting exercise to track down exactly what constituted Mexican cuisine before the arrival of Europeans, I suspect much of what you would come up with would hardly be recognized as what is commonly thought of as "Mexican" food today.

They had agave, chiles, corn, beans, and chocolate

Presumably, also tomatoes, pumpkins and squash?

however, I believe the largest mammal (aside from people) was a (now extinct) bird similar to a turkey.  No beef, no chicken, no lamb, no pork.[...]

Birds are not mammals. I figure that the largest land mammals in North America -- and certainly in what's now Mexico -- were bison. I do not know what the limits of the bison's range were, but I do seem to remember that they did roam around at least the northern part of Mexico as late as the 19th century if not later.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Huachinango a la Veracruzana (red snapper Veracruz style) is not only a well-known preparation in the Veracruz area, it undoubtedly would appear on any list of the top ten traditional dishes of Mexico.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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While it would be an interesting exercise to track down exactly what constituted Mexican cuisine before the arrival of Europeans, I suspect much of what you would come up with would hardly be recognized as what is commonly thought of as "Mexican" food today.

They had agave, chiles, corn, beans, and chocolate

Presumably, also tomatoes, pumpkins and squash?

however, I believe the largest mammal (aside from people) was a (now extinct) bird similar to a turkey.  No beef, no chicken, no lamb, no pork.[...]

Birds are not mammals. I figure that the largest land mammals in North America -- and certainly in what's now Mexico -- were bison. I do not know what the limits of the bison's range were, but I do seem to remember that they did roam around at least the northern part of Mexico as late as the 19th century if not later.

I had no idea that bison could be traced that far down the continent. Very intriguing.

What the Mexican people ate before the Euro-invasions is always a fascinating subject. Even more fascinating is what they are still eating and growing. So much hasn't changed.

There are all sorts of indigenous fruits - chico zapote and zapote negro are two and so many edible herbs and flowers - the flowers of the tzompantle come to mind - and let's not forget about mushrooms, ant eggs, grasshoppers and grub worms.

Theobroma, Caroline, Esperanza and Jaymes and so many others from this forum could shed some light on the subject. I'm sure we've touched on the topic a few times at least.

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While it would be an interesting exercise to track down exactly what constituted Mexican cuisine before the arrival of Europeans, I suspect much of what you would come up with would hardly be recognized as what is commonly thought of as "Mexican" food today.

They had agave, chiles, corn, beans, and chocolate

Presumably, also tomatoes, pumpkins and squash?

however, I believe the largest mammal (aside from people) was a (now extinct) bird similar to a turkey.  No beef, no chicken, no lamb, no pork.[...]

Birds are not mammals. I figure that the largest land mammals in North America -- and certainly in what's now Mexico -- were bison. I do not know what the limits of the bison's range were, but I do seem to remember that they did roam around at least the northern part of Mexico as late as the 19th century if not later.

I had no idea that bison could be traced that far down the continent. Very intriguing.

What the Mexican people ate before the Euro-invasions is always a fascinating subject. Even more fascinating is what they are still eating and growing. So much hasn't changed.

There are all sorts of indigenous fruits - chico zapote and zapote negro are two and so many edible herbs and flowers - the flowers of the tzompantle come to mind - and let's not forget about mushrooms, ant eggs, grasshoppers and grub worms.

Theobroma, Caroline, Esperanza and Jaymes and so many others from this forum could shed some light on the subject. I'm sure we've touched on the topic a few times at least.

There would have been, also, all manner of deer like animals, wild goats and wild sheep. There is alot of evidence in the the way of cave paintings, kind of like early food porn, if you think about it. And there are still lots of 4 legged mammals running around (these examples are from Baja California, but they can be found in other parts of Mexico as well-Stuff on 4 legs that might be a good lunch when properly prepared

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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There would have been, also, all manner of deer like animals, wild goats and wild sheep. There is alot of evidence in the the way of cave paintings, kind of like early food porn, if you think about it. And there are still lots of 4 legged mammals running around (these examples are from Baja California, but they can be found in other parts of Mexico as well-Stuff on 4 legs that might be a good lunch when properly prepared

I was wondering about goats and deer.

When I was posting yesterday, it didn't make sense to me that there were none.

I believe that there also had been mastodons, at least in North America, during the ice age.

I will have to find the book where I read that the largest edible beast in Mexico (not mammal!) was some turkey-like bird.

I'm pretty sure, though, that prior to the arrival of the europeans, that there were no domesticated pack animals, (horses, mules, or oxen...) in the Americas. It was all people power gettings things from here to there, which is pretty limiting for trade.

edited for spelling.

Edited by eje (log)

---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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And armadillos.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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And armadillos.

Well, that's true enough, Jaymes. But since they didn't have vehicles or highways, they would have had no way to kill 'em. :wink:

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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Mexican cuisine is one of the world's original fusion cuisines combining traditional pre-Columbian mexican ingredients with ingredients not only from Europe like the olives in huachinango a la veracruzana, but plenty of asian ingredients like cumin and cinammon amongst others that came over with the Manila galleons.

A great book on Pre-Columbian Americas is 1491. Interesting discussion of foods amongst other aspects of the civilizations,

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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And armadillos.
Well, that's true enough, Jaymes. But since they didn't have vehicles or highways, they would have had no way to kill 'em. :wink:

:laugh:

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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In modern Mexico we are strangly olive challenged, ie. good fresh olives are scarce. A great business opportunity for someone would be to import them...Unfortunately, in all those wonderful Verzcruzano recipes they usually use awful olives from a can, and even in nice DF restaurantes nasty black olives from a can or bottle are the norm. Good middle eastern or European ones don´t often make it here. And, I hate to say, the olives and oil from Baja California or the Valley of Mexico I have tasted are usually pretty bad: they need some Morocans to come over and teach them how to do it better!

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A great book on Pre-Columbian Americas is 1491. Interesting discussion of foods amongst other aspects of the civilizations,

Thanks for the suggestion!

I picked it up today, and so far it seems fascinating, and well written.

1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus

And darn it, I remembered, Native Americans had llamas, at least in South America. Don't know about beasts of burden in Mexico or North America.

Edited by eje (log)

---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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Mexico is a huge country with incredible biodiversity. I am sure that there was no lack of things to eat in pre-hispanic times.

Mammals we have forgotten which are indigenous:

Dog (the hairless esquintle-- i think i spelled that right)

Deer

rabbit

certain varieties of monkey

We also have reptiles: iguana, snake etc.

Insects/worms

maguey worm

chicatanas (flying ants)

grasshoppers (chapulines)

Not really an animal, but also eaten widely in pre-hispanic times and high in protein:

spirulina (grown on the lakes around Tenochititlan)

In the vegetable kingdom, we also have some of the god's greatest gifts to humans: corn, beans, squash, chiles and chocolate, we also have the avocado, potato, pineapple, zapotes etc.

In flavorings we also have the all important vanilla and the lovely allspice.

A great book on this subject is America's First Cuisines by Sophie Coe. Excellent reference work.

Caarina

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