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Archive for Cinco de Mayo-Dia De Los Muertos

TIP OF THE DAY: Try Authentic Mexican Recipes For Cinco De Mayo

Mexican Ceviche

Chicken Fajitas

TOP: Ceviche Acapulqueno, from the Pacific Coast of Mexico (photo courtesy KatanaeStudio.com. BOTTOM: Tex-Mex foods like fajitas are not authentic Mexican (photo courtesy Wild Oats), but Tex-Mex cuisine that originated in Texas.

 

Chef Johnny Gnall’s mother is from Mexico, so he grew up eating the real deal: authentic Mexican cuisine. So today’s tip is: Cook something authentic for Cinco de Mayo.

It’s easy to default to Tex-Mex favorites: most “Mexican” food North of the Rio Grande is Tex-Mex, a cuisine developed by Mexicans who moved to Texas (Tejanos). For example, beef, cheese-stuffed burritos and wheat [white] flour are not common in Mexico. You won’t find chili con carne there; or chimichangas, for that matter.

Queso dips and fajitas were born in the U.S.A. Nachos were invented in 1943 on the Mexican side of the border, as a spur-of-the-moment solution to feed a group of Army wives from Texas who stopped at a restaurant when the kitchen was closed.

Anything with beef, black beans, Cheddar or other yellow cheese, cumin, wheat flour, black beans, and canned tomatoes are Tex-Mex, a term that first appeared in print in the 1940s. Tex-Mex was developed by Tejano restaurateurs using local ingredients to appeal to gringos (there’s plenty of beef in Texas). The fusion cuisine began to expand nationwide when food writers “discovered” it in the 1970s.

While cooking Mexican cuisine is often a multi-step process, there are some simple yet authentic dishes you can make. Also note: There is no single “Mexican cuisine.” As it is everywhere, different regions of any country have different specialties, based on local ingredients.
 

AUTHENTIC MEXICAN RECIPES FOR CINCO DE MAYO

RECIPE #1: CEVICHE ACAPULQUEÑO

Ceviche can be found throughout Mexico (and the rest of Central and South America). Its origins lie along the country’s coastlines, where fresh fish was a staple. Recipes vary according to the local catch.

This recipe is a popular Pacific Coast ceviche. The distinguishing characteristic of Pacific ceviches is the use of tomato juice and, often, pickled chilies in the recipe. Eastern ceviches, from Mexico’s Gulf Coast, are less complex, using fresh chilies and foregoing the tomato juice.

You can serve ceviche as an appetizer, as a light entrée (especially at lunch), or a snack. Chef Johnny’s mother eats a big bowl for breakfast when vacationing in Acapulco.

 
Always buy the freshest fish you can find for ceviche.

Ingredients For 4 One-Cup Servings

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless fish fillets, cut into 3/4-inch chunks
  • 1 cup fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 1 orange, juiced
  • 1 cup tomato juice
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried Mexican* oregano
  • Optional: 1 bay leaf
  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 cup minced onion
  • 2 roma tomatoes, diced
  • 2 fresh serrano chiles, seeded and minced
  • 20 green Manzanilla olives, pitted
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • Optional garnish: sliced avocado
  • Optional: tortilla chips
  •  
    ______________
    *Mexican oregano is a different herb than Mediterranean/European oregano. It is in a different botanical family and has different flavor notes. Mediterranean oregano is sweeter, with anise notes. Mexican oregano is grassy, with citrus notes. That being said, you can substitute Mediterranean oregano; just use a little less of it. You can also substitute dried marjoram, which comes from the same botanical family as Mexican oregano and also has citrus notes. Dried lemon verbena is another option.

     
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the fish in a non-reactive mixing bowl and cover it with the lime juice. Let the fish marinate for 3 hours. (This part of the process is curing—essentially, cooking—the fish).

    2. ADD to the bowl: the onion, tomato, orange juice, half a cup of the tomato juice, 1 tablespoon of minced serranos, a few tablespoons of olive oil, a pinch or two of dried oregano, bay leaf, olives, cilantro, and a pinch of salt. Cover the bowl and let everything marinate overnight. The next day…

    3. TASTE and adjust the seasonings to your preference. Garnish with avocado and serve with tortillas chips.

     

    RECIPE #2: FISH VERACRUZ STYLE

    The Mexican state of Veracruz on the Gulf Coast is known for its fine cuisine. While recipes can be quite elaborate, this one is quick and easy.

    This dish was adapted from a Spanish dish called Frita that uses chicken, not fish. The Veracruzeños substituted fish and also added the spicy chilies, as is typical when “Mexicanizing” a dish.

    Ingredients

  • Snapper fillets (substitute tilapia or other white fish)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 limes
  • 1 white onion
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 2-3 pickled jalapeños
  • 2 large tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup sliced green olives (pimiento-stuffed is fine)
  • Garnish: avocado or lime slices
  •  
    Serve With:

  • White rice
  •  

    Mexican Tilapia Recipe

    Tilapia Veracruz Style (photo courtesy MexicoInMyKitchen.com).

     
    Preparation

    1. SEASON the filets by rubbing salt, pepper, and lime into the flesh; let sit fit for 15 minutes. The goal here is not to fully cook the fish as in ceviche, but rather to infuse it with a bit of flavor. While the fish is sitting…

    2. CHOP half a white onion, the garlic, bell pepper, pickled jalapeños and tomatoes. Sweat the onion, garlic, and peppers in a pot until soft; then add the tomatoes with as much of their liquid as possible. Add the olives, bring to a simmer and cook for ten minutes.

    3. ADD the fish to a pot, covering the filets as best you can with the sauce. Cook, covered, for about 10 minutes, until the fish is done. Garnish and serve.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Your Own Corn Tortillas

    Do something different for Cinco de Mayo: Make your own corn tortillas.

    Americans eat lots of tortillas: Back in 2000, the Tortilla Industry Association estimated that Americans consumed approximately 85 billion tortillas (not including tortilla chips). They haven’t updated their website information, but we can safely assume that tortilla sales have only gone up. [Source]

    Yet the majority of us have never have seen handmade tortillas. Most Mexican restaurants and retailers have machine-made tortillas, pressed very flat with added preservatives to extend their shelf life.

    Tortillas are a flatbread (see the different types of bread). In a tortilleria (tortilla bakery) or Mexican restaurant, masa (cornmeal dough) is rolled into small balls of dough, flattened and cooked them quickly on a hot skillet. They require only one ingredient—masa harina, a special cornmeal—plus water.

    Like fresh-baked loaves of bread, fresh-baked tortillas are heavenly—and much faster to make. They have no fat or preservatives, so must be eaten the day they’re made (or stored in the fridge for 2-3 days).

    If you don’t have a local tortilleria, it’s easy to make your own.
     
    THE ORIGIN OF TORTILLAS

    Before wild yeast was harnessed by man, bread meant flatbread the world over: arepa, bánh, bannock, focaccia, injera, johnnycake, lavash, matzoh, naan, piadina, pita, pizza, puri, roti, tortilla and dozens of others.

    Tortillerias are native to Mexico and Central America, where they remain a staple food. The oldest tortillas discovered by archaeologists date back to around 10,000 B.C.E., made of maize (maize—corn—is native to Central America). The dried corn kernels were ground into cornmeal, which was mixed with water to make a dough called masa.

    When Hernán Cortés and his conquistadors arrived in what is today Mexico (on April 22, 1519), they encountered the native women making tortillas—flat corn bread. In the Aztec language Nahuatl, it was called tlaxcalli (teu-ax-CAH-lee). The Spanish called them tortillas, little cakes.

    Originally hand-flattened, “technology” most likely evolved to flattening with an implement, and later to manually operated wooden tortilla presses, flattening the tortilla dough one by one. Modern machinery can produce up to 60,000 tortillas an hour.

    Tortillas are now wheat flour in addition to maize. Typically, corn tortillas are used for tacos, flour tortillas for burritos.

       
    Tortillas Recipe

    Tortillas Recipe

    Tortilla Recipe

    Top: The dough is rolled into small balls, eachh of which becomes a tortilla (photo courtesy LoveAndOliveOil.com). Center: The balls are flattened and placed on the grill (photo © Jim Damaske | Tampa Bay Times). Bottom: Beautiful, fresh tortillas (photo TheGumDropButton.com).

     
    Women Making Tortillas
     
    Mexican women making grits in a work by Carl Nebel, 1836.
     
    THE DIFFERENT FORMS OF GROUND CORN

    Unless you work with these products regularly, you can’t be expected to know that all arground cornmeal, dried corn that’s ground down into smaller, coarse bits.

  • Corn flour is the most finely-ground maize. When nixtimalized, it becomes masa harina, used to make tortillas and other flat breads. Compare it in uses to all-purpose wheat flour: for fried food batter (start with a 50:50 mix of wheat and corn flours, for dredging, pancakes, etc.).
  • Cornmeal, also spelled corn meal, is coarse-ground maize (corn). It is used for arepas, grits for breakfast cereal or dinner sides, cornbread, fried foods, gluten-free cakes and pie crusts, hush puppies, Indian Pudding, shrimp and grits, and many other recipes.
  • Cornstarch is a thickener made from refined maize starch. It is a very fine powder.
  • Grits are hulled and coarsely ground grain. Grits can be made from any cereal, although corn grits are the norm. Here are uses for grits for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
  • Hominy grits are the same thing as grits. Grits is the shortened term for hominy grits.
  • Masa harina, meaning “dough flour for tamales,” is very fine-ground nixtimalized corn used for tortillas and tamales.
  • Masa and hominy are both nixtimalized corn kernels, but hominy is ground from white corn.
  • Nixtimalization is a process that soaks the grain kernels in an alkaline solution, usually limewater—a diluted solution of calcium hydroxide. The kernels are then rinsed. This loosens the hulls from the kernels and softens the corn. Masa harina is nixtimalized corn,
  • Polenta is a paste or dough made from medium- or coarse-ground cornmeal. It is cooked, formed into a roll and then fried or baked.
  • Southern grits are made from a different type of corn than polenta. Grits are made from dent corn; polenta from Italy is made from flint corn. Flint corn holds its texture better, which is why grits are the consistency of porridge and polenta is coarser and more toothsome.
  •  
    RECIPE: HOMEMADE CORN TORTILLAS

    All you need to make tortillas is masa harina and water. Masa harina, Spanish for dough flour, is the corn flour (corn meal) used to make tortillas and tamales. You can’t substitute regular cornmeal: Masa harina is specially treated corn (see the next section).

    You can find masa harina in any Latin American market or other market with a good Latin American foods section. We prefer Bob’s Red Mill brand, which we pick up at Whole Foods. Rick Bayless uses Maseca brand. Since the cornmeal provides the only flavor in the tortilla, go for the freshest, best-quality product. And don’t buy “instant.”
     
    Ingredients For 15 Tortillas

  • 1-3/4 cups masa harina (substitute 1 pound fresh smooth-ground corn masa*)
  • Water
  •  
    ________________________________
    *If you’re near a tortilleria, you may be able to purchase fresh, smooth-ground corn masa. On the other hand, if you’re at a tortilleria, you can purchase the tortillas freshly baked.

     

    Masa  Harina Bob's Red Mill

    51L2KlaJw7L._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_

    Top: All you need to make tortillas: masa harina and water (photo courtesy Bob’s Red Mill). Because the corn flour is the only flavor to the tortilla, buy the best. Bottom: The tortilla recipe is from Rick Bayless’ great book, Everyday Mexican (photo courtesy W.W. Norton, Inc.).

     

    Preparation

    1. MEASURE the masa harina into a bowl and add 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons hot tap water. Knead with your hands until thoroughly combined. Cover and let stand 15 minutes. (If using fresh-ground masa, available from a tortilleria, scoop it into bowl, break it up and knead a few times until smooth.)

    2. SET a large griddle (one that stretches over 2 burners) or 2 skillets on your stovetop. Heat one end of the griddle (or one skillet) to medium, the other end (or other skillet) to medium-high.

    3. SQUEEZE the dough gently. If it is stiff (it probably will be), knead in some water, 1 or 2 teaspoons at a time, until the dough feels like soft cookie dough: not stiff, but not sticky. Divide the dough into 15 pieces, rolling each into a ball. Cover with plastic.

    4. CUT 2 squares of a plastic bag, 1 inch larger than your tortilla press (we used our George Forman grill with the flat plates). Open the press and lay on one piece of plastic. Lay a dough ball in the center, and gently mash it. Top with the second piece of plastic and close press. Gently flatten the dough into a 1/8-inch-thick disk. Peel off the top piece of plastic.

    5. FLIP the tortilla onto your right hand (if you’re right-handed); the top of the tortilla should line up with the side of your index finger. Gently roll it onto the side of the griddle (or skillet) heated to medium. Let the bottom of the tortilla touch the griddle, then lower your hand slightly and move it away from you. The tortilla will stick to the hot surface so you can roll your hand out from under it as it rolls down flat. After 30 seconds, the edges of the tortilla will dry slightly and the tortilla will release from the griddle. Until this moment, the tortilla will be stuck.

    6. FLIP the tortilla onto the hotter side of the griddle (or the hotter skillet) with a metal spatula. After 30 seconds, the tortilla should be lightly browned underneath. Flip it over. Cook 30 seconds more—the tortilla should puff in places (or all over—a gentle press with metal spatula or fingers encourages puffing). Transfer to a basket lined with a napkin or towel.

    7. PRESS and bake the remaining tortillas. Stack each newly baked tortilla on top of the previously baked tortillas. Keep the tortillas well wrapped in a kitchen towel for warmth.

     
    REHEATING CORN TORTILLAS

    Some people have a tortilla steamer to reheat tortillas in the microwave (we picked up a silicone steamer and use it every day to warm or steam other foods in our microwave). But you don’t need one: You can substitute a kitchen towel.

  • In the microwave: Drizzle 3 tablespoons of water over a clean kitchen towel and wrap the tortillas. Place in a microwaveable plastic bag and fold it over—don’t seal the bag. Microwave at 50% power for 4 minutes to create a steamy environment around tortillas. Let stand for 2 or 3 minutes before serving.
  • In a vegetable steamer: If there is a center post, remove it. Pour 1/2 inch of water in the bottom of a pot. Wrap the tortillas (no more than 12 at a time) in a clean kitchen towel. Place it in the steamer, put the lid on the pot and set it over high heat. When the steam begins to seep out under the lid, time for 1 minute. Then turn off the heat and let the tortillas steam for 10 minutes.
  • On a griddle: Quickly reheat the tortillas one at a time on a dry griddle or skillet.
  • With kitchen tongs: Hold the tortilla with tongs over a low flame.
  •  
    CORN TORTILLAS VS. FLOUR TORTILLAS

    People who don’t enjoy the more pronounced flavor or texture of corn tortillas prefer the milder, softer flour tortillas are prized for their mild flavor and softness. Either can be used in any recipe requiring tortillas. However:

  • Flour tortillas are made with added fat—lard or vegetable shortening—and salt.
  • A standard six-inch corn tortilla contains about half the fat and calories and one fourth the sodium of a similar-sized flour tortilla.
  •  
    Recipe © copyright 2005 Rick Bayless, Mexican Everyday, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.
     

      

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    RECIPE: Frozen Kiwi Cilantro Margarita

    Don’t want Irish beer or w whiskey for St. Patrick’s Day?

    You can still drink green with this frozen Kiwi Cilantro Margarita from QVC chef David Venable.

    David notes: “This is a Margarita recipe unlike anything you’ve ever tried. It gets a beautiful pop of green color from flavorful kiwi and bright cilantro. As you continue to sip, you get all of those memorable Margarita flavors you love.”

    RECIPE: FROZEN KIWI CILANTRO MARGARITA

    Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 6 kiwis, peeled and quartered, plus 1 extra for garnish
  • 1 cup white cranberry juice
  • 4 cups ice
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro, stems removed
  • 3/4 cup tequila
  • 2 tablespoons triple sec or other orange liqueur
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Garnish: Sliced kiwi wheel
  •  

    kiwi-margarita-davidvenableQVC-230

    Chef David Venable puts a green twist on the Margarita. Photo courtesy QVC.

     
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the kiwi and the cranberry juice in a blender. Blend on low speed for 15-20 seconds, making sure not to dissolve the seeds. Strain the mixture through a sieve and discard the seeds.

    2. PLACE the strained mixture back into the blender and add the ice, cilantro, tequila, triple sec and sugar. Blend until smooth. Garnish and serve immediately.

    Find more of David Venable’s recipes at QVC.com.

      

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    RECIPE: Savory Chocolate Gazpacho

    Chocolate Gazpacho

    Chocolate Gazpacho

    Top: Savory chocolate gazpacho from Chef Mat Schuster. Bottom: Savory chocolate gazpacho with strawberries from GoodToKnow.co.uk. Here’s the recipe.

     

    Chef Mat Schuster of San Francisco’s Canela Bistro & Wine Bar offered us this Chocolate Gazpacho recipe, which we like for Valentine’s Day. It’s a savory chocolate counterpoint to all the sweet stuff.

    When most people think of savory chocolate dishes, Mexican mole comes to mind. You may have made a chili recipe with cocoa powder. It’s a popular ingredient in Mexican dishes.

    (And why not? Cacao cultivation was begun by the Olmecs, the first major civilization in Mexico, located in the present-day states of Veracruz and Tabasco; and furthered by the Mayas of the Yucatán Peninsula. When the Aztecs learned about cacao from the Mayas, they made it a drink for noble or wealthy Aztecs and their warrior heroes).

    If you’ve ever had an all-chocolate dinner (chocolate used in every dish), you know that it can be included in every course, from cacao nibs in the salad to cacao chèvre for the cheese course. Here are more examples, with the recipes available at Saveur.com.

  • Asado de Bodas, pork in red chile sauce with Mexican chocolate
  • Charred Cauliflower and Shishito Peppers with Picada* Sauce
  • Chocolate Barbecue Sauce
  • Cocoa-Rubbed Baby Back Ribs
  • Enchiladas in Chile Chocolate Sauce, with Mexican chocolate
  • Gascon-Style Beef Stew (Daube de Boeuf À la Gasconne), made with
    Armagnac, chocolate and Madiera wine
  • Triple Chocolate Beef & Bean Chili
  • Turkey in Mole Poblano
  • White Chocolate Baba Ghannouj
  •  
    RECIPE: SAVORY CHOCOLATE GAZPACHO

    Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened dark cocoa powder
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 small shallot, diced
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar (substitute red wine vinegar)
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup seedless or low-seed cucumber (Armenian, English,
    Persian, etc.), diced
  • ¼ cup bell pepper, diced
  • ½ cup to 1 cup cold water
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Garnishes: shaved chocolate (70% cacao to 100% cacao)
  • and/or croutons†

    Preparation

    1. PLACE all ingredients into a blender; blend until smooth.

    2. ADD enough water to make the consistency you prefer, but be sure not to dilute the flavor.

    3. TASTE, season with salt and pepper and chill the soup. Before serving, garnish as desired.
     
    WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT CHOCOLATE?

    Take a look at our Chocolate Glossary and other articles in THE NIBBLE’S Chocolate Section.

     
    _______________________
    *Picada is a Catalan-style pesto made with almonds, parsley and chocolate.

    †These can be American-style croutons—small squares—or French croutons/Italian crostini, slices of baguette or similar bread, grilled or toasted with olive oil, seasonings (herbs, spices, salt and pepper) and/or optional toppings (for this gazpacho recipe, try fresh goat cheese and chives). You can float it on top of the soup or serve it on the plate under the bowl.

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Grilled Chicken Or Fish With Pico De Gallo

    There are many different types of salsa, but our favorite is the finely chopped fresh salsa called pica de gallo.

    Pico de gallo, pronounced PEE-coh-deh-GAH-yo, is Spanish for “rooster’s beak.” How did it get that name? It once was eaten between the thumb and finger in a way that resembled a pecking rooster. (Salsa as finger food?!)

    Pico de gallo is made with finely diced raw tomatoes, onions, lime juice and cilantro. Jicama and other raw ingredients can be added. It differs from salsa fresca and salsa cruda in that the ingredients are uniformly chopped; but the terms are often used interchangeably. Another term is salsa mexicana.

    Most Americans not of Mexican ancestry limit their use of pico de gallo to Tex-Mex recipes—chips, nachos, tacos, tortilla chips, quesadillas, etc.

    But this better-for-you condiment provides great flavor and nutrition to everyday better-for-you foods, like grilled chicken and fish.

    Those in the know use fresh salsa to complement grilled meats—especially pork and steak—egg dishes, rice and other recipes.

       

    chicken-breast-pico-de-gallo-QVC-230

    Grilled chicken breasts topped with pico de gallo salsa. Delicious and good for you! Photo courtesy QVC.

     
    We make a lower-calorie dip by blending it into nonfat Greek yogurt, and serve it with crudités as well as chips. When people hesitate to eat salad, we mix it into a vinaigrette.

    This recipe is from QVC’s chef David Venable. Serve it with a large salad, other sides of choice, and a few tortilla chips for crunch.

    If you’re pressed for time, buy the salsa (it’s in the refrigerator case). Then just grill, top and enjoy!

     

    A bowl of pico de gallo surrounded by tortilla chips

    Pico de gallo is delicious with so much more than tortilla chips—and low in calories, too. Photo © WayMoreAwesomer | Fotolia.

     

    RECIPE: GRILLED CHICKEN OR FISH WITH PICO DE GALLO

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

    For The Pico De Gallo

  • 4 ripe plum tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 small white onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 1 jalapeño chile, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • Optional: tortilla chips
  •  
    For The Chicken Or Fish

  • 4 (5–6 ounces) boneless, skinless chicken breasts/fish fillets
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Preparation

    1. MAKE the pico de gallo: Toss all the ingredients in a medium-size bowl until evenly combined. Place into an airtight container and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight.

    2. PREPARE the chicken or fish. If chicken, place the breasts between 2 pieces of wax paper. Use a meat mallet to pound them to a 3/4″ thickness.

    3. PLACE all the ingredients into a large zip-tight bag. Gently toss so the marinade evenly coats the chicken/fish. Place in a bowl in the refrigerator and marinate at least 8 hours, or up to 12 hours.

    4. PREHEAT the grill to high. Place the chicken breasts onto the hot grill and cook for 4–5 minutes until char marks appear. Flip the chicken and cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the chicken reads 165°F, about 4–5 more minutes. Top each chicken breast with pico de gallo before serving.
     
    HOW TO GET CROSSHATCH GRILL MARKS ON THE MEAT

    Most people are happy with simple horizontal grill marks. But if you’d like to get fancy and create crosshatch marks, just rotate the meat.

    Position the piece(s) at a 45-degree angle (the 1 o’clock position), sear, then turn 90 degrees (back to about the 11 o’clock position). Flip and repeat.

      

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