Mexican kosher cooking turns dinner into a fiesta!
Zipporah Malka Heller and Shifrah Devorah Witt love ethnic food. When the mother/daughter team started keeping kosher about 17 years ago, they stopped eating most of their meals in restaurants and learned how to cook their favourite dishes themselves. Their first cookbook was The Complete Asian Kosher Cookbook. They recently co-authored their second cookbook, The Best of Mexican Kosher Cooking, with over 90 recipes, all accompanied by full-colour photos.
“Every time we eat a Mexican meal, we are magically transported to feeling like we are on vacation, or at a fiesta, a party. Our goal was to create dishes that are both authentic in taste but can be made easily by anyone who wants to step into the kitchen. You don’t have to be a master chef to create food that will make your guests think you are one.”
Mexican Kosher Cooking offers a wide selection of authentic Mexican recipes, including nachos, several salsa recipes, guacamole, enchiladas, fajitas, burritos, chimichangas, tacos and tostadas. You’ll find 7-Layer Bean Dip, Mexican Chicken Wings with Dipping Sauce, Tortilla Soup, Crazy Good Chicken Salad, Refried Beans and Cheese, Chili Rellenos, Grilled Fish Soft Tacos, Fish Veracruz, Arroz con Pollo, Chili con Carne, Mexican Rice, and Refried Beans. Desserts and beverages include Mexican Wedding Cookies, Margarita Ice Cream, Sangria and Mexican Iced Coffee.
The authors provide a list of basic ingredients, herbs and spices to keep in your pantry, refrigerator and freezer to help you prepare a quick Mexican meal when the mood strikes. They explain the difference in fresh chili varieties: Anaheim chilis are mild, Jalapeno are hotter than the bottled, Serrano are a bit hotter than Anaheim, and Habanero are for the fearless!
• Make sure you use disposable plastic gloves to cover your hands while you are working with chili peppers. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap after you are done and refrain from touching your eyes or any other sensitive area.
• Any recipe that is called spicy or has peppers in it can also be delicious without the peppers. Alternatively, feel free to add them to any recipe you wish. Start out mild and work your way up.
• If you get a pepper that is too hot, the way to neutralize the heat is with bread, not water.
The mother/daughter team lived in California for 23 years before moving to Jerusalem in 2004. They now share a multi-generation home close to the shuk (market) Machne Yehuda, with its array of seasonal produce. When they first came to Jerusalem, there were no Mexican restaurants and few Mexican products, but new products continue to arrive, making their cookbook project much easier. Their website is www.mexicankoshercooking.com.
It’s easy to turn a simple dinner, Shabbat meal or holiday celebration into a full-fledged fiesta. So bring some sunshine and heat into the cold days of winter ahead with The Best of Mexican Kosher Cooking. Enjoy!
MEXICAN FISH CAKES
These make a wonderful addition to your Chanukah repertoire but are great all year long.
1 (20-oz.) frozen gefilte fish roll, defrosted
4 sundried tomatoes that have been soaked for an hour in warm water, drained, squeezed dry, and minced
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
4 large cloves garlic, minced
3 eggs, beaten
5 tbsp. flour
3 green onions, chopped
4 tbsp. canola oil for frying
Defrost fish roll and mash into a smooth consistency in a large bowl.
Add all ingredients except oil to the gefilte fish mixture and mix thoroughly. Shape into patties 3 inches wide. (Thin patties will cook faster and go farther, but you can make them any size you like.)
Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add fish cakes and fry until brown on both sides.
Remove to a platter covered with paper towel to drain excess oil. Great hot or at room temperature. Serves 10-12 as an appetizer.
Accompaniments: Cumin and Garlic Dip or Chipotle Mayonnaise Dip (below)
CUMIN AND GARLIC DIP
1/4 cup olive oil or mayonnaise
1/8-1/4 tsp. cumin
pinch of salt
1 clove fresh garlic, minced (or 1/8 tsp garlic powder)
1/8 tsp. dried red pepper
Mix all ingredients and serve. If using mayonnaise, keep the dip in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve. If using olive oil, serve it at room temperature.
CHIPOTLE MAYONNAISE DIP
Combine 1/2 cup low-fat mayonnaise and 1/2 tsp. chipotle chili pepper. Chill for 15 minutes. (Norene’s Note: No chipotle chili pepper? Substitute smoked paprika and a pinch of chili powder.)
ARROZ CON POLLO (CHICKEN AND RICE)
The authors love this as a Shabbat dish. Arroz con Pollo is great by itself, or you can add chopped lettuce, pareve sour cream, guacamole and tortillas to your table to have with it. Now you have another variation of chicken burritos!
1/4 cup olive oil
3 1/2 lb. chicken, cut into serving pieces (we use thighs)
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 onions, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped fine
6 tomatoes, diced
2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. dried red chili pepper or 1 tsp. bottled jalapenos (optional)
2 cups chicken broth, fresh, canned or pareve
1 cup white rice
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
Heat oven to 400. Heat oil in large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add olive oil. Season chicken with pepper. Add the chicken to the oil and brown on all sides. Remove chicken from pan. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the oil.
Fry onions over medium-low heat until they are translucent, 3-5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add tomatoes. Turn heat off. Sprinkle cumin and (optional) chilis over tomatoes. Stir.
In a large stovetop pot that can be used in the oven, add 2 cups chicken broth. Bring to a boil. Stir in the rice and cilantro. Bring to a boil again. Stir again and add the tomato, garlic and onion mixture. Lay the chicken over the rice. Cover.
Bake in preheated oven for 35-45 minutes until chicken is no longer pink and the rice is fully cooked. Check for readiness by cutting the chicken next to the bone. If the juices run clear and the meat around the bone is not pink, it is most likely ready. Serves 4-6 as an entrée and 6-8 as a burrito filling.
These are quick and easy to prepare and they are even quicker to disappear from your table.
3/4 cup margarine
2 cups sugar
3 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tbsp. cinnamon
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 cup flour
1 cup coarsely chopped toasted almonds (optional)
Preheat oven to 350. Combine the first four ingredients (margarine, sugar, eggs and vanilla) and mix thoroughly with an electric mixer.
Add remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly again. This batter will be thick.
Spoon the batter into a baking dish and bake for 40 to 50 minutes. You can tell when brownies are done when they crack in the centre and/or a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Serves 6 to 8.
Norene Gilletz is a kosher cookbook author, food writer, culinary consultant, spokesperson, cooking instructor, lecturer and editor.