Four Insider Secrets That Will Make Your Mexican Meal
I cook during my travels every chance I get. It’s my way of working the trip into the very fiber of my being. On my Cabo Mexico vacation, I enrolled in CookinCabo’s “Mexican Swine & Dine” class. The “CookinCabo” school (part of a larger extended family "Cookin" franchise in various Mexican vacation towns) is run by the delightful Radilla father-son team.
The cooking school is held in an orderly middle class neighborhood where the houses are painted in an energetic kaleidoscope of tropical colors—an oasis of reality in the starkly bifurcated and ceaselessly vibrating Cabo tourist world. Issi, the son and professionally trained chef, led the class in the converted first floor of his father’s house. Here are four imaginative ways to add some Mexican flare to your cooking repertoire.
1. Expanding the Vegetable Repertoire
One of my favorite dishes was creamy poblano slices. After the cream and cheese lulls your taste buds into a state of bliss, the heat of the peppers snaps your mouth to attention.
As is with many cooking classes, the actual recipe deviates from the printed recipe provided at the end of the class—you can’t keep a chef from innovating. The dish we actually made is a little closer to the Food network recipe by Marcela Valladolid from the show Mexican Made Easy. The creamy poblano slices would make a hearty meal over grains for my vegetarian daughter.
Here's a picture of the creamy poblano slices Issi made for us while we were busy drinking our margaritas.
2. Jazzing Up a Traditional Margarita
It’s the little tricks you learn that make cooking classes worthwhile. Take Issi’s margarita. His recipe is standard: ½ oz. lime juice, ½ oz. simple syrup, 1 oz. triple sec, 1 oz. tequila.
But Issi zips it up in two ways.
First, instead of the traditional salt rim, he coats the glass edge with chamoy sauce (a hot sweet red colored Mexican condiment made of fruit and chilies), and then dips it in Tajin spice (a mix of chili peppers, lime and salt).
Second, Issi adds a pink haze to the top of the glass using bougainvillea water. He made the transformative pink water by boiling a few of the flowers he picked from the neatly manicured median of his housing development in water.
Now the Modern Day Church Lady likes an adventure, but before making the cocktail for my family, I checked out the edibility of bougainvillea flowers. There’s a bit of a debate, with some saying “most people can handle and ingest the leaves and flowers without getting sick,” while others are sharing recipes for cough remedies where the flowers are the main ingredient.
For a 100% safe alternative, you could substitute hibiscus tea. But my family consumed the bougainvillea version without incident.
3. Adding a Tangy Twist to Guacamole
Another little trick of Izzi’s was adding some finely chopped up pineapple to the guacamole. The pineapple adds a sweet surprise to the savory onion-salt-avocado axs of flavor.
4. Dressing Up Rice Pudding Mexican Style
Issi embellished his rice pudding with cinnamon bark & powder, star anise and cranberries that he painstakingly placed with culinary tweezers (which I immediately ordered from Amazon.com once I returned to my timeshare).
I got a lot of tips from my 5 hour cooking class with Issi. I have two more cooking classes left during my time in Cabo. I'm looking forward to adding more insider secrets to my Mexican cooking repertoire.
Fun Cabo Foodie Fact
The word "taco" is synonymous with snack in Mexico. Someone going to get a taco is as likely to be getting a bag of chips as they are to indulge in the traditional tortilla sandwich.
Drop Issi a line at email@example.com to learn about the upcoming pop-up Radilla Restaurant