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Give Your Family a New Slant on Dinner with Mexican Cooking

Apr 15, 2008
When you think of Mexican food, do tacos come naturally to your mind? Well, Mexican cooking includes much more than fast food. There are many different varieties of Mexican cooking that have been influenced by other areas of the world such as Southwestern and Tex Mex and California Mexican styles.

If you are going to begin cooking Mexican foods, you should be sure that you have all of the ingredients needed to cook them. Mexican foods use special ingredients. The more common ingredients include corn, peanuts, avocados, cacao (chocolate), shrimp, tomatillos, tomatoes, potatoes and beans. Some of the more specialized ingredients are:


Cilantro, (also called Chinese parsley) is the name given to the leaves of the coriander plant (Coriandrum sativum). It used to be difficult to obtain but cilantro is now available in nearly every grocery store. It is best when used fresh. Usually, the leaves are torn off from the stems for guacamole or salsa.

Masa Harina

This is a dried corn grain that is cooked with lime and ground into a paste. This paste is then dehydrated into flour. Mexican tortillas are made from this flour. You do not need to make tortillas from scratch, however, because they are widely available in supermarkets. Although many cooks believe that making fresh corn and flour tortillas is a rewarding part of Mexican cooking, many people prefer store-bought tortillas because it is much easier than using a long process of pressing each tortilla individually.


Ancho Chiles are dried Poblano Chiles and are used in chili or marinades. Another type of Chile is Guajillo Chiles. It's a bit spicier, and best used in soups or stews.

Common Mexican dishes also vary according to region and family influences. There are many Mexican dishes that can be cooked easily by a novice chef. Many of these may be familiar to you from the many Mexican restaurants that abound.


The "salsas" (or sauces) in Mexican cooking are very common. It seems that no two salsas are made the same because each has been influenced by previous generations in a family. Pico de gallo is a cold salsa that contains chopped fresh chiles, tomatoes, onions and cilantro.

Chile Relleno

A Chile pepper is filled with pork, beef, cheese, or other fillings, which are dipped in beaten egg and fried. They are served in a thin tomato broth.


A flour or corn tortilla filled with cheese (often a Mexican-style soft farmer's cheese such as Queso Fresco), beef, chicken, or pork.


The Chalup is a corn tortilla, fried into the shape of a bowl shape and then stuffed with shredded chicken, pork , beef or beans. It is normally topped with guacamole and salsa.


Enchiladas are made with corn tortillas that are filled with meat, and cheese, and rolled (or stacked), and covered with chile sauce and cheese.


The Taco is a corn tortilla fried into a curve that holds cheese, meats, cheeses or beans covered with chopped onions, chopped lettuce and a salsa. A "soft" taco is made of flour tortillas rather than corn and was made popular by the American fast food "Mexican" restaurants.

Give Mexican cooking a try. You may find yourself cooking it more and more often as your family asks for it.
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