Cinco de Mayo is fast approaching and many will celebrate the history of Mexico, honor Mexican culture and of course indulge in Mexican cuisine.
Mexico has a rich and flavorful food history, which uses native ingredients mixed with worldwide culinary inspiration to form the popular dishes we all know and love.
Authentic Mexican cooking starts with traditional ingredients that are found in various regions of Mexico.
Below is helpful information about these popular ingredients that give Mexican cuisine its unique flavor.
Tomatillos, a member of the gooseberry family, are small, round green fruits enclosed in a papery husk. They have a tart flavor and are often roasted and pureed into Mexican sauces or salsas, referred to as verde.
Hominy is dried maize kernels that have been soaked in lye to soften the tough outer hulls. Hominy is often ground to make grits or masa flour, or added whole to stews and casseroles.
Cilantro is a green herb that comes from the leaves and stems of the coriander plant. It has a strong flavor that complements spicy dishes. Cilantro is most common in Mexican cuisine, but can also be found in Asian and Indian cooking.
Chayotes are native to Mexico and are a member of the squash family. They are mild in flavor and look like a wrinkled, pale green pear.
Chayotes can be boiled, baked or eaten raw in salads. Zucchini or another summer squash makes for a great substitute.
Chile is a generic word referring to a large variety of capsicum peppers. There are more than 100 varieties of chiles, including the most popular varieties such as the spicy jalapeno, fiery habanero and large poblano.
As a general rule, the smaller the chile the more concentrated the heat, which is from the capsaicin found in the chile’s veins and seeds. Chiles are available fresh, dried, and pickled, and are found in many Mexican dishes.
Posole is a traditional Mexican dish made of pork, hominy, cilantro and chili peppers. It is most commonly served as a thick stew, but is also wonderful served on top of a bed of rice.
The posole recipe here is extremely easy, since it is made in the slow cooker, making it the perfect Cinco de Mayo meal.
Chef Heather Hunsaker attended and graduated from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts. She currently serves as a writer and recipe developer for meal planning site www.foodonthetable.com.