Cinco de Mayo
For a long time I thought Mexican restaurants didn’t rinse their dishes properly. There seemed to be an odd soapy flavour to the food. When I started cooking Mexican food in my own kitchen, I realized the Palmolive aftertaste was cilantro. There is some evidence that hypersensitivity to cilantro’s soapy essence is genetic. In short, some people taste it, others don’t. After eating many cilantro-flavoured Mexican dishes, I’ve grown to love cilantro’s Irish Spring zestiness. And it’s a good thing. With Cinco de Mayo approaching, it’s time to haul out my favourite Mexican recipes.
But first, a word about Cinco de Mayo, which translates in English to “5th of May.” Surprisingly, in Mexico the holiday is a simple regional celebration recognized only in the state of Puebla. However in North America, Cinco de Mayo has grown into a celebration of Mexican heritage and pride. Now, I’m usually the first in line to celebrate holidays that aren’t remotely related to my heritage. Chinese New Year, Oktoberfest, Bank Holiday … you name it. If there’s a celebration to be celebrated, I’m putting on my party hat and getting into the conga line. And so it is with Cinco de Mayo. C’mon, everybody, let’s party! ¡Vámonos!
Ripe avocados should slip under your thumb when you rub them. I love to cut them in half, discard the pit and remove the creamy fruit with an ice cream scoop, which looks lovely on top of a salad. I also adore what I fondly call my darling “Guac” and which I can’t seem to ever get enough of.
2–3 ripe avocados, peeled & chopped
1 Roma tomato, peeled & chopped
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1–2 tbsp fresh lime juice (to taste)
1/2 tsp salt
1 clove garlic, pressed
1 tbsp cilantro
For a smooth guacamole, pulse all ingredients in a food processor. For a chunkier version, simply mix ingredients lightly with a fork.
Garnish with cilantro. Serve with vegetable crudités and tortilla chips. Also great as a side dish with any Mexican entrée.
I love the busy work of building my own special fajita, lovingly folding the tortilla into a fat little envelope, and tucking into it with zeal. Fajitas are like snowflakes — no one fajita is quite like the other. Be creative and add olives, corn, hot peppers, rice, marinated mushrooms, black beans, refried beans, lettuce, cheeses and more. The bigger and overstuffed it is, the better it tastes.
2 strip steaks, thinly sliced
1 tbsp ancho or regular chili powder
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp green Tabasco sauce
3 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 red onion, sliced
1 green pepper, sliced
1 sweet red pepper, sliced
2 cloves garlic, pressed
2 tbsp cilantro
Tortillas, sour cream, lettuce, shredded Cheddar cheese, salsa, guacamole and more!
In a medium bowl, mix chili powder, lime juice, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce and 1 tbsp olive oil. Toss with steak slices.
Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in skillet. Sauté steaks over medium high heat until cooked to desired doneness.
Meanwhile, in a separate skillet, heat remaining tablespoon olive oil. Sauté onion and peppers over medium high heat until softened. Add garlic, salt and pepper. Sauté until onions and peppers are soft. Garnish with cilantro.
Serve steak and peppers with warmed tortillas, sour cream, shredded Cheddar cheese, salsa, guacamole and anything else you can think of.
Set big pitchers of Sangria garnished with oranges, lemons and blueberries on the table.
chicken enchiladas suiza
For some reason, you don’t often see this recipe on a Mexican restaurant’s menu. I don’t know why because it’s absolutely lovely — creamy, delicious and unforgettable. If you can’t find corn tortillas, substitute with flour tortillas. The flavour will change but they will be just as delicious.
4 chicken fillets, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 can green chillies, drained
1 tbsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 cup flour
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups shredded Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese, divided
3 scallions, sliced
12 corn tortillas
Preheat oven to 400˚F degrees.
In large skillet, sauté chicken, onion and garlic until chicken is cooked through and onion is softened. Add green chillies, chilli powder, cumin, oregano, salt, and pepper. Remove from skillet and set aside.
Stir flour into skillet. Cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly.
Add chicken broth and heavy cream, scraping up browned bits. Cook until thick and bubbly, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in 1 cup cheese until cheese melts.
In a bowl, combine chicken mixture with 1 cup of the cheese sauce.
Soften corn tortillas according to package directions. Place some of the chicken mixture on each tortilla. Sprinkle with scallions. Roll up and place in 9 x 13 inch pan. Pour remaining cheese sauce over enchiladas. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.
Bake for 20 minutes or until enchiladas are hot and bubbly. Serve with sour cream.
Margaritas made with good quality tequila will add a sweet/sour note to this creamy dish. Rim the glasses with chunky sea salt and garnish with lime slices.
huevos con chorizo (eggs with sausage)
In Los Angeles, eggs are often served Mexican-style with lots of fresh fruit and guacamole. I am partial to dousing my eggs with Cholula sauce, but you can use the hot sauce of your choosing.
200 g Chorizo sausage, crumbled
1/4 cup milk
1 medium tomato, diced
Sliced cantaloupe and grapes
Queso Fresco (Mexican cheese) or goat cheese
Flour tortillas & butter
In large skillet, sauté sausage until cooked through.
In a medium bowl, beat eggs, milk, salt and pepper.
Pour eggs over sausage. Cook without stirring until eggs begin to set.
Lift and fold eggs with spatula so that uncooked part runs to the bottom. Cook until eggs are set. Cut into four pieces. Garnish each with tomato and Cholula sauce. Serve with guacamole, cantaloupe, grapes, Queso Fresco and warm, buttered tortillas.
Serve with hot chocolate garnished with cinnamon, whipped cream and a splash of Kahlua.