Fiesta!!!

PictureHeads up, Cinco de Mayo is next Wednesday! That means it’s time to dust off the margarita glasses (if you ever put them away) and pull out your favorite Mexican food recipes (or use the ones I’m going to give you momentarily).

History Break!  Did you know…

… that Cinco de Mayo is most heavily celebrated by Americans. In Mexico, it is a regional holiday, not a national holiday.  Cinco de Mayo celebrates the Mexican Army’s victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. So there are official celebrations in Puebla, Mexico, but everywhere else in Mexico the celebration is optional. It seems like we care a lot more across the border here in The States. (Even if it is largely regarded as a drinking and dancing holiday.) So lets celebrate it right!

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Margaritas at their basic elements are reposado tequilla, orange liqueur, lime juice and a salted rim. That’s easy and delicious! If you’ve been going to restaurants or bars, then you’ve probably noticed some different flavored margaritas on the menu. I’m hoping to get you mixing your own flavored drinks at home. Hopefully you’ll have fun pairing them with your favorite Mexican dishes!  Read on.

Tacos are just as simple. A few corn tortillas (forget about flour) heated over open flame topped with a grilled piece of lean meat. Add fresh vegetables such as onion, cilantro, avocado and salsa and you’ve got a top notch tasty and healthy meal. Swap out the tortilla for a piece of French bread, add some refried beans and you’ve got a torta. It’s just that simple.

Pineapple Jicama Salad is a light, fruit salad that has fresh pineapple, jicama (which is like an apple meets a cucumber), spinach, and a lime-based dressing. It is absolutely to die for and I get requests for the recipe all of the time. (Click the salad name for the recipe!) Put these menu items together for one TASTY Cinco de Mayo!

I think I wait for this date every year to indicate the solid landing of Spring and think about using the grill for tacos because the weather is usually FINE. Plus margaritas are the order of the day when the temperature is warm. Did I just say MARGARITA?! Yup, I did. *sigh* That’s such a happy word…

PictureThe best thing about authentic Mexican food is that it is FRESH. The flavor of the food depends completely on how fresh your ingredients are. And because of that, Mexican food is super easy to make. For instance, take guacamole. A few simple vegetables get mashed together to make an amazing dip or spread that is really good for you.


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Ceviche de Camaron: Shrimp Ceviche “Cocktail”
by Rick Bayless, Mexico One Plate at a Time

Yield: Makes 3 cups, serving 6 as an appetizer

Ingredients:

1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 generous lb unpeeled smallish shrimp (I prefer the ones that are 41/50 count to a pound)
1/2 medium white onion, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus several sprigs for garnish
1/2 cup ketchup
1 to 2 Tbsp vinegary Mexican bottled hot sauce (such as Tamazula, Valentina or Búfalo, the latter being on the sweet side)
About 2 Tbsp olive oil, preferably extra-virgin (optional, but recommended to smooth out sharpness)
1 cup diced peeled cucumber or jícama (or 1/2 cup of each)
1 small ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and cubed
Salt
Several lime slices for garnish
Tostadas or tortilla chips, store-bought or homemade or saltine crackers for serving

Preparation:
1. Cooking and Marinating the Shrimp.
Bring 1 quart salted water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons of the lime juice. Scoop in the shrimp, cover and let the water return to the boil. Immediately remove from the heat, set the lid askew and pour off all the liquid. Replace the cover and let the shrimp steam off the heat for 10 minutes. Spread out the shrimp in a large glass or stainless steel bowl to cool completely. Peel and devein the shrimp if you wish: One by one lay the shrimp on your work surface, make a shallow incision down the back and scrape out the (usually) dark intestinal tract. Toss the shrimp with the remaining 1/2 lime juice, cover and refrigerate for about an hour.

2. The flavorings.
In a small strainer, rinse the onion under cold water, then shake off the excess liquid. Add to the shrimp bowl along with the cilantro, ketchup, hot sauce, optional olive oil, cucumber and/or jícama and avocado. Taste and season with salt, usually about 1/2 teaspoon. Cover and refrigerate if not serving immediately.

3. Serving the ceviche.
Spoon the ceviche into sundae glasses, martini glasses, or small bowls: garnish with sprigs of cilantro and slices of lime. Serve with tostadas, tortilla chips or saltines to enjoy alongside.

Working Ahead:
The ceviche is best made the day it is served. The flavorings can be added to the shrimp a few hours in advance.


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Rib-Eye Tacos with Onion Jam and Horseradish Crème Fraîche
by Todd English

Yield: Makes 10

Horseradish crème fraîche

1 cup finely grated peeled fresh horseradish root (about 4 ounces)
1 8-ounce container crème fraîche or sour cream
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
Coarse kosher salt

Onion jam
1 1/2 pounds red onions, very thinly sliced
2 cups dry red wine
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Tacos
10 7- to 8-inch-diameter flour tortillas, each cut into 5-inch squares
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 9- to 10-ounce boneless rib-eye steaks, excess fat trimmed
Fresh cilantro sprigs

For horseradish crème fraîche:
Mix first 3 ingredients in small bowl to blend. Season to taste with kosher salt. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

For onion jam:
Combine onions, wine, honey, and thyme in large skillet. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered until wine is almost absorbed, stirring occasionally, about 55 minutes. Mix in red wine vinegar. Simmer 10 minutes to blend flavors, adding water by tablespoonfuls to moisten if jam is dry and stirring often (onions will still be slightly crunchy). Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Before using, rewarm over medium heat until just warm, adding more water by tablespoonfuls if jam is dry.)

For tacos:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Wrap tortillas in foil, enclosing completely. Place in oven until heated through, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in each of 2 heavy large skillets over high heat. Add 2 steaks to each skillet and cook to desired doneness, about 3 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer steaks to cutting board. Thinly slice steaks crosswise. Divide steak slices among warm tortillas. Top with onion jam, then spoonful of horseradish crème fraîche. Garnish with cilantro sprigs.

Market tip:
Fresh horseradish root looks like a knottier cousin of the parsnip. Use a vegetable peeler to peel away the skin, then a box grater, food processor, or Microplane for grating. If the fresh root is unavailable, substitute 1/4 cup of prepared horseradish in this recipe.


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Classic Margarita

Ingredients
1 lime, halved
Coarse salt
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice , from about 4 limes
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup orange-flavored liqueur (recommended: Grand Marnier)
1/4 cup Triple Sec
1 cup gold tequila
Ice
Lime wheels, for garnish

Directions
To salt the margarita glasses, rub the outside rims of 4 big glasses with a cut lime and press them lightly into a plate of kosher salt, to coat.

Combine the lime juice, sugar, orange liqueur, Triple Sec, tequila, and a big handful of ice in a cocktail shaker (or blender). Shake the margarita really well, for a good 20 seconds, strain into the salt rimmed glasses filled with ice. Garnish with a lime wheel.
Makes 4 margaritas.


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Pomegranate Margarita

Ingredients
Lime wedge, plus more for garnish
Salt or Rock Candy finely crushed
Ice
4 ounces Jose Cuervo Especial
2 Tbls Grand Marnier
1/2 cup pomegranate juice
1 lime, juiced (optional)
Club soda

Preparation
Combine ice, tequila, Grand Marnier, pomegranate juice and lime juice in blender. Blend! Add club soda and stir to combine. Pour into salt-rimmed glass. Enjoy!

Makes 1 margarita.


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Strawberry Margarita

Ingredients
2 cups crushed ice
1/2 cup strawberry puree (frozen can or fresh strawberries, pureed)
1 cup tequila
2 limes, juiced
Splash Triple Sec
Splash simple syrup (equal amounts sugar and water heated until sugar dissolves, then cooled)

Preparation
Combine in a blender, ice, strawberry water, tequila, lime juice, Triple Sec and simple syrup. Puree until smooth. Pour into sugar-rimmed glasses and serve.

Makes 4 margaritas.

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