Rediscovering Mexican Cuisine

We’re back!

Erin and I apologize for not keeping up with you guys for the past few weeks. Life has been a little crazy leading up to graduation. But we made it! We graduated! We are now citizens of what people like to call, “the real world.” But enough about us, onto the food.

For the entirety of my youth and most of my adult life, I have had many unfortunate exposures to Mexican and Latin cuisine. My memories of Hispanic food was very bland—beans and rice. Growing up in the Midwest, my understanding of Hispanic food could be boiled down to a rather sad cannon which included: school-lunchroom-caliber refried beans, “seasoned” rice (which I’m pretty sure was mostly just paprika to give it a hint of color), tacos, burritos, whose contents could have been anything, so long as it was well masked with cheese, and, of course, chips and salsa. I didn’t think that much else existed outside of my limited knowledge and under-exposed palate.

Since starting my job with a food innovations firm, I’ve come to understand a lot more about Hispanic food. I know its freshness is not limited to a squeeze of lime. I know there’s more colors and textures to salsa than red and soupy. I know that there are more than five ingredients in Mexican food, and that everything doesn’t have to be served with beans or drowned in cheese.

Latin food is bold, but doesn’t have to be heavy. It can be well-spiced without being spicy. It can have heat, without feeling like your taste buds are melting out of your mouth. It can be light and fresh, while still being balanced and savory.

So, with that being said, I am not a master of the cuisine. I’m still learning, still just beginning to crawl. But here are some recipes I came up with back in February when my good friend, Kayla Campbell, did some food photography for me.  

Skirt Steak Fajitas with Chimichurri

Salt, 1 tbsp.
Smoked paprika, 2 tsp.
Ground coriander, 2 tsp.
Ground cumin, 2 tsp.
Cayenne, ½ tsp.
Chili powder, ½ tsp.
Pepper, ½ tsp.
Garlic puree, 1 ½ tbsp.
Olive oil, 1 tbsp.
Skirt steak, 2 lbs.
Frozen corn, 1 cup
Tomatoes, diced, as needed
Onions, diced, as needed
Queso fresco, 8 oz.
Chimichurri sauce
8” tortillas, 8

1.   The night before, combine all the spices with the olive oil and garlic puree. Work this into a paste, and rub it all over your skirt steak. Marinate overnight in the refrigerator.

2.   Grill the skirt steak to medium rare, about 4 minutes per side on a medium-high grill or griddle pan.

3.     Here’s the important part: LET IT REST! Seriously, don’t touch it. Take it off the grill, and let it just sit there on your board for a good 10-15 minutes. You don’t want to lose all those precious juices.

While your meat is resting, sauté the frozen corn in a pan over medium-high heat with olive oil until it starts to get a little brown and caramelized. Now, when your meat done resting, slice it thin and build your fajita. 

Chimichurri

Parsley, 1 cup
Cilantro, ¼ cup
Oregano, fresh, 2 tbsp.
Garlic cloves, 3
Lemon or lime juice, 2 oz.
Olive oil, ½ cup
Red chili flakes, To taste
Salt, to taste 

1.     In a food processor, combine all of the ingredients except your olive oil. Pulse a few times to get the leafy stuff to break down a little.

2.     With the motor running, add your olive oil in a slow, steady stream until you get a saucy consistency. You can use a little more or a little less, depending on how thick you like your sauces to be. 

I also made this fussy little scallop appetizer. You don't need to plate it like this, but understand the flavors and make it your own. You have spice, salt, acid, and earth. Taste as you go, understand the balance of flavors and textures. Make it your own.

Spiced Scallops with Bacon, Avocado, and Savoy Cabbage Purée

Bacon, 6 slices
Avocados, 2
Lime juice, 4 oz.
Salt, as needed
Purple savoy cabbage, 1
Olive oil, as needed
Sea scallops, 12
Chili powder, as needed
Cumin, as needed
Sriracha, as needed

 

  1. Cut each slice of bacon in half widthwise and fry until crisp. Allow to drain on paper towels.

  2. Make the avocado sauce by combining avocados with lime juice and salt to taste in a food processor until smooth. You may not use all the lime juice, depending on how thick or thin you like your sauce.

  3. Make cabbage puree by blanching the cabbage in boiling water for 5-7 seconds before pureeing in a food processor with olive oil and salt to taste.

  4. Season the scallops with a light dusting of chili powder, cumin, and salt. In a hot pan over high heat, sear the scallops in olive oil for 1 minute per side.

You can plate this dish however you want, but the idea is to allow the bacon to have contrasting texture against the scallops, and for the acidic avocado sauce to balance against the earthy cabbage puree. Get it? Got it? Good. Go play with your food.


I also made a panna cotta that day, along with a warm corn salad. The corn salad was something a chef at work developed for a client, so you can find that recipe by clicking here. The panna cotta was a basic, vanilla panna cotta with some honey glazed granola, candied orange peel, and dark chocolate drizzle. I won’t give you the recipe today because it’s not my favorite panna cotta I’ve ever made. So be patient, you’ll get your panna cotta recipe from me…eventually.

In the meantime, friends, go out and do some cooking! The weather is perfect for it and if you’re going to school, you’re on summer break. So live it up, tell someone you love them, and make some delicious food!