Originally published in the Greenwood Daily Journal Saturday May 5, 2011
If you were to ask 5 adults what the history was behind the Mexican holiday Cinco de Mayo, chances are good that they will not have a clue. One answer may be that it is a holiday that celebrates Mexican Independence Day, others will say that it has something to do with the number 5 and the month of May.
I know this because I asked 5 adults, well read adults for that matter, and not one was able to tell me. So I set out to learn the history of this day for myself. Not only did I ask a Mexican -American friend of mine but I also consulted the world wide web.
Cinco de Mayo commemorates the victory of the Mexican militia over the French army in 1862 in an area known as Puebla. It is thought to be one of Mexico’s greatest victories in their own country. It is not, as many believe, Mexico’s Independence Day, which is September 16th. Celebrating this day has become increasingly popular in not only the southwestern states but also further north where the population of Mexican- Americans has grown. Some cities in the United States have festivals and brightly colored parades to celebrate the bravery of the Mexican militia that day in may of 1862.
This day, like Mardi Gras, St. Patrick’s Day and Oktoberfest have become more of a commercial celebration for some. Known to many as a day to drink tequila, similar to how many ceremoniously drink Guiness on St. Patrick’s Day. Bars and restaurants reap the benefits of days like this and have helped to shape it into more of an alcohol business holiday. Even Budweiser released Bud Light Lime on Cinco De Mayo in 2008.
The bottom line is that this day is meant to celebrate Mexican culture,art, traditional food, music and beverages that are unique to this country. I can think of no better way to celebrate the significance of this day than to create a feast of my own. Now that I have a little more background about this holiday I feel a bit better about celebrating. Last year I evaded questions from my kids about why I thought we should have our own little Mexican fiesta. They had a point when I couldn’t even tell them why were were and why on that day.
Our table will be set with home made tortillas, sizzling fajitas, fresh mashed pinto beans, salsa verde, avocado cream sauce, spicy cilantro rice and a cool family-friendly margarita fizz.
I don’t have a real recipe for my fajitas. Here I think less is more. Go with a lean sliced meat or thinly cut flat iron steak Add a bit of salt, pepper and cumin ,then sauté until just cooked. Add a sliced onion and pepper, and if you are really adventurous a bit of fresh pineapple. Let this sizzle away for just a few minutes so the veggies stay crisp and serve on a fresh, hot tortilla. For an extra flair add a bit of my creamy avocado sauce in lieu of sour cream.
I paired the fajitas with mashed pinto beans which are much healthier than refried beans, and a zesty cilantro rice. This rice has a deep flavor profile with minimal work. I much prefer this to the restaurant style rice hands down.
For dessert, I made a festive Strawberry Margarita Fizz. This drink can also be made into a child friendly treat as well by omitting the tequila. Plus, kids love the fancy look of a sugar rimmed glass and it’s very easy to do, they can even help!
You know, we don’t really need a reason to make a meal like this, but if we can give our kids a little history lesson at the same time then it can’t hurt.
See the end of this post to hear a recording of this post!
Strawberry Margarita Fizz
Sugar for rims of glasses, 2 tb
2 C of softened strawberry ice cream
3/4 C of chopped fresh strawberries
2 oz tequila, to taste, optional
3/4 tsp fresh lime juice
1/2 C club soda
Strawberries and lime slices for garnish
Rub a lime slice along the rims of the glasses then dip glass in sugar.
In a blender, add ice cream, strawberries, tequila (if using), and lime juice, and blend until smooth.
Pour into glasses. Add a bit of club soda and garnish as desired.
Zesty Cilantro Rice
1 TB olive oil
1 lg onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 TB of Serrano chile, seeded and finely chopped, more if you like it hot
2 C long grain rice
3 1/4 C chicken broth or stock
Pinch of salt
1/2 C cilantro dressing (recipe follows)
Heat oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Add onion, garlic, and Serrano. Sauté until translucent along with pinch of salt, for about 9 minutes.
Mix in the rice And sauté for 2 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and allow to cook until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender.
Remove from heat and allow to cool for a bit. Add the dressing, combine to coat the rice and serve.
1 1/4 C cilantro,chopped and packed
1 C olive oil
5 TB white wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp Serrano chile, seeded and chopped
Combine the ingredients in a food processor, pulse until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Great on fish, veggies and in this rice.
1 ripe Haas avocado, flesh scooped out
1 medium jalapeño , seeded and chopped
1 C water
1TB white vinegar
1 tsp salt
1/3 C chopped cilantro
2 Tb diced onion
Add ingredients to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until it’s at your desired consistency. This is a great substitute for sour cream.
You can also listen to a recording of this post here: http://bit.ly/11G5YVO
|Fresh Peach Mojito|