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Video: Fabulous recipes for any fiesta

TODAY
updated 5/4/2007 11:59:24 AM ET 2007-05-04T15:59:24

Artisan

No hablo "boring meals"? This Cinco de Mayo, put on your cooking sombrero and prepare for a delicious fiesta with bold recipes from Chef Roberto Santibanez, author of "Rosa's New Mexican Table: Friendly Recipes for Festive Meals:"

Recipe: Guacamole (on this page) Recipe: Pico De Gallo (on this page) Recipe: Rice Pudding Cheesecake (Pastel de Arroz con Leche) (on this page)

Excerpted from "Rosa's New Mexican Table: Friendly Recipes for Festive Meals" by Roberto Santibanez and Christopher Hirsheimer. Copyright © 2007 by Roberto Santibanez and Christopher Hirsheimer. Published in March 2007 by Artisan. All rights reserved.

© 2013 MSNBC Interactive.  Reprints

Recipe: Guacamole

Over the years at Rosa Mexicano, we have run through so many avocados for guacamole that if you placed them side by side they would stretch from New York to Tierra del Fuego and back—maybe twice! It is our signature dish—nine out of ten guests order it. One of the things that makes guacamole at Rosa Mexicano special is that when we opened in 1984, we were among the first, if not the first, restaurant on either side of the border to serve guacamole prepared tableside in a traditional molcajete.

We take our guacamole very seriously; in fact, you could say we are obsessed with it, and fanatical about consistency. I am frequently asked what makes our guacamole so special. For one, we take great care in preparing the chile paste that is the underpinning of the dish—that’s where the layered flavors come from. We begin by grinding some onions, chiles, and cilantro together in a molcajete. (The proportions are critical, so follow the recipe.) Then we gently toss in cubed avocado so that every piece is coated evenly. Before one of our waiters is allowed to prepare guacamole tableside, he or she must pass our rigorous training course, which might be called Molcajete 101. For the guest, the guacamole is great theater—and better eating.

Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped white onion
  • 1 firmly packed tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped jalapeño, or more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or as needed
  • 3 medium ripe but firm Hass avocados (about 8 ounces each)
  • 3 tablespoons diced tomato
  • 2 firmly packed tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped white onion
  • Salt if necessary
  • Tortilla Chips
  • Fresh Corn Tortillas
Preparation

Make the chile paste: Grind the onion, cilantro, jalapeño, and salt together in a molcajete until all the ingredients are very finely ground. Alternatively, use a fork to mash all the ingredients to a paste in a wide hardwood bowl.

Cut each avocado in half, working the knife blade around the pit. Twist the halves to separate them and flick out the pit with the tip of the knife. Fold a kitchen towel in quarters and hold it in the palm of your “non-knife” hand. Rest an avocado half cut side up in your palm and make 3 or 4 evenly spaced lengthwise cuts through the avocado flesh down to the skin, without cutting through it. Make 4 crosswise cuts in the same way. Scoop the diced avocado flesh into the molcajete. Repeat with the remaining avocado halves.

Serving Size

4 servings

Recipe: Pico De Gallo

Like salsa verde, pico de gallo (literally, “rooster’s beak”) is one of the condiments that is found on almost every Mexican table almost every day. It goes onto tacos, grilled foods, and enchiladas, or anything else -you’d like to serve it with, such as our “charro” beans on page 221. The seasonings—onion, cilantro, jalapeño, and lime—can be adjusted to suit your taste. Some Mexican cooks add a drizzle of olive oil to this salsa for richness—you can too.

Ingredients
  • 2 ripe medium tomatoes (about 12 ounces)
  • 1⁄4 cup finely chopped white onion, or to taste
  • 12 large fresh cilantro sprigs, thick stems removed, remaining stems and leaves finely chopped (about 1⁄4 cup)
  • 1 medium jalapeño or 1 small serrano, finely chopped (about 11⁄2 tablespoons), or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • Juice of 1 lime, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil (optional)
Preparation

Core the tomatoes and cut them in half. Gently squeeze out most of the seeds, and cut the tomatoes into 1/4 inch (no larger) dice. Toss the diced tomatoes, onion, cilantro, and jalapeño together in a mixing bowl. Add the salt and lime juice, then stir in the oil, if using. Let sit for a few minutes. The salsa can be made and kept at room temperature for up to 4 hours—no longer—before serving. Stir and taste again before serving.

Serving Size

Makes about two cups

Recipe: Rice Pudding Cheesecake (Pastel de Arroz con Leche)

Halfway between a creamy cheesecake and a dense rice pudding, this delicious dessert evolved, with many big twists, from a recipe originally devised by Fany Gerson, the former pastry chef at Rosa Mexicano.

Ingredients
  • For the crust
  • 3 ounces Maria cookies or graham crackers, crushed (about 1 cup; see Note)
  • 1 cup pecans, toasted and coarsely ground
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon ground Mexican cinnamon
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • For the filling
  • Four 6--inch Mexican cinnamon sticks
  • 2 vanilla beans
  • 4 cups heavy cream
  • 4 cups milk
  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1⁄4 cup water
  • 1 envelope plus 11⁄8 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
  • Two 8--ounce packages cream cheese,
  • cut into pieces, at room temperature
  • 2⁄3 cup sugar
Preparation

Make the crust: With a rack in the center position, preheat the oven to 350°F.

Stir the crushed cookies, pecans, sugar, cinnamon, and salt together in a mixing bowl. Stir in the melted butter until the crumbs are evenly moistened. Press the crust mixture into an even layer over the bottom of a 9--inch springform pan. Bake until the crust is lightly browned and firm, about 15 minutes. Let cool completely.

Make the filling: While the crust cooks, cut a 6--inch square from a double thickness of cheesecloth. Crumble the cinnamon sticks onto the square, add the vanilla beans, and tie the cheesecloth into a neat bundle. Put the cream, milk, and rice in a large saucepan. Drop in the spice bundle and heat, stirring, to a simmer. Add the salt and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the rice is tender, about 15 minutes.

While the rice is cooking, soften the gelatin: Pour the water into a small bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin over the surface, slowly and evenly to prevent lumps from forming. Whisk with a small fork until the gelatin is softened and the mixture is fluffy.

Stir the sugar into the cooked rice and remove from the heat. Stir in the cream cheese until the cheese is melted and the sugar is dissolved. Pour half the rice mixture into a sieve set over a bowl and, using a wooden spoon, mash the rice against the sieve to squeeze as much of the liquid from it as possible. Some rice will pass through the sieve too; that is fine. Scrape the mashed rice from the bottom of thesieve into the bowl with the liquid. Transfer the rice in the sieve to another bowl, and repeat with the remaining rice mixture. Measure out 2 cups of the reserved rice and stir into the liquid; discard the remaining rice. Whisk about 1 cup of the rice mixture into the softened gelatin until the gelatin is dissolved, then stir back into the rice mixture until thoroughly blended.

Pour the rice mixture over the cooled crust. Refrigerate the cake until completely chilled and set, at least 4 hours, or up to 1 day.

To serve, release the sides of the springform pan—run a knife dipped in warm water between the cake and the sides of the pan to free the cake completely. Cut the cake into wedges, making sure to cut all the way through the crust, and serve, passing the caramel sauce separately.

Note: Maria cookies are crisp round cookies with a pleasant, simple flavor, not unlike animal crackers—which make a good substitute. Maria cookies can be found in many Latin groceries and online at www.tienda.com.

Serving Size

Makes 12 generous servings

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