Four recipes to try for Cinco de Mayo
One of the easiest holidays to celebrate locally takes place today.
It is Cinco de Mayo, a decidedly American observance with a Mexican flavor. It has often seemed to mostly be an excuse to drink a lot of Mexican beer and, if that is your focus, have at it. My favorite Mexican beer is Bohemia, and it is so good with tacos, which are among my favorite foods and always have been.
Overall, it makes sense that Mexican food — its ingredients, its techniques — is a staple in California. We were, not all that long ago, part of Mexico. Our style of cooking in the Golden State is shaped by those decades and by the years of the ranchero, where many of our beloved dishes were first developed.
For nearly two decades, Roseland has held a big Cinco de Mayo celebration, but we’ll have to wait for 2022 for the next one. In the meantime, our Mexican taco trucks, taquerias, cafes and restaurants are open if you want someone else to do the cooking.
If you want to do the cooking yourself, here are four Mexican-inspired recipes I have made over and over again.
Do you have favorite Mexican dishes you prepare at home? I’d love to hear about them, so feel free to post in the comments section of the online version of the paper.
Avocados are good and plentiful this year. After you’ve had your fill of guacamole, avocado toast and avocado salads, give this tart and tangy soup a try. It is delicious hot or chilled.
Sopa de Aguacate (Mexican Avocado Soup)
Makes 3 to 4 servings
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons minced white onion
1 serrano, stemmed, seeded and minced
1 poblano, stemmed, seeded and chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
6 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade, hot
3 ripe avocados, peeled, seeded and chopped
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice, from 1 to 2 limes
Black pepper in a mill
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Condiments of choice (see note below)
Pour the olive oil into a medium soup pot or saucepan, set over medium-low heat. Add the onion, serrano and poblano and saute gently until they soften and begin to give off their aromas, about 10 to 12 minutes. Do not let them brown. Add the garlic and saute 1 minute more. Add about a quarter of the chicken stock. Season with salt, simmer for 10 minutes, cover and remove from the heat.
Put the avocados, remaining stock, lime juice and a teaspoon of salt into the work bowl of a food processor or blender and pulse until a smooth puree is formed. Pour the puree into the saucepan with the other ingredients. Season with several turns of black pepper and stir in half the cilantro.
Set over low heat and heat through, stirring all the while. Do not let boil.
Taste, correct for salt and ladle into soup plates or bowls. Top with the remaining cilantro and condiments of choice and enjoy right away.
- Mexican-style hot sauce, preferably green
- Mexican crema
- Radish salsa (see recipe, below)
- Seared shrimp, seared scallops or Oregon baby shrimp
I tend to be a purist when it comes to tomatoes — I don’t cook with them until they ripen locally. So I make a lot of salsas using other ingredients, including this one, an all-time favorite.
Makes about 1 to 1½ cups
1 large bunch radishes, trimmed and cut into small dice
1 very small red onion, cut into small dice
1 fresh serrano, seeded and minced
1 garlic clove, crushed and minced
Zest of 1 lime
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh Mexican oregano, if available
Black pepper in a mill
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice, plus more to taste
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to taste
Put the diced radishes, onion, serrano, garlic and lime zest into a medium bowl. Add the cilantro and Mexican oregano, if using, and toss gently but thoroughly.
Season generously with kosher salt and several turns of black pepper, add the lime juice and toss again.
Stir in the olive oil, cover, refrigerate for 30 minutes, taste, correct for salt and acid balance and enjoy right away.
- Over bean soups and avocado soup
- In tacos and burritos
- With fajitas
- With nachos
- Over steamed rice or Mexican rice
- Over queso fundido, when it comes out of the oven
- Over sliced avocado or avocado toast
- With grilled vegetables, especially green onions and eggplant
This style of rice is as delicious as it is versatile. It makes a fabulous side dish, a bed for grilled fish or meat or part of a large buffet or taco bar. I have given instructions for white rice, as it takes the flavors of the other ingredients without interfering with them. If you use brown rice, I recommend cooking it in the stock until it is about two-thirds done and then adding the green puree.