Project: Huertas

Understanding the Food Security of Migrant Farmworkers in Vermont

Oaxacan Recipes

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By: Sam Rothberg

The volunteers and others involved with Huertas often gather with migrant farmworkers in Vermont to not only help plant kitchen gardens, but to cook and enjoy food together. Below are three recipes from Zarela Martínez’s cookbook, “The Food and Life of Oaxaca” that would add unique flavor and variety to the gatherings. All of the recipes contain ingredients unique to Mexico that could be grown in the workers’ kitchen gardens.  The ingredient lists and explanations are taken directly from Martínez’s cookbook. Cook and enjoy!

Arroz con Chepil=Rice with Chepil


“This is one of the most popular Oaxacan rice dishes. There is no substitute for the chepil”(Martínez, 238).

Because there is no substitute for the chepil, this dish is a great recommendation for community gatherings and meals among migrant workers and Huertas volunteers.  It is an easy dish to make and provides great Mexican flavors to the palate.

1 cup long-grain rice

3 tablespoons lard or vegetable oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 small onion, finely chopped

2 cups chicken or pork stock

3 tablespoons chepil leaves stripped from stems

1/3 teaspoon salt, or to taste

“In a deep bowl, carefully rinse the rice in several changes of cold water until no starchy residue is visible. Drain thoroughly in a large sieve, shaking to remove as much water as possible.

In a heavy medium-size saucepan, heat the lard over medium-high heat until rippling.  Add the rice and cook, stirring constantly, until it colors slightly and sounds like sand as you stir it. Carefully pour off and discard any excess fat. Add the garlic and onion; cook, stirring, for about 1 minute. Stir in the stock, chepil, and salt. Cover tightly, reduce the heat to very low, and cook for 15 to 18 minutes. Remove from the heat and let sit for about 5 minutes, tightly covered, before serving”(Martínez, 238).

Salsa de Chile Pasilla=Oaxacan Pasilla Chile Salsa

“This is one of the most common table sauces in the state. It gets its haunting flavor from the Oaxacan pasilla chile, a smoked and dried type not to be confused with the regular Mexican pasillas that come form a different chile and are dried without smoking”(Martínez, 254).

A salsa is easy to make and represents Mexican and latin cuisine well. This salsa is very unique and would be a great addition to a Huertas gathering.

3 medium-small ripe tomatoes

1 Oaxacan pasilla chile or 1 dried chipotle or morita chile

½ small onion, coarsely chopped

1 garlic clove

1 teaspoon dried Oaxacan oregano or ½ teaspoon dried Mexican oregano, crumbled

½ teaspoon salt, or to taste

“Place the tomatoes and chile in a small saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and cook, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Drain and let sit until cool enough to handle. Peel the tomatoes and remove the stem from the chile.

Place the tomatoes and chile in a blender with the onion, garlic, and oregano. Process until smooth. Season with salt to taste. The sauce will keep in the refrigerator, tightly covered, for up to 2 days”(Martínez, 254).

Enfrijoladas=Tortillas with Bean Purée



“This is one of the standard snacks found at Oaxacan City food stands and restaurants”(Martínez, 131).

1 Oaxacan pasilla chile

1 small onion, halved

1 garlic clove, coarsely chopped

2 dried avocado leaves, toasted

1 cup cooked black beans

3 cups bean cooking liquid

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

2 tablespoons lard

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

½ teaspoon dried Mexican oregano, crumbled

½ cup vegetable oil

12 corn tortillas, homemade

8 ounces queso fresco or young ricotta salata, crumbled

“Place the dried chile in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Soak for about 20 minutes. Drain well. Coarsley chop half the onion and place in a blender with the drained chile, garlic, avocado leaves, beans, and a little of the bean liquid to facilitate blending; reserve the rest. Stir in ½ teaspoon salt, or to taste.

In a small saucepan, heat the lard to rippling over medium heat. Add the puréed bean mixture and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Gradually stir in enough of the reserved bean cooking liquid to thin the mixture to the consistency of heavy cream. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting, and keep warm, stirring occasionally, while you make the relish.

Mince the remaining half onion. In a small bowl, combine with the vinegar, oregano, and remaining ½ teaspoon salt, or to taste. Set aside.

In a small skillet just large enough to hold a tortilla, heat the oil until rippling over high heat. Fry the tortillas, one at a time, about 30 seconds. Lift out onto paper towels to drain. Fold each into quarters while it is still hot enough to be pliable; dip into the hot bean purée and place on a platter. When all are done, sprinkle with the onion mixture and the crumbled cheese. Serve immediately”(Martínez, 131).

Additionally, below is a link to a great recipe for tortilla soup.  This is a traditional mexican dish and with the apprpriate herbs and vegetables, can be made authentically.  Input from farmers and collaboration within the group could help make the stewing of this tortilla soup a fun and delicious gathering.

Torilla Soup:


Martínez, Zarela. The Food and Life of Oaxaca, Mexico. New York: Macmillan Publishing, 1997. Print.

Food Network. Tortilla Soup Recipe.


One thought on “Oaxacan Recipes

  1. Sam, these look like great recipes! I think that recipes, such as the ones you provided, could be a wonderful addition to the cooking days where volunteers and migrant workers get together to enjoy the many foods they have grown. Such recipes would not only teach volunteers about Oaxacan cuisine but also allow migrant workers to share their own unique versions of the types of food you mentioned. The Huertas cooking days could become an even better site of cultural exchange and appreciation! Additionally, cooking foods such as arroz con chepil and enfrilojadas can provide migrant workers with a sense of greater connection to their homeland even while being in Vermont. Great work that left me craving some Oaxacan cuisine!

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