A Mexican Fiesta

As many of my readers know, I grew up in the south, Arkansas to be exact. Because of that, I have been eating Mexican food (Tex Mex, that is) from as early as I can remember. We used to have a great restaurant in my hometown that originally had a simple dirt floor but served the freshest salsa and the most delicious cheese enchiladas and chili con queso that I have ever tasted. It’s heartening for me to see that south of the border cuisine has caught on and that now even the tiniest towns in our country seem to have one or two Mexican restaurants. I’ve collected a few good recipes over the years and would like to share two of them today, just in time for Super Bowl parties.

The first was given to me by someone I worked with in the language lab at the university. Here’s his recipe for Salsa Picante:

½ cup chopped onion,
1 cup chopped fresh tomato,
½ cup chopped Anaheim chilies (or bell pepper),
1 or 2 jalapeños, seeded and chopped,
2 Tab. cider vinegar (or lime juice),
pinch of salt,
2 Tab. oil,
1 teas. sugar, and
chopped cilantro
Several variations can be made using this basic recipe. Very often I add one or two chopped avocados to the mixture. This dish can then be served as a dip with corn chips, as a topping on tacos or burritos, as a side dish, or even as a salad dressing.

My sons once gave me a Mexican Cooking Class Cookbook which has quite a few good recipes in it. One of our favorites which I have adapted and simplified is called Stacked Enchiladas.

For this dish you first need to make a Red Chili Sauce:
Put 1/4 cup oil in a saucepan and cook about ½ cup of minced onion.
Add 2 Tab. flour and cook about one minute.
Put in 1/4 cup chili powder,
1 8-oz. can of tomato sauce,
1/2 teas. ground or whole cumin,
fresh minced garlic or garlic powder to taste, and
1 1/2 c. water. Cook for about 10 minutes till the flavors blend.

Then it's time to make the filling which could include meat or be vegetarian. I like to have a few cans of no-fat refried beans on hand which makes this a super quick meal.

Cook ½ pound of ground beef (chicken or refried beans) in a saucepan with a tablespoon of oil. Add ½ cup chopped onion, a pinch of salt, 1 clove minced garlic (or garlic powder), and about ¼ cup of the red chili sauce to the mixture. Finally, cook corn tortillas in a small amount of oil until limp. Drain on paper towels.

Now you are ready to assemble the enchiladas. Dip the cooked tortillas into the chili sauce to coat both sides. Place in an over-proof casserole, top with a small amount of the meat or bean mixture, topping with some cheddar cheese and sliced black olives. Then repeat the procedure, stacking each tortilla with one or two more layers. Cover with remaining chili sauce and sprinkle with more shredded cheese. Broil in the oven until the cheese is melted, about 5 minutes. Serve with shredded lettuce.

¡Buen provecho! And, by the way, I couldn't care less who wins the Super Bowl! ;)

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