By adding a few key Mexican ingredients to what you’d normally find in an all-American pantry and fridge, you get these to-die-for, lip-smacking dishes.
CHAYOTE SQUASH AND PICKLED ONION SALAD
Ensalada de chayote y cebolla morada
2 pounds chayote squash
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon sugar, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano or 1 teaspoon fresh oregano
1/2 cup red onion, thinly sliced
Place unpeeled chayotes in a saucepan, cover with water, bring to a boil and cover the pan, then reduce heat to low; simmer for 25 to 30 minutes until the chayotes are cooked through. A knife will cleanly go through them, but they won’t be completely soft or mushy.
Drain, and once cool, peel the chayotes. Cut them in half, then slice into sticks.
Combine the remaining ingredients, except for the onions, and whisk into a vinaigrette. Add the onions, mix well and let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes. It can also be made ahead a day before and left in the refrigerator.
Toss the chayote sticks with the vinaigrette and onions. Serve or cover and refrigerate for up to 12 hours.
Simple, easy, home-style cuisine that you’d find in just about any Mexican home, recreated for the American kitchen. This meal was my favorite “everyday” meal growing up in Mexico, and one I regularly make for my own family today. I am proud to share the steps so that you can enjoy it too.
A couple weeks ago, right as I was setting up for one of my classes, “A Culinary Compass of Mexico,” at the Mexican Cultural Institute, Alberto Roblest came over and asked me a great question.
“Pati, do you cook traditional Mexican recipes OR do you create your own?”
Alberto is doing a project with the support of The Office on Latino Affairs. It is called Hola Cultura and explores the contributions of Latinos to DC life and culture, from art to language to sports to cooking.
I think he meant for me to respond with an either or. He really did. Come on Pati, “traditional” OR “new,” he insisted. But I kept answering “BOTH!” As I kept trying to explain why, I realized so wholeheartedly that both traditional and new not only describe my cooking style but also one of the many wonders of Mexican cuisine.
Continue reading Apple, Radish, Watercress Salad with Pistachio and Chile de Arbol
This year I promised my boys we would plant goodies in the backyard to harvest ourselves. At the nursery, jumping up and down as in a candy shop, they dragged so many plants to the counter, I had to give an absolute NO to half of them.
We ended up with thyme, oregano, bay leaves, rosemary, mint, parsley, and cilantro. Ok, and tomatoes, cherry and roma. Fine… corn too, don’t know what I was thinking. And wait! We couldn’t leave without jalapeños, which led me to run for some tomatillos. And scallions. I stopped there. I did.
Then Sami came back with a little watermelon plant. That was the wildest idea, oh, that monster of mine. We’ve no room to grow watermelon. I told him about the big wide fields in Northern Mexico, in states like Sonora, Chihuahua, Jalisco and Sinaloa where watermelon is grown extensively. Our backyard is… not so big.
We brought home Sami’s watermelon plant.
Continue reading Summertime Watermelon & Tomatillo Salad: Beat the Heat!
Summertime Watermelon & Tomatillo Salad: Beat the Heat!
I had such a lovely tome visiting the Today Show, their food prep team is beyond amazing and the cast is so friendly and oh so much fun.
Here is a clip of the cooking segment, where we made three totally different recipes with corn: the wild and fun Crazy Corn, a chunky, hearty and fresh Chop Chop Salad, and a comforting Corn Torte that you can top with Poblano Rajas.
Click here, to get the full recipes
Vanilla only comes in a bottle, right? Oh, it’s a bean!? Where on earth do I find vanilla beans and then how do I cook with them? Wait, vanilla comes from Veracruz, Mexico–not Madagascar!? This episode will explain all of that, plus share a few amazing vanilla-infused recipes, including:
GRILLED SHRIMP & PINEAPPLE SALAD WITH VANILLA & CHILE DE ARBOL VINAIGRETTE
Ensalada de Camarón y Piña a la Parrilla con Vinagreta de Chile de Arbol y Vainilla
For the Vinaigrette
1/2 cup olive oil
1 garlic clove, peeled
1/2 vanilla bean (or about a 2″ piece), chopped
1 to 2 chiles de arbol, stemmed and chopped
1/4 cup safflower or corn oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/8 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp kosher or sea salt, or more to taste
Ground black pepper, optional
1/4 tsp sugar, or more to taste
For the Salad
4 fresh pineapple slices(about 1/2″ thick), peeled
Safflower or corn oil to brush the pan or grill
1 lb large or extra large shrimp, fresh or thawed from frozen, rinsed, peeled, deveined
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp safflower or corn oil
kosher or sea salt to taste
ground black pepper to taste
12 oz mixed spring salad(or your choice of mixed baby lettuces)
1/2 cup red onion, slivered
For the vinaigrette:
Heat the olive oil in a saucepan set over medium heat, until hot but not smoking. Add garlic clove, vanilla bean and chiles, and cook about 15 seconds, stirring constantly. Be careful not to let them burn, remove the pan from the heat and pour its contents into a mixing bowl to cool.
Combine the safflower oil, red wine vinegar, salt pepper, allspice and sugar into the same bowl. Pour all the mix in the blender, puree until smooth, and reserve. The vinaigrette will be textured as the vanilla bean will not let itself be entirely pureed. But that makes it even more delicious! If you will not use the vinaigrette in the next couple of hours, cover it and refrigerate. It will keep for a week, but re-emulsify or thoroughly mix, before using.
For the grilled pineapple:
Heat a grill pan, a grill or nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot and lightly coat with safflower or corn oil. Place the pineapple slices and cook for about 4 minutes per side until they are slightly charred. Remove from heat. Once they are cool enough to handle, cut in half, remove the core and cut into strips along the grain. Reserve.
For the shrimp:
Sprinkle the shrimp with salt and pepper. Heat the butter and oil in a saute pan over high heat. Once the butter sizzles, add the shrimp, you may need to do it in batches so they they don’t overlap, and cook for 1 to 2 minutes per side. They should have plumped up and changed color on both sides, but be careful not to overcook them. Remove and reserve.
To assemble the salad:
Place the greens in a salad bowl. Drizzle some of the vinaigrette and toss, so that they are lightly coated but not soaked. Assemble on individual salad plates. Divide the shrimp, pineapple and red onion on top of each plate. You may drizzle a bit more of the vinaigrette on top and serve.
WARM SWEET POTATO SALAD WITH CHORIZO
Ensalada Calientita de Camote y Chorizo
Makes 4 to 6 servings
3 lbs sweet potatoes (about 3 large sweet potatoes), peeled and cut into bite-size chunks
3 tbsp olive oil
1 cup orange juice, preferably freshly squeezed
1/2 tsp brown sugar
3/4 tsp kosher or sea salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
8 oz fresh, uncooked Mexican chorizo, casings removed and coarsely chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, stemmed and seeded if less heat is desired
1/3 cup red onion, chopped
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the sweet potato pieces, once it comes back to a boil, reduce the heat to medium; simmer for about 10 minutes, until almost tender and a knife can go through without breaking a piece. Drain, and transfer to a baking dish large enough to hold the pieces almost in a single layer.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Whisk together orange juice, oil, sugar, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Pour the mixture over the sweet potatoes and toss to coat evenly. Roast for about 20 minutes, turning them after about 10 minutes, until the potato pieces have started to brown and the sauce has thickened. Remove from the oven.
Meanwhile, cook the chorizo in a medium skillet over medium-high heat; use a wooden spoon of spatula to break it into smaller pieces as it cooks. After 5 to 6 minutes, when it has nicely browned and crisped, use a slotted spoon to top the hot sweet potatoes.
Sprinkle the jalapeño, red onion and cilantro on top, and toss gently to combine. Serve warm.
SPINACH SALAD WITH JAMAICA VINAIGRETTE AND CARAMELIZED PECANS
Ensalada de Espinaca con Vinagreta de Jamaica y Nueces Garapiñadas
Serves 8 to 10
18 oz fresh spinach leaves, rinsed, drained and thickly sliced
1 bunch watercress, rinsed and stems removed
6-8 scallions, white and light green parts, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves
Jamaica Vinaigrette (see below)
1 cup caramelized pecans, roughly chopped or whole pieces, to your liking (recipe follows)
3/4 cup dried jamaica flowers
3 garlic cloves
1 cup safflower oil
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp kosher or sea salt
2 tsp sugar, or to taste
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Place the jamiaca flowers in a bowl along with the garlic, oils, vinegar, salt, sugar and pepper. Let them sit for a few minutes, for the flowers to soften up a bit. Then pour everything into a blender and puree. The flowers will not be pureed until smooth. The mix will have a textured consistency with chewy flower chunks: that’s what you want!
Let the mix stand for at least two hours. If it will not be used then, it can be kept in the refrigerator, covered, for up to a week.
Place the spinach and watercress in a large bowl. Pour some of the vinaigrette on top and toss. Top with the chopped caramelized pecans and sprinkle the scallions over the top. Drizzle some more vinaigrette on top. If you have leftover vinaigrette, you can eat it with a spoon!
1 cup shelled pecans
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 tbsp butter or vegetable shortening, diced
1 tsp salt, or to taste (use regular salt, not kosher or sea salt)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the pecans on a baking tray, add the butter chunks and pour the maple syrup on top. Toss. Bake for 10 minutes, take them out of the oven and stir to make sure all the pecans are covered with the syrup. Place them back in the oven for another 8 to 10 minutes, until they have browned and the syrup has thickened to the consistency of caramel.
Take them out of the oven, scoop the pecans out and place on a dry surface such as a kitchen counter or another baking tray. Try to separate the nuts from each other. Once completely cool, they can be stored in a closed container