Posts tagged Mexican

Asian Mex avocado egg roll

Avocado spring rollsIn February, we went to New Year’s celebration at our favorite Chinese restaurant and I’ve had avocado egg rolls on the brain ever since. I wasn’t expecting to like warm avocado–let alone the green, creamy vegetable smeared into an egg roll wrapper, then fried. But hey, it was the special so we had to try them out. Avocado egg rolls rock!

 

For my version, I wanted to add in a dash of Mexican flavor–and spice. These egg rolls were easy to make and fried up beautifully.

 

Recipe

Servings: 12 egg rolls

Prep time: 30 minutes

 

Ingredients:

3 ripe avocados

1/2 white onion, diced small

1/3 cup red bell pepper, diced small (opt.)

1/2 tsp. ground cumin

1/4 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 serrano pepper, diced (opt.)

Salt to taste

12 egg roll wrappers

Oil for frying

 

Dipping sauce:

Juice from 1 orange

1 tablespoon vinegar (I used orange vinegar, you could use any light vinegar, like white)Avocado egg rolls with orange dipping sauce

1 tsp. agave syrup

1/2 serrano pepper sliced in rings

2 green onions, white and green parts sliced into rings

Pinch of salt

 

Directions:

  1. Mix together avocado, onion, serrano pepper, red pepper, cumin, garlic powder, and salt.
  2. Place about 1 1/2 tbsps. avocado mixture diagonally in the middle of one egg roll wrapper.
  3. Fold one corner of the egg roll toward the middle of the avocado mixture. Then fold the sides of the wrapper in toward the avocado mixture.
  4. Starting the place of your first corner fold, roll the egg roll toward the last end (dab that corner with water so the end sticks). You can follow the egg roll instructions here, too.
  5. Roll the remaining egg rolls.
  6. Fill a wok with about 1 1/2″ frying oil. Bring the oil to medium-high heat.
  7. Fry the egg rolls three at a time about 2-3 minutes a piece until golden.
  8. Drain on paper towels.
  9. To make the sauce: Whisk all of the sauce ingredients together.
  10. Serve hot.

Kids’ reactions: Big favorite with the teen. My youngest who has declared she “doesn’t like avocados” tried this recipe and liked it. She didn’t ask for seconds, but it’s a start. My tween tried a bit of her avocado egg roll and politely left the rest there.

 

 

 

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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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Quick black bean salsa

Black beans and salsa make a tasty combo. The beans give the salsa heft, while the tomatoes, peppers and lime add a punch of flavor to beans that might otherwise go—well, let’s admit it–uneaten. So if you’ve always been reaching for pinto beans or refried beans at the grocery store, go ahead a pick up a can or two of black.

These smaller beans are just slightly harder than pinto. They also have a meatier flavor. Now I could also point out that black beans top pinto in terms of nutritional value and fiber content, but what I really like about them in this dish is the color—the shiny black color pops against the red tomato and the specks of green cilantro. So if you’re family usually shuns beans, this colorful combination might just convince them to give it a try.

Now a word about the chili peppers: First, I run the knife lengthwise across the pepper, then open it up and remove the seeds. Some people wear gloves to do this but I just make sure to wash my hands well after messing with the seeds. The oil from the seeds can sting if it gets in your eyes so be careful. I add the pepper in parts—1/4 at a time. It’s easy to add a little heat and a whole lot harder to take it out if you put in too much. I’d stir all the ingredients together, let it sit for half an hour, then add more if the heat isn’t enough. I save any extras in a small plastic baggy to put into other dishes. Also, while fresh is best, you can use pickled jalapeno peppers.

Recipe

Prep time: 10 minutes

Servings: 1 1/2 cups

Ingredients

1 19.75-ounce can black beans (or similar size)

2 medium tomatoes

½ cup cilantro, chopped

2 limes (or one if it’s really juicy)

1 small onion

1 jalapeno or Serrano chili pepper

salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Drain the liquid from the black beans place in a mixing bowl.
  2. Chop the tomatoes and onion into small, uniformly sized pieces. Add them to the beans
  3. Remove the seeds from the pepper carefully then add ¼ to the mix. Test the heat level and add more until you reach the desired level.
  4. Squeeze the juice from two limes directly into the salsa.
  5. Add the cilantro, salt and pepper, stir and adjust seasonings, then serve with tortilla chips.
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On-the-go burritos

Raise of hands, who has no time to cook because their kids are in choir/basketball/theatre/piano lessons/girl scouts or all of the above? Me too. What is it about this time of year that piles up one activity after another (despite my best efforts not to over-schedule)?

Now you know I love to cook, but lately I’ve been running from one kid’s activity to the next after school so that by the time I get home I don’t have much time to whip up dinner. Take my Monday: I came home after watching one child’s basketball game at 5:30pm, checked my email and found out my other’s daughter’s coach had moved up her practice by ½ hour. And could I have her there by 6pm? Yikes.

Luckily I knew I’d have a tight schedule that night (although I wasn’t thinking it would be quite THAT tight). I had put chicken breasts in the crockpot in the morning and all I needed to do was shred them, add some beans, salsa, a little cheese, roll ‘em up in a flour tortilla and I had a tasty chicken burrito. To go. I heated it then wrapped it in tinfoil and my daughter ate hers on the way to practice. (I know, I know, you’re not supposed to let your kids eat that close to exercising…) I was able to sit back and eat mine while I watched her play. Yeah, eating around the table is definitely preferred, but sometimes, it just doesn’t happen. And eating out is only exciting for a couple nights before my kids start asking for something homemade.

So if you’re looking for a quick dinner that packs well–it’s crockpot time! And don’t forget you can shred the chicken and keep it for a few days–or even freeze it. (Then again, it’s so nice to have the whole house smelling good when you get home after a long day.)

Zesty chicken burrito

Prep time: 5 minutes (or less!)

Servings: 4-6

Ingredients

2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts (fresh or frozen)

1 onion,  chopped coarsely

1 clove garlic (or 1/2 tsp. garlic powder)

½ tsp. chili powder

½ tsp. ground cumin (optional)

1 poblano pepper (optional)

1 can pinto beans

About 1 cup cheese (mozzarella or Monterrey Jack work well)

About 1 cup salsa

4-6 large flour tortillas

Directions

  1. Place the chicken in the crockpot along with the onion, garlic (you don’t even need to remove the skin, just chop it in half), chili powder and 1 ½ cups water or chicken broth.
  2. Cook the chicken on low for 5-6 hours or on high for 3-4.
  3. Once the chicken is tender, remove from the crockpot and shred using two forks.
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste (and more chili powder, if desired).
  5. Drain the pinto beans.
  6. In the center of the tortilla place about ¼ cup chicken along with a couple tablespoons of beans, a handful of cheese and a tablespoon or two of salsa.
  7. Bring two opposite sides of the tortilla together.
  8. Beginning on the non-folded side, roll the tortilla.
  9. Heat for 35-45 seconds in the microwave. Wrap in aluminum foil.

Your turn–have any favorite on-the-go meals?

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Mexican rice pudding

My kids convinced me to try rice pudding a few years ago. I thought I’d tried—and decided—as a child that I didn’t like rice pudding. Now, I’m not sure I ever even ate it as a kid.

Rice cooked in milk and peppered with raisins and cinnamon just didn’t sound like the right combination of flavors somehow. But every time we went to a Mexican restaurant, their dessert of choice would be ‘rice pudding.’ At first, I wasn’t impressed.

Then later when sneaking bites, I began to be intrigued. The flavors of the smooth rice and sweetened milk were comforting, soothing after a spicy meal. Unlike a chocolate treat that felt indulgent, this dessert tasted homey. I was hooked. Making rice pudding at home was another story. I tried a recipe that was done in the crockpot—that sounded promising (it tasted awful).

Another recipe called for cooked rice to be added to the milk instead of cooking the rice in the milk. I liked the idea of being able to use my leftover rice for the recipe, but in the end, the dish tasted nothing like what I’d come to love at restaurants. I finally stumbled on the recipe I was craving when a mother in one of my daughter’s school classes, who happened to be from Mexcio, brought in a snack for a room party. Rice pudding. I sampled it and sure enough, the rice was just the right texture with a hint of creaminess. She graciously passed along her recipe, which I’m now passing along to you.

Recipe

Ingredients

1 cup rice

4 cups water

1 cinnamon stick (or ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon)

Peel of one lime or lemon (alternatively use 1Tablespoon of zest)

1, 14-ounce can sweetened, condensed milk

2 egg yolks

1/4 cup raisins

Directions

  1. Rinse the rice in a colander under cold water until the rinsing water comes out clear on the other side. (This helps remove extra starch on the outside of the rice pieces.)
  2. Boil the water with the cinnamon stick and the fruit rind for about 2 to 3 minutes in a medium-sized cooking pan on the stovetop over medium-high heat.
  3. Add the rice to the water and cook over medium-high heat.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix the condensed milk and egg yolks with a fork.
  5. When the rice is cooked through but still firm, reduce the heat to low. Slowly add in the milk-egg mixture and raisins, stirring frequently for 3 to 4 minutes or until the rice is soft.
  6. Turn off the heat and cover the pan. Let the rice continue cooking and steaming for about 10 minutes or so.
  7. Remove the cinnamon stick and the fruit rind and serve. Rice pudding can be served warm or cold and sprinkled with a little cinnamon.
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Turkey Picadillo–A New Take on Tacos

Never heard of picadillo? I hadn’t either until Mr. Squid, who spent two years in Mexico, got me hooked on this meat and potatoes dish. I mean, literally meat and potatoes.

Picadillo, not to be confused with pico de gallo, is a South American dish that’s made just a little bit differently depending on where you have it. The Cuban version is studded with raisins and olives (no potatoes), other countries include hard-broiled eggs.

But the Mexican version is the one I like.

As I’ve been trying to get my family to eat just a bit healthier, picadillo has become one of our go-to dishes (promise, it’s not a New Year’s resolution thing, it’s more of a my-kids-are-all-in-basketball-now-and-can’t-stop-eating-so-it-better-be-good-for-them thing). It’s fast and easy. Plus, it’s packed with fresh ingredients–and it heats up beautifully on day 2.

Making the dish is pretty simple too. You cook ground meat, add chopped, boiled potatoes and then pour in a fresh tomato sauce. Let it simmer while you toast corn tortillas–that’s it.

Now before I get into the recipe, I’ve gotta make a plea here–please no hard taco shells, unless you’re frying them yourself (which would definitely blow the calorie count for the dish). Instead, toast corn tortillas one at a time–if you’re lucky enough to have a gas stovetop this should go quickly. The flavor of toasted corn tortillas is so unlike the hard taco shells and even very different than if you simply heat up the tortillas instead of toasting. And it’s better for you too. Okay, enough convincing, here’s the recipe…

Turkey Picadillo

Ingredients

1.5 pounds ground turkey

3 medium-sized potatoes

4 medium-sized tomatoes

1 large onion

1-2 cloves garlic

1/2 serrano chile pepper (optional)

cilantro (optional)

limes (optional)

corn tortillas

Directions

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil on the stove.
  2. Wash and peel the potatoes.
  3. Dice the potatoes into small pieces and cook them in the water until they’re soft.
  4. Cut up the tomatoes and onions in large pieces. Place the tomatoes and onions in a food processor or blender and pulse until smooth (along with the chile pepper and a handful of cilantro, if you’re using them). Set aside.
  5. Add 1 teaspoon canola oil to a large skillet over medium high heat. Once the oil is heated, add the ground turkey.
  6. Once the meat is cooked through add the potatoes and the tomato mixture. Let the ingredients simmer over low heat for about 10 minutes.
  7. Toast 2 to 3 corn tortillas for each person. (Keep them heated by placing in either a tortilla warmer or in a clean kitchen cloth).
  8. To serve place a heaping 1/2 cup of the picadillo on each person’s plate and put the tortillas and cut limes on the table (alternatively, you can fill each corn tortilla and serve it that way).
  9. I sometimes serve picadillo tacos with chopped tomatoes, lettuce and cheese. But most often, we eat them plain with just a little bit of lime juice squeezed on top.

Along with trimming calories at the dinner table, check out these simple ideas for giving your family a healthy makeover. I’ve been looking through the site as part of the Motherboard team. Once a week, I’ll be posting about the exciting things not to miss on the their site, and their affiliates.

What about you? Are you trying to eat just a little bit better–and looking to convince your family to do the same?

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Why aren’t you drinking…Mexican cocoa?

Each time I open my spice cabinet Abuelita stares back at me. It’s sorta unnerving. With her wiry glasses perched too far down her nose and one raised, wrinkled eyebrow, her expression is a mix of grandma goodness and mischief.

Abuelita is Mexican hot chocolate. These are no powdery cocoa packets, but six disks of cinnamon-infused chocolate disks with a hint of spice. To use them you heat 4 cups of milk with the disk until it begins to boil.

You can give any hot cocoa a bit of a Mexican twist by adding a bit of ground cinnamon (or stir it with a cinnamon stick). And if you’re more adventurous, go ahead sprinkle just a tad of cayenne pepper. Either way, whether you try Abuelita or just tweak your own hot cocoa, the mix of chocolate and cinnamon fits perfectly with a a few holiday goodies.

Have you tried Mexican hot cocoa? Did you like it? What other tweaks do you give your hot cocoa?

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Why aren’t you drinking…Ya-Cool?

A cousin to drinkable yogurt, this Mexican “cultured dairy beverage” is perfect for packing as a snack or in lunchboxes. My kids LOVE them. Plus, there’s the whole novelty of it. While they might be popular and available everywhere in Mexico, you can’t find them just anywhere in the U.S.

I usually stock up at our Mexican grocers, which is sadly a half-hour drive from our house. Ah well, it’s worth the drive–I grab fresh-made corn tortillas, lime mayo, dried ancho chiles, pinguinos (I’ll have to post about those later–think less sugary, moist Hostess Chocolate Cupcakes). Ya-Cool come in packs of 5 small bottles with an easy to peel off aluminum lid. There are several different companies that make them and plenty of varieties to choose from. My kids’ favorite are the peach and pineapple. I like the regular which has sort of a mild, indistinguishable fruity flavor and strawberry (fresas).

According to the packaging, they are supposed to aid in digestion. I’m not really sure about the health claims, I just know they taste good. Perhaps Activia for youngsters?

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No Need for Beef Bean Burgers

Bean burgers sounded like a bit of a stretch for me—I mean, how do you get them to stay together? And truth be told, I’m not a burger fan. (Shhhh! Don’t tell Mr. Squid, he makes great burgers, but for me it’s still always about getting great toppings that make a burger worth eating no matter if it’s ground sirloin or chuck.)

When I started looking through various black bean burger recipes I realized a couple of things—first that they were constructed a lot like meatballs with bread crumbs and an egg to hold them together and second that bean patties are common. Who knows, maybe falafels, those balls of ground, fried chickpeas often wrapped in a warm pita, were the inspiration for black bean burgers.

Here’s what I didn’t like about the recipes I came across—why no ‘bean fushion’? I like black beans but what about adding in a few red beans or pinto? The flavoring in black bean burgers seemed fairly expected too, garlic and onions, onions and garlic, sometimes sautéed and sometimes added raw. I figure if you’re already using beans for your burger you should make it a southwest burger with enough spice and heat to distinguish it from it’s beefy cousin.

No problem getting the kids to eat bean burgers!

So instead of bread crumbs as I binder, I used ground up tortilla chips and I didn’t even bother with onions and garlic, I spiced it as I might a burger with onion powder, garlic powder and then chili powder. I also tossed in a little mayo to hold it together; to brighten the flavor even more I added plenty of fresh chopped cilantro. As for the beans, I decided on a black-pinto combo.

The results? I really wasn’t expecting to like the bean burgers much (I mean, it is still a burger). But the crisped patties melded together with the vivid flavors of beans, cilantro, southwest spices and corn won me over. My kids too. My husband even had seconds, and said—I kid you not—“I like these better than regular burgers.”

Have you tried bean burgers?

Recipe
Servings: 8, 3-inch burgers
Prep + Cooking time: About an hour


Ingredients
1 15.5 oz can black beans (drained)
2 15.5 oz cans pinto beans (drained; you’ll only use half of the second can)
1 cup corn chips, ground (measured after grinding)
1 egg
2 tablespoons mayo
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon chili powder
¼ teaspoon cayenne
Salt and pepper to taste
Slices of cheese, optional
Oil


Directions

  1. In a food processor, grind the corn chips and then set aside in a large bowl.
  2. Drain all of the beans. Process 1 can of pinto beans until smooth. Add to the corn chips in the separate bowl.
  3. Again, in the food processor, pulse the remaining pinto beans (remember half of the can; the rest you can save for another recipe) and half of the black beans until chunky but NOT pureed. Two or three pulses should do it.
  4. Add the chunky pinto and black bean mixture to the corn and pureed bean mixture. Add the remaining ingredients (except the rest of the black beans) and stir.
  5. Add in the whole black beans to the rest of the bean mixture and stir gently. The mixture will be loose.
  6. On a baking sheet covered with parchment paper, form three inch in diameter, one-inch thick patties. Place on the baking sheet and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  7. In a large skillet bring three tablespoons of oil to medium-high heat. Gently add the firmed patties to the oil and sauté on one side for about 4 minutes and then flip over gently and sauté the next side for 4 minutes or until crisped. You should be able to fit four patties into the pan at a time.
  8. Replace the parchment on the baking sheet and put the sautéed patties onto the sheet. Add a slice of cheese to the top (I used Monterrey Jack, but you can use whatever your family prefers). Melt the cheese in an oven preheated to 375 degrees Fahrenheit for about 7 to 10 minutes while you prep the rest of the burger ingredients.
  9. Serve the burgers on bun with lettuce, tomato, and onion. I also added a chipotle mayo to the bun top for some extra heat.
  10. Enjoy!
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Blueberry Salsa–It’s tastier than you think!

Yes, you read that right, blueberry salsa. I know, I thought it would be a bad combo too. I mean blueberries are naturals in muffins, pancakes, cheesecakes, but a spicy, savory mix of cilantro, lime, tomatoes, chiles, and…blueberries? Before you dismiss this salsa as gimmicky (like I almost did) hear me out.

First, it’s nearly the end of blueberry season—meaning your family is probably getting a little bored of blueberries in muffins, even if you do top it with streusel. Second, why not do a little Midwest-Mexican fusion? And last, but most important, they really do taste good in salsa.

With its sour, spicy flavors, salsa literally begs for a pop of sweetness—enter the blueberry. Mixing a few blueberries into your standard salsa recipe not only gives it that ‘wow’ factor, it also gives salsa a burst of tart flavor. Now, blueberries won’t work in any salsa recipe. I recommend it for a pico de gallo, which is a simple, but satisfying mix that you can throw together a few minutes before serving your meal. Although, you could easily serve this salsa as an appetizer (blue corn chips are fun with this), pairing it with grilled pork, chicken or even a light fish like tilapia makes for a meal (just don’t go topping your t-bone, blueberries and beef are still a no-no).

If you’re ready for something different for dinner tonight, pick up some blueberries and fresh chiles

.

Recipe

Serves: 4 to 6

Prep time: 15 minutes

5 medium-sized tomatoes (I prefer Romas)

1 red or yellow pepper

1 small-sized red onion

1 sprig cilantro

1 lime

1-2 Serrano chiles

½ cup blueberries (or more)

Salt and pepper to taste

Chop the tomatoes, pepper and onion into small pieces and place in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Cut the Serrano chile in half lengthwise; remove the stem and the seeds. Note: I used Serrano chiles instead of the usual jalapeno peppers. Jalapenos are okay, but I prefer the slightly sweeter kick of Serrano chiles. Both are readily available at most grocers. Serrano chiles tend to be smaller than jalapenos. Cut the chiles fine and add them to the tomato mix.

Cut the lime in half and squeeze half of the juice into the bowl. Stir. Mince 3 to 4 tablespoons of cilantro leaves on a cutting board and then add them to the mixing bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. Adjust the flavor using the lime juice, salt and cilantro (you may even want to up the heat by adding another Serrano chile). Finally, stir in the blueberries being careful not to break the skin. Serve.

Remember to check in Tuesday for MKES’s next giveaway!

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