Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Huazontle in Baltimore

I found this unusual Mexican vegetable yesterday at La Guadalupana Restaurant and Grocery (Restaurante y Tienda) at the southwest corner of Eastern Avenue and Wolfe Street in Fells Point. Through quite a bit of research on the Internet, I was able to determine that the name for it is huazontle. My conclusion that huazontle must be quite exotic, at least by Baltimore standards, is influenced by a recent post at Chowhound where a foodie as close to the Mexican border as San Diego stated that he observed huazontle for the first time but a couple weeks ago.

At the Exotic Edibles site, I learned the proper pronounciation is wah- ZONT- lay, that huazontle was orignially cultivated by the Aztecs and that it tastes something like broccoli. If not harvested when green, huazontle will ultimately assume a fiery red color. For these reasons it is also known as Red Aztec Spinach. The introduction of cheese when the Spanish arrived led to an early example of culinary fusion. Ever since, the favored preparation for all concerned has been to combine the green huazontle flower tips with cheese and fry in batter. Although unsuccessful in finding such a recipe in any of my cookbooks or on the web, I did locate on Flickr a picture that pretty much spoke the necessary words. If I'm not mistaken, it's a matter of combining the huazontle with cheese, dipping the combination into beaten egg, and then in cornmeal, before frying in lard.

I had more success coming up with a recipe on the Gourmet Sleuth site for a less adulterated recipe where huazontle is simply boiled up for a few minutes in water, drained, and then topped with chopped garlic and red onion that have been sauteed in butter or olive oil. It reads like a winner.

Going yet a step further, the Exotic Edibles site also mentions that the more mature bright red flowers, which later become seed heads, can be harvested for braising or sauteeing and will retain their red color with cooking. Nowhere else, however, could I find any more definitive information regarding such a practice.