Summer weather is ideal for treating your family to Mexican Food and what tastes better than Grilled Shrimp nestling inside a Quesadilla? Add to that freshly made Guacamole and Salsa Cruda. A little salad and some Mexican Rice and you are set for the evening. Sound like too much work – well maybe a little but it is also fun if you love to cook and simple enough for those of you who do not love to cook. Follow the directions and photos below and you will be able to cook up a wonderful meal for your family or even for your next party! Okay, let’s get busy!
The first thing you need to do is check up on the items that you have in your kitchen and then make a list of those that you will need to purchase. Follow the simple suggestions below or create your own list.
Garlic & Cilantro
Shrimp (preferably large ones – they have more flavor)
Tomatoes & Avocadoes
Cheese for Quesadillas (your preference)
Sour Cream or Mexican Crema
Here are the links for the recipes for the Grilled Shrimp,
Once you have your ingredients on hand and know when you are going to be serving the Quesadillas you can plan your preparation. The Salsa can be prepared hours ahead of time, unlike the Guacamole which tends to oxidize and become unappetizing in appearance. The Shrimp can be shelled and de-veined, but you do NOT WANT TO MARINATE them for more than 20 minutes before grilling, otherwise they will become mealy, mushy and not appetizing at all.
Probably Quesadillas are not going to be the only thing on your menu so you can prepare the other items ahead. Re-fried Beans can be prepared hours ahead and reheated as can Mexican Rice. If you are planning on having a salad, the components can be washed, dried and sliced and then refrigerated until just before serving time.
Shown below is a suggested timetable for preparation and serving. To prepare this meal and have everything come together at the proposed time, I would start the preparations no later than two hours before serving time.
1. Wash, dry and slice, grate or dice Salad Ingredients.
2. Prepare Salsa and refrigerate.
3. Cook the re-fried Beans and set aside. If you are using canned re-fried beans, saute some diced onion in a little Olive Oil before adding the beans. Also, if you are using canned beans, prepared just before serving. Home-made re-fried beans take hours to prepare, especially if you are using dried beans that have to be soaked and cooked. Actually, the canned ones are very good, especially if you doctor them up a little bit with the sauteed onions and anything else that you may wish, like maybe cilantro.
4. Make the Mexican Rice and set aside. Mexican Rice
5. Shred your Cheese or Cheeses, depending on whether you use one or more varieties.
6. About 30 minutes before serving time, prepare your Guacamole. To prevent it from oxidizing squeeze a thin layer of Lime Juice on the surface and then cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until serving time.
7. Prepare the Shrimp – remove the Shrimp Shells and save to make Seafood Stock. If using medium size Shrimp, slit down the back and remove the vein. Wash and dry. If using large Shrimp, slice in half lengthwise. Be sure to remove the vein. Wash and dry.
8. Prepare the marinade per the directions in the Grilled Shrimp Recipe. Allow the Shrimp to marinate for at least 15 minutes but no longer than 20. (Marinating the Shrimp too long will make them mushy and mealy.)
9. Before grilling the shrimp, make sure you have all your other dishes ready to serve. Grill the Shrimp per the recipe directions.
10. Place 2-3 Tablespoons of shredded Cheese in the middle of a Flour Tortilla; top with 3-4 pieces of Shrimp 2-3 Tbsps. more Cheese and a few sliced Scallions. Add a second Tortilla on top.
11. Place the filled Tortillas on a lightly greased skillet or comal (griddle) and cook on each side until golden in color and the Cheese begins to melt. (If you have trouble keeping the two tortillas together, secure them with wooden sandwich picks – remove the picks before serving.
12. Remove from the griddle with a spatula; remove the sandwich picks and serve.
13. Serve Guacamole, Salsa and Sour Cream on the side.
Walk down the Mexican food isle of any grocery store and you will probably see at least a dozen different kinds of Salsa. Salsa which is a well-known Mexican condiment is just one of many types of sauces that are used by cultures around the world. Salsa, a favorite in Mexico and the South Western portion of the United States is made with Tomatoes, Garlic, Cilantro, Lime Juice, Salt, sometimes Onions and of course Chilies.
It is relatively easy to make your own Salsa and the happy result is Salsa the way you like it. Some like it hot and some like it mild and some like it in between. My favorite is Salsa Cruda and I don’t put onions in it. Salsa Cruda is made from raw vegetables: I just use diced Tomatoes, Cilantro, Garlic, Lime Juice, Salt and a small amount of Jalapeno Chilies. When the Chilies are diced and you can see the pieces, believe it or not, they won’t impart as much heat (unless of course you bite into one) as when the Chili is finely minced. One Chili finely minced has the heat equivalent of at least 2 or 3 diced Chilies.
There are cooked Salsas as well as raw ones. The cooked are usually more of a sauce in which you cannot necessarily see each individual ingredients whereas in Salsa Cruda, you know exactly what is in it. The cooked ones are usually made with chilies and tomatillos which look like little green tomatoes.
Cilantro which is a popular ingredient in Salsa is used widely throughout the world. In the Western World it is called Cilantro and in the Eastern part of the World it is called Coriander. They are both the same herb. At one time in the United States, Cilantro was also known as Chinese Parsley and it does belong to the parsley family.
In Argentina, a popular condiment is known as Chimichurri Sauce and no one in Argentina would think of serving a meal without Chimichurri on the table. Chimichurri is made with parsley, garlic, Olive Oil, Salt and Vinegar. It is not hot like salsa can be, but it certainly can be pungent because of the garlic. Every restaurant and every family has their own version of Chimichurri; there are probably as many versions of Chimichurri as there are Salsas.
Salsa is made in many forms. It usually is made with tomatoes but it can also be made with just onions and cilantro as the main ingredients; there is mango salsa, peach salsa, and pineapple salsa.
Chilies which are popularly used in salsa are Jalapenos and Serranos. Jalapenos are hot but they have more of a tang than the absolute hot heat that the Serranos have. As a rule, the smaller the chili, the hotter it is. When you are handling Chilies you need to be careful because once you get the capsaicin (the heat element in chilies) on your fingers it is very difficult to get off and you need to be careful not to touch your eyes, nose, mouth or other bodily orifices. It is best to use gloves when handling the chilies. The hottest portions of the chili are the seeds and the ribs inside.
Salsa or its equivalent is a dish with never-ending possibilities. It is delicious and can be made hot or not, depending on the taste buds of the person preparing it or who it is being prepared for. Try your hand at making your own version of salsa. Be original and don’t think you have to stick to any format. You never know what you may come up with! Maybe the next great condiment! Be sure and use the correct tools when preparing your Salsa. A small paring knife will come in handy for removing the seeds and ribs from the Chilies (the seeds and ribs are where all the heat is). A cutting board is a must for dicing your vegetables and a rubber mat or damp towel to put under the cutting board is also an important tool. The mat or damp towel will keep the board from slipping and sliding when you are dicing your vegetables and thereby avoid injury. Your garlic can either be minced with your paring knife or you can use a garlic press.
Try the recipes in our appetizer section and then after you do, create your own variations. More Cilantro, Onions if you want, more garlic, more lime juice and for the adventurous more chilies! Salsa does need some salt, but be careful! Too much can ruin your product. Enjoy creating and eating your salsa. Salsa can be served as an appetizer with chips or vegetables or it can be used as a salad dressing or a condiment for your meat dishes. Try one or two of the recipes below. The country next to the name is where it originated.
Salsa Cruda – Mexico
Mango Relish – Tropics
Chimichurri Sauce – Argentina