Tag Archives: mexican food

Ensalada de Nopalitos (Cactus Leaf Salad)

This is one of my favorite dishes from Mexican cuisine. If the cactus leaves in the grocery store or farmer’s market look intimidating, don’t let it stop you from trying it. The result is a crunchy, flavorful salad that adds a wonderful tangy flavor to any Mexican meal.

Try to find cactus leaves (nopales) that are already de-spined. In some Mexican grocery stores, you’ll find some that are already chopped up in little bags. I prefer to work with the whole leaf, but if you can only find the chopped-up kind, don’t despair, it will work, too.

Now, let’s talk slimy. Nopales, like okra, release a slimy liquid when cut. A good way to loosen the slimy from the cut leaves is to throw a very clean copper penny into the pot when you are boiling them. Apparently it neutralizes the slime. I don’t know if it’s an old wives’ tale or if it really works, but try it and see what you think!

Ensalada de Nopalitos

4-6 large cactus leaves (a little more than a pound)

2 cups water

2 small white onions, chopped, divided

1 Tbsp vegetable oil

2 tsp dried oregano, divided

1 dried chile de arbol, wiped clean & toasted

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 copper penny

2 tomatoes

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1 jalapeno, seeded and diced

1 Tbsp olive oil

Juice of 1 lime


1. Slice the nopales into 2 inch x 1/2 inch strips that are all equally the same size.

2. Place the nopales in a saucepan with the water, vegetable oil, one of the onions, chile de arbol, oregano, salt and the penny and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the water has evaporated and the nopales toast slightly in the pan. Remove the copper penny.

3. Allow the nopales to cool to room temperature. Place them in a salad bowl and add the chopped tomato, the other chopped onion, olive oil, jalapeno, cilantro, lime juice and dried oregano.

4. Add salt and pepper to taste – serve!


Posted by on June 3, 2009 in Salads


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Sexy Salsa: Tomatillo Salsa with Spicy Dried Chiles

My favorite Mexican restaurant in the United States is actually nowhere near Mexico. It’s on the East Coast actually, and has the most wonderful margaritas. Rosa Mexicano, found both in Washington D.C. and in New York City, has Roberto Santibanez at the helm, a Mexico City native. The food is fresh, spicy, simple and has none of the heavy, greasy cheese or slimy beans found at many places that call themselves “Mexican” here in the U.S.

rosasmexicantableWhen I saw that Santibanez had put out a cookbook, I couldn’t resist. Rosa’s New Mexican Table has recipes for all kinds of salsas, sauces, moles. Truly irresistible!

I started this week out with a tomatillo and chile morita salsa. This isn’t a raw salsa and the original recipe uses chile pasilla, but I had chile morita, so I improvised. The result is a smoky, spicy sauce with wonderful nuanced flavors. Perfect for serving with chips, on top of tacos, with grilled chicken. Honestly, I could put this on (nearly!) everything.

The recipe calls for cleaning, roasting, de-seeding, de-veining and soaking the chiles. It’s time consuming, but quite worth it.

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa with Dried Chiles

1 lb of tomatillos, dehusked, washed and halved

olive oil

about 1 cup of chiles (you can use dried chipotles, dried moritas, dried pasillas — experiment!)



1. Drizzle a little olive oil onto a saute pan and heat it up. Place the tomatillos in the pan and roast until their skins turn brown. Remove from the heat and set aside. Clean the pan.

2. Clean the dried chiles with a damp towel. Using a paring knife, make a slit down the center and take out the veins, seeds and the stem.

3. Throw the chiles onto the pan and roast until the skins start to turn black. Remove from the heat and place into a bowl.

4. Cover the chiles with water and soak for about 20 minutes. Drain and put into a food processor.

5. Add the tomatillos to the food processor and a dash or two of salt. Process until smooth.


Note: I always use gloves when handling chiles to avoid skin irritation!

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Posted by on April 16, 2009 in Salsas


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Fish Tacos with Homemade Tortillas and Fresh Corn Salsa

Farmers’ Markets have the awesome power to inspire. As you wade through the crowds, the aroma of sun-kissed strawberries brings to mind a fragrant crumble while gleaming avocados cry out to be turned into guacamole.

When Christa and I hit the farmers’ market last Saturday, we picked out fresh corn ears still tucked in their husks and avocados, cilantro and fresh tomatoes. Our mission: fish tacos. Our super-charged team of two whisked together guacamole, fresh corn salsa, homemade tortillas, and pan-fried fish for what turned out to be a perfect summer dinner. Christa became an expert tortilla-maker in no time (check out the picture at right) and we savored those fresh, doughy tortillas.

Last night, I reworked the fish recipe again and coated the dover sole in a mixture of cornmeal, salt and pepper and pan-fried the fillets in their entirety. I put the boyfriend to work on the tortillas (he’s a quick learner!) and recreated the corn salsa.

If you want to make your own homemade tortillas (which are faaar better than any you could buy in a store), I would recommend that you get this tortilla press. You don’t need anything fancy — just a cast iron one which allows you to press the moist balls of masa into tortillas. You can find masa harina at many supermarkets these days in the “ethnic foods” section or you can order online at this website (MexGrocer).

Fish Tacos with Homemade Tortillas



2 cups masa harina

1 1/4 cup water

Fish Tacos

1 pound dover sole fillets (you can also use Red Snapper)

1/2 cup coarse cornmeal

dash of salt and pepper

Vegetable oil


1. To make the tortillas, combine the water and masa harina until you have a moist crumbly mixture that rolls up into your hands into a nice, neat ball.

2. Prepare the tortilla press by folding a sheet of waxer paper in two and placing it between the top and the bottom parts of the press.

3. Roll a golf ball-sized mass of masa harina mix into a neat round ball and place in the wax paper in the press. Close the press and use the lever to squish the ball. Carefully peel the tortilla off from the wax paper and place on a plate. Repeat until your masa harina is finished.

4. Fire up the griddle (or use a large sautee pan) and wait until it is quite hot. Spray with cooking oil (like Pam) and place the tortillas on the griddle. Cook until they turn golden brown and flip.

To make the fish:

1. Mixture together the cornmeal, salt and pepper in a plate or shallow tupperware container. Coat the fish in the cornmeal mixture and cook in about 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil until the fish turns white. Be careful not to overcook! When the fish is done, put on a plate.

Corn Salsa


2 ears of corn

1 Tbsp. vegetable oil

3-4 small tomatoes, diced

1/2 small onion, diced

1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

salt, pepper, Tapatio sauce


1. Using a large knife, hold one corn ear over a large plate and carefully slice off the kernels. Repeat with the other ear and place the kernels in a sauce pan with 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil. Cook the kernels until they turn a brighter color and are softer.

2. Combine the cilantro, onion, tomatoes in a medium-sized bowl. Add the cooked corn kernels and season with salt, pepper and Tapatio sauce.

To assemble the fish tacos, top half a fillet of cooked fish on top of a tortilla and top with the corn salsa. Yum!

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Posted by on May 30, 2008 in Fish


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Modern Mexican

Anyone that knows me knows that I utterly despise bad Mexican food. And sadly, most of the Mexican food in the U.S. is bad, bad, bad. Cheesy, refried mush. Tacos dripping with sour cream and more cheese. And lest we forget: the Mexican pizza at Taco Bell. Gross.

So I was thrilled to read about the spread of new Nuevo Latino restaurants opening in LA this summer and fall detailed in an article by Jessica Gelt in the Los Angeles Times. There’ll be no fajita combo or chimichangas here; the dishes are more likely to look like deconstructed mole or fresh seafood cocktails from a ceviche bar.

Some of my favorite Mexican restaurants ’round the country, by the way, are already featuring modern Mexican food — the type you would see in trendy restaurants in Mexico City (or el DF, as the natives call it). Here are my faves:

Rosa Mexicano – Washington DC

Las Palmas – Chicago

Carlitos’ Cava – Santa Barbara

Guaymas – Tiburon

Places I’ve heard are pretty darn amazing that I’d like to try:

Yuca’s – Los Angeles

Super Ricas – Santa Barbara

Got some favorite Mexican food spots to add to this list? I’d love your suggestions!


Posted by on April 9, 2008 in Restaurant Buzz


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