Monday, May 5, 2008

Celebrating Cinco de Mayo

Most people think Cinco de Mayo is Mexico's Independence Day. It actually commemorates the Mexican victory over the French in the Battle of Puebla in 1862 (Mexican independence came later) and is celebrated as only a regional holiday in Mexico. Cinco de Mayo is more widely celebrated in America where it has come to represent more of a celebration of Mexican pride and history. Regardless of what decent you are from, Cinco de Mayo is a great day to celebrate with some delicioso Latin American cuisine.

The Latin American food trend is a very hot, up and coming trend. Flavors and ingredients like lime, tomatillos, chili peppers, corn meal, chorizo, adobo, yuca and queso fresco are popping up on menus even in non-Mexican themed restaurants. One of my favorite "new" spices to use when I am cooking at home is chipotle peppers or chipotles in adobo sauce. Chipotle chile peppers are smoke-dried jalapenos. You can buy them as a dried spice (in the spice aisle) or you can get them whole in a can (in the ethnic section of the grocery store). Whole chipotle chiles in a can usually come packed in adobo sauce. This deep red flavorful sauce is made with tomatoes, vinegar and spices like garlic, onion, cumin, lemon pepper and achiote powder.

Need a little inspiration on how to use chipotles to add some Latin American flare to your menu tonight? Try sprinkling the dried chipotle chile pepper powder over french fries or popcorn. Or dice 1-2 chipotle peppers in a adobo sauce and add to spagetti sauce, chili or meatloaf. If you really want to mix things up and try something new, try adding the chipotle peppers in a adobo sauce to an alfedo sauce (it is obviously a non-traditional use and may sound a little strange, but it truly delicious - I promise you!). Whether you use the dried spice or the chipotle peppers in adobo, you will be adding a wonderfully smoky spice to your dish. If you worried about things getting too spicy, just scrape out and throw away most of the seeds before adding the chiles to your recipes. And of course, don't forget to serve some refreshing cold beverages like margaritas or cervezas to cool everything down.

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