This is one of those projects that is just plain old inspiring and fun! Located close to the local autonomous university of Puebla, Casa Olinka is a house converted to oasis, and is carving out a space for learning and community building. Casa Olinka is filled with teeming gardens and projects in process, and is born from creativity and a commitment to living low to the ground, even in a big city. By cultivating a space that prioritizes the use of repurposed materials (for example the vertical gardens are built from repurposed wooden skids), utilizes water catchment systems, and has a focus on cultivating culinary plants, they hope to lead by example and create a space for their community to meet, learn together, and implement changes that work towards protecting the environment. The space offers workshops that share the skills being learned and put to use in this project; it features a Vegetarian kitchen that of course incorporates the gifts of their gardens as well as local and seasonal produce (and when in Mexico this happens to be varied yet always bountiful); and a gallery that hosts photographs from one of the proprietors as well as art from visiting artists – and has hopes to further build events and opportunities. And who is behind this project? None other than the powerful mom and son duo of Alfredo (Alfo) and Señora Luz María Juarez.
I was very fortunate to be invited to visit the project and to attend a great variety of workshops ans events during my stay in Puebla. Visiting a project like this is the inspirational juice that makes life….well… hopeful, fun, and rich.
For more information or to connect with them yourself visit their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/casa.olinka?fref=ts
One of my visits included a spectacular and simple meal, featuring stuffed portabello mushrooms, rice, and a salad that was dressed in a perfect melody of tangy and fresh, bringing balance and light to the whole experience. The real secret to what brought the meal to the next level though was the amazing people I shared it with and the hot sauce. I’ve decided that these two ingredients are the secret to why everything tastes better in Mexico.
STUFFED PORTABELLO MUSHROOMS
First, start with making Salsa Mexican.
- 6 roma tomatoes toasted/charred
- 4 garlic cloves toasted/charred
- 1 onion toasted/charred
- 1/2 bunches cilantro
- 25 ml lime juice
- Charr the tomatoes, garlic, onion
- Use a blender to liquify all the ingredients. Your goal is to leave texture and not turn it into soup. Add a little honey if it needs a little sweet.
Next, assemble the stuffed mushrooms….
- Clean and remove the stem from the mushrooms. Grill them slightly.
- Fill them with the salsa. Cook for 15 minutes in an oven at 350 F until the mushrooms are fully cooked
- Top with Oaxacan cheese or mozzarella if you can’t locate the good stuff (or really any cheese of your liking) and return to oven until it is melted. Turn on your broiler if you want to melt it quick and perhaps even brown it a little.
THE HOTTEST MOST AMAZING SALSA DE CHILE ARBOL
Chile arbol is really hot and has the possibility of really deep flavour.
- 1 cup of peanuts no salt and untoasted.
- 1 cup of chile arbol with the stems removed.
- 3/4 cup olive oil (or more if you like)
- salt to taste
- Put peanuts in a dry frying pan and toast.
- Wrap chiles in tinfoil and toast on a flat top, bbq, or in a cast iron fry pan (make sure heat is low to control the rate of toasting. Turn once to toast both sides. They are done when they are browning NOT black, and when you open the tinfoil and the fumes make you chock with their fiery heat.
- Grind together in a molcajete or in a food processor if you don’t have/can’t work the molcajete….but with salsa’s it is traditionally known, and true that a salsa from the molcajete tastes better, always.
- Once ground in a chunky textured paste, stir in the olive oil and salt to taste (about a teaspoon)