You can officially call me “tomatillo lady.” At least that’s what my favorite stand at the farmers market has started calling me due to the frequency and quantity of my tomatillo purchases. I was elated to find tomatillos at my farmers market a few months ago during the summer (can you believe it’s technically fall…
There are two kinds of people in the world: those who love cilantro and those who are missing out. I personally have been in both camps. As a kid, I did not like raw cilantro; I could tolerate it mixed into salsas and guacamole or cooked into my rice, but I never ate it raw. (Really, I probably just had a general distrust for anything green.) It was basically something to be discretely scooped off my plate when eating tacos while smiling/grimacing politely at the relative that had innocuously placed it in my food.
Since then, I have come to love cilantro. There’s nothing like fresh cilantro and cebolla on top of a piping hot taco al pastor with a green avocado salsa all wrapped inside a delicious homemade flour tortilla…. but I digress. Back to cilantro! We love it. We put it into all the “normal” foods like salsas, pico de gallo, tacos, guac, rice, soup (pho!) etc. but if I am not careful, my thrifty, cilantro-loving husband will also sneak the stuff into unexpected plates like Korean jjigaes and ssam (yup, he’s Korean- hence Daniela ‘Cho’).
One of our favorite ways to eat cilantro is in this creamy dressing. I use the word “dressing” loosely because it can be used as a salsa for tostadas or as a dip for empanadas. I’ve tasted many variations of this dressing, but my favorite is still the recipe below. Ok, I might be lying a little. My favorite version of this dressing is made with crema fresca, but that pretty much quadruples the calories so I try to stick to yogurt. 🙂
This recipe is super resilient, meaning that it can be tweaked in a bunch of different ways and that it’s difficult to mess up. Like I mentioned earlier, my favorite but fattier version of this dressing is made with Mexican sour cream and is a little milder than the recipe below. My mom’s super secret version of this recipe also includes almonds for a thicker and nuttier dressing. Pepitas (Mexican squash seeds) also work well. Some cotija cheese can also turn this into a cheesier and more indulgent dressing. Basically, the sky’s the limit with this one, but the recipe below is my trusted base for any variation.
One important consideration is that the spiciness of your jalapeño peppers will really dictate the spiciness of the dressing. This seems obvious enough, but if you end up getting lame peppers that taste more like cucumbers, you’re going to get a mild dressing, whereas if you get a particularly fiery batch, you must deseed and even devein the peppers.
This salad dressing will work with pretty much any leafy greens and vegetables. Whenever my mother uses this dressing, she puts radishes in the mix, but they are a bit too bitter for my liking- it’s really up to you to experiment! One caveat is that this dressing doesn’t pair well with sweet ingredients like apples or cranberries. Feel free to share/comment what you think works with this creamy cilantro goodness!
For this particular post, I paired the dressing with a simple spinach salad, making use of some veggies that I had around the house (tomatoes, bell pepper, avocado). I did buy some jícama just for this salad because I’m pretty much in love with jícama these days. The subtle sweetness and crunch that it adds when paired with this dressing is just so refreshing. Jícama is my favorite root vegetable and I will definitely have to gush more about it at some point because it’s just too awesome!
Spicy Cilantro Dressing
Yields 1 cup
Prep Time: 5 minutes
- 1 bunch of cilantro
- 1 clove of garlic
- ⅓ cup of olive oil
- ¼ cup of vinegar
- ⅓ cup of plain yogurt (or crema fresca/sour cream)
- 1 jalapeño (deseeded)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon sugar
- Place all ingredients in a blender and puree. If you’re having trouble getting your blender to start, add water in small increments. Keep blending until you achieve a uniform, smooth consistency.
- Pour generously over your salad.
- Done! So easy!
Believe it or not, Pedro Fernández, a Mexican celebrity, singer, and actor, was the one who introduced me to these beauties. It was about six years ago when we were both catching a flight out of Mexico City and we happened to have lunch at the same restaurant.
I was catching a flight back to Boston after spending a week vacationing with my father and his girlfriend in Veracruz- talk about major third wheeling! The trip had been full of awesome quality time with my family. I’d gotten to meet an uncle in Veracruz that I’d only heard about until then. Of course, with great family comes great food. I ate the most delicious camarones a la diabla I’d ever had. That was the meal that single-handedly converted me to seafood.
I’d just been dropped off at the airport by my father and I had about two hours to kill before my boarding time. Never one to waste a meal, especially in Mexico, I wanted to find a good lunch spot and was looking for a place to eat when I spotted this particular restaurant from afar. It was tucked away on the second floor of a corner. I almost didn’t walk up the stairs because I didn’t want to lug up my suitcase. I’m so glad I did!
When I got to the top of the stairs I quickly skimmed the menu and asked the hostess if they accepted credit cards since I had about 30 pesos in my wallet at that point. It was then that I spotted Pedro Fernández sitting towards the back of the restaurant. As soon as I saw him, I decided that any restaurant good enough for Pedro was good enough for me. I snagged a table close enough to see what he was eating.
Too embarrassed to ask the waitress to give me what Pedro Fernández was eating, I scrutinized his plate and perused the menu for a match. I saw a thick tomato sauce with something green…peas! and some sort of meat… maybe ham? The plate was flanked with fried plantain pieces and all of this was topped with a fried egg. After narrowing the category down to breakfast, I quickly found my match on the menu- huevos motuleños! I ordered them and eagerly awaited their arrival. One bite of this cheesy eggy tangy deliciousness later, I was sold. Since then huevos motuleños have become my favorite breakfast and top three favorite meal! Thank you, Pedro Fernández! Sincerely, Daniela.
I later learned that huevos motuleños come from Motul, a town in the state of Yucatán. Traditionally, huevos motuleños consist of a tostada covered in black beans topped with a fried egg and then submerged in a tangy-habanero-tomato sauce. The huevos motuleños I had at that restaurant had a black bean and cheese quesadilla instead of a tostada as a base. I’ve made them both ways now, and I have to say that both ways are equally delicious. I usually use a tostada as a base because of convenience (and crisp factor- yum), but if I’m feeling extra festive I’ll make a quesadilla instead.
A note about habanero peppers: Habanero Peppers are pretty freaking spicy. It is very important not to cut the habaneros or blend them into your sauce unless you’re looking for a tongue-on-fire experience. Cooking the habaneros whole will give a great tangy taste to the sauce without too much spice. If you prefer a little extra heat, cut an ‘x’ into the top of the peppers to open them up. And if you really LOVE the heat, blend half a pepper into the sauce (at your own risk).
Want a little more heat? Open up those habanero peppers!
Cooking Time: 30 minutes
Eggs, Tostadas, Refried Beans
- 4 eggs
- 4 corn tortillas
- 1 cup refried black beans
- 1/2 cup oil
Sauce (Yields about two cups)
- 1 lb of tomaotes (for me about 3 large tomatoes)
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/3 cup water
- 1 onion
- 2 habanero peppers
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1/3 cup frozen green peas
- 1/3 cup diced ham
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Queso Fresco
- Sour Cream
- Fried Plantains
- Sauce: Boil tomatoes in a small pot until cooked (8-10 minutes). Remove from heat and let cool. Then place in tomatoes in blender with 1/3 cup of water, salt and garlic. Puree until sauce has a uniform texture.
- Sauce (cont.): Slice onion into rings. Add oil and onions to pan at medium heat and cook onions until they start to become translucent. Add ham and sear. Then, carefully pour the tomato puree into the pan. Finally, add whole habanero peppers to the sauce. Cover the pan and reduce heat. Let the habaneros cook into the sauce on low heat for about 15 minutes.
- Tostadas: Heat oil on medium heat in skillet. Add tortillas one by one and fry until crispy on both sides. Set aside. You can bypass this step if you already have tostadas.
- Assembly: Fry eggs al gusto. Spread about 2 tablespoons of refried beans onto each tostada. (You can buy a can of refried beans from the store, or you can look at my molletes post for hints on how to make your own. I will make a more detailed post dedicated to refried beans soon!) Add fried eggs on top. Smother with salsa. Garnish with cheese and avocado slices.
I grew up eating molletes on busy weeknights when my mom wanted to sneak in quick but satisfying meals in between practices and school events. The smell of bolillo loaves crisping in the oven always signaled that one of my favorite dinners was about to emerge from the oven. As soon as the oven timer beeped, we would all crowd around the kitchen to pick our respective loaves. I would always go for the crispiest bolillo. My little sister, Denise—always thinking of others before herself—would immediately snag the biggest. The leftover loaf would go to my mom, of course. Loaves decided, we would then pile on the freshly made ‘pico de guac,’ and take our first bite. So good!
Pico de guac, for the record, isn’t actually a thing. My mom and I simply love to add avocado to everything. Unlike molletes, which are best fresh, pico de gallo is best a couple of hours or even a day old so that the flavors have time to mix together and the tomatoes can release all their juice. If you do decide to add the avocado to your pico de gallo, do so right before serving to avoid brown avocado cubes. The tangy pico de guac is a perfect contrast in temperature and flavor to the fresh baked mollete.
Molletes, pronounced mo-yeh-tes, (remember the double L from high school Spanish?), must be eaten immediately after they are baked. Otherwise, the bread will lose its crisp. I am adamant about the crisp; the crisp of the bolillo and the melty cheese alone win my heart every time.
Molletes are a sort of Mexican open-faced sandwich. They are traditionally made with bolillo bread, a crusty white bread perfect for sandwiches (and for dipping in hot chocolate!) However, because I was making these as appetizers for my friend’s birthday party, I decided to use a baguette instead. Hence, mini molletes!
The concept is simple. Baguette slices slathered with refried beans and topped with melty cheese. Pop them in the oven and out comes crispy, melty deliciousness. As long as you save the pico de guac for right before you eat, you will have a delicious meal/snack.
This recipe calls for chorizo refried beans. Not all molletes have chorizo in them, but this is how my mom cooks them and how I love to eat them. The chorizo adds a smoky flavor to the molletes and I highly recommend adding it to your beans.
A note about chorizo: In my past few years in New England I have purchased a variety of pork products labeled chorizo that turned out to resemble kielbasa or Italian sausage more than authentic chorizo. If possible buy your chorizo from a grocer that carries authentic Mexcian brands. In order to test your chorizo’s authenticity, try cooking a small piece of your chorizo sausage to test what kind of “chorizo” it is. Real chorizo should have a skin casing that needs to be removed, should be fairly mushy or wet in appearance, and should break up into small pieces as it cooks.
The chorizo I bought this time from a Latin American foods grocer labeled “authentic Mexican” was actually more like Italian sausage in consistency. I had to cut it into small pieces before cooking it so that it would better integrate with the beans. If it turns out that you too buy less-than-authentic chorizo, do not despair; your molletes will still be delicious, but you will need to pre-cut the chorizo into smaller pieces to avoid having chunks in your refried beans.
I know- mashing beans is not super attractive, but this is how to get that refried bean texture we all love. You can use a potato masher, but I grew up using cups or mugs with flat bottoms instead. This way you don’t have to keep pushing the beans out of the masher.
Mini Chorizo Molletes
Serves: ~32 pieces
Prep: 15 minutes
Cooking/Baking time: 15 minute
- 1 baguette
- 1 can of black beans
- 1 cup of white melty cheese (Panela, Chihuahua, Quesadilla)
- 1 link of chorizo
- 1 small onion
- 1 clove of garlic
- Salt to taste
Pico de Guac
- 1 large tomato
- 1 onion
- 1/2 jalapeño pepper
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1/2 lime
- 1/2 bunch of cilantro
- 1 avocado
- Chorizo Refried Beans: Dice onion and garlic. Take the chorizo sausage out of its casing and cook it on medium heat until it begins to brown and crumble. Add the onion and garlic. Stir occasionally. When the meat is browned and fully cooked, add the can of beans and mash.
- Baguette: Preheat oven to 350. Cut baguette into half inch slices. Then, use a spoon to make indentations in each slice. Slather a spoonful of the chorizo beans into each indentation. Then, top them with cheese.
- Bake: Load your baguette slices onto a lightly oiled baking sheet and pop them in the oven for 5-8 minutes. I like to keep them in until the cheese begins to blister.
- Pico: While the molletes are baking, dice the onions, tomato, jalapeño, garlic, avocado and cilantro. Add less jalapeño for less heat. Squeeze lime and add salt to taste.
- The end: Once your molletes emerge from the oven add your pico on top and enjoy!