I really miss Mexican food. To me, Mexican food is actually an American food staple, which may make it seem less authentic to some. But looking at my favorite Mexican restaurants online, they all profess authentic Mexican fare, which is a bit of a relief. After all that Mexican food all those years it is good to know that this unique gastronomic genre has not been bastardized by the American palate.
Chicago has a large Mexican population and a healthy variety of Mexican restaurants: From small local chains to small independent eateries to the not so hot big national chains. I miss fast, cheap and yummy Pepe’s Tacos, a Chicago institution. I miss El Jardin’s Margaritas. I miss Pancho Pistola’s warm and friendly atmosphere. And, I miss the hoity toity upscale Mexican Hat Dance, which closed ages ago.
On this walk, I’d like to start at the beginning – with starters and then move on to the soup course. Typically the first course at a Mexican restaurant is a nice healthy batch of salsa and endless bowls of corn chips. Sometimes, that is all I wanted was some salsa, chips and a nice salty Margarita.
I no longer make “my” salsa. I taught Deborah, our housekeeper, how to make it when we first moved here four years ago and she has been making it since. Simply because hers tastes so much better than mine.
The secret in her salsa is the time and care she takes in chopping the ingredients. She is so fastidious cutting piece by piece so the ingredients turn out all the same size. I on the other hand just hack away as fast as I can to get it done. Always rushing. To make this salsa, you need to take your sweet time and chop as precisely as Deborah does.
I don’t even know if there is a name for how she chops the coriander (cilantro). The only way I can describe it is she cuts it into teeny tiny bits of confetti that seems to decorate the salsa. And because it is chopped so small, it is so evenly distributed, you get the full freshness of the coriander in every bite.
You must use salt. I typically try to cut salt out or down to the bare minimum for most non-baked recipes. For all the flavors to meld and bring out the juiciness of the tomatoes, you need salt. If it tastes a bit off or bland, you need a pinch more salt.
Deborah’s Salsa Recipe
1 200 g tub (about 250 ml or 1 cup) rosa tomatoes or your favorite tomato chopped to yield about 250 ml (1 cup)
1/3 of a 30 g container of fresh coriander stems removed and minced to a dust. Yes until it resembles dust.
2 tablespoons minced onion
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
Salt, pepper, hot sauce to taste
Combine all ingredients except salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste.
Taste and add salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste.
Sever with corn chips, homemade guacamole and a Margarita! If you are really in the mood for a Mexican Fiesta, make the Mexico City Chicken Soup!!