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Meatless Monday: Zucchini tomato goulash

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Chef Silva has a degree in agricultural engineering and, in fact, introduced himself to our group as an agricultural engineer and farmer, even though he is chef/partner at Tequila, one of the first fine-dining restaurants in San José Del Cabo. Silva’s love of agriculture along with the occasional lack of availability of fresh produce and herbs led him to create his own organic farm, just 10 minutes away from his restaurant. Huerta Los Tamarindos grows many herbs – basil, rosemary, sage, marjoram, thyme, chives and lemongrass – as well as heirloom tomatoes and eggplants. Silva’s organic produce is featured heavily on Tequila’s menu as well as at other top area restaurants. He also exports to the United States and Canada.

Last year, Silva expanded Huerta Los Tamarindos to include an events garden, packing plant, organic educational facility – and the cooking school, where we went to work on lunch. Chef Silva and his team had already started the main course, meaty chunks of bone-in goat in a roasted tomato pepper sauce, wrapped in banana leaves and roasted in an outdoor wood-fired oven. (Just typing that description, my mouth is watering in memory of this dish; I will likely attempt a similar dish sometime this fall, when the weather is more conducive to three-hour roasting in my indoor gas-fired oven.)

My fellow travelers and I helped prepare three dishes for the meal. First was a gluten-free “pizza” in which the crust was replaced with hoja santa leaves. Hoja santa is a licorice-tasting aromatic herb with large, heart-shaped leaves. It’s used a lot in Mexican cuisine and is said to be an essential ingredient in mole verde. For dessert, we stuffed squash blossoms with ricotta cheese, topped them with slices of membrillo, a quince paste very popular in Spain, popped them in the oven briefly and then drizzled them with honey.

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