Ever since I lived in Chicago a few years ago, where there is a huge Mexican population, I learned that Mexico’s Independence Day is celebrated in September. I remember people riding outside their car windows carrying huge Mexican flags, parading themselves with pride.
So, if this is celebrated every year in September… why does every gringo I know believes Mexican Independence day falls on Cinco de Mayo? My belief on the popularity of Cinco de Mayo is for several reasons (and I am just speculating here):
- It’s simple to pronounce even if your main language is English. Try saying “dieciséis de septiembre”!!!! Rolling those “r’s” can be a challenge to many.
- May more or less signifies the beginning of warmer weather so gives people an excuse to party in shorts
- I truly believe a beer company started this as a promotional scheme to start selling beer in May rather than waiting until June/July when it’s actually hot.
Cinco de Mayo is not really an important holiday or celebration in Mexico. I am “friends” on Facebook with Chef Marcela Valladolid. And this is her perspective, as a Mexican, on Cinco de Mayo:
In reality, Cinco de Mayo is the date when the Mexican army drove away the French army at a great battle in Puebla. The Mexicans were never ever expected to win and they did. And for that… we celebrate!!!!
Nonetheless, for whatever reason Cinco de Mayo got popularized in the US, we use it as an excuse to celebrate everything Mexican. I wish I had a recipe for Mole Poblano in my blog to share with you all, but in the meantime, here are a few recipes that celebrate Mexico, France and combine a little bit of both…
Cordon Bleu Quesadilla
(In México, these are called sincronizadas because they’re made on Wheat Tortilla. True Quesadillas are made on corn tortillas)
Fried Quesadillas with Fresh Tomato Salsa
Poblano Pepper Rajas
Chopped Avocado Dressing
Veggie Tortilla Soup
A few weeks ago my Serious Eats Water Cooler group issued a challenge… let’s make CHILI!!!
I am not a chili girl at heart, as my introduction to chili was Wendy’s chili with meat and beans. Never a fan of beans, therefore never enchanted with chili.
Wanting to partake in the chili challenge, I decided to give a stab to a vegetarian chili recipe. Mixing my Puerto Rican root vegetable “roots” with a few Mexican flavors, this vegetarian chili recipe is hearty and filling like a sancocho but with a nice spicy kick from the salsa verde. This is certainly something you can adjust to your taste.
In regards to the chili debate – beans vs. no beans – this is certainly a bean-less chili that I hope will satisfy the most avid bean eater too. Enjoy…
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
One large Yukon gold potato, peeled and cut into cubes
One white sweet potato, peeled and cut into cubes
1 large parsnip, peeled and cut into cubes
1 tbs sofrito
½ large green bell pepper
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 cup whole kernel corn, I use frozen
1 vegetable bouillon cube
1 1/2 cup water
½ of a can salsa verde – I used Herdez brand
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Garnishes, such as crumbled cheese, chopped green onions, sliced avocados, lime wedges)
- Heat the oil in a heavy, large pot over medium heat. Add the onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnips, vegetable cube and sofrito. Season with salt and pepper.
- Cover and sweat until the onions are tender, stirring often to prevent browning, about 8 minutes. Mix in the cornstarch. Add the corn, the water and bring the chili to a simmer.
- Place the green bell pepper in a processor and mix with the salsa verde. Blend just until smooth. Add the sauce to the pot.
- Cover and simmer the chili 30 minutes, until the potatoes, sweet potatoes and parsnips are tender and the chili is reduced to a thicker consistency. Season with more salt and pepper if desired.
I firmly believe that God or the Universe, however you prefer to say it, puts the right people in our path for us to learn and grow… And Annie Mariel has been a real blessing in my life. It’s as if God, in his all-knowingness, understands and knows exactly the type of person you need in your life at a certain time in your life.
We got along almost immediately since we met each other about 5 yrs ago in a conversational French class. We have lots of things in common – we’re both consultants, we both enjoy anything French, we both enjoy to travel, we follow yoga and spiritual practices, we are both vegetarians… bueno, almost vegetarians because Annie Mariel still eats seafood and shellfish on occasion. But she gets my idiosyncrasies of being vegetarian. She has passed on to me her love of running and we even applied to run the Amazing Race together… (oh boy!!!)
Annie Mariel is a great supporter and fan of KarmaFree Cooking… and for my last supper of 2012 she wanted to contribute by bringing a salad. She knew I was going to cook pasta. She asked me to make it as light as possible, so I pleased her by making the sauce all tomato, instead of mixing it with some cream or half and half, like I like to do on other recipes. She told me she would surprise me with the salad… and that she did.
This salad had a little bit of everything… and it was delicious! I asked Annie Mariel if I could feature her salad in KarmaFree Cooking and she agreed. I hope I make her proud. Try it for yourself…
ANNIE MARIEL’S COMPOSED SALAD
Sliced Red Onions
Crumbled Blue Cheese
Toasted Almond Slices
Crispy Fried Onions
Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing
- In a large bowl add all the ingredients. Toss lightly to combine
- Dress the salad with vinaigrette.
Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
½ cup extra virgin Olive Oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Sal and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
- Place all the ingredients in a empty glass or mason jar. Shake well to combine. Let rest for 10-15 minutes to allow the flavors to combine well.
- Serve on top of your favorite salad.
I get these cravings sometimes… it could be anything, but lately it’s been of Mexican food. And not always I can get to Los Pioneros to get a fix of Tacos de Nopales. So I have to make do at home…
The easiest fix is to make quesadillas. A tortilla and cheese glorified into something special… When I visited Guadalajara and when I once traveled to NYC with my friend Guillén, I learned the best quesadillas need to be fried.
But I am trying to watch what I eat, because even when you’re vegetarian, I can add up some unwanted pounds. So I devised a way to get the feel and taste of the fried quesadilla without using lots and lots of oil.
Here’s how I make them…
4 white corn tortillas, organic preferable
8-12 thin slices of pepper jack cheese
- Brush tortillas with a little olive oil… as little as possible. I stack the tortillas and lightly oil the first one on top on one side, flip it and oil on the other side. This will slightly oil the second tortilla… then flip the second tortilla and so on until all tortillas are slightly oiled on both sides.
2. Warm a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. You can do this with a small skillet, but it’s easier to make these quesadillas 2 at a time if you have the larger skillet. Place 2 tortillas side by side. They will overlap slightly… but don’t worry about that. Warm them on both sides for them to become pliable and somewhat charred on both sides. They will shrink a little…
3. When tortillas have been warmed up on both sides, place 2- 3 cheese slices on one half of tortilla and fold over the side without cheese to create a half circle/half moon. Flatten the top of the tortilla with a spatula a bit to allow the top side of the tortilla to fuse to the cheese inside. Flip once or twice until both sides are toasted/charred a bit and the cheese has melted completely.
4. Set aside on a plate to allow to cool a bit before serving. Repeat with remaining tortillas and cheese.
These are quesadillas to eat with your hands… not with a fork and knife. The corn tortilla is heartier and it will make it challenging to cut them up. So bite into them and enjoy.
Serve them with a side salad of tomato and avocado, guacamole or a fresh tomato salsa.
My grandpa instilled in us a love for avocados… to him, a salad with dinner would mean slicing a few “rajas” of avocado on the side. His favorite was rice and corn with ketchup and avocado. I know it sounds “kookie”, but you need to try it.
But the love for avocados comes from both sides of the family because once, while visiting my aunt and uncle in Miami, I had to buy a new suitcase to be able to travel with the 5 huge avocados my uncle bought for me to bring back home.
And as much as we love avocados, we don’t have a lot of family recipes using avocados. We just love them so; we do not see them as an ingredient in a recipe. They’re the exclamation point to any dish they’re added to!!! A few slices or wedges of avocado on the side of anything make the meal better. A soup??? Drop a few pieces of avocado inside to make it sing… A sandwich?? Slice a few avocados to make it creamier…
Lately I am training for a ½ marathon and I am trying to eat better and leaner. I am eating more salads, which I like, but I am particularly lazy to make them at home often. I’ve found the best way to fall in love with a salad is to make a killer dressing. Fall in love with a dressing and you’ll fall in love with the salad underneath.
And because I want you to love avocados as much as I do… I want to present to you a very easy avocado based dressing that’s much a dressing as a salsa to brighten other dishes too.
CHOPPED AVOCADO SALAD DRESSING
½ large avocado, cut into little pieces
1 small tomato, diced finely
½ small white onion, diced finely
½ cup Extra Virgin Olive oil
2 tbs Rice Vinegar
The juice of 1 small lime
½ tbs kosher salt
1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
- Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and allow the mixture to meld and combine a few minutes before serving over your favorite salad.
Because the dressing includes avocados, tomatoes and onions, it’s great for a simple lettuce-only salad. You don’t need anything else IMHO. But this dressing also works as a topping for tacos, for burritos, for enchiladas… or as a sauce in sandwiches.
If you want more recipes using Avocados from Mexico, visit this link here. And if you live in the US, check out the coupons for Avocados clicking right here.