Posts tagged Mexican food

How to toast tortillas

Please don’t eat hard taco shells. Soft, toasted corn tortillas are so much better. They’re cheaper. And they’re more authentic.


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:

Homemade corn tortillas

Fresh chile salsa

Lime-spiked shrimp

Your turn–are you already a toasted corn tortilla fan?

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Shrimp tacos

Use lime shrimp for tacos or tostadas

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:

  1. Heat 1/2 tablespoon canola or grape seed oil in wok or heavy bottomed skillet to medium-high heat.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Serve in toasted, corn tortillas with fresh salsa or as a topping for tostadas.
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Homemade tortillas in 5 steps

Your kids will love making tortillas

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!

Step 1:

Mix water and PAN (white corn flour, NOT Masa which makes for harder tortillas) according to package directions.

Step 2:

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).

Step 3:

Press the tortilla ball until thin.

Optional step: Use a large biscuit cutter to make the tortillas uniform in size.

Step 4:

Bake the tortillas on a preheated cast iron or other heavy-bottomed skillet.

If you've never purchase PAN, here's what to look for at the store.

Step 5:

Keep the cooked tortillas in a tortilla warmer or a clean kitchen towel until you’ve worked your way through all of the dough.

Here's what my $10 tortilla press looks like.

Looking for more specific directions? No worries, check out my detailed post about making homemade tortillas at Wandering Educators.

Having fun making tortillas

Kids’ reactions:

“Mom, we should have made more.” That says it all.

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Basic chile salsa recipe

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.

My salsa recipe turns out differently every time, so I’m passing along a tweaked version of Rick Bayless‘ Toasty Arbol or Guajillo Chile Salsa from his excellent cookbook Mexican Everyday.

Recipe

Prep time: 20 minutes

Servings: About 1 cup

Ingredients

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

3 dried Ancho chiles

3 garlic cloves, peeled

4 medium tomatillos (or Roma tomatoes), cut in half

Directions

  1. 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.
  2. Bring the oil to medium-high heat in a heavy bottomed skillet.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Drain the water from the chiles and add them to the blender.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Serve with tacos, chips, or tostadas.
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Taquitos with Greek avocado guacamole

Greek yogurt guacamole

For my birthday Mr. Squid made a Mexican feast–chicken and potato ancho-spiced taquitos, rice and refried beans. But we only had one avocado. Not enough for guacamole. So he poked around the refrigerator to see how he could improvise. Now we’ve been whipping Greek yogurt in with salad dressing and vinaigrettes for awhile now, so he figured the creamy consistency of the yogurt might pair well with avocado. It did.

A few good reasons to give this Mexican-Greek fusion guac a try? Here you go:

At least around here avocados are pricy right now–adding Greek yogurt into your guac makes it go farther!

Say your avocado isn’t quite mash ready; mix in Greek yogurt and you can get the perfect consistency, whether the avocado is ripe or not.

Kids who are turned off by regular guac might like this lighter version.

Recipe

Prep time: 10 minutes

Servings: 4-6


Ingredients

1 avocado

1/3-2/3 cup Greek yogurt

1/4 cup salsa (green preferred)

1/2 lime (enough juice for 1 Tbsp.)

Tabasco (or other spicy sauce)

salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Cut the avocado in half lengthwise.
  2. Scoop both halves of the avocado into a mixing bowl along with 1/3 cup Greek yogurt and 1/4 cup salsa.
  3. Mix together using a emulsion blender (or you can use a blender).
  4. Add 1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lime juice.
  5. Adjust taste and consistency by adding extra salsa and Greek yogurt, salt and pepper.
  6. Blend and serve.

*For a chunky guacamole, put only half of the avocado into the Greek yogurt mix. Follow the remaining steps. Cut the other half of avocado into dices and mix with a spoon into the pureed guacamole mix.

Kids’ reactions: The teen gave it two thumbs up (it’s taken her a long while to like avocados). My two younger kids tried a dip or two of guacamole with their taquitos–they liked that it was dippable, but no rave reviews from them. I’m working on it.

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Zucchini quesadillas

Zucchini and Mexican spices were just made for each other. When I saute zucchini, I often add a little ground cumin, ground ancho powder and a dash of cayenne. But around our house a plate of sauteed zucchini does not a meal make. I do like using it instead of meat in enchiladas, but for a quicker meal, I go with zucchini quesadillas.

You can keep it simple, with just sauteed zucchini and Monterrey Jack cheese, or make your own refried beans to slather on the tortilla too. You might even want to try white corn tortillas instead of the usual flour.

To make this meal a stand-out (and when pineapple is on sale, which it is here right now), I’ll take a slice of pineapple, make slits and then stand the quesadilla wedges up in the slits. And yes, if I’m fumbling through my drawer and find a little umbrella, I pop that on too.

*Side note: I prefer green zucchini to yellow, it just seems to hold its shape better when it’s sauteed versus the squishier yellow.

Recipe

Prep time: 30 minutes (including cooking)

Servings: 4-6


Ingredients

1 large green zucchini, sliced into thin quarter pieces

1 small onion, diced

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 can vegetarian refried beans (or make your own)

1 ½ cups Monterrey Jack cheese

4 flour or corn tortillas

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Add olive oil to a large skillet and bring to medium-high heat, toss in the zucchini and onion and cook until just barely tender.
  2. Meanwhile, using a kitchen knife add about 1/8-1/4 cup refried beans to each tortilla. Repeat with four tortillas.
  3. Remove the peppers and onions from the skillet and place the bean covered tortilla, uncovered side on the pan.
  4. Place ¼ of the sautéed zucchini and onions along with a generous handful of cheese onto the bean-covered tortilla. Add another plain tortilla on top.
  5. Flip the tortilla over in the heated pan (as you would with grilled cheese) once the tortilla begins to crisp.
  6. Heat the other side of the quesadilla until crisp. Cool for 3-4 minutes before cutting with a pizza cutter.
  7. Serve with salsa for dipping.
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More Mexican dishes & an announcement

Thinking about what kind of taco to eat next after climbing a pyramid in Mexico

I hope you enjoyed Mexican Independence Day, yesterday. But just in case you’re still looking for Mexican dishes to make this week (can you tell yet it’s my favorite kind of food?)  I’ve gathered up all of MKES’s Mexican recipes for you to look through here. And just so you don’t have to dig for this post, I’ve also added a tab with links on the main page.

But before you start looking through recipes, I wanted to let you know that I’ll be contributing once a month to WanderingEducators.com, an amazing site filled with information that can help you teach your kids about other cultures. I feel privileged to be one of their editors, I will be covering Global Cuisines & Kids. My first post about Finding an Authentic Mexican Taco Shop went live on Friday.

Let’s make a meal

Dinnertime tostadas

A good meal to use up plenty of leftovers from corn tortillas, to chicken, to lettuce and whatever else you have in your fridge.

Authentic Red Chile Enchiladas

This sauce takes time, but it’s worth the effort. Plus you can freeze some for later.

Homemade Sopes and Tortillas

Hand-crafted tortillas are deceptively difficult to make, but the thicker, easier to flip sopes–so much easier!

Authentic Mexican rice

The secret behind this rice is to start with a mixture that resembles pico de gallo.

Amish Nachos

Nothing authentic about ‘em, just an excuse to fuse really good bacon with some Mexican flavors.

Turkey picadillo tacos

So easy and a great way to use ground turkey.

Salsas


Quick chipotle pico de gallo

This salsa is so versatile you shouldn’t shy away from adding other, unexpected ingredients like dried cherries, chipotle….

Black bean salsa

For a heartier pico de gallo, add your favorite kind of beans.

Sweet stuff

Rice pudding

So soothing after a hearty meal packed with chiles.

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Mexican rice

Continuing with dishes to make to celebrate Mexico’s Independence Day tomorrow, here’s my favorite version of Mexican rice.

The ingredients behind good Mexican rice may sound almost like you’re making a pico de gallo—tomatoes, onions, cilantro, garlic. But instead of dipping chips into a chunky salsa, you puree the tomatoes and other ingredients and add them to the rice after you’ve sautéed it in oil. Each of these steps guarantees that each rice kernel will get coated in seasoning and have that bright red color.

This recipe is based on one I discovered in The America’s Test Kitchen: Family Cookbook, one of my favorite cookbooks. But I’ve made quite a few changes to make it even faster and easier to put together. The original recipe calls for you to cut up fresh tomatoes, seed jalapenos. When I’ve done that I always seem to end up with either too much jalapeno—meaning the rice is way too spicy to eat or there’s not enough oomph with the jalapeno (but I still had to get chile juice underneath my nails after getting them prepped for the recipe). I bypass all those steps by using canned tomatoes with green chiles. The milder chiles have the perfect balance of spice.

Recipe

Prep time: 20 minutes + baking

Servings: 6-8

Ingredients

2 10-ounce cans sliced tomatoes and green chiles

1 small onion, peeled, quartered

1/3 cup vegetable oil

2 garlic cloves

2 cups chicken broth (or water)

2 cups rice

1/2 teaspoon salt

fresh cilantro (optional)

¾ cups peas (canned or frozen, thawed optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Rinse the rice with water to remove the starch.
  3. On the stovetop in a heavy-bottomed pan bring the oil to a medium-high heat.
  4. Add the rice and cook until the rice is no longer translucent (about 5 minutes).
  5. In a blender or food processor, mix the tomatoes, salt, onion and garlic.
  6. Carefully pour the tomato puree into the rice, cook for 3 minutes then add in the chicken broth.
  7. Bring the rice mixture to a boil and then place it in the oven for 20 minutes. (Alternatively, you can cook the rice on the stovetop.)
  8. Remove the rice from the oven, checking to make sure all of the liquid is absorbed. Add in the peas and cilantro and fluff with a fork.
  9. Serve with lime wedges to drizzle on top.
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Tostadas for dinner

Do you see the little Halloween ghost, cat and bat I used on top?

This Friday is Mexican Independence Day. Don’t confuse Independence Day with Cinco de Mayo (literally the 5th of May, which is more of an American holiday). To celebrate, I wanted to pass along some of my favorite Mexican dishes this week. That brings me to tostadas. It seems like tostadas are often thought of as an appetizer. But trust me, it doesn’t take much to turn ‘em into a meal.

First things first. There’s going to be some frying involved. Please don’t buy those stacks of pre-made tostadas you sometimes see at the store. They’re tasteless. Instead, use corn tortillas you may already have at home or buy a pack at the store. This is one of the times that fresh tortillas are actually harder to use (more moisture means splattering when you fry). I fry the tortillas in a wok that has about 1 1/2 to 2 inches of canola oil in the bottom. Bring it to a medium-high heat, checking the temp by dropping a sprinkle of flour into the oil–if the flour immediately begins to sizzle, you’re ready to go. Fry ‘em in batches of two or three about 2 minutes on each side. Remove them when they just begin to have golden spots (you don’t want them too crisp). Keep in mind the tortillas may form an air bubble as they fry, just push ‘em down gently into the oil and the bubble should go away. Drain the tortillas on paper towels and sprinkle with salt. As far as servings go, I make two tostadas for kids, three for adults. And one last note, these are meant to be eaten with your hands, trying to cut these with a fork and knife…well…I wouldn’t recommend it.

Now for the fixins’. I raid the fridge. Granted, I usually have quite a bit of Mexican ingredients on hand. But here’s the idea–it’s like

Someone is ready to eat!

building a taco salad using the fried corn tortilla as the base. You can use store-bought rotisserie chicken to keep it easy, or I usually have some kind of meat leftover that I toss in a pan that’s been heated to medium-high with a little bit of oil and then I crisp the meat and add ground cumin, garlic powder and chili powder or cayenne for a bit of a kick. (We also make these meatless and use sauteed zucchini instead of pork or chicken). Then I make sure I have refried beans, shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, shredded sharp cheddar cheese (authentic tostadas would usually have a fresh white cheese like queso fresco on them) and a dollop of sour cream. I also had some leftover diced green chiles and corn so I put those on too.

Now as long as I had the oil out and heated, I had to add some fun to my tostadas. I recently bought a Halloween linzer cookie cutter (hey, I had a 40% coupon at Jo-Ann Fabrics, which surprisingly has cooking stuff too). I used the small cutters to make shapes in the corn tortillas and then I fried those. Caution: they fry fast. I had at least one burnt bat.

For and easy to scan recipe, here you go–

Dinnertime tostadas

Ghostly tostadas

Prep time: 45 minutes

Servings: 4

Ingredients

8-12 corn tortillas

2 cups chopped, heated chicken, pork, beef or zucchini

1 can refried beans, heated

3 cups shredded lettuce

1 cup chopped tomato

1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1 cup corn (optional)

1/2 cup green chiles (optional)

1 lime (optional)

Sour cream

Canola oil

Salsa

Directions

  1. Bring 1 1/2 to 2 inches of oil to medium-high heat in a heavy-bottomed pan or a wok.
  2. Fry the corn tortillas 2-3 at a time until just crisped, drain excess oil on a paper towel.
  3. For each fried corn tortilla, slather refried beans on the top (this is important because the beans act as the glue between the corn tortilla and the rest of your ingredients).
  4. After the beans, layer the rest of the ingredients on top in this order–meat, lettuce, tomatoes, corn, green chiles, whole beans, squeeze a little lime on top, then add the cheese and sour cream. (If you fried up some ghosts, you can use those too. Any small cookie cutter will do for cool shapes)
  5. Serve warm with salsa.
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Kids in the kitchen: Mexican fiesta for Father’s Day

Are you ready for Father’s Day? More important—are your kids? We did a dry run this week of the fiesta we’re planning for dad’s big day. (Don’t worry, I’m not usually practicing for every holiday meal a week ahead but I needed pictures for this post and, well, we had a lot of fun putting this together.)

Appetizers: Heart-shaped quesadillas

Putting it together: Heat a skillet to medium high and place a flour tortilla in the center, top generously with Monterrey Jack or mozzarella cheese and add another flour tortilla. Flip after 3 minutes, or when crisped. Repeat with as many quesadillas as you need. Let the quesadilla cool for 3 minutes and then make shapes using a cookie cutter. Our theme for the meal is heart-shaped–1)because it’s Father’s Day and 2)because that’s the cookie cutter I had on hand. (I really need to get a few more cookie cutters!!)

Kids’ favorite part: Making the cut-outs of course. And decorating the plate with shredded lettuce and tomatoes.

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Entrée: Shredded pork tacos

Putting it together: Simple and delicious. I put a pork roast in the crockpot for the day along with a can of salsa verde. You could also throw in onion (whole, don’t even bother cutting), fresh chile peppers, along with one cup of a liquid that will give the pork a bit of flavor (chicken broth is good too). Cook on high for 5-6 hours and shred once it’s done. Add 1 teaspoon canola oil to a large skillet at medium-high heat and crisp the shredded pork. Add salt to taste and a little cayenne and cumin powder. Toast corn tortillas over a medium-high heat flame (if you don’t have a gas oven, use a skillet to toast the tortillas). Once they’re just crisped put them in a tortilla warmer or clean kitchen towel until you’re ready to use them. On each plate place two tortillas along with a heaping mound of pork, salsa, fresh cut-up tomatoes, lettuce and a dollop of sour cream (if desired). We found these pork tacos were so tasty they didn’t need much dressing up–the secret is the flavoring in the crockpot and the crisping afterwards.

Kids’ favorite part: Well, swiping little pieces of pork as it was crisping. My oldest liked being able to work with the skillet and my youngest liked having tomato topping duty (my middle daughter was busy setting the table).

###############

Dessert: Cinnamon sugar tortillas with honey and fresh berries

Putting it together: You didn’t put away the cookie cutter, did you? Use it again to make heart-shaped pieces of flour tortillas. Spray a baking sheet with cooking oil, add your flour tortilla cut-outs, spray again and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar; this has the flavor of a light churro. Bake at 375 for 8 minutes or until just crisped. Cool slightly and serve on a plate drizzled with honey or chocolate sauce and top with fresh berries.

Kids’ favorite part: Every step–I mean, this is dessert!

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If you’re looking for ideas outside the kitchen to make Father’s Day special, check out these ah-inducing stories from Motherboard moms. I looked through these as part of the Motherboard crew and I must say I enjoyed every one, especially the military family who shares the day with the families of those who’ve lost husbands and fathers. We shared our Mother’s Day meal with a friend who’d recently been widowed and it made the day so much more special to celebrate together.

Dressed up heart quesadillas

Heart-shaped tortilla crisps

Your turn–what are you doing to make the dads in your life feel special on Father’s Day?

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