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Foods from South of the Border

Charro Beans

Charro Beans

Charro Beans

2 cans pinto beans (drained and rinsed, approx. 4 C.) – ( home cooked beans are better but take a lot longer)

1/2 lb. bacon (approx. 7-8 slices)

4-5 plum tomatoes

1/2 onion

3 chipotles in adobo (1 for my family! Or use jalapeno)

2 cloves garlic

2 C. stock (or water)

1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano (optional)

1/2 teaspoon salt (plus more to taste)

freshly cracked black pepper

Cilantro for garnish

 

Give the tomatoes a good rinse and roast them in the oven at 400F for approximately 20 minutes or until you need them.  Chop up the bacon into small pieces.  Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat until lightly browned (approx. 5-8 minutes depending on the size of the bacon pieces). Chop up a 1/2 onion and add it the bacon.  I usually reduce heat to mediumish after the bacon is cooked.  Let the onion cook for 3-5 minutes or until tender. Add 2 minced cloves of garlic and cook briefly, 30-60 seconds.  Add the roasted tomatoes to the pan (roughly chopping them up in the pan is fine).  Also add:  2 cans pinto beans (drained and rinsed), 3 minced chipotles in adobo, 1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano (optional), 1/2 teaspoon salt, freshly cracked black pepper, and 2 C. of stock (or water).   Combine well and let simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the liquid has reduced down a bit.  Salt to taste.  I added another generous pinch to this batch (so that is approx. 1 teaspoon total).   You can also add more heat at this point if you want a more fiery batch with adobo or jalapeno.   Serve immediately.  Note that these beans are best served in some of the broth.  Alternatively, you can use part of the batch to make a bean puree.  Simply add them to a blender or food processor and combine into a puree.  Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge.

Horchata

Horchata

Horchata

1 1/3 C. uncooked white long-grain rice

2 whole cinnamon sticks

4 C. water

1 cup milk

2 teaspoons vanilla

1/2 cup granulated sugar

Ice

Ground cinnamon, for garnish

 

Combine the rice, cinnamon sticks, and 2 C. of the water in a blender.  Blend until the rice and cinnamon sticks are roughly ground up (1 to 2 minutes).  Add the 2 remaining C. of water and blend again. Let the rice mixture soak at room temperature at least 8 hours, or overnight.   Once the rice mixture has soaked for at least 8 hours, pour through a fine mesh strainer into a pitcher.  Discard the rice and cinnamon stick solids and rinse the strainer well.  Strain the mixture again one more time, just to make sure the horchata isn’t gritty.   Stir in the milk, vanilla, and sugar, then chill ready to serve.  Serve over plenty of ice with a sprinkle of ground cinnamon on top.

Mojo Flat Iron Steak

Mojo Flat Iron Steak

Mojo Flat Iron Steak

2 teaspoons grated orange rind

¼ cup fresh orange juice

2 teaspoons grated lime rind

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice, divided

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 teaspoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon chili powder

¼ teaspoon ground chipotle chile powder

1 (1-pound) flat iron steak, trimmed

Cooking spray

1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided

1 cup finely chopped red bell pepper

1 cup finely chopped peeled seeded cucumber

3 tablespoons finely chopped red onion

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped

 

Combine orange rind, orange juice, lime rind, 2 tablespoons lime juice, 1 tablespoon oil, and next 4 ingredients (through chipotle) in a bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add steak, turning to coat. Let stand 30 minutes at room temperature, turning occasionally. Heat a grill pan over high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Remove steak from marinade; discard marinade. Sprinkle steak with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add steak to pan; grill 5 minutes on each side for medium-rare or to desired degree of doneness. Place steak on a cutting board; let stand 5 minutes. Slice steak across the grain. Combine remaining 1 tablespoon lime juice, remaining 1 tablespoon oil, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and remaining ingredients in a bowl. Serve with steak.

 

WIW: Waffled Mexican Migas

WIW: Waffled Mexican Migas

4 large eggs
1 small tomato, diced (about ½ C.)
½ C. diced onion
½ C. shredded Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese
1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
2 soft corn tortillas, cut or torn into about ½-inch pieces
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
PAM Cooking Spray

Preheat the waffle iron on medium. Coat both sides of the waffle iron grid with PAM Cooking Spray. In a medium-size bowl, beat the eggs. Add the rest of the ingredients except the cooking spray and stir vigorously to combine. Coat both sides of the waffle iron grid with PAM Cooking Spray. Ladle some of the mixture onto each section of the waffle iron. Some ingredients may settle to the bottom of the bowl, so make sure you reach to the bottom of the bowl to get a good mixture. Close the lid and cook until the eggs are no longer runny, 2 minutes. Remove the migas from the waffle iron with an offset spatula or a pair of heat-resistant silicon spatulas, and serve. Variations: For a substantial meal, serve with refried beans, along with soft corn or flour tortillas heated for 10 seconds in the waffle iron.
Swap out the tomato or onion for pretty much any diced vegetable. Or keep both onion and tomato and add up to ½ C. of another vegetable. To dress it up, garnish with salsa, cheese, sour cream, sliced avocado, or scallions.

Crispy Baked Chicken Tacos

Crispy Baked Chicken Tacos

Crispy Baked Chicken Tacos

1/2 C. chopped onion
1 T. homemade taco seasoning (or 1/2 store-bought packet)
1 C. cooked shredded chicken breast
1/2 16-oz can fat-free refried black beans
1/4 C. salsa
1/4 C. light sour cream
1/4 C. fresh cilantro, finely chopped
20 thin corn tortillas
10 T. reduced-fat cheese (Mexican Blend or Jalapeno Jack)
Shredded iceberg lettuce
Hot sauce, salsa, or guacamole (optional)

 

Preheat oven to 400° degrees. Set out a cookie sheet. Spray a non-stick pan with cooking spray, add the onion and cook for 1 to 2 minutes or until it starts to soften. Add the taco seasoning and cook one more minute. Gently mix in chicken, coating with seasoned onions. Push to one side of the pan and add the refried beans and salsa to the other side. When warm and softened, fold into the chicken. Gently stir in the sour cream and cilantro and heat until warm. Set aside. Lightly spray the cooking sheet with baking spray. Slightly wet 3 or 4 tortillas at a time and place in the microwave. Heat on high for 20 to 30 seconds or until softened. Place about 3 T. of filling on one side of the tortilla, fold in half, and place on cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining tortillas and chicken/bean filling. Lightly spray the top of tacos with cooking spray. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until the edges are crisp of the tortillas are crisp, the middle starting to crisp, and the filling is hot. Serve stuffed or topped with cheese (1 T. each), lettuce and sauce.

 

Yield: 10 tacos

Serving Size: 2 Tacos

Calories: 220

Fat: 4g

Fiber: 4g

Nopales and Roasted Corn Tacos

Nopales and Roasted Corn Tacos

Nopales and Roasted Corn Tacos

4 cactus paddles (5-7 inches in length) – cleaned, diced & prepared (as explained above)

1/4 yellow onion, thinly sliced

1 jalapeño or serrano pepper, diced

1/4 C. fresh cilantro leaves

flaky salt to taste

 

1 1/2 C. (8 ounces) fire roasted corn kernels (thawed to room temperature if using frozen)

1 T. neutral cooking oil (we use avocado oil)

8-10 corn tortillas

1 C. shredded jack or cheddar cheese

1/2 C. sour cream mixed with juice of 1/2 lime

1 avocado, cut into slices

crumbled cotija cheese

fresh cilantro leaves & lime wedges for serving

 

Add boiled, cooled & dried cactus with sliced onion, jalape̱o or serrano pepper, cilantro leaves & salt to a medium bowl & toss to combine. Heat a large cast iron skillet with 1 tbsp cooking oil over medium high heat. Add nopales salad to the skillet and cook for a few minutes until mixture is warmed through & just beginning to brown. Add roasted corn to the skillet & cook with the nopales for a few minutes until heated through Рturn off heat & leave skillet on the stovetop to stay warm while you prepare the tacos. Warm a lightly greased griddle over medium heat, once hot, add a few corn tortillas to the griddle & cook for 2-3 minutes. Add a small handful of shredded cheese to each tortilla while still on the griddle. Fill with each tortilla with the nopales & roasted corn mixture, using about 1/3 C. of filling per taco (use more or less depending on the size of your tortillas). Remove filled tortillas from griddle and put on plates to serve. To each taco add 1 tbsp of the lime crema, a slice or two of avocado, crumbled cotija cheese & fresh cilantro leaves. Serve tacos with lime wedges.

 

Adobo Seasoning

Adobo Seasoning

Adobo Seasoning

Essential in Spanish, Caribbean and Latin American kitchens, adobo is a savory, all-purpose seasoning that imparts a garlic flavor and is normally used to season and/or marinate meat, chicken or fish. It is so fundamental in Latin  Cuisines that adobado means “marinated and cooked in adobo sauce.”

2 tablespoons salt

1 tablespoon paprika

2 teaspoo

 

ns ground black pepper

1 1⁄2 teaspoons onion powder

1 1⁄2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 1⁄2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon chili powder

 

In a bowl, stir together the salt, paprika, black pepper, onion powder, oregano, cumin, garlic powder, and chili powder. Store in a sealed jar in a cool, dry place.

Fiesta Stuffed Shells

Fiesta Stuffed Shells

Fiesta Stuffed Shells

18 large pasta shells (stuffable kind)

1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce

1 (12-ounce) jar picante sauce

1 cup water

1 pound ground round or lean ground beef

1 small white onion, chopped

Salt, to taste Pepper, to taste

1 small can chopped green chiles

1 cup grated reduced-fat Cheddar cheese, divided use

1 small can french-fried onion rings, divided use

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cook pasta shells according to directions. Drain them when cooked and let cool a few minutes until they’re cool enough to handle. Separate them carefully so that they don’t tear or stick together. Set aside.  In bowl, combine tomato sauce, picante sauce and water. Set aside.  Brown meat with onions, salt and pepper. Add green chiles, 1/2 cup cheese, half a can of onion rings and 1/2 cup prepared sauce. Stir well and cook a minute or two, stirring.  Stuff shells with meat mixture. Pour remaining sauce over the shells and bake for 30 minutes uncovered. Sprinkle on rest of cheese and onions and cook another 5 minutes, until cheese is bubbling.

Baked Chili Relleno Eggs

Baked Chili Relleno Eggs

Baked Chili Relleno Eggs

2 4oz. cans Whole Green Chilis (or 8 fresh roasted chilis)
2 C. grated Monterey Jack Cheese, divided
1 ½ T. Butter
6 Eggs
1 T. Flour
2 C. Milk
1/8 tsp. Chili Powder

Preheat oven to 325. Slit each chili down one side and fill loosely with grated cheese, using 1 cup cheese for all chilis. Lay filled chilis in a lightly buttered, soufflé type backing dish. In separate bowl, beat eggs and flour. Stir in milk and chili powder. Fold in remaining grated cheese. Pour eggs over chilis. Bake 45 minutes to an hour, until top is bubbly and a knife inserted near center comes out clean.

from The Idiot’s Guide Glycemic Index Cookbook

Yield: 6 servings
Calories: 282
Fat: 21g
Fiber: 0g

Rick Bayless Pickled Red Onions (Escabeche de Cebolla)

Rick Bayless Pickled Red Onions (Escabeche de Cebolla)

1 small (6-oz.) red onion, sliced 1/8 inch thick
1/4 tsp. black peppercorns
1/4 tsp. cumin seeds
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
2 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 C. cider vinegar

Parboiling the onion. Place the thinly sliced red onion in a saucepan with salted water to cover, bring to a boil, time 1 minute, then remove from the heat and drain. The pickling. Coarsely grind the peppercorns and cumin in a mortar or spice grinder, then add to the saucepan, along with the remaining ingredients. Pour in just enough water to barely cover the onions, bring to a boil over medium heat, time 3 minutes, then remove from the heat and pour into a small, noncorrosive bowl. Let stand several hours before using.

Mexican Corn

Mexican Corn

1/4 C. butter or margarine
1/4 C. finely chopped onion
1/4 C. chopped green pepper
1 pkg. (10 oz.) frozen corn or 1 can whole kernel corn
1/4 C. diced pimiento
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
sweet pepper slices, to garnish

Heat butter or margarine over low heat. Add and cook until onion is transparent. Add green pepper. Add corn. Cook corn covered, over low heat, about 10 minutes, or until tender. During the last few minutes of cooking, mix in diced pimento. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix gently. Garnish with sweet red pepper slices. Serves 4.

Leche Asada

Leche Asada

Leche Asada1 quart milk
1 lemon, zest cut off in ½ inch wide strips
2 cinnamon sticks
4 eggs
½ C. sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour the milk into a saucepan along with the lemon zest and cinnamon sticks. Bring to a simmer over medium high heat, then reduce heat to low and cook for 5 minutes. Turn heat off, and allow to steep for 15 minutes. Gently beat eggs and sugar together, until the sugar has dissolved. Slowly beat in 1 C. of the hot milk, a little at a time, into the egg until it has been incorporated. Stir the egg mixture back into the hot milk, and mix until well combined. Remove the lemon zest and cinnamon sticks. Pour the milk/egg mixture into a baking dish. Baked in preheated oven until set, and browned on top, about 30 minutes. Chill before serving.

Colombian Ahuyama Soup

Colombian Ahuyama Soup

Colombian Auyama Soup2 T. butter
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp. curry powder
¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
4 ½ quarts chicken broth
2 ½ pounds butternut squash, peeled and cubed
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 T. creamy peanut butter
½ C. light cream

Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Stir in the onion, garlic, curry powder and red pepper flakes. Cook until the onion has turned translucent, 5 to 8 minutes. Stir in the chicken broth and squash into the onion mixture. Simmer the soup over medium heat until the squash is tender when pierced with a fork, about 20 minutes. Turn off the heat, and stir in the nutmeg, Worcestershire sauce, and peanut butter. Transfer the mixture in batches to a blend or food processor; blend until smooth. Slowly pour in the cream. Reheat soup if necessary, but do not boil. Makes 10 servings

Pan de Elote con Poblanos, Elote, Tocino, y Queso Cheddar (Skillet Corn Bread with Poblanos, Corn,Bacon, and Cheddar)

Pan de Elote con Poblanos, Elote, Tocino, y Queso Cheddar (Skillet Corn Bread with Poblanos, Corn,Bacon, and Cheddar)

Pan de Elote con Poblanos, Elote, Tocino, y Queso Cheddar (Skillet Corn Bread with Poblanos, Corn,Bacon, and Cheddar)6 to 8 slices thick bacon, preferably center-cut
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1/3 cup packed packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
l/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
l/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
8 ounces cheddar cheese, grated (2 cups)
3 poblano chiles, roasted, peeled, seeded, and diced
2 cups fresh or thawed frozen corn kernels

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Heat a 9- or 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until crispy, about 3 minutes per side. Remove the bacon from the pan, leaving the fat in the skillet, and drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Set the pan aside. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, cornmeal, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and pepper. Beat the eggs in a small bowl, then whisk in the milk and cream. Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry. Fold in the cheddar cheese, poblano chiles, and corn. Crumble the bacon and fold it in. Pour in most of the bacon fat from the cast-iron pan, leaving about 1 tablespoon in the pan. and combine well. Reheat the skillet and the remaining bacon drippings over medium heat, and when the pan is hot, pour in the batter, scraping in every last bit with a rubber spatula. Transfer to the oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until the corn bread is golden brown and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cut into wedges and serve hot or warm.

Tortas de Came a la Mostaza con Queso Suizo y Chiles Toreados (Dijon Steak and Swiss Cheese Tortas with Matador Chiles)

Tortas de Came a la Mostaza con Queso Suizo y Chiles Toreados (Dijon Steak and Swiss Cheese Tortas with Matador Chiles)

Who doesn’t love a great steak sandwich? This hearty version is one of my boys’ favorites. Simple to make, it packs a punch with the Dijon and garlic marinade, the strong cheese that melts into the bread, and the spicy, bright, salty, extra-hot, lime-soaked chiles toreados and their marinade.

1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup soy sauce or Maggi
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
4 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or to taste
2 pounds flank steak
6 bolillos. teleras, Portuguese rolls, or small baguettes or 2 or 3 baguettes cut into 4- to 6-inch lengths, split in half
6 thick slices Swiss or Muenster cheese
Matador Chiles

In a small bowl, whisk together the oil. soy sauce, mustard, garlic, and pepper. Place the steak in a large baking dish and pour the marinade over it. Turn a few times to make sure that the meat is completely coated. Marinate for at least 30 minutes, and up to 24 hours. If marinating for more than 30 minutes, cover and refrigerate. Preheat the broiler. Place the baking dish with the meat under the broiler. 3 to 4 inches from the heat, and broil for 5 to 7 minutes per side, depending on how cooked you want it. For medium-rare, 5 minutes per side; for just over medium, the way I like it, 6 minutes on the first side and 7 minutes on the other. (Alternatively, you can grill the meat over medium-high heat on an outdoor grill or a grill pan for 5 to 6 minutes per side, depending on how well done you like it; I go for 6 minutes per side.) Transfer the meat to a cutting board, cover loosely with foil, and let rest for 5 minutes. Thinly slice the meat against the grain. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the split rolls on a baking sheet, cut side up. And place a slice of cheese on each bottom half. Bake until the bread crisps and the cheese melts, about 5 minutes. Top the cheese with the meat and let diners spoon on as much of the Matador Chiles, along with their sauce and onions, as they want (or do it for them if you know their tastes). Cover the sandwiches with the top halves of the rolls and serve, with more Matador Chiles on the side.

Chiles Toreados (Matador Chiles)

Chiles Toreados (Matador Chiles)

Chiles toreados are jalapeno or serrano chiles that have been rolled against a work surface. The quick massage helps release their oils from the veins and seeds inside, which store the most flavor and heat. Torear means to compete in a bullfight, which gives you an indication of how fierce the result can be. Interestingly, they are common in sushi restaurants, steak houses, and taquerias specializing in meat grilled on big planchas, or griddles. They are charred in oil, then bathed in a mix of freshly squeezed lime juice and soy sauce, with some slivered or chopped white onion tossed in as well. The lime juice and soy cause them to lose some of their heat, so even though they sound like something to shy away from, I would give them a 4 out of 10 in spiciness.

(Matador Chiles)4 jalapeno or serrano chiles
3 tablespoons canola or safflower oil
1 cup thinly sliced or chopped white onion
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
¼ cup soy sauce or Maggi

Roll the chiles back and forth a few times under your palm on your kitchen counter. Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the chiles and cook, flipping them over every 2 minutes, until deeply browned on all sides. 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer the chiles and oil to a heatproof bowl. Once the chiles are cool enough to handle, remove them from the bowl, remove the stems, and chop; discard the seeds, if desired, though I never do. Return the chopped chiles to the bowl with the oil and stir in the onion, lime juice, and soy sauce until well combined. Let sit for at least 10 minutes and serve.

Crema de Berros con Requeson (Creamy Watercress Soup with Spiced Fresh Cheese)

Crema de Berros con Requeson (Creamy Watercress Soup with Spiced Fresh Cheese)

This style of creamy soup is common in the Yucatan Peninsula. At the Hacienda San Jose near Merida, the capital of Yucatan, I tasted one that was so delicious I asked the chef to show me how he made it. In exchange. I shared my take on a soft cheese mixture to use as a garnish. The combination is sublime! The soft, moist cheese, seasoned with jalapeno and chives, slowly blends into the watercress soup as you eat it. Your first spoonfuls of hot soup will have distinctive bites of cheese, but by the end, the cheese will have melted into the soup, so it becomes even creamier, its flavors enhanced by the jalapeno and chives. The version I tasted in Yucatan was made not with watercress but with chaya leaves, which taste like a sort of cross between watercress and baby spinach. Since chaya is practically nowhere to be found in markets north of the border, I developed my version using watercress, which I prefer because of its beautiful color. But feel free to try it with spinach. You could also make the soup with a cilantro base.

Crema de Berros con Requeson (Creamy Watercress Soup with Spiced Fresh Cheese)

Requeson: I wish there were more of this creamy, moist soft cheese to be found on this side of the border. With its slight tang and incredibly fresh feel, requeson is both a little sweet and a little salty, much like farmer’s cheese. It is perfectly balanced. In texture, it’s similar to ricotta, but ricotta is one-dimensional by comparison and a bit sweeter, without requeson’s definitive tang. You could also use queso fresco for the garnish in this recipe, but it’s a firmer, less creamy cheese. You could use fresh goat cheese as well, though it has a much stronger, more assertive, acidic flavor. But it works well with this soup because it melts like the other cheeses.

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup coarsely chopped white onion
2 cups thinly sliced leeks
1 cup thinly sliced celery
1 cup chopped peeled carrots
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt or to taste
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
4 cups chicken broth, homemade or store-bought
4 cups watercress leaves and upper part of stems
8 ounces requeson, ricotta. queso fresco, or farmer’s cheese
2 tablespoons Mexican crema, creme fraiche, or sour cream
1 jalapeno or serrano chile, finely chopped or to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
Freshly ground black pepper

In a large heavy pot, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Once it foams, add the onion, leeks, celery, and carrots, season with salt to taste, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes, or until completely softened but not browned. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables, stir together, and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes, or until the flour is no longer raw and the mixture smells toasty. Reduce the heat to low, stir in the milk, and bring to a simmer, stirring. Simmer for 5 to 6 minutes, until thick and creamy. Add the broth and watercress, bring to a low simmer, and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mash the cheese and cream with a fork. Add the chile, chives, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well. Keep covered in the refrigerator until ready to serve. In batches, puree the soup in a blender until completely smooth; hold a towel tightly over the blender top to prevent hot splashes. (It won’t jump quite as much if you let it cool down a little before you puree.) Return to the soup pot and stir. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Reheat gently. Ladle the hot soup into soup bowls. Place a generous dollop of the cheese mixture in the
middle of each bowl and serve.

Sopa de Queso Estilo Sonora (Sonoran Cheese Soup)

Sopa de Queso Estilo Sonora (Sonoran Cheese Soup)

The rich, fertile soil of Sonora, in northern Mexico, makes for happy cows that produce some of the country’s best milk and cheese. This mildly spicy soup, a chowder of sorts made with milk, chiles, tomatoes, potatoes, and cheese, shows off that wealth of good dairy. The cheese of choice, queso Chihuahua, is a melting cheese that is a mainstay of the region. But Oaxaca, asadero. mozzarella, or even Monterey Jack can step in as dignified substitutes. Any type of potato will work.

Sopa de Queso Estilo Sonora (Sonoran Cheese Soup)3 tablespoons canola or safflower oil
1 to 1 1/4pounds potatoes (4 medium), peeled and diced (about 3 cups)
1 1/2 cups chopped white onions
1 cup diced green bell peppers
1 ripe medium tomato, cored and diced
4 poblano chiles (about 1 pound), roasted, peeled, seeded, and cut into strips
3/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt or to taste
4 cups chicken broth, homemade or store-bought
2 cups milk
8 ounces white melting cheese, preferably queso Chihuahua, Oaxaca, asadero. mozzarella, or Monterey Jack (see headnote), diced (about 1 1/2 cups loosely packed)

Heat the oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add the potatoes and onions and cook, stirring often, until the onions are soft and translucent, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the bell pepper, tomato, poblano chiles, and salt and cook until the vegetables are softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the broth, bring to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender and the broth has thickened a bit. Taste and adjust the salt. Reduce the heat to medium-low and slowly add the milk, then bring to a gentle simmer. Gradually add the cheese and stir until it is completely melted. Taste again for salt. Top with a little scallion for color, if desired.

Sopa de Palmitos con Crutones de Camote (Hearts of Palm Soup with Sweet Potato Croutons)

Sopa de Palmitos con Crutones de Camote (Hearts of Palm Soup with Sweet Potato Croutons)

This silky, delicate soup is often the most talked-about dish of the evening when I serve it. It’s a tribute to Mexico’s African heritage. For centuries we Mexicans were taught that our Mestizo heritage was the result of intermarriage between the Spanish and the indigenous people of Mexico. But the African component to our history that dates as far back as the Spanish conquest, a result of several factors, including the slave trade, migration from the Caribbean, and the Africans who came along with the Spanish as conquistadores, was long overlooked. Afro-Mexico is finally getting its due, and even has a name—The Third Root.

Sopa de Palmitos con Crutones de Camote1/4 cup canola or safflower oil
Kosher or sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ancho chile powder, chipotle chile powder, or paprika
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice (about 2 cups)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
10 scallions (light green and white parts only), thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
2 garlic cloves
2 (14-ounce) cans hearts of palm, drained, rinsed, and sliced
5 cups chicken or vegetable broth, homemade or store-bought
2 tablespoons chopped chives

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet or baking dish with parchment or foil. In a medium bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons of the oil Vi teaspoon salt, the chile powder or paprika, and pepper. Add the sweet potato and toss until thoroughly coated. Spread the sweet potatoes in a single layer on the baking sheet, taking care not to overcrowd. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, flipping and turning them halfway through, until golden brown on the outside and soft on the inside. Remove from the heat and set aside. In a large heavy pot, heat the butter and the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium-low heat until the butter is melted and bubbling. Stir in the scallions and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until completely softened. 12 to 14 minutes. Raise the heat to medium, add the hearts of palm, and cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes, until heated through. Add the broth and 1/2 teaspoon salt, raise the heat to medium-high, and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 5 minutes. In batches, pour the soup into a blender and puree until completely smooth, holding down the lid of the blender with a towel to contain the pressure from the hot soup. Pour the soup back into the pot. stir, taste, and adjust the seasonings. Reheat if necessary before serving. Ladle the soup into individual bowls, spoon about 1/4 cup sweet potatoes into the middle of each bowl, and sprinkle the chives around the sweet potatoes.

Claudia’s Salsa de Nopal (Cactus Salsa)

Claudia’s Salsa de Nopal (Cactus Salsa)

claudia cactus salsa2 cactus paddles, cleaned and cut into ½ inch cubes
1 cup (240 g) coarse kosher salt
2 medium Roma tomatoes, chopped
½ medium red onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, or to taste
1 serrano chile, stemmed
Leaves from1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place the cactus in a large bowl and add the salt. Toss until the cactus is fully covered and set aside to cure for 5 minutes; the cactus will begin to release slime. Turn it with a wooden spoon or spatula to make sure the salt reaches all of the pieces of cactus and allow to rest for an additional 2 to 3 minutes to release more slime. Remove the cactus from the bowl and place it in a strainer. Run it under cold water until all the visible salt has been removed. Taste the cactus for salt; it should be salty and have some give but should not taste raw. If it’s too salty, rinse it some more. Pat dry with a paper towel. Move the cactus to a large bowl and add the tomatoes, onion, and lime juice and toss with a spoon or spatula. Slice the chile in half lengthwise and remove the seeds and veins if you want to keep the heat down. Thinly slice each half widthwise to create half-moon slices and add them to the bowl. Add the cilantro and fold until completely incorporated. Stir in the pepper and taste. If it’s too salty, add a bit more lime juice for additional acidity.

Claudia’s Salsa Verde

Claudia’s Salsa Verde

It’s no secret that we are known for our salsas. While the most common salsas are tomato-based red salsas, there is nothing in the world quite like a tart and spicy salsa verde (green salsa). Salsa verde and tomatillo salsa are actually the same thing, as the green color comes from the green skin and flesh of the tomatillo.

This is our family’s recipe for salsa verde. I use it in a number of dishes, from braised pork (see this page) to Green Chilaquiles, or as a topping for tacos. You can adjust the heat level by reducing or increasing the number of chiles you include. But cuidado (careful)—the spiciness of the serranos and chiles de arbol may have you looking for the closest ice- cold beverage.

12 ounces (340 g) fresh tomatillosSalsa Verde
1 to 2 whole serrano chiles, stemmed
Vi medium yellow onion, peeled
2 to 3 small garlic cloves, peeled
5 to 6 whole chiles de arbol, stemmed
Salt

Peel the husks off the tomatillos and rinse them thoroughly under lukewarm water
until their skin is smooth and they are no longer tacky or sticky. Place the tomatillos, serrano chiles, and onion in a large saucepan and add enough hot water to cover. Place over medium-high heat, bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the tomatillos change color and just start to soften, about 5 minutes. Remove the ingredients from the pan using a slotted spoon and place them in blender along with the garlic. Reserve the cooking liquid. Meanwhile, heat a skillet or comal (tortilla griddle) over low heat. Add the chiles de arbol, and toast for 1 to 2 minutes, turning often, until they darken in color but don’t
burn. The seeds will come out as you toast the chiles—you can use them or not depending on your heat preference. What you are looking for is a darker, almost black, red color. Keep your windows open as you toast the chiles, as the fumes can affect the strangest parts of your throat and cause cough attacks for the family … ahhh, the memories. Add the toasted chiles de arbol and seeds to the blender, pour in XA cup (60 ml) of the reserved tomatillo cooking liquid, and blend on medium-low speed until your desired consistency has been reached (see Notes). If your salsa is too thick, add more of the tomatillo cooking liquid. Pour the salsa into a bowl and season with salt, starting with about 1 teaspoon and adjusting the amount as needed to balance the tartness of your tomatillos.

The consistency of salsa verde varies depending on the dish you use it in. For Green Chilaquiles, make it a bit more on the liquidy side so your tortillas can soak up the salsa. For tacos, stick to a coarser and chunkier consistency to avoid a runny mess.

Keep in mind that chiles can vary in spice depending on the season, so you may want to
cut off the edge of one of your chiles and taste it for heat. If it’s too hot for your liking, re-
move the seeds and veins to turn the heat down. To turn up the heat, add more chiles.
Make sure not to touch your eyes after handling spicy chiles and wear gloves when
working with them to protect your hands.

Nopales con Queso Fresco (Cactus & Queso Fresco Salad)

Nopales con Queso Fresco (Cactus & Queso Fresco Salad)

Salt
1 pound (455 g) cactus paddles, cleaned (see this page) and cut into 1/2-inch (12-mm)
cubes
2 large Roma tomatoes, cubed
¼ cup (30 g) diced red onion
1/2 cup (20 g) chopped fresh cilantro leaves
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound (455 g) queso fresco, cubed

Bring a large saucepan of water to boil and season it well with salt. Add the cactus, return it to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes, until the pieces darken to a slightly muted green and are cooked through. Drain and let them cool. In a large bowl, combine the cactus, tomatoes, onion, cilantro, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and the pepper. Gently fold in the queso fresco. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour before serving.

Oreja de Cerdo Frita (Crispy Pigs Ears)

Oreja de Cerdo Frita (Crispy Pigs Ears)

If you are feeling adventurous and can come by pigs’ ears (you can ask your butcher to special order them for you), I truly hope you will make this recipe—not only because the texture is unlike anything you have ever had before, but because the boiling liquid is infused with a depth of spices that can be tasted in each crunchy morsel. Just think of this dish as a kind of pork crackling and you will have no problem crunching away!

2 T. Annatto Seeds
4 cloves Garlic, crushed
2 T. Mexican Oregano
Salt
2 Pigs’ Ears
Canola Oil, For Frying

Fill a large saucepan halfway with water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and add the annatto seeds, garlic, oregano, and 2 tablespoons salt. Place the pigs’ ears into the water and cover the pot. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 2 hours, or until the cartilage can be pierced easily with a fork. Remove from the water to a plate and let the ears cool completely. (Don’t place them on paper towels, as the gelatinous skin will stick and you will be unable to remove the paper.) Cut the pigs’ ears into 1/8- to 1/4-inch (3- to 6-cm) -wide noodle-like strips. Fill a deep pan with l 1/2 inches (4 cm) of oil and heat it to 350°F (175°C). Line a plate with paper towels or parchment paper and have it ready. Carefully slip the pig ear strips into the oil, making sure they don’t stick to each other. Fry for 2 to 3 minutes, until completely crisp. Remove them from the oil using a slotted spoon, place on the paper towel-lined plate, and immediately season with salt. Serve immediately.

Aderezo de Citricos con Miel y Jalapeno (honey citrus jalapeno dressing)

Aderezo de Citricos con Miel y Jalapeno (honey citrus jalapeno dressing)

2 T. fresh Red Grapefruit Juice
1 T. fresh Lime Juice
1 T. fresh Orange Juice
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 ½ tablespoons honey
1/4 cup (60 ml) olive oil
1 teaspoon minced shallot
1 to 2 teaspoons minced jalapeno chile
Salt

In a medium bowl, whisk together the citrus juices, vinegar, and honey until the honey dissolves, then whisk in the oil. Stir in the shallot and jalapeno and season with salt.

Tacos Gobernador (Governor’s Tacos: Sautéed Shrimp Tacos)

Tacos Gobernador (Governor’s Tacos: Sautéed Shrimp Tacos)

claudia shrimp tacosIt’s actually named after a governor of the state of Sinaloa who once visited the city of Culiacan. A local chef invented a taco to welcome the governor, and when he asked what the taco was called, the chef named it the “governor taco.” These sautéed shrimp tacos went on to become a crowd favorite across port towns all over Mexico. This recipe calls for a sauce called Salsa Maggi. It’s like a Mexican version of soy sauce, and I use it in several recipes in the book. Start off slow and add as much or as little as you like to suit your taste.

8 (6-inch/15-cm) corn tortillas, homemade (see this page) or store-bought
8 ounces (225 g) Oaxaca cheese or Monterey Jack cheese, pulled or cut into thin strips
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 pound (455 g) small to medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 medium green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and thinly sliced
1/4 cup (60 ml) Maggi sauce

Preheat a griddle or comal (tortilla griddle) over medium-high heat to get it nice and hot. Reduce the heat under the griddle to low, add a couple of tortillas, and heat them for 15 to 30 seconds on each side, until soft and malleable. Add 1 ounce (28 g) of cheese to one side of each tortilla and fold the empty side over the cheese side to form a quesadilla. Press down on the quesadilla with a metal spatula for the first few seconds so the cheese sticks, then cook for 1 to 2 minutes on each side, until the cheese is completely melted and the tortillas start to get crisp. Repeat with the remaining tortillas and cheese. Heat the oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the shrimp and season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook until just turning pink on both sides, 2 to 4 minutes, flipping the shrimp halfway through cooking. Remove the shrimp to a bowl. Add the onion and bell pepper to the pan and cook until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes, stirring often. Return the shrimp to the pan, add the Maggi sauce, and toss quickly until incorporated and the shrimp are fully cooked through. To serve, open up a crispy quesadilla and add some shrimp and vegetables. Fold it back over and serve piping hot.

Ensalada de Quelites con Mango y Habanero “Sturdy Greens” Salad with Mango and Habanero

Ensalada de Quelites con Mango y Habanero “Sturdy Greens” Salad with Mango and Habanero

Ensalada de Quelites con Mango y Habanero

1/2 fresh habanero chile, stemmed (remove the seeds if you wish)
3 garlic cloves, peeled
The zest (colored part only) of 1/2 orange
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup agave syrup or honey
Salt
1 small white or red onion, thinly sliced
4 cups sliced (about 1/2-inch is good) sturdy greens (such as kale, chard, or mustard greens—you’ll need to start with about a 1/2 pound of most greens, then pull off or cut out the stems/stalks before slicing)
2 cups (about 3 ounces) frisée leaves (if your frisée is in a head, cut out the core and tear the leaves into rough 1-inch pieces)
1 large ripe mango (I like the yellow-skin ataúlfo/honey Manila mangos best for flavor and texture), peeled, flesh cut from the pit and chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
A couple tablespoons crumbled Mexican queso fresco or other fresh cheese such as feta or goat cheese
A couple tablespoons pine nuts or slivered almonds, toasted lightly in a dry skillet over medium heat until golden and aromatic

In a small microwaveable dish, combine the habanero and garlic. Cover with water and microwave at 100 percent for 1 minute. Drain and transfer to a blender. Add the zest, juices, oil and agave or honey. Blend into a smooth dressing. Taste and season highly with salt, usually about a 1/2 teaspoon. Scoop the onion into a small bowl and stir in a little of the dressing. With all the greens in a large bowl, use your fingers to massage the kale, making it more tender by breaking up its fibers until it darkens a little, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the onions and frisée to the greens. Drizzle on about 3 tablespoons of the dressing (the leftover can be covered and refrigerated for another salad) and toss to coat the greens well. Taste and season with additional salt if you think it’s necessary. Divide the salad between 4 serving plates and spoon over each about a tablespoon of mango (the mango you don’t use is yours to snack on). Sprinkle the salads with the cheese and nuts and it’s ready to serve.

Claudia’s Mexican Sauces

Claudia’s Mexican Sauces

claudia saucesCrema de Aguacate Oazaquena (Oaxacan Avocado Cream)

1 lg. Ripe Hass Avocado
½ C. Oazacan Sour Cream or Crème Fraîche
1 ½ T. Lime Juice
Salt

Using a 6-inch (15-cm) knife, carefully slice through the stem end of the avocado until you can feel the pit. Proceed to run your knife down one side following the pit, but don’t press too eagerly. A ripe avocado will be very easy to cut, so don’t exert yourself or you can risk a cut. Continue cutting all the way around the pit until you reach the original cut. Set your knife down, hold each side of the avocado in your hands, and twist in opposite directions. Carefully remove the pit of the avocado either with a spoon or fork. (If your avocado isn’t ripe enough, this may prove difficult; if so, stab your knife into the pit and twist in order to remove it. If you are unable to remove the pit, use another avocado, as this avocado is not ripe and will taste too earthy.) Run a large spoon along the inside of the skin of the avocado to remove the flesh
from the skin. Don’t worry how perfectly the avocado comes out, as you are going to be pureeing it anyway! In a small blender or food processor (a mini food processor works well), combine the avocado flesh, sour cream, and lime juice, and blend until smooth. If your avocado is not ripe enough or the sour cream is too thick, add a tablespoon or so of water to
get things moving in the machine, but make sure to keep the consistency thick and mousse-like (see Notes). Remove from the blender and season with salt. Fit a piping bag with a small circular tip and add the avocado cream to the bag or spoon the cream into a squeeze bottle. To plate with tamales or tacos, place your point close to the plate, squeeze out a little cream, and lift the tip straight up. This will make your dollop look like the perfect kiss! Because avocados are finicky and will turn brown and dull, this crème will not keep longer than 4 hours, even when stored in an airtight container. So put it on everything and be generous with it!

Oaxacan sour cream is denser than typical sour cream and is salted and textured much
like a crème fraîche. If you cannot find it, use crème fraiche or, in a pinch, regular sour cream and a bit more salt to achieve a similar balance of flavor. Err on the side of thicker (but not chunky) than thinner for your avocado cream, because if it is too thin, you will have a dripping mess that cannot be piped.
Chipotle Crema (Chipotle Cream Sauce)

1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 medium white onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
1 small tomato, chopped
1 cup (240 ml) heavy cream
1 to 2 canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
Salt

Heat the oil in a medium sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 30 seconds, or until fragrant. Add the garlic and oregano and cook for an additional 30 seconds, or until the garlic starts to soften. Add the tomato and sauté until softened, about 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, carefully pour in the cream, and bring to a simmer. Immediately remove from the heat. A little bit goes a long way with smoky chipotle chiles, so if you have never worked with them, start with one, and then add another if you want to turn up the heat. Place the chile in a blender, carefully pour in the hot cream mixture, and blend on medium
speed for about 1 minute, until smooth and bright orange in color. Taste for salt and season accordingly; if the sauce is not spicy enough for you, add an additional chile and blend again until smooth. This is a dairy-based cream sauce that will keep a maximum of 3 to 4 days in the fridge, so use it quickly.
Salsa de Chile Tatemado (Roasted Red Pepper Sauce)

2 medium Roma tomatoes
1 jalapeno chile
1 pound (455 g) fresh piquillo peppers, roasted, or 1 (14-ounce/400-g) can roasted piquillo peppers, drained
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 small yellow onion, quartered
½ cup (120 ml) beef stock or veal demi-glace, plus more if needed
4 sprigs fresh thyme, tied with kitchen string
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cayenne pepper (optional)

Heat a skillet or comal (tortilla griddle) over medium-low heat. Place the tomatoes and jalapeno on the skillet and heat until the tomatoes are almost completely darkened on all sides, softened, and releasing their juices and the jalapeno is fragrant and blistered. Remove the stem and cut the jalapeno in half. Remove the seeds using a spoon if you’d like your sauce on the milder side. In a blender, combine the tomatoes, jalapeno, piquillo peppers, garlic, onion, and stock, and blend until smooth. Pour the mixture into a medium saucepan. Add the thyme and season with salt and pepper. Place over low heat and bring to a simmer, adding a little more stock if it’s too thick. Once it simmers, remove the thyme, taste for heat, and add a little cayenne if needed. The sauce will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 5 to 7 days. Bring it to a boil before serving.
Aceite de Cilantro (Cilantro Oil)

2 large bunches fresh cilantro
1 1/4 cups (300 ml) canola oil
Salt

Start by cutting 1 inch (2.5 cm) from the thick ends of the cilantro stems. Chop the leaves and tender stems (stop about 1 inch/2.5 cm from the bottom of the cut stems) until you have 2 packed cups (80 g). Save any remaining cilantro for another recipe. Place the cilantro in the blender with ¼ cup (60 ml) of the oil. Blend on low speed, slowly drizzling in the remaining oil through the hole in the top of the blender. Do not overblend or blend on high speed, as this can cook the cilantro and turn it a dark green or brown color. Season with salt and pulse until incorporated. Line a fine-mesh sieve or chinois with a double layer of cheesecloth. Pour the
blended oil into the sieve and, using a large rubber spatula, push the oil mixture through the sieve into a large bowl, pressing on it with the spatula to get out all the flavored oil. Discard the cilantro pulp. Using a funnel, pour into a squeeze bottle for ease of plating. It will keep, refrigerated, up to 5 days.

Carne de Cerdo en Salsa Verde (Pork in Green Chile Sauce)

Carne de Cerdo en Salsa Verde (Pork in Green Chile Sauce)

Carne de Cerdo en Salsa Verde (Pork in Green Chile Sauce)Salsa verde (Green sauce)
1 pound tomatillos (known in Mexico as tomate verde), husks removed
4 or 5 whole chiles serrano, depending on your tolerance for picante (spiciness)
1/2 medium white onion, coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic (optional)
1 medium bunch fresh cilantro, largest stems removed
Sea salt to taste
1 kilo (2.2 pounds) very lean fresh pork butt, cut into 2″ cubes
White flour
Salt
Oil or lard sufficient for frying the pork

In a large pot of water over high heat, bring the tomatillos and chiles (and garlic, if you choose to use it) to a full rolling boil. Boil just until the tomatillos begin to crack; watch them closely or they will disintegrate in the water. Let the tomatillos and chiles (and garlic, if you like) boil until the tomatillos begin to crack. Using a slotted spoon, scoop the cooked tomatillos, salt, and chiles into your blender jar. There’s no need to add liquid at first, but reserve the liquid in which the vegetables boiled until you see the thickness of your sauce. You might want to thin it slightly and the cooking liquid will not dilute the flavor. Set the vegetables aside to cool for about half an hour. Once they are cool, cover the blender, hold the blender cap on, and blend all the vegetables, including the chopped onion, until you have a smooth sauce. Be careful to allow the tomatillos and chiles to cool before you blend them; blending them while they are fresh from the boiling water could easily cause you to burn yourself, the hot mixture tends to react like molten lava in the blender. (Note: don’t ask me how I know this.) In the blender, the boiled and cooled tomatillos and chiles. The cilantro goes in last. While the blender is running, remove the center of its cap and, little by little, push the cilantro into the whizzing sauce. Blend just until smooth; you should still see big flecks of dark green cilantro in the lighter green sauce. Test the salt and correct if necessary. Reserve the sauce for later use.
Pat the 2″ pork cubes as dry as possible with paper towels. Put about 1/4 cup flour in a plastic grocery-size bag. Add 1/2 tsp salt. Melt the lard over high heat in a large heavy oven-proof casserole. While the lard is melting, shake about 1/4 of the cubed pork in the salted flour. When the oil or lard begins to smoke, add the floured pork cubes, being careful not to dump the flour into the pan. Cover the pan. As the pork cubes brown, shake another 1/4 of the pork cubes in flour and salt. Turn the pork cubes until all sides are golden brown. Remove browned cubes to a bowl and reserve. Add more floured pork to the hot lard. You may need more oil or lard as well as more salted flour. Repeat until all pork cubes are well browned. Reserve the browned pork in the same pan, scraping the crispy bits from the bottom. Most Mexican housewives do not flour and brown the pork cubes prior to cooking them in the sauce. I like to prepare the dish this way because the browned flour adds a deeper flavor to the finished sauce. Everyone taste is different, though, and you are of course welcome to tweak the recipe till the finished product is just the way you like it. Add the sauce to the pork cubes in the casserole, making sure that all the cubes are immersed in sauce. Cover and put the casserole into the oven, reducing the heat to 160°C or 325°F. Bake for two hours. Add cooking liquid from the vegetables if necessary to keep the sauce relatively thick but not sticking to the casserole. The pork will be fork-tender and the green sauce will take on a rich, deep, pork-y flavor and color. Serve with arroz blanco (steamed white rice) or arroz a la mexicana (red rice), refried beans, a colorful, contrasting vegetable, and fresh, hot tortillas. Mexico Cooks!’ money-back guarantee: everyone will come back for seconds.

Sopapillas

Sopapillas

Sopapillas4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups warm water

You have to serve them hot. And you HAVE to eat all of them at that meal. When you drop them in the fryer be sure not to crowd them and only do about 2 or 3 at a time depending on the size. As soon as the float to the top start spooning the hot oil over them to make them puff even more. Turn them once and take them out of the oil when they are golden. Stir together the flour, baking powder, salt and shortening until it is crumbly. Stir in water and mix until the dough is smooth. Cover and let stand for 20 minutes for the gluten to relax. Meanwhile heat the oil in a deep fryer to 375 degrees. Roll out on floured board 1/8 thick. Cut into large-ish squares. Fry until golden brown on both sides. Drain. Dust with confectioner’s sugar or granulated sugar and serve hot with honey to pour in the hollow centers.

Padron Pepper and Goat Cheese Tacos with Smoked Salt and Cilantro Lime Crema

Padron Pepper and Goat Cheese Tacos with Smoked Salt and Cilantro Lime Crema

Look for padron peppers at farmer’s markets or fancy foodie stores throughout the late summer. If you’re sensitive to spice, fry up a batch on their own first to test them out. Peppers from the same farm tend to have the same ratio of hot to mild peppers. If you get a hot one, you can spit it out; but if it’s in your taco, you’ll be stuck eating it.

Have all your other ingredients ready before frying the peppers so that they stay warm; they only take a few minutes to cook. For the tomatoes, I like to use one dry-farmed red, and one heirloom yellow; you may not need to use all the tomatoes. Be sure to drink the delicious juice they let off. It pays to seek out good corn tortillas.

2 small tomatoes
salt, as needed
1/3 C. sour cream
2-3 T. finely chopped cilantro, plus a few leaves for garnish
juice of half a lime
1 T. olive oil
1 pint basket padron peppers
a few pinches of smoked sea salt
4 (6-inch) corn tortillas (or a corn/wheat blend)
2 ounces fresh goat cheese, crumbled (about 1/2 C.)
1 medium-sized ripe avocado, halved, pitted, and sliced
several paper-thin slivers from a red onion
lime wedges

Dice the tomatoes, sprinkle with a pinch of salt, and let drain in a sieve while you get on with the recipe. In a small bowl, stir together the sour cream, cilantro, lime juice, and a big pinch of salt. Taste, adding more lime or salt if you like. Set aside, or cover and chill for up to a day or two. Use a pair of scissors to cut the stems off the peppers (their crowns are edible). Rinse the peppers and drain them well. Heat 1 T. olive oil in a 10″ cast iron skillet set over a medium flame until it shimmers. Add the peppers and cook, tossing occasionally, until blistered all over and blackened in places, about 5 minutes. They will pop and spit; lower the temperature if things are getting too crazy. Sprinkle with a few pinches of the smoked salt.
In another skillet, warm the tortillas on both sides until soft and pliable. Place the tortillas on a couple of plates, and build the tacos. I like the following order:

goat cheese
avocado slices
diced tomato
sliced onion
cilantro lime crema
padron peppers

Top with a sprinkle of smoked salt and a few cilantro leaves. Serve immediately, with lime wedges for squeezing over the tops.

Carne Asada

Carne Asada

3/4 cup orange juice
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup lime juice
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon finely chopped canned chipotle pepper
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup olive oil

3 pounds flank steak

Combine Citrus juices in a large glass or ceramic bowl along with the garlic, soy sauce, chipotle pepper, chili power, ground cumin, paprika, dried oregano, black pepper, and cilantro. Slowly whisk in the olive oil until marinade is well combined. Remove one cup of the marinade and place in a small bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for use after the meat is cooked. Place the flank steak between two sheets of heavy plastic (resealable
freezer bags work well) on a solid, level surface. Firmly pound the steak with the smooth side of a meat mallet to a thickness of 1/4 inch. After pounding, poke steak all over with a fork. Add the meat to the marinade in the large bowl, cover, and allow’ to marinate in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Preheat an outdoor grill for medium-high heat, and lightly oil the grate. Remove the steak from the marinade and grill to desired doneness, about 5 minutes per side for medium rare. Discard used marinade. Remove meat from heat and slice across the grain. Pour the one cup of reserved, unused marinade over the hot meat and serve immediately.

Chintextle (Pumpkin Seed And Pasilla De Oaxaca Paste)

Chintextle (Pumpkin Seed And Pasilla De Oaxaca Paste)

Mexicans can tell that this is not something you often find in cities. Instead, it’s what men who toil on farms buy in local street markets or get from their wives before they head to work, because it keeps well even in the high heat of the afternoon. When they need a snack, they break out tostadas (crunchy corn tortillas) and spread on chintextle, the potent paste turning even that simple snack into a real treat.

Chintextle (Pumpkin Seed And Pasilla De Oaxaca Paste)1 1/2 ounces pasilla de Oaxaca chiles (9), wiped clean and stemmed
4 ounces hulled raw (green) pumpkin seeds (¾ cup)
5 large garlic cloves, peeled
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar, or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon fine salt, or 1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 to 2 tablespoons mild olive oil or vegetable oil, if necessary

Heat a comal, griddle, or heavy skillet over medium-low heat, and toast the chiles a few at a time, turning them over and pressing them down with tongs frequently, until they become a lighter shade of brown and develop some blisters, about 2 minutes per batch. Set them aside to cool. Heat a skillet over medium heat and toast the pumpkin seeds, stirring and tossing constantly, until they’re puffed and just slightly browned, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer them to a plate to cool. Put the chiles, pumpkin seeds, and garlic in the food processor (there’s not enough liquid to use the blender here) and process to form a paste, scraping the sides often. Add the vinegars and process again. Season to taste with the distilled vinegar and salt, and process again to blend. If necessary, add oil, a little at a time, to help blend the mixture into a very smooth paste. Processing will take at least 3 minutes total. Before you serve it, refrigerate the chintextle in an airtight container for one day to allow the flavors to develop.

Polvorones de Canele (Mexican Cinnamon Cookies)

Polvorones de Canele (Mexican Cinnamon Cookies)

Polvorones de Canele (Mexican Cinnamon Cookies)1 cup butter
½ cup confectioners’ sugar (powdered sugar)
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1½ cups bread flour
Coating
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350° F. Cream together confectioners’ sugar and butter. Stir in the vanilla. Combine flour, salt, and cinnamon in a separate bowl. Mix into the butter/sugar mixture to form a stiff dough. In a third bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon. Shape dough into 1 inch balls and roll in cinnamon mixture. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool cookies on wire racks.

Enchilada Suizas

Enchilada Suizas

Enchiladas SuizasA3[5]3 cups of Salsa Verde
3/4 cup Mexican crema
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 garlic clove, chopped
2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken meat (or leftover chicken)
1 ½ cup shredded Oaxaca or Fresh Mozzarella Cheese
12 corn tortillas
1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons vegetable oil for frying
Salt & Pepper to taste

If you want to make this dish spicy, add 1 or 2 chopped jalapeño peppers with the salsa verde in the blender.

Place 1 cup of Salsa Verde, Mexican Cream, cilantro and garlic clove in a blender, process until you have a smooth sauce. Mix with the rest of the salsa verde and set aside. Heat a skillet over medium heat; warm one tablespoon of oil and warm the tortillas one at a time to soften, giving it just a few seconds per side. Add the rest of the oil as needed. Besides softening them for easy rolling, another reason is that we do this is to keep the tortillas from breaking. Transfer onto a plate covered with paper towels to drain any excess oil. Preheat your oven to 350°F. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. You can also add garlic powder if you like. Spread 1/3 of the sauce in a greased 9″ X 12” baking dish. Fill the center of each tortilla with the chicken and roll it up. Arrange the enchiladas in 1 layer, seam side down. Cover with the rest of sauce; sprinkle with cheese. Bake 25-30 minutes or until cheese starts to brown. Serve immediately and garnish with onion slices.

Mexican Menus

Mexican Menus

Taste of Yucatan: Mexican Sangria, Fiery Habanero Salsa, Fresh Corn Torillas, Yucatan Achiote Seasoned Pork, Yucatan Pickled Red Onions, Refried Black Beans

Christmas Eve Open House: Cranberry Sage Margarita, Roasted Oaxaxan-Spiced Orange & Butternut Soup, Red Chile Pork Tamales, Roasted Pork Leg in Adobo, Lime Tarts with Ancho Graham Crust and Agave Whipped Cream

New Years Dinner: Tequila Old Fashioned, Ancho Glazed Chicken Empanadas, Corn, Poblano and Lobster Bisque, Pumpkin seed Crusted Rack of Lamb with Oaxacan Red Mole Sauce, Classic Mexican Vanila Flan

Summer Fiesta: Watermelon Habanero Margarita, Guacamole, Mezcal Braised Spare Ribs with Spicy Chiptole Molasses Sauce, Mexican Grilled Corn, Flourless Chocolate Ancho Cake

Chile-Honey Glazed Pork Ribs

Chile-Honey Glazed Pork Ribs

Chile Honey Pork Ribs4 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1½oz. ancho chiles
1½ oz. guajillo chiles
½ c. chicken broth
2 Tbs. cider vinegar
big pinch ground cumin
pinch ground cloves
â…› tsp. freshly ground black pepper
¾ tsp. dried Mexican oregano
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. brown sugar
1½ tsp. salt

3-3½ lbs. country-style pork ribs
2 T. honey

6 (or more) large romaine lettuce leaves
small onion, thinly sliced into rings
2 radishes, quartered, diced, or sliced
fresh cilantro, in sprigs or chopped

Begin by setting a heavy, ungreased comal or cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Stem and seed the chiles and rip them open so that they will lay flat. Set them on the hot skillet, pressing with a spatula for just a few seconds, until they start to change color and crackle a bit. They should smell nice and earthy and toasty – but not burnt. Flip over and repeat on opposite side. Remove from skillet and place in bowl. Do this in batches until all chiles have been toasted. Cover chiles with boiling water and set a plate on top to keep them submered; let soak ~30 minutes. Toss the garlic cloves onto the hot skillet and roast until soft and charred in spots, ~10-15 minutes. Let cool until you’re able to handle then, then slip the garlic from its paper skin. Place the garlic in the jar of a blender. Lift the chiles from their soaking water and place in blender with the garlic. Add ½ cup of broth to the blender along with the vinegar and all of the spices. Puree until smooth, scraping down the sides of the blender jar as needed. Press the puree through a sieve into a clean bowl, pushing down with a rubber scraper to release all of the liquid. Stir in the brown sugar and salt; taste and adjust seasoning as needed. You could make this chile marinade up to several weeks in advance and store it in a jar with a lid in the fridge until ready to use.

Place the ribs in a gallon-size zippered baggie and pour HALF of the marinade over them. Seal the baggie and squidge everything along until the marinade coats the pork. Refrigerate overnight or up to 2 days.

Combine remaining half of chile marinade with honey; stir until smooth. Cover and refrigerate.

Preheat oven to 325° F. Dump the ribs and any marinade into a large baking or roasting pan. Drizzle ¼ cup of water around them. Cover with foil and bake until tender when pierced with a fork – this could take anywhere from 1-2 hours. Uncover and baste with the liquid in the pan. Return to oven and bake uncovered for 15 minutes, this will help them develop a good crust. Carefully pour the fat and juices out of the pan. Increase heat to 350° F. Brush the ribs with the chile-honey glaze…really slather it on there…really, use it all! Bake until the ribs are beautifully glazed and crusty on the edges, ~15 minutes.

Lay the lettuce leaves on a serving platter and arrange the ribs over them. Scatter onion, radishes, and cilantro over them. Serve with hot corn tortillas. These ribs are great eaten whole or shredded and stuffed into tortillas to make some tasty tacos.

Mexican Pork Spareribs

Mexican Pork Spareribs

2 racks (6 lb.) St. Louis-style pork spareribs
16 dried guajillo or ancho chiles, seeded
1 1⁄2 tbsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
3⁄4 cup white vinegar
3⁄4 cup orange juice
1⁄4 cup canola oil
16 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
6 sprigs cilantro
3⁄4 tsp. ground cloves
4 cups oak or mesquite chips, soaked in water 1 hour, then drained (optional)
Salsa, for serving (optional)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Place ribs in a roasting pan. Place chiles in a bowl and pour 4 cups of hot water over them. Soak until softened, 8-10 minutes; drain, reserving ½ cup soaking liquid. Purée chiles, soaking liquid, oregano, cinnamon, cloves, vinegar, orange juice, oil, garlic, cilantro, salt, and pepper in a blender until smooth; rub mixture over ribs. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Heat a charcoal grill or set a gas grill to high; bank coals or turn off burner on one side. Place soaked wood chips, if using, over coals or in a smoke box in a gas grill. Grill ribs until slightly charred and tender, 1-1½ hours. If the outside starts to burn before the ribs are fully cooked, move them to the cooler section of the grill and continue to cook until tender. Rest ribs 20 minutes; slice into individual ribs. Serve with salsa, if you like.

jalapeño poppers a la parrilla

jalapeño poppers a la parrilla

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4 Large Jalapenos, halved, seeded
1-12 toothpicks
4- 8 slices Turkey Bacon (crisps up well on the grill)
4 oz. Cream Cheese, room temperature
2 T. finely Grated Cheddar Cheese

Mix cream cheese and cheddar cheese. Take a T. and stuff a jalapeno half, making it fairly level. Run spoon along the outside edge so no cheese is hanging over the sides. Repeat for remaining half peppers. Wrap each half with 1-2 pieces of turkey bacon – 2 for large peppers. The bacon should encircle the jalapeno, completely covering the filling and as much of the pepper as possible. You do not want the filling to be able to spill out if the jalapeno tilts while on the grill. Use toothpicks to secure the bacon in place. Place peppers on your hot grill, filling side down and cook 4-6 minutes and then turn them over and cook the other side an additional 4-6 minutes. The bacon should be crisp and beginning to blacken, the filling hot and creamy, and the pepper softened.

Salsa de Habanero y Cebola

Salsa de Habanero y Cebola

5 habanero peppers, roasted and finely chopped
Juice of ½ an orange
Juice of 2 limes
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
2 tsp. white vinegar

Roast habaneros in a skillet on medium heat until they start to get a few dark spots. Cut top off the pepper and discard stem. Finely dice the habaneros. Mix the diced habaneros with the chopped onion in a bowl (or directly in the container you intend to store the salsa in, preferably in a glass jar). Pour juices over the habaneros and onions and then add the vinegar. Toss lightly to moisten and refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving. Keeps refrigerated for about 5 days.

Carne Asada

Carne Asada

1/4 cup olive Carne Asadaoil
1 cup malt vinegar (red Wine Vinegar, more traditional)
1/3 cup lime juice or lemon juice
1/3 cup orange juice
1 cup water
2 T. peeled fresh garlic, minced
1 T. ground white pepper
1 1/2 T. salt
1 T. ground cumin
1 T. chili powder
1 T. Mexican oregano
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1 orange, sliced
1/4 bunch cilantro, chopped
5-6 pounds skirt steak

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Place meat in gallon sized freezer bag, in the bottom of a shallow baking dish, or a non-reactive (plastic or glass) storage container with a lid. Pour carne asada marinade on top of meat, cover dish or close bag, and marinate overnight up to 48 hours in the refrigerator. Grilling the marinated carne asada: Take meat out of container and grill until just cooked through. (Rare to medium rare.)

One way to serve:  Cut cooked meat into strips. Place meat and favorite toppings (salsa, cheese, guacamole, avocado slices, tomatoes, shredded cabbage, grilled sweet peppers, etc.) in a tortilla to make into tacos or burritos. You can also serve meat over rice for a carne asada bowl.

Slow cooking the marinated carne asada: After marinating for one or two days, place meat and marinade in a slow cooker. Slow cook for 10 to 12 hours on low. Meat should be extra tender and can be shredded with a fork. Place meat and favorite toppings (salsa, cheese, guacamole, avocado slices, tomatoes, shredded cabbage, grilled sweet peppers, etc.) in a tortilla to make into tacos or burritos. You can also serve meat over rice for a carne asada bowl.