The Cultured Traveler

A taste of Mexico

Magda Bogin, a highly regarded translator who put The House of the Spirits into English, has been coming to Tepoztlán, in central Mexico, since she was a student, lured by its cobblestoned streets and bougainvillea. To share her enthusiasm, last year she founded the Cocinar Mexicano cooking school. The regular weeklong workshops— for professionals and passionate amateurs alike—are taught by visiting top chefs, such as Gabriela Cámara and Patricia Quintana, along with expert local cooks. "The village women who teach here are the living embodiment of thousands of years of cooking," Bogin says.

Sue Torres, the owner of Sueños, in New York, was the featured chef during our course, which centered around instruction in Bogin's own tala-vera-tiled kitchen for three hours each day. The 12 cooks attending—who'd traveled from California, Kentucky, Minnesota, and Vancouver—began most mornings at the market, picking up bits of culinary wisdom, such as the broccoli rabe-like taste of huauzontles, the use of red ayocote beans for mole, and the unsalted ricotta flavor of requesón. We bought corn, soaked it in water, and ground it at the town mill into fine masa for tortillas and coarse masa for tamales. In the kitchen we learned how to shred pork and hominy into posole, a hearty stew, and blend bouquets of zucchini blossoms into a bisque. In Torres's master class on chiles, she took the group through 20 varietals, debunking the myth that such peppers are simply hot or not. Habañeros, for example, have fruity overtones, mulatos smell of chocolate, and serranos taste like freshly cut grass. $ Seven-day course, $1,900, excluding accommodations; 212-655-4432;

Zucchini-Blossom Bisque

4 Servings

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 medium white onion, thinly sliced
1/4 leek, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove
1 dried chipotle, stemmed
2 tablespoons dry white wine
60 zucchini blossoms (barbs removed), stemmed and chopped
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup pine nuts, toasted without oil
1/4 cup carrot juice
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1/4 cup crème fraîche
Salt and fresh pepper to taste

1. In a 10-inch skillet, melt the butter over moderately high heat. Add the onion, leek, garlic, and chipotle and cook until the onion is translucent and the chipotle soft, about 7 minutes. Add the wine and simmer for one minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

2. Transfer the contents of the skillet to a blender and purée for 2 minutes. Strain the purée into a large saucepan and set aside.

3. Add the zucchini blossoms and 2 cups of stock to the blender and purée for 2 minutes, then strain into the saucepan. Add the remaining 2 cups of stock and 1/2 cup of pine nuts to the blender and purée for 2 minutes; strain into the saucepan.

4. Shortly before serving, bring the soup to a simmer. Remove from heat. Stir in the carrot juice and sherry vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls, garnish with crème fraîche and toasted pine nuts, and serve.

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