Fort Wayne – Robin Grose, 49, visited Mexico in high school as an exchange student and fell in love with the country.
A Kokomo native, Grose taught English as a foreign language at one of the colleges in Mexico City for more than 20 years.
She married Ed Valdizan, a native of Peru, in 2005 and after living in Mexico City and Chicago, the couple decided to call Fort Wayne home.
Grose plans to share what she has learned over the years with others through two programs for Neighborhood Connection. The first is Introduction to Authentic Mexican Cuisine. She plans to teach Introduction to Mexican Culture in November.
When I was teaching English, I was teaching culture, too. Now its the opposite. Theres so much history and culture that people can be exposed to, she says.
Grose is a freelance food writer and writes in Spanish about authentic Mexican food for About.com. She also works part time at the Franciscan Thrift Store.
During each class, which are limited to 30 people, Grose hopes to clear up misconceptions about Mexican food.
Ill do tastings of Mexican cheese and herbs, depending on the topic of the day. Ill make sure that there wont be something (ingredients) that they cant get here, she says.
Q. Whats your favorite cookbook?
A. I have two favorites – well, this year – My Sweet Mexico and Betty Crockers Cooky Book. It changes from year to year.
Q. Whats your favorite cooking utensil?
A. I have to have my lime squeezer. I use it nearly daily. One thing I have in my fridge is my little round limes, key limes. Its a very Mexican thing. I learned that in Mexico. Its used in everything. Its second only to salt.
Q. If you were stuck on an island, whats one food you would have to have?
A. I would have to have my limes because if I caught fish I would have to lime on that. I would squeeze it on coconuts in my coconut milk cocktail. Theres got to be a way to drill into the coconut.
Q. What advice would you give to beginner cooks?
A. I would say cook and share what you cook. I found that so many people dont cook at all that any little thing you make will impress people and youll be a rock star. You can walk into a store and theres a bakery. But if you make cookies at home, its wow.
1 fresh red tomato
2 small white onions
1/2 cup chopped cilantro, leaves and tender stems
2 cups (30 ounces) jarred cactus pieces (labeled nopales or nopalitos)
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons fresh-squeezed key lime juice
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup grated or crumbled cheese (preferable a Mexican cheese such as fresco or Cotija)
1 avocado, cubed or sliced
Dice the tomato and one of the onions. Finely chop the cilantro. Drain the cactus pieces and rinse well in a strainer under running water. Cut pieces into 1-inch strips or 1/2 -inch squares, as desired. Stir together tomato, onion, cilantro and cactus. Place the olive oil, lime juice, oregano and salt into a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake vigorously to combine. Pour this dressing over the vegetable mixture and stir well. Allow to sit in refrigerator at least 30 minutes (no more than 24 hours) for flavors to meld. Before serving, thinly slice the second onion. Garnish your salad with the crumbled or grated cheese, onion slices and avocado pieces. Makes 4 servings.
2 or 3 carrots, peeled and sliced 1/8 -inch thick
1 teaspoons dried oregano
1 (20-ounces) can or jar sliced jalapeño peppers
Briefly boil carrots, until cooked but not soft. Drain and place slices in a shallow plastic or glass dish that has a tight-fitting lid. Sprinkle oregano over carrots. Pour jalapeño peppers, together with all their liquid, on top. Cover and leave in refrigerator at least 12 hours. Use both carrots and pepper slices as a garnish/condiment for sandwiches, eggs and plain meats. These will keep for weeks in the refrigerator. Makes 3 cups.
Sweet Corn Pie
3 ears sweet corn or 3 cups canned corn
2 tablespoons corn starch
1 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 cup real butter, at room temperature
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
With a sharp knife, cut the kernels of corn off the cob. If using canned corn, rinse and drain well. Place the corn and all of the rest of the ingredients into a blender or food processor and process for about a minute until the mixture is smooth and homogenous. Pour the mixture into a greased 9-inch glass pie dish. Bake at 375 degrees for 1 hour and 10 minutes; top will be dark. Let cool to room temperature before slicing and serving. Keeps well, covered, for 2 or 3 days at room temperature or refrigerated. Makes 8 to 10 servings.