The other weekend Ricky and I dug out our passports, packed our duffels, and spent 2.5 days in Mexico City. It was such a weird experience to travel abroad for such a short amount of time. And, I mean "weird" in the best, most surreal way possible. We're lucky that we are close to Mexico and Canada, so spontaneous out-of-the-country trips are even possible. Other than a quick drive over the border when I was younger, I've never spent such a short amount of time abroad.
We took the red eye Friday night from LAX, and landed bright and early Saturday morning (read: 5:00am!!). I didn't sleep much on the flight, so before setting out for the day we ventured out to find some coffee. Mexico City has a big coffee scene, so while we were eager for some caffeine, we also wanted to find somewhere good. After downing our intricately made lattes (seriously, I think I guzzled mine faster than the barista actually made it), we set out grab some famous barbacoa for breakfast. The Barbacoa at El Hidalguense is served in a banana leaf with warm blue corn tortillas, 3 fresh and SPICY salsas, limes, and onion. I'm not the biggest fan of lamb, but this was unbelievable. And, after a flight and very little food, you can bet we asked for a second round of tortillas.
We spent the rest of the day wandering around large city, visited the top of Chapultepec Castle, and ended the afternoon with a much needed nap and a cocktail at one of the coolest looking restaurants I've been to in awhile. Unfortunately, our broken Spanish got us into a bit of a pickle here - we ordered an appetizer, didn't realize what we had ordered, and accidentally asked for it to be sent back. Ugh. Thankfully, with the help of Google and my 9th grade Spanish teacher, we were able to apologize and move on. Luckily, we finished the night on a high note - street tacos. The best were by far the al pastor, but I even tried tripa and lengua!
The next day we popped into a small cafe for breakfast. Ricky mentioned that the fig is a popular ingredient in Mexico City, so I opted for the croissant de higos. After fueling up on pastries and americanos we made our way to Coyoacan, a small subset of Mexico City that retains a very cultural, small town vibe and houses the Frida Khalo museum. The museum was actually where Frida Khalo and Diego Rivera lived; a beautiful bright blue Spanish style home. After the museum we spent some time wandering the markets of Coyoacan, where we ate tostadas and drank fresh squeezed peach and guava juice.
The rest of the trip consisted plenty of walking and consuming. We wolfed down tortas de al pastor, warm churros con chocolate, tlacoyos for breakfast, and a fancy lunch at one of Mexico City's most popular eateries, Contramar. We sat outside, Parisian style, and enjoyed tuna tostadas, ceviche, a grilled fish for two, 4 glasses of sangria, and the most amazing fig tart. All for the equivalent of $64 US dollars.
Yes, you heard me right.
But, I digress. Back to the figs. This tart was so damn good. And you know what, so was the croissant! I've had figs before, of course, but hadn't really enjoyed the intricacies of its uses before. To be honest, a fig will forever remind me of Fig Newtons.
So, as a challenge of sorts, I know I wanted my "travel inspiration" recipe from Mexico City to be derived from my new found love. Enter my Marinated Pork Loin with Fig Salsa.
Guys. This combo is better than I could have ever imaged. I was a little skeptical on whether this would work, but the sweet figs absorb the flavors of the other salsa ingredients and then pairs so perfectly well with the spicy, fatty pork. This is a perfect "plan ahead" meal, as the salsa gets better with time and the pork should definitely marinade for at the very least 4 hours. Do yourself a favor, make this meal and contemplate booking your own weekend getaway to Mexico City. The figs are waiting...
Serving Size: 4
1.5 lb pork loin
1.5 cups fresh squeezed orange juice
2.5 tbsp vinegar
3 tbsp olive oil
1.5 tsp chili powder
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp cumin
3 garlic cloves
salt & pepper to taste
7 medium dried figs, diced (about 5 fresh figs)
3/4 cup chopped cucumber
2 small green onion, diced
1 lime, juiced
3 tsp olive oil
1/4 cup cilantro, plus more for garnish
salt & pepper to taste
cotija cheese for garnish
1. Combine all ingredients for the pork marinade in a bowl and whisk until thoroughly combined.
2. Pour marinade into a galloon size freezer bag, add the pork loin. Zip the bag, careful to squeeze out all the air, and move around the loin to coat in the marinade.
3. Marinade for at least 2 hours, but up to 1/2 day or overnight. I did a little over 4 hours and thought it was perfect.
4. Meanwhile, combine all of the dry ingredients for the salsa. Drizzle with olive oil and lime juice, season with salt and pepper and mix to coat. Set aside in refrigerator to let flavors meld.
5. Preheat the oven to 425°. Remove the pork from the refrigerator and let come to room temperature.
6. In your oven safe skillet, heat a large tablespoon of oil (high heat is best with avocado or coconut).
7. Sear the pork loin on all sides until lightly brown and caramelized.
8. Bake the pork for about 30-35 minutes. Once complete, remove and let sit for 10 minutes.