Posts tagged Mexican food
Fresh peaches are popping up everywhere–including on my fruit tray. Not every peach gets gobbled up in its prime so I like to get a little creative in how I use them. Enter salsa. The sweet flavor and smooth texture of peaches tempers the sometimes bitter undertones of dried chiles in homemade salsa.
Whether you have peaches that are starting to go mushy, or you just want to show them off in something new, try this amped up version of DIY salsa. Use it as enchilada sauce, salsa (it’s thinner, more in keeping with the traditional, Mexican variety)–I’m even marinating pork cutlets in it right now to go on the grill tomorrow.
Prep time: 20 minutes
Servings: around 3 1/2- 4 cups
3 ripe peaches
6 dried guajillo chiles
9 dried arbol chiles
1/2 onion, cut into large wedges
1 clove garlic
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes (I used Red Gold Petite Diced with Green Chiles)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika or cayenne pepper (optional)
1/2 tablespoon grapeseed or canola oil (optional step)
- Prep the dried chiles. On a medium-high heat skillet, toast the chiles until the skins start to look softer and slightly cooked (around 2 minutes, rotating the chile as it heats). Immediately place the chiles into a large bowl of hot water. Add the peaches to the bowl, too.
- Optional step: Roast the onions by putting them briefly onto the hot skillet after the chiles. Or, you can just place the onions into the water without toasting.
- In a blender, combine the canned tomatoes, onion, garlic, juice from the lime, and cumin.
- Remove the chiles from the water. Carefully cut around the tops of the chiles and remove as much of the seeds as possible. Add the chile skins to the other blended ingredients. Blend again.
- Remove the skins and pit from the peaches and add them to the blender. Mix until smooth. (You may need to add more water to get your desired consistency.)
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Now for another optional step: To fully meld the flavors of the salsa together it helps to cook it before cooling it to serve. Here’s how it works, bring the oil to medium-high heat in a saucepan, add the salsa (careful–it can splatter), then heat through. That’s it.
*Store the extra salsa in the fridge for up to a week.
For the finishing touch on tostadas, I like to add a little bit of sour cream swirls. They’re easy to make and the perfect job for kids.
Here’s how to make sour cream swirls for Mexican dishes:
- Place 1/3 cup sour cream into the corner part of a plastic baggy.
- Use kitchen scissors to cut a small hole in the corner of the bag with the sour cream. You’ve just created a DIY sour cream pastry bag!
- Make designs on your tostados, tacos, nachos, or flautas with the sour cream.
“Holidays” are a great excuse to introduce your kids to new foods. Yes, I’m using air quotes as I type. Cinco de Mayo–literally, the 5th of May–is an American invention (granted, there was a battle in Puebla, Mexico, in 1862 where the much smaller Mexican army defeated a large French force). But you won’t find any big celebrations in Mexico, outside of Puebla, to honor Cinco de Mayo. Nope, as a couple of writers recently put it: “Cinco is as American as apple pie. So is the U.S. Hispanic melting pot.”
Whew, with that out of the way, it’s time to move on to the good stuff–getting your would-be picky eaters to sample something new.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Swap the cheese
Queso fresco, a fresh Mexican cheese (I know, that’s pretty much a direct translation, but it’s true), tastes like a cross between feta and mozzarella with a hint of ricotta thrown in. The cheese usually comes in a solid circle that you crumble up to put on enchiladas, nachos, tacos, tostadas…you get the idea.
Picky eater tip: We call this ‘crumble cheese’ at our house for good reason–you have to crumble it before you use it. Perfect. Kid. Job. Ask your child to be the official crumbler and when she wants to sample what’s all over her fingers, say, Yes!
Bag the regular tortilla chips
My all-time favorite tortilla chips are El Milagro tortilla chips. No Tostitos. No Santitas. Not even Xochitl come close. Ahem, yes, I get a bit particular about my tortilla chips. Get this, there are all of four ingredients in El Milagro tortilla chips–stone ground corn, corn oil, sea salt, calcium hydroxide (it helps glue the corn together according to the all-knowing folks at Wikipedia). And the chips are thicker, heartier than your standard “restaurant-style” chip. Admittedly, El Milagro can be hard to find–I see them most often in Mexican grocers, but they’re starting to pop up in larger grocery chains too. Look for them!
Picky eater tip: Dip it! Give your kids some salsa for their chips and let them dip away.
Use corn tortillas
Toast them! Please. Corn tortillas are bland and caulk-like until you toast them and then something magical happens–they become entirely different in flavor, texture, aroma. It only takes a few minutes to toast up a stack of corn tortillas. Then try out your favorite taco fixins’ in the toasted corn tortillas instead of the stale, hard-shelled kind.
Picky eater tip: Break out the cookie cutters. You can make small shapes in the corn tortillas (before or after toasting). Granted, your filling may fall out of the tortillas with too many openings, so you might want to keep the cookie cutting to a few conveniently placed shapes. I use my linzer cookie cutters from King Arthur Flour.
Make your salsa
Homemade salsa is simple to make, really. You can keep it basic and just chop up tomatoes, onions, fresh jalapeno chiles, and cilantro for a pico de gallo. If you want more of a authentic salsa consistency, put all of the pico de gallo fixins’ into a blender with a little lime juice for a thinner salsa.
Picky eater tip: Have your kids help you make the salsa. When my kids have friends over, we often whip up salsa together. I let them cut up the ingredients and adjust the seasonings.
Bring on the cumin
Add something new to your standard Tex-Mex recipes–ground cumin. You can find cumin in pretty much any grocery store. Sprinkle in cumin with your taco fillings, guacamole, salsa.
Picky eater tip: Your kids aren’t likely to notice this subtle seasoning added in. But it will give your Mexican dishes and added depth and more authentic flavor.
Your turn: Are you planning a special meal for Cinco de Mayo?
My tween has been on a pistachio kick lately. And I’ve been encouraging it. She shuns peanuts and peanut butter–a childhood staple for me. So if pistachios are the closest thing I can get her to like besides peanuts, I’ll take it. With all the extra pistachios around, I’ve been putting them in just about everything, spinach pesto last week and salsa now.
Servings: 2- 2 1/2 cups
Prep time: 20 minutes
7 guajillo chiles (dried)
1 small onion, cut into wedges
1/2 serrano pepper
1/2 clove garlic (or throw in the whole thing if you’re a garlic lover)
1/4 cup pistachios (roasted, shelled)
1 26-oz can whole tomatillos, drained (or 6-8 fresh tomatillos)
1 tbsp. fresh lime juice or white vinegar
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
Salt to taste
- Cut the ends off of the guajillo chiles and remove as many of the seeds as possible.
- Bring a non-stick or cast-iron pan to medium-high heat. Place the chiles and onion wedges on the pan just until fragrant, about 2 minutes. You’ll notice that the chile skin becomes softer as it’s toasted. Watch the chiles carefully; they burn easily.
- Fill a large mixing bowl with hot water. Put the chiles and onion into the water while preparing the other ingredients (about 5 minutes).
- Cut the top off of the serrano chile and then cut it lengthwise. Carefully remove the seeds and ribs (you might want to wear gloves).
- In a blender, process the tomatillos, chiles, onion, cumin, lime juice, serrano, garlic, pistachios, and salt until smooth.
Plenty of uses beyond chip dipping:
- Saute chicken with the salsa
- Mix salsa and ranch dressing for salad
- Make quesadillas with cheese and salsa tucked inside the flour tortillas
I found gorgeous peaches at the market today, which I thought would pair perfectly with pork in traditional Mexican tacos. With authentic tacos, it’s all about the fresh fillings. Seriously, no cheese, no unidentifiable gritty ground meat.
For an easy, tasty summertime meal I chopped up pork cutlets into bit-sized pieces sauteed them with a few spices and lime before adding thin-sliced peaches, cilantro, and homemade salsa.
Picky eater trick: For my kids, I put all the ingredients on their plates and then let them construct their tacos on their own. My youngest later dipped the extra peaches right into the salsa. I surprisingly tasty combo!
Prep time: 30 minutes
2 lbs. pork
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
- Cut the pork into bite-sized pieces.
- Bring 1 tablespoon grape seed (or canola oil) to medium-high heat in a heavy-bottomed skillet.
- Saute the pork until heated through and crisped, adding garlic and cayenne powders and ground cumin half way through cooking.
- Squeeze half of a lime over the meat before removing it from the pan.
- Cut the peach into thin slices (I didn’t bother removing the skin since the slices were so slim).
- Serve the pork with fresh peach slices, cilantro, and salsa on toasted corn tortillas.
A molcajete is pretty much a the Mexican version of a mortar and pestle with Aztec origins. Mine came from a side street market in Mexico City and weighs 10 pounds (thank goodness my husband got it before the airlines started charging you to check your bags).
Made of volcanic rock, the molcajete’s porous surface absorbs the flavors of what has been ground in it before. So the garlic rub you might have used to start off a salsa a month ago will leave hints of flavor in the guacamole you make today; every batch is entirely unique.
For instructions on how to season your molcajete you can check out my post on Wandering Educators.
To create a basic tomato salsa at home using a molcajete here’s what you need:
Prep time: 15 minutes (depending on how hard you grind)
3 Roma tomatoes, chopped into slices* (See note)
2 slices onion
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
1 garlic clove, peeled
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (or 1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds)
Peppers (you can use whatever kind of heat your family prefers–cayenne powder, fresh serrano peppers, jalapenos)
- Place the cumin and garlic in the molcajete bowl. Grind into a paste using the hand tool.
- Next, grind the pepper of your choice in the molcajete bowl. I often use dried chiles, but fresh is great too.
- Add the tomatoes, onion, and cilantro to the molcajete and start grinding. (My kids have fun doing this).
- Mix in salt to taste and serve at your table in the molcajete.
*Note: Many salsa recipes call for you to remove the tomato skins before grinding. I’ve found that the skin comes off during the process and you can take it out easily. Another option is to use drained, canned tomatoes. These work well, especially the roasted variety.
Your turn: Have you ever used a molcajete? What about a mortar and pestle?
For some of you toasting corn tortillas might seem fairly basic, but for others you might still be clipping coupons for the hard shells. Put the scissors down.
Here’s what to do instead:
Look for white corn tortillas in the refrigerated section of your neighborhood store, or try to find a more local brand at a Mexican grocers. The brands at the store don’t tend to be as fresh or pliable, but they’re still an improvement over the hard shells.
If you have a gas grill you can go ahead and light the burner–or burners to medium heat (I use all four at once). Then place the white corn tortillas right on the grate. For those with electric ranges, it’s a bit harder to get the tortillas toasted; use a heavy-bottomed skillet that’s heated to medium-high heat.
The tortillas will begin to puff slightly as they bake, flip after about 1 minute then toast on the other side.
Last step, and this is important for flexible tortillas, place them in a tortilla warmer or a kitchen towel.
Often, when I’m serving tacos I’ll place the warmer in the middle of the table and then put a variety of fixings on each person’s plate.
More ideas for Cinco de Mayo:
Your turn–are you already a toasted corn tortilla fan?
Yesterday I explained how to make your own corn tortillas at home, well today I wanted to give you an idea for a tasty, fast filling: lime-spiked shrimp.
The shrimp filling takes all of 15 minutes to make (an extra 15 if I need to thaw the raw shrimp and remove the tails). Here’s how I do it:
- Heat 1/2 tablespoon canola or grape seed oil in wok or heavy bottomed skillet to medium-high heat.
- Add 20-30 medium-sized raw shrimp to the hot oil. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin and garlic powder; you can even add 1/4 cayenne if you want more of a kick.
- Cook until the shrimp are just beginning to turn pink (about 2 minutes) and squeeze all of the juice of a fresh lime during the final minute of cooking. Add salt to taste.
- Serve in toasted, corn tortillas with fresh salsa or as a topping for tostadas.
Cinco de Mayo is Saturday! I’m counting down the days until this American celebration of all things Mexican by posting ideas and recipes every day.
Today’s post is all about homemade tortillas. These are so easy and perfect for kids who want to help out in the kitchen.
These pictures will guide you through making tortillas. Easy peasy!
Mix water and PAN (white corn flour, NOT Masa which makes for harder tortillas) according to package directions.
Make dough into 1-inch balls and place at the center of your tortilla press that has been covered with plastic wrap on both sides (cutting boards will work too, but it’s a little harder to get the tortillas as thin).
Press the tortilla ball until thin.
Bake the tortillas on a preheated cast iron or other heavy-bottomed skillet.
Keep the cooked tortillas in a tortilla warmer or a clean kitchen towel until you’ve worked your way through all of the dough.
Looking for more specific directions? No worries, check out my detailed post about making homemade tortillas at Wandering Educators.
“Mom, we should have made more.” That says it all.
Have you ever tried making salsa from scratch? I’m not talking about pico de gallo, the chopped up tomato-onion-cilantro combo that sometimes gets mistaken for salsa. Nope, I’m thinking of Mexican salsa that comes in endless varieties and has as its base dried chiles.
Making salsa is actually easy–promise!–and doesn’t take much time. I had fun whipping up a batch yesterday with my teen and her friends. It took all of 20 minutes. We probably could have made it faster but we were chatting and sampling as we went.
Here are the basics:
- You can find dried chiles usually in the produce section or in the Mexican food aisle of your grocery store.
- My suggestion would be to start with larger chiles, like Ancho (my fav) or Mulato. They’re easier to seed than the smaller (but still tasty) Arbol chiles. Guajillo is right in between, but for newbies Ancho is also milder.
- You’ll need to remove the seeds from the chiles before pan roasting them.
- Plan on tweaking the salsa to suit your tastes: If you want to add some tomatoes to the mix, canned or fresh, by all means, go for it. If you want it sweeter, a little honey; more tart, a little vinegar. You get the idea. (I added sundried tomatoes to this batch.)
- I triple the recipe below and then save the extras in cleaned out raspberry jam jars.
Servings: About 1 cup
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 dried Ancho chiles
3 garlic cloves, peeled
4 medium tomatillos (or Roma tomatoes), cut in half
- Remove the stems and seeds from the Ancho chiles. How? I use kitchen shears to cut around the stem and then shake the seeds onto a paper towel, then discard.
- Bring the oil to medium-high heat in a heavy bottomed skillet.
- Add the chiles and watch carefully until they begin to soften, then remove (about 1 minute). Submerge the chiles into a bowl of hot water and let them sit while you’re preparing the rest of the ingredients.
- Wipe the oil out of the pan and add the garlic and tomatillos (or tomatoes), cut side down. Cook for about 2-3 minutes then place the tomatillos and garlic in a blender.
- Drain the water from the chiles and add them to the blender.
- Pour in 1/2 cup water and puree until smooth. Continue adding in water until the salsa reaches your desired consistency. I like to make it a little runnier since it will thicken a bit as it cools.
- Now for the tweaks: I usually add salt, a teaspoon or two of red cider vinegar and a pinch of sugar or a drizzle of honey.
- Serve with tacos, chips, or tostadas.