I think it’s fair to say that I have a crush on Mexico City. Judging by my recipes over the years for pozole, tinga de pollo tacos, Mexican coffee smoothies, spicy Mayan dark chocolate pudding w/ salted caramel almonds, pollo molido, relleno negro and salted chocolate diablo cookies, it’s undeniable. The energy of the city is disarming. It has slowly melted the cold from my bones and chipped away at my fortress walls. Being enchanted by a city is like looking in the mirror every day, but realizing all at once that you have transformed and then wondering when and how. The drastic change is the cumulative sum of a thousand subtleties, like life itself.
I’ve been working like a dog down in Mexico City, commuting back to New York when I can to keep myself grounded in my real life, but you can’t keep me from wandering the streets in my spare time. My heart is divided between the comforts of home and the excitement of new. There is value to doing laundry, routines, making your bed and cooking creatively. Going to the market yourself and being in your own kitchen. And most of all, in being with the people you’ve picked to be your rocks, friends, family. There is also value in having your laundry done for you, never making your bed and eating out to experience all that the world has to offer. What a terrible and wonderful feeling to want everything at once. To stay put and grounded in love, build strength and character in routines and also to take flight to a new city and new strangers. Like my grandma says, “You can have it all. Just not all at once.”
You’d think I’d be tired of eating Mexican food everyday, but there is a serious culinary scene in Mexico City. I had a lot of fish with different sauces, chilis, meat, chicken, tacos, nopal ice cream and all sorts of wonderful culinary creations. My favorite type of food though is still “comida casera,” home cooked, not elevated, unfussy food. So whenever a big dish of quinoa with avocado and a little lemon or asparagus shows up, I feel right at home.
This little bowl is quick and easy to make. It’s healthy and filling and takes as long to make as it takes to cook a pot of lentils. The taste is bright and layered. The combination of the cilantro oil and the earthy lentils is a force to be reckoned with. It’s so unique that I could eat this for days on end. Add an egg to make it spectacular or leave it as is for a simple, yet rich flavor. This bowl takes everything I love about healthy eating and adds a Mexican flare with a hint of spice, lemon, avocado, cilantro and olive oil. Also, as I was eating this, I received quite possibly the best compliment one could ever receive. Ever. I’ll attribute it to absence making the heart grow fonder and because this dish is really that superb.
As for finding balance in all of this, I am appreciating the beauty of the mundane while I’m back and realizing that the mundane is truly extraordinary, the people I love, my day to day routines and thought patters. I’m also remembering that I have the capacity to walk around in awe and that I should always cultivate my sense of surprise no matter how old I am. There should be no fear of being moved. There is value in both worlds and they’ll switch on you without you noticing. After all it is in our nature “to be drawn to the very experiences that will spoil our innocence, transform our lives, and give us necessary complexity and depth.” Truth from Thomas Moore.
It’s freezing and wet here in NYC. It’s 85 and sunny in Mexico City. It makes a difference. Last night, when coming back from the gym I was waiting to cross the street in the sleet with my hood on and no umbrella (lack of foresight). My goal was to get to the grocery store to pick up the best Icelandic jalapeno mango yogurt (which the store ended up not having), when in typical movie fashion a car went by and splashed a freezing cold, sleety puddle all over me. In another moment, I’d probably have cried. I actually laughed under my breath and smiled. The man waiting next to me saw what happened from the corner of his eye and cracked his NY mask allowing himself a sympathetic smile at me when he saw me with my “of course that would happen” face on. Because I have Mexico. And a warm apartment.
Many of the gorgeous photos that follow were taken by Jerry Gomez, my awesome friend and coworker. In Mexico City we played a little game called, “distract the guards,” since photos are usually prohibited in most public indoor places. He has half of the pictures and I have the other half because we were trying not to get locked up abroad while documenting this amazingly beautiful city. I’ve never seen an Instagram page like his. Follow him. He’ll make you want to make your life more beautiful. He’s trying to pull me into social media and even made me update my Instagram page. G3FTW!!! I’m so lucky to be working with him and the other member of the three musketeer team, Julian. They’re incredible people and have just the kind of curiosity, passion, palates and skepticism that make working in close quarters not only tolerable, but enriching.
I hope you’re all staying warm. Definitely make this dish. Don’t let its simplicity deceive you. It is superlative. I plan on making it with various iterations of grains, citrus and nuts. Enjoy the rest of the week. And may you laugh the next time a car splashes you with cold slush in the dark of winter. May you get up and fight back harder.
MEXICAN AVOCADO LENTIL SALAD
Adapted from 101 cookbooks which kills it every time!
- 2 teaspoons fresh cilantro
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
- 2 cups cooked lentils
- 1-2 ripe avocados, quartered and thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup toasted hazelnuts or almonds, chopped
- 1/4 cup minced chives
- handful cilantro for topping
- hint of chopped jalapenos
- salt to taste
Smash the cilantro and salt into a paste in a mortar and pestle. Gradually work in the olive oil, and then the lemon juice and lime juice.
Toss the lentils with 2 tablespoons of the cilantro oil, taste, and season if needed. Arrange on a platter or in a bowl. Just before serving, cut the avocado into quarters, then slice quite thinly, and arrange on top of the lentils. Drizzle with a bit more of the oil, and sprinkle with the hazelnuts or almonds, chives, cilantro and a dusting of finely chopped jalapenos for heat. A final drizzle of oil might be needed, and perhaps a bit more lemon juice.