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.

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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.

Botanas Mexicanas for Super Bowl Sunday

We’ll be in front of the TV Sunday watching the Super Bowl, like many of our expat friends. And just like them, we’ll be munching on botanas, Mexican snacks. I don’t think I’ll get it together to make pizza, but I have a few things in mind fellow bloggers have made recently that I want to try.

Lesley Téllez made an interesting, creamy Mexican pumpkin seed dip, called Sikil Pak on her blog, The Mija Chronicles. With just six ingredients, counting the salt, it looks pretty easy to make in a food processor if you don’t have your metate handy. Sikil Pak, you say? Sikil is Mayan for tomato; pak means pumpkin seeds, also called pepitas in Spanish. The Mayans have been eating this for centuries, maybe while watching their ball game, pok-a-tok, which took a more serious turn than football ever does. The loser was sacrificed to the gods.

Muy Bueno Cookbook just wrote up an easy mix for Michalada. With only four ingredients, counting ice, beer, lime juice and salt (I just gave away the recipe, didn’t I),  I can’t think of anything more refreshing drink to wash down the tostadas.

Lyndsey at The Tiny Skillet is making Mexican Fried Cheese with queso de freier. This was to me. How have I lived in Mexico so long and never heard queso de freir? I’m off to find some, and try frying cheese. She suggests serving it with a salsa. My recipe for salsa de chile guajillo or chile ancho would go well with this.

The tostadas are for my favorite guacamole. It has ten ingredients, and that counts the tostadas –corn tortilla chips — on the side. You can make it in fifteen minutes, easy. It differs a little from most guacamoles. Some of the avocado is cubed to give a creamy bite to the mixture. If you want to see another version of guacamole, check out this hilarious guacamole song on YouTube, complete with a recipe, by two dubious looking mexicanos with strange mustaches.

I might come up with a few other dishes, but this is a start. We won’t be sending out for pizza.

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Eating flowers — squash blossom quesadillas

Another Sunday Market in La Cruz and another bunch of squash blossoms too beautiful to eat. I could have looked at their vase on the kitchen counter all week, but eat them we did when I made squash blossom quesadillas for lunch, using fresh corn tortillas, queso fresco from the Sunday market, poblano chile strips and epazote leaves.

Squash — calabaza — were cultivated in pre-Hispanic Mesoamerica, and then spread throughout the world with the arrival of the Spanish. Classic Mesoamerican clay pots mimic large squash in design, and are still seen in contemporary Mexican art work. We have a beautiful copper pot from Santa Clara del Cobre, hammered into a calabaza form.

Before chopping up the flowers, I inhaled their aroma. They smelled of squash, pumpkin and earth, like a garden. The colorful flowers add a delicate flavor that is easily overpowered, so go light on the onion and garlic. Use whatever cheese you have on hand, but the classic cheese for quesadillas is string cheese from Oaxaca. Today I used fresh cheese from the market, but other possibilities include Muenster, Monterey Jack, or even cheddar.

Squash Blossom Quesadillas

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 small bunches squash blossoms, all but 1″of stem removed, chopped; enough to measure 2 cups
  • 1/4 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • salt to taste
  • 1 poblano chile, roasted, peeled and cut into strips
  • 6 oz. cheese, thinly sliced
  • 8 epazote leaves (optional)
  • 8 corn tortillas
  1. Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium-low heat. When hot, add onion and cook for 3 minutes, or until translucent.
  2. Add squash blossoms and garlic, and cook until blossoms are wilted.
  3. Remove from heat and salt to taste.
  4. Heat an oiled griddle over medium heat. Place four tortillas on griddle and evenly divide squash blossom mixture among them. Add strips of poblano chile, thinly sliced cheese, and two epazote leaves to each quesadilla. Cover each one with a second tortilla.
  5. Cook about 3 minutes per side, or until brown, toasty spots appear on the tortillas and the cheese melts.
  6. Cut into halves or quarters and serve hot. (Cold left-overs are delicious.)

Notes:

North of the border, flour tortillas are often used for quesadillas, but corn tortillas are more common in Mexico.

This may be heresy to a Mexican cook, but building quesadillas in my kitchen is like making a sandwich: anything goes. I have made great quesadillas with left-over brown rice, steamed greens, a bit of steak from last night’s dinner, whatever cheese is on hand, even cottage cheese.

Epazote (Teloxys ambrosioides), also known as Mexican Tea or Wormseed, is a bitter herb used to season black beans, quesadillas and empanadas. A few months ago, I found it in a Mexican market in Minneapolis, and I hear it is becoming more common in U.S. supermarkets that cater to a Hispanic clientele. A native of Mexico, it is not eaten raw, and may be an acquired taste. There is no substitute.

A bit of etymology: calabaza is from the Persian word kharbuz, meaning melon, and the French word calabase, later calabash, is of Spanish origin.

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Qué es La Jícama?

Jícama looks like a cross between a potato and a huge turnip. I love eating cold slices as a snack, and so do most Mexicans. Have you noticed the frequency of street eating in Mexico? For every holiday, every evening on the plaza, at every beach, every bus stop, every market, there is someone with a cart selling sliced watermelon, cucumber, pineapple, or jícama — all sprinkled with chile powder and spritzed with lime juice.

While I can’t advocate street eating for us weak-stomached foreigners who have no way of telling if the vegetables have been disinfected, if the knife, cutting board and hands are super clean, we can prepare jícama at home using our favorite method for cleaning and disinfecting produce. And we can use chile powder or not, lime juice or not.

Jícama in the stores can look unappealing sometimes. They can be a little beat up, muddied and oddly shaped, or smooth and clean as a whistle. Look for smooth, light skinned, small jícama. Don’t worry about a little dirt. Just scrub it off and soak the tubers in a disinfectant solution.

The skin pulls off when you grab the end with a paring knife. If it doesn’t want to pull away, as sometimes happens, use a vegetable peeler. Often you can pull off a piece of skin with your fingers, once you get it started.

Use a paring knife to finish cutting out little rootlets or nicks. Then slice, dice or chop.

For an easy snack or an appetizer that is muy mexicano, squeeze some lime juice over cold, sliced jícama, and sprinkle with coarse salt and chile power. Or sauté chopped jícama in a stir-fry as a substitute for water chestnuts. Or sprinkle with cinnamon and a pinch of brown sugar. Or use as a base for spreading guacamole or ceviche. Or add to a fruit salad or vegetable salad. Or just eat it cold, sliced and unadorned.

Notes:

  • Etmology — The name jícama is from the Nahuatl word, xicamatl.  Jícama is the name of this native Mexican plant, as well as the name of the edible root. It also goes by the names of yambean and Mexican turnip.
  • The tuber can weigh up to twenty kilograms, but you will never see them in the stores this big. Usually they are between one half to one kilo (1-2 pounds) in weight. A half kilo-sized jicama is young and juicy.
  • Jícama has a water content of 86-90%, and is high in dietary fiber.


More Reading:

Jícama (Wikipedia)

Jícama Factbites

Jícama Mexconnect


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