Monday, August 19, 2013

Mexican Dinner Party & Recipes for Pico De Gallo, Refried Beans & Mexican Chocolate Cake

I have been wanting to have friends over for an actual dinner, where we sit down at a table (NOT the couch or on chairs scattered about) and enjoy a delicious, wholesome meal with cocktails AND a dessert for a really long time. A really, really long time. We used to have friends over in Florida, but let's be real I was a bit confused in the kitchen back then. I really started to love cooking after living up here, but I've never had anywhere to seat people. Well, now we have a proper table, which can be set in our kitchen area or outside in the yard. It seats a handful of people and is perfect for a small dinner party. 

I thought all week about what I wanted to cook. Last weekend Louis and I went on an impromptu date and I had a delicious tomato infused soup with chunks of fresh bread, white beans, a tad bit of bacon for flavor, and string beans. It was perfection. I also ordered fried corn on the cob and I think it's official - corn is my favorite summer food. For dessert we had flourless chocolate cake and a nectarine tart. Everything was divine. I thought about recreating that sort of mind kept going back to my standard craving for Mexican Food. There's just something about it! I don't mean the greasy, overly cheesy and creamy type cheap Mexican that you get at a lot of restaurants. I mean fresh avocado, juicy tomatoes, spicy salsas....tons of tortillas. You know the kind...if not, I'll invite you over to my next dinner. So, I went with a delicious Mexican Taco Feast and served all of my favorites:

Corn & Wheat tortillas, homemade refried beans, pico de gallo, chipotle shredded chicken, fried corn, radishes, guacamole, smoked paprika roasted sweet potatoes, green onions, queso blanco, and fresh cilantro. For someone who loves Mexican food so much, you might be surprised by the fact that I don't really like cilantro. I like a touch of it in my salsa/pico, but that's about it. I kept it on the side so that anyone who could handle that strong soapy flavor could do so. 

I'm going to have to make the chicken again and take some photographs because I realized today I didn't take ANY and it was INSANE how delicious it was. I honestly couldn't believe it. 

Here's what you do/need for fresh, homemade Pico De Gallo:
Chop 5 organic tomatoes on the vine (Trust me the organic is better I did a taste test!)
Remove the seeds from 2 jalapenos & chop (For spicy version, leave some of the seeds)
Chop 1 medium size yellow onion
Mince 6-8 cloves garlic
Chop cilantro (I used about 1/4 cup for the entire batch)
Stir everything together in a large bowl
Squeeze lime juice from 1-2 limes 
Add a dash of salt, pepper, and garlic powder
Chill until ready to serve
I actually doubled this recipe because I LOVE this stuff and wanted leftovers. We finished the last of it today

Mint juleps! Not sure how I feel about these.  A little too sweet, or too strong for my liking. I do think they are pretty. I've never attempted cocktails as I'm more of a beer or wine girl. I made my own simple syrup infused with mint and served over ice with whiskey and extra mint. Louis seemed to enjoy it and had another last night. 

Here's what you need & do for Refried Beans:
Heat a couple table spoons of olive oil
Add 3/4 cup of green onion chopped (3 minutes)
Add 2 teaspoons smoked paprika and stir (1 min)
Add 4 cloves garlic minced (2 min)
Add 2 cans pinto beans drained and rinsed
Add 1/2 cup chicken broth
Add a dash of salt and pepper - season again at the end after tasting
Cook 5 minutes
Mash beans  - I used the bottom of a measuring cup (obviously do not use plastic)
Add more chicken broth to keep them moist.
I prepared these about 20 minutes before everyone arrived and then right before we ate I re-heated and added more broth. 

Here's what you need & do for Mexican Chocolate Cake:
Pre-heat oven to 350
Combine the following ingredients in a large mixing bowl - 
1.5 cups flour, 1 cup sugar, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1/2 cup unsweetened coco powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon vanilla extract, 1/4 cup canola oil, 1 cup cold water
Bake for 25 minutes - do the knife test, if it comes out clean, it's done
Let cool for 5-10 minutes then remove and set on a wire rack

I made the cake the night before and prepared this glaze on the day of-
Stir 1 cup powdered sugar, 1/2 cup unsweetened coco powder, 6 tablespoons of water 
Dip strawberries into the glaze and then set aside to dry. I may have eaten a couple.
Pour the glaze over the cake and set berries on top. 
I let mine dry for about 30 minutes, then transferred to a platter. If you pour the glaze over the cake while it's on a platter, it'll pool up on the platter and not look as pretty.

Served with vanilla ice cream! It's a pretty rich, dense, spiced chocolate cake so the ice cream helps mellow it out a bit. I love anything chocolate...especially cake!

Everything was delicious if I do say so myself. It was a bit of work to prepare everything, but if you do it in stages, it isn't overwhelming. I made the cake the night before, salsa, chicken and chopped spices and veggies the morning of, and the rest an hour or two prior to serving. I was so pleased with how it turned out and can't wait to plan something like this again. 

The chicken really stole the show, so I'll be back soon with details and photos on that for you.

What do you serve when you are having friends over for dinner?

What's a good cocktail recipe? No vodka, please!

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