Seven layer bean dip

The Super Bowl deserves something above and beyond the usual guacamole and salsa. Don’t get me wrong. Well prepared, these two standards are always welcome. But since Russ has been looking forward to this game all year (five weeks), something out of the ordinary would be nice. Despite all the typical Mexican elements, Seven Layer Bean Dip is not from Mexico, originating in Texas with one of its first print appearances in Family Circle magazine in 1981. Always called Seven Layer Bean Dip, it turns out that the seventh layer is loosely defined and usually whatever you wish to use as a garnish. Some recipes add cooked ground beef and call that the seventh layer. A garnish of chopped cilantro and red onion works for me. To be honest, it’s more like a six and a half layer dip.

In our part of Mexico, it’s tomato and avocado season. We have a bounty of locally grown, organic tomatoes and avocados. The tomatoes are going into the freezer, and were eating guacamole almost every day to keep up with the rapidly ripening supply. I’ve never frozen tomatoes before, but it sounds easy. Pop into zip-lock bags, and they’re good for a year.

I have a bone to pick with most recipes that give the preparation time as 20 minutes, 30 minutes, when you know darn well it’s going to take at least an hour. Recipes are able to do this is by listing the ingredients as how they are to be prepared. Minced, chopped, peeled, refried, grated. One of the most popular recipes online states preparation time for Seven Layer Dip as 20 minutes. One look at that, and you can be assured that the clock starts once every ingredient is prepped according to the recipe list. But I don’t buy grated cheese, minced onion, sliced olives. Some of you may buy canned refried beans or salsa in a jar. But you have the option, if you have the time, of doing everything from scratch, and ending up with the freshest flavors.

Seven Layer Bean Dip serves 6-8

  • 2.5 cups (16 oz/453 g) refried black beans
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin (comino)
  • 4 ounces (113 g) grated cheese (I use half sharp cheddar and half manchego)
  • 1 cup (4 oz/113 g) sliced black or Greek olives
  • 2 avocados
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 2 serrano or jalapeño chiles
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (237 ml) salsa fresca
  • 3/4 cup (6.5 oz./184 g) sour cream
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • Tostadas or tortilla chips
  1. Heat refried beans until starting to bubble. Stir in cumin. Salt to taste.
  2. Grate cheese and set aside.
  3. Slice olives and set aside.
  4. Make a simple guacamole by blending mashed avocado, minced serrano or jalapeño chiles, lime juice and salt.
  5. Make salsa or open your jar.
  6. In a shallow dish (I used a glass 9″/22.86 cm pie plate) spread hot beans. Cover with grated cheese, then sliced olives, guacamole, salsa, sour cream and finally, garnish with chopped cilantro and red onion.
  7. Serve with sturdy tortilla chips.

© 2009-2021 COOKING IN MEXICO ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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Huevos divorciados

For anyone who can’t decide if they want salsa roja or salsa verde with their eggs, Huevos divorciados is for you. This whimsically named breakfast features two different salsas, red and green, which separate — divorce — the eggs to make a colorful breakfast plate. With just the two of us, I don’t usually keep more than one salsa on hand, but with some salsa roja in the fridge, leftover from queso fundido a few days ago, and a bag of tomatillos waiting to be turned into salsa verde, this was a good time to make huevos divorciados. Serve with beans for a heartier breakfast.

Salsas can be fresh or cooked. Cooked salsas are made by grilling, broiling, simmering, or toasting the veg ingredients in a dry skillet, then blending. Or you can blend first, then “fry” the ingredients in a skillet. The salsa verde used here is a “fried” salsa, but you could use any cooking method.

If you can corral a helper, one of you can cook the eggs while the other spoons the two salsas on the tortillas. That way, eggs, tortillas and salsa all come together still warm. Runny yolks are best so that the yolk pools into the salsa, creating a visual and palate pleasing desayuno (breakfast). Russ’es unprompted assessment: This is very good!

Huevos Divorciados serves 4

  1. Fry eggs over-easy or sunny-side-up.
  2. Place 2 warm tortillas on each of 4 plates. Spread one tortilla on each plate with salsa roja, and the remaining tortillas with salsa verde.
  3. Top with 1 egg per tortilla.
  4. Serve with optional beans.

Salsa Verde

  • 14-16 large tomatillos, quartered
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3-4 serrano chiles, seeded and chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (or lard)
  1. Purée all ingredients in a blender, except olive oil, until mostly puréed, but with some little chunks remaining.
  2. Heat olive oil in skillet, and add tomatillo mixture. The skillet should be hot enough that the tomatillo mixture sputters when poured in. Stir down the sputter.
  3. Simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add water if too thick.
  4. Adjust for salt.

Notes ~

~ Tomatillos originated in Mexico and have been used since the pre-Columbian era. Providing a fruity-acid flavor to sauces and stews, they are most commonly used for making salsa verde. Their high pectin content can thicken leftover salsa (thin with water if this happens). They have a papery husk which is removed before cooking. The name is derived from the Nahuatl word, tomatl, and is pronounced toh-ma-TEE-oh.

~ Cilantro is an annual herb much more common on Mexican plates than parsley. All parts of the plant are used, including the tender stems which are as flavorful as the leaves. The dry seeds are the spice, coriander. In some parts of the world, the fresh herb is also known as coriander, or Chinese parsley. For about one-quarter of the population, cilantro has an offensive, soapy taste. To all who can’t enjoy cilantro, take my word that its unique taste gives Mexican dishes an unparalleled flavor.

© 2009-2020 COOKING IN MEXICO ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Molletes and Salsa Fresca

Molletes are common lunch fare, found in mercados and street stalls, but so easy to make at home. They are Mexico’s grilled cheese sandwiches, but heartier with refried beans and salsa fresca, fresh salsa that Russ and I still call pico de gallo — beak of the rooster — because that’s the name we learned when we first encountered it on our early trips to Mexico.

Bolillos, the crusty yeast rolls found everywhere in Mexico, are the base for molletes. During these covid days (months), my neighbor Maria and I take turns going into Mascota to pick up our pre-ordered groceries from Pepe’s. When I ordered bolillos, I got round, soft rolls. Not what I wanted. The next time it was my turn to go in, I pointed to the pointy rolls in the glass case in front of the store, not knowing what to call them, because to Pepe they weren’t bolillos. But they were! The grocery receipt itemized them as bolillos telera grande, a full 8″ (20 cm) long. We had molletes muy grande! If you can’t get bolillos or teleras by any name, crusty French bread makes a fine substitution.

Molletes ~ serves 4-6

  • 3 bolillos, or French bread cut into 6 4-6″ lengths
  • 4 tablespoons soft butter
  • 2 cups refried black beans, hot
  • 9 ounces grated manchego or Oaxaca cheese
  • 6 tablespoons cotija cheese, crumbled, optional garnish
  • 2 cups fresh salsa (recipe below)
  1. Cut bolillos in half lengthwise. Using a fork, pull out much of the doughy interior. Lightly butter cut side of bolillos and toast under a broiler until light brown.
  2. Heat oven to 400ºF (180ºC).
  3. Spread about 1/ 3 cup of refried beans across toasted side, filling cavity.
  4. Sprinkle cheese over beans and return to oven until cheese is melted.
  5. Spoon salsa generously over melted cheese, topping with optional cotija cheese. Serve immediately. Good with pickled onion, cebolla encurtida.

Salsa Fresca or Pico de Gallo ~ about 2 cups

  • 2 Roma tomatoes, about 10 ounces (283 g), finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup (2.4 oz/68 g) minced red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 – 2 jalapeño or serrano chiles, seeded and finely minced
  • 1/2 cup (.7 oz/20g) cilantro leaves and tender stems, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Mix all ingredients. Adjust salt

Notes ~

~ For breakfast, serve molletes with a fried egg on the side. Russ wanted his with a scrambled egg on top (pictured below). And additional salsa verde, just because. I don’t know if Mexicans add eggs to molletes, but it worked for us.

~ On one of our trips to Mexico, before we made it our home, we came across a panedería with a wood-fired oven in the little town of Ciudad Fernández, in the state of San Luis Potosí. Such crusty bolillos, with a hint of wood smoke. Twenty-some years later, those bolillos remain a delicious memory.

~ The double “l” in mollete is pronounced as a “y” sound. Mo-YEH-tay. Bolillo is pronounced bo-LEE-yoh.

© 2009-2021 COOKING IN MEXICO ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

 

Wild guacamole and pantry salsa for cinco de mayo

Cinco de Mayo, the low key holiday in Mexico, is barely celebrated, unless you are in the U.S., where it is one of the best days for tequila and beer sales. On May 5, 1862, invading French forces were defeated at the battle of Puebla, Mexico. You would think this victory would be a celebrated throughout Mexico, but only Puebla commemorates the day with speeches and parades. Canada and a handful of other countries mark the day, some with more imagination than others, with an air guitar competition on the Cayman Islands, and a sky diving event in Vancouver, BC.

During these days (now months) of quarantine, we aren’t always stocked up with the usual items for making fiesta fare. No fresh roma tomatoes or ciliantro, not even a chile, are in our cocina today. But guacamole and salsa can still make an appearance to help us celebrate this almost non-existent holiday.

I found a few wild tomato plants growing on our property, and luckily, wild tomato season is happening during quarantine season. Tomatoes originated in the New World, and I like to think that these are close to the original tomato. The size of blueberries, and very flavorful, they add a pop to our salads. But there aren’t a lot, so a small amount was set aside for guacalmole, and canned tomatoes had to make do for salsa.

Russ gave both guacamole and salsa his seal of approval, pronouncing them “very good”, even with canned tomatoes, parsely from the garden taking the place of cilantro, and bottled hot sauce and garlic adding zip in the absence of chiles. These days, substitutions are in order, and have become the hallmark of a quarantine kitchen. Viva México!

Wild Guacamole

  • 1 large, ripe avocado
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • handful of wild tomatoes, or one roma tomato, diced
  • handful of chopped cilantro, or parsely if you don’t have cilantro
  • juice of 1/2 small lime
  • hot sauce, or minced serrano or jalapeño chile to taste
  1. Cut avocado in half, remove seed, scoop out flesh, and mash with a fork.
  2. Mix in remaining ingredients. Salt to taste. Serve with tortilla chips.

Pantry Salsa

  • 1 15-oz./411 grams can cubed or crushed tomato, drained
  • 1/2 medium onion chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • a handful of chopped parsely or cilantro
  • bottled hot sauce to taste, or 1-2 minced serrano or jalapeño chiles, seeded or not, depending on heat level
  • a squeeze of lime juice
  1. Blend tomatoes, if cubed, in food processor until roughly chopped.
  2. Spoon tomatoes into a bowl, and add remaining ingredients. Salt to taste.
  3. Serve with tortilla chips.

Enchiladas Rojas en Mi Cocina Pequeña

Enchiladas Rojas — Enchiladas with Red Chile Sauce

Some dishes are more challenging to make en mi cocina pequeña, in my tiny kitchen. Enchiladas Rojas is one of those dishes where organization and preparation — referred to as mise en place in France are key. As each ingredient is prepped, the counter space is cleaned before I move on to the next one. With a counter that is only 14.5″ (37 cm.) deep, I don’t have room to make a mess. Not that I don’t. On a not so good day, my kitchen can look like it just exploded and I know I will never see my spatula again. Today was a good day.

A bad day is when I bend over to open the oven, and my rear end knocks something off of the shelf behind me. Or there is not a single bit of clean counter space, and I still have more preparation. Then I have to call time out and clean up to start all over again. The floor area is only 31″ (79 cm.) wide. When Russ is cooking with me, our movements are almost choreographed; neither can turn around with a knife in hand or holding a drippy spoon without being aware of where the other is working.

Enchiladas Rojas were inspired by the recipe of the same name in From My Mexican Kitchen, Techniques and Ingredients by Diana Kennedy. A vegan friend was coming for dinner, so his serving was changed: no cheese, but with a filling of vegetables that Mrs. Kennedy used as a topping. Plus, I added mushrooms and chayote for a heartier vegetable mix. Russ and I had a generous amount of queso fresco that was made right in our town of La Cruz.

Can you guess what is in the photo, below right? I’m not offering a give-away prize, just my felicidades if you know. Hint: it is part of the preparations. The extra large garlic clove (1.5″ long)  is included to give a sense of scale. (Answer: veins from dry chiles, which are used in Mexico as a garnish.)

Enchiladas Rojas makes 12 enchiladas

  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and diced (medium dice for all 4 vegetables)
  • 3 medium waxy potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 small chayote, peeled and diced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 12 medium mushrooms,  diced
  • 1/3 cup white vinegar
  • 9 guajillo chiles, flattened
  • about 1 1/2 cups (375 ml.) water
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 peppercorns, crushed
  • 2 whole cloves, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • about 1/3 cup (80 ml.) vegetable oil for frying
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • 8 oz. (225 grams) queso fresco for filling, plus 4 oz.(115 grams)  for garnish
  • 2/3 cup (165 ml.) white onion, finely chopped
  • jalapeños en escabeche (pickled jalapeños)
  • 1 1/2 cups (375 ml.) lettuce or cabbage, finely shredded
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml.) white onion, finely chopped
  • 3 radishes, thinly sliced
  1. Add carrots, potatoes, chayote and salt to a small pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer 10  minutes or until just tender. Drain.
  2. Heat oil in small skillet and cook mushroom until tender, about 5 minutes.
  3. In a glass bowl, barely cover vegetables with cold water, add vinegar and stir gently. Set aside.
  4. To make the guajillo salsa, heat griddle or skillet and toast chiles on both sides 10 seconds per side. Do not burn.
  5. When cool enough to handle, cut chiles lengthwise and remove seeds and stems. You may need to pull out the veins and strip them of seeds if the seeds cling tenaciously to the veins, but be sure to use them (the veins, not the seeds).
  6. Put chiles in small pot, cover with water and simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off heat and allow to soak 10  minutes.
  7. Strain chiles, discard water, and tear chiles into 6 or 8 pieces.
  8. In blender jar, put 1/2 cup (120 ml.) water, chile pieces, garlic, crushed peppercorns and cloves, and zizz 1 minute.
  9. Add remaining water and blend until smooth, about 3 minutes.
  10. Pour into a sieve and press to extract pieces of tough skin. (This step is not necessary if you have an efficient blender that purees the skin or you don’t mind the little pieces of skin.)
  11. Add oregano and salt and pour into a shallow bowl. Set aside.
  12. Drain vegetables, stir in mushrooms.
  13. Pre-heat oven to 350 deg. F. (180 C.)
  14. Heat 1 tablespoon (20 ml.) of oil in a small skillet.
  15. Dip tortillas in sauce to lightly coat both sides, and fry one at a time, about 8 seconds per side. Do not overcook.
  16. As each tortilla is cooked, spread a small amount of  cheese and onion across the center. Fold or roll.
  17. Keep enchiladas warm in oven until all are filled.
  18. Pour remaining guajillo chile sauce into skillet and add vegetables. Cook until heated through.
  19. Divide enchiladas among 4-6 plates, spoon vegetables on top, garnish with cheese, cabbage and radish slices and serve with pickled jalapeños. Serve hot. Enchiladas Rojas can also be served in a casserole dish.
  20. Vegan version: omit cheese and generously fill fried tortillas with vegetables and onion. Garnish.

Notes:

This method of  making enchiladas by dipping tortillas in sauce and then frying may seem unusual to you, but it is a common kitchen practice in Mexico.

The guajillo chile, a dry chile with deep orange-red hues, is very common all over Mexico. I always get a kick out of Mark Miller’s descriptive tastes from The Great Chile Book. He describes guajillo as having “a green tea and stemmy flavor with berry tones”.  Also “a little piney and tannic with a sweet heat.” I wish I had his finely tuned palate. I can’t detect these individual tastes, but this flame colored salsa made with guajillos is a favorite on our table.

Leftover enchiladas are great for breakfast with a fried egg.

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