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Celebrate Cinco de Mayo with some tasty Mexican recipes

It is time for celebration …Cinco de Mayo is here. The day is a double celebration for me since it is also my birthday. When asked for my birth date throughout the year at the doctor’s office, pharmacy or wherever, Cinco de Mayo is quite often the topic of conversation.

The day celebrates Mexico’s victory over France at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. The day is sometimes thought as being Mexico’s Independence Day, which it is not. Mexico’s independence from Spain is celebrated on Sept. 16.

What I find interesting is that it is believed the day is celebrated with more gusto here in the United States than in its native country, although it is a big celebration in Puebla. Here, it has become a celebration of Mexican heritage, culture and of course, food and drink; like how we recognize Irish culture on St. Patrick’s Day.

May 5 is a day on which many prepare Mexican-inspired fare for a party, and a batch of margaritas to wash it all down. This year, since it falls on a weekend, the celebration can start early! To help you make this year’s fiesta unique and mouth-watering, the party-perfect recipes below will do the trick.

For those who wish to go out and enjoy Mexican food and have some fun, restaurants, and not only Mexican ones, are planning festivities and menus that go beyond guacamole, chips and margaritas.

This title of an article ( on caught my attention: “Sorry Italian food lovers. America is about to have a new favorite ethnic food.”

It states, “According to Datassential, a Chicago-based market research firm, millennials (ages 27 to 42) rank Mexican food as their favorite ethnic cuisine over Italian, and Gen Z (ages 8 to 23) agrees, with Chinese in second and Italian in third.”

It is not true that all Mexican cuisine is very spicy and hot. I can attest to that, being very sensitive to both. The approach with any spice is to carefully add it to allow the flavors of the proteins and vegetables to shine.

Mexican food has evolved over the centuries with many influences, especially from the Aztec and Mayan civilizations. Mexico’s influence on the American food scene cannot be denied.

Tex-Mex is what many Americans believe authentic Mexican cuisine is because that’s what they have experienced in many chain restaurants, the usual suspects, tacos, fajitas and burritos. And yet, the cuisine goes way beyond these well-known delights.

My cooking inspiration comes from blogs, food manufacturers’ websites and, of course, cookbooks.

To help in my search for a Mexican dish or two to prepare, I perused my collection and selected “The Best Mexican Recipes: Kitchen-Tested Recipes Put the Real Flavors of Mexico Within Reach” by the editors of America’s Test Kitchen (2015, $29.99).

The book tells the story of Mexican cooking, considering the home kitchen and American supermarkets. What I found useful is the title’s recipes that include Mexico’s regional dishes, highlighting the ingredients from the varied climate and topography of the country.

For example, there are spicy fish preparations of the Yucatan as well as more rustic dishes from the north and complex moles of Puebla and Oaxaca. Don’t fret, in addition to the authentic dishes you probably haven’t seen in restaurants, there are many recipes that have been a part of what most think of as Mexican cuisine.

The introduction lists, and shows, the types of fresh and dried chilies, describes their appearance and flavor, provides substitutions and how to prepare them. The use of corn in its many forms (fresh corn, corn husks, corn meal, masa), a staple ingredient in Mexican cooking, is discussed.

How to use herbs, spices, fruits and vegetables plus other ingredients in Mexican cooking is explained. In the “Building Blocks of Mexican Cooking” pages, tips such as making sauces, using marinades and rubs, cooking with tortillas and finishing and serving are helpful in preparing the recipes.

This Cinco de Mayo, why not recreate some of your favorite Mexican dishes at home, and while you’re at it expand your repertoire to include a little-known authentic and tantalizing dish you rarely see north of the border. Check out these recipes from the book to help prepare your Cinco de Mayo celebration.

For the recipe for beef taco salad, visit

Seared Shrimp With Tomatoes and Avocado

Serves 4


1 pound tomatoes, cored, seeded and cut into ½-inch pieces

6 scallions, white and green parts separated and sliced thin

¼ cup minced fresh cilantro

3 garlic cloves, minced

1-2 teaspoons minced canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce

Salt and pepper

1 ½ pounds extra-large shrimp (21 to 25 per pound), peeled and deveined

1/8 teaspoon sugar

2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided

1 tablespoon lime juice, plus lime wedges for serving

1 avocado, halved, pitted, and diced


Toss tomatoes, scallion whites, cilantro, garlic, chipotle and ¾ teaspoon salt together in a bowl. In a separate bowl, toss shrimp with sugar, ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in 12-inch skillet over high heat until just smoking. Add half of shrimp to pan in single layer and cook, without moving them, until spotty brown on 1 side, about 1 minute. Transfer shrimp to large bowl (they will be underdone).

Repeat with remaining 1 tablespoon oil and remaining shrimp.

Return now-empty skillet to high heat, add tomato mixture and lime juice and cook until tomatoes are slightly softened, about 1 minute. Stir in shrimp along with any accumulated juices and cook until shrimp are cooked through and hot, about 1 minute. Transfer shrimp to large platter and sprinkle with avocado and scallion greens. Serve with lime wedges.

Serve Shrimp and Lime Ceviche as an appetizer with crunchy tortilla chips or use as a topping for tostadas. (Courtesy of America's Test Kitchen)
Serve Shrimp and Lime Ceviche as an appetizer with crunchy tortilla chips or use as a topping for tostadas. (Courtesy of America’s Test Kitchen)

Shrimp and Lime Ceviche

Serves 6


1 tomato, cored, seeded, and chopped fine

½ cup lemon juice (3 lemons)

1 jalapeño chile, stemmed, seeded and minced

1 teaspoon grated lime zest plus ½ cup juice (4 limes)

1 garlic clove, minced

Salt and pepper

1 pound extra-large shrimp (21 to 25 per pound), peeled, deveined, tails removed, and halved lengthwise

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

4 scallions, sliced thin

3 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro

½ teaspoon sugar


Combine tomato, lemon juice, jalapeño, lime zest and juice, garlic and ½ teaspoon salt in medium bowl. Stir in shrimp, cover and refrigerate until shrimp are firm and opaque throughout, 45 minutes to 1 hour, stirring halfway through refrigerating.

Drain shrimp mixture in colander, leaving shrimp slightly wet, and transfer to serving bowl. Stir in oil, scallions, cilantro and sugar. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

Although not a traditional Mexican dish, the recipe for 7-Layer Dip uses many flavors and ingredients to create a party-worthy appetizer. (Courtesy of America's Test Kitchen)
Although not a traditional Mexican dish, the recipe for 7-Layer Dip uses many flavors and ingredients to create a party-worthy appetizer. (Courtesy of America’s Test Kitchen)

7-Layer Dip

Serves 8-10


4 large tomatoes, cored, seeded and chopped fine

6 scallions (2 minced; 4, green parts only, sliced thin)

2 jalapeño chiles, stemmed, seeded and minced

3 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro

2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons lime juice (2 limes)


1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained but not rinsed

2 garlic cloves, minced

¾ teaspoon chili powder

1 pound pepper Jack cheese, shredded (4 cups)

1½ cups sour cream

1 recipe Chunky Guacamole (recipe below)


Combine tomatoes, minced scallions, jalapeños, cilantro, 2 tablespoons lime juice and ⅛ teaspoon salt in bowl. Let sit until tomatoes begin to soften, about 30 minutes. Drain mixture, discard liquid and return to bowl.

Meanwhile, pulse beans, garlic, chili powder, remaining 2 teaspoons lime juice and ⅛ teaspoon salt in food processor to coarse paste, about 15 pulses. Spread bean mixture evenly in 8-inch square baking dish or 1-quart glass bowl.

In a clean, dry food processor bowl, pulse 2½ cups pepper jack and sour cream until smooth, about 15 pulses. Spread pepper jack–sour cream mixture evenly over bean layer. Top evenly with remaining 1½ cups pepper jack, followed by guacamole and, finally, drained tomato mixture. (Dip can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours; bring to room temperature before serving.) Sprinkle with sliced scallion greens before serving. Serve with tortilla chips.

Chunky Guacamole

Makes about 3 cups


3 ripe avocados

¼ cup minced fresh cilantro

1 jalapeno chile, stemmed, seeded and minced

2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion

2 tablespoons lime juice

2 garlic cloves, minced


½ teaspoon ground cumin


Halve 1 avocado, remove pit and scoop flesh into medium bowl. All cilantro, jalapeno, onion, lime juice, garlic, 3/4 teaspoon salt and cumin and mash with potato masher (or fork) until mostly smooth.

Halve, pit and dice remaining 2 avocados. Add cubes to bowl with mashed avocado mixture and gently mash until mixture is well combined but still coarse. (Guacamole can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours with plastic wrap pressed directly against its surface). Season with salt before serving.

Corn and Black Bean Tortilla Tart

Serves 4-6


¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

2½ cups fresh or thawed frozen corn

2 large plum tomatoes, cored and cut into ¼-inch pieces

4 scallions, sliced thin

2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro

1 teaspoon lime juice

Salt and pepper

1 onion, chopped fine

1 jalapeño chile, stemmed, seeded, and minced

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed

¾ cup vegetable broth

4 (10-inch) flour tortillas

1 ½ cups cheddar cheese, shredded

½ cup queso fresco, crumbled


Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add corn and cook, stirring occasionally, until kernels begin to brown and pop, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to large bowl and let cool slightly. Stir in tomatoes, scallions, 1 tablespoon cilantro, and lime juice and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Wipe skillet clean with paper towels. Add 1 tablespoon oil and onion to skillet and cook over medium heat until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in jalapeño, garlic and cumin and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in beans and broth and cook until liquid has nearly evaporated, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer mixture to large bowl and mash beans with potato masher until mostly smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Line rimless or inverted baking sheet with parchment paper. Lightly brush both sides of tortillas with remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Place 1 tortilla on prepared sheet. Spread one-quarter of mashed beans over top, leaving ½ inch border around edge. Sprinkle with one-quarter of corn mixture, one-quarter of cheddar, and one-quarter of queso fresco. Repeat with remaining tortillas, beans, corn, cheddar and queso fresco to make layered tart.

Bake tart until cheese is melted and slightly brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool on sheet for 5 minutes, then slide onto cutting board using parchment; discard parchment. Sprinkle remaining 1 tablespoon cilantro over top. Cut into wedges and serve.

Recipes courtesy of America’s Test Kitchen

Stephen Fries is professor emeritus and former coordinator of the Hospitality Management Programs at Gateway Community College in New Haven, Conn. He has been a food and culinary travel columnist for the past 16 years and is co-founder of and host of “Worth Tasting,” a culinary walking tour of downtown New Haven. He is a board member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals. Email him at For more, go to

Source: Berkshire mont

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