Corn, beans, fresh fruits and vegetables are staples in the native Mexican diet. In fact, hundreds of years ago meat was quite scarce. It was the Spanish conquistadores who introduced cattle, goats, sheep, chickens and pigs to the Mexican landscape. The introduction of these animals also led to the introduction of cheese-making too.
Today, Mexican food is considered one of the most varied in the world and there are many cooking styles for preparing Mexican foods. Cookbooks are filled with recipes for soups, stews, casseroles, and beautiful fresh salads. Grilling and BBQ also make regular appearances in these cookbooks.
While corn and beans remain the staples, fresh peppers and spices are used liberally to give the cuisine vibrant flavors. In the United States, the spiciness of Mexican food varies depending where you live. In the South and West, a spicier Tex-Mex style is popular. Moving further to the North and East, the spices tend to migrate to the milder side.
Though spiciness plays a role in the robust flavor of Mexican food, the use of fresh traditional ingredients also provides a delicious rainbow of healthy flavors.
The staple ingredients for Mexican cooking:
- Beans (Black, Kidney, Pinto)
- Tomatoes and tomatillos
- Limes and oranges
Herbs and Spices in Mexican Cooking:
Mexican food is filled with flavor and the most common spice is the chile pepper. Other commonly used herbs and spices include:
- Cocoa or Mexican chocolate
3 cups of broccoli florets
1 ½ cups ricotta cheese
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp. each of salt, pepper and ground cumin
6 whole wheat tortillas
1 1/2 cups red chile enchilada sauce*
1 cup vegetable stock
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Blanch broccoli florets by bringing a pan of water to a boil, add broccoli and cook for 3 minutes. Drain immediately and run under cold water.
- Place broccoli, ricotta cheese, 1 cup of the cheddar cheese, egg, garlic and cumin in a food processor or blender. Pulse to blend all ingredients (mixture can be chunky or smooth - whichever you prefer).
- Fill each tortilla with the broccoli mixture and roll them up. Arrange tortilla rolls in an oven-proof dish that is large enough to hold the 6 tortillas rolls in a single layer. Pour the red chile enchilada sauce and the vegetable stock over the tortilla rolls. Top with the remaining cheese.
- Bake 30 minutes. Let the pan cool for 10 minutes and serve.
*Red chile enchilada sauce is available in the Mexican Food section at a supermarket.
2 medium-sized zucchini, diced
1 roasted poblano chile (see roasting directions below), diced
½ large onion, diced
2 ears fresh sweet corn or 1-1/2 cups of frozen corn
1 can (15 oz.) black beans
2 Tbsp. olive oil
Salt and fresh pepper, to taste
- Pour back beans in colander and rinse for 1 minute under cold water.
- Remove husks from corn and cut kernels off the cobs.
- In a large sauté pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions, corn, chile and zucchini. Cover, stirring occasionally, and cook until zucchini and onion is softened, about 10 minutes.
- Reduce heat to low and gently stir in black beans and continue cooking to heat the black beans about 1-2 minutes.
- Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve.
Roasting a poblano chile pepper:
Roasting a poblano pepper
Chiles roasted over an open flame, or in the oven, impart a delicious smoky flavor to many dishes.
Gas stove: Turn a burner on high and place the chile on the burner. Use long handled tongs to turn the pepper until it is evenly charred (black skin) on all sides. Place the pepper in a plastic bag and seal the bag.
Oven: Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Place pepper a cookie sheet and roast for about 4-5 minutes until the skins blister. Watch carefully so it does not burn. Place the roasted peppers in a plastic bag and seal the bag.
Clean and peel: After 10 minutes, remove the pepper from the bag and wash off the skin under cool water. Slice the pepper open. Discard stem core, seeds and stringy veins.
¼ of a lime
1 tsp. brown sugar
- Slice ends and skin off oranges.
- Holding the orange on its side, slice orange into ¼-inch thick rounds.
- Place on plate, squeeze lime juice over the oranges and sprinkle with brown sugar. Serve.