Tag Archives: Mexican

Mexican-style Salad

30 Sep

In an attempt to make some healthier choices (I’m even back at the gym after a prolonged absence. Helllooooo, muscles I’d forgotten about!), I’ve been ransacking some cookbooks I haven’t opened in a while for inspiration. In the book Get Naked in the Kitchen, there is a pretty great recipe for a Mexican taco salad bowl. I made minor adjustments to the original to suit both my taste and what was in my cupboard. The end result had everything you could want in a healthy meal: it was filling, it was easy, it had lots of flavour, it was balanced, it came together in 25 minutes and it’s 100% adaptable. You can substitute the lemon juice for any vinegar, the brown rice for white or quinoa, the flavouring of the black beans or the black beans for another kind be it white, pinto, black-eyed peas…whatever you like. You could also throw in some tortilla chips for extra crunch. Give it a go!

Serves 2.

Ingredients

3-4 c greens (I used baby arugula)
2 tb olive oil + 2ts for beans
1 tb lemon juice
1 c brown rice, cooked
1 can black beans, drained and thoroughly rinsed
1 garlic clove, diced
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 ts cumin
1 ts chili powder
splash of water
1/2 sweet pepper, chopped
1 avocado
Salt & pepper
handful of cilantro, chopped

Directions

1. Cook the rice according to directions.
2. In the meantime, heat the 2ts of olive oil in a pan to a medium heat. Add in the garlic and onion and sauté until the onions are translucent, about five minutes.
3. Add in the beans, cumin, chili powder. Toss in salt & pepper to taste. Stir together and then add a couple of splashes of water to the pan. Turn up the heat and cook another 5-10 minutes until the water evaporates.
4. Slice the avocado in half. Remove the pit and cut the flesh into cubes. Season with salt, pepper & lemon or lime juice.
5. Toss greens and red pepper in a bowl with the remaining olive oil and lemon juice. Split evenly on two dishes, making a well in the middle.
6. Plate rice in the well among the greens and then top with beans, avocado, cilantro and hot sauce if you so choose.

Distillery District’s Mexican Fare: El Catrin

2 Aug

I had the pleasure to attend the opening night of El Catrin, the new restaurant replacing The Boiler House in Toronto’s Distillery District. The massive space has been transformed into a fabulous south-of-the-border(s) venue with a massive mural taking up the entire north wall. It has to be seen in person to be believed, but here’s a shot from my perch at one of the high-tops:

mural

The Mexico City-born chef, Olivier de Calvez, and his team prepared an eight-course tasting menu for the launch, each item paired with an impressive cocktail. We started off with fresh tortillas and table-side guacamole with three salsas ranging from mild to hot and nueces picante: mixed roasted nuts rubbed with Mexican spices.  The peanuts and walnuts were a big hit at the table, with many of us squirrelling them away in our bags to snack on later. Accompanying this course was the enormous traditional margarita. In all honesty, tequila and I are not amigos so I am not a great judge of a good margarita; however, those who like them reported back that it was excellent.

Evil margarita.

Evil margarita.

The second course of the night had what I considered one of the best dishes we had that night: ceviche de atun. The beautiful ahi tuna ceviche was done up simply with lime juice, olive oil, watermelon and habanero. It was light, refreshing and I would have been thrilled to eat five or six more servings of it. It was served with a pepino diablo, a tequila-based drink traditionally made with cucumber, jalapeno, pineapple juice and basil. The glass was rimmed with spiced salt and the tequila was not overpowering. Along with those five or six additional ceviche dishes, I could have had as many of this drink. Happily.

Ahi tuna ceviche

Ahi tuna ceviche

Pepino diablo

Pepino diablo

Next up were the Mexican staple tacos al pastor: shredded pork marinated in pineapple and axiote topped with cilantro and chopped onion. It paired nicely with the fuego sandia, a popular drink at our table made with watermelon, tequila and some heat. Nicely balanced, this was my second favourite drink of the evening. Brought out shortly after the pork tacos was my absolute hands-down winner of the evening: tostada de higado de pato. Seared foie gras placed on top of a freshly-made tostada and served with a mezcal mango syrup, poblano and pickled red onion. By turn sumptuous, crunchy, spicy and rich, this was a stand out of the night. I was not as big a fan of the accompanying drink, however, the hibisco rosa. Unfortunately, all I could taste was the rosewater which gave the drink a soapy taste. Some people quite liked it; I couldn’t do more than a couple of sips.

Foie gras tostada

Foie gras tostada

Fuego sandia

Fuego sandia

A lovely, light cactus salad followed and then camarones al ajillo, jumbo shrimp sautéed with guajillo pepper, garlic, lime juice, white wine served over red rice, black bean purée and guacamole. The shrimp was plump and beautifully cooked but the guacamole needed more salt and a little more lime juice.

Shrimp

Shrimp

Our final main was a gorgeous braised short rib with black mole sauce, sweet potato purée and sugar snap peas. The meat was incredibly tender and the mole was lovely and complex with the warm, rich flavours you should expect of the complex, multi-ingredient sauce.

Braised short rib

Braised short rib

Topping off the indulgent evening were two desserts: the classic churros and a barra de chocolat, which is best described as a Mexican Nanaimo bar. It was spiced and smoked with hazelnuts and chocolate and I was in love after one bite. The heat sneaks up on you after a couple of bites which is fine by me. If you’re not a fan of spicy food, you might want to stick with the churros and their chocolate, cajeta and strawberry sauces.

Churros and Mexican chocolate bars.

Churros and Mexican chocolate bars.

No doubt, El Catrin will do well in its spot in the Distillery. There is a fabulous, sprawling patio with separate bars and a fire pit for chilly fall evenings.  There is a separate room for private parties and the bar itself is quite lovely. There was a great buzz in the air at the launch, and not just due to the copious tequila- and rum-based beverages. Should you go – and you should – do not miss the ceviche, the short rib or the foie gras tostada.

Mexican Pot Roast Tacos!

4 Nov

I finally got around to buying a Dutch oven, something I’ve been promising myself for months. (Yes, I promise myself kitchen toys.) The great thing about Dutch ovens is that they function like a giant cast iron pan: they retain heat beautifully. You can get them nice and hot so you can sear your meat properly, but then you can turn the heat way down and make all sorts of tasty meals in just one pot. I lugged that sucker home and picked up beautiful beef blade roast from a wonderful butcher just a few blocks from the house. (Royal Beef – check ’em out if you’re in the neighbourhood!) This is a great cut of meat for low-‘n’-slow cooking and so it was perfect for these tacos. I adapted the recipe from Tyler Florence, a foodNURD fave, and it was delicious as usual. We had enough leftover for snacks the next day, always a bonus!

Serves 2.

Ingredients

1lb shoulder/blade beef roast
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tb extra virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
1 14oz can crushed tomatoes
2 tb chile powder
2 tb cayenne pepper
2 tb cumin
3 bay leaves
2 dashes hot sauce, optional

Directions

1. Generously salt and pepper all sides of the beef.
2. Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven (or heavy duty pot with a tight lid) on high. Add in the garlic and sear the beef, getting a nice crust on all sides.
3. Toss in the onions and cook til they’re softened and lightly browned, roughly 3-4 minutes.
4. Add in the tomatoes, 1 can of water, spices and hot sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then add in enough water (again) to cover the beef.

Happily simmering away…

5. Cover the pot, lower the heat and let simmer for 3-4 hours, until the beef is tender. Allow the beef to cool in the liquid.
6. Shred with a fork and serve with warm tortillas, guacamole, cilantro, pickled red onions and salsa.

Ready to be eaten!

Cochinita Pibil (Slow-Roasted Pork)

23 May

This one is all on Eat St. I was at home watching it and one of the food trucks had their version of cochinita pibil, a traditional Mexican shredded pork dish. For me, shopping for the ingredients was as much fun as making it. I headed off to Wychwood Barns on Saturday to get the pork from my fave farmers at Marvellous Edibles. (Best. Bacon. Ever. Go try it, people.)  Then it was off to St. Clair West to La Tortilleria for fresh tortillas and the achiote paste. It is imperative that you not substitute the achiote paste for anything else:  it is the dominant flavour in the dish. If you can get your hands on banana leaves, so much the better as the pork is traditionally cooked in them. Having said that, foil will work.

Best to get this started the day before you want to cook it. The pork should marinate in the fridge for 6-24 hours, but no more than 24 hours as the enzymes in the citrus juices will break down the meat too far and give it an unpleasant texture. It also takes 3 – 4 hours to cook, so ensure you’ve left yourself enough time to cook it!

Serves 4.

Ingredients

3lb pork shoulder, cut into 2″ pieces (do not trim fat)
1c orange juice
1/2c lime juice, (4-5 limes)
1 ts salt
3 oz of red achiote paste (also called “annato paste”)
Pickled red onions (optional), for garnish
1c cilantro, chopped, for garnish
Lime wedges, for garnish

Directions

1. Blend together the paste, salt, orange and lime juices in a blender. (Make sure you rinse out your blender quickly as the paste will stain.) In a non-reactive bowl, combine the marinade and the pork pieces. Mix well, cover and refrigerate for 6 – 24 hours.
2. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line a large casserole with a triple layer of regular foil – you want a good seal. Pour in the pork and the marinade and close the foil tightly. Put the casserole in the oven and bake 3.5 hours. At this point, remove from the oven and check to see if the meat is falling apart. If so, you’re done! If you think it could use a little more time, put it back in for 30 minutes.
3. When the pork is tender, take it out of the oven and open the foil. Remove the meat with a slotted spoon to a bowl, then shred it with two forks.  If necessary, pour some of the remaining sauce over the pork to make sure it’s juicy.
4. Serve with either fresh tortillas or rice. For garnish, add lime wedges, cheese, avocado, cilantro and/or pickled onions.

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Huevos Diablos

8 Oct

Translated as “devil eggs” this breakfast dish is not to be missed.  It’s our go-to breakfast dish whether just for ourselves or for guests. Easy, not too many ingredients, incredibly flavourful. Also, an excellent hangover brekkie. 🙂

Eggs poached in salsa (you can choose your level of heat), served on a crispy tortilla with avocado, topped with cheese, cilantro and green onion. Satisfying, simple & scrumptious!!

Serves 2.

Ingredients

4 eggs
2 cups salsa
4 tostadas
1 avocado, sliced
1 1/2 c cheese (cheddar, marble, cotilla, feta will all work), shredded
1/4 c cilantro, chopped
2 green onions, chopped

Directions

1. Pour the salsa into a sauce pan and bring to a simmer at medium-low heat.
2. Carefully crack the eggs into the salsa & poach the eggs until the whites are cooked, approximately 3-5 minutes.
3. In the meantime, heat the tostadas in the oven/microwave oven. They burn quickly, so keep an eye on them. 20 seconds in the toaster oven usually does it.
4. Place two tostadas on each plate. Cover with the avocado slices.
5. Gently remove the eggs from the salsa and place over the avocado slices. (A slotted spoon will work, as will a wide spatula.) Pour the salsa over the eggs.
6. Sprinkle with the cheese, then cilantro & green onion.


Tilapia Tacos

17 Aug

OK, so “fish taco” might not be the most appealing phrase on the planet, but these tilapia tacos are downright yummy. And simple. I promise. Tilapia is one of those great white-meat fish that doesn’t have a ton of flavor, so this dish is great if you’re feeding folks who don’t like things that, “taste too fishy.” I *was* one of those people, so I know of what I speak!

You’ll see very small measurements in this recipe. I don’t really measure the spices – a shake or two will do. If you like lots of cumin, add more! I wouldn’t recommend adding too much more cinnamon, though: it’s really potent and can dominate the rest of the flavours.

Serves 4.

Ingredients

2 tb olive oil
1 ts cumin
1/2 ts cinnamon
1/2 ts salt
1/2 ts pepper
4 garlic, minced
1 small handful of cilantro, chopped
1 lime, juiced
2 tilapia filets
1/2 red onion, diced
1 ear of corn/1c corn kernels
1/2 bell pepper, diced
2 chipotle peppers in adobo, minced
1 c sour cream

Directions

1. Mix the chipotle peppers and sour cream in a bowl and set aside.
1a – if you’re using an ear of corn, boil a large pot of water and cook the corn for 3 minutes. Toss into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. Using a good, sharp knife, remove all the kernels and set aside.
2. Heat oil in a pan over medium-high heat and add everything from cumin to the cilantro in the above list. Saute for 3-4 minutes.
3. Add the tilapia fillets, onion & pepper. The fish will take anywhere from 3 minutes/side to 5/side, depending on how thick the fillet is. Regular, supermarket fillets will be closer to 3 minutes.

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