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South of the border, down Mexico way....

Now I have Patsy Cline stuck in my head, but more importantly, I have a new batch of recipes from today's episode of Food for Thought and they're all inspired by the delicious flavors of Mexico.

Growing up in Southern California meant that I grew up eating Mexican food.  Every version of it too: traditional, authentic, inauthentic, fusion, Sonoran, Yucatecan, anything from the country just south of us.  The flavors, combinations, and varieties of Mexican cuisine are so immense,  I can always discover something new rather than turning to carne asada tacos yet again.

Some of the recipes borrow just an ingredient from the Mexican spice drawer, like the smokey hit of chipotle in my Chipotle Hummus with Blanched Vegetables, while others are inspired by traditional dishes like Roasted Salsa Verde.  Either way, these are delicious as snacks or served for a group. Enjoy!

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Homemade Chipotle Hummus with Blanched Vegetables

8 oz dried garbanzo beans
3 garlic cloves
1 rosemary sprig
1/4 cup tahini
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon adobo sauce from a chipotle pepper can
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
Salt and Pepper

Soak the garbanzos in water overnight. In a pot of room temperature water add the garbanzos, rosemary and garlic.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 3-4 hours, or until completely tender.  Drain the beans and garlic and place in a food processor with the tahini and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Puree and drizzle in half of the lemon juice and olive oil.  Taste and add more lemon and oil to taste.  Add the paprika and chipotle pepper at the end, pulsing to marble it throughout. 

For the blanched vegetables, fill a pot with water and bring it to boil.  Fill a bowl half up with ice and water.  Slice you vegetables to blanch (bell pepper, green beans, broccoli, carrots, snap peas, asparagus) and the ones you'll leave raw (cucumber, zucchini, celery, cherry tomatoes).  Add a tablespoon of salt to the water and throw the vegetables to blanch in, letting them cook for about 30-45 seconds.  Test for doneness, and when crisp but tender toss immediately into the ice bath. Dry completely and serve with the hummus.

Why blanch? Blanching may be used to preserve color and texture, to prepare ingredients ahead of time, and to prepare vegetables for freezing.  It also turns up the flavor in lackluster vegetables.

Why make hummus from scratch:  The flavor is delicious, fresher, and deeper and you get to control what goes into it.  This is especially helpful if you're watching you sodium intake.

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Dad's Guacamole

6 ripe medium avocados
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
1/2 bunch of cilantro, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon hot sauce
1/2 a lemon, juiced--this keeps it green, as well as adding the taste.
salt and pepper

Halve the avocados and remove the pit. Using a large spoon, remove the creamy content into a large bowl. Then add the onion, cilantro, lemon juice and hot sauce, mixing with a fork to mash up the avocado. Careful not to over mix! Taste and adjust. Add the salt and pepper liberally, taste and adjust again. Enjoy!

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Roasted Salsa Verde

Note:  If fresh tomatillos are not available, use the canned version, but don't roast them.
8 fresh tomatillos
6 cloves of garlic
1/2 bunch cilantro, leaves plucked
1 poblano pepper (the large dark green ones)
2 teaspoons pico pica (or any other hot sauce)
olive oil
salt and pepper

Heat oven to 425 F, unwrap and rinse the tomatillos. They're surprisingly sticky. Halve the tomatillos and arrange on a baking sheet. Drizzle the tomatillos and cloves of garlic with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Wrap the garlic in aluminum foil and place on the baking sheet with the tomatillos. Roast for 10 minutes then remove the garlic and crank the oven up to broil (550 F). Broil the tomatillos for 5-7 more minutes, or until browned at the edges and oozing. For the poblano, char it over an open flame until the skin is black.  Once it has cooled, scrape off the skin, slice off the top and remove the seeds. Add the tomatillos, cilantro, garlic, poblanos, and pico pica to a food processor. Blend to whole thing together. Salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!

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Mom's Brie and Grape Quesadilla

For 1 quesadilla
2 flour tortillas
about 6 green grapes, halved (about 1/2 a cup)
about 6-8 slices brie (about 1/2 a wedge)
Nonstick Spray

On one  tortilla, spread out the brie slices (saving a couple) and add the grape halves, top with the other brie slices and second tortilla.  In a pan over a medium heat, sprayed with non-stick spray, cook the quesadilla until golden brown and flip, about 3 minutes per side.  The cheese should be nice and gooey.

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