Mango with Cilantro, Coconut, and Chile Powder
Serves 6–8

Here’s a cool salad for a sizzling summer! It’s as hot as Hades here in the Sacramento Valley: Yesterday it was 108 degrees. Today it’s 102. Yikes! But no matter where you are, you’ll love this refreshing salad that’s super easy to make, especially when it’s hot and you don’t feel like cooking.

When we think of Mexican salads, we tend to think of traditional dishes such as tostadas, taco salads, and pico de gallo. But the main purpose of this blog is to publish Latin recipes that are off the beaten path. This recipe is from Saveur, the culinary magazine that is an excellent source of contemporary, cutting edge Latin recipes.

I suppose it’s human nature to cling to what’s safe and familiar. But you might miss out on things you might enjoy! My stepmother was from Zacatecas, Mexico, and so my dad got more than the average person’s exposure to Mexican cuisine. We lived in L.A. and one night we were at Barragan’s, one of our favorite Mexican restaurants. I ordered one of the usual suspects – a tostada, taco or something. Mexican food is more than that, my dad said, try something different, like arroz con pollo (chicken with rice). I did. It was terrific. So try this mango salad! It could become one of your go-to summer recipes.

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3 ripe mangos
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon chile powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup packed cilantro leaves
1/3 cup shaved unsweetened coconut

Peel mangos and cut fruit into cubes. Arrange on a platter and drizzle with lime juice, coconut, cilantro and chile powder. Serve.

 

Watermelon Gazpacho
4 to 6 servings

Today it’s 102 degrees at the northern end of California’s Central Valley, and it’s expected to top out at 104. Climate change is here, readers! That’s why I recommend this watermelon gazpacho. Served chilled on a hot day, there’s nothing more refreshing. Who needs margaritas?

This recipe is from Bon Appetit magazine, and it’s fabulous. The Doña Tina’s take on it is that’s it’s a sweet soup. So the only thing you might need to adjust is the amount of sugar. The recipe calls for 1/3 of a cup – that’s a lot. If the watermelon is already sweet, the gazpacho might end up being too sweet for some people. If the watermelon is a dud and is not very sweet at all, then you might need the full amount.

So treat the sugar in this recipe like salt. Depending on the sweetness of the watermelon, you can add less than 1/3 of a cup of sugar and then add more if you need to.

Also, you don’t need to buy whole containers of spices for this recipe. Just go to the bulk spices section of natural foods stores or upscale supermarkets and get as much as you need at a time. It costs pennies this way, and there’s much less waste.

And if you don’t have time to make the gazpacho, throw some seedless watermelon chunks in a blender and keep chilled in the refrigerator. Best summer drink ever. Enjoy! Stay cool!

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2 cups fresh basil leaves plus more for garnish
4 whole cloves
2 whole star anise
1 bay leaf
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups water
1 plum tomato
3 cups 1″ pieces chilled seedless watermelon
1 cup 1″ pieces of chilled, peeled cucumber
1/4 cup (or more) fresh lime juice
1/2 fresh jalapeño chile pepper
olive oil for garnish

In a medium saucepan, bring water, sugar, basil leaves, cloves, anise, and bay leaf to a boil. Remove from heat, cover and steep for 10 minutes. Strain mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, and let cool.

Cut an “X” at one end of the tomato. Bring water to boil in a small pot and drop tomato in. Blanch in the boiling water until the “X” starts to pop out a bit (about 30 or 40 seconds). Then immediately put the tomato in a bath of ice water. Let tomato cool for about 5 minutes. Peel the skin off, cut tomato in half, and remove the seeds.

In a blender, combine basil syrup, tomato, jalapeño chile, cucumber, lime juice and watermelon chunks. Whirl until smooth. Serve chilled garnished with basil and olive oil.

 

 

 

Watercress Salad with Cilantro Dressing
Serves 4

One of the purposes of this blog is to expand the idea of what Latin food is and can be. And so I go to the public library to research recipes. As I said in a previous blog post, recipes in little-known cookbooks don’t always work. On the other hand, when they don’t work, there is a lot of opportunity to be creative and improve them. If you have the time and the patience, this is one way to invent your own recipes.

We associate watercress with sandwiches at English high tea, but it is a common salad green in Mexico. This recipe originally came from Simply Mexican by Lourdes Castro. But the “dressing” was a kind of pesto that was way too thick to put over a salad. My husband and I ended up eating it on spaghetti. And so back to the drawing board tinkering with cilantro dressing recipes until one came out right. Then I added orange slices and pine nuts for garnish. Hope you like it! Thanks for visiting my blog!

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The Dressing
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 clove garlic, finely minced
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

The Salad
2 bunches watercress
1/2 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
1/4 cup queso fresco or to taste
4 orange slices

Whisk the vinegar, salt and pepper, garlic, cilantro and olive oil in a bowl. Set aside.

To toast the nuts, preheat the oven to 350 degrees, place the nuts on a baking sheet, and toast for about 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool.

Remove watercress leaves from the thick stems and rinse. Pat the leaves dry gently so not to bruise or crush them.

Place watercress on 4 salad plates, pour dressing on and top with queso fresco and pine nuts. Cut orange slices into quarters and place them at the edges of each salad, two at the bottom of the plate, and two at the top.

 

 

 

 

Black Bean Soup with Roasted Poblano Chiles
Makes 6 servings

I’m happy to share with you one of my favorite go-to winter recipes for those chilly days. The soup is a Doña Tina’s take on a recipe from Bon Appetit magazine. I think the original recipe needed more flavor from fat, so I added extra virgin olive oil and cheese. I switched out chicken broth for vegetable broth (it tastes better in this recipe). And for some pizzaz, added chopped green onion and cilantro.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with chiles, poblano chiles are large, dark green chiles that are wide at the stem end and tapered toward the bottom. They are used to make chiles rellenos and are commonly sold in supermarkets. An ancho chile is a dried poblano. They are also readily available in markets and in the bulk sections of natural foods stores.

This recipe, like a lot of gourmet recipes, uses Kosher salt. Kosher salt is valued by chefs because of its purity. But remember that Kosher salt crystals are much larger than crystals of table salt, so you need to use less of it.

You’ll love this soup! Enjoy!

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2 poblano chiles
2 tablespoons raw pumpkin seeds
1 large dried ancho chile, stemmed, seeded and torn into pieces
1 tablespoon plus 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled, crushed
1 14.5 ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
Kosher salt
2 14.5 cans black beans, drained
1 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese plus more for garnish
1 cup chopped green onion
1 cup chopped green cilantro

Preheat broiler and place poblano chiles on a foil-lined baking sheet. Broil, turning the chiles so that they heat evenly, until the skin is blackened and blistered, about 8 to 10 minutes. Place chiles in a ceramic bowl and cover with a plate. Let steam for 15 minutes. When the chiles are cool, remove the stem, seeds, and skin, and chop into small pieces.

Toast pumpkin seeds in a pan for about 5 minutes on medium high, stirring occasionally, until they are golden. Place seeds on a plate and set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large pot on medium high and sauté onions and garlic until onions are soft and golden, about 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool.

Place onions and garlic in a blender with the fire-roasted tomatoes and ancho chile, and blend until smooth. Return mixture to the pot and heat on medium high, stirring often, for about 6 to 8 minutes until the mixture thickens.

Add vegetable broth and salt to taste. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in black beans, chopped poblano chiles, 1/3 cup olive oil and cheese. Heat soup for about another 5 minutes until warmed through.

Serve hot topped with toasted pumpkin seeds, cilantro, green onions, and extra cheese.