Cinco de Mayo is on Saturday of this week. I searched for some Mexican-style recipes that I had not tried before, and my kitchen has seen quite a bit of activity the past few days. While I prepared the different dishes, I couldn’t help but remember something that happened in my college Spanish class.
I took two years of Spanish in high school, doing fairly well in them, so I enrolled in a class for students who had some knowledge of the language. Laura, my roommate, was able to test out of Spanish entirely, even getting college credit for it. She took four years of it in high school and had spent some time in Mexico besides.
Laura learned a lot in Mexico, including an English “4-letter” word. She shared some of her Mexican experiences with Doug, who was in my class, and me. Her adventures included the word mentioned above; even though it wasn’t something I wanted to know it stuck in my head.
One member of our Spanish class (I’ll call him Guy) was quite confident of himself; he thought he knew a whole lot more than he actually did. He constantly tried to show off his grasp of the language we were learning, disrupting the class. At times, Doug and I would look at each other and roll our eyes, wishing that Guy would be quiet and allow the professor to teach without interruption.
Then came the day Guy received his comeuppance. The funny thing is, he never knew it. We were going through a review that class period. The prof would ask a question (in Spanish, of course); we were to reply in the same language, using a complete sentence. Her question to Guy was, “What color are your pants?” His answer was less than stellar. It included the word that Doug and I weren’t supposed to know, but Guy had no idea what he had said. To put it nicely, Guy declared that he had “filled his britches.”
So here we were in the front row, Doug and I, right in front of the professor, who was quite flustered. A red flush started at the base of her neck and worked its way up her face. She managed to stay calm, though, as she informed Guy that he was incorrect and stated the correct answer. Thankfully, it was almost time to dismiss class. The professor gave our assignment and let us leave a bit early. Needless to say, once we departed the room, Doug and I were laughing so hard that tears were rolling down our cheeks. I don’t think our prof ever knew that we were aware of what Guy had actually said.
I may not remember much of the Spanish I learned, but I can tell you that each of these recipes turned out quite well!
Pinto Bean Salsa Salad
1 small clove garlic
1- 1/2 limes, juiced (about 3 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 cup olive oil
1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15-ounce) can golden sweet corn, drained
1 orange or yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped (about 1/4 cup)
Freshly ground black pepper (start with 1/4 teaspoon)
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 small Hass avocado, halved, seeded and diced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, leaves and stems
For dressing: Crush garlic clove, sprinkle with a pinch of the salt. Using flat side of a large knife, mash and smear mixture to a coarse paste. Whisk garlic paste, lime juice, remaining salt and chili powder together in a bowl. Gradually whisk in olive oil, starting with a few drops and then adding the rest in a steady stream.
For salad: Toss together beans, corn, bell pepper, and onions. Add dressing and toss to coat evenly. Gently fold in tomatoes, avocado, and cilantro. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Note: I use sweet onions instead of red ones since they aren’t as strong-flavored.
Lime Chicken with Salsa Verde Sour Cream
3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 large boneless skinless chicken breast (about 1 pound) OR 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1/3 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons salsa verde
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro, divided
1 medium lime
Cut chicken breast into 4 equal pieces (one of the cuts should be lengthwise).
Preheat broiler. Mix seasonings; sprinkle over chicken. Place chicken on a broiler pan. Broil 4 in. from heat 6-8 minutes on each side or until a thermometer reads 170 degrees. (I used an air fryer set at 390 degrees. Spritz the seasoned chicken with cooking spray; cook for 8 minutes. Turn, cook an additional 4-5 minutes or until a thermometer reads 180 degrees.)
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix sour cream, salsa and 1 tablespoon cilantro. Cut lime in half. Squeeze juice from one lime half into sour cream mixture; stir to combine. Cut remaining lime half into four wedges. Serve chicken with sauce and lime wedges. Sprinkle with remaining cilantro. Yield: 2-4 servings.
Mexican Red Rice (Arroz Rojo)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup long grain white rice
1/3 cup finely chopped white onion
1 clove garlic, minced
2-1/4 cups chicken broth
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1-1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 jalapeno pepper (leave whole; pierce several times)
1 fresh cilantro sprig
In a large heavy saucepan, heat oil on medium-high heat. Add rice, onions and garlic. Sauté until rice has an opaque color and is fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add broth, tomato paste and salt. Mix well to incorporate evenly. Add pepper and cilantro sprig. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until rice is ready, about 20-25 minutes. Fluff with fork; serve immediately.