The food of Mexico is exciting.
This sunshiny country produces lots of fresh flavours – limes, tomatoes, peppers, corn, onions, garlic, cilantro. My tongue does a happy dance (I think it’s the Latin Salsa) when it gets to flirt with these lively ingredients – they are just what we need to lift our spirits and tickle our tastebuds in the depths of our cold winter.
The thermometer said -37° Celsius this morning. I need a little bit of Mexican fiesta on my plate.
Last week I had a great evening learning all about Mexican cooking from two fantastic Mexican cooks – Imelda, and my Mexican/German friend, Christine. These two energetic ladies crammed all kinds of tips, tricks and techniques into our 3-hour class in Fort Saskatchewan. Plus, we had lots of laughs! Cooking together with friends, old and new, is one of my favourite ways to spend my time!
The large teaching kitchen was a hive of busy activity as we chopped onions, peeled garlic, squeezed limes, roasted peppers, peeled tomatoes, shredded chicken, fried tortillas, and baked cakes. Whew!
Here are a few tricks we learned:
*How to squeeze juice from limes – use two forks with the tines hooked together, poke them into the lime half, and wiggle them back and forth while squeezing on the lime. Then give the lime a quarter turn and wiggle the forks some more. Keep doing that until the juice is all squeezed out.
*How to chop an avocado in its shell – Don’t waste time or dirty dishes by mashing your avocado – cut the avocado in half, hack a knife into the pit and twist to remove it. Then quickly make many close-together cuts into the flesh of the avocado half: up & down, back & forth, and diagonally or any which way. Scoop out the shredded flesh with a spoon, and your avocado is roughly chopped.
*How to roast peppers on your stovetop – Roast your poblano peppers by laying them on a dry pan over medium-high heat. Turn them to char each side and press down on them occasionally to make sure as much of the pepper comes in contact with the pan as possible. Let them cool, then pull off the charred peel.
During class time we made a complete 3-course meal, with a lovely chia lime drink to sip (recipe coming soon), Salsa Mexicana 3 ways, fresh tortillas, rice with poblano peppers and corn, enchilada rojas, and a tres leches cake. O-la-la-and-cha-cha-cha!
I particularly loved the fresh and lively Salsa Mexicana (Pico de Gallo Salsa) which the ladies showed us how to make 3 different ways – plain, with avocado as a chunky guacamole salsa, or with diced mango for a sweet-tart salsa or side salad. The sweet mango was a surprisingly fresh and delicious twist – I couldn’t stop eating it.
When I made the salsa again at home, the mango version was first choice for all my
unofficial taste testers, too!
Salsa Mexicana (Pico de Gallo Salsa) Three Ways
- ½ white or red onion
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 Serrano or Jalapeño pepper
- 4 plum tomatoes
- juice of 1 fresh lime
- 1 bundle cilantro (about 15 -20 stems)
- salt to taste (about ½ teaspoon)
- 1 mango (optional)
- 1 or 2 avocados (optional)
- tortilla chips for serving
Finely chop the onion, and mince the garlic or squeeze it through a garlic press. Discard the seeds and veins of the pepper and finely dice the pepper flesh. (Make sure not to touch your eyes before washing your hands, or use thin rubber gloves while handling the pepper.) Place these in a large bowl.
Finely dice the plum tomatoes (about ¼inch/.5cm dice), cutting out the core end.
Toss everything together. Serve as an appetizer or snack with tortilla chips for scooping.
Divide the salsa into thirds and put each portion into separate bowls.
1. Leave one portion plain.
2. Add 1 avocado, finely chopped (see tip above), mix, and you have guacamole salsa. Add 2 avocados and you have rustic guacamole.
3. Peel and dice 1 mango (see instructions here) and mix with salsa, for a fresh sweet sour salad, which is good as a dip for tortilla chips or served as a salad alongside any Mexican meal, or with grilled chicken or fish. Dice the mango smallish for salsa, larger (½-inch chunks) for salad.
* * * Or divide base recipe for salsa into half and make only one of the above variations to add to it (maybe use 2 mangos), or make it all into whichever is your favourite version.
If adding avocado or mango, taste for seasoning and add another squirt of lime juice or sprinkle of salt if you think it needs it. I found I didn’t need to add any, but it depends on the juiciness of your lime.
See how flexible this great recipe is?!
Guten Appetit! and Hola!
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