Start with a few leftovers, add a couple of new recipe discoveries and have a good time Mexican-style with a couple of tweaks by the Gringo Gourmet.
I frequently order tostadas compuestas at Mexican restaurants because they are about the lightest thing on the menu. You usually are served three, one with beef or chicken, one with refried beans and on topped with guacamole. I consider the guacamole tostada a dessert and save it for last. I wanted a quick and easy dinner, so I rummaged through the refrigerator and pantry. In the refrigerator, I found leftover chicken from chicken tacos a few days ago, some grilled corn and a dab of pinto beans. On the counter I had part of a package of pre-cooked flat tortillas for making tostadas compuestas. I was on my way. I added a sweet pepper and some diced onion to the chopped chicken and one topping was done. I spooned the leftover beans into a small pot and heated them. Then I added about a tablespoon of milk and some grated Jack cheese and worked all over with a potato masher making unfried refried beans for tostada number two. Then guacamole, with a little chopped onion and garlic salt, mashed by hand so it had some small chunks in it.
There was a wonderful restaurant called Sylvano’s where Albuquere’s tangled spaghetti bowl of freeways is now. I loved their blue corn enchiladas and could have become addicted to their guacamole. One evening sat where I could peek into the kitchen as the servers brought out platter after plater of wonderful food. In the background, I watch a granny-looking woman bent over a huge bowl, mixing that wonderful guacamole with her bare hands. She had guacamole almost up to her elbows. I didn’t share that vision with my table mates. They would have cringed at the sight. I sometimes use my hands and fingers to mash the avocados just like that beautiful old lady did. I hope that gives mine something close to the wonderful authentic handmade flavor of hers.
In the picture above, you see my plated tostadas. I served shredded cabbage on the side so the three tostadas wouldn’t be hidden. The dark red salsa on the chicken tostada is from a recipe I recently discovered. It is a no-cook Watermelon-Ancho Chile Salsa that has a little heat and a little watermelon sweetness in its rich flavor. It is excellent on chicken and I have enough left to try it on a roasted pork tenderloin this weekend.
When I made chicken tacos earlier in the week, I added a side of Shrimp Ceviche. I had some leftover, so we polished it off with the meal of tostadas. I love ceviche and sometimes treat myself to a pair of shrimp ceviche and small shrimp cocktail for lunch on a hot day at Sofi’s Mexican Restaurant. We use different recipes, but both are very good.
Traditionally, ceviche, made with firm-fleshed fish or shrimp, is marinated in lime juice to “cook” the fish. Most modern recipes suggest blanching the fish or shrimp for about three minutes, then draining it and letting it cool. I’ve made it both ways with no ill results. I do blanch it if I’m serving it to guests. I expect that most restaurants poach their for safety reasons.
WATERMELON-ANCHO CHILE SALSA
2 ancho chiles, seeds and stem removed
1/4 small seedless watermelon, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 1-1/2 cups)
1/2 large beefsteak tomato, chopped (I used a whole Roma tomato)
1/4 small red onion, chopped
1/2 jalapeño, with seeds, chopped
1 garlic clove, smashed
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
Bring chiles and two cups water to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove from heat, cover and let situ until chiles soften (about 30 minutes)
Transfer chiles to a blender with a slotted spoon, discard liquid. Add watermelon, tomato, onion, jalapeño, garlic and lime juice, blend until smooth. Season with salt, cover and chill.
Active 50 minutes, ready in about 1-1/2 hours
2 quarts water
1/4 cup kosher salt
1 pound raw shrimp (21-25 per pound), peeled and deveined
juice of 2 lemons
juice of 2 limes
juice of 2 oranges
1 cup diced seeded peeled cucumber (1/4-inch dice)
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
2 serrano chiles, seeded and finely chopped
1 cup diced seeded tomato
1 avocado, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1 tablespoon roughly chopped cilantro leaves, plus more leaves for garnish
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Active 50 minutes, ready in about 1-1/2 hours
Combine water and 1/4 cup salt in a large saucepan; bring to a boil over high heat. Add
shrimp and immediately turn off the heat. Let the shrimp sit until just cooked through, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board until cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes. Chop the shrimp into 1/2-inch pieces and place in a medium nonreactive bowl (see Tip). Add lemon, lime and orange juice. Stir in cucumber, onion and chiles. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Stir tomato, avocado, chopped cilantro, oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt into the shrimp mixture. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving. Garnish with cilantro leaves, if desired. Make Ahead Tip: Prepare through Step 2 and refrigerate for up to 4 hours.
Kitchen Tip: A nonreactive bowl or pan—stainless-steel, enamel-coated or glass—is necessary when cooking with acidic foods, such as lemon, to prevent the food from reacting with the pan. Reactive pans, such as aluminum and cast-iron, can impart an off color and/or off flavor.