How to Flavor Foods: Mexican Flavors

February 05, 2016

mexican flavors

Who doesn’t LOVE Mexican flavors?

Ever since I moved to California, I have been OBSESSED with the bold, spicy, and satisfying flavors. There’s not one week that goes by that I don’t make some sort of taco something. It’s DELICIOUS, easy and healthy. I won’t go into more complex Mexican (moles, salsas, etc), because the point is learning how to do this on a weeknight.

So what’s in Mexican flavors?

Chili powder 

Chili powder is a blend of spices that involves chile peppers and other seasonings such as garlic powder, oregano, etc. You can make your own, but if you don’t, here’s how to pick a good one.

Cumin 

Cumin’s earthy, nutty flavors is a marriage made in heaven when combined with chili powder.

Lime

Because a squeeze of lime brings out the flavors of everything. It’s called acid, and it makes flavors pop.

Mexican Oregano

It’s worth seeking out Mexican rather than Mediterranean oregano. Here’s the difference between the two.

Salsa 

You can find all sorts of salsas at the store. I try to buy mine fresh in the refrigerated section of the grocery store. From pico de gallo for dipping chips, to tomatillo salsa for braising meats or adding serious boosts of flavors to bowls, tacos, fajitas.

Dried Chiles 

Guajillo, ancho, chipotles, chile de arbol… there’s a plethora of dried chiles that roasted and blended into salsas, tacos, etc make for SO much flavor. But this is a bit more involved I won’t go into it here.

Jalapenos, Serranos 

Tomatoes

Garlic, White Onion 

Now THROW AWAY your taco seasoning. Seriously, go to your pantry and put that little flavorless pouch in the garbage. I’m going to show you how to flavor Mexican food the right way.

Here’s how to mix and match flavors, and make delicious food from scratch taste fabulous with less effort.

Tacos

My formula for weeknight tacos is always the same.

  • 1 pound of meat (fish cut up in strips) ground chicken, beef or even tofu or black beans)
  • 2 tbsp of chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2 cups of salsa of choice
  • 1/2 chopped onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic when I’m not feeling lazy.

Cook the onion 5-7 minutes until very soft. Add the garlic, if using. Throw in your meat and spices and cook on medium heat until no longer pink. Pour in the salsa and bake 30-40 minutes in a 350 oven. You can cook it on low heat on the stovetop too, but I find that baking deepens the flavor.

Serve with cabbage slaw and chipotle yogurt. It’s also delicious with a pile of guacamole. You can turn this into a taco or a taco bowl if you’re not eating tortillas.

Fajitas

1 pound of meat (fish in strips, chicken or sirloin, flat-iron or other beef cut the same way. You could use seitan strips in here as well)

  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 2 cloves of garlic if you’re feeling like mincing it

Marinade for 30 minutes to overnight, though don’t shoot for more than 30 minutes if you’re using fish.

Heat up a saute or cast-iron pan for 2-3 minutes on medium high heat. Add a tbsp of oil and let heat up 15 seconds. Place a handful of meat without crowding the pan and cook 3-4 minutes per batch.

You can serve fajitas with cabbage slaw and chipotle sauce (recipe linked above.) Or you can cut up a red onion into half moons and your choice of sliced red/yellow or green peppers, as well as mushrooms, asparagus, etc. Cook them up in the same manner of your meat (or use all veggies.) The key in Mexican cooking for veggies is to use high heat and short cooking times.

You can serve these in flour or corn tortillas, or straight on a bed of veggies with guac, salsa, etc.

The good news about mexican flavors is that they’re easy to put together.

Chili powder and cumin are your best friends. You can combine tomatoes, white onion, cilantro and lime to make a salsa.

There’s MUCH MORE to Mexican food. But you can make so many satisfying combos with the recipes above that I will leave you to practice and ENJOY these.

 

 

 

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