As colorful as a handmade Oaxacan basket, this salad-filled tortilla shell is dressed with a citrusy and creamt orange dressing that will please family and friends alike. Happy Cinco de Mayo!
Cinco de Mayo (May 5th) was yesterday but I didn’t manage a post because I just returned from a wonderful trip to San Antonio. The holiday is especially popular in the state of Puebla and in areas along the U.S.-Mexican border. It celebrates the victory of the Mexican militia over the French army at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. It isn’t a good time to visit Mexico in light of the recent flu outbreak, but you can celebrate at home by preparing the Mexican recipes below. It’s fun to create a festive table setting like the one in the photo above. Carnitas and Mole de Olla are authentic Mexican recipes shared by Adriana Torres Chong, a talented young photographer and chef from Mexico City, who lives in Hawaii. After a period of e-mail correspondence, I met Adriana in Oahu in October 09, during the annual conference for Les Dames d’Escoffier. We became friends while working on the organization’s publication.
Today is Cinco de Mayo, a Mexican holiday and party that celebrates freedom and liberty. It commemorates the May 5, 1862 Battle of Puebla (Batalla de Puebla) in which General Ignacio Zaragoza’s Mexican troops defeated Napolean III’s French forces.
The day is also observed by Mexican people and those of Mexican descent living in parts of the United States, especially California since 1863.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau our nation’s Hispanic population increased 1.4 million to reach 45.5 million on July 1, 2007, or 15.1 percent of the estimated total U.S. population. The Hispanic population exceeded 500,000 in 16 states led by California, Texas and then Florida. Many Mexican-Hispanics celebrate Cinco de Mayo with dancing, singing and of course, good food.
To celebrate Cinco de Mayo, here are two favorite recipes from my cookbook, Mexican Medley. They are delicious anytime, of course, not just during a holiday.
Hass avocados are the pear-shaped kind with a pebbly skin ranging in color from dark green to almost black. They carry a ‘product of Mexico’ label. They are known for their sumptuous flavor and subtle hint of anise. Avocados from Mexico are blessed with an ‘endless season’! You can buy them 24/7.
America’s ‘number one’ favorite condiment is SALSA. There is no doubt that it will be in the starting line-up at Super Bowl parties across the country. Like the popular dance, salsa is colorful and spicy. There are many versions, but the main ingredients are fresh vegetables, fruits, herbs and zesty seasonings.
Throughout Mexico, vendors sell refreshing cold beverages from their stalls and street carts. Horchata is one of the most famous of all, made with rice, almonds, sugar and a dash of cinnamon. (Look for the post, Mexican Horchata in the category called, Mexican Fiesta.) Agua Frescas are made in a blender with fresh seasonal fruits and water. Licuados are also blended drinks made with fresh fruits and milk or orange juice. (more…)
The classic margarita is considered one of the most popular cocktails in the United States It is basically made from tequila, orange liqueur and small, greenish, juicy Mexican limes called limones (Key limes). No one knows for sure who invented the drink, but legends abound concerning its origin.
In Texas circles, it is said the drink was created by socialite Margarita Sames in Acapulco, Mexico in 1948, using her two favorite spirits; orange-flavored Cointreau (made with sweet and bitter orange peels) and tequila. Margarita’s husband may have named the drink when he presented her with glassware etched with her name. Margarita is credited with the quote, “I don’t like weak drinks or weak men!”
“Mezcal smells like history…..It tastes like wonder and superstition.” Tequila Lovers Guide to Mexico (and Mezcal), 2000.
The Spanish learned the art of distillation from the Moors then carried the techniques to Mexico with Cortez in 1519. When they arrived they found the Aztecs of Central Mexico producing a rustic, moonshine-qualitybeverage from the agave plant called octili poliqhui. The Spanish shortened the name to pulque (pool kay).
The edible prickly pear cactus grows in abundance in parts of Mexico, the Carribean, Central and South America. It can be found in drought-prone regions and waste lands. The cactus paddles (nopales), have numerous medicinal properties. They are made into an herbal supplement in Mexico and shipped to Japan. The cactus is even used to make a special Pre-Columbian water-proof paint for homes. It was once commonly used for whitewashing churches. The silky finish is a sealant and acts as a germicide. It is used on homes as well as pig stables and henhouses.