Ensalada Xec: Mayan Citrus and Jicama Salad

We’ve been making an extra effort to eat healthy in our house, especially since we moved across the country and have access to more local produce than ever before (hello, California citrus!). This crunchy, spicy, juicy citrus salad from the Yucatan area of Mexico is the perfect healthy snack. Ensalada xec (xec is Mayan for “mixed,” and is sometimes spelled as “xeec,” “xek” or “xe’ek” and is pronounced “shek”) is a staple dish in the region and is sometimes also made as a salsa without the jicama.

This recipe is dairy-free, gluten-free and vegan-friendly.

Ensalada xec: Spicy Mayan citrus salad made with orange, mandarin orange, grapefruit, jicama, lime juice, chile habanero, cilantro and sea salt. #Recipe on theothersideofthetortilla.com.

I served my ensalada xec for a salad-themed Food Bloggers LA meetup once, and it was a big hit. I love this recipe because it keeps crunchy in the refrigerator for a few days in the event that you have leftovers. I find this dish keeps best when refrigerated in a covered glass bowl. Some recipes for ensalada xec call for ground cayenne pepper, which is perfectly fine, but I prefer to use fresh chile. Habanero is frequently used in the regional cuisine in the Yucatan, so I used it in this recipe. If your tastebuds can’t handle the heat from a habanero pepper, you can substitute a finely chopped serrano chile or just use a dried chile powder of your choice. You could also use  Tajín (the popular Mexican chile, lime and salt seasoning) sprinkled on top if you don’t want to use fresh chiles; if you use Tajín, remember to leave the salt out of the recipe…. 

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VEGETARIAN: Tacos de hongo, chile poblano y cebolla

Vegetarian tacos with mushrooms, chile poblano and onions. Recipe on The Other Side of The Tortilla via @MauraHernandez.I’ve really been wanting to reduce the amount of meat we eat on a daily basis in order to be a bit healthier. I love veggies and don’t mind vegetarian meals, but when you live with a serious carnivore, it’s sometimes really difficult to convince them that a vegetarian meal is a) good and b) filling enough to be a meal and not just an appetizer.

Sometimes the mere mention of serving a vegetarian meal summons an apocalyptic response in my household. If you can’t get your family to eat a full vegetarian meal, this dish makes a great appetizer to ease them into enjoying it; just double or triple the recipe depending on how many people you’re feeding. They may soon see that an all-veggie meal isn’t so bad after all.

And if you’re truly desperate to get them to eat veggies, you can always add a little crumbled chorizo to this dish. It’s not meatless, but hey, at least they’re eating veggies, right? (You could also attempt to substitute soyrizo for chorizo if you’re brave, but I can’t be held responsible if they figure you out and throw chanclas at you.)

Regardless, whether you’re vegetarian, trying to get your family to eat less meat or just trying to observe meatless meals during Lent, this is a quick and easy recipe you’re bound to enjoy.

I like to use baby portabellas for this recipe, but you can use  just about any kind of regular-sized mushroom you like so long as you slice them somewhat thickly so that when they saute with the onions and butter, they don’t shrink too much or get too thin when they’re fully cooked…. 

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RAJAS CON CREMA

rajas con crema

Rajas con crema, a hearty dish made with poblano chiles, onion, Mexican sour cream and a little bit of cheese, is a favorite in my house. And by favorite, I mean that over the last few months we’ve been eating it at least once a week. As one friend puts it, “anything that comes out of your kitchen at least once a week has got to be good.”

There are two tests for me to know if I’ve made a good batch: first, whether I get a “que rico,” and second, whether I get a “pica.” I know it’s particularly yummy when I get a groan with the first bite and a “pica bien rico!” According to José, rajas con crema are the best when the poblanos have a spicy bite, but they’re not too hot. Usually you can tell how hot the poblanos are when you’re removing the seeds after roasting because the heat will burn your skin and if you breathe in too deeply, you might cough. If those two things don’t happen, sometimes I skip the vinegar and water soak after roasting the chiles. If you soak them too long and all the heat dissipates, the chiles are a little sweet rather than spicy but still delicious nonetheless…. 

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