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Tamarindos – A Baja-Style Cooking Class in San Jose del Cabo

By Jim Pickell

“Choose your own garlic, basil, sage, rosemary, zucchini, tomatoes, arugula, zucchini blossoms, leeks, eggplants, radicchio, poblano peppers, pumpkin squash, cactus, lettuce… Get your hands dirty,” we are told at Enrique Silva’s School at the Los Tamarindos Organic Farm.

You feel like you are sitting in your salad bowl

The crops offer up an abundance of rich colors and flavors, growing in a desert landscape that is softened by the hint of a Mediterranean climate. With only the use of natural pest repellents including garlic, pepper and soap, and employing some of the most advanced irrigation techniques in the world, the land grows food that sustains, as we recently learned in our first cooking class in Baja. By understanding Baja’s weather, agriculture and culture, you start to understand why Baja cuisine has finally received the international acclaim that has been so long overdue.

My wife and I participated in the Cabo Celebrity Invitational event some weeks ago, a fundraising event organized by Dream Homes of Cabo to benefit children’s charities and to showcase the Baja lifestyle. Besides golf, volleyball, yacht cruises, massages, kayaking and cocktail parties, there were also culinary classes.  This gave us the chance to meet some interesting people, work side-by-side with one of the regions top chefs, and bring home a new recipe and skill-set. That’s what attracted us. We joined an intimate class of eight with at least four countries represented, at the new school, the Huerta Los Tamarindos. We were provided a pre-selected menu when we showed up:

Menu

Zucchini Soup
Baked Eggplant with Tomato Sauce
Fish with Achiote and Green Rice
Dulce de Calabaza

Simple Fresh Ingredients Make for Great Food

Huerta Los Tamarindos is at restaurateur/Chef Enrique Silva’s 100 percent Certified Organic Farm. The farm and its adjoining country-style restaurant are in Animas Bajas, about 10 minutes from San Jose. Trained as an agricultural engineer, Chef Silva orchestrates culinary operations at his famous Tequila restaurant (which many locals argue is the best in the area), and he grows his own organic produce. His interest in agrotourism was motivation enough to restore the restaurant’s beautiful brick structure, built in 1888, and establish his cooking school there.  The project is the beginning manifestation of his vision to build six bungalows in the coming year for his visitors to enjoy a one of a kind organic lifestyle experience.

We began our class with a tour of the fields under cultivation, where we learned about the agricultural techniques and the crops, and harvested our ingredients. Then we headed up to the ranch house, washed our hands and gathered around the kitchen to chat with Silva in a comfortable country setting. After hearing a little about his curriculum, we moved on to an in-depth discussion of each recipe that we were about to  prepare, learning more about techniques and procedures that would be used. We had many opportunities to ask questions, and we got to taste and smell each of the ingredients we used, as we cooked.

Once the full menu of recipes was completed, we moved to the sunny outdoor kitchen.  There,  we sat at a long picnic table with our instructor, leisurely sampling each of the recipes we had learned how to prepare, and accompanying the dishes with an appropriate wine or, my personal favorite, a Tamarindo Margarita. In the warmth of the sun and surrounded by gardens of organic vegetables and fragrant herbs, we felt like we were sitting in nature’s salad bowl. Each plate was freshly unique…the “Dulce de Calabaza,” with cinnamon and sugar cane infused squash, was unlike any dessert I had tasted before. While it was sweet as any dessert we’ve had, we knew we had our daily dosage of veggies. Next time, I will be the first to order squash for desert!

The Chef and the Maestro

Chef Silva may have held back a few secrets, but we both went home  better cooks as result of the class. Now, we  are looking forward even more to experiencing his cooking at his restaurant Tequila.  Classes at Huerta Los Tamarindos start at $85 for four hours. I cannot guarantee you will have the identical experience as my wife and I did, but I can assure you that you will enjoy your creation!

Being a great chef doesn’t always translate to being a great teacher. We found Enrique to be both. He navigated Spanish and English with ease and made everyone feel at home. Classes start at $85 for four hours. It was a small price to pay to learn to make a great meal and meet some interesting people. Here’s a recipe from one of the highlights for us.

 

RECIPE – DULCE DE CALBAZA

INGREDIENTS
1 pz Piloncillo (sugar cane)
1 pz cinnamon
2 pounds of squash
3 lts water

Method: Boil the water with cinnamon and piloncillo. Add the squash cut in medium size (about 4”) and leave it until soft (about 2 hours).

Buen Provecho!

Here’s a short video where you can get a better sense of the property and excitement around this project.

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurants, hotels and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year.

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About jimpickell

James Pickell, CEO & President
Self-confessed serial entrepreneur. Addicted to challenges. Bores easily. Baja denizen and afficionado.
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