With such a limited number of days for our Cozumel trip, Hook and I wanted to do something a little different for our organized activities than the usual daysail & snorkel, or your typical island tour. I scoured the postings on Trip Advisor as well as other Cozumel websites and found two that had a lot of potential. One of them was “Josefina’s Cocina Con Alma“, a local cooking class that had rave reviews. Did I say cooking class?… While on vacation?… For someone like me, who does not like to cook? Si! Indeed I did, and I happily signed us up for a session.
Being the official chef of la casa de moosie, Hook was of course excited about the cooking class. I was excited that Hook will have new recipes to add to his repertoire of delicious food for my tummy.
Luckily the class starts at 11am, so no need to wake up super early for folks like us who are not early risers. From our hotel, we took a short taxi ride to Josefina’s house in town where the class is located.
For once we were actually early — no island time for us this time! We were soon joined by Cindy and Summer, two very fun sisters from Texas who were on a cruise ship that was in port that day. Six ladies (myself, Cindy, Summer, Josefina, mami and her daughter — the sous chefs) and Hook, the only guy in class. Hmmm… maybe that is why he was so eager to sign up for the class… knowing that cooking classes are generally well-attended by ladies??
Once the introductions have been done, we headed to the local market around the corner to purchase some of the ingredients we will need for our cooking. This was definitely a market geared for locals, not the fancy ultra sanitized supermarket with pre-packaged goods that most of us are accustomed to.
It was wonderful to see all the different fruits and vegetables on display.
And even better having a guide like Josefina tell us the name of each item and bridge the language barrier since the vendors had very limited English skills and we had even more limited Spanish skills.
Back at the house, the first culinary lesson was cleaning and prepping the nopales (cactus) leaves. I was rather proud of myself for having tightly cut out the edges of the leaf, thinking that I had minimized what was wasted of the nopales. Little did I know it meant I had a larger surface to scrape and clean, unlike the rest of the class who cut out a wide edge of the leaf. Damn! That’s the last time I’m going to over-achieve!!
Next was prepping the achiote marinade for our chicken entree. Hook was designated as the muscle-man masher for the achiote paste and garlic, using a molcajete (mol-cah-heh-teh … go ahead, say it… it sounds so sexy doesn’t it? I just love saying it . mol-cah-heh-teh!). A molcajate is a mortar and pestle, for you Williams-Sonoma types, a staple kitchen tool in a traditional Mexican kitchen.
The other entree that we made was Pescado a la Veracruzana (fish with vera cruz sauce). Super easy and very tasty.
We learned a lot of new things from the class such as how to make fresh guacamole (muy delicioso!), a pineapple margarita (muy fantastico!!), tomatillo sauce, nopales salad, jicama with chile, mango with cucumber salad, refried beans, and quesadilla con flora de calabaza (squash blossom quesadilla). Yum!
We even learned how to make tortillas from scratch! While the 3 of us ladies struggled with the tortilla-making, Hook the star student got complimented twice on his perfectly-shaped and pounded tortillas. What a show-off!
We had a lot of laughs while chopping and pounding and mixing. Cindy and Summer were hilarious and had a great sense of humor. We were lucky to have such a fun group!
All the recipes were simple and can easily be made once we were back home. Everything was absolutely delicious. We ate everything that we prepared and there was so much food we were stuffed to the gills afterwards.
This class is definitely worth it. We would definitely recommend this class if you are visiting Cozumel and are interested in learning some local culinary recipes and looking for something different to do while on vacation.