World: Mexican Fiesta!

Heat up the January chill with a little heat from the sunny shores of Los Cabos, Mexico

On a recent trip to the One&Only Palmilla resort in Los Cabos, Mexico, we were treated to a cooking lesson, involving some of the classic favourites of Mexican cuisine. Our host and instructor, executive chef Larbi Dahrouch, is known for mixing his Mediterranean roots with the cuisine of the country in which he is cooking. After leaving France more than three decades ago, Dahrouch landed in Washington, where he cooked at the infamous Watergate hotel and, on occasion, for dignitaries at the Canadian Embassy. He then went south, and is currently manning the kitchen for Agua, on of the resorts two haute cuisine restaurants. For more on the One&Only Palmilla.

Recipes for: Fresh Tomato Salsa, Guacamole and Red Snapper Ceviche

The secret to making these recipes, according to Dahrouch, is to prepare all the ingredients first, then simply use these recipe lists as a starting guide but feel free to add more or less of any of the ingredients to suit your palette. Lime juice is also another secret to Mexican cuisine — do not use lemon juice as a substitute.

Fresh Tomato Salsa

Keep in mind that the tomato should be the main ingredient, and not be over-powered by the other ingredients. This salsa can also be used to add a kick and texture to other recipes, such as the ceviche.

2 tomatoes, diced

2-3 tablespoons white or Vidalia onion, diced

1/2 Serrano pepper (or 1/2 small jalapeno, if you prefer more heat), finely diced

1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, finely chopped
Juice of 1 lime

A splash of olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Mix together. Serve with nacho chips.

Guacamole vivguac.jpg

With this recipe, plan on using half an avocado per person if it’s your only appetizer/dip. If it accompanies other appetizers or dip, 3 avocadoes should be a good starting point. Combine the other ingredients according to the number of avocadoes used. For example, 1 tbsp of diced white or red onion per ½ avocado.

White or Red onion
Coriander, finely chopped

Lime juice, to taste

Tomato, diced (optional)

Serrano pepper, to taste, or optional if you don’t want heat

Salt and pepper to taste

Mash avocado with a fork to your desired guacamole consistency, then add the rest of the ingredients to taste, and combine. Serve with nacho chips.

Chef’s tip #1: If you like a hint of garlic, rather than putting in fresh crushed garlic directly into your mix, try crushing one clove and adding it to a tablespoon or two of olive oil. Stir it in and let sit for a few moments, then strain garlic out, and use the olive oil to add the flavour. This will work in all three of these recipes.

Red Snapper Ceviche
In this recipe, as in many ceviche recipes, the lime juice literally “cooks” the fish.

1 red snapper filet, chopped

Juice from enough limes to completely cover the chopped fish

Soak the fish in the lime juice, 45 minutes or longer in the refrigerator. When ready, most of the juice should be absorbed by the fish.

When ready, add:

1 tsp green olives

1 tbsp fresh orange juice

1 tsp coriander

1 tbsp fresh tomato salsa or just diced tomato

a splash of olive oil, or the garlic olive oil

juice of 2 limes

pinch of oregano

salt and pepper, to taste

Chef’s tip #2: Rather that using flour tortillas to create a taco, try jicama instead. This Mexican turnip-like vegetable has a sweet and mild flavour, and crunchy texture, similar to that of an apple. After peeling, slice jicama into paper-thin rounds. Put a teaspoon of ceviche in each round and wrap for a healthier mini taco. Jicama can also be slivered or cubed and used to dip salsa or guacamole rather than nacho chips.

– Vivian Vassos