Chef Enrique Silva gathers ingredients at Huerta Los Tamarindos’ organic farm. // © 2011 Deborah Dimond
Only a mile from the coast of the Sea of Cortez and far from the tourist-packed streets of Cabo San Lucas sits the quiet and idyllic Huerta Los Tamarindos organic farm. It begins to sound cliche when you say that a vendor is “off the beaten track,” but it was a bumpy unpaved road that led me to this farm and event space. The farm is an oasis in the middle of the stark Baja desert — a wide patch of green, complete with swaying palm trees, is bordered on all four sides by the parched landscape.
My guide and instructor for the afternoon’s cooking class and tour was Enrique Silva, the owner of Huerta Los Tamarindos who is also the chef and owner of Tequila Restaurant, located in the heart of San Jose del Cabo. Dressed in a smart chef uniform and somehow impervious to the stifling summer heat, chef Silva led our group for a 30-minute tour around the grounds. With a basket in hand, we ventured into the fields where Silva introduced us to the various fruits and vegetables that he produces and showed us how to harvest the ingredients needed for our upcoming cooking class.
The second part of the tour took place in Huerta Los Tamarindos’ cooking school, a historic home built on the property in the late 1800s, located on the hillside above the fields. Recent renovations converted the kitchen into an intimate teaching space where students sit along an island counter in the middle of a commercial-grade kitchen. Each student received a folder to take home with information about the different organic products growing at the farm along with the recipes covered in that day’s class.
The Huerta Los Tamarindos cooking school offers classes on a variety of cooking styles and cuisines ranging from traditional Mexican, pre-Hispanic and Mediterranean. For our class, the menu consisted of a variety of regional dishes. For starters, we made queso en hoja santa, a dish that resembles pizza but, in lieu of a crust, the dish is prepared with the liquorice-flavored leaves of the hoja santa plant, a regional staple. The second course was a light salad and a savory side of zucchini colash, a vegetable dish combining zucchini, tomatoes, herbs and ricotta cheese. For the main dish, the chef prepared chivito regional. The chivito (goat) meat was prepared four hours ahead of time to allow the marinade to soak into the meat. Next, it was placed in a pot lined with banana leaves and cooked in a wood-burning stove for three hours. For dessert, we stuffed bright yellow zucchini blossoms with soft fresh cheese and pieces of quince ate, a tasty gelatin-like ingredient similar to Turkish delight.
All the day’s dishes were simple to prepare and allowed students to practice chopping, grating and plating while sipping glasses of wine and asking questions to the chef. Once the cooking was finished, we retired to the outdoor patio where we dined on the fruits of our labors while gazing out at the fields below.