A Tex-Mix Manifesto

What exactly is Tex-Mix, besides a cute term I came up with for my own household cuisine?

Tex-Mix uses the Tex-Mex flavor base in preparations from other cuisines. Tex-Mix cuts bagna cauda with lime juice, eats hummus with jalapeños and tortilla chips, and adds canned tomatoes with chiles to French lentil ragouts. Tex-Mix puts comino in its candied sweet potatoes. Tex-Mix thinks Moosewood’s bulgur-based vegetarian chili is clever. Tex-Mix was spiking its brownies with cayenne long before Mexican chocolate was cool. Tex-Mix takes garlic for granted.

Tex-Mix plugs elements of other cuisines into the forms that define Tex-Mex. Tex-Mix swoons over Lebanese quesadillas and amardeen margaritas. Tex-Mix wonders about tamales filled with smoked duck and cherry demiglace. Tex-Mix even enjoys a broccoli and tofu burrito with Thai peanut sauce—sometimes.

But bland grilled veggie wraps are right out. And Tex-Mix would never dream of emptying that undercooked zucchini into a bowl with some hard black beans and a dollop of fat-free sour cream and calling the result Mexican. Whether its food is good for its health is not Tex-Mix’s main concern. Tex-Mix gets enough exercise. If Tex-Mix leaves out the lard, it’s probably because duck fat seemed tastier in that recipe.

Tex-Mix doesn’t care if duck fat isn’t authentic. In fact, Tex-Mix doesn’t care if it is. (The Mexica had Muscovy ducks, after all). Tex-Mix loves pickled jalapeños, flour tortillas, and pinto beans. It took Guatemala to teach Tex-Mix the joys of fully cooked black beans. It’s not self-conscious atavism but the need for a bitter note that puts cocoa powder into Tex-Mix’s Texas Red. That chili makes a great Frito pie, by the way. It’s also terrific over vermicelli—that’s not Cincinatti, that’s la abuelita’s home cooking. What’s more, esta abuela puts peanut butter in her mole, and has never touched a metate. But her cooking is absolutely authentic.

Tex-Mix loves and respects its grandmother, but it didn’t learn all its recipes from her. Did you? There’s no getting around it: Tex-Mix is mixed. (Before that was cool, too.) Tex-Mix owns it. Tex-Mix understands that innovation and eating what you like are as important to cuisine as tradition and eating what you know. Tex-Mix is not humble. Tex-Mix avers that it improves on its grandmother. Tex-Mix has a broad palate, and Tex-Mix knows how to cook.


end of plum season


The plums are near the end of their season.


Transitional fruits


Last tomatoes, first butternut; last melons, first persimmons.


Pig roast and apple cake

Patty and Jesper celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary with a backyard pig roast on Saturday evening. Thanks to La Caja China, roasting a whole pig was easier than anyone expected. Although the coals did start off too hot, meaning that the pig roasted too quickly, and remedial measures (such as dousing it with cold beer) had to be taken. Thanks to riding the Point Reyes Populaire (115k brevet) earlier that day, J-P and I arrived later than we expected and missed the excitement. We got there just as the pig was being carved.

Patty would not allow us to go home without taking a plate of extra pig, so it was fortunate for us that the weather turned yesterday. The cool rain made 1-2-3 pork over garlic-fried rice pretty appealing.

Leftovers from the pig roast with garlic fried rice

This first try at imitating the rice in Papalote’s Mexipino burrito turned out all right–next time, more garlic, fried longer.

For dessert, Danish apple cake in individual ramekins:
Ramekin-sized apple cake
Had to find some way to use up the creme fraiche!


improved California figs

I didn’t know until I moved to California that Texas has some of the best figs in the world. Boston had no figs at all, so most summers I had my family send me figs (or send me home with them after a visit). In California, I expected to have my figgy needs me–and I was disappointed. California has figs, yes, but they’re big and watery compared to Texas figs. Texas figs are like candy; California figs are meh. All I can figure is that they’re too well irrigated. But since Texas has been suffering drought, and too little water means no figs at all, I haven’t been able to get my fix.

Mark Bittman’s recipe for figs in blankets (bacon-wrapped figs, so actually figs in pigs) calls for broiling, which got me thinking: Could the broiler improve California figs? The answer is yes. Not quite to the standards of Texas figs, but better. Just fire up a broiler, spray a baking sheet with neutral-flavored oil, place halved figs cut side up on the sheet, and broil for 2-3 minutes, until the figs leak a little juice and the tops start to split and swell. Improved, though not perfected, and delicious with a drizzling of creme fraiche.

What's left after broiled figs with creme fraiche
And it leaves art on your plate!


Indian summer in San Francisco

Mid- to late September offers most of our rare chances to enjoy our east-facing deck in the evenings. Last week, Jasmine joined us for Pirate Booty, some really delicious pear-and-almond dark chocolate, and white port cocktails on the porch.

Monday evening on the porch

To make a white port cocktail: Peel a few green grapes and put in a glass with ice. Add 2-3 fingers of white port, depending on the size of the glass. Top with tonic. Better than the coldest beer on a hot day.


mexipino fusion

When Jeremy treated me to lunch at Papalote for helping him complete his move to Seattle, I had already ordered a prawn quesadilla before I noticed a poster advertising their new “Mexipino burrito.” A burrito filled with chicken adobo, garlic rice, and fresh tomatoes? I told myself I would try it next time.

Next time was last night, and oh my goodness! That rice is amazing. Imagine the best Mexican rice you’ve ever had, drained, and fried in oil with garlic. So delicious. So something I’m going to try at home. (The chicken wasn’t bad either.)

It was the first food we’ve eaten out in a long time that made both J-P and me gasp with delight. (Eating in, the last thing was Mervin’s limes pickled in chili oil.) Thus continues our trend of being more impressed with San Francisco’s street food than with its high-end cuisine. I never thought I would like a Fresh-Mex place this much, but J-P nailed it: “It’s been Fresh-Mexed, but by Mexicans, not Californians.” How can that be bad?


When we go to the Tourist Club, we do it up right

Cold fried chicken
fried chicken

Peach cake
peach cake

Corn on the cob, chili-lime butter, two pounds of blueberries, cole slaw, potato salad, beer, and happy friends
tourist club

Tex-Mix's Photostream