Guacamole is one of my all-time favorite foods, ever. I loved it since I was a child and have never stopped. My love affair with guacamole comes from an even greater appreciation for avocados. They are on my desert island list of food that I can’t live without. It is just so hard to imagine what life would be like without them. Avocados remind me of California and eating them is one way I stay connected to my home town.
For most of my lifetime, I have made guacamole and never look at it as a recipe, but something that is fluid and develops into a moment depending on place and time. There is a foundation to build on, but each time I add or omit an ingredient whenever I see fit. Over the years, my guacamole recipe is the one food that people always ask me, “What is my secret for making delicious guacamole?” My answer is not one they expect or want to hear but, I feel like I am stating the obvious. The secret to good guacamole is, making it with perfectly ripe avocados.
Ripe Avocados make the Best Guacamole
Ultimately, guacamole is only going to taste as good as the avocados you make it with. So, it pays to learn how to identify when they are ripe. It is rare to find them ripe at the market so, it is important to let your avocados ripen to that sweet spot at home. Too hard and the flesh will look pale in and taste bland. Too soft, and the avocado gets gray veins and has bruises on the flesh and tastes over ripe.
The sweet spot is when there is some firmness in the body, but also has some yield when you press on the north and south poles of the avocado. It is like Goldilocks, looking for the right chair to sit in. One that is not too hard, or not too soft. Just right. With experience it gets easier to identify that perfect state of ripeness and learn which store sells the best avocados.
Living in New York, avocados travel long distances to reach our markets and usually are as hard as a granite counter top. Typically, when I buy avocados I let them rest on my window sill for 2 days before I use them. On occasion, they need more time, sometimes less. First, remove them from any bag, even the mesh bag, but especially a plastic one. Then place them in an area where they will get some sun and air circulation. Never put avocado in the refrigerator unless they are cut open. Check them daily and handle them carefully so they do not bruise.
My kitchen windows do not get a lot of direct sunlight, and two to three days usually is enough time. If your kitchen streams with sunshine all day, your avocados may take less time. None of the tricks, like putting them in a paper bag to quickly ripen avocados, work. Time, warm air and sunlight are essential for ripening avocados.
How to Make Guacamole Without a Recipe
When your avocados are ripe, begin making guacamole with the foundation ingredients, avocados, garlic, lime juice, pinch of salt, and minced cilantro. As you make guacamole remember this rule, start with less and add more if needed. It is a lot easier to add seasoning then take away. My preference for guacamole is create a nice balance of all the ingredients to enhance the flavor of the avocados without any one flavor coming on too strong. There are other traditional ingredients in guacamole like white onion or chopped tomatoes, but I prefer a smoother guacamole. Plus, I am not a big fan of raw onions. Feel free to add a couple of tablespoons of chopped white onions or tomatoes if you wish.
Once you get the foundation mixed together, taste and assess what the guacamole needs if anything. With perfect avocados it doesn’t take much to make good guacamole. Sometimes, the avocados lack some flavor and need some boosting. The easiest way to boost up the flavor is by adding a tablespoon of salsa, either tomato salsa or tomatillo salsa. Also, a small spoonful of mayonnaise helps make the guacamole creamy. Even a scant amount of Dijon mustard can offer the right amount of tang when the guacamole needs some acid to brighten it up. However, be careful not to add too much because you don’t want to taste the mustard or mayonnaise, these flavors should be in the background.
Extra Tidd-Bits for Boosting Guacamole Flavor
Just like adding a spoonful of salsa to your guacamole, you can achieve the same effect, if not better if you roast a tomatillo, jalapeño or serrano pepper, and garlic then add them to the guacamole. Personally, I love adding these roasted vegetables to guacamole, especially the garlic. The roasted garlic becomes sweet, and the harsh bite disappears. These roasted vegetables bring a slight tangy smokiness to the guacamole that just fits, like bacon and eggs.
A couple of years ago, I discovered how fresh fruit like strawberries is delicious with guacamole. Either serve strawberries on the side or chop some up and mix in the dip. You may need to add more salt and adjust the other seasoning, so taste and build the flavor as you go.
How Many Avocados?
3 avocados are a good place to start. It should make enough guacamole for 5-6 people. However, if your family is like my family it will disappear in less than 5 minutes and you will feel like you did not make enough. Avocados are expensive, at least in NY, so buy as many as is within reason. The most avocados I ever used to make guacamole are 6-7 avocados. It was for a decent size party of 15 or more people. However, if there are several appetizers in addition to the guacamole, there is no need to make so much.
Keep in mind, guacamole does not keep well. No matter how much lime juice is in the guacamole, eventually it turns gray from being exposed to the air. The oxidation also effects the flavor. Guacamole is a dip to serve right away and at room temperature.
Family Favorite Guacamole
The secret to delicious guacamole is using perfectly ripe avocados. Avocados are ripe when they are still firm but there is some give in the top and bottom of the fruit. I find it is best to buy avocados a couple of days in advance and let them ripen on a sunny windowsill.
This is a foundation recipe to build your guacamole as you make it. Adjust any amount of your preferred seasonings to enhance the flavor of your avocados.
This is not a recipe to make in advance. Guacamole is best served at room temperature and immediately after it is made. Serve with corn chips or some fruit like strawberries and vegetables such as jicama, carrots, cucumbers or bell peppers.
- 3 avocados
- 1 -2 cloves garlic peeled and green germ removed
- 1 lime
- 1/2 tea Kosher Salt
- 2 TBS chopped cilantro
- 1 roasted jalapeño chili optional
- 1 medium roasted tomatillo optional
Cut each avocado in half by holding the avocado in one hand and with the other hand make a slice with a 6-inch chef's knife though the top of the avocado towards the middle until you reach the pit inside. Rotate your knife around the perimeter of the avocado. Set down the knife and hold the avocado in both hands then twist the avocado halves in opposite directions until they separate. Pull apart the avocado halves.
Securely hold the avocado with the pit like it is resting in your palm and the pit is facing up. Make sure your fingers are away from the edge of the avocado. Carefully, but firmly, take your chef knife and hit the sharp edge of the blade in the center of the pit until the knife sticks. With the knife blade secure in the pit, twist your knife counter-clockwise to loosen the pit from the flesh. Lift your knife with the pit still attached and remove the pit from the flesh. Whack the side of your knife against the edge of your cutting board, or the rim of a garbage pail, to loosen the pit from the knife and falls off. Repeat until all the avocados are cut in half and pits removed.
Use a soup spoon and scoop out the avocado flesh. Run the spoon around the inside edge of the avocado to loosen it free from the skin. Scoop out the avocado flesh and place it into a mixing bowl. Repeat until all the avocados are scooped out.
Mash the avocados with a fork until all the flesh is mixed together but still chunky. Add lime juice from half a lime. Stir to mix with your fork.
Mince or press the garlic and place into the mixing bowl. Add a pinch (less than 1/2 a teaspoon), of Kosher salt. and the cilantro to the avocados. Stir to mix.
Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. Too bland add more salt or garlic. Needs more acid add more lime juice or tomatillos or salsa. Start with less and add more if needed.
The roasted tomatillo, process in a food processor first then add it to the guacamole.
The chili peppers, remove the stem and scrape out the seeds and white pith according to how spicy you want the guacamole.
Instead of the roasted tomatillo or chilies, add a spoonful or salsa verde or tomato salsa.
For extra creaminess, add a spoonful of mayonnaise. For extra tang, add a half teaspoon of Dijon mustard.
Sliced fresh grape tomatoes for garnish or in the dip.
Cover with plastic wrap until ready to serve. Best eaten immediately with corn chips or cut up vegetables and fruit.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
Let’s celebrate Margarita Week 2018. This is a social media event with food bloggers and enthusiasts across the virtual stratosphere, honoring margaritas and Cinco de Mayo. It is an annual event hosted by Kate Ramos of Hola Jalapeno, where we share margarita recipes with the world. Over the last couple of weeks, I tested recipes and tasted delicious margaritas and finally decided to share a recipe for Raspberry Hibiscus Margarita with Jalapeño. It is a floral and spicy remake of a traditional Hibiscus Margarita.
Raspberry Hibiscus Margarita with Jalapeño
My recipe for raspberry hibiscus margarita is made with a juice of raspberries and hibiscus herb tea, infused with jalapeño peppers and orange peel. A small amount of sugar is added to the juice because I like to taste the tequila and fruit in my margaritas, not sugar. The juice recipe makes about 1 quart (a shy liter), which makes enough for 16 cocktails using equal proportions of juice to tequila.
I prefer margaritas made right before I drink it, as margaritas taste best after they are just shaken. If you insist on mixing the margarita ingredients together, to speed the cocktail making process along, do so right before your guests arrive. Later as you offer each guest a drink, add enough margarita mix to your ice filled cocktail shaker for 2 margaritas. Then shake and serve.
Another bonus from making the raspberry hibiscus jalapeño juice, is the juice makes a delicious nonalcoholic beverage. Whenever I entertain I always offer a choice of cocktails and nonalcoholic drinks for my guests to enjoy. To make a Hibiscus Margarita mocktail, mix together, using a one to one ratio of juice to either seltzer or ginger ale. Garnish the same as you would the Margarita. Your guests will be delighted at having a refreshing drink that is healthier than soda.
For each recipe, a margarita or mocktail, this drink tastes best with the rim of the glass coated in salt and ground chili powder. The spiciness in the juice and from the salt-chili rim, compliments the hibiscus and tequila perfectly. If you really do not like the glass coated in salt, add a small pinch of chili salt to the cocktail shaker or glass and mix. Just like a pinch of sea salt on dark chocolate, salt paired with the hibiscus juice and tequila is the finishing touch that makes a big difference.
A year ago, I wrote a post congratulating my son Evan, for finishing his actuary exams on Cinco de Mayo. In his honor I published a recipe for a “Classic Margarita.” Evan prefers his tequila straight up over ice, but I don’t believe he would refuse a refreshing remake of a classic Margarita. A year later, I get to wave my proud mama flag again, but this time it is for the whole family.
This year on Cinco de Mayo we have the honor to celebrate with my oldest son, Andrew, his wife Amanda, and his in-laws at the wedding of Andrew’s brother-in-law. As we raise our glass to toast the newly married couple, we also will congratulate Andrew for finishing his MBA. These past two years and a half were jam-packed from working full-time, getting engaged, planning a wedding, getting married, going to graduate school, brewing award-winning beers, and a hurricane through the state of Florida this fall. Steadfastly moving forward without looking back, Andrew did it and now looks forward to growing his career. Andrew continues to impress me how he manages to clearly see his goals ahead and maintain a positive attitude, even when things don’t always go his way. His positive attitude comes from within, but also from his love for and from Amanda. Together, their love for one another is a foundation of respect, caring, and fun.
This year, Amanda also had her proud moments by getting a job promotion with a lot of responsibility and travel.
More Family Celebration
As Evan comes upon his anniversary of passing his professional exams, he is about to begin a new adventure and is getting married in 6 weeks. His fiancée, Emily, is finishing a major accomplishment of her own when she finishes her Master’s in Education in two weeks.
We are blessed with three wonderful sons and I cannot finish my post without mentioning my youngest son, Taylor. Upon college graduation he toured Europe over the summer, then upon his return moved to New York City and started his career. The kid just hasn’t stopped moving and he likes it that way. The extended working hours are grueling, but he remains positive and happy with his work and colleagues.
What this adds up for us is our boys are all grown up and make us proud everyday. Our family is growing, and we are so excited about the love and happiness they found. Once we were 5, now we are 7 strong and couldn’t be more thrilled.
What to Eat with your Hibiscus Margarita?
Enjoy your raspberry hibiscus margarita with your favorite Mexican food or with any type of cuisine from around the world.
Chicken Enchiladas with Roasted Tomatillo Sauce. Grilled Chicken with Creamy Poblano Rajas Sauce. Rolled Flank Steak with Chimichurri Sauce. Roasted Cauliflower with Kale Parsley Pesto. Zucchini Basil Frittata. With dessert of Double Coconut Pie. Lemon Saffron Syrup Cake., or Bitter Orange Flourless Chocolate Cake
Cinco de Mayo is becoming an auspicious day for my family, and I will gladly keep that tradition going. Join me on this May 5th in a toast, whether you are celebrating Mexico’s victory over Napoleon in the Franco Mexican War in 1862, your cultural heritage and identity, your family, fulfilling dreams , accomplishing your goals, love, good will, peace, or just sharing a recipe around the world, by raising your glass and give thanks. Cheers my friends. May your life be filled with many celebrations and joy.
Check out all the recipes from the talented individuals Margarita Week participants. Follow the #maragritaweek on Instagram, and Hola Jalapeno’s Margarita Week web page.
Fresh raspberries, hibiscus herb tea, orange peel and jalapeño steep together making a bright floral juice that is not too sweet and has a lot of spunk. Combine the juice with 100% pure agave, blanco tequila, Cointreau, lime juice (optional), for a refreshing hibiscus margarita. Or, mix the juice with seltzer or ginger ale for a nonalcoholic beverage. For either version, don’t skip on salting the glass rime. The salt and extra ground chili pepper compliments the hibiscus and tequila perfectly. Trust me it makes a big difference.
For make a nonalcoholic Raspberry Hibiscus Jalapeño beverage, stir together a one to one ratio of Hibiscus juice to seltzer. Too sweeten up the drink mix the juice with some 7-Up, or ginger ale. I recommend a ratio of two parts juice to one soda, so it is not too sweet.
Use any herbal tea with hibiscus listed as the first ingredient. I tested this recipe with Red Zinger Tea by Celestial Seasoning, but Lemon Zinger, Wild Raspberry Hibiscus Herb Tea by Stash, or the equivalent amount of dried hibiscus flowers are all good substitutes. Once the juice is finished, it will taste spicy, but keep in mind for the final product, the juice will get diluted with other liquids. If you wish, control the heat by how much of the white pith and seeds in the jalapeño pepper you add to the raspberries and hibiscus juice.
Raspberry Hibiscus Jalapeño Juice
- 1, 10 oz (283 g) bag of organic frozen raspberries, thawed
- 6 Hibiscus tea bags
- 1 jalapeño stem removed and cut in half
- ¼ cup (53 g) 53 g granulated sugar
- 3, 2-inch (5 cm) long strips of orange peel
- 5 cups (1.25 liters) water
Raspberry Hibiscus Margarita with Jalapeño
- Coarse salt like Kosher salt
- 1/8 -1/4 teaspoon ( a pinch) of ground chili pepper
- 2 oz (60 ml) raspberry hibiscus jalapeño juice
- 2 oz (60 ml) 100% agave blanco tequila
- 1 oz (30 ml) Cointreau
- A squeeze of lime juice from half a lime
- 3 mint leaves
- 1 basil leaves
Raspberry Hibiscus Jalapeño Juice
In a medium sauce pan, at least a 2-quart (2 liter) capacity, combine the thawed raspberries, hibiscus tea bags, jalapeño pepper, orange peels, granulated sugar and water. Turn the heat up to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium/medium-low and keep the juice at a gentle simmer for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the juice steep for another 20 minutes.
Strain out the solids from the juice. Pour the juice into a fine mesh strainer resting over a bowl with at least a 2-quart (2 liter) capacity. Hold the strainer over the bowl and gently press out any remaining juice in the strainer. Dispose of the solids in the strainer.
Cool the juice before refrigerating it. Fill a large bowl with ice and rest the bowl with the juice in the middle of the ice. Stir now and then for even cooling. It could take about a half hour for the juice to cool enough to cover and refrigerate. If you keep the juice in the ice bath for at least an hour the juice might be chilled enough to make a drink. Keep in mind margaritas or juice tastes best when they are nice and cold.
The juice makes about 1-quart, (1 liter). Store covered in the refrigerator until needed. The juice will last for up to one week in the refrigerator.
Raspberry Hibiscus Margarita with Jalapeño
Pour some salt about a 1/4 cup, 75 ml, onto a plate wider than the diameter of your drinking glasses. Add the ground chili and mix. Take out your margarita glasses or double-old fashioned glasses and wet the rim of each glass with a piece of lime. Turn the glass upside down and dip it into the salt and chili mix. Make sure the whole rim is coated in salt. If you are using double old-fashioned glasses, add 5 ice cubes to each prepared glass just before you pour in the margarita mix. Set aside.
In a shaker filled half way with ice, add the tequila, hibiscus juice, Cointreau, and lime juice if using. Add the mint and basil leaves by placing the herbs in the palm of your hands and clap. You want to smash the herbs to release their aroma. Rub your hands together and let the herbs fall into the shaker. Add more orange zest if you like.
Shake for 15 seconds a good and hearty shake like you are dancing the salsa. Then strain into your salt rimmed margarita glass. Garnish with a slice of lime, a slice of jalapeño and orange zest.
Large batch and ahead of time preparation:
If you are having a large party and want to mix the ingredients before your guests arrive, mix the Margarita ingredients without the herbs, into a pitcher just before your party begins.
FYI, I did not test out the proportions as it was just the two of us over the weekend and I did not want to drink or waste a whole liter of tequila. I did the math for you. Taste and adjust the ingredients as you prefer.
In a pitcher, stir together 1-quart (1 liter) raspberry hibiscus jalapeño juice with 1 quart (1 liter) of 100% agave blanco tequila, one-pint (600 ml) of Cointreau, and ¾- 1 cup (185 ml – 250 ml) fresh squeezed lime juice, if using. Add less lime juice then specified and taste. Adjust the margarita mix as you see fit. Cover the pitcher with plastic wrap and keep it chilled in the refrigerator before mixing in a cocktail. When ready, pour enough margarita mix for two drinks, 8 -10 oz (250 – 300 ml), into a cocktail shake then add the herbs. Shake well and serve. Garnish with lime wedges, jalapeño slices, orange segments or zest.
Additionally, you will need to make extra juice for a nonalcoholic beverage.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
The more I cook with tomatillos, the more I love them. Their tangy and grassy flavor pairs perfectly with green chili peppers making them a foundation for salsa verde or green sauce in Mexican cuisine. Like tomatoes, but not related, tomatillos taste great either fresh like in a raw salsa verde, or roasted and cooked. In this recipe, it is the tomatillo sauce that sets these chicken enchiladas apart.
Chicken Enchiladas with Verde Sauce
Simply put, I love this tomatillo sauce which I adapted from Rick Bayless, Roasted Tomatillo Sauce from More Mexican Everyday. As the title of the recipe link says, “It is a recipe to know by heart.” Once you get comfortable making tomatillo sauce you will want to make it repeatedly. Just like Poblano Chili Cream Sauce, it is easily adapted for recipes with eggs, cheese, or any grilled fish and meats.
Chicken enchiladas with a verde sauce is one of my favorite Mexican foods. Red chili sauces may have a more complex flavor, but I love the fresh and bright taste of fresh chilies when I cook with them. Fresh chilies make everything more invigorating and upbeat. I never feel heavy when I eat a meal prepared with a verde sauce, unless, of course, I loaded it up with extra cheese and sour cream. Normally I add avocado to all my Mexican inspired food, but the roasted tomatillo sauce is so satisfying, I do not miss the avocado.
Making chicken enchiladas is a great way to use up left over chicken as well. A rotisserie chicken from the store is also perfect for chicken enchiladas. You only need a shy 3 cups (750 ml) of shredded chicken to fill these enchiladas. Using precooked chicken frees up your time to make the tomatillo sauce and it is worth it. Sure, you could make a verde sauce from jarred salsa verde, but the taste won’t be as bright or have that personal touch of homemade food.
Additionally, you can fill enchiladas with just about anything that goes well with the sauce. You can easily substitute the chicken with shredded pork, cheese, fish, legumes, or other vegetables.
Chicken Enchiladas Variations
I adapted Rick Bayless’s chicken enchiladas recipe by adding more herbs and spices to the sauce. In addition, I mixed together sautéed onions and poblano peppers with the chicken filling. Originally, I set out to make chicken enchiladas with a verde sauce filled with shredded chicken and poblano rajas, but I pared down my original idea to reduce some of the prep work. Also, Rick Bayless recommends garnishing the enchiladas with raw onion slices. I do not enjoy eating raw onions, so I roasted onion slices and garnished the enchiladas with them instead.
For this recipe I recommend charring and peeling the skins off the poblano pepper. Charring the poblano pepper and removing the blistered skin adds a smoky flavor to the pepper and enchiladas. You can roast the poblano pepper when you roast the vegetables for the tomatillo sauce, but unlike the serrano chilies, it should be peeled, and seeds removed before you chop them up for the chicken filling. Peeling off the skin is not necessary, but it is a nice touch. If you are pressed for time, do not roast the poblano pepper, instead chop it up without peeling it, and sauté the pepper and onions together until soft but not browned.
The sauce carries some heat which I enjoy, but I realize not everyone does. If you are making the enchiladas for your family, or for people who do not like spicy food, substitute the Serrano peppers with half of a poblano pepper and roast it along with the tomatillos. You will need to peel off the skin before you purée the roasted vegetables. The sauce will taste bright from the poblano chili pepper, but the heat level will be significantly reduced.
Vegetarian Enchiladas with Roasted Tomatillo Sauce
For vegetarian enchiladas, make the filling with 1½ cups (375 ml) of good melting cheese like Monterey Jack cheese or Cheddar cheese. Sauté a whole onion with a whole poblano pepper, cool slightly then mix with the grated cheese. Assemble the enchiladas as directed in the recipe. Black beans, kidney beans or white navy beans are a nice addition with the cheese and vegetables as well. Some cooked fish like tilapia, mahi mahi, or cod will taste great as a filling for enchiladas with the onions and poblano peppers. However, do not add cheese to fish enchiladas, or for the garnish.
Pointers for Success
Mise en Place – Prepare all the ingredients before you start cooking. This will help with the timing for making the sauce and assemble the enchiladas.
- Gather all ingredients and place the spices near your stove
- Slice and chop the onions then organize in three piles as you need them at three different stages. To save some time, roast the onion slices for the garnish along with the onions for the tomatillo sauce. When they are done, make sure you separate half an onion’s worth of the onion slices before you add the remaining sliced onions to the tomatillo sauce.
- Shred the chicken
- Grate the cheese
- Chop the cilantro
- Place the tortillas in a microwave safe plastic bag and set aside until needed.
- Pull out your baking dish or dishes, and set aside.
Assemble the enchiladas when all the ingredients are still hot from the stove. This cuts back on the cooking time and helps keep the enchiladas from falling apart. The longer the tortillas cook in the sauce the soggier they get.
Use the best quality tortillas you can buy. If possible buy tortillas from a tortilleria or Mexican market.
Microwave the tortillas when you are ready to assemble the enchiladas.
Microwave the tortillas in a plastic bag leaving an opening for some of the steam to escape. My tortillas got soggy after being heated in the microwave and sat in a sealed and steamy plastic bag. Rich Bayless recommends microwaving on high for one minute, but I think it was too long. You may need to experiment with the amount of time you need to heat the tortillas up.
Assemble the enchiladas a minute after you heat the tortillas. Any later and the tortillas will get soggy.
Chicken Enchiladas with Roasted Tomatillo Sauce
Chicken enchiladas have such a bright and invigorating taste when paired with a verde sauce. Roasted tomatillos, serrano peppers, onion and garlic set the stage for the enchilada sauce. The tomatillo sauce is adapted from Rick Bayless, More Mexican Everyday, Roasted Tomatillo Sauce.
There are some specialty ingredients in this recipe. You can find tomatillos at well stocked grocery stores, Asian produce markets, or Mexican markets. The dried spices like epazote and Mexican oregano you can find at Mexican markets or on line. Epazote has a unique flavor that cannot be matched. If you cannot find epazote, add one bay leaf to the sauce then remove it before you assemble the enchiladas.
Bake the enchiladas in one large baking dish or individual dishes large enough to hold 2 enchiladas.
Best eaten right out of the oven.
- 1 lb. tomatillos
- 4-5 garlic cloves peel intact
- 2 serrano chilies or half a poblano pepper for a mild sauce
- 1 white onion sliced across the equator in ½ in thick rings
- ¾ tsp Kosher Salt
- 1 poblano chili pepper charred, peeled, seeds removed and chopped
- 1 white onion divided
- 2 cups (500 ml) Roasted Tomatillo Sauce
- 1 ½ cup (375 ml) chicken stock
- 1 tsp dried Mexican Oregano
- 1 tsp dried crumbled epazote
- ½ tsp ground coriander
- Shy 3 cups shredded chicken
- Handful of cilantro
- 10 corn tortillas
- Cheddar or Monterey Jack Cheese grated
- ½ cup (125 ml) Crème fraiche
Roasted Tomatillo Sauce
Turn the boiler up high and place the oven rack at the top position.
Take the poblano pepper in the chicken filling section and slice it in half lengthwise then remove the seeds. Arrange the halves on a rimmed sheet pan then add the peeled tomatillos, serrano chilies, garlic cloves, and slice onions rings for the sauce in an even layer. If you want to save some time arrange the onions slices for the garnish (half an onion) on the baking sheet with the onion for the tomatillo sauce.
Slide the sheet pan under the broiler and roast the vegetables until they get nice and charred. Check after 4 minutes and continue if the vegetables need more charring. Each vegetable will brown at different speeds, so you will have to adjust the timing for each one. Once they get browned turn them over and brown the other side. This can take from 8 -15 minutes. If the onions need more time than the other vegetables, remove the browned vegetables and place the tomatillos in the bowl of a blender or food processor and chilies and garlic cloves on a cutting board. Pour off any juices in the pan into the bowl of a blender or food processor. Set aside and continue to brown the onions if needed. Remove when done.
Place the poblano chili halves in a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap and let it steam for 15 minutes.
When the Serrano chilies and garlic are cool enough to handle, peel off the skin from the garlic cloves and place the roasted garlic in the bowl with the tomatillos.
Cut off the stem of the serrano chilies and slice down the middle. Remove some of the seeds and pith if you want to turn down the heat., or leave them be. Add the serrano peppers to the tomatillos and blend, or process, the vegetables until smooth. Makes about 2 cups (500 ml).
Pre heat the oven to 400 °F (200°C / Gas Mark 5) with the oven rack set in the middle position.
Heat a 10-inch (25.5 cm) skillet with 2 TB olive oil over medium heat. Add 2 cups (500 ml) roasted tomatillo purée to the skillet and simmer until it slightly thickens. Add the chicken stock and Mexican oregano, epazote, ground coriander, and Kosher salt. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. Simmer the sauce on low, stirring occasionally until ready to assemble the enchiladas.
Meanwhile, remove the poblano halves from the bowl and peel off the skin. Quickly rinse under cold water to remove stubborn skin. Chop the poblano into ½ inch pieces.
If you have not done so already, slice the onion in half across the equator, slice one half into rings and set aside. Chop the remaining half in ½ inch pieces.
In another skillet heat up 2 TB of vegetable oil and add the chopped onion and poblano pepper. Cook until the onions are soft. Add the shredded chicken and ½ cup chicken stock. Stir to mix. Cook until the liquid evaporates and the chicken is warm. Add about 2 TB of chopped cilantro and stir to mix.
Heat up the tortillas. Place the tortillas in a zip lock bag and heat in the microwave for 30 seconds. Make sue the bag is not closed all the way. Remove the tortillas from the microwave and let the tortillas rest in the plastic bag for a minute.
Assemble the enchiladas.
Set aside a 9 x 13-inch (23 x 33 cm) baking pan. Place a tortilla on a work surface and add 2 spoonfuls of the chicken mixture across the center of the tortilla. Roll up the tortilla to cover the chicken filling. Place the rolled-up tortilla in the baking dish. Continue to fill and roll up the tortillas. You should have enough chicken filling for 10 enchiladas. It will be a tight fit in the baking dish. If you have a small baking dish, perfect for two enchiladas, add the last two enchiladas to a separate dish, otherwise fit the last two enchiladas to one side of the row of enchiladas.
Completely cover the enchiladas with the tomatillo sauce and sprinkle grated cheese down the middle of the enchiladas.
Place in the oven and cook until heated through and the cheese is melted, about 5-8 minutes.
If you haven’t roasted the onions for garnish already, heat up a skillet until almost smoking. Add the onion slices, intact, to the skillet and dry roast the onions until browned. After a couple of minutes check to see if the onions have browned, then turn over to brown the other side. When done, remove from the skillet.
Serve immediately with crème fraiche and garnish with the browned onions and cilantro.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
There is nothing sexy about how I came up with this recipe for black bean tacos with kabocha squash. In truth the real impetus came from the fact I had some cooked black beans in the freezer and kabocha squash that was a couple of weeks old sitting on the counter. I had to use them or lose them. However mundane the origin of an idea, the process of creating a meal requires some inspiration and creativity and that is sexy.
Often, my inspiration for the food I cook comes from the people I feed. Between all my friends and family, I will take into consideration everyone’s diet preference. This is why you will find on my blog a selection of meals to serve, omnivores, pescatarians, vegetarians, vegans, low-glycemic, gluten-free, and dairy-free recipes. In these times, all cooks should have a few recipes that will feed their diverse community.
While creating this recipe for black bean tacos it was important to me that this recipe be suitable for vegetarian and vegan diets. Therefore, any dairy is supplemental and added separately as a topping for individual tacos. That meant all ingredients in the beans and squash must be plant-based.
Distinctive flavor of Black Bean Tacos
This recipe started with frozen cooked black beans I made several months ago. Freshly cooked beans taste a lot better than canned beans, and they have a lot less salt. So, now and then I will plan and cook some fresh beans. However, I always have a selection of no-salt canned beans in my pantry. They are just too convenient and ideal for a spontaneous meal.
If you do want to cook with dried beans, add epazote and garlic to the pot when you cook them. Just like beans cooked with a ham hock, epazote and beans are a perfect pair. The flavor is so distinctive it is hard to describe. It is herbal and similar to Mexican oregano with some medicinal characteristics. The flavor is unique and thus there is no good substitute for epazote. However, once you taste beans cooked in epazote you will always want to eat them prepared this way. I use dried epazote, as fresh epazote is hard to come by in the east coast. You can find it online or at a Mexican market.
To make the black bean filling for my tacos, I sautéed some onions and minced garlic until soft and added some crumbled dried epazote and Kosher salt. Then I added the cooked black beans. Because I love beans cooked with smoked pork, the epazote helps me forget about the lack of pork and smoky flavor whenever I cook vegan beans. I’ll think to myself, “Oh these beans are soo good.” Not, “you know what these beans need, some bacon.”
The next thing I did to give the black beans a creamy texture. I puréed about a third of the sautéed beans and onions to a somewhat smooth consistency, then added the purée back to the skillet with the beans. This emulsion made the beans into a spread preventing any loose beans from slipping out of the tacos. They are similar to refried beans but with more texture.
Spicy Winter Squash for Black Bean Tacos
The squash will take the longest to cook so I begin preparing the squash and cook everything else while they roast. I used kabocha squash, but butternut squash or pumpkin are good substitutes. Any winter squash is fine. The squash is where I punched up the flavor with lots of spices and ground chili pepper. Cayenne, cumin, ground coriander, ground garlic and Mexican oregano make up the spice mix. Whenever I roast vegetables and want a garlic note, I often use ground garlic because fresh minced fresh garlic will burn in a 400°F (200°C) oven. Nothing beats fresh garlic, but burnt garlic is very bitter.
Both the beans and the winter squash pair well with chili peppers, but I did not want to overdo it with the heat. Every meal needs a solid foundation to build from and the black beans are the structure from which the taco filling is built. If there is too much competition from the spices and chilies you can’t taste the food. Here, the bean filling and the winter squash do not compete for attention. The spicy winter squash nicely compliments the filling with its natural sweetness and spices. This flavor combination of chili heat with something sweet never ceases to amaze me.
Toppings for Black Bean Tacos
As I mentioned in my post about Fish Tacos, a taco is not a taco if avocados are not in them. I realize there are plenty of traditional tacos, like carnitas without avocado, but I look for any excuse to eat avocados and tacos is one of them. In all seriousness they fit with these tacos. Yet, with all these soft and creamy fillings something fresh to bite into is needed. Cucumber, iceberg lettuce and sliced radish are all great toppings with these tacos and a great way to get more vegetables in your meal. Or, serve them on the side in a salad with a citrus vinaigrette.
If you and your dinner companions eat dairy, I highly recommend using cotija cheese or feta cheese. The briny and salty flavors punch up the earthy flavors of the beans and winter squash. It adds a much-needed bit of acid to make every thing stand out. I could not find cotija, so I used feta cheese and loved it.
If you do not eat dairy, add pickled vegetables like onions or jalapenos to get that salty-briny punch.
The other toppings I believe make this black bean taco so special are peanuts and toasted hulled pumpkin seeds. They give some needed crunch to bite into between all the soft layers of beans and roasted squash and the nuttiness just fits right in.
I started with a purpose use up the beans and kabocha squash but as I progressed my primary focus was to create a meal for vegetarian and vegan diets. Even though my children do not live at home any more, they still inspire me to create meals I believe they would enjoy. Now I have even more inspiration from my growing family with the addition of daughters-in-law. While making these tacos it gave me great pleasure knowing my daughter-in-law and brother-in-law would particularly appreciate these black bean tacos. You don’t have to be a vegetarian or vegan to enjoy this dinner. These tacos are very fulfilling with great of depth of flavor built in. You will not miss the meat.
I do not have a vegan dessert of my own to recommend but try this vegan chocolate cake recipe from Food 52. For all other purposes, Yogurt Panna Cotta with Spiced Figs would pair nicely with these tacos and they can be made ahead. Or if you want a Mexican themed meal serve with Classic Margaritas and Double Coconut Pie.
Black Bean Tacos with Spicy Winter Squash
- 1 1 lb 12 oz / 788 g winter squash like butternut or kabocha
- ½ tsp dried oregano
- ½ tsp ground cumin
- ¼ tsp ground coriander
- ¼ tsp cayenne
- ¼ tsp garlic powder
- ¾ Kosher salt
- 2 TB extra virgin olive oil
- 2 TB extra virgin olive oil
- 6 oz 102 g white onion, minced (about half an onion)
- 2 large cloves of garlic peeled, green germ removed and minced
- 1/2 - 1 tsp dried epazote crumbled
- 1 lb 500 g drained and rinsed cooked black beans, or 2 -15 oz can of black beans drained and rinsed. Reserve some of the bean liquid.
- Kosher salt to taste
Assemble the Tacos
- 8 corn tortillas
- Roasted winter squash
- Black bean spread
- 1 avocado sliced thin
- Cotija Cheese or Feta cheese
- Creme fraiche optional
- Small handful of cilantro minced
- ¼ cup roasted salted peanuts
- 2 TB hulled pumpkin seeds
- Salsa verde
Roast the winter squash
Preheat the oven to 400°F / 200°C
Peel the winter squash and slice into wedges, thicker than 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick.
Place the winter squash in a large bowl and set aside.
In a small bowl mix together Mexican oregano, cumin, coriander, cayenne, garlic powder and Kosher salt until evenly combined.
Drizzle olive oil and spice mix over the prepared squash. Toss the wedges with your clean hands until they are completely coated with olive oil and spice mix.
Place the seasoned squash on a baking sheet and arrange the wedges on their side. Bake in the oven and set the timer for 20 minutes.
Check the squash and turn them over on the other side. Continue to bake until the centers are soft. Depending on the thickness of the squash wedges, determines how how long they need to roast. Mine took a total of 40 minutes, but they were very thick wedges.
Turn down the oven to 350°F / 175°C and remove the squash. Loosely cover and keep warm. If you have a warming oven, keep the squash warm in there.
While the squash is roasting in the oven, cook the black beans. In a medium skillet, turn the heat to medium and heat the extra virgin olive oil. Add the minced onion and cook until soft but not browned. Stir occasionally so the onions do not burn or brown, about 6 - 10 minutes. Halfway through cooking the onions, add the minced garlic and epazote, and stir into the onions.
Once the onions are done, add the cooked black beans and stir to mix, then cook until heated all the way through.
Taste and correct seasoning with more Kosher salt, or epazote if needed.
Turn off the heat and remove about a third of the cooked beans and place in a small bowl, or food processor. Add about 1 -2 tablespoons of reserved bean liquid and mush the beans with a fork, or purée with an immersion blender or food processor until smooth. Add the puréed beans back into the skillet with the black beans and onions. Stir to combine. Turn off the heat and loosely cover to keep warm.
If you need to reheat the beans turn on the heat to medium and add a little extra virgin olive oil. Warm the beans until your desired temperature.
Warm your tortillas in a 350°F (175°C) oven. Stack 4 tortillas and wrap in foil. Repeat with the remaining tortillas. Place the tortillas in the oven and bake until warm for15 minutes. If possible, time it so tortillas and black beans are done at the same time. See blog story for a link about other ways to warm up tortillas.
Assemble the tacos
Place a heaping tablespoon of the beans on a tortilla and spread it into a circle in the center of the tortilla. Place a couple of wedges of the winter squash on the beans. Add one slice of avocado. Garnish with some crumbled feta or cotija cheese, a dollop of creme fraiche, salsa verde, minced cilantro, peanuts and pumpkin seeds.
You will probably have more beans than you need. You can save the beans and make them into black bean spread or dip as an appetizer. Or serve with rice and roasted or sautéed vegetables for a complete vegetarian meal. Or as a side dish with grilled meats.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
Growing up in California I got an early introduction to Mexican Cuisine. My first introduction to Mexican food came from Mom, but was by no means authentic. We all loved Mom’s tacos despite the fact her secret ingredients were McCormick’s spice mix and store-bought crispy taco shells. At some point, she fried fresh tortillas and that is when her tacos were really delicious. Regardless as to how bastardized her tacos were, they caught my attention to learn more. If I’m truly honest, my love for Mexican food really generated from my love for avocados.
As I acquired more experience in the kitchen, it became clearer just how complex and exquisite Mexican cuisine is. All one has to do is analyze a mole sauce to understand the intricacies of this delicious cuisine. The ability to balance and blend layers of spices, nuts, seeds, chilies and cocoa to taste as a single sensation, requires a lot of time, nuance and skill. Mole sauce is the shining star, not one specific ingredient. Bravo Mothers and Sisters of Mexico, I tip my hat.
Years ago, I gave myself the challenge to study and learn how to cook Mexican Cuisine. However, after reading the book and seeing the movie, Like Water for Chocolate (one of my favorites), it occurred to me how much effort is involved preparing Mexican cuisine. As much as I love to cook, the prospect of spending my whole day doing it, lost its appeal. Since then, I felt the weight of this daunting task, so I am taking baby steps.
Several years ago, I started cooking with fresh chili peppers. Either fresh or roasted, green chili peppers have a bright flavor that reminds you of summer even on a blustery cold winter day. I love cooking with fresh chilies, especially in White Chicken Chili. The recipe may have its origin in the US, but it uses techniques found in Mexican cuisine to make the most of the chili flavor. I love the bright, grassy-pepper taste.
Recently, I was looking for a recipe to share that was not too complicated to make. Several of my Mexican food recipes require extensive preparation and multiple recipes to pull it off. Luckily, I made a discovery of a creamy poblano chili sauce. This is a recipe that will give you honest Mexican cuisine flavor without having to spend all day making it. I’ve read, poblano cream sauce originates from an “essential” Mexican food foundation, Poblano Rajas. Rajas means slices in Spanish, and this fundamental dish is composed of slices of roasted poblanos and white onions.
This recipe is from, More Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless. Rick Bayless has done a lot to educate Americans about the qualities of Mexican food. From the first time I watched his PBS TV show, it was apparent how much he loves Mexican cuisine and respects the culture and people. Rick Bayless, Diana Kennedy and Alex Stupak are my current go to references for learning about Mexican food.
My review of Tacos by Alex Stupak
What I love about Poblano Rajas and turning it into a creamy sauce is how easily it fits into modern cuisine and everyday life. Turning vegetables into a silky sauce is a brilliant idea. Roasted poblano chili sautéed with onions and puréed with Crema Mexicana, or crème fraîche, makes a delicious and luxurious sauce without being too rich or heavy. Despite smoke from roasting the poblanos, it is a bright tasting sauce. The poblanos come through distinctly. A perfect accompaniment to spoon over chicken. It’s tempting to add more herbs, like cilantro, but that would mask the poblano chili flavor. For this recipe, less is more.
Three ways to roast a Poblano Chili
The best tasting method is to roast poblano chilies over an open fire on a grill. Place the chilies on the grill and turn them over every few minutes. The goal is to get an even all over char without over cooking the peppers.
Another method is to place a poblano chili directly on a burner of a gas stove. Turn the pepper with tongs, as you would on the grill, to evenly char and blister the poblano on all sides. This method creates a good char like you get from a grill, but you can only roast one pepper at a time.
The third method, is to place the poblano chilies on a sheet pan and roast them under a broiler. The only drawback is, it takes a little longer to get a good even blister around the chilies and can cook the peppers more than desired.
If you want to have great Mexican food without spending all day making it, then Poblano Chili Cream Sauce is a great way to start. This sauce dresses up any grilled meat or fish for a party or weeknight dinner. Next, I am going to try this sauce for breakfast with scrambled eggs and avocado toast. Something tells me I will not be disappointed.
I would love to hear the creative ways you serve Crema Poblano Rajas.
Taste of Mexico: Poblano Chili Cream Sauce with Grilled Chicken
Poblano Chili Cream Sauce
- 1 lb / 453 g fresh poblano chilies about 4 poblanos
- 2 Tbs vegetable oil
- 1 large white onion sliced 1/4 inch
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 3/4 cup / 185 ml creme fraiche or Crema Mexicana**
- 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
- 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts*
- 1/2 - 1 tsp Kosher salt
- 2 Tsp olive oil
- 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- Juice from half a lime or lemon
- 1/2 tsp dried garlic or 2 fresh garlic cloves minced
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
Roast the Poblano chilies
Roast the poblano over an open flame of a grill or stove. Use tongs to turn the poblano peppers over so each side is evenly blistered and charred. You want a good sear over the peppers without over cooking them. The process will take around 5-7 minutes per pepper.
If a grill or gas stove is not available, turn your broiler to high. Place the poblanos on a sheet pan covered in aluminum foil and place under the broiler. Watch the peppers and turn them over to get an even char, about 10-15 minutes total.
Once the poblanos are blistered and blackened, remove from the flame or broiler and cover inside a bowl with a clean kitchen towel. Rest for 10 minutes or until cool.
Remove the skin from the poblanos by peeling it off with your fingers. The skin should easily peel where it was blistered. Remove the stem, core and seeds. If necessary, rinse the stubborn seeds away with running tap water, but only very briefly. You do not want to rinse away the delicious charred flavor.
Slice each pepper into 1/4 inch strips about two inches long. Set aside.
Prepare the chicken
Pound the chicken breast with a meat pounder, or the palm of your hand, to even out the thickness of each breast. Sprinkle each breast on both sides with Kosher salt and set aside.
Mix the olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, lime juice and all the spices in a large bowl until evenly combined. Add the chicken to the marinade and mix with your hands to get an even coating over each chicken breast. Cover the bowl and set aside.
Make the Poblano Cream Sauce
Place a skillet on medium high heat and add the vegetable oil. Before the oil gets to the smoking point add the sliced onion and sauté until lightly browned with some crispiness. About 7 minutes. Stir the onions occasionally so they don't stick to the pan or get too brown in parts.
Add the minced garlic and oregano then stir. When the garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute, stir in the poblano peppers and creme fraiche, or Crema Mexicana.
Cook and stir until the creme fraiche has thickened and evenly coating the vegetables. This should only take a few minutes.
Taste and add salt if needed.
Remove the vegetable mix from the skillet and place in a bowl of a food processor, blender, or high sided bowl if using an immersion blender. Blend the creamy poblano and onions until it becomes a silky-smooth sauce. Add water, a tablespoon at a time, to thin out the sauce if needed.
Once smooth, add the creamy sauce back into the skillet and turn the heat to low. Adjust the seasoning and add water, or creme fraiche, or stock to reach your desired thickness. The water will not dilute the flavor, but in makes it very bright and clean tasting. Add any liquid you are using in small increments to make sure you do not water it down. This sauce has some body to it and not runny.
Grill the Chicken
Heat up a stove top grill pan or outdoor grill. Add the chicken to the pan (or grill) and cook for around 10 - 15 minutes depending on how thick your chicken pieces are and how hot your grill is. For a cross-hatch pattern, place the chicken on the grill at an angle over the rack or pan. After about 2-3 minutes, adjust the chicken at the opposite angle. Cook for 3 more minutes. Turn the chicken over and repeat on the other side. The chicken is done with the juices run clear out of the holes made with a fork. No pink colored meat. You should also feel no resistance from the chicken as the fork goes through the meat.
Putting it all together
Plate the chicken and spread the Poblano cream sauce across the middle of each piece. Pour additional sauce in a container to serve at the table.
Boneless, skinless chicken thighs will work well.
Crema Mexicana is similar to creme fraiche. Sour cream is also a good substitute, but should be thinned with a little heavy cream. To make your own Crema Mexicana heat 2 cups of heavy cream until warm. Do not boil. Pour the cream into an airtight container, like a ball jar with lid, and stir in 1/4 cup buttermilk. Seal the jar and let it steep for 48 hours. You can use after the first 48 hours of fermenting. Store the Crema Mexicana sealed in the refrigerator up to about three weeks.
If using as a condiment, like for tacos, allow the crema to come to room temperature before serving.
Crema Mexican recipe is from Tacos by Alex Stupek
© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.