By Marnely Rodriguez-Murray
If you’ve traveled to Mexico lately for business (or pleasure), the one thing you’ll be missing the most is the traditional foods of Mexico. Those fruit carts on the street ready to cool you down on hot days, or that first sip of Rice Horchata paired perfectly with enchiladas and tacos. Whether you miss the refreshing elements of Mexican cooking, or their fiery spices, this short guide will hopefully inspire you to recreate some Mexican dishes at home, wherever that may be!
Fresh & Local
One common denominator in Mexican cookery is the freshness of the ingredients, whether it’s produce or proteins such as chicken, beef, or pork, Mexicans take great pride in sourcing their ingredients from local markets, farms, and artisans. Avocados are synonymous to Mexican cooking, and readily available in the USA. Look for avocados that have no skin blemishes; they should be slightly soft to the touch if ripe and if not, purchase them and leave them out on the counter next to a banana for a few days to ripen.
Fresh herbs such as cilantro can be kept fresh for almost a week if you treat it like fresh flowers and stick it in a vase of cool water. Remember to always try to purchase organic produce from local farms for the best tasting ingredients. As for meats, be sure that they are hormone and antibiotic-free, and even better when they are grass-fed or free-range.
Spice It Up
Oregano, Cumin, and Chili Powder should become your best friends. If you can purchase fresh oregano, definitely do so, the flavors are a little more subtle and lend recipes an herbaceous flavor. What can you add cumin to? Mexicans use it to flavor their beans and rice, as well as a rub (mixed in with salt, sugar, and pepper) on steak for fajita fixings.
And of course, spice is never too far from the Mexican table, so chili powder will be your aid; dark chili powder, as well as cayenne pepper, can be found in grocery stores everywhere now! Add them to stews, soups, and sauces served on the side so your guests can decide how hot they want their food. Other traditional spices used are cinnamon and cocoa powder, like in the classic Mole recipe, where a chocolate sauce is composed of more than 10 spices and peppers.
With the hot weather and the constant on the go lifestyle, Mexicans depend on Horchata as one of their favorite beverages on a hot day. Below you’ll find an easy recipe for an Almond & Rice Horchata that you can recreate at home with simple ingredients and a few hours overnight.
Other than the classic Horchata, sipping on Margaritas might have been one of the best memories of your trip. And none of that pre-made mixed margarita, but fresh fruit purees and syrups. A great way to obtain flavor in your drinks is by simmering 1 cup of water with 1 cup of sugar until the sugar melts making a simple syrup. Steep fresh herbs such as lavender or rosemary and use them to sweeten your margaritas for a special infusion!
Was every one of your meals in Mexico ended with a sweet dessert? Mexicans take desserts very seriously, but their desserts tend to be more rustic and traditional. Rice Pudding with Coconut Milk, Fresh Milk Flan, and cakes soaked in spirits and sugars make for desserts that are easy to recreate at home.
Make rice pudding unique by adding your favorite spices to it; a touch of cinnamon or nutmeg is the classic route, but a touch of cayenne pepper and orange zest take it to the next level. Don’t be afraid to experiment with new spices and fruits!
Rice and Almond Horchata Recipe
1/3 cup long grain riceIngredients
1/3 cup slivered almonds
1 cinnamon stick
3 cups cold water
½ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. In a spice grinder, pulverize the rice. Set aside.
2. Whisk together the pulverized rice, almonds, cinnamon stick, and water. Steep overnight.
3. To make Horchata: using a blender, blend the steeped rice and almond water until smooth. Add sugar to taste and flavor with vanilla.
4. With a cheesecloth and sieve, strain liquid through. Serve with a fresh cinnamon stick and ice. Cheers!