Tastes of Mexico spice up summer cooking

swthompson@herald-leader.comJune 17, 2014 

The fresh flavors of summer — tomatoes, peppers, cilantro — are essential to the bold tastes of Mexican dishes.

As the Hispanic population grows in the U.S., so does the popularity of moles, posole, churros, chorizo, and fuego cheeses. Ready-made dishes such as chicken tinga, beef and pork barbacoa, and carnitas in the deli cases at supermarkets make it easy for us to add flavor and variety to our meals.

"Savor World Flavor: Taste of Mexico" is a promotion at Kroger stores for three weeks this month. All tidbits are easily identified by green, white, and red south of the border colors.

Many of us prepare Mexican dishes without ever consulting a recipe. But it will be fun to try some different seasonings and products for our favorite tacos, fajitas, enchiladas, and burritos.

Stroll through the international aisle at supermarkets or neighborhood Mexican grocery stores such as Tortilleria Ramirez and SuperMercado Aguascalientes, and check out the variety of Hispanic foods.

A Mexican seasoning you might not have tried is Tajin clásico seasoning. It's a powder blend of chiles, salt, and dehydrated lime juice. It can be used as part of a marinade for roasting and grilling chicken; seasoning yellowtail; sprinkling on fresh fruit; or rimming along the top of a glass of a beer cocktail: Tecate beer, lime juice and clamato juice. Chop up marvelous in-season tomatoes, mix with a little olive oil and Tajin, and sop up the juices with a slice of sour dough bread.

A bowl of fresh pineapple and cucumber, with a dash of Tajin, makes a great summer snack.


Minty fruit cocktail

2 cups of fresh pineapple, cubed

2 tablespoons minced fresh mint leaves

1 cup cucumber, cubed

2 tablespoons Tajin clásico

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Keep refrigerated. Sprinkle with extra Tajin clásico with each serving.

Tinga is an authentic Mexican dish made with shredded chicken and onions simmered in a spicy chipotle sauce. It is typically served on crunchy tostadas and garnished with your choice of desired toppings, such as shredded lettuce, Mexican crema (sour cream) and avocado.

Originating in Puebla, Mexico, chicken tinga is a versatile dish of shredded chicken in a tomato and chili chipotle sauce.

Chicken tinga

6 cups water

2 pounds skinless/boneless chicken breast

4 teaspoons salt, divided

1 clove garlic

1 medium yellow onion, quartered

1 large vine ripened tomato, quartered

1 (7-ounce) can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce

1/4 cup canola oil

1 large yellow onion, chopped

3 large vine ripened tomatoes, chopped

1 clove garlic, chopped

12 flat tostada shells, packaged or corn tortillas

Toppings: (optional)

1 head iceberg lettuce, finely shredded

3 avocados, pitted, peeled, and sliced

2 cups crema Mexicana, or sour cream

2 cups queso fresco, or Cotija, crumbled

2 cups salsa of your choice

6 radishes, sliced

In a large stockpot, over medium to high heat, add water, chicken, 2 teaspoons salt, 1 clove garlic, and quartered onion. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes. Reserve.

Remove the chicken and allow it to cool. After the chicken cools off shred it. Reserve.

In a blender add the boiled onion and garlic clove, quartered tomato, chipotle peppers including adobo sauce, 2 teaspoons salt, and enough chicken broth to fill the blender half way. Puree until smooth.

Heat the oil in a large and deep pan over medium heat. Once it is hot but not smoking, stir in the chopped onion and cook until soft and translucent, about 2 minutes. Add chopped tomatoes and chopped garlic and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Add the cooked shredded chicken, the chipotle sauce from the blender and more chicken broth if it is too dry. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add salt to taste.

Tostadas: In a heavy skillet heat one-quarter inch of oil. Drop tortillas carefully into hot oil, one at a time, for 20 to 40 seconds on each side or until crisp and golden. Drain on paper towels. Store-bought tostadas can also be used.

Assemble: Place a tostada (fried tortilla) on a serving plate; spoon on chicken tinga, lettuce (optional), 1 or 2 slices of ripe avocado, crumbled queso fresco, and top with crema Mexicana or sour cream.

Garnish tostada with toppings of your choice. Makes 8 servings.

Source: Muy Bueno Cookbook by Yvette Marquez

Here's a quicker version of the recipe.

Easy chicken tinga

2 cups thinly sliced onions

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 package McCormick tinga de pollo seasoning

1 cup tomato sauce

2⁄3 cup water

21/2 cups shredded cooked chicken

16 tostada shells

Cook onions in hot oil in large skillet on medium heat until tender. Stir in seasoning mix, tomato sauce, and water. Bring to boil. Stir in chicken. Reduce heat to low; simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve chicken on tostada shells with Mexican crema or sour cream, and shredded lettuce, if desired.

Source: McCormick Kitchens

Fresh strawberries will brighten up this Mexican dessert that's made with whole milk, evaporated milk, and sweetened condensed milk.

Tres leches cake

8 large eggs

11/2 cups sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk

1 can (12 oz.) evaporated milk

1 cup milk

1/4 cup Kahlua (or strong coffee)

1 teaspoon vanilla

Lightly sweetened softly whipped cream

Sliced strawberries

In a large bowl, with a mixer on high speed (use whip attachment if available), beat eggs and sugar until thick and pale yellow, 5 to 6 minutes. In a small bowl, mix flour and baking powder. With mixer on medium speed, gradually add flour mixture in small increments and beat until smooth. Scrape batter into a buttered 9- by 13-inch baking pan.

Bake in a 325-degrees regular or convection oven until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a blender, whirl condensed milk, evaporated milk, regular milk, Kahlua, and vanilla until well blended. Pour evenly over hot cake; let cool about 15 minutes, then cover and chill until cake has absorbed all the milk mixture, at least 3 hours, or up to 1 day.

Cut cake into squares or rectangles, lift out with a wide spatula, and set on plates. Top each piece of cake with a spoonful of whipped cream and garnish with strawberries. Makes 12 servings.

Source: Myrecipes.com

Sharon Thompson: (859) 231-3321. Twitter: @FlavorsofKY. Blog: Flavorsofkentucky.bloginky.com.

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