Posts tagged salsa
“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
Prep time: 15 minutes
Servings : About 1 1/4 cups
1 small tomato
1/2 green pepper
1/2 small white onion
1/8 cup cilantro leaves
1 small clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 serrano chile pepper (opt.)
Salt and pepper to taste
- Wash and dice into small pieces the peaches (I leave the skin on), kiwis (I take the skin off), tomatoes, green pepper, and onion.
- Squeeze the juice of the lime into the diced pieces.
- Remove the seeds and mince the serrano chile pepper (if using).
- Mix in the garlic and minced cilantro leaves. Adjust seasoning with salt, pepper, and cumin.
- Serve over grilled chicken, pork, fish, or rice.
Kids’ reactions: My middle child asked for seconds of the salsa to finish off with tortilla chips. My other two kids both requested kiwi-peach salsa again.
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.
Watermelon limeade. Forget the lemonade and go green. I like to mix whatever other fruit I have on hand–whether it’s strawberries, raspberries, or watermelon to sweeten the limeade so I don’t have to use quite as much sugar.
Homemade sno cone syrups. Try this idea for DIY cherry and lemon-lime syrups to stir into crushed ice–or into your sno cone machine, if you’re lucky enough to have one like Casey Barber at Good.Food.Stories.
Blueberry salsa. Mix a burst of sweet fruit into pico de gallo for a tasty chip dip.
Perfect potato salad. Everyone has there favorite potato salad recipe, here’s mine. (The secret is to whisk the hard-boiled egg yolk into your sauce.)
Portobello burgers. Looking for beefier flavor in your burgers? Then skip the meat counter and head right to the produce section. Brushing the portobello with olive oil as it cooks will help it get slightly crisped on the outside and tender on the inside.
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?
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.
“You can get a deal if you buy a box,” a woman offered as I was picking over Roma tomatoes at one of my favorite local grocers, Miles Market. For $5 you could buy a 10-pound box of slightly bruised Romas. I debated. Lately I’ve been trying to trim my grocery bill by planning my dinners a week ahead of time and making sure that whatever I buy, I use. But to get a whole box of Romas for the price I usually pay for a few? I caved and bought the box. Now I’m quickly trying to use every last tomato.
Here are a few of the things I’ve been cooking to make it through all of my tomatoes:
Simple marinara: I blended 20 cut tomatoes with 2 large cloves garlic and 1 cup fresh basil then I added it to a pan of about 4 tablespoons heated olive oil. I simmered the sauce for about 20 minutes then added a dash of cayenne pepper. I served this over pasta with fresh Parmesan cheese. Simple, tasty. I froze the extra sauce.
Homemade enchilada sauce: Instead of adding canned tomatoes to my homemade enchilada sauce, I added in fresh ones. Usually I’d roast and seed the tomatoes but this time I just threw them in skins, seeds, and all.
Chipotle Pico de Gallo: Fresh salsa anyone? The only drawback to pico de gallo and my stack of tomatoes is that this salsa doesn’t keep.
Roasted Tomato-Arbol Salsa: Roasted tomatoes are the key to a really great salsa so I was going to make this one from Rick Bayless. I’m adding some ancho chiles along with the arbol. Plus, this salsa will keep in the refrigerator for days. I’ll be tripling the batch, then freezing some.
Caprese salad: My tomatoes might be getting a bit too squishy for this, but I love caprese salad with its slices of fresh mozzarella, tomato, basil and a drizzling of olive oil. Looking at Frugal Kiwi’s post this week about mozzarella, I’ve really been wanting to give cheese making a try. For now, I’m making caprese omelets where my quickly ripening tomatoes are just perfect.
Your turn–what would make with 10 pounds of ripe tomatoes?
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
A good meal to use up plenty of leftovers from corn tortillas, to chicken, to lettuce and whatever else you have in your fridge.
This sauce takes time, but it’s worth the effort. Plus you can freeze some for later.
Hand-crafted tortillas are deceptively difficult to make, but the thicker, easier to flip sopes–so much easier!
The secret behind this rice is to start with a mixture that resembles pico de gallo.
Nothing authentic about ‘em, just an excuse to fuse really good bacon with some Mexican flavors.
So easy and a great way to use ground turkey.
This salsa is so versatile you shouldn’t shy away from adding other, unexpected ingredients like dried cherries, chipotle….
For a heartier pico de gallo, add your favorite kind of beans.
So soothing after a hearty meal packed with chiles.
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.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Servings: 1 1/2 cups
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
- Drain the liquid from the black beans place in a mixing bowl.
- Chop the tomatoes and onion into small, uniformly sized pieces. Add them to the beans
- 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.
- Squeeze the juice from two limes directly into the salsa.
- Add the cilantro, salt and pepper, stir and adjust seasonings, then serve with tortilla chips.