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.
At the same time, Mexican cuisine is so strong because it has a treasure trove of fabulous ingredients that are so accommodating in their use. As long as one understands the ingredient and its genuine nature, there are so many ways to experiment with it. That is also how a cuisine expands, by creating new combinations and testing the limits, sometimes failing and sometimes succeeding. Surely, many of the traditional takes were once new too.
For the one on this post, which I have been obsessively repeating, I use watercress, called "berros" in Mexico (I happen to love that word). They are used tremendously in Mexican kitchens for salads. They are delightful: a bit bitter, made up on thin leaves but packed with flavor and such a nice delicate bite.
Then it is all covered in a light vinaigrette with a bit of mustard and a bit of honey. Then a stellar topping tries to steal away the show.
You won't believe how sweet the pistachios taste on each bite.
Its fresh, its crunchy, lightly tart, with a nice kick and a combination of unexpected flavors that I hope will have you making it time and again as the seasons move on...
p.s. All that said: send along more requests for any more Mexican recipes you are craving at any time.
APPLE, RADISH AND WATERCRESS SALAD WITH PISTACHIO AND CHILE DE ARBOL
2 bunches watercress, rinsed, dried and the tougher ends of stems removed
1 green apple, rinsed, and cut into thin wedges
1 bunch radishes(or about 4 ounces, or 1 cup already sliced), rinsed, stems and roots removed, halved and thinly sliced
1/4 cup pistachios, lightly toasted and chopped
2 chiles de arbol, toasted, chopped (seeding optional)
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon rice vinegar (natural, unseasoned)
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Place the apple and the radishes in a bowl. Place the watercress in another bowl.
Heat a a small 6 inch skillet set over medium low heat, add the pistachios and toast anywhere form 3 to 5 minutes, stirring often, until they are nicely toasted, but don't let them burn. Remove form heat. In the same skillet, toast the chiles de arbol anywhere from 3 to 5 minutes, flipping sides, 1 or 2 times along the way, remove from the heat.
Remove the stems from the chiles de arbol. In a chopping board, chop the chiles de arbol. You may remove the seeds once they are chopped or keep them. Add the pistachios and chop them along with the chile de arbol creating a pistachio chile de arbol mixture.
In a small bowl, combine the mustard, honey, salt, pepper, rice vinegar and lime juice with a whisk or fork. Slowly, pour in the oils and whisk or mix very well until thoroughly combined. Pour half onto the apple-radish mix and half onto the watercress.
To serve, on small appetizer plates, add watercress, top with the apple-radish mixture and sprinkle some of the pistachio-chile de arbol mix on top.