Category: Mexican

Mexican Wedding Cake

mexican wedding cakeThe basis for this cake is Mexican chocolate, which is basically chocolate with a touch of cinnamon. But as it has the proper name “Mexican chocolate” it is obviously an entirely different type of product than plain old chocolate with cinnamon in it. I have to admit, though, that there is something very special about this cake and if you taste it once, you may fight to the death for another piece.

Ingredients:
For the streusel topping
:
1 18- or 19-ounce package Mexican chocolate, roughly chopped (regular dark chocolate will do if Mexican chocolate is not available)
1 large egg yolk
Salt
3 1/2 ounces (7 tablespoons) butter, at room temperature
1 cup (4 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour

For the cake:
1 3/4 cups (8 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
8 ounces (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
Powdered sugar, for dusting the finished cake

Directions:

1. The streusel topping. In a food processor, pulse half of the Mexican chocolate until it is the consistency of coarse crumbs. Remove and set aside for the batter. To the processor, add the second half of the chocolate and process it to the consistency of coarse crumbs. Mix the egg yolk and 1/2 teaspoon salt (if using salted butter, omit the salt) in a small bowl to dissolve the salt. Add to the processor along with the 3 1/2 ounces butter, and the 1cup flour. Pulse the machine just until everything is thoroughly combined—it should look crumbly, not having been processed to a paste.

2. The cake. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 13 x 9-inch baking pan. Sift together the 1 3/4 cups flour and baking powder. In the bowl of an electric mixer on medium speed, combine the cream cheese, the 8 ounces butter and the sugar. Beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. One at a time, add the eggs, beating until one is thoroughly incorporated before adding the next. Add the sifted flour mixture, scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat for 1 minute, just until the flour is incorporated. Lastly, use a large spoon to stir the reserved chopped chocolate into the batter.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth. Crumble the streusel topping evenly over the batter, making sure there are no large lumps—lumps may sink during baking.

Bake in the center of the oven until springy (the edges will have just begun to pull away from the sides of the pan) and a toothpick inserted at the center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes.

Cool on a wire rack (in my opinion, this cake tastes best when still slightly warm), cut into squares and serve dusted with powdered sugar. Vanilla, caramel or cinnamon-scented ice cream sure goes well with a bite of this pastel.

Working Ahead: Tightly wrapped, the finished cake keeps beautifully for several days. You may want to re-warm pieces of the cake before serving.

Classic Tomato Salsa

Salsa

Salsa

Per a request, this is my basic salsa recipe (enjoy this one, Tom). The great thing about salsa is that you can tweak it left and right to make the kind of salsa that suits your taste. Do you like cilantro, add an entire bunch (I do, it’s one of my favorite flavors). Hot or mild, play with the jalapeno to taste. Add a few chipotle peppers if you like it smokey. There are endless ways you can modify this recipe to make something incredible. I’m a huge fan of green salsa made with tomatillos, and I’ve even made salsa with spirits and odd spices. My point is that this is a great basic recipe and I challenge you to make it your own. Your taste buds will thank me.

Ingredients:
3 large tomatoes
3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup red onion
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon green jalapeno chilies
2 to 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions:
The easiest way to make this is to place all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse slowly until all ingredients are chopped but not pureed. I like a thick salsa, so I often add the garlic, lime juice and salt first, pulse (to get the garlic chopped well) then add the remaining ingredients and roughly process.

If you don’t have a food processor, or prefer to not use one, just chop up all the ingredients and mix together in a bowl. It is that easy. Sprinkle with a little dried cilantro, or even thyme or Mexican oregano for garnish.

Caramelized Salsa Verde

Caramelized Salsa Verde

Caramelized Salsa Verde

This is a surprisingly good take on salsa verde, the caramelization of the vegetables adds a wonderful depth of flavor to the classic salsa. I like to serve this warm with tortilla chips, but it works well in place of guacamole, or even with guacamole in tacos and fajitas. I often make it with the green chilies (without the pith and seeds) for a less spicy dish, but the chilies give the salsa a more nuanced character, so I like to include them.

Ingredients
2 pounds of tomatillos (husk removed)
6 green chilies (if you like it spicy)
1/2 of a medium onion, left intact, not cut up
2 garlic cloves
6 sprigs of cilantro leaves, including stem
1 teaspoon lime juice
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
salt to taste

Directions
1. Cut the tomatillos into quarters. If you are using the green chilies, you can remove the seeds and the pith (white ribs) if you like them less spicy, or keep them if you like more heat). Heat the oil in a pan and add the tomatillos, chilies, onion, and garlic. Cook over a medium-high heat, moving the items periodically to prevent them from burning. Cook the vegetables until they have turned a nice brown color, indicating that caramelization has begun. The tomatillos will cook down and lose a lot of moisture, this is normal.

2. When the vegetables have caramelized, place them in a blender or food processor, add the cilantro, lime juice and salt, and puree until smooth. Place in a bowl and serve.

This dish can be served on its own as a dip, or used on food. It can also be served warm or chilled in the refrigerator until ready to use, it will taste great either way.

Mexican Red Bell Pepper and Cheese Soup

mexican red bell pepper soup

Mexican Red Bell Pepper Soup

This soup is very easy to make in just a few minutes. It is the classic tale of looking in the refrigerator and finding no food. What I did find was a red bell pepper, and a few hunks of cheese. The old potato in the wire basket made the dish almost complete. The cheese and the potato give this soup a creamy consistency which is really amazing. The sweetness and distinct flavor of the pepper really come through, even with the intensity of the cheese. You can also use low fat versions of the cheeses with great results. Sometimes I add a chile pepper to give it a nice kick, and pepper jack cheese would do the trick as well. I will also generally use whatever cheese I have on hand, the choice is yours. One really nice aspect of this soup is that by adding the shredded cheese and incorporating it into the hot soup off the heat, most of the cheese melts in, however you will still find cheese strands throughout the soup, giving it a really wonderful combination of textures.

Ingredients
1 big red bell pepper (or 2 small ones), seeded with the pith (ribs) removed
1 medium potato
4 cups chicken (or vegetable) stock
2 cups mixed shredded cheese (I usually use Cheddar, Queso Fresco, & Asadero), regular or low fat

Directions
1. Cut the pepper and potato into small pieces and place in a pot with the stock, cooking it at a medium-high heat.

2. After 10 minutes or so, use a hand blender to puree the soup (this can be done by pouring it into a blender as well if you don’t have the hand version).

3. Turn off the heat and add the cheese, stirring to melt it thoroughly. When the cheese has melted, which takes a minute or so, you are ready to serve.

Makes 4 – 6 servings.

Guacamole

Guacamole

Guacamole

This guacamole recipe has a great citrus taste with a hint of garlic. The key to a great texture is to use avocados that are semi-ripe instead of using ones that are very ripe. This way they retain some of their texture and create guacamole with some texture, instead of making wallpaper paste. If you can find them, the addition of Campari tomatoes add sweetness without much acidity, and the tomatoes retain their texture in the mixing, making this guacamole something special (of course any tomatoes will taste great, use what you can). In the image above you will see the peaks and valleys that indicate the rough texture of the guacamole, which is achieved by using avocados of the proper ripeness, which means no more searching in vain for the softest, ripest avocados. I can often make guacamole with avocados I buy the very same day.

Ingredients
5 semi-ripe Hass avocados

4 medium Campari tomatoes (or other medium sized tomato if you don’t have Campari)
2 garlic cloves
1/4 medium red onion
3 limes
1/2 bunch cilantro leaves
1 tsp salt

Directions
1. Cut the avocados in half lengthwise and remove the fruit (yes, avocado is a fruit) and place into a bowl.

2. Juice the limes and pour juice into the bowl with the avocado. Limes will juice more easily if you roll them against a flat surface first with the palm of your hand, pressing down firmly while you roll for a few seconds.

3. Dice the onion and add to the bowl.

4. Cut the tomatoes in half and remove the seeds with your fingers. Cut the tomatoes into a small dice and add to the bowl.

5. Using a garlic press, press the garlic cloves into the bowl.

6. Cut the cilantro leaves into small pieces and add to the bowl.

7. Add salt.

8. To achieve a well textured guacamole, the method for the best result is to take a regular steak knife and rip through the avocado pieces continuously, cutting the halves into smaller and smaller pieces in the bowl. This will let you mix all the ingredients together without mashing the avocado into a paste. Use a fork to finish the mixing by folding in the rest of the ingredients. Garnish with diced tomato and a sprig of cilantro leaves if desired.

Serve with tortilla chips to about 8-10 people.

Tip summary
Tip #1 – Use semi-ripe avocados, not fully ripe ones for great texture. Over-ripe avocados can have a musty flavor that some people don’t like anyway.
Tip #2 – If you can find them, Campari tomatoes will retain their shape instead of breaking down into mush. Their low acidity helps the dish retain a nice balance of taste and sweetness.
Tip #3 – Cut the avocado instead of mashing it. This will result in a nice, chunky guacamole instead of paste.