Monday, May 6, 2013

Feliz Cinco de Mayo! (belated!)

Stupid Sundays. If ever there is a holiday that revolves around gorging yourself on Mexican food and guzzling margaritas, it does not belong on a freaking Sunday.

Contrary to popular belief, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day. In fact, it is not even a national holiday. Imagine my surprise when I arrived in Mexico May 4th 2 years ago, eager beaver to partake in some authentic Mexican parades and parties, preparing myself for the likely inevitable event that I would end up drunk off tequila in the streets of Puerto Vallarta and have to be carried home, only to find out that the people there could care less about it. How I wanted to party and celebrate Cinco de Mayo the right way! Nope. Not even a mention. Cinco de Mayo in Mexico is like any other day. Banks and schools are still open. There are no giant raves or street parades. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

Cinco de Mayo is simply the day way back when that Mexico won the Battle of Puebla. Supposedly the state of Puebla celebrates this otherwise insignificant holiday, but I'll believe it when I see it. That's when I realized how creative and desperate for excuses to party America is. Really? We celebrate a Mexican battle that had nothing to do with us, and we celebrate it with more gusto than even the Mexicans in Mexico!! Then I started thinking, why in the hell don't we celebrate the Zanzibar Revolution? In Tanzania, it's at least a national holiday. Or better yet, why don't Americans without Asian decent celebrate the Lunar New Year? Now that's a damn celebration in the Chinese community, and its a real holiday! From now on I'm going all out for that. Dancing in the streets, dragons, parades, Asian cuisine, lanterns, sake....that's my kind of party! 

It is it because of the tequila?   Is it because 'Cinco de Mayo' runs off the tongue so smoothly? Who knows. Somehow. Someway. The unpopular Mexican holiday has overtaken America with overflowing margaritas and bountiful bowls of chips and salsa that is also very unauthentic to at least the Mexican culture that I have experienced in my 4 trips there to 3 completely different parts of the country.

In Mexico playing with baby tigers!  Cinco de Mayo 2012! Mexico. I'm just showing off.  I'll stop.  ;)

All in all, I'm not complaining. An excuse to party is an excuse to party. :)

To celebrate, I'll be doing the same thing as the rest of American: emptying margarita glasses into my gullet and devouring tomatoes, tortillas, jalapeƱos, onions and garlic in a variety of different dishes that despite the overuse of the same ingredients, taste distinctly different from the next.

Before I divulge my new recipe for salsa, let me say that in my trips to Mexico, I have never had salsa. There is a big difference in what is traditionally placed on your table at a Mexican restaurant in America and what is served as your appetizer in Mexico. In Mexico, they don't serve salsa. It's pico. Pico de gallo is served with thicker freshly fried chips. Everywhere.  In America, for some reason we serve a thinner salsa with thin crispy chips. I love both versions. Pico I have made a number of times. The salsa served in restaurants here, has been a challenge. I have tried tons of times to create the right recipe but never quite got it. I was determined to use only 100% fresh ingredients. Finally, I gave in. Reluctantly, I made salsa using canned tomatoes. The result? Damn near perfect. Sonofabitch!  I was thrilled to finally have made a restaurant quality salsa but was so upset that it was only because of the stupid canned tomatoes. (Now I need to learn to can my own tomatoes!).

Here's the recipe, plus 2 recipes for margaritas I'll be pouring into my piehole tonight.

Restaurant Quality Salsa
If you like more heat, add more jalapeno, or add habanero!  This is a fairly mild salsa, but as my husband (a self proclaimed hot pepper connoisseur, has noticed, jalapenos vary tremendously in heat.  While generally considered mild, we have come across plenty that have been as hot as habaneros.  Make the recipe as it is below, taste and if you need it hotter, just add more in.)

1 28oz can whole peeled tomatoes
1/3 onion (use yellow or red, whichever you have on hand)
1 large garlic clove
1/2 jalapeno
Juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 c cilantro (stems and all...just pack it into a 1/2 cup)
1/2-1 tsp salt (to taste)
pinch sugar

Process all in a food processor.  Start by only using 1/2 jalapeno and 1/2 tsp salt.  Add more as needed.

Frozen Mango Margarita
Serves 2
1 mango, peeled and flesh cut from pit
Juice of 2 limes
3 drops liquid stevia extract
2 c ice
3/4 c organic tequila

Blend all ingredients until smooth.  Serve in a glass rimmed with smoked salt.

Knock Your Socks Off Margarita on the Rocks
Serves 2.  This makes a small sipping drink, so choose glasses that are relatively small.

1 Lime
1 shot Cointreau
2 shots organic tequila
4 drops liquid stevia extract
pink Himalayan sea salt

Using a lime wedge, wet the rim of each glass.  Rim each glass in salt.  Cut the lime in half and cut each half into 4 wedges.  Place 4 wedges in each glass with 1/2 shot Cointreau in each and muddle.  Top with several ice cubes and pour 1 shot tequila and 2 drops each stevia into each glass.  Stir lightly.  Bottoms up!


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