Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The state of Michoacan

---Tzararacua Falls, Michoacan---
Continuing on our journey south, we left Uruapan in route to Morelia, Michoacan. On the way, we stopped at a waterfall attraction called Tzararacua Falls. It is a 575-step decend to an expansive waterfall and large pool that flows southward as the Tzararacua River "River That Sings". 
It looks very similar to Oregon.
There was a zipline that suspended visitors above the falls and zipped them across the pool to the other side for 50 pesos. Evan decided to do it, but my camera died right before it was his turn. 
(This is not Evan)
The other side of the pool is where the really magnificent views of the falls are captured. I'm sorry I am unable to provide this angle for your viewing pleasure.

On our way to Morelia we passed several avocado groves.
I also had time to whip up what I call the Mexican Standard Green Smoothie. I've seen green smoothies and juices (jugosa verde) everywhere down here and it always contains the following items: Fresh-squeezed orange juice, pineapple, cactus (nopales), celery, and parsely. I added chard because I wanted to get some more leafy greens in mine. 
The Mexican Standard Green Smoothie
The great thing about this smoothie is you can use the ingredients in any amount and it will taste great. I ended up putting an entire pineapple (roughly 3 cups of pineapple, cubed) in mine after drinking some of the smoothie down in order to fit all of the contents in the tiny Magic Bullet blending vessel. Here's the breakdown:

1.5 cups fresh-squeezed orange juice (Fresh-squeezed as oppose to store-bought pasteurized orange juice makes all the difference in the world. Squeeze your own. It's totally worth it.)
3 cups pineapple, cubed (you can use half this amount and it will taste great)
2 handfuls of cactus, chopped (roughly 1 cup - you can use aloe vera or cucumber as a substitute)
3 stalks of celery, sliced
1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced
3 large leaves of chard, roughly chopped

Blend all ingredients together starting with the most water-dense produce first - orange juice, pineapple, cactus, celery, parsley, chard. If you're working with a high-speed blender such as a Vitamix or Blend-Tec, you don't really need to worry so much about prepping the produce or the order in which you fill the blender - just blend away!

Update: Since this post, I have discovered that it actually works better to add the greens with a watery-based ingredient first to ensure that the greens get blended up really well. For example, add the orange juice and the greens and blend, then add the other ingredients as listed above.

And there you have it, folks. The Mexican Standard Green Smoothie. I had to drink some of the smoothie down before I could add the rest of the pineapple:
---Ancient Ruins, Michoacan---
Our last stop before arriving in Morelia was a site of the Tingamabato ruins once occupied by the Tarascan people. There were avocado groves in and around this ancient burial grounds.
Structures, former arenas where 'hip ball' was played, pyramids, and tombs comprise this segment of land preserved for archeological purposes. 
Here is a photo of an ancient tomb. As the story goes, excavators discovered a skeleton in this tomb sitting in an up-right position with several skulls scattered around as sacrificial offerings. 
I took photos of the inside of the tomb and captured some erie looking orbs.
---Morelia, Michoacan---
For dinner that night in Morelia, I made yet another spaghetti pasta salad out of carrots and beets this time to stuff into chard wraps.
Evan hit the street vendors for some fried tacos.
We headed to the central square with food in hand to have a sunset picnic. 
The next morning we got breakfast at Cafe Catedral near the central cathedral/square. I ordered a green juice called the Anti-gripal, which Evan informed me meant "anti-flu". It contained grapefruit, pineapple, celery, and parsley. 
I walked around the surrounding streets and passed a Howard Johnson Hotel...
...a couple of fountains...
...Jews in Mexico...
....more homeopathic pharmacies...
...and organic coffee.
This is the central square in Morelia, Michoacan.
These little buses are Morelia's mass transit.
These are Evan's fried quesadillas.
He went half-vegetarian this round with one mushroom and onion quesadilla as well as a meat option. 
Each table was equipped with several mexican condiments. The jar on the far right that looks like nacho cheese is actually a type of spicy yellow pepper blended with herbs. No cheese! I tried it and I'm convinced it contains some kind of dairy product, but it was delicious nonetheless.
Morelia at night.
Gaspacho the next morning. Learn more about gaspacho with an "s" in my previous post here (scroll down near the bottom of the post).
Evan and I went on a walk. This is an amazing mural on the wall of one of the state office buildings.
He wanted some ice-cream so we ducked into an ice-cream parlor, which might I add is arguably one of THE best aromas on this planet.
This was a very unique ice-cream shop because along with their array of ice-cream and frozen yogurt flavors....
 ...they randomly had salad toppings for different salad combinations...
...herbal supplements...
...and an absurd amount of powdered soy drinks...
...flavored soy powders...
...and this Starbucks staple:
Evan got the durazno (peach) yogurt in a waffle cone.
We walked down to the Morelia street market and stumbled upon some meat-free blue corn tamales. I had to try it.
He got himself a regular tamale with meat filling.
From there we stopped at a wifi cafe to do some work. This is the view from the second-story balcony.
And a few minutes later we saw a parade of people walking through this intersection - I'm assuming for Semana Santa.
Later that night we went on a walk and found an elaborately decorated church. My one photo op failed. I didn't walk inside the church because there was a service going on and I didn't want to interrupt so I had to zoom in from across the sidewalk. A blurry photo ensued, but you can tell that it was fairly ornate. 
We also went into a gift shop located along Lover's Alley - an alley where couples would go to make out back in the day. We dropped a good amount of money here buying gifts for friends and family (and myself). 

They had something called Miel de Maguey - Aloe Honey. Isn't that interesting? I really wanted to get some, but I refrained.
Flavored liquors
Evan got a couple of bottles of liquor and some candies. I got myself a new purse - not pictured. It is made out of coconut husk. 

Evan ended up leaving his backpack at this gift shop with both of our laptops inside. By the time we realized it was missing, we were 20 minutes away. After returning to the gift shop that night, our worst fears were confirmed - it was closed. We asked the shops nearby if they knew what time it opened and they said 10 or 11 A.M. We were sweating bullets all night long, but sure enough the backpack was there in the morning - untouched. Phewf.

It's hard to tell from the photo, but this bunch of celery I picked up at the street market the day before was nearly three feet long. 
Another noteworthy find from the street market was this thai basil.
Here's a random photo of me the following day donning a skirt I bought in Guadalajara.
While on a stroll, I found this vegetarian-indian restaurant called Govinda's . I didn't go inside, but it's good to see that it exists down here in Morelia.
Inspired by the smells wafting from Govinda's, I walked back to the van and hunkered down to (finally) make some Green Garbanzo Bean Hummus.
Green Garbanzo Bean Hummus
I haven't seen any tahini down here, so I was forced to make my own (which was totally fine). I used the sesame seeds that we got back in Chapala, Jalisco by putting about 1.5 cups of sesame seeds into the food processor. These were unsoaked, toasted sesame seeds - but raw sesame seeds that have been soaked in water for at least 8 hours are preferred. The reason you should soak your raw nuts and seeds is to remove the layer of tannic acid coating the outside. Once the nuts/seeds have been soaked long enough (or heated, roasted or toasted) the tannic acid layer will no longer be present, making it easier to digest. And while heating nuts and seeds will remove the tannic acid layer, it also removes the life force energy as well as the naturally occurring enzymes and many of the valuable nutrients contained inside these little gems.

Step 1: Add 1.5 cups raw sesame seeds (soaked in water 8 - 12 hours and rinsed) to a food processor equipped with an S-blade. You could also use a high-speed blender.
Step 2: Set on high for several minutes or until a creamy consistency is achieved. You may need to add some water.
Step 3: I think I added some water at this point after processing for several minutes.
Step 4: Place in a container and set aside.
Step 5: Next, I grabbed my bag of freshly steamed green garbanzo beans and painstakingly de-podded every single bean (or is it a pea?). You can use dried garbanzo beans found in the bulk section of most natural food stores. Not everyone has access to fresh garbanzo bean pods. I've only ever seen them in Mexico.
Step 6: In total, I probably contributed about 1 to 1 1/4 cups of garbanzo beans to the food processor along with roughly a 1/4 cup of tahini (3 - 4 tablespoons). 
My hands started turning green.
Step 7: I added juice from 2 limes.
Step 8: I blended it at that point just to see what it tasted like and then I de-podded more garbanzos.
Step 9: Added a pinch of sea salt and blended again.
And now for Evan's Nod-of-Approval Taste Test:
A piece of broccoli with a hefty helping of green garbanzo bean hummus.
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Rather than going the traditional cumin & paprika middle eastern route, I spiced this hummus up Mexican style keeping the "green" factor in mind. Behold:

Step 10: Add a handful of parsley and cilantro
Step 11: Add 2 green serrano peppers (or hot peppers of your choice)
Step 12: Add 1/4 cup of tomatillo salsa and a handful of any greens of your choice. I'm not even sure what greens I added - maybe spinach.
Step 13: Blend it.
Step 14: I paired it with a salad of spinach and broccoli.
Step 15: I had some leftover pineapple cubes from earlier in the day that I threw in with the mix. 
It was delicious, but not quite as spicy as I'd hoped. The hummus was a little heavy for me as well - extremely rich from all the tahini. If and when I make this recipe in the future, I will cut the fat by adding zucchini. Maybe two tablespoons of tahini and one small zucchini. Also, I don't recommend the pineapple.

The next day I wanted to make another batch of hummus, this time with a medley of vegetables including - carrots, basil, garlic, greens, peppers, etc. Unfortunately (or fortunately!), the power in the van died during the food-processing stage so I ended up with more of a crumbly mixture of minced up veggies and garbanzo beans instead of a creamy hummus. It was pretty phenomenal and I've been wanting to make it again, so I'm glad I am finally putting the recipe together for y'all.
Half-Way Veggie Party Paté
Here's the initial spread - food processor, bowl of veggies (spinach, parsley, cilantro, thai basil, carrots, garlic, peppers, broccoli, celery), tahini, and freshly steamed garbanzo beans.
Step 1: I started with one heaping tablespoon of tahini - probably 1.5 tablespoons
Step 2: I de-podded 1 cup of garbanzo beans.
Step 3: I tossed in 3 cloves of garlic.
Step 4: I chopped 1.5 carrots.
Step 5: I added this bowl of veggies containing spinach, parsley, cilantro, celery, and broccoli, but I  loosely chopped everything first.
Step 6: Juiced 1 lime with my nifty new lime squeezer.
Step 7: Diced up 1 serrano pepper.
Step 8: I took a bushel of thai basil and loosely chopped this as well.
Step 9: Blend it all together! My power died halfway through, so I ended up w/ a crumbly paté rather than a creamy hummus consistency. (As always - add sea salt, pepper, and other spices to taste)
It would make an excellent wrap stuffer, a great addition to any salad, or just eat it straight from the bowl! It would also make lovely hors'dourves atop cucumber, zucchini, parsnip, or turnip slices. This blew me away it was so tasty!
Once I cleaned up and tore myself away from that epic recipe sesh, I went out once again into the world of Morelia. I passed a doorway with a banner advertising yoga. Good to see, although I should've made an inquiry - price, schedule, etc.
I can't get enough of these little transportation buses. Sometimes there a relatively new looking Nissan...
Other times they were the old school VW buses from the 60s. I've always wanted one, too. Ever since I saw a renovated 60s VW van getting auctioned off (or, perhaps, raffled off) at a Parkdale, Oregon Museum event. It was set up to road-trip with a bed, table, bench, chairs, storage compartments - totally baller, painted in a colorful trifecta of sky blue, yellow-green, and periwinkle. I've wanted an old school VW van to call my own and now I have a late 80s renovated cargo van. Almost there. But I digress.
At one point I saw one of the Morelian VW trans buses rolling on a spare tire in place of the back right wheel. I thought it was going to fall apart right before my eyes it was bouncing around so much - the frame nearly scraping against the street below when the weight inside the bus was too great. Hilarious.

The following pictures were taken en la Casa de Artesanias - House of Artists. It's basically a giant, three-story mansion with several rooms devoted to artists specializing in certain crafts and artistic endeavors.
The Guits.
A whicker cat!
Not sure.
Pitchers. Want.
Copper plate.
A church on the way to the street market.
Street market! (My apologies for the blurry photos that follow :-/ Use your imagination.
Dried goods, fruits, veggies, and a whole lotta herbs and barks and things I've never seen...
Aaaaaand lunch:
16 oz of fresh-squeezed OJ + green powders, a bowl of grapes (with seeds!), and a few medjool dates (as if there's not enough sugar in this meal already).
I took my food to this park and snacked on grapes and medjool dates while reading Lonely Planet: Mexico
Oh, and I forgot to mention. I bought myself a new apron during my previous trip to the street market. 40 pesos - roughly $3.30 USD
That night I made another attempt at the Veggie Party Paté, but it didn't come out nearly as good - I was working with a slight variation in the ingredients so that may explain it.
Step 1: I started with 1 cup chopped cactus.
Step 2: Add 2 tablespoons tahini
Step 3: Chop up two small zucchinis and 1.5 carrots.
Step 4: Slice up one hot pepper - I used serrano.
Step 5: Chop up 1/2 cup parsley and/or cilantro, 1/2 cup thai basil, and one stick of celery.
Step 6: Dice two cloves of garlic
Step 7: Juice two limes and add cumin and paprika to taste.
Step 8: Process one last time to the consistency of your choice.
Again, stuff into wraps, add to salads, or enjoy as is straight from the bowl.
This was our last night in Morelia. Stay tuned for our trip to Guanajuato, the city of tunnels! Thanks for reading.

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