Taco Cuervo in Bucerias

Tacos from Taco Cuervo

Renewing our FM3 residency documents is about as much fun as going to the dentist. Long lines, interminable waits, looking for the nearest copy machine when we are told we don’t have every copy of every piece of paper required, the trip to the bank to stand in another line to pay the fee, back to the immigration office … all necessary to be legal residents of Mexico. Finding Taco Cuervo so close to the immigration office was one very pleasant part of this whole operation.

Taco Cuervo in Bucieras, Nayarit, is one of thousands of street carts in Mexico selling quick, cheap food. After years of eating at almost every one we ever encountered when hungry– and it is easy to feel suddenly starving while walking past a street cart and smell chile-inspired cooking aromas —  we gave up the habit after a number of upset tummy incidents, deciding they were not the most sanitary source of good eats in Mexico. Common sense prevailed, when I realized all we had to do was question the vendor as to how the fresh veggies were disinfected. Now I know to ask, “Usa cloro o microdyn para limpiar las veduras?” “Do you use clorox or Microdyn to clean the vegetables?”

I phrase the question so that the answer can’t be yes or no, as in, “Do you disinfect the vegetables?” Given the Mexican propensity to usually answer agreeably, we will often receive “Yes” as an answer, even if it is not the case. By asking a specific question, I get a specific answer, and this time I was told, “Uso microdyn porque no me gusta el sabor de cloro en las veduras.” “I use microdyn because I don’t like the taste of clorox on the vegetables.This was exactly what I wanted to hear, so Russ and I wasted no time sitting down and ordering a taco de lengua (tongue) and a quesadilla.

Elvia, the cook, took a knob of masa, formed a ball, and pressed out a perfect tortilla in about ten seconds. For those of you who have never tried to make a uniformly round tortilla, this isn’t as easy as it looks. I know, because I once struggled to make perfectly round tortillas while the six-year granddaughter of my instructor whipped out geometrically perfect tortillas, laughing as she watched my efforts. Or maybe she was really laughing at my results.

Alondra, Elvia’s ten year old daughter, garnished my taco with cilantro, then handed it and the quesadilla to us so we could choose from six different, freshly made salsas. Elvia explained that the best salsas are made with a molcajete, a large stone bowl made from basalt, but that she had so many salsas to make each morning, she used a blender. Modern Mexican cooks love their blenders and I don’t blame them for preferring the ease and speed.

It is common to see children working alongside their parents at small, Mexican businesses, be they food carts, hardware stores, or pharmacies. Their help with the family income is important, but this can sometimes be disconcerting when you see a thirteen-year old filling prescriptions or serving beer.

Filling choices for tacos and quesadillas are lengua, chorizo, asado de res (grilled beef), carne adovado (beef marinated in a spicy adovado sauce), cheese, and peruano beans. Chopped cabbage, onions and cilantro are added as garnishes. You get to add salsas. The only difference I could see between the tacos and quesadillas is that the quesadillas are much larger, have cheese and are folded over on the grill. Both are made with corn tortillas and both can have any of the same filling choices.

Taco Cuervo is located on Avenida La Palmas at the intersection with Heroe de Nacozari, the main highway through Bucerias. It is right across from the Oxxo convenience store. Elvia opens for business every day of the week except Sunday, with hours from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m.

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Coconut Bread — Pan de Coco

Coconut Bread

The cuisine of Mexico is built upon foods that originated in the New World: beans, corn, chile, tomatoes, avocados, squash, chocolate. These are some of the first foods of the first people of Mexico that still form the basis of the most common dishes of Mexico.

Coconut is thought to have been cultivated in Mexico when it was brought from the Philippines in the 16th. century. Even though it has been here for almost five hundred years, that is too recent for it to be ingrained in the Mexican food culture. This is a country whose civilization goes back to the Olmecs, who lived in Central Mexico as early as 200 B.C. Something that showed up only five hundred years ago does not rate as an established ingredient. It is too new.

For coconut bread to make an appearance in Mexico, wheat, another recent newcomer, had to be introduced. The final necessary element was the craft of baking, brought to Mexico by Spanish nuns. Coconut, wheat and baking. With all three present, coconut bread can happen in my kitchen in Mexico today. OK, I already knew how to bake, thanks to my European heritage and my American mom, but if I were a mexicana, I would be thanking the nuns right now.

Epicurious, a favorite recipe source, inspired my coconut bread, but I made a lot of changes: whole wheat flour, vanilla (another Mexican native), organic, unsweetened coconut instead of sweetened, coconut oil instead of butter. Epicurious describes this bread as being very crumbly and suggests waiting a day before slicing it. Right. Once the kitchen is bursting with the aroma of freshly baked coconut bread, we are going to wait twenty-four hours before we cut into it? There may be others stronger and more disciplined than we are. We went for warm coconut bread, crumbs and all.

Russ can always be counted on for a few interesting comments about whatever is set before him on our kitchen table. With an amazing palate and high culinary standards, he doesn’t mince words if something doesn’t measure up. When asked what he thought about the coconut bread, he said one word: good. And then he repeated it, mumbling because he had his mouth full. You get the idea. It is good. We spread warm slices with Walnutella, a new recipe still in development.

Coconut Bread makes one 9″ x 5″ loaf

  • 4 cups (10 oz./283 grams)  organic, unsweetened dried coconut
  • 1/2 cup (4 oz./113 grams) organic coconut oil, not melted
  • 1/2 cup (3.5 oz./100 grams)  plus 1 teaspoon organic sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup (.24 liters) organic milk
  • 2 cups (7 oz./200 grams) whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. (180 C.). Oil and flour a 9″ x 5″  (12.7 cm. x 23 cm.) bread pan.
  2. Grind 3 cups (7.5 oz./230 grams) of coconut into a fine meal in a food processor.
  3. Beat coconut oil and sugar with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until incorporated.
  5. Add milk and vanilla.
  6. In a large bowl, combine ground and unground coconut, flour, baking powder and salt.
  7. Stir dry ingredients into egg mixture until combined. Do not overmix.
  8. Spoon into loaf pan and smooth top.
  9. Sprinkle one teaspoon of sugar on top of batter, down the center of the loaf.
  10. Bake for 1 hour, or until  a toothpick inserted in center tests dry.
  11. Cool in pan for 15 minutes.
  12. Turn out of pan and set right-side-up on a  rack to cool for 2 hours.
  13. Slice into 1″ (2.54 cm.) thick slices to minimize crumbling.

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