Isla Mujeres: Ixchel’s Island
Isla Mujeres or Island of the Women earned its name in 1517 when Spanish explorers discovered statues of Ixchel, the Mayan Moon Goddess on this island just 25 minutes by ferry from Cancun. Ixchel’s temple is still here, perched atop a rocky cliff overlooking the Caribbean Sea in Garrafon Reef Park – it’s where Mayan women once traveled to pray for a fertile marriage.
Today, visitors come for snorkeling in the fish filled coral reefs, zipling above Mayan ruins, frolicking with dolphins and taking the short jitney ride to the bustling shopping plaza on Avenue Rueda Medina in the island’s only town. Here artisans display their wares – elaborately embroidered Mayan dresses, Talavera pottery and an assortment of pretty trinkets.
Wander the town, past brightly colored stucco homes, stopping at the stalls of local vendors for fresh fruit sprinkled with fiery red pepper and spicy hot meat stuffed into freshly made tortillas.
The following recipe, typical of Isla de Mujeres, is courtesy of Pati Jinich, host of the popular Emmy and James Beard nominated PBS series Pati’s Mexican Table and author of Pati’s Mexican Table: The Secrets of Real Mexican Home Cooking and Mexican Today: New and Rediscovered Recipes for Contemporary Kitchens.
Brocoli y Coloflor Rostizadas con Aderezo de Cotija
Roasted Broccoli & Cauliflower with Queso Cotija Dressing
5 to 6 servings
For the vegetables:
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
3 chopped chiles de arbol or 1 generous teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup olive oil plus more for brushing
1 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds broccoli cut into 1/4″ vertical slices, including thick part of stem
2 pounds cauliflower cut into 1/4″ vertical slices, including thick part of stem
For the dressing:
1/2 cup crumbled queso cotija
2/3 cup Mexican crema
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons water
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt or to taste
Preheat oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit.
Mix the lime juice, orange juice, olive oil, chile de arbol, 1 teaspoon salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Brush 2 large baking sheets with olive oil. Place the broccoli and cauliflower on each baking sheet, making sure that it is well spread out and not crowded. Evenly pour the orange juice mixture all over the vegetables.
Place in the oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, flipping once in between, until well roasted and considerably charred. Remove from the oven.
In the jar of the blender, combine the queso cotija, Mexican crema, vegetable oil, sherry vinegar, water, garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Puree until smooth.
Serve the broccoli and cauliflower in an extended platter and ladle the queso cotija right on top, or let your guests spoon sauce onto their plates and dip their vegetables in the sauce to their liking.
Hours: The park is open every day from 9:00 am until 5:00 pm in winter and from 9:00 am until 6:00 pm in summer.
Departures from Cancun: 9:30am and 11:00am
Returns from Garrafon: 4:15 pm and 5:30 pm (subject to change)