May 5th, a.k.a. Cinco de Mayo, is an important milestone in Mexican history, and people here, in the US are more than happy to celebrate the historic day and the Mexican culture with authentic menus and festive cocktails (even if they often don’t know the real story behind it!). But to be fair, I’ve been told that, despite the growing Cinco de Mayo festivities in the US, it apparently isn’t a big deal in Mexico.
For us, it’s just another excuse to enjoy our favorite Mexican food! Here are some simply delicioso Mexican recipes I created especially for Cinco de Mayo….
Melon Ball Sangria
(Wine Drink with Melons)
Sangria is a traditional wine punch that turns a jug of robust wine and fresh seasonal fruits into a festive drink. You can use a variety of fruits such as apples, pears, different types of berries and all kinds of citrus fruits. I made my signature sangria with cantaloupe or melon! For a festive look, I carved little balls out of the melon using a melon baller.
The result is a pleasant full-bodied drink, with a rich and mellow character. The alcohol brings out the flavors of the wine and the fruit and makes it more of a deep authentic sangria. The melon balls, being soft and porus, drink up a lot of the wine as they float in it and offer a pleasant surprise as you pop them in your mouth!
Here’s to Cinco de Mayo!
Makes 4-6 glasses
1 bottle of red wine, like Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir
1/4 cup simple syrup
1/4 cup brandy
1/4 cup Limoncello or lemon juice
1/4 cup cups orange liqueur, such as Cointreau or Triple Sec
1 cantaloupe, halved and seeds removed
1 lemon, zested
Combine the red wine with simple syrup, brandy and the liqueur in a glass pitcher.
Using a melon baller, scoop out balls of cantaloupe and add to the wine mixture. (If you don’t have a melon baller, just cut the melon into 1 inch cubes)
Add the lemon zest to the wine mixture and stir gently. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or upto 3 days. Divide between wine glasses and serve chilled.
Caliente Shrimp Tacos with Tomato & Avocado Salsa
(Soft Tacos with Spicy Grilled Shrimp and Salsa)
Here’s a refreshing change of pace from the usual beef, chicken or fish tacos. They are super easy to make and offer a light, fresh combination of flavors and textures. I like to marinate the shrimp in a hot and spicy marinade for just a little bit before grilling them. The tomato and avocado salsa is simply a chunkier version of the regular guacomole. It adds a nice, cool contrast to the heat from the shrimp.
Try making my shrimp tacos tonite. It’s a simple and tasty way to spice up your Mexican night!
Makes 8-10 tacos
½ lb large shrimp (size 30-40 count), peeled and deveined, tail removed
1 pack (8-10) flour tortillas
iceberg lettuce, shredded
shredded cheese, preferably with taco seasonings like Sargento
1 jalepeno pepper, roughly chopped, seeds optional (I used the seeds, but discard seeds of you don’t like it to be too spicy)
1 large or 2 small garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 tbsp paprika
1 tsp red chilli powder/chipotle chilli powder/cayenne pepper
fresh ground black pepper
½ lime, zested and juiced
2-3 tablespoon olive oil
Tomato & Avocado Salsa
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1 jalapeno, finely chopped, seeds optional
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 avocado, peeled, seeded, and cut into chunks
1 medium tomato, diced
fresh ground black pepper
¼ cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
½ lime, juiced
For the marinade, combine all the ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Transfer into a bowl and add the shrimp. Toss to coat and marinate the shrimp for 15 mins to an hour.
In the meantime prepare the salsa by combining all the ingredients for it together, except the lime juice and gently mixing them so that the flavors blend in. Finally squeeze the lime juice evenly over the salsa and chill in the refrigerator.
Heat a non-stick pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Grill the shrimp until translucent, about 2-3 mins on each side. Remove and chop the shrimp into chunks.
Warm tortillas on another flat pan about 20 seconds per side or in the microwave for 15 secs each, Lay the shredded lettuce, Spoon the salsa on it, then top with the chopped shrimp and sprinkle some shredded cheese on top.
Mango Crema Catlana
Flan or caramel custard, is one of the most traditional sweet dish that dominates desserts in Hispanic cuisines— from Spain and Portugal to Cuba and Puerto Rico, all the way to Mexico and South America. It’s a delicate, sweet milk-egg custard, balanced by the nutty bitter-sweet caramel on the bottom. To give this dessert an extra special Mexican twist, I added purée of fresh mangoes that are in season now.
Satisfy your sweet tooth this Cinco de Mayo with a delightful, creamy mango flan!
Makes 6 ramekins
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1 ½ cups whole, reduced or low fat milk
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup fresh mango puree (1 small mango, peeled, pitted, and puréed in a food processor)
To make the caramel bottom, combine the sugar and water in a heavy-bottomed pot or a saucepan. Place over medium-high heat and cook until the sugar begins to melt. Swirl the pan over the heat until the syrup darkens to a medium amber color, about 10 minutes; don’t stir with a spoon.
Meanwhile, set 6 ramekins or shallow 1 cup sized bowls nearby. When the caramel is cooked, quickly pour about 1/4 cup caramel into each ramekin and swirl to coat the sides. Set aside to cool.
Preheat the oven to 300 deg F. Bring a kettle of water to a boil for the water bath and keep it hot.
In another saucepan, bring the milk with vanilla extract to a brief simmer, stirring occasionally. Take care not to let it come to a full boil to prevent it from spilling over.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, cream together the whole eggs with the sugar. Whisk until the mixture is pale yellow and thick. Temper the egg mixture by gradually whisking in the hot milk mixture in batches; don’t add it too quickly or the eggs will cook. Finally whisk in the mango purée until smooth. Pass the mixture through a strainer to ensure that the flan will be perfectly smooth.
Pour the custard into the caramel-lined ramekins and arrange in a hot water bath. To create the water bath: pour the hot water into a roasting pan to come halfway up the side of the mold; be careful not get water into the custard.
Bake in the center of the oven until the custard is dry and is set in the center, 60 to 65 minutes. Remove from the oven and let the flan cool in the water bath, then refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight and upto 24 hours.
When you are ready to serve, run a knife around the inside of the mold to loosen the flan. Place a dessert plate on top of the ramekin and invert to pop out the flan.
*A special thanks to my friend, Fatema, for reminding me about the holiday and suggesting a post about it on Signature Concoctions!