What's For Dinner?: Countdown to Cinco (de Mayo)

Sunday, May 01, 2011 11:42am  |  COMMENTS (1)

Everywhere you look these days people from Jamie Oliver, Michael Pollan and Laurie David are talking about the benefits of eating home-cooked family meals. Together. No one can dispute this, but the reality is that a lot of people don’t have the time, inclination or know-how.

Barista Kids will be featuring this column every other Sunday to give you time to shop and plan one family meal. It will be seasonal, using fresh food where possible. The recipes will be quick and will have been tested on my four-year-old twins and their friends.

The first column is a Cinco de Mayo recipe that your little or big ones can get involved with making. The spiciness can be dialed up or down depending on tastes. With Cinco de Mayo just a few days away, you have time to prepare for your own Fiesta Mexicana.

First of all get your avocados out. That is not a euphemism for some spring time shenanigans, but a reminder to get them out of the refrigerator and onto the countertop so that they soften to make the perfect guacamole.

Here are a few recipes that represent the colors of the Mexican flag – fish tacos accompanied by fresh tomato salsa (or pico de gallo), guacamole and crema Mexicana.

This is a great opportunity to let your children legitimately play with their food as they make their own tacos.

Fish Tacos

Fish tacos are said to come from the Baja California, Mexico’s Northernmost state. Traditionally made with deep-fried fish, however this sautéed version provides a healthy, fresh and easy version.

Here’s what you need for 4 servings:

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ancho chile powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ cup lightly packed fresh cilantro leaves, chopped, plus more for garnish
  • 1 jalapeño, stemmed and chopped
  • 1 lb flaky white fish (such as mahi mahi or cod), cut into 4 pieces
  • Kosher salt
  • ¼ white cabbage finely shredded
  • 8 taco shells
  • 2 limes, cut into quarters

Mix the olive oil with the oregano, cumin, chile, jalapeño and cilantro (use less of the hot stuff if your children do not like spicy flavors.)

Put the fish into a larger bowl and cover both sides with the oil and let it marinade for 20 minutes covered in the refrigerator.

Take the fish out of the marinade and cook on a medium high heat in a hot pan, there is no need to add any more oil. Cook on one side for 4 minutes, turn over and cook for another 2 minutes. Taste and season with salt.

Flake with a fork and then scrape up all the marinade that has stuck to the bottom of the pan (this is the really tasty stuff) and use this to go in the taco with the fish.

Heat the tacos for 3 minutes in a pre-heated oven at 350°.

Assemble the tacos by filling with shredded cabbage. Then the fish and garnish with a few sprigs of cilantro.

Pico de Gallo

Pico de gallo roughly translates as rooster’s beak as the ingredients are the same colors as the red and green feathers and the white beak. This fresh tomato salsa is also known as salsa mexicana or salsa bandera – again a reference to the colors in the Mexican flag. This is best made with really ripe tomatoes.

Here is what you need for about 3 cups:

  • 2 cups diced, seeded ripe tomatoes (about 6 smallish ones)
  • 1 cup diced sweet onion, such as Vidalia (about 1 onion)
  • 2 jalapeños, stemmed and chopped, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • ½ cup finely chopped cilantro leaves
  • Kosher salt

Put the tomatoes, onions and chiles in a bowl. Stir in the lime juice then the cilantro. Season to taste with salt.

Set the salsa aside at room temperature for about an hour to give the salt time to pull the moisture from the vegetables so the flavors blend. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 8 hours before serving.


As long as you can get ripe avocados, this is one dish you should never buy from a store as it is so quick and easy, particularly if you have a small helper to mash. Just keep the chiles away from little ones’ hands as the juice can really sting.

This is what you need for 4:

  • 2 large soft avocados, halved and pitted
  • ½ sweet Vidalia onion or 4 spring onions (white part only)
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro leaves
  • 1 or 2 serrano or jalapeño chiles finely chopped
  • 1 ½ tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • Optional – 1 large tomato, peeled and seeded and finely chopped
  • Kosher salt

Using a spoon, scoop out the avocado pulp into a small bowl. Mash with a fork or potato masher.

Add the onion, cilantro, chiles, tomato and lime juice. Mix well and season with salt. Add more lime juice if necessary.

Guacamole is best eaten straight away as it goes brown quickly, even with the lime juice. If you are not using right away, cover tightly with plastic wrap and you can refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Crema Mexciana

I have discovered the reason why the sour cream tastes so much better in good Mexican restaurants: it is not just sour cream. It is sour cream with heavy cream added to it, which of course makes anything taste better. This should be made in advance, as the flavor mellows.

Ingredients for about 3 cups:

  • 2 cups sour cream
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Whisk together the sour cream and heavy cream. Whisk in the salt. Set aside at room temperature for about 20 minutes.

Whisk again, taste and add more salt, if needed.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, the flavor will mellow. It will keep, well covered, in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Lisa Davies moved to Baristaville three years ago when her toddler twins became stir-crazy in a tiny Hoboken apartment. Before children, she worked in NYC in marketing. She has always had a love of good food that was furthered after graduating from the French Culinary Institute. She is a coffee snob and has a mistrust of restaurants that misspell espresso. You can read more about her feeding her family with farm fresh organic food on her blog This Little Piggy Went To The Farmers’ Market.


  1. POSTED BY Liz George  |  May 02, 2011 @ 12:44 pm

    The photos are making me so hungry! Have to try this – fish tacos are my fave.

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